The Bible


bible-808633_1280This is the sixth post in our series on the biblical view of the Bible. This time we want to turn our attention to the unity of Scripture. To speak of the unity of Scripture is to say that the Bible speaks with a one voice. In the Bible we do not have two separate books with two different messages, but one book (even if given in two Testaments) with a unified & consistent message. Not only does the Bible not contradict itself, but its message from start to finish (from Genesis to the book of Revelation) is indeed a consistent, unified one.

Look at how often the writers of the New Testament quote from, refer to, or in some way allude to the Old Testament Scriptures. For example, read through the book of Matthew (the very first book of the New Testament), and notice how often Matthew states that something about the person, work, or words of Jesus Christ are actually the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. It is practically the theme of the entire book! Or read through the book of Romans. In Paul’s extensive explanation of the gospel throughout that book, he quotes from or refers to the Old Testament over and over again (including such books as Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, Isaiah, etc.) in order to make his case.

The Old and New Testaments together comprise God’s revelation of Himself to a sinful humanity. The exact same God reveals Himself in both the Old & New Testaments. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament God is referred to as “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3 & Revelation 4:8). In both the Old and New Testament God is described as a “consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24 & Hebrews 12:29). In both the Old Testament and the New Testament God judges sinners for their wickedness and unbelief. The same God who struck down Pharaoh and his armies (Exodus 14:26-31) also struck down King Herod for his attacks on His people and for not giving glory to God (Acts 12:20-24). God does not change.

Not only that, but the way of salvation does not change. The Old Testament (and not just the New Testament) is about Jesus Christ and the way of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Him. Jesus Himself said that Moses (the human author of the first five books of the Old Testament – Genesis through Deuteronomy) wrote about Him (John 5:46). The Apostle Paul twice reminds us that Abraham (the father of the Jews) was saved by faith (Romans 4:3 & Galatians 3:6). And where did Paul get that notion? From Genesis 15:6, which says that Abraham “believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

I hope that you have found this to be helpful and illuminating. But most of all I hope that you come to see Christ in all of the Scriptures and come to Him by faith for eternal life.


bible-808633_1280This is now the fifth post in a brief series on the biblical view of the Bible. In this post I would like to briefly examine what may be the most neglected attribute of Scripture in the life of evangelical Christians and churches today – the sufficiency of Scripture.

To say that the Bible is sufficient is simply to say that it is adequate or enough for what we need. We do not need something else, or something extra. When it comes to life and godliness, we need no substitute or supplement to the Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the Apostle Paul writes,

“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.” (ESV)

Paul there tells us that all Scripture is “profitable” (or useful) for such things as teaching, reproof, correction, and training.  (Have you ever found yourself being reproved or corrected by Scripture? If so, that’s a good thing – it means that God’s Word is doing it’s job in your life!) But notice that Paul also tells us the purpose of Scripture in all of that teaching, reproving, correcting, and training – it is that the man of God may be “complete” and that he may be “equipped for every good work.” So God’s Word is enough; it is sufficient to build up believers and mold us to be the people God wants us to be, and to be able to do His will.

Individual believers and churches in general are constantly being tempted to rely on something other than Scripture or at least something in addition to Scripture, to do the work that God has called us to do. We are tempted to put our confidence in all kinds of other things that we are told “work.” (We are constantly being tempted by pragmatism.) But it is really the Bible alone that is sufficient for faith and life. It is in the Bible alone that we learn the gospel of salvation in Christ. It is in the Bible alone that we learn what God would have us to believe about Him. It is in the Bible alone that we find the will of God for our lives when it comes to ethics and morality, marriage, family, church, society, and even government. It is in the Bible alone that we are sufficiently instructed how to properly pray, worship, and make disciples of all nations.

So if we say that we believe the Bible, let’s act like it. Let us seek to apply it to our lives, our families, our churches, and our community. And let us rely upon it alone to know and do the will and work of God. Nothing else is sufficient; nothing else even comes close.

