The Bible. No book has been more hated or more loved. No book has caused more controversy or been credited with changing more lives. No book has been so profusely published yet so violently prohibited. And for the Christian, no book is more important than the Bible.
Without the Bible, there would be so many things that we would not know about God, about salvation, about the church, about life after death, etc. In this first post of a series about basic Bible doctrines taken from a sermon series we are doing at Downham Baptist Church, we are going to see what the Bible says about the Bible.
It might seem like circular reasoning to let the Bible be the foundation for what we believe about the Bible. But it makes sense when you consider the very nature of what the Bible claims to be (the final authority for everything we believe and do). There is no higher authority to which we can appeal.
The Bible is a like a lion – it needs no defending. The lion is the king of beast because he lives in the open with no need to hide. The whole jungle is the lion’s territory. He is the top of the food chain and every other animal respects him. There is no need to defend or protect the lion; and in the same way the Bible is a lion that defends itself.
No pastor, no Christian, and no person ever need to worry about the Bible’s ability to be truthful, authoritative, or stand up under attack. Some men have found apparent contradictions, yet no one has ever been able to explain the incredible amount of the prophecies, scientific accuracy before its time, and all the truth and life change that comes from the Bible.
What is the Bible?
A. The Bible is a Book of books
The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word “biblos” (book) or “biblia” (books). It is actually made up of 66 different books – 39 in the OT, 27 in the NT. The books of the Bible as we have them today are arranged in rough chronological order, but primarily by the type of literary genre.
The OT is organised up of…
- 5 books of law – Pentateuch (written by Moses)
- 12 books of history – from death of Moses until 400 years before Christ
- 5 books of poetry – Hebrew poetry that is not just rhyming poetry as we might think, but other types of poetry
- 5 major prophets – called “major” because their message is longer
- 12 minor prophets – not a minor message but minor in length
The NT has…
- 4 gospel records – looking at the life of Christ from various angles
- 1 historical book – Acts
- 9 epistles (formal letters) of Paul to churches – Romans – 2 Thess
- 4 epistles (formal letters) of Paul to pastors/friends – Timothy, Titus, Philemon
- 9 general letters – written by other authors including Revelation
Yet the Bible is One book
Though the Bible is 66 individuals books, there is a reason we often refer to it and have it bound all in one book. Because the Bible has one main author, God the Holy Spirit, there is an incredible unity, agreement, and harmony through the Bible. Taken as a whole, it communicates one united story.
B. The Bible is the Word of God (2 Peter 1:12-22)
This book of the Bible, like so many in the New Testament, was written by a man who knew Christ personally – the Apostle Peter, the most prominent of the 12 Apostles during and after the ministry of Christ.
2 Peter 1:12-22
- v.1 He is writing to people who have believed on Christ.
- v.10-11 The purpose of his letter seems to be to encourage them to keep on believing in Christ and to be ready for the return of Christ.
- v.12 Writing to remind you of what you already know and have believed.
- v.13 As long as I am alive, I am going to keep reminding you of the truth.
- v.14 Because I know that my time and short and I will pass on as the Lord Jesus Christ showed me.
- v.15 My goal in writing this so that after I am gone you will be continually reminded of the following things:
- v.16 The things we have told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ were not “cunningly devised fables” (cleverly devised tales/stories – some made up system of religion or believe); they were things that I and many other saw as eyewitnesses (and were prepared to die for).
- v.17 I was there when he was transfigured and received honour and glory from the Father, when a voice spoke from heaven letting them know that Jesus is the beloved Son.
- v.18 And I was there with two other eyewitnesses (James and John) when we heard the voice that spoke from the holy mount.
- v.19 But there is something that is “more sure” (more reliable, more abiding) than even eyewitness testimony – a more sure word of prophecy (of revelation rom God).
- This more reliable word is something that we should “take heed” to.
- This more sure word is something that is like a light that shines in dark place.
- This more sure word is something that gives light until the day dawns and the day-star arise in your hearts – until the promised kingdom of light comes on the earth when Christ, the Promised Messiah comes.
- v.20 But before that happens (“first”), you need to know that no part of this more sure word of prophecy (“the Scripture) is of any private interpretation (someone’s own private thoughts, explanation).
- v.21 This prophecy, the Scripture (“holy writings”) came not in the past by the will of man, but holy men of God spake (and wrote) as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
The Bible had two authors:
Human Authors – holy men like Peter (about 40 of them)
- Men from all different walks of life: kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, scholars, generals, doctors, tax collectors
- Men who lives on three different continents – Africa, Asia, Europe
But behind them all was one Divine author – the Holy Ghost (Spirit)
- He moved them along. He guided them in what to say.
- He often used their experiences, knowledge, and language abilities, but he was not limited to it.
- He could give them insight and knowledge so that they wrote without error and without incredible unity.
- The thing that makes the various books of the Bible part of the Bible is not that men decided but the fact that each book possesses and authority that comes directly from God and when men made the canon (list) of the books that now are in our Bible they were only recognising what is already there present – the mark of the Holy Spirit of God.
- So we can rightly call the Bible the Word of God.
