By Will Bossert
Why should you read your Bible? Is it because God says so, or because it is good for us? Many of us might think off the top of our head it is a simple answer, but unless we traverse the depths of this important question we might never connect our hearts to an answer to this question that brings about an understanding, respect, appreciation and dedication the Bible deserves. What we know and believe about scripture affects us on a grand scale. The Bible is polarizing, there is no middle ground with it. It is either God’s written Word that should impact every area of my current life, or it is just interesting literature that I should give no more care in the world as I do my daughters Dr. Suess books (of which I do enjoy reading during bedtime, but have never allowed Fox In Socks to impact my life in a significant way). The Bible is such a big deal that it is important for us to know why it is a big deal and decide why and how it should impact our lives. This is called a Theology of Scripture.
In the book Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, these four characteristics of Scripture are listed: Authority, Clarity, Necessity, and Sufficiency. I wish I had the time to explain each of these more thoroughly, but since I don’t, I will do my best to summarize what they mean to us. If you wish to gain a more exhaustive understanding of these characteristics please read chapters 4-8 of Grudem’s book.
The Authority of Scripture:
“The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”
When we believe the Bible is actually God’s Word it changes us. We can no longer just read it with a sense of, “Oh that’s really nice, what Jesus did for us”. Instead, it should jar us into a realization that Scripture is literally God’s words. And just think, we have access to it,to the literary work of the almighty God! This is the God who created the entire universe.Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” He literally SPOKE things into existence. And He gave us His Words. This adds a unique level of gravity to the Bible and what it is trying to communicate to its readers. This is ultimately, who God is and how he has rescued humanity through His son Jesus. How awesome is that!
2. The Clarity of Scripture:
“The clarity of Scripture means that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it.”
I can remember a time when I would tell my Youth Minister, “I can’t read my Bible because I can’t understand it.” The truth, in my case, was that I was lazy and wanted an excuse to avoid reading it, and I was afraid I wouldn’t understand what I was reading . Once I decided to take seriously, the charge to be in the Word, my eyes were opened to the reality of this great book. One of the beautiful aspects of the Bible is that you do not have to be a scholar in order to read it and at least have a general understanding of it. What a loving God we have, that He would design it this way! This is not to say that we won’t have questions, but that as a whole this book is written to be understood. God wants the message to be comprehended in a way that it can be shared! Mark 16:15, “And He said to them,’Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature’.” So please, don’t let fear keep you from reading your Bible, but instead, be encouraged and dig in!
When questions arise, a few things I have found helpful are: 1. Genuinely ask God for help. 2. Go to the scriptures and see if you can find an answer. 3. Use reliable commentaries (I’m sure Mike could direct you to a few great ones). 4. Be patient! We are not going to understand all of the things all at once. Some things will take maturity and time, and some will not be understood until God calls us home.
3. The Necessity of Scripture:
“The Bible is necessary for knowing the Gospel, for maintaining a spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws.”
The reality is the Bible is a necessary component in the process of knowing the Gospel. Knowing the Gospel is not just a one time thing, we have to continually hear the Gospel work itself out in our lives and there is nowhere better to seek and search all of the facets of The Gospel than the Bible. Then beyond being necessary to know the Gospel, the Bible is where we must go in order to live a life that is transformed by God. We cannot just will ourselves into a new way of living, we need God’s good Word to teach, demonstrate, support, and convict us into a new way of living. Finally, comes the aspect of knowing God’s will. We often make this so complicated by thinking we have to discover God’s secret plan for our lives, but the truth is we can seek scripture in order to discover God’s will. Of course it doesn’t have specific specs for how your’s or my life should be played out, but with a disciplined depth of study one gets to know God more and more intimately and can distinguish between what is in God’s will and what is not and therefore be able to apply that to one's own life.
4. The Sufficiency of Scripture:
“The Sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contains all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.”
We can be confident that the Bible and it’s 66 books are the complete, sufficient Words of God. We do not have to go searching for anything more. There are only two halves of Redemptive history, pre-Jesus and post-Jesus or Old Covenant and New Covenant. It contains everything we need for that which is necessary to be a Christian. Our salvation is in it completely, i.e. The Gospel. It contains all that God has chosen to reveal about who He is to us and what it reveals is a perfect God who has brought us into His story through Jesus. Now the reality is that God has not revealed all that there is, but it does contain all that God intended to give us.
Hopefully these characteristics of scripture inspire you to look at God’s word in a new light. That you would read it often and intentionally. Read it with a sense of it’s true value as God’s actual word that He has delivered in a way we can understand. We can be confident that it is complete and that it contains information that is necessary for our salvation, life and mission. Most countries in the world have easy access to the Bible and with the technology of Smartphones that is becoming even more true. The reality is that the accessibility of the Bible is such a wonderful thing, because it means more than ever, most people can read God’s word easily and for the most part affordably. Adversely, the accessibility of the Bible means that we generally do not give the Bible the respect and awe it deserves. The Bible truly is a treasure and it is my hope that as we look at all it is as we craft a proper theology of Scripture we will understand how valuable it is and devote ourselves to it.