Everyday Mommy Jules asked this question about the Bible a few days ago. I haven’t read the responses there yet, but my first thought went back to a time when my college dorm supervisor asked us to study what the Bible says about itself. Then later I thought of the man who was my pastor for fourteen years (and still would be if we had not moved) saying that when he first started preaching, he approached a given passage with the question, “What can I say about this passage?” He realized over time that the right question was, “What does this passage say?” Having fourteen years of expository preaching with that basis influences how one thinks when reading the Scripture. 🙂 (That’s not to say that Jules is asking the wrong question — not at all, it is a very important question. I’m just saying that this is how my mind works in thinking of how I would answer it: first of all I need to consider what it says about itself.)
I wish I still had the notes to that first study I mentioned. I might, buried in a box somewhere. That was before I made files for such things. But these passages come to mind.
The Bible is first and foremost God’s Word. If it were not, none of the rest would matter. There might be some pleasant sayings, some good common sense, some good stories and warnings to heed, some “inspirational” passages. The Bible is inspired, but not in the same way as we might speak of a poem or anecdote being inspirational. II Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” The word “inspiration” there comes, I am told, from a word that means “breathed out.” II Peter1:21 says, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Theologians debate exactly how the process worked, and I have heard some of the different views, but however it happened, the Bible is literally given to us by God. I enjoyed in Bible Doctrines class learning how Peter referred to Paul’s writings as Scripture, how Christ quoted from the Old Testament, etc. — there are many evidences that each part of the Bible is God’s Word.
It is interesting that in that passage from Peter, a little earlier he refers to the time he, James, and John were with Christ when they saw a glimpse of Him in His glory, in what is called the “transfiguration.” Peter says they were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” and heard God’s voice from heaven. Seems like that would be a pretty exciting experience, doesn’t it?! But Peter says, after referring to that incident, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy…” (II Peter 1:19) and then refers to the Scripture. He is saying that Scripture is a “more sure word” than even the experience of seeing Christ in His majesty or hearing God’s voice from heaven!
Since that is the case — that Scripture is inspired of God and more sure than experience — it is authoritative and reliable. It’s also binding. I have an obligation to listen to, heed, and obey what it says. I am responsible before God for what I do with what I read and hear.
The II Timothy 3:16-17 passage goes on to say God’s Word is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” The word “perfect” there means “complete” rather than “flawless.” Doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction are not what most people go to the Bible for: usually they want to be comforted, encouraged, uplifted; they want something to make them feel better, something to help them through the day. The Bible is good for those things and does do that: but primarily God wants to use it to teach us, change us, and bring us to spiritual maturity. That’s not always comfortable.
As God’s Word, the Bible also:
1. Keeps me from sin
Psalm 119:9, 11: Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
(See also verse 101)
2. Is my delight and my counsellor
Psalm 119:24: Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.
(See also v. 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143)
3. Quickens (revives) me
Psalm 119:25: My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.
(See also verses 37, 40, 50, 88, 107, 149, 154, 156, 159)
4. Is my basis for hope
Psalm 119:49: Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.
5. Is the basis for my comfort
Psalm 119:52: I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself.
(See also verse 76)
6. Is better than gold or silver
Psalm 119:72: The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.
7. Is forever settled in heaven
Psalm 119:89: For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
(See also verses 144, 152, 160)
8. Is what I should love and meditate on
Psalm 119:97: O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
9. Is the source of wisdom and understanding
Psalm 119: 98-100:Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
(See also verses 104, 130)
10. Is sweet
Psalm 119:103: How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
11. The source of guidance
Psalm 119:105: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
12. Is right
Psalm 119:128 Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.
(See also verses 137, 138, 172)
13. Is pure
Psalm 119:140: Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.
14. Is truth
Psalm 119:151 Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth.
(See also verses 142, 160)
And those are all just from Psalm 119. The Bible is full of instruction about itself.
And in light of what is says about itself, what can I say but Amen!