[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: II. The Bible

Lesson: C. Attributes

Objective: To develop a proper respect for the role of Scripture in the life of the believer and understand the essential characteristics of Scripture.

1. Authority of the Bible

a. Scripture speaks for God. Paul, when writing to the church in Corinth, made a rather strong statement. "If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command." (1st Corinthians 14:37) The Corinthian church was known for displaying the "Gifts of the Spirit". Paul did not deny that the Spirit gifts and leads people, in fact these are important parts of the Christian life, but he put them into perspective. "If anyone thinks he is ..." sounds hypothetical to us, but they in fact did claim to be prophets and spiritually gifted. Paul is saying, if you truly are led by the Spirit, you will acknowledge that "What I am writing", that is, Scripture in general and the letter of Paul in particular, is the Lord's command. Scripture is the very Word of God, and the commands of Scripture are God's commands. Scripture, in this sense, speaks for God. This simple idea is contrary to our society - that God has spoken in clear words that are absolute, these words have God's authority.

b. Impact of disobeying Scripture.There are some excellent chapters in a book I have studied which state some things very clearly, so I will be quoting from it. Of course, the book is not Scripture, but since it does give a clear definition, it is worth examining. "... all the words in Scripture are God's words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

This is a strong statement. It says that if I disagree with a passage of Scripture, I am disagreeing with God. It is popular in some circles to explain the parts of the Bible that we don't like by saying things like, "Well, Paul talks that way about the man being the authority in the home because he hated women!" Such a statement means that it is only Paul's opinion, and not God's opinion. This is a very serious matter if disbelieving Scripture is disbelieving God. Of course we must be careful to understand exactly what Scripture teaches, and not take a verse out of context or twist it to say what we want and then accuse others of not believing God. But ... when we find a passage of Scripture that we don't agree with, we must be very careful in measuring our own hearts, what the passage really says, and going to the Lord in prayer for understanding.

c. Scripture is very Word of God.Does the Bible claim to be God's very word? Just a few examples. Throughout the Old Testament, many verses begin with the phrase "Thus says the LORD". The NIV has many verses in the books of Moses which start, "The LORD said to Moses ..." and commanded certain things to be done.

"I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles." (2nd Peter 3:2) In the New Testament, Peter asks us to remember (and obey) the words of the Old Testament (spoken in the past) and the 'command' given by our Lord through 'your apostles'. It was not just the collection of words spoken by Jesus, recorded by apostles and others in the Gospels, but the command further explained and given through the apostles, such as the letters of Paul, Peter, John, James and others. These apostles had the authority to convey the 'command given by our Lord', and their writings have this authority.

2. Inerrancy of the Bible

a. All of Scripture.Does the Bible have errors, or are there areas such as science and history where the Bible is simply wrong? In his day, Jesus rebuked his own disciples, saying, "... How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25) In context, he meant all that the Old Testament said about the Christ, but it is interesting that he mentions ALL. Today, many will believe the Bible for moral and religious ideas, yet doubt if the Bible is true when it speaks of creation or history. Our belief is that all of the Bible is true in every way.

b. Inspired and infallible.The doctrinal statement of the church I attend states, "The Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the inspired, infallible Word of God, a divine revelation, the original writings of which were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are the supreme and final authority of faith and conduct." (Bible Fellowship Church Article 1.1) We do agree that the Bible is the supreme authority of faith and conduct, but our statement goes beyond that. We say that the Scripture is the inspired, infallible Word of God. We do not believe that the Bible contains any errors of history or science, because its author is God, the creator of all things, who does not make errors!

c. Nothing contrary to fact.Another quotation is to the point. "... Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology) This does not mean that the Bible gives us all the details of how God created the heavens and the earth, but what it does say about those events is true. The Bible does not mislead or lie or have any errors.

3. Necessity of the Bible

General Revelation. What man can know about God without the Bible is called General Revelation. It is revealed to all men, whether they admit it or not. "The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hand." (Psalm 19:1) Everyone who sees a sunset knows something of the beauty and majesty of God. We may read of this majesty in the Bible, but we know it in a different sense when we see the sunset.