The Biblical View of the Bible (Part 4 – Clarity)

bible-808633_1280This is the fourth post in a series on the biblical view of the Bible. In previous installments we have briefly touched upon things such as the inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of the Bible. And that brings us to another very important attribute of Scripture – its clarity. (Theologians commonly refer to this as the “perspicuity” of Scripture – somewhat ironically, not exactly the easiest term to understand!) In other words, the Bible is clear.

So the Bible can be understood without a secret decoder ring. And it can be understood by people other than religious professionals with advanced degrees and lots of letters behind their names. (There is nothing wrong with advanced degrees, of course, but they are not prerequisites for reading and comprehending the truths of Scripture.) The Bible is meant to be read and understood by both the simplest child and the most learned scholar alike. It is an open book.

Now to say that the Bible is clear does not mean that everything in the Bible is equally clear or easy to understand. The Bible itself even tells us so. No less than the Apostle Peter attested to this fact in one of his epistles. In 2 Peter 3:15-16 he writes,

“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.” (ESV)

Even Peter himself said that some things in the letters of Paul “are hard to understand” (v.16)! Ever have difficulty understanding something in one of the epistles of Paul? Welcome to the club! Nevertheless, the essential message of Scripture (especially the gospel of salvation through faith in Christ) is abundantly clear.

We may not always know what to make of all of the different visions in the Old Testament prophetic books or in the book of Revelation, but it doesn’t take a Ph.D to read and understand the basics: that there is one true and living God who created the universe and everything in it; that we have all sinned against Him and are in need of a Savior; that God has sent His only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the one and only Savior of sinners; and that whoever trusts in Christ will be saved! You can read and understand the Bible, and I sincerely hope this helps you to do just that.

The Biblical View of the Bible (Part 3 – Inerrancy)

bible-808633_1280This is the third post in our series on the biblical view of the Bible. We have briefly looked at both the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and now we want to touch upon another very important corollary of the inspiration of Scripture, that is its inerrancy.

Inerrancy, simply defined, means that there are no errors or mistakes in the Bible. None. Now that may sound like a preposterous claim to some, but I make no apologies for stating it. The inspiration of Scripture (i.e. that it is “breathed out” by God – 2 Timothy 3:16) implies and even demands that the Scriptures be without error. The Word of God, because it is the Word of God, is true, sure, and trustworthy in all that it says. It can be believed, trusted, and relied upon.

Some prefer the term infallibility, which is merely the idea that the Bible will not steer you wrong. That sounds all well and good, but it is sometimes used as a pretext for denying the full inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. And if there are errors in the Bible, by what standard are we to determine what those errors are? And how are we to discern what parts of the Bible are to be believed and followed? Church tradition? Our own reason? Sadly, human reason, as fallible as it is, often ends up becoming the substitute standard. One then reads the Bible and simply rejects or reinterprets what it says based upon his or her own prior convictions and thoughts. Another way of saying that is to say that we are then placing ourselves above Scripture – we essentially become our own standard, the measure of truth and understanding. But are we wiser than God? I think not.

What was Jesus’s own view of the Bible? In the “sermon on the mount” (Matthew chapters 5-7) He told the crowds, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18, ESV). Think about that. An “iota” is a reference to the smallest letter in the Hebrew Alphabet (which looks much like a comma); and a “dot” is a reference to the smallest marking in Hebrew writing (which looks like just what it sounds like – a dot). So the Lord Jesus Christ did not just claim that the Scriptures were true in some general, vague sense, but rather boldly stated that everything in it will be fulfilled, right down to the smallest letter or mark! The Word of God is trustworthy and true – all of it!

The Biblical View of the Bible (Part 2 – Authority)

bible-808633_1280In our previous post we briefly looked at what the Bible says about its inspiration – that it has been “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV). In other words, the Bible is the very Word of God Himself. Now that fact has some rather important and far-reaching implications, doesn’t it? And one of the first of those implications is that Scripture, as the Word of God, is authoritative.

