The Bible We Believe

Read 2 Timothy 3:16

By Bryan Chapell. On the evening of the first Rodney King verdict in South Central LA, a group of young men knocked another to the ground and began brutally beating him. Into the angry mob waded an elderly minister named Bennie Newton. Risking his own life, he repeatedly stepped in the way of the blows, taking some of the punches and kicks on his own back and legs. “You must not do this,” he said. “This man has done nothing wrong. You must stop this.” And eventually the mob did stop. They turned away in disgust from the old man, who had faced them with nothing more than a Bible in his hands. His weapon was the Word. He literally entrusted his life to the Bible, as we have for eternities. Why? Why would anyone who wrestles not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities, face the forces of evil with mere paper and print in hand? I pray it is what we believe about this book.

I. We believe the Bible is inspired.

See the first words of II Tim 3:16. The language of the KJV is explained for us in the NIV: all Scripture is God-breathed. That translation is a direct rendering of a Greek word that combines the terms for “God” and “breath”. The idea is even as you speak your breath comes out of your mouth, so the Scriptures are what God has breathed out, what he speaks — these are his Words.All that is Scripture is God-breathed, God’s very word to us. This is not merely an academic fact. It is the precious truth that everyday and during the greatest trials of my life, in his Word God speaks to me.

We are so misled in thinking that life would be easier if God would perform a miracle and speak in the lightening or write his will in the clouds. We forget the greater miracle that he has put his Word in our laps, and it does not fade with the thunder or get blown away by the wind. Every day he makes his Word known to us. He is as present and real as his Word. Here God speaks. You can face anything with his voice in your ear, as his breath flows upon your heart with his Word.Even that voice will bring you little courage or comfort, however, if you cannot trust it. We must add another dimension to our understanding of Scripture for it to be what God intends it to be in our lives. To the conviction that the Bible is inspired, we must add …

II. We believe the Bible is inerrant.

The word inerrant means the Scriptures are without error. This is a direct consequence of the fact that the Bible is God’s Word. Since it is of him, it should reflect his character. This is precisely the point of Ps. 19. Listen to how God’s Word is described there:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”

“The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.”

“They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.”

“By them is your servant warned;” (Ps. 19:7-11)

If you only to consider the adjectives, what does the Word of God sound like? It sounds like God. He is perfect, trustworthy, wise, right, pure … thus it makes sense that what he says, what he breathes, would be the same. His Word is perfect, trustworthy, wise, right, pure, enduring and sure.

Release from the Slavery of Subjectivism

If “the rule of God’s Word” sounds constraining, recognize the necessary slavery of any other approach. If the Bible is not entirely true, the only authority we have is our own opinion of what is true. Rather than having a higher guidance, all that I would have without an inerrant Scripture is my own judgment. I am forced to go through life with wisdom no greater than my own. My life becomes enslaved to my own opinions (or worse, the opinions of others.) Human judgment determines what is right and wrong, proper or imprudent. Without an entirely true Scripture, we become slaves to the radical subjectivism of our age, where people will only do what is right in their own eyes.

Though usually described in academic terms, inerrancy is fundamentally a conviction that combats a suffocating aloneness, of being shut up with one’s own judgments and opinions as one’s only guiding companion in life. If God does not speak consistently in his Word, when I cry out in the darkness for aid all I hear is my own voice echoing back.

When we say that the Bible is without error, we must quickly add that our interpretations are not without error. Even Paul will remind Timothy that he must study to be a godly workman who is “rightly dividing the Word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). There can be wrong divisions, but this does not deny the inerrancy of Scripture, it simply calls us to be skilled interpreters. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts. Along with the easily reached truths are those that make us stretch so that the majesty of our God is as clear as His present voice.

Liar, Lunatic or Lord

Yet, extolling the wonders of Scriptures inspiration and perfection is not enough to give us confidence in its use. When you have broken appliance, a perfect wrench from Sears with Craftsman quality and a guarantee of perpetual service is a wonderful thing, unless what you need is a screwdriver. Inspiration and inerrancy are wonderful things unless they do not supply all we need to deal with the spiritual brokenness of our lives. We need full toolboxes, and for that reason the Bible assures us that Scripture is not only inspired and inerrant…

III. We believe the Bible is complete and sufficient.

1. Its completeness is marked by its finished-ness in terms of its sufficiency andultimacy.

The first feature of the Bible’s completeness is its sufficiency. Paul says that the Scripture that is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” equips the man of God for every good work. The man of God (the one that is equipping others) is himself equipped for every good work. The ripple effect is that the Scriptures provide what is needed for all believers’ spiritual development. There are not pages missing that we need. Colloquially, we would say that in the Bible, “you have got what you need.” Peter says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his won glory and goodness” (II Pet. 1:3). Everything we need for life (what we are to face) and godliness (what we are to be) God has provided by using the Word he has given to equip us sufficiently for every good work.

