The Mechanisms For The Preservation Of The Words Of God
H. D. Williams, M.D.
Associate Editor , DBS News
The mechanisms for the preservation of the Words of God are recorded for us in many passages of Scripture. Many people are surprised by this insight. The mechanisms include literal as well as providential means. The first step of preservation was to "write" His Words in a book. [Ex. 17:4, 34:27; Num. 5:23; Deut. 31:24; Jos. 23:6; Isa. 8:1, 30:8; Jer. 30:2; Rev. 1:19] It is very interesting that "written in the (or this) book" occurs 93 times.
Second, His Words are written in many books. [Acts 1:20, 7:42, 13:33, 15:15, 24:13; Mat. 5:17, 23:35 ]
Third, all His Words were commanded to be written. [Ex. 24:3, 4; Deut. 9:10, 27:3; Jer. 30:2, 4]
Fourth, copies of all His Words were to be made. [Deut. 10:2,4; 17:8, 27:3; Jos. 8:32; Jer. 25:13, 36:2, 28, 32, 51:60; Psa. 40:7, 102:12, 18]
Fifth, the Words were to be read. [Ex. 24:7; Deut. 17:19; Jos. 8:34; 2 Kings 23:2, 2; Chron. 34:30; Jer. 36:6, 10] The Hebrew word, Kara, used in all these passages also means to proclaim, publish, and preach the Words.
Sixth, all generations have been com- manded to keep (guard, protect, preserve, observe) the Words. [Ex. 15:26, 20:5-6; Lev. 18:4-5; Deut. 29:9; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings. 17:13; 2 Chron. 34:31; Neh 1:9; Eccl. 12:13; Ezek. 11:20; Dan. 9:4; Jn. 14:15, 23]
Seven, all generations have been com- manded to keep the Words on their hearts. [Deut. 6:6-9; Prov. 3:3; Psa. 40:8, 119:11; Jer. 31:33; Mat. 28:19-20; Jn. 14: 15, 21] This also means to understand them well enough to teach them, particularly to children.
Eight, individuals should recognize that God's Words are specific as to the mech- anisms already presented, and those to follow. This specificity should be recognized just like Biblical facts are recognized and appreciated. [Ezek. 13:9, 24:2, 43:11; Dan. 5:24, 25; Dan. 9:13; Hos. 8:12; Mic. 2:5; Mat. 21:13; John 12:6]
Nine, the phrase "it is written"occurs 93 times in the Bible, and invariably it means the Words were written in the past and are still present now and in the future. [Dr. D. A. Waite, Defending the King James Bible, pp. 9-11; and Kent Brandenburg, Editor, Thou shalt Keep Them, David Sutton, p. 75-81]
Ten, God guaranteed the preservation of the covenant, His Words. [Ex. 24:7; Deut. 7:9, 33:9; 1 Chron. 16:15; Psa. 12:6-7, 89:34, 105:8; Mat 4:4, 5:17-18, 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23-25]
Eleven, The Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit were the means for man to receive the Words, which were recorded. [Jn. 3: 31-33, 5:34, 7:38-39, 12:47-48, 14:17, 16:13-14, 17:8, 20:22; 2 Tim. 3:15-17]
Twelve, "God gave responsibility of preservation of the Old Testament to Israel." [Thou Shalt Keep Them, p. 104] [Gen. 17:9-10; Ex. 20:6; Deut. 6:6-9; Isa. 26:2; Acts 7:38; Rom. 3:1-2, 9:3-5]
Thirteen, the Old Testament saints were to keep the Words in the tabernacle or temple, their place of worship. [Deut. 31:26, 34:30; 2 Kings 23:2]
Fourteen, in the New Testament times, the members of the churches were to go, to keep (observe, protect, guard, and preserve), to teach, to receive, and to recognize His Words. [Mat. 28:19-20; Jn. 10:27, 17:8, 14:21, 15:20; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 2:5; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; Tit. 3:10; 1 Jn 3:22-24; Rev. 1:3, 14:12, 12:17; 22:7, 9, 18, 19].
Fifteen, our local church is to be "the pillar and ground of the truth." [1 Tim. 3:15]
Sixteen, believers in the churches are to be the stewards of God's Words. [1Tim. 1:11, 18-20, 4:6-16; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Eph. 3:9] [Many of the preceding concepts were obtained from Thou shalt Keep Them.]
The New Testament era has an even better way for preservation of God's Words than the Old Testament times. Dr. Jack Moorman sums up the present era's preservation of the Scripture by saying, "Just as the divine glories of the New Testament are brighter far than the glories of the Old Testament, so the manner in which God has preserved the New Testament Text is far more wonderful than the manner in which He preserved the Old Testament text. God preserved the Old Testament text by means of something physical and external, namely, the Aaronic priesthood. God has preserved the New Testament text by means of something inward and spiritual, namely, the universal priesthood of believers." [Dr. Jack Moorman, Forever Settled, [DBS #1428] 1999, p. 62]
Yes, the churches, which are filled with Bible believing saints are responsible for "keeping" the Words of God; and they have done it. There has been a record of independent churches who were filled with the priesthood of believers throughout the centuries. There are many authors who would dispute this fact, and they would argue that individuals within the churches wrote fraudulent books to counter other ideologies seeking dominance. [Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities, p. 203-227]. The truth about these authors, however, is that they use speculation, theory, and circumstantial evidence. The truth is that a born-again believer sealed with the Holy Spirit could not knowingly change even one jot or tittle of Scripture.