To say that the Bible is authoritative is to say that it is our “only rule of faith and obedience” (The Westminster Larger Catechism Q.4). In other words, if there is any debate or question about what we are to believe (i.e. faith), the Bible has the first and final say on the subject. Likewise, if there is any debate or question about how God would have us to live (i.e. obedience), the Bible has the first and final say on that subject as well. Do you approach the Bible that way? Or, better yet, do you test or examine what you believe and how you live by what the Bible says? Needless to say, if you are a believer in Christ, you should do just that.

For example, do you attend worship at a local church? Do you listen attentively to the preaching? (I certainly hope that you do.) But if so, do you bring your Bible? Is your Bible open during the sermon? In Acts chapter 17 the Apostle Paul was in a place called Berea (v.10). When he and his companion, Silas, went into the local synagogue to preach the gospel of Christ, what did the Jews in Berea do? The Bible says that they were “noble” because “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (v.11, ESV). Think about that. They had the Apostle Paul himself preaching to them (!), and yet they tested whatever he said to them by what the Old Testament Scriptures said! (And you can be sure that Paul did not mind that one bit.)

I hope that you will be that noble-minded as well. Bring your Bible to church; keep it open and test everything by the Scriptures. Please don’t take our word for whatever we pastors say in our preaching! Receive it with all eagerness, to be sure, but also examine whatever we say by what the Bible says. Make sure that you are believing us pastors and teachers only so far as we are actually teaching you what the Bible says – nothing more, and nothing less. We have no authority in and of ourselves. None. Our only authority is found in what the Word of God says. His Word is truth (John 17:17).

The Biblical View of the Bible (Part 1 – Inspiration)

bible-808633_1280What do you think of the Bible? For that matter, what does the Bible say about itself? (Does it tell us how we are to think of it?) Another way of putting this question is to ask, “What is the biblical view of the Bible?” Have you ever given that much thought? It is a vitally important question to have settled, because in many ways it is foundational to everything else in the Christian faith and life.

Your view of Scripture determines how you will approach the Bible, and how you approach the Bible has far-reaching implications for practically every aspect of your faith & life.

When it comes to the biblical view of the Bible, the place to start is the inspiration of Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God . . .” (NKJV). Now, we often use the word “inspiration” to speak of a motivating force or emotion. We sometimes speak of being inspired to do something, or feeling inspired by a work of art or a beautiful sunrise. But that is not the idea that the Apostle Paul is conveying in the above verse. For all of Scripture to be “given by inspiration of God” is for it to be (as the ESV translation puts it) breathed out by God.” What do you normally do when you speak? You (among other things) breathe out or exhale, don’t you? What Paul is essentially saying there is that the Scripture (all of it!) is nothing less than the very Word of God Himself! What the Bible says, then, God says. And that changes everything, doesn’t it?

That the Bible is the very Word of God Himself means that we need to take heed to everything it says (and about whatever it speaks of). That should certainly supply us with ample enough reason and motivation to read it, study it, believe it, and obey it.

The fact that God has communicated to fallen humanity at all should astonish and amaze us. That He has not left us in the dark about Himself or about the way to be made right with Him through faith in Jesus Christ should fill us with gratitude and praise.

Practical Advice on Bible Reading from J.C. Ryle

Ryle Practical ReligionHave you ever wanted to make it a point to read the Bible on a regular basis, but just weren’t sure how to go about it? If that describes you, here is some practical advice for you from J.C. Ryle’s book, Practical Religion (p.122-125):

  1. Start today. Just get started, and worry about figuring out the perfect way to do it later. You can always change how you go about it as you go. Ryle writes,

    “The way to do a thing is to do it, and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it. It is not meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it, which will advance you one step. You must positively read.” (p.122)