The sufficiency of Scripture is one reason that we do not feel abandoned by God if we are not connected by some sort of spiritual hotline where God is daily saying, “Heaven calling, George. This is what I want you to do.” New revelations become unnecessary when we already have a Word that is sufficient.

In 2 Tim. 3:16,17, the words “thoroughly equipped” are really the combination of the adjective and verb form of the same root word. We would actually translate this as, “All Scripture is inspired … in order that the man of God may be equipped, equipped for every good work.” That repetition, as awkward as it sounds, is actually crucial for it intensifies the equipping concept. Through the Scriptures we are really equipped, or as the NIV says it, “thoroughly equipped.” Thoroughly equipped for what? For everything. Now if the Bible tells you the Scriptures thoroughly equip you for everything, what is the implication of your looking for something else? It implies you question more than its completeness and sufficiency, but also its authority.

There are many references in Scripture reminding us that we are not to add to or subtract from its content, (Deut. 4:2, 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19) and others warning that we are not to receive any other Gospel, whether it be endorsed by men or by angels (Gal. 1:8). We understand why the Church insists on the ultimate and final authority of Scripture. The Bible is complete because of its claim to sufficiency and its necessary ultimacy. Such understanding directs us from seeking new revelations, new authorities, trusting in personal experience, or other scriptures.

2. The Bible’s completeness is not only marked by these signs of its finished-ness,but by what it is finishing.

There is one other dimension to the completeness of the Bible. We are pointed also to the source of our completion. For if the Bible is given to equip, complete or make us perfect (cf. KJV, “to make the man of God perfect”), our need for completion by a source outside ourselves shows that we are incomplete in ourselves. Our need of Scripture’s sufficiency necessarily indicates our insufficiency. Scripture’s supply of what we need to fulfill God’s purposes in our lives is testimony of its redemptive character.

Says Jesus, “The Scriptures testify of me” (John 5:39). These words caution us against using the Bible merely as a compendium of rules or boxes to check off on the assumption that if we check off enough that we are OK with God. In his Word God is providing himself. Says Peter, “You have been born again … by the living and enduring Word of God” (I Pet. 1:23.) John adds, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…. In him was life and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1f). The apostles’ conflation of the ministry of the Savior, the Word of God, with the inscripturated Word of God is intentional. The Word of God is the very heart of God on display and presently working.

Think of what the combination of these beliefs about Scripture mean that God is providing us. In his Word he provides us his voice, for the Word is God-breathed. In his Word gives us his hand to lead us inerrantly down the path of his own will and purpose. And in his word he shows us his heart, for here he provides for our insufficiency with his own sufficiency. Grace echoes in every line, because God displays himself in every Word. That is why our own hearts yearn for the Word at a soul level. The world (and some believers) will long for an experience of God in personal sensation or exceptional events. We who understand the nature of the Word recognize that God regularly gathers our souls next to his heart through his Word.

You know the Word of the Psalmist, “As the deer pants for water so, my soul thirsts for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God (Psalm 42:1,2).” We may forget how the Psalmist says that thirst is satisfied: “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times …. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” (Psalm 119:20 & 131)

In his word we find the fountain of God’s truth and care, his own refreshing presence and grace. I have never heard this stated more starkly than when hearing the testimony of a friend who in his adult years came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He was an ordained minister in a church that considered the Bible a work of men that should be critically dissected for its occasional truths amidst its primitive religious expressions.

By mistake, my friend got hooked into a tour of Israel that had him and his girlfriend traveling with a bunch of evangelical ministers and their wives. One day the tour took them to the Garden Tomb, one of the places in Israel reputed to be where Jesus was buried and rose from the dead. The ministers decided to celebrate communion there. Since my friend had stayed in the background for most of the tour, the others decided now was the time for him to do his share of ministering. He was asked to give the elements. He did so. As this unbelieving minister distributed the elements and the Words of Christ’s saving work in the shadow of this tomb, he was struck not only with the hypocrisy of what he was doing, but with the reality of what Christ had done.

When the service was over, the other ministers continued touring the site. My friend did not. He went back to the tour bus, and waited with an anxiety he can hardly express even now for the others’ return. He says, “For the first time in my life I was thirsty for Scripture, and I felt I would die if we did not get back to the hotel as quickly as possible so that I could read my Bible.” There are streams of living water in the Word that satisfy the thirsty heart with God. Here may you know them. Studying the Word of God as it is in truth the ministry of Christ Jesus to your own soul.

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