There has been a continuous presence of independent Bible believing churches that have preserved the text. Much evidence of the existence of these churches has been provided in books such as Alexis Muston's, The Israel of the Alps, A History of the Waldenses published in 1875. Muston writes, "In the first centuries of the Christian era, each church founded by the disciples of Christ had a unity and an independence of its own. They were united by the same faith, but that faith was not imposed by authority upon any one." [p. 4] He proceeds to discuss briefly the concept of the formation of the state-church under Constantine, but acknowledges the persistence of independent churches. He even states that Ambrose (339-397 A.D.) "did not acknow- ledge any authority on earth superior to that of the Bible." [p. 5] In the 6th century, Muston relates the story of nine pastors who "separated themselves from the Roman Church, or rather they solemnly renewed the protestation of their independence of it." [p. 7] He quoted a 7th century a pastor in Milan: "To combat the opinion that the pope is head of the church, he directs attention to the fact that the Councils of Nice, Constantinople, Chalcedon, and many others, had been convoked by the emperors, and not by the pope." [p. 8] Muston relates "the resistance [to the papal see] also becoming more vigorous in the following centuries, and we can follow its traces quite on to the 12th century, when the existence of the Vaudois [Waldensians] is no longer doubted by anybody." [p.8] He reports that "the Kingdom of Lombardy itself was solicitous for the preservation of this independence." He says, "thus the doctrines which characterized the primitive [apostolic] church and which still characterized the Vaudois Church at the present day [the 1870's], have never remained without a witness in the countries inhabited by the Vaudois; and if men had been silent, the Bible would have spoken." [p.9] The Bible has spoken and the evidence for the preservation of God's Words is over- whelming. God's precious Words have been preserved in the New Testament era by the mechanisms announced in Scripture, and independent churches still honor, revere, protect, guard, and defend the very Words of the Living God. The Dean Burgon Society was formed to assist the churches to defend, guard, protect, and keep the Words of the Living God.
During the early centuries, corruptions arose, but independent churches still con- tinued to flourish. G. H. Orchard says, "During the rise and growth of these corruptions, the churches for three centuries remained as originally formed, independent of each other, and were united by no tie but that of charity." [G. H. Orchard, A Concise History of the Baptists, Chapter 1, Section III.4] "During the first three centuries, Christian congregations, all over the East, subsisted in separate independent bodies, unsupported by government, and conse- quently without any secular power over one another." [Orchard, Chapter 1, Section III.7]
By the fourth century, groups of independent churches formed to resist the corruption of centralized power, wrong discipline, wrong doctrine, and the wrong philosophical influences of neo-Platonists in Alexandria, Egypt, that led men like Pantaneus, Ammonius Saccas, and Origen, to reject the Scriptures as written. The Alexandrian center of apostasy is very likely the source of the modernist textual critics' favorite manuscripts, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. The independent groups that were formed to resist these encroachments on apostolic doctrine were maligned by Rome and derogatorily called "Puritans."
G. H. Orchard says,"One Novatus, of Carthage, coming to Rome, united himself with Novatian, and their combined efforts were attended with remarkable success. It is evident that many persons were previously in such a situation as to embrace the earliest opportunity of uniting with churches whose communion was scriptural. Novatian became the first pastor in the new interest, and is accused of the crime of giving birth to an innumerable multitude of congregations of Puritans in every part of the Roman empire; and yet ...these churches flourished until the fifth century. . . . The churches thus formed upon a plan of strict communion and rigid discipline, obtained the reproach of Puritans; they were the oldest body of Christian churches, of which we have any account, and a succession of them, we shall prove, has continued to the present day. Novatian's example had a powerful influence, and Puritan churches rose in different parts, in quick succession. So early as 254, these Dissenters [from Rome] are complained of, as having infected France with their doctrines, [Mezeray's Hist., p. 4. Miln. Ch. Hist., c. 3, c. 13] which will aid us in the Albigensian churches, where the same severity of discipline is traced, [Allix's Pied, c. 17, 156] and reprobated." [Orchard, Chapter 2, Section 1] [All emphases are mine.]
The influence of these independent churches would be felt through the
dark ages and into the Reformation. It is a well known fact that the men
of the Reformation were influenced by members of the Waldensian churches.
It was the independent Waldensian churches which supplied the manuscripts
that Erasmus et al. used to print the first Traditional or Received
Text. The evidence of preservation provided by translations into other
languages, lectionaries, the writings of church fathers, and manuscripts
is enormous. The independent, believer churches have preserved, guarded,
and protected the Words of God as commanded. Will we continue? Are we
still able to defend the Truth AGAINST ALL THREATS, and as my Pastor says,
against the GOLIATHS?