  2. “Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it.” Don’t just set a certain number of pages as your goal. Make it your aim to learn and understand what you are reading from the Scriptures. Better even a verse or two rightly understood than 50 pages hurried over as a mere duty or checklist item marked off for the day. As Ryle notes, “a Bible not understood is a Bible that does no good.”
  3. “Read the Bible with childlike faith and humility.” Be prepared to learn; more than that, to have your mind changed and renewed. Do not accept only what seems agreeable with what you already think or believe. He writes, “Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind that you will receive all and believe all, and that what you cannot understand you will take on trust.”
  4. Read the Bible with an eye toward obeying it & applying it to your life. We are not reading for reading’s sake or for curiosity alone. At times the Word of God will shine a spotlight (or more precisely a searchlight!) on our sins and shortcomings. There God will show us what He would change in us to conform us more to the image of Christ. Where you see a command or a prohibition, take it to heart and seek to obey and apply it to your life.
  5. Read the Bible daily. If man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4), and yet we need to eat on a regular basis in order to live, how much more do we need a steady diet of God’s Word in order to sustain us!
  6. Read all of the Bible, and read it in an orderly fashion. If we fail to read the Bible this way, we will almost certainly skip around and miss a great many things.  Don’t forget that the Apostle Paul tells us that. “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” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV). All of God’s Word is breathed out by God. And He gave all of it to us with good reason, for our benefit. It is all necessary for us.
  7. “Read the Bible fairly and honestly.” Try your best to take everything you read there in its most plain and simple meaning. If what you read there does not fit neatly into your preconceived notion or previously taught theological system, maybe the thing to do is not to try to shoe-horn that passage to make it fit with your notion or system, but rather to reconsider your notion or system instead.
  8. “Read the Bible with Christ continually in view.” The whole Bible (not just the New Testament, but the Old Testament as well!) is ultimately about the Lord Jesus Christ. (See Luke 24:27; John :5:39-47.) That being the case, we will have a difficult time rightly understanding the Scriptures if we do not perceive the chief end for which they were given – to point us to Jesus Christ.

There is obviously a lot more that could be said, but the advice above is a pretty good start. I hope that you find these things to be helpful in your efforts to spending time in the Word of God.

J.C. Ryle on the Cure for Doubts about Scripture

Ryle Practical Religion

Do you struggle with doubts as to whether or not the Bible is truly the Word of God? If that is the case, allow me to offer one simple solution by way of the pen of the great 19th century Anglican preacher J.C.Ryle. In his book, Practical Religion, Ryle writes,

Oh that men who are troubled with doubts, and questionings, and sceptical [sic] thoughts about inspiration, would calmly examine the Bible for themselves! Oh, that they would act on the advice which was the first step of Augustine’s conversion, – ‘Take it up and read it! take it up and read it!’ How many Gordian knots this course of action would cut! How many difficulties and objections would vanish away at once like mist before the rising sun! How many would soon confess, ‘The finger of God is here! God is in this book, and I knew it not.’ (p.94)

It often seems that those who doubt the Bible most are the very same people who have spent the least time actually reading it.  And while many people allow their doubts to prevent them from reading the Scriptures in the first place, reading those same Scriptures is often the very cure for the doubt or skepticism that ails them. As Ryle notes elsewhere in the same chapter of his book, “the book itself [the Bible] is the best witness of its own inspiration” (p.93).

Tolle lege – Take up and read!

Book Review: Taking God At His Word, by Kevin DeYoung


This is a very good book about the Good Book.

It is also a timely and important book. Granted, a book like this would be timely in any age, as attacks on the inspiration, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture have basically been around as long as Scripture itself. Indeed the original temptation by the serpent in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3) in many ways took the form of an attack on the veracity and truthfulness of the Word of God.

I have a confession to make: I have enjoyed and benefited from a number of books by Kevin DeYoung. It would not feel right to call myself a “fan” of his, but he is as close to “automatic” for me as any current Christian author gets. In other words, whenever he writes a new book, chances are pretty good that I am going to obtain a copy for my personal library, read it, and highlight it extensively.

Part of the reason for that is that I have never read one of his books and felt like my time was wasted.  He seems to have a knack for writing on subjects that are both timely and important. He also seems to have a knack for writing with both pastor and lay person alike in mind. His works are scholarly, but not overly academic.  They are accessible, but not overly simplistic. In other words, he writes as a pastor. And this particular book is no exception.