II. What does the Bible teach about the Bible?
We have already seen that some teaching from the Bible, but let us look at some specific key truths the Bible teaches about the Bible.
A. It is inspired. (2 Timothy 3)
- v.1 Paul the Apostle is speaking to Timothy about the spiritual dangers of the last times.
- v.2-5 He lists many different characteristics of the last times.
- v.6-9 He mentions there will be false teachers who will oppose the truth.
- v.10-12 He then reminds Timothy of his own example and faithfulness in spite of great trouble and opposition.
- v.13-14 He admits that things will get worse and more deception will abound but that he should stick with the things he has learned and been taught remember those who taught him.
- v.15 The things he had been taught from a child were the “holy scriptures” – holy writings.
- v.16 All of these scriptures are the key because all of it has been “given by inspiration of God” – out of the very mouth (“breath”) of God.
- As the human authors wrote, God was speaking through them. 2 Sam 23:1–2 Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, And the man who was raised up on high, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, 2 The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, And his word was in my tongue.
B. It is infinitely profitable. (2 Tim 3:15-16)
1) For Salvation (v.15)
- One of the greatest benefits of the Bible is that is makes us wise unto salvation.
- The Bible tells of God’s perfect creation that was marred by sin.
- But then it tells of the coming of Christ Jesus, the God’s chosen Saviour.
- He came, died, was buried, and rose again and all who have faith in Him will be saved from their sin.
2) For Doctrine (v.16)
- Doctrine = belief or teaching.
- Can be truth doctrine (teaching) and false doctrine (teaching)
- Some doctrine is called doctrine of devils (demons) (1 Tim 4:1)
- Other doctrine is called sound (“healthy”) (2 Tim 4:3)
- The only way to know what is true and what is false; what is right and what is wrong is to measure it by the standard – the Bible.
- It is easy to get it wrong, so keep searching/studying/reading/measuring.
- John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
- Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
3) For Reproof (v.16) – rebuking us when we sin
4) Correction (v.16) – correcting us when we are error
5) Instruction in righteousness (v.17) – teaching us how to grow up in the ways of Godly living
C. It is sufficient for all we need. (2 Tim 3:17)
Many people respect the Bible, but few lean on it for everything. But here we are told that through the Scripture, the man of God (anyone who seeks to serve God and others) will be perfect (completed), throughly furnished (equipped with every necessary component for a task).
Paul knew that because Timothy had the Word, he had all he needed. The Word is all we need. Acts 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
D. It has been and will be preserved. (Psalm 12:6-7)
Much doubt has been cast upon the Bible by those who say that it has been changed over the years and can we really trust it.
It is so funny how these same skeptics seldom question other historical writings (i.e. Do we really know that Julius Caesar existed? Alexander the Great? Maybe it was just their followers trying to make ordinary blokes someone famous?)
Don’t you think the same God who could create the world and inspire His Word could also protect and keep it for every generation? That is exactly what He promised to do:
- Psalm 12:6–7 6 The words of the Lord are pure words: As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, Thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
- Isaiah 40:8 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: But the word of our God shall stand for ever.
- Matthew 24:35 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
E. It all points to Jesus.
This is a very important truth that I hope you don’t miss. The Bible is not just a book about abstract truths, ideas, and rules and regulations; it is really about a person – Jesus Christ. The lives of many other men and women are mentioned, but their lives only serve the highlight how much they needed and we needed Jesus. There were many men and women that God greatly used, but they all had their weaknesses and none of them even measured up in any way to Jesus. Everything in it points to Him. He is the point of the whole story.
- Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself…32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
- Acts 28:23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening
When you read the Word, look for Jesus. Look for where did man fail and where did the grace of God step in. Look for where a Saviour is needed?
III. Why does it matter today?
I hope have already picked up that the Bible is really the biggest deal ever. The fact that we have an inspired, persevered, sufficient, and authoritative Word of God means…
- There is a God. How else would we get such and amazing book? From the very beginning, His existence is assumed. (Genesis 1:1 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.)
- This God wants a relationship with us. From the very beginning, God walked and talked with man and ever since God has been seeking for men. He seeks for us even when we don’t seek for Him.
- This God is one of love and grace even though man sins. From the beginning, God provided a means of salvation to sinful man, a sacrifice that pictures the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the lamb of God who “appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9:26).
- This book is absolutely crucial for us to know God, know how to be saved, and know what to believe and how to live. The Bible is far more than a history book, a philosophy book, a relationship book, a theological book; it is a revelatory book.
- The Bible is how God reveals Himself to us. Hebrews 1:1–3 1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high… God wants to know you. He gave His Son, the living Word, as the ultimately express of Himself. And He gave the written Word as the impeccable record of the life of His Son.
- Come to know God through faith in Jesus as recorded in the Word.
- Come to know God more through His inspired writings.
- Mix what you read with faith. Hebrews 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
- Submit your life to this Word. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
- Study it carefully so you rightly divide. 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
- Proclaim the word and watch the Lord work through His Word. Mark 16:20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. Hebrews 4:12 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Sweeter Than Honey
Psalm 19:7–11 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: And in keeping of them there is great reward.