An Abridgment of an Abridgement
Based on the original work by Timothy Tow
Summarised in the Editor’s Words

Summary of Book I (Chapter VII)

We have seen that special revelation is necessary for the salvation of man. God is the author of the Holy Scriptures, and has preserved His truth in the Scriptures, and only in the Scriptures for us.

Since God is the author of the Scriptures, it is the sole and supreme authority of the faith and practice of the church. The church does not take precedence over the Scriptures, but the Scriptures the church. Paul testifies in Ephesians 2:20 that the church is, “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets”. Thus, those who say that Scriptures have as much weight as it is conceded to them suffrages of the church, are making a gross error. These say that the church decides which books of the Bible have come down to us from God, and thus, they are comprised in the canon. This is sheer arrogance, tantamount to saying that the church can do everything. Such a claim, subjecting the authority of God’s Word to the judgement of men, is contempt of the Holy Spirit. It is the Bible that should judge men and not the other way round.

Now a man may read the Scripture and be none the wiser in spiritual things. Reason alone cannot produce submission to the authority of Scripture. The authority of Scripture is rather established by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. For as God alone is the sufficient witness of Himself in His own Word, so the Scripture will never gain credit in the hearts of men till they be confirmed by the internal testimony of the Spirit. “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.” (Isa. 59:21)

Thus, unless the Spirit works in the heart, no man will ever fully accept and submit himself to the evidence and authority of the Scripture. Only those who are illuminated by God can believe in the divine words of Scripture. Their certainty is not for their own judgement, nor that of others, but rather an intuitive perception of God Himself. That alone is true faith, which the Spirit seals in the hearts of the saints, as testified in Isaiah 54:13 which teaches that all the children of God’s church shall be taught by the LORD. Such faith is only conferred on God’s elect by the Holy Spirit, and not on the rest of men. It is thus no surprise to see the ignorance of the Holy Scriptures among the rest of mankind, though some may be avid readers of the Scripture.

There are also unsteady men who in their arrogance claim to be taught by the Spirit, but reject any Bible-reading. They claim that the study of the Bible is attending to dead and killing letters. They place the Scripture below their so-called revelations. To such who make these claims their revelations are of the Spirit of Christ, I must reply, how ridiculous! The role of the Spirit is not to feign some new and unheard revelations, but to seal our minds in the same doctrine of the Scriptures (Editor’s Note: How then should we evaluate the claims of certain Charismatic churches of modern dreams and visions that run contrary to the Scripture?)

On the other hand, the Apostles of Christ and the saints of old, being illuminated of the same Spirit, never held the Divine Word in contempt. Rather, they had the highest view of Scripture. This reverential attitude towards the Scriptures is found in Isaiah 59:21 – “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.

As a testimony to the prime importance of the Scriptures to the believer, Paul exhorted young pastor Timothy “to give attendance to reading” of the Scriptures. It is also worthwhile to remember 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Hence, it is incumbent on the Christian to diligently read and attend to the Holy Scriptures if we want any benefit of the Holy Spirit. For as Satan transforms himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), we must have a certain criterion to distinguish the Holy Spirit and the evil one. This criterion is the Word of God.

The necessity of the Spirit to confirm God’s Word in us is seen in the example of Christ who illumined the understanding of His two disciples to the Holy Scripture, while on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27). Likewise, when Paul exhorts the Thessalonians not to quench the Spirit, and not to despise prophesyings (1 Thess. 5:19-20), he points to how the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures go hand in hand. The light of the Spirit is extinguished when we hold the Scriptures in contempt.

The Word is the instrument, by which the Lord dispenses to believers the illumination of the Spirit.

Editor’s Note: Today’s summary from Calvin’s Institutes fall in line with what we have heard in last week’s sermon by Preacher James Tan. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). What lessons can you learn from this?

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew

“The fanaticism which discards the Scripture, under the pretense of resorting to immediate revelations is subversive of every principle of Christianity. For when they boast extravagantly of the Spirit, the tendency is always to bury the Word of God so they may make room for their own falsehoods.”

John Calvin