DeYoung states the goal of his book as follows:

I want to convince you (and make sure I’m convinced myself) that the Bible makes no mistakes, can be understood, cannot be overturned, and is the most important word in your life, the most relevant thing you can read each day. (p.14)

In order to accomplish this goal, DeYoung goes into some detail about the four (4) attributes or characteristics of Scripture: Sufficiency, Clarity, Authority, and Necessity (often abbreviated by the acronym, SCAN). He spends no less than 4 of the 8 chapters (half of the book!) in this brief volume dealing with these attributes. This section is very helpful.

The final two (2) chapters of the book deal with Jesus’ view of Scripture (by examining in the Gospels what Jesus has to say about Scripture, how He used Scripture, etc.) and the inspiration of Scripture (primarily focusing on 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and the surrounding context).  He closes with an appendix of “Thirty of the Best Books on the Good Book.” The books on this list vary from those that are easily accessible to the highly academic. (Clearly DeYoung is not claiming to have written the last word about God’s Word.)

One of the strengths of this book is that throughout its pages, DeYoung demonstrates the very view of Scripture that he is seeking to impart to the reader.  In other words, much of his argument consists of the exposition of various passages of Scripture itself.  And by making his case in this way, he not only tells us, but also shows us that the Bible really is sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary.

I highly recommend this book and sincerely hope that it enjoys a wide (and long-lasting) readership. You can order a copy here: Taking God At His Word

Preaching the Word or Homiletical Ventriloquism?

Dummy (Edgar Bergen)

What does it mean to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV)?  Preaching the Word means that the message of the text of God’s Word is also the message of the sermon.  The text of Scripture is primary; its message (not the preacher’s) is central.

Simply put, if the message of a sermon is not the message of Scripture, it may be called “preaching” (however loosely defined) but it is not truly preaching the Word.

Preaching the Word of God takes more than merely including or quoting Scripture in the sermon (although that is at least a good start).  In his book, The Pastor’s Justification, Jared C. Wilson writes,

Putting some Scriptures in your sermon is not the same thing as preaching the Scriptures. (p.119)

Preaching one’s own ideas from behind the pulpit and sprinkling in a verse or two of Scripture is not unlike using the Bible as nothing more than a ventriloquist’s dummy.  Sad to say, this is what false teachers have always done.  Paul warned the elders of the church of Ephesus that they needed to be on the lookout for savage wolves who would be “speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30).

Indeed, Satan himself twisted the words of God back in the garden of Eden when he tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-5).  He also quoted Scripture this way when he sought to tempt the Lord Jesus Christ out in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).  He quoted the actual words, but twisted their meaning and implications.

So what does this mean for us in the church today?  If you are a minister of the Word of God, make sure that you are not using the Word of God like a wax nose or a ventriloquist’s dummy – presenting your own ideas as if they came from Scripture.  And do the hard, painstaking, time-consuming work of translating, interpreting, and faithfully proclaiming the message of Scripture.  The Westminster Larger Catechism puts it this way:

Q. 159. How is the Word of God to be preached by those that are called thereunto?  A. They that are called to labour in the ministry of the Word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.

And for the listeners?  How are you listen to the preaching of the Word of God?  The next question in the Larger Catechism addresses that very topic:

Q. 160. What is required of those that hear the Word preached?   A. It is required of those that hear the Word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

And you thought that the preacher was supposed to be the one doing all of the work during the sermon – far from it!   How are you to ensure that your pastor is not practicing homiletical ventriloquism?  By attending on his preaching of the Word with diligence, preparation and prayer; by examining what you hear by the Scriptures themselves.

Do you bring your Bible to church?  Do you pay attention to the sermon?  Do you follow along and take notes?  We really should listen like the Bereans did in Acts 17.  There they were called “noble” (v.11).  Why? Because they “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”  They were hungry for the Word of God, and examined whatever they heard by the Scriptures!

If we were all to do that, there would be far less homiletical ventriloquism and far more true and faithful preaching of the Word of God!