The Bible is a lightening rod. For the most part it is forbidden in America’s public schools, and in several countries to this day it is illegal to have a Bible. It is regularly portrayed in popular culture as an out-of-date book with no use for the modern mind. The events described are often called stories or legends instead of how they are portrayed in the Bible as actual events in history. The miracles of the Bible are explained away by science. The Bible has gotten a bad rap in today’s world.
What should we think about the Bible? What place should the Bible have in people’s lives? Why should someone learn about what the Bible says? Simply put, the Bible is God’s revelation. Through the Bible God reveals His nature and the nature of His creation to us.
The Bible was Inspired by the Holy Spirit
God’s thoughts can be expressed through human beings in human language
Bible means book in Greek. A book is a collection of thoughts expressed through words. The Bible is the collection of 66 separate books of God’s thoughts written by more than 40 authors living in a variety of cultures spanning a period of 2,000 years in three different languages.
Verbal inspiration – Not just the ideas or the events of the Bible but the words themselves. “The Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.” (Romans 3:2)
God’s thoughts were inspired in the minds of the authors by God’s Spirit working in them.
God’s thoughts were expressed exactly according to his intention. Scripture teaches that God’s words were being expressed through the prophets. “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
God’s thoughts were conveyed according to the ability, experience, personality and understanding of the author. They did not write down word for word dictation for the most part, although in some cases they captured exact words as in quotes.
God’s thoughts were not all given at once but progressively.
Later revelation builds upon earlier revelation. “It is complementary and supplementary to it, no contradictory.” (Erikson, Christian Theology) For example, as a part of God’s plan of redemption, He made covenants. These covenants are essential to understanding the character of His love, grace and truth. He made covenants with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and finally the new covenant sealed by the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. As you read through the Bible especially in light of these covenants, you get a greater understanding of God’s plan. He didn’t reveal his full plan until Jesus came to earth.
Paul refers to this as a mystery because for so long God’s intentions were not clear to His people the Jews. “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.” (Romans 16:25-26)
God’s thoughts were given in a specific time and place but can be understood and applied in the present time. Some parts are more difficult to understand especially due to language and cultural differences. Some parts were applicable at one point in history but are not longer applicable. However, that does not mean that those parts were not inspired. Even those parts which don’t apply to us today are for our instruction and we can learn from them about God’s character, nature and plan. “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)
God’s thoughts, all the words of the Bible, are inspired.
Plenary – All of scripture is inspired, not parts. “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16)
The Bible is our Supreme Authority
God’s thoughts are completely dependable.
The books of the Bible that we have received have been affirmed over the centuries by pillars of the faith. “I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error.” (Augustine) “The Scriptures have never erred….The Scriptures cannot err.” (Luther)
Innerrancy – the doctrine that states “The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms.” (Erikson)
The Bible has been faithfully copied over the centuries, yet in some cases there have been differences in what was copied. Almost all of these “variations” do not change the meaning at all. When we talk about inerrancy, however, we refer to the original writings of the books of scripture. In the original writings, the Bible is without error.
One of the most popular arguments against inerrancy is that the Bible, especially in regard to scientific and historical matters, contains errors. However, this is to treat the Bible as a scientific or historical textbook, which it is not. It does not aim to primarily give scientific or historical data, but the assertions it makes are fully true. An event can be observed and described according to how it appears to the human eye and still be true. It is a popular description which often uses general references or approximations.
For example, advances in science often cause the universe to be viewed differently than it was even a few short years ago. When I was in grade school, Pluto was a planet. Now it is not. If I was to say that Pluto was a planet, the younger generation might correct me, while the older generations would agree with me.
For example, if my annual income was $25,376, and I said that I made $25,000, would I be accurate? Well it depends on who I was talking to. The IRS wouldn’t think so, but everyone else would understand that I was using an approximation. Thus we also understand that the Bible will use approximations to communicate depending on the circumstance. This does not detract from its reliability; it enhances it because this, in fact, is how people talk and relate to each other every day.
Even so, the Bible continues to prove itself to be completely dependable and accurate. Every scientific and historical discovery only serves to prove the inerrancy of God’s Word.
God’s thoughts are absolute truth.
The Lord said in prayer to His Heavenly Father speaking about his disciples, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) By definition truth is the standard by which everything is measured. In context, Jesus is talking about the scriptures here. The words of the Bible possess the right to define what we are to believe. The words of the Bible are absolute truth which the Lord uses to transform those who belong to Him by faith into greater and greater holiness.
God’s thoughts in the Bible are the final authority in all matters of faith and life. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) We learn how to live through being fully trained in scripture. The Bible is not a list of principles or suggestions on how to have a happy life, but it is essential for our life in the Lord. As Larry Schultz likes to say, “The Bible is our oxygen as a Christian.”
God’s thoughts as interpreted by Jesus in His life and teaching are the supreme interpretation of the Bible. We have Jesus’ thoughts through the writers of the gospels, the first four books of the New Testament. When we look at understanding the Bible, what Jesus himself taught is key to distinguishing, for example, what applies to Christians today from the Old Testament and what does not.
For example, the Jews were given instructions by God on what foods to eat and what foods not to eat. We know these as the laws of kosher. Yet, when Jesus taught about what foods to eat he said, “Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Mark 7:18) Jesus made a shift then from what the covenant with the Jews required to what under the new covenant was to be understood concerned foods to eat. Mark goes on to write, just so it was clear, “Thus he declared all foods clean.” (Mark 7:19) This is not to say that some foods might be bad for you, but it is not a sin to eat any food in a general sense.
Jesus’ teaching is also why we continue to observe the seventh day as the Sabbath unlike most of Christianity. This is because Jesus highlighted the right way to live out the Sabbath command – not in legalistic practices like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time taught. Instead, Jesus taught the freedom that comes from ceasing our work and resting in God’s provision and relationship. Jesus called himself the, “Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:8) Unlike the food laws which Jesus stopped, the Lord instead affirmed the ongoing need for the Sabbath which we understand according to the revelation of the Bible in Genesis is the 7th day of the week – sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
The Holy Spirit works to bring understanding of the truth to the hearer or the reader of the Word. This is the Spirit’s role, to guide God’s people into all the truth. The guidance is both in understanding as well as in living out the truth.
We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and is our final authority in matters of faith and practice. We believe that Jesus Christ, in His life and teachings as recorded in the Bible, is the supreme interpreter of God’s will for mankind.
-Seventh Day Baptist Statement of Beliefs