"Gods sacred Word among us; which is that inestimable treasure, which excelleth all the riches of the earth" (Preface to Authorized King James Version)
2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Authorized King James version of the Bible. This and subsequent articles are designed to provide some factual truth on the Bible the believers most treasured possession.
The human word is important and powerful (James 3.4-6), but Gods Word is more so (Heb 4.12). The Bible is the bedrock of the Christian faith. Consider its:
Revelation: Humans are made in the image of God to have fellowship with Him (Gen 1.26). God is revealed in His creation (Ps 19.1-4) but, in a special way, through the Scriptures (Ps 19.7-11).
Documentation: God communicates verbally (Heb 1.1), but the record needs to be preserved (Ex 17.14). The Bible is Gods written record and is progressive (with two testaments); personal (revealing the Son of God) and panoramic (extending from eternity past to eternity future).
Compilation: The Bible was written over a period of around 1,500 years with approximately 40 different writers, but this mode of revelation has now ended. The Canon is closed: from as early as the second Century, the 66 books of the Bible formed the written and final record of Gods revelation (1 Cor 13.8-12). We are not to add to the revelation (Deut 4.2; Prov 30.6; Rev 22.18-19). The Scriptures are sufficient: "it is a sufficient guide for every aspect of Christian belief and practice" (Nothing but the Truth, Brian Edwards, Evangelical Press, 2006).
Preservation: God committed the original Old Testament text to the Jews, who ensured its protection as the oracles of God (Rom 3.2). The original text of the New Testament completes the Word of God. It is the subject of hatred and ridicule (Gen 3.1), but it cannot be destroyed (read Jer 36.21-32 in light of Ps 119.89)!
Edification: Personal experience teaches that the Bible is important to feed the soul of the believer and promote growth and development (1 Pet 2.2).
The Bible is what it claims to be the Word of God (1 Thess 2.13). Consider the following:
Meaning: Every time we read the Bible (or verses/passages are quoted in our hearing) it is as God Himself is speaking the words. The key text is 2 Tim 3.16: "All Scripture is God-inspired" (AV, Newberry reference). The Bible records the words that "proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Mt 4.4). The entire text of Scripture, in its original Old Testament and New Testament language, has literally been breathed out of God.
Method: Peter explains the approach taken to document the written Word of God (2 Pet 1.20-21). The term "moved" by the Holy Spirit is important elsewhere in the New Testament it refers to a ship being carried along by the wind (Acts 27.15,17). The writers of Scripture were under the control of (or carried along by) the Holy Spirit and they wrote what God wanted them to write.
Misunderstandings: No 1 - Were the writers of Scripture human keyboards, used by the Holy Spirit to transcribe Gods Word? No! The Word of God retains the distinctive personality of the individual human writers. The style in each of the four Gospels is one such example. No 2 Were the writers given the broad thrust of the message but had scope to add their own details? No! The Word of God is the Word of God. The words of Scripture are themselves God-breathed (1 Cor 2.13).
Message: The central theme of Scripture is the Lord Jesus and hence large portions of the Bible are prophetic in nature (Rev 19.10). This predictive quality, and its subsequent fulfilment, makes the message of the Bible unique in nature and divine in origin. "Prophecy without divine inspiration can be a risky business" (The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture, R Pache, Moody, 1969). The Bible, however, is sourced to God, who knows the future and directs the course of history.
The Chambers English Dictionary defines inerrancy as "freedom from error": a succinct and accurate description of the Bible!
Logical: The Scriptures are the Word of God; He is unable to lie (Titus 1.2); the Bible is free from error.
Total: Each word of the original text of Scripture is God-breathed, so each word is inerrant (though it records error and lies, eg Gen 3.4). This is true of doctrine, ethics, geography, history and every subject of Scripture (Prov 30.5).
Practical: The continual reading of the "word of truth" (John 17.17) is the only basis by which the Christian can live holily in an unholy world.
In studying the Word of God, there are a number of principles of interpretation:
No 1 - Literal: "If the literal sense makes common sense then seek no other sense unless it results in nonsense!" This principle assumes that, as God wants His revelation to be understood, we need to apply the normal rules of communication: look to the plain sense of what has been written (and do not seek for double meanings).
No 2 - Dispensational: God administers the affairs of His creation in various stages and we need to understand their differences as we interpret Scripture. For further detail consult Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie (Moody Publishers, reprint 2007).
No 3 - Contextual: We must look to the immediate context (historical, cultural, and geographical) to interpret properly the meaning of Scripture. "A text without context is a pretext!"
No 4 - Devotional: Bible study is to inform the mind and inflame the heart, so we need to look for the Saviour in our daily reading of Scripture (Lk 24.27).
No 5 - Methodical: Haphazard and slothful approaches to Bible study will yield poor results. Secular books (novels etc) are read from cover-to-cover and so must Scripture be.
Illumination is the means by which God takes the words of Scripture and applies them to the heart.
Author: The Holy Spirit resides within the believer to reveal the truth of Scripture (Jn 16.13). If we grieve or quench the Holy Spirit (Eph 4.30; 1 Thess 5.19), we fail in our Bible study.
Blessing: The Bible sheds light on the need of salvation and how / where it can be obtained (Rom 10.17; 2 Tim 3.15). The believers pathway is also illuminated by the Word (Ps 119.105), and prayer is a vital component of Bible study (Acts 6.4).
Christians: Fellow-believers are to help each other with their understanding of Scripture (Acts 18.26). Believers in the early church were marked by fellowship around the truths of Scripture (Acts 2.42).
To be continued.