THE PLAIN SENSE OF SCRIPTURE
H. D. Williams, M. D.
DBS Vice President and Associate Editor, DBS News
(1) Throughout the Scripture, the "bottom line" for God's judgment of a nation, group, or individual is their obedience to His Words. [Ex. 19:5, Deut. 11:26-28, 1 Pe. 1:2, 21-25, 2 Co 10:5]
(2) God's reaction is delight and blessings if His Words are observed and kept. [e.g. Deut. 28:2 (voice = God's Words), 1 Sam. 15:22, Jer. 9:24, Jer. 31, Jos. 1:7-9a]
(3) The antithesis to obedience to God's Words is befittingly called in the Words of God backsliding [Hebrew, showbab (Jer. 3:22); Greek, apostasia, falling away (2 Thess 2:3); or aphistemi, depart from the faith, (Heb. 3:12)]
(4) There are many examples of backsliding in the Scriptures [e.g. Pro. 1:32, Jer. 3:6, 22, Heb. 5:11-6:12, Heb. 10:38, 2 Pe 2:20,].
(5) One can see evidence of God's warnings to and displeasure with a backsliding nation, group, or person in many places in the Scripture. [Prov. 14:14, 2 Thes. 2:3, 1 Tim. 4:1]
(6) Careful observation of passages throughout God's Holy Words reveals the reason He gives for "backsliding." [e.g. Isa. 8:20, Jer. 3:13, 6:10, Zeph. 3:2, 5, 9 (one language, one consent = one Bible)]
A "picture" of these six principles is God's warnings to the nation Israel. Jeremiah says, "The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. [Jeremiah 3:6] "Go and proclaim these Words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever." [Jeremiah 3:12]
The reason for their backsliding and for His warnings is clearly given in the following verse: "To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the Word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it." [Jeremiah 6:10, see Jer. 3:13 also] [my emphases]
Invariably, backsliding can be traced to neglect, rejection, or deceit related to: (1) God's Words [Jer. 6:10], (2) His promise to preserve His Words, [Psa 12:6-7, Psa 119, Mat 24:25, 1 Pe. 1:23-25] and (3) their availability [Deut. 30:11-14], which are for wisdom, judgment, protection, and salvation. [e.g. 2 Kings 22, Note in these verses God preserved His Words; Psa 5; Psa 10]
Invariably, God admonishes us to be mindful of his Words always.[1 Chron. 16:11-15, Psa. 105:5]
Invariably, man does not continue to teach the next generation God's Words as commanded. The admonition to teach our "seed" God's marvelous works and Words is soon forgotten. [Deut. 11:19, Ex. 18:20, Joel 1:3, 2 Tim 2:2, 1 Chron. 16:12, Psa 78:11]
Invariably, man forgets God's Words are not lost or far away [Deut. 30:11-14, 17, 19, 1 Pe. 1:23-25]
Invariably, man finally assumes the position of God, and declares like Satan "Yea, hath God said." Doubt is kindled, faith is destroyed, and innocents succumb to man's rationalism. [Gen 3:1, Rev. 20:2-3, Ex 23:7]
Invariably, and subsequent to the above, man either casts God's Words away or changes them to suit his beliefs [e.g. Jer. 36, 2 Co. 2:17].
Invariably, God warns us to avoid these steps throughout the Scriptures [Deut. 4:2, Prov. 30:6, Rev. 22:18-19].
Invariably, man turns to whoredoms (idols and fornication) precipitated by man's words to seek delight and guidance. [ Nu. 14:33, 2 Chron. 21:11, Jer. 3:2, Eze. 16:25, 36, Hos. 1:2, 4:12, Na. 3:4, Isa 23:17, Rom. 1:29, Jude 1:7, etc.]
Invariably, man denies the clear meaning and sense of the Words of Scripture, which leads to neglect, rejection, or deceit related to God's Words. Obviously, we have come "full circle." "Backsliding" is a spiral that eventually leads to destruction. It is repeated throughout history. God's "plain" Words are ignored.
The golden rule of interpretation is: "When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studies in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise. God in revealing His Word neither intends nor permits the reader to be confused. He wants His children to understand." [Dr. D. A. Waite, Ephesians, p. 10]
All of the above reminds this author of a physician's warnings to his patients about the dangers of smoking, which can lead to cancer, emphysema, arterial disease and death or his warnings to a patient concerning fornication, which can lead to divorce, venereal disease, despondency, and death. The physician's words "make common sense," and there is need to "take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning" because they make "plain sense" in light of the histories of nations, groups, and individuals.
