In a previous set of articles I explained 1) we need God to reveal himself, 2) he has revealed himself in the Bible, and 3) the Bible is necessary, inspired, authoritative, self-authentifying, sufficient, clear, and final. As I speak on this topic with neighbors I realize that several facets need to be expanded in more detail.
Specifically, the Bible’s inspiration, preservation, and finality are questioned in the form of statements such as, “Why is the Bible called God’s Word?”, “How do we know that the Bible we have today is the correct and complete collection of God’s revelation to man?”, “Why is the Bible God’s final revelation to man? are you saying he is silent today?”
This set of articles will address these important questions according to the following headings:
- The Bible is God’s Word
- The Bible has been transmitted to us intact – Later Article
- The Word Compiled
- The Word Preserved
- The Bible is God’s completed written revelation to man – Later Article
- The Canon was temporarily closed
- The Canon is permanently closed
- God Speaks in the Scriptures – Later Article
- Personal Reactions
- Necessary Implications
The Bible is God’s Word
This is an issue I grappled with early in my Christian walk. Christians often point to John 17.17 and Psalm 119.160 as evidence that the Bible is God’s absolute Truth:
‘Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.’ (Jn 17.17)
‘The entirety of Your word is truth.’ (Ps 119.160)
These verses say God’s word is truth; they don’t say the Bible is truth. Add to this the fact that in John 1 we read Jesus is the Word and things might start to get a bit murky. So why do Christians assert that the Bible is the Word & Truth? The quick answer is that Jesus is the living Word and the Bible is the Written Word.
The longer answer explains why it is proper to say that the Bible is the Written Word, God’s Absolute Truth. To explain this we must explore A) what Scripture is, B) how Jesus regards Scripture and C) how New Testament writers regard Scripture.
Holy Scripture is God-breathed
First, to clarify some terminology: “Inspiration” means “God-breathed” (2Ti 3.16). When we say “The Scriptures” we are using shorthand for the “The Holy/Sacred Scriptures” wherein “scriptures” means “writings”; there are many writings published across the globe but we are dealing with the Holy Scriptures (2Ti 3.15)—God’s breath-word-revelation.
The Scriptures differ from all other writings because they are the product of God’s will not man’s will. ‘For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.’ (2Pt 1.21) These writings are Holy Scripture precisely because they are God-breathed for if they weren’t from God they would not be Holy Scripture.
Jesus Christ viewed Scripture as sure, undeniable, unbreakable
In a variety of ways and on numerous occasions, Jesus appealed to the Scriptures as inherently and absolutely authoritative. He said, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.’ (Mt 5.17–18) [“law or prophets” = Old Testament Scripture].
When he refuted the Devil (Mt 4) he simply cited the Old Testament since it is the final authority. Often times he asked critics, ‘Have you not read [the Scriptures]…?’ Other times he upheld OT laws and stories as true and fundamental: Abel, Noah’s flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John the Baptists’ fulfillment of Malachi’s prophesy, etc. In doing so he taught that the Old Testament testified about him, Moses wrote about him, Isaiah wrote about him, etc.
Importantly, Jesus pre-authorized the New Testament scriptures: to his disciples he declared, ‘But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.’ (Jn 14.26) ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.’ (Jn 16.12–14)
So Jesus saw the Old Testament as inerrant and authoritative and he promised the disciples would receive inerrant, authoritative guidance in order to write more.
New Testament writers regarded Scripture as God’s word
As we read through the New Testament we notice an interesting phenomenon: many times the authors go back and forth between “God said” and “Scripture says.” Thus, Scripture is what God says, i.e. his Written Word. There is no essential difference between God’s spoken word and the written word of Scripture. For examples of this phenomenon compare Galatians 3.8 with Genesis 12.1-3; Romans 9.17 with Exodus 9.16; Matthew 19.4-5 with Genesis 2.24; and others.
Also, Hebrews 1.2 says that the Father has spoken by his son Jesus. Jesus’ ministry which is captured in the New Testament is God’s words put into life and print. Thus, again, Scripture is God’s Word(s).
To summarize thus far: God himself breathed out the Scriptures, Jesus regarded them as ultimately authoritative, and New Testament writers equated the Scriptures with God’s words. Thus it is proper for us to say that the Scriptures are God’s Word. Next we will consider the proposition that the Bible we have today is the same as the Scripture to which Jesus and the New Testament writers referred.