There is no more cruel stroke of the wrath of God than when He sends a famine of hearing His words. – Martin Luther
A well-known pastor recently told his audience we shouldn’t be saying “The Bible says…” anymore.
Oh, when it blew up on the internet he did a sort of hemming and hawing backtrack, which really wasn’t backtracking what he said as much as it was an attempted justification. The fact of the matter is this particular pastor doesn’t seek to “preach the word” as Paul exhorted Timothy (1 Tim 4:2) as much as he preaches ideas, using Scripture to support what he wants to say.
But lest I pick on Andy Stanley, this post isn’t really about him, but the condition of the church as it relates to how we view and use the Bible — in corporate worship, in private devotions, in personal application.
We nod our heads and say “Amen” to the statement, “For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name” (Ps 138:2), but in reality we more closely resemble the condition of those to whom the prophet spoke the words of the LORD, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. . . . you have forgotten the law of your God” (Hos 4:6).
This indictment on the church has only become a heavier burden upon my heart, and thus a focal point of my pastoral ministry, but I see both in my own church and the church at large people who are starving for the word of God, and they don’t even realize it. No matter how much I say it or how much it’s said, those who don’t get it don’t get that they don’t get it.
Today many professing Christians are not really Christians at all, because they’ve been convinced they are safe by pastors and teachers who derive their authority not from the word of God, but by whatever works.
Today many professing Christians are in grave danger because they trust Christian bookstores to sell books and other materials that are in line with and help explain the word of God. Meanwhile, they are buying books which claim to speak for God instead.
Today many professing Christians will do anything and everything to feel spiritual or be inspired or feel holy or that they are hearing from God — except read their Bible.
As I understand the Bible, though, there are four things about the Bible we all need to know — and these are non-negotiable
The inspiration of Scripture (the one the scholar rejects)
The Bible is inspired by God. Let me repeat that. It is inspired by God. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God might be adequate, equipped for every good work.” That word for inspired (the Greek theopnuestos) literally means breathed out. These verses are telling us the words of Scripture are breathed out of God’s mouth, so to speak. They are from, out of, Him. The Bible in inspired by God and it teaches us, it reproves us (that means it tells us when we’re wrong), it corrects us (teaching us how to be right), and it trains us for righteousness (so that we won’t be wrong next time). That’s what the Bible does, and that’s because God is righteous and the Bible, the Scriptures, are His word.
Or how about 2 Peter 1:20-21? “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” The Bible wasn’t just written by men. The Holy Spirit gave them the words. The Bible is inspired, breathed out, by God.
The inerrancy of Scripture (the one the skeptic rejects)
The Bible is inerrant. Meaning without error, completely truthful and completely trustworthy.
If we believe the Bible, as it was inspired by God, has any errors, then what does that say about God? It would mean we don’t believe God is completely truthful. It would mean we don’t believe He is powerful enough to give us His word so that, now thousands of years after He gave it to us, we can still trust it. What does that Bible say about itself?
How about Psalm 119:89? “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.” Paul is talking about the Scriptures in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 when he writes, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” What that is saying is that God has given us His word in a way that we can know it, and we can’t know it if there are errors.
Now I know that one of the favorite hobbies of some is to say, “The Bible is full of contradictions.” To which I say, “First of all, show me and let’s talk about these so-called contradictions. Second of all, you’re wrong. And through diligent reading and studying of God’s word I’ll show you you’re wrong.”
God is truth. Jesus said He is the truth. His Spirit is the Spirit of truth. And as Jesus said in John 17:17, the word of God is truth, by which we are sanctified (made holy). The Bible is inerrant.
The authority of Scripture (the one the sinner rejects)
The Bible is authoritative. We all have authorities. For students, teachers and school administrators are their authority. For children, fathers and mothers are their authority. For citizens (and I suppose even illegal aliens), the officials we elect to government offices and law enforcement are authorities.
