Foundations Lesson 1:
What is the Bible?
The Bible is not a relic or a nice decor for our shelves. It holds 66 writings from over 40 different authors writing in different time periods in three different languages. Men from all kinds of walks of life, vocations, and cultures wrote. Wrote what? We want to begin with the fact that these writings were written by different people over a long period of time and in different places. Each writing is “dual authored.” Each book of the Bible, each word in every book is written by man and by God. This is what dual authorship means: The Bible contains a lot of words from different men, but at the same time incredibly, each word comes from God as well. These writings are not just of human origin, but they also are divine words. The Bible is the word of God. And so every bit of Christian teaching and doctrine must be grounded in what the Bible says. So where do we start in formulating our doctrine of the Bible?
1. The Bible is God’s Word (Matt. 22:31, 2 Tim. 3:14-17, 2 Peter 1:16-21)
2 Tim. 3:14-17, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom[a] you learned it 15 and how from childhood 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[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Sovereign Grace Church stands with scripture about the Bible and our belief is laid out well in our statement of faith: “We accept the Bible, including the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament, as the written Word of God. The Bible is the only essential and infallible record of God’s self-disclosure to mankind.” We believe that the Bible is God’s word because the Bible claims this of itself. Another way in which we can say this is that the Bible is “inspired”. When theologians use the word “inspiration”, their goal is to capture the biblical idea that scripture is “breathed out by God” as we read in 2 Tim. 3:16. Inspiration is the idea that every word of scripture is exhaled by God. To say it another way, the Bible is God’s words, his speech, and his verbal communication. Therefore, when we read the Bible, the God of the universe is speaking to us. This is the perspective of Jesus himself as he says in Matt 22:31, “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God…” Jesus said that when you read Exodus, when you read what old Moses wrote, God is speaking to you. Have you thought that way about the Bible, that when you’re reading Malachi or Revelation or the gospel of Matthew, the God who made Heaven and Earth is talking to you? Treasure this gift of God’s love. He is not quiet in your life, but speaks into it day by day as you open the pages of your Bible. He fills you with good words, feeding the delights of your soul, warning you for your safety, encouraging you for your endurance. Hear him speak to you.
2. The Bible is necessary. (Matt. 4:4, 1 Pet. 2:2, Psalm 1:1-2, 2 Tim. 3:14-15)
John Frame says concerning the necessity of Scripture, “To say that Scripture is necessary is simply to say that we need it.” A Word we have not yet used, but I think would be appropriate to introduce, is the word “revelation”. There is a book at the back of your Bible called Revelation, but that is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the concept that God reveals or makes himself known. Scripture is the only essential and infallible record of God’s self-disclosure in which God reveals himself to us today. Revelation is God’s self-disclosure and we need it. Apart from the Bible, we would not have the gospel, the good news message about Jesus. We would not be able to know how we, those alienated from God, could ever have peace with him or even if peace is possible. But, God made known to us his love in Jesus and through him the doctrine of reconciliation. This we know according to the scriptures. This is why 2 Tim 3:14-15 tells us, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom[a] you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
To learn how to be made right with God, we need scripture. But, also we need divine revelation to know how to please God and do all to his glory. Jesus, the living word of God, in his humanity declared his own need for God’s word. He cites Deuteronomy when he quotes in Matt. 4:4, “But, he answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Think of your daily intake of food and how necessary it is, yet Jesus says it’s not enough. Jesus isn’t just talking about wants, but needs. He’s saying that eating bread and drinking water is not the comprehensive list of how you stay alive. At the most basic level, apart from your daily nutrition, the bare minimum is God’s word. Think through your needs and ask yourself about your most basic ‘must have and can’t live without’ needs. Now, ask yourself, “Do I include the scripture as a part of that list?” The Bible is as optional as food. That's a fact that is not just true for one person but not another; this is how we were created. We need God’s word.
Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” The man who is regarded as blessed, who is happy, who walks a satisfied life, and who prospers is the man who takes in God’s self-disclosure in scripture. But, note that the means of blessedness and true satisfaction is the word of God at the center of a man’s or woman's life and apart from the word there can be none.
3. The Bible is inerrant. (Numbers 29:13, Proverbs 30:5, Psalm 19: 7-11, John 17:17)
Robert L Reymond states, “By “inerrancy” we intend essentially the same thing as “infallibility,” namely, that the Bible does not err in any of its affirmations, whether those affirmations be in the spheres of spiritual realities or morals, history or science, and is therefore incapable of teaching error.”
