Friday, September 6, 2013

Does the Bible have supernatural powers?

Do Christians believe that the Bible has supernatural powers?

If you lay your Bible next to the bed of a sick person, will your Bible heal him or her?  Will the Bible levitate from off of your coffee table, if you pray hard enough?  If you wave your Bible over the head of a sinner three times, will he be saved by its powers?

Of course not.

So when Christians speak of the Bible, God's Word, having incredible power, what do we mean?

If you ask an evangelical Christian to answer this question, this is what he will probably say:  "Of course the actual book---the leather binder and the pages---have no power; it is the meaning of the words inside that have power.  It is the message of the Gospel that has power.  It is the message that God offers the free gift of salvation, if the sinner will only make the decision to reach out and accept God's offer of eternal life."

If you ask an orthodox (confessional) Lutheran Christian this question, this is the answer you will hear:  "Of course the actual book, the binder and pages, have no power, but the words on those pages have incredible power.  And its not just the meaning of the words that has incredible power...it is the words of God themselves that have power!

When Christ calmed the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee, he did so by the power of his words.  When Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, he did so by the power of his words.  And when Christ's words, the Scriptures, are spoken or read today, God grants faith, saves sinners, and washes away their sins.

It isn't just the meaning of his words that have power, dear evangelical brothers and sisters, the power of the Bible is in Christ's actual words!  The words of Christ, referred to collectively as the Word, really and truly do have supernatural...heavenly powers! 

This is why the Christian Church since the time of the Apostles has taught that God saves in Holy Baptism.  It isn't magical baptismal water that saves...it is the supernatural power of God's Word, spoken at the time of the application of the baptismal water, that saves.




Hebrews 4:12   ESV         
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Romans 10:17   ESV     

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 1:16   ESV         

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.                  

2 Timothy 3:16   ESV     

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

1 Peter 1:23   ESV     

Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

2 Timothy 3:16-17   ESV         

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

3 comments:

  1. I loved what you wrote on the efficacy of the scriptures. One of my favorite Luther quotes is: "God is our Father and scripture is our mother". As a Southern Baptist, I affirm the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of the scripture. As you know, the Baptist viewpoint on Baptism is different. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 article on baptism states: "Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper."
    That's my position in brief, more or less.
    Not withstanding the fact I don't hold to paedobaptism, I do try to understand other Christian communions, since I have benefited greatly from some of Luther's insights (I love his "Bondage of the Will")Now for my question.

    Please explain to me how these two statements from the Lutheran Larger Catechism's article on baptism are not contradictory (I'm quoting these from the website: bookofconcord.org):
    1). Paragraph 36 "For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God's command and ordinance, and besides in God's name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it."

    2). Paragraph 53 under 'infant baptism': "This now is perhaps somewhat acute, but it rests entirely upon what I have said, that Baptism is nothing else than water and the Word of God in and with each other, that is, when the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make Baptism, but receives it. Now, Baptism does not become invalid even though it be wrongly received or employed; since it is not bound (as stated) to our faith, but to the Word."

    The first statement sounds to me like the Lutheran view of baptism is ex opere operanti, or operating in conjunction with the faith or disposition of the recipient. The second statement sounds to me like baptism then is ex opere operato, or functioning irrespective of the faith of the recipient. To me, it sounds like baptism in the Lutheran point of view functions differently for adults than infants. Thanks for your time and I am enjoying your blog.

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    Replies
    1. I will have to get out my Book of Concord (which includes Luther's Large Catechism)to review the context in which Luther was speaking. However, for now I can tell you what the (orthodox/confessional) Lutheran Church believes:

      1. The baptismal water itself has no more power than the water in a cow's water tank.

      2. However, when the Word is spoken during the application of the baptismal water in Holy Baptism, God himself through the Holy Spirit, moves in the water to create faith, belief, and salvation in the sinner's soul. It is a supernatural act that defies human logic, reason, and common sense. God has worked through water before: Naanman the Syrian and the pool in Jerusalem that healed the sick. God seems to like using water to demonstrate the cleansing of the soul by the power of his Word. It isn't the water that cleanses and heals, it is the power of God's Word/his declaration of righteousness that cleanses and heals, but he requires your obedience to "go down into the water".

      3. So is it the water that saves? Is it the Word that saves? Roman Catholics believe that the act of Baptism ITSELF saves. Lutherans do not believe this. Lutherans believe that Baptism is only efficacious by the power of God's Word, received through FAITH.

      4. So how can a baby have faith and believe? Such a "ridiculous" concept defies logic, reason, and common sense, right? Lutherans respond, "Since when is the Lord of Heaven and Earth limited to operating within the confines of human logic, reason, and common sense?"

      Infants CAN believe and have faith! I will post the link to an article that gives Scriptural evidence that infants in the OT and NT have believed and possessed faith in God.

      Faith is ALWAYS required for salvation in Lutheran theology. However, the key question is this: Is faith something that the sinner conjures up by his own human effort and maturity, or is faith a free gift of God dependent on NOTHING involving the sinner, including the age or maturity of the recipient of the gift?

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    2. The Bible says that infants CAN believe and CAN have faith. Click here to read an excellent article on this topic by a Lutheran pastor:

      http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/09/the-bible-says-that-infants-can-have.html

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