A Bible study blog series about the Fundamental Christian Doctrines based on the Southern Baptist Faith and Message. Topics to be covered during the course of this study are:
- the Scriptures (current location of the study)
- God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
- God’s Purpose of Grace
- Baptism and Lord’s Supper
- Lord’s Day
- God’s Kingdom
- Last Things
- Evangelism and Missions
- Christians and Social Order
- Peace and War
- Religious Liberty
Why do you believe what you believe? Have you ever stopped to consider that? Whether it be religious, political, scientific, paranormal, etc., there is some reason (or multiple reasons) that you believe the things that you do. All of these beliefs together make up our individual worldview, or how we understand the workings of the universe. A Christian’s fundamental worldview is built around the Scriptures of the Bible.
The Baptist Faith and Message has the following statement about the Holy Scriptures:
“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself focus of divine revelation.”
In this 3-part section of the Bible study I’m going to explore the three main aspects of this statement.
- How the Bible came to be.
- How Scripture is to be viewed and used.
- How Scripture points to and exalts Jesus.
How the Bible came to be
To begin, I recommend that you read the following article from Lifeway titled “How Did We Get the Bible?” (https://www.lifeway.com/en/special-emphasis/read-the-bible/articles/how-did-we-get-the-bible). The Bible is a collection of 66 books authored by at least 40 human writers over a period of about 1500 years. However, the Bible itself makes a clear claim for itself – that God is responsible for the prompting and inspiration behind the words of the Bible. In his second letter to Timothy (3:15-17 – bolded italics is my emphasis) the apostle Paul says, “… and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Paul was not only referring to the Old Testament, but to the New Testament as well. It was understood by the writers of the New Testament that they were also writing divinely inspired Scripture. Peter acknowledged this in his second letter (3:15-16 – bolded italics is my emphasis), referring to the writings of Paul: “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” Peter was placing Paul’s writings on equal footing with the Old Testament scripture.
What did it look like for God to inspire human authors? Peter also addresses this in his second letter (1:19-21): “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit has worked over the ages to use the words of the human authors of the Bible to convey the exact message that God wanted.
We see a few specific examples of this in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 5:2-5 and 22-28 Moses recounts for the Israelites the time when God spoke the Ten Commandments to them: “The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain….. These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’ And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me.” God spoke directly with Moses and Moses faithfully delivered the words to the nation of Israel. Exodus 24:4 also states that “Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD.”
We see another example in Jeremiah 36:1-32. “In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD that he had spoken to him. And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, “I am banned from going to the house of the LORD, so you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the LORD’s house you shall read the words of the LORD from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the men of Judah who come out of their cities. It may be that their plea for mercy will come before the LORD, and that every one will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and wrath that the LORD has pronounced against this people.” And Baruch the son of Neriah did all that Jeremiah the prophet ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the LORD in the LORD’s house. In the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the LORD. Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the LORD’s house. When Micaiah the son of Gemariah, son of Shaphan, heard all the words of the LORD from the scroll, he went down to the king’s house, into the secretary’s chamber, and all the officials were sitting there: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, Elnathan the son of Achbor, Gemariah the son of Shaphan, Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the officials. And Micaiah told them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the scroll in the hearing of the people. Then all the officials sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, son of Shelemiah, son of Cushi, to say to Baruch, “Take in your hand the scroll that you read in the hearing of the people, and come.” So Baruch the son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand and came to them. And they said to him, “Sit down and read it.” So Baruch read it to them. When they heard all the words, they turned one to another in fear. And they said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.” Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, please, how did you write all these words? Was it at his dictation?” Baruch answered them, “He dictated all these words to me, while I wrote them with ink on the scroll.” Then the officials said to Baruch, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.” So they went into the court to the king, having put the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, and they reported all the words to the king. Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son and Seraiah the son of Azriel and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel to seize Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet, but the LORD hid them. Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Thus says the LORD, You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?” Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’” Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.” Notice that the words Jeremiah had written were preserved by God. When Jehoiakim burned the original copy, the Holy Spirit enabled Jeremiah to faithfully reproduce them again. Isaiah predicted this when he wrote (40:8), “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Peter quoted this same scripture in his first letter (1:24-25): “for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’”
Jesus used the same phrasing about His own words in Luke 21:33: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” He also told his disciples that they would be led by the Holy Spirit in this same way. In John 16:13-15 he said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Jesus was referring to the time after his resurrection and ascension to heaven when the Holy Spirit would arrive and fill the hearts of Christians. And, specifically in the case of the apostles, He would direct them in the writing of what would become the books of the New Testament. Paul acknowledged this inspiration in Romans 16:25-26 – Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—“. Similarly, the writer of Hebrews (1:1-2) said, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
As the article mentioned at the beginning of this study points out, “Contrary to modern arguments, the canonization of the Bible did not occur when a church or government determined what books were ‘in’ and what books were ‘out.’ Yes, it’s true that the rise of Constantine was a huge boost for Christianity’s legality in the ancient world, but this event did not all of a sudden make the Bible authoritative or complete. The acceptance of the books of the Bible as being both authoritative and inspired by God occurred as the books were written, understood, and received as God’s Word.” It is important to understand that God has preserved His word and it is complete. There are not “missing” books or progressive revelations of additional scriptures, as some would suggest. Jesus warned, in Matthew 23:2-4 – “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” We must be careful to distinguish between the teachings of humans and the Word of God. When John wrote the book of Revelation, he wrote (22:18-19), “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” These words are direct quotes of Jesus as he speaks to John during the revelation of that book. While the warning applies specifically to the book of Revelation, I believe that it applies just as equally to all of the words spoken by Jesus / God / the Holy Spirit – who are all the One and the same!
Next time I’ll examine a second aspect of the Scriptures – how they are to be viewed and used.