Section 2: The Bible
Week 1: The Bible Is Authoritative
Day 1: The Bible Is Composed of God’s Own Words
2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Pet. 1:19-21
Have you ever fallen asleep reading the Bible? If you’re like me, you have—more than once. Maybe there were times when you were exhausted after a long day. But I bet there were other times when it just came down to the fact you thought the Bible was boring. Remember that teacher in school who droned on and on in a monotone voice? Remember how bored you were? Most of us feel the same way about the Bible at some point or another. Why is that? Some of it has to do with our approach to reading the Bible.
The Bible is Not a Text Book
Imagine I gave you a textbook on risk management. How excited would you be? Probably not very. You’d have no need for it. If your boss puts you in charge of risk management at the office, maybe you’ll pick it up. Until then, you’ll pass.
Many of us look at the Bible the same way. We see it as a reference book to be studied when we need answers to various problems. I’m feeling sad. What does the Bible say that will make me feel better? I’m facing a difficult decision. Does the Bible offer some wisdom to guide me?
What’s wrong with that approach? Well, if we come upon a section that doesn’t address a problem we’re dealing with at the moment, we lose interest. Whole sections of the Bible, thus, become irrelevant as far as we’re concerned. What possible use could I have for all that information on the tabernacle in Leviticus? I don’t plan on building one anytime soon. So I can just skip over it.
The Bible, however, isn’t a textbook. It’s the primary means God uses to reveal himself to us.
God Has Spoken to Us
When we open the Bible, we’re reading God’s own words (2 Tim. 3:16). How is that possible though? The Bible was written by human authors. David, for example, wrote many of the Psalms. Paul wrote Romans, and Peter wrote 1st and 2nd Peter. If human authors wrote the various books of the Bible, how could the words be God’s words?
We need to be careful here because it’s easy to oversimplify the process and say God just told the authors what to write and they wrote it down. Picture Paul sitting down at his desk to write Ephesians with God standing behind him dictating the whole thing.
There’s a problem with that picture; it doesn’t take into account how often the personalities of the biblical authors come through. There certainly may have been instances where God did dictate exactly what he wanted written. But the process of dictation doesn’t seem sufficient to explain how all the biblical books were written. The human authors were more than just scribes.
Does that mean parts of the Bible aren’t really God’s own words? No. We don’t know how God accomplished it in every case, but we do know God was able to direct the lives of the biblical authors “such that their personalities, their backgrounds and training, their abilities to evaluate events in the world around them, their access to historical data, their judgment with regard to accuracy of information and their individual circumstances when they wrote, were all exactly what God wanted them to be so that when they actually came to the point of putting pen to paper, the words were fully their own words but also fully the words that God wanted them to write…”[i]
So even when God didn’t dictate them, the words of the Bible are still God’s words. That means reading the Bible is more like a conversation than a textbook.
God Is Still Speaking to Us
“Now hold on a second,” you might be saying. How does that turn the Bible into a conversation? When I read a book, I’m reading the author’s words. But the author and I aren’t having a genuine conversation. The author doesn’t even know I’m reading the book. So he or she could hardly be said to be speaking to me. How is the Bible any different? The words of the Bible may be God’s words, but surely he isn’t speaking directly to me.
Actually, he is. When we read the Bible, the Holy Spirit is right there with us, helping us to understand what we are reading and how it applies to our lives (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:17-18, 3:18-19). Since the Holy Spirit is God, that means God himself is speaking to us as we’re reading. By itself, that ought to be exciting. But remember, because he is omniscient, God knows exactly what you’re going through in life. That means he knows exactly what you need to hear at that very moment, and he can tailor what he says according to that need. No mere textbook could do that.
Does the fact that God speaks to us personally through the Bible change the way you look at reading the Bible? Is it exciting to realize that God himself is talking to you?
The next time you pick up the Bible, consciously remind yourself that God is about to speak to you.
Want to Dig Deeper?
In today’s reading we noted God worked through the biblical authors in such a way that the words they wrote were not only their own words, but God’s as well. That raises an issue. A lot of religious works have been written over the years. How do we know which ones were really inspired by God? We tackle that question in the first topic in the Digging Deeper section titled “How Was the Bible Put Together?”
[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 81.