But ultimately God is the One in charge. God is our King. Jesus is our King… But Jesus isn’t on the earth reigning as King right now, is He? So how do we know what He, our authority, wants of us? He has given us His word, the Scriptures, which in Psalm 19 is referred to as the law of the LORD, the commandments of the LORD, and the judgments of the LORD.
What does it say about what we think of God if we believe His word to be inspired and inerrant, and yet we reject it as authoritative? It means we are rejecting God as our King, much the same way the Israelites did in 1 Samuel 8. Do you remember what happened to them? God gave them Saul, who was an epic failure. And Israel’s history would be one of many kings who did not consider God’s word authoritative, and brought disaster upon themselves and the people.
The Bible is authoritative. Not you. Not what you want. The Bible is authoritative, which is why Jesus repeatedly taught by telling people, “It is written…” Paul quoted the Old Testament. Peter did, too.
Many people can write things about God. We can have confessions and statements of faith, catechisms… but ultimately all of them have to be in line with what the Bible says, because the Bible, the word of God, is the only word that is authoritative. God is in charge through His word.
The sufficiency of Scripture (the one the professing Christian rejects)
The Bible is sufficient. Sufficient. Sufficient. Sufficient. What God has given us in the Bible is enough. It’s enough.
If our Christian bookstores had nothing but the Bible in them that would be enough. The word of God is enough.
We don’t have to go looking for more from God, like signs and wonders and prophecies or visions or voices in our head or devotional books that claim to be what Jesus told somebody, because what God has given us in the Bible is enough.
The Bible tells us all we need to know about creation, all we need to know about the commandments, all we need to know about our own sin, all we need to know about our one and only Savior, Jesus. Read again toPsalm 19:7-9: “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring 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 judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.” God tells us… the Bible is enough.
Jesus Himself said, to Satan no less, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). He was quoting Deuteronomy 6, by the way.
A lot of people have a lot of ideas about how Christians should be, how families should be, how churches should be. But what matters is God’s word. Is what you believe what the Bible says, or do you rely on the Bible plus something else? Or do you maybe conveniently edit out in your practice parts of the Bible you don’t like quite as much. The Bible is sufficient. The Bible is enough. God has spoken. His word is what we need.(1)
It’s from the Scriptures we realize that the most important thing, period, is the glory of God, so we do all things to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria). It’s from the Scriptures we realize we are saved by Christ alone — His perfect life without sin and His death on the cross where He bore our sins, and His resurrection by which we are given eternal life (solus Christus) by sola gratia, grace alone, God giving us what we do not deserve. We learn that from the Scriptures. And also sola fide, faith alone. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not in the things we do, but by believing in Jesus and what He has done. It’s only through the Bible we learn this.
That’s why sola Scriptura is the indispensable doctrine. No matter how many times and how many different ways I repeat it in this post, I cannot tell you how important it is to realize how important the Bible is. It’s inspired by God. I’m not, but the Bible is. It’s inerrant. I’m not perfect, but the Bible is. It’s authoritative. I’m not in charge, but God is, and I find out what God wants from the Bible. And it’s sufficient. I’m not enough, but God is, and He gives me all I need to know in His word, the Bible, the Scriptures.
Inspired. Inerrant. Authoritative. Sufficient.
These four concepts comprise the foundation for how we are to understand the Bible, and they are non-negotiable. Departure from any inevitably results in the foundation cracking and falling apart. Time has proven this over and over again.
In future posts in this series, then, I will build upon this foundation (and these concepts), and we will begin to see a right understanding of what Scripture is begins to affect the believer every single day.
(1) Let me be clear that my belief in the sufficiency of Scripture is not my way of saying we shouldn’t read Christian books and stuff like that. I’m not that guy. But I will say that our acceptance or rejection of any “Christian book and stuff like that” should be predicated upon a bedrock commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture. If what we read does not meet that standard, it should be discarded with yesterday’s trash.