However, most patients do not heed "the plain sense" of the words, and continue in their folly. They rationalize their continued prosperity [lack of immediate problems] and carelessness by statements such as, "Well, I have to die from something." Often they accuse the physician of being "overly concerned." After disaster strikes, everyone, including the affected patient, is perplexed at their denial of the likely consequences of their behavior. The patient is perplexed at their denial of: "When the plain sense of the words makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studies in the light of related words and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise." Until disaster strikes, the words of the physician are unto them a reproach to their lifestyle; they have no delight in them.
The "Great Physician" [God] says this: "For the turning away [backsliding] of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them." [Proverbs 1:32] The backsliding from what? Obviously from God's Words, because He goes on to say, in the next verse, "But whoso hearkeneth unto me [my counsel, see Prov. 1:30] shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil."
It seems to this author that the statements make "plain sense." There are many other statements in God's Words that make "plain sense."
Psalm 89:34 "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips."
Matthew 24:35 "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my Words shall not pass away."
Matthew 5:17-18 "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law [His Words], till all be fulfilled." [my addition] [A jot is the smallest Hebrew letter like our "," and the tittle is the difference between two Hebrew letters.]
1 Peter 1:23-25 "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.  For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:  But the Word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you." [my emphasis]
These Words do make "plain sense." Therefore, how can there be several different original language texts; for example, the Hebrew Masoretic Text versus the Samaritan Hebrew Text or the Greek Critical Text versus the Greek Traditional Text. They exhibit thousands of differences between the texts. They all proclaim to be the "Words of God." In light of the above, someone is lying. Is it God? Is it man?
The evidence is that many men are mistaken, misled, or liars. God's Words have been preserved. He is not a liar. His Words are "truth." He did not say that only his "message" would be preserved, but that the very letters of His Words would be preserved [e.g. Psa 12:6-7] and available [see the verses above]. He presents the concept of their availability early in the Scriptures [Deut. 30:11-15] and reiterates it many times. [Ps 147:19-20, Isa 45:19, Rom 10:6-8, 2Ti 3:14-17, Pr 2:1-5; 3:13-18; 8:11; 16:6; Mt 12:42; Jn 6:27; Ac 8:27-40]
What strikes anyone discordantly who studies this topic
are the comments by many Bible college and seminary professors. For
example, James Price, Tennessee Temple University, states, "One may
infer the doctrine of preservation from statements in
Another example is Samuel Schnaiter, who is on the Bible faculty at Bob Jones University. He states, "With regard to preservation, however, no Scripture explicitly declares anything of this sort of guidance to apply to the manuscript copyists as far as the precise wording of the text is concerned. Some have deduced such supernatural guidance from Scripture. They note passages that promise God's Word shall never perish or be lost. However, such promises of preservation in view of the wording variations must apply only to the message of God's Word, not its precise wording" [Schnaiter, Relevancy of Textual Criticism, 1980. op cit. Dr. David Cloud]
Many more "scholars" representing schools across this land and around the world such as Bruce Metzger, Eugene Nida, etc. make similar statements. However, God's Words were not written to "scholars," but to all men in "plain words," and, especially, to those with the indwelling Holy Spirit. [Rom 8:9, 1 Cor 3:16, Eph 1:13] "When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studies in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise." There is nothing in the Words of Scripture, nothing in history, or nothing stated by "great men" [Job 32:9] that should cause anyone to get trapped into modernistic rational thinking that declares only the "message" of God is preserved. It is irrefragable that the Scriptures plainly state His Words will be preserved. It does not matter who tries to counter the clear testimony of the Bible by retranslation, twisting the "plain sense," or ignoring "clear" passages to make them fit their theology. The preserva- tion of God's Words is a fact!
Contrary to discordant testimonies of straying men are the many pleasing testimonies of godly men who have stood for the preserved Words of God. Horatius Bonar (1808-1880) wrote in his book Our Ministry, How It Touches the Questions of the Age in 1883, "Man is now thinking out a Bible for himself; framing a religion in harmony with the development of liberal thought."
Dr. Robert Barnett, Vice-President of the DBS, in his 1991 message to the Dean Burgon Society reported on Dr. Edward F. Hills' position on preservation of the Words of God, saying, "Let Dr. Hills tell us in his own words: How do we take our stand upon divine revelation? Only in one way, namely through the logic of faith. 'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' (John 3:16). Since this Gospel is true, these conclusions logically follow: First, the Bible is God's infallible inspired Word. This must be so, because if our salvation depends on our believing in Christ, then surely God must have left us an infallible record telling us who Jesus Christ is and how we may believe in Him truly and savingly. Second, the Bible has been preserved down through the ages by God's special providence. This also must be so, because if God has inspired the Holy Scriptures infallibly, then surely He has not left their survival to chance but has preserved them providentially down through the centuries. Third, the text found in the majority of the biblical manuscripts is the providentially preserved text. This too must be true, because if God has preserved the Scriptures down through the ages for the salvation of men and the edification and comfort of His church, then He must have preserved them not secretly in holes and caves but in a public way in the usage of His Church. Hence the text found in the majority of the biblical manuscripts is the true, providentially preserved text. Fourth the providential preservation of the Scriptures did not cease with the invention of printing. For why would God's special, providential care be operative at one time and not at another time, before the invention of printing but not after it? Hence the first printed texts of the Old and New Testament Scriptures were published under the guidance of God's special providence."
