A HYMN OF GLORY LET US SING (TWENTY-SIXTH IN A SERIES)
In some cases converting an English noun into an adjective is as easy as adding a “y.” Sleep becomes sleepy. Dream dreamy. Silk silky. And yet, the addition of “y” in certain instances can actually reverse a meaning. Consider the word “rock.”
All by itself, “rock” conveys strength and stability. Add “y,” however, and everything changes. Things become rocky, unstable. Not all additions, it turns out, are pluses.
So also with God’s Word.
His Word is the solid rock, graciously given so that all can find the spiritual stability so desperately needed. In both of the epistles written by the Apostle Peter, the reliability of God’s Word is affirmed. Echoing Isaiah, he declared, “The word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:25a) And in his second epistle he wrote, “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable.” (2 Peter 1:19 NIV)
Since its source is the Spirit of God, the Word of God is rock solid. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus said, “but My words will by no means pass away.” (Mt. 24:35) Scripture can never be destroyed—a fact that reassures Christians and frustrates the devil.
Satan knows he cannot demolish God’s Word. But that doesn’t keep him from trying to deprive people of its blessings. In that pursuit he frequently contradicts the Word outright. At other times, however, his subtler tactic is to add unbiblical thought to biblical principle. For when God’s Word is supplemented, it is supplanted. The rock-solid messages given by the Spirit become dangerously rocky hybrids.
The Judaizers in Galatia serve as an example. The young Galatian congregation had heard from Paul the pure Gospel of salvation through faith alone. But the Judaizers proclaimed that man is saved through faith plus the keeping of the Mosaic code. And in doing so they changed the Good News into “a different gospel”( Galatians 1:6), a deadly “gospel.”
So also at the time of the Reformation. The church of Rome believed that man-made ideas not only could but also should be added to what the Bible says, with devastating results.
Elsewhere it is human reason that has been given a perilously prominent place in the teachings of some churches. The dictates of human intellect are added to the Spirit’s revelation, with truly harmful consequences.
When teachings are based solely on God’s Word they are rock-solid. When they are the result of human additions to God’s Word they become rocky, unstable and unable to provide a solid foundation. The very bedrock of the Reformation, therefore, was Scripture Alone. And many have faithfully continued to advance that cry, both in sermon and in song.
One such individual was Samuel Kinner (1603-1668), who wrote the communion hymn “Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared” (TLH 306; LSB 622) Trained to be a medical doctor and serving in that capacity, Kinner was undoubtedly someone who made great professional use of his intellect and reason. Yet, the hymn verses which flowed from his pen reveal that he recognized the importance of leaving the Word of God untouched by human additions and unchallenged by human reason. The principle of Scripture Alone comes shining through in several of his stanzas.
When speaking of God’s presence among His people, he wrote, “Firm as a rock this truth shall stand, unmoved by any daring hand.” When speaking of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament he declared, “Though reason cannot understand, yet faith this truth embraces; Thy body, Lord, is everywhere at once in many places. How this can be I leave to Thee, Thy word alone suffices me. I trust its truth unfailing.”
Altering or adding to God’s Word is one of the devil’s tricks for replacing the firm with the flimsy, the rock with the rocky. Since Scripture is perfect and pure as given, it is to be left as is. For Scripture alone is the means through which God does His great and gracious work. It is the rock from which great blessings flow.
John Reim is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.