On Wednesday, we held the first of our Big Small Group Seminars, on the topic of "Why do we take the Bible seriously?".
Our services together on a Sunday and our small groups on a Wednesday are centred around the reading, studying and careful application of the Bible. We regularly pray that God would speak to us through His Word, and change us as a result of what we hear. But why do we do church like this? Why do we take the Bible so seriously?
A great answer is given by Paul in 2 Timothy. Here he is writing to Timothy, his protege, explaining what the foundation of the church will be. And he points Timothy to the Bible:
"...you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
What does this passage tell us about the Bible?
(1) It's written by God, as well as by humans (v16)
Paul teaches that the Bible is breathed out by God. We also know, though, that it was written by human authors. But we don't have to choose between the Bible being written by men or by God: it is written byboth, by God speaking through the human authors. We affirm the bold claim: what the human authors of Scripture say, God says.
This should lead us to two complementary sets of attitudes:
Written by MEN: so we should read the Bible critically, looking for genre, context, audience and purpose.
Written by GOD: so we should read the Bible reverently and humbly, like we would no other book.
(2) It's written for a purpose (v15b)
God acts through His words. And God is doing one big thing, and lots of smaller things through His Word:
- One big thing: the Bible is able to make us "wise for salvation through Christ Jesus". God presents Christ to us, that we might place our trust in Him.
- Lots of smaller things: when the human authors write to encourage, to warn, to comfort, to promise, to rebuke...this is also God presently encouraging, warning, comforting, promising and rebuking us. God is presently accomplishing these acts through His Word, and by His Spirit, who grips our hearts and applies God's word to us powerfully as we read it. This is why we say that God's word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12).
(3) It's sufficient (v17) and authoritative (v16)
Sufficient just means that the Bible is enough for us.
- The Bible tells us what we need to know about salvation (v15b) and what we need to know about holiness, how we live as Christians (v17).
- It's also enough in the sense that we don't need any more written, breathed-out words from God. Our faith was "delivered once for all the saints" (Jude 1:3). God is not going to add or change his breathed-out written words, and other revelation needs to be tested against God's sufficient Word.
Authoritative means that the Bible is the way by which God exercises His authority.
- God already has all authority in heaven and earth. And he exercises His authority by His words: to disobey somebody's words is actually to disobey them
- This authority is not authoritarian: it's exercised lovingly, to shape us more into Christ's likeness
- The Bible is authoritative over our minds (what we believe), over our wills (what we do) and over our hearts (our attitudes and desires)
Let us make time to sit under God's words, as he supremely presents Christ to us; actively speaks to us by His Spirit; and rules over our hearts and our lives with His all-sufficient Word. Might we echo the Psalmist as he exclaims: "In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your preceptsand fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word." (Ps 119:14-16).