Dr. Hills says, "In regard to Bible versions many
contemporary Christians are behaving like spoiled and rebellious children.
They want a Bible version that pleases them no matter whether it pleases
God or not. We want a Bible version in our own idiom,' they clamor. We
want a Bible that talks to us in the same way in which we talk to our
friends over the telephone. We want an informal God, no better educated
than ourselves, with a limited vocabulary and a taste for modern slang.'
And having thus registered their preference, they go their several ways.
Some of them unite with the modernists in using the R.S.V. or the N.E.B.
Others deem the N.A.S.V. or the N.I.V. more evangelical.' Still others
opt for the T.E.V. or the Living Bible. But God is bigger than you are,
dear friend, and THE BIBLE VERSION WHICH YOU MUST USE IS NOT A MATTER FOR
YOU TO DECIDE ACCORDING TO YOUR WHIMS AND PREJUDICES. IT HAS ALREADY BEEN
DECIDED FOR YOU BY THE WORKINGS OF GOD'S SPECIAL PROVIDENCE.... Put on the
spiritual mind that leads to life and peace! Receive by faith the True
Text of God's holy Word, which has been preserved down through the ages by
His special providence "
One of the finest Baptist scholars alive is Dr. D. A. Waite, President of the Dean Burgon Society, whose credentials cannot be surpassed by any scholar alive today. The title of one of his many books, Defending the King James Bible: A Fourfold Superiority, gives away his belief. In the first chapter of his book, he states, "In a very real sense, the Bible is a TIMELESS BOOK, that is, it will never have an end. It will never cease to exist. There will never be a year or a century, either now or in the future, when it can be accurately said, The Bible is no more. It has disappeared. It has evaporated.'"
"In the first chapter of this book, let us look at fifteen of the many verses in God's Word having to do with what we refer to as the preservation of the Words of the Bible, or Bible preservation.' You may be asking yourself, Do we have the Words of God today?' or, Are the Words of God intact today?' I believe every one of the Words of God has been preserved or kept right down to the present. There are two strong reasons for this.
(1) The first reason why I believe in Bible preservation is that God has repeatedly promised in both the Old and New Testaments, that He would preserve and keep every one of His Words that He originally gave in the Hebrew and Greek languages.
(2) The second reason I believe in Bible preservation is that God has always kept His promises in the past, and we assume that He will keep up this perfect record in the present and on into the future." [my emphasis]
Lastly, let us "hear" the words of another great scholar who has gone on to his reward and whose name graces the Dean Burgon Society, "O let it be our great concern,-yours and mine,-to preserve with undiminished lustre the whole deposit of Heaven-descended teaching which is the Church's treasure!...Like runners in a certain ancient race of which we all have read, let it be our pride and joy,- yours and mine, - to grasp the torch of Truth with a strong unwavering hand; to run joyously with it as long as the days of this earthly race shall last; and dying, to hand it on to another, who, with strength renewed like the eagle's, may again, - swiftly, steadily, exult- ingly, - run with it, till he fails! ... So, when the Judge of quick and dead appeareth, - so let Him find you occupied, - O young men, (many of you my friends,) who are already the hope of half the English Church! So faithfully may we, Brethren and Fathers, one and all, be found employed, when He cometh, - whose answer to the Tempter is emphatically the text of the present solemn season, as well as a mighty voucher for the Divine origin, and sustaining efficacy of that Book concerning which I have been detaining you so long, - "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone; but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of GOD!"
This author would like to leave the backsliders with
the following thoughts. The King James Bible has been used for almost 400
years to the great benefit of many who are now with the Lord. Why do you
contend with God's storehouse of knowledge and blessing? The godly men and
women, who have relied on the KJB and the Words behind it, did not start
the strife that is plaguing the churches. Without a doubt this author
believes that all of these godly men and women would like to state to the
backsliders, "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them
before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the
subverting of the hearers." [2 Tim. 2:14] Let the desire for profit,
position, and prestige go! Rely on the "plain sense of Scripture." Quit
your "backsliding." The Lord God cries out, "Return, ye backsliding
children, and I will heal your backslidings." [Jer. 3:22a] Your
response should be, "Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord
our God." [Jer. 3:22b]