Paul wrote, "When Gentiles ... do by nature things required by the law ... they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them" (Romans 2:14-15) This revelation goes beyond what we see. All people have been given this basic witness to the moral character of God. Some, by continued sinning, finally sear their conscience into silence. But knowing the guilt of doing wrong, and seeing the majesty of God in a sunset, is not enough to understand the plan of salvation. That is only revealed in the Bible, and is called Special Revelation.

Special Revelation. "... the Bible is necessary for knowing the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God's will, but it not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something of God's character and moral laws." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology) The Bible is necessary for three things. Knowing the Gospel, growing in our Christian life, and knowing God's will. Without the Bible we can know somethings about God, such as the fact that God must exist and that he must have a moral character. But without the revelation given in the Bible we could not know how to be saved, and how to please and serve God.

The point is that the Bible is necessary, it is needed. Jesus, during the temptation, said, "It is written, 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" If we ignore the Bible, even as Christians, we cripple our spiritual lives. We are to live on the Word of God and consider it as important as our meals are to our bodies.

4. Clarity of the Bible

a. For ordinary people. Clarity means that the Bible is clear. Can ordinary people understand it, or can only a special trained class, the clergy, understand it? Protestants believe that ordinary people can read and understand enough of Scripture to know what God wants them to do. "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple." (Psalm 19:7) A simple person, who is not a genius and does not have a great sense of morality, is make wise by the statues of the Lord.

b. Understandable. Paul makes a strong statement, "We write you nothing but what you can read and understand ... I hope you will understand fully, as you have understood in part."(2nd Corinthians 1:13-14) Since we have all puzzled over various parables of Jesus, and even Peter admitted that some writings of Paul are difficult to understand, what does this verse mean? It means that Paul wrote Scripture to be understood, and that the people he wrote to could understand. Perhaps they would not understand everything completely, but they can at least understand in part.

Wayne Grudem wrote this short statement, "... it would be a mistake to think that most of Scripture or Scripture in general is difficult to understand." Of course some parts of Scripture are difficult, and scholars have several differing opinions on many verses. But we often focus on these differences, and fail to appreciate that when we read the Gospels we can follow the action, we understand what is being done. In general, when we read Scripture, we understand most of it.

c. The anointing. "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-- just as it has taught you, remain in him."(1st John 2:27) This verse does not mean that anyone can casually read the Bible and understand God. Christians have the Holy Spirit, referred to as the 'anointing'. This Holy Spirit helps us to understand the Scripture, spiritual words understood by spiritual men and women. The Bible is sufficiently clear for ordinary people, honestly seeking God, to learn the way of salvation, to know God's will in a general sense, and to grow in the spiritual life.

5. Suffiency of the Bible

a. Limits. "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."(Deuteronomy 29:29) The Bible does not teach us everything. Secret things belong to the Lord, such as the exact timing of the End Time events, when Jesus will return. But the things that God has revealed in the Bible are give so that we can follow and obey God.

b. All we need. "Scripture ... contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology) Scripture ... contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly. (Wayne Grudem) The Bible does tell us those essentials. It does not tell me, a song leader, how to read music and keep time so that we can all sing together in worship, although I do that in obedience to the Lord as we worship. But it does tell us to sing spiritual songs and hymns, and give principles of worship. Many details of how we serve the Lord are not in the Bible. The Bible tells us what to do, what is right and wrong, but usually does not give all the detailed steps of how.

Our pastor finds what to preach in the Bible, but the Bible does not explain how to use a microphone or how to outline and present a message. But - the revelation in the Bible contains all we really need to obtain salvation, to trust God, and to obey him. We do not need, for instance, the Mother Mary appearing on a mountain to bring additional truth so that we can obey God. We do not need an angel to translate hidden scrolls to Joseph Smith in New York State (the Book of Mormon). We do not need a prophet to stand up in our church to declare the exact date of the return of Christ. No further revelation is needed for us to come to salvation and to know and obey God.

Of course, we must acknowledge that the Bible does not give individual specifics. For instance, the Bible did not specifically tell Scott and Stacey Bose "Thou Shalt Go to Brazil!" Rather, they obey the general direction of