We have already said and will say again that the Bible is God’s word, and because of that we have to make mention of one important aspect of scripture. The Bible is inerrant. It does not, cannot and will never err in any of its affirmations because God cannot err. In the book of Numbers 29:13, it says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Psalm 19:7-11, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
The Bible is infallible in terms of its truth claims and affirmations because God is infallible. He does not and cannot lie, and so when he speaks, every word proves true. When you read scripture where God makes promises, take hold of them, because they are true. There is no deceit or lies in them. Every word is upright, just and good because it proceeds from an upright, just and good God. Doubts do not affect the veracity of the promises of God. Faithful Lord will keep his words, even if you stumble in yours.
4. The Bible is clear. (Matt 12:3-5, 19:4, 22:31)
Martin Luther who lived in the 1500s once said, “If Scripture is obscure or ambiguous, then what point is there in God giving it to us?” The Bible is clear. The clarity of Scripture is very important to remember. When God communicates, he speaks to be understood. Scripture in its original context and language was not intended to confuse but clarify, not to hide but unveil, not to mystify but reveal. As we go to scripture, we must remember this basic truth: God wants you to hear him and understand him. Scripture was inspired and written in such a way that the original audiences would be able to understand it. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, as God inspired him, he meant to be understood, so he wrote clearly. However, that is not all. Not only was scripture clear to the original audiences, but God has spoken in such a way that all people who read the scripture, seeking to understand it, will know enough to understand what God requires of them. Jesus held to this concept of the clarity of scripture. He asked the people “Have you not read?” (Matt. 12:3, 19:4, and in 22:31) Jesus held that God spoke clearly enough for them to understand what God required of them in these various situations.
Now with that said, there are some things in scripture that are difficult to understand. There are mysteries, but this is not due to scripture being unclear, but due to our limitations. It sometimes has to do with physical maturity. A toddler is just going to have a hard time reading the Levitical code, let alone understanding it. Sometimes, it has to do with our spiritual maturity. We might resist the clear meaning of a text of scripture because we don’t like it. But, the problem isn’t with the text; it lies within us. Here are a few quick tips if scripture just doesn’t seem clear to you. First, make sure to read with the motivation that God means to be understood. Second, read the scripture like you would any other book. Read in its context, follow the flow of argument and if you don’t understand something, write down what you don’t get. Pray and keep reading. Third, read the text again and again. Fourth, interpret scripture with other scripture. God gave us more than one verse to understand his will for his church, so always interpret scripture with other scripture. Fifth, read the entire text. I think the biggest problem with interpreting scripture is we just don’t read it in context. With these basic suggestions for interpreting, remember God has not just made the scripture clear in and of itself, he has given us the Holy Spirit to make things clear in our own hearts as we read. The clarity of scripture works in the text objectively, and in our hearts as we read it by the Holy Spirit. The book we’re using for this study says something I think helpful about the clarity of scripture, “although some passages may at first seem difficult to grasp, the Bible is written in such a way that all things necessary to become a Christian, live as a Christian, and grow as a Christian are clear.”
5. The Bible is sufficient. (James 1:18, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3-4, Rev. 22:18-19, Deut. 29:29)
The Bible is sufficient. This means that the scripture is sufficient to equip us for everything we need to be saved, to please God in our life and to perform every endeavor for good. 2 Tim. 3:16-17, says quite clearly, “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[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Another passage which points to this is 2 Peter 1:3-4. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
We have no need for further biblical revelation. We have no need of any more words from God at this juncture in time. We have all we need, until the coming of Jesus for every good deed, and for all teaching in the church. Every bit of doctrine, teaching, theology, every bit of work we do, and what we need to please God is found in Scripture. It is important to remember that we have all we need in scripture as we walk together in the faith. But, in acknowledging the sufficiency of scripture, we must acknowledge all of what scripture has to say. We cannot pick and choose which parts we like and dislike, but must embrace all of the word of God. Do you think this way about the Bible? Meditate on this: Do you feel as though you need something else besides scripture to know how to live your life pleasing to God? Every book, every theology work, every preacher, every creed or statement of faith only equips us sufficiently if they point us back, present before us, remind us of and encourage us to hold fast to and cherish the words of God, which are the only infallible rule of the church of Jesus Christ and are sufficient to equip for every bit of doctrine, practice and daily living in God’s Church. Creeds and catechisms are wonderful tools to teach God’s word and embrace its sufficiency in all areas of life and doctrine, but terrible if they ever substitute the sufficiency and authority of scripture. God’s holy infallible word is the foundation on which we stand.
Conclusion (will discuss together in group)
Developing and Cultivating Regular Bible Reading: “The most critical discipline is the intake of God’s Word. No factor is more influential in making us more like the Son of God than the Spirit of God working through the Word of God.” Donald Whitney
Here is the Link to the Audio
Here is the Link to the Audio