What’s your relationship with the Bible like? How would you describe the Bible to someone else? I don’t know if you’ve ever pondered these questions, but I didn’t until recently. The Scriptures or Bible is made up of different books written by about 40 authors over at least 1500 years. It contains historical events including miracles, biographies, genealogies, prophecies and pronouncements from God. It also includes words spoken by the devil, accounts of men with erroneous theology like Job’s friends [Job 42:7], accounts of events and instructions that make some of us uncomfortable, and so on. So, considering all these things, what goes through your mind when you read the Bible or hear it read?
I believe it’s important to examine what the Bible is because what we believe it to be will ultimately decide what we do with it. Today, there isn’t a universal view of the Bible among Christians. Some groups consider it the inerrant word of God, some ignore aspects of it, while others modify or remove passages they don’t like. These controversies will only increase. So, this week I’d like to challenge you to decide for yourself what the Bible is and consider its origin, purpose and the role it ought to play in your life. Additionally, I’d also like to share some thoughts which have helped me. What you believe the Bible to be is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a Christian.
Paul, in his farewell letter to Timothy, makes this statement: “All scripture is breathed out by God and it is beneficial for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the child of God may be complete, and equipped for every good work [2 Timothy 3:16-17]. Peter also adds that nothing inspired by God for the purposes of declaring His will emanated from men. Instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 1:20-21]. Therefore, we can conclude that what we read originated from God. So, in a very tangible sense, the Bible is God’s word. Furthermore, all includes the passages we like, and the ones we don’t. The Bible isn’t man’s creation, so we have no authority to manipulate it for our purposes. This is important because too many people try to pick and choose which parts of the Bible they will accept or reject – a privilege we aren’t given by God.
Having established its origins, it’s worth asking why God gave us the Bible. In this regard, I find Paul’s reference to righteousness in the verses above helpful. I’m therefore convinced that God is invested in our righteousness, i.e., us being in a right relationship with Him. Righteousness is first used in the Bible in connection to Abraham and his act of faith [Genesis 15:6]. The second usage is by God when He explains that He chose Abraham, our father in faith so that he would command his children and their generations to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that He may bring upon Abraham what He promised [Genesis 18:19]. Firstly, this implies that those chosen to inherit Abraham’s promise had to be trained in righteousness. Secondly, it implies that walking in righteousness is connected to experiencing God’s promise.
It makes sense to me that a God who is invested in our righteousness would give us written instructions on how to walk in righteousness [see Romans 15:4]. Through the people, events and instructions in Scripture, God reveals His nature, character and His written will for us. But, do we value this revelation enough to prioritise our quest for it? Do we desire to know and keep the way of the Lord? I’ve found that there’s no ambiguity with what God expects of those who choose to follow Him. However, when there’s a conflict between God’s word and our desires, we’re confronted with a challenge. Will we hold an exalted view of God’s word like David and submit to it [Psalm 19:7-11]? Or will we disobey God’s word like Eve [Genesis 3:1-6]?
None of us can keep God’s instructions perfectly. If we could, we wouldn’t need Jesus. Nevertheless, what’s our posture towards God’s word? How do we treat the Bible when it disagrees with our actions, cultural norms, desires or preferences? Is our posture one of submission, ambivalence or resistance? If you submit to it, then like David, when you fall into sin, i.e., walk in unrighteousness, and you’re confronted by God’s word, you’ll readily admit your sin [2 Samuel 11:1-12:13, Psalm 51]. But if you resist or despise God’s word, then like Manasseh, one of the ancient kings who did evil in God’s sight, you’ll repeatedly violate God’s instructions without remorse [2 Kings 21:1-18].
In reality, many of us find ourselves somewhere between David and Manasseh, straddling the line between submission and resistance. We have mixed feelings about God’s word. Consequently, we obey it when it’s convenient. This is where I was not so long ago. This condition betrayed my understanding of who God is and how I should respond to His word. David knew God both as the Creator of the universe and the owner of everything He created [Psalm 24:1-2]. Therefore, he submitted to God as his Lord and understood that God’s word wasn’t up for debate. It was law to be obeyed. Similarly, if we don’t see God as Lord, we won’t submit to His commands.
One of the conditions for salvation is to confess Jesus as your Saviour and Lord [Romans 10:9]. If He’s Lord, then His word is law. If He isn’t Lord, His word isn’t law. There’s no middle ground. Jesus once asked His disciples: “who do you say I am?” [Luke 9:20]. Today, He poses the same question to us. Our answer is reflected in our posture towards His word [Luke 6:46, John 14:21-24]. So, what’s your posture?