(July 2, 2022) Brian Bell reflects on ‘a few seed thoughts’…

It is said that during Queen Victoria’s reign, a visiting diplomatic delegation asked the Queen how Britain had become powerful in the world.

The Queen’s response did not mention the number of ships in her fleet, she made no reference to the number serving in her armies, she did not give an account of her boundless merchandise or the details of her inexhaustible wealth but answered by handing the delegation a beautifully bound copy of the Bible.

Secret of greatness
This incident (which I understand has been suggested as possibly being an unfounded anecdote) is nonetheless depicted in Thomas James Barker’s 1863 painting, The Secret of England’s Greatness.If it isn’t familiar to you, I respectfully suggest you consider looking up that portrait of Queen Victoria meeting an African envoy and presenting him with a copy of the KJV Bible.

(Houston Baptist University)

Personally, I find it captivating – showing something of the ‘awe’ of the event with the Bible having a prominent position.

Reliance on scripture
It is interesting that on the 2016 occasion of the 90th birthday of our present monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Bible Society, HOPE and LICC published The Servant Queen and the King She Serves in which testimony is given to her personal reliance on scripture.

This leads me to draw attention to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives, it straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.’

Perhaps like me, you’ve heard these words preached on many occasions and often quoted as a measure of the authenticity and or authority of scripture.

As I read these words again recently, I was drawn to the thought that when Paul was writing them to Timothy, it is unlikely the apostle was referring to the words he was then writing as being included in the definition of ‘scripture.’

The Holy Spirit caused Paul to write with prophetic insight and his writings and those of others became our New Testament scripture.

The few seed thoughts I share with you here will I’m sure not be ‘new’ to you; however, I have no doubt Paul in referring to scripture had what we call the Old Testament in mind. In these two verses Paul tells us these scriptures are not merely a collection of ancient sacred religious writings but a living Word which he says are…

  • Inspired
  • Useful
  • Productive.

Inspired written word
All scripture is a divine work!

We often hear people speak about how they have been inspired in some way… for example many of our much-loved hymns and songs. And the spoken word in terms of a ministry of teaching/preaching.

However the context here reminds me that the totality of scripture… that ‘all’ that is the written word has God’s seal on it – even those long lists of hard to pronounce names(!) Think also of the harmony in the Old and New Testament scriptures… no wonder it has been said ‘the New is in the old concealed, the Old is by the new revealed.’

Useful working word
In our daily lives I am sure we all try to be useful and fulfil a useful purpose. The written word becomes what I call the working word in the context of my spiritual walk.

Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, scripture teaches me about that which is true and helps me realise what is wrong.

The psalmist puts the above like this: ‘Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path’ (Psalm 119:105).

  • I need to let the word live to me before it can begin to work through me. Now I have to be honest and say this is indeed a step-by-step process and a challenge for me every day! But the Spirit is there to help.

Productive witnessing word
This is also the witnessing word‘straightening us out’ – preparing and equipping us as God’s children to ‘do what is right.’

We might also use the word ‘fruitful’ – which has the same sense as productive. Our object as God’s children should be to let this productive word bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

I am not a gardener by any stretch of imagination, but I do know a garden must be regularly tended because it has the potential to be overgrown or cluttered with weeds! And as I read scripture I certainly need to allow the Holy Spirit to regularly tend the garden of my heart!

Scripture’s preservation
Although Paul’s letters were shared and had a wider readership beyond their intended recipients, we know that neither he, nor indeed any of the first century believers, had a convenient collective scriptural resource which they could carry around with them. such as we now have in our Bible and which Queen Victoria is depicted as presenting in that painting mentioned above.

Surely we can be grateful that the Holy Spirit has enabled Christians today to benefit from the inspiration of scripture, by overseeing its preservation throughout history… preserving from those who despise it, dispute, doubt and deny it.

A day is coming when those things in scripture that we do not yet fully understand, or about which there may be a variance of theological or doctrinal opinion, will be made clear. In Luke 6:17, Jesus declared that  ‘Everything that is hidden or secret will eventually be brought to light.’

Meantime, be comforted with the Vern Stromberg thoughtful and challenging song, I Have a Precious Book

‘I have a precious book, it’s the Word of God.
It’s the only book that God has giv’n.
As I read, God speaks to me,
I see Christ and Calvary.
The wonderful Word of God.

‘Forever it will stand as the ages roll,
It’s the living and eternal Word.
It’s my guiding light each day,
and without it I would stray;
The wonderful Word of God.

‘Dear Lord may I each day read Thy precious Word.
May I love it and obey it too.
May I grow to be like Thee.
May my friends see Christ in me.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.’

Father God, I pray the Holy Spirit will help me to have a greater appreciation of the preciousness of your word. As I meditate on its truths may He help me let that truth work out through my thoughts, words and actions. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

May this be your prayer too! And may ‘all’ scripture be the secret of greatness to you.

Brian Bell is a diaconate member, Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland, and a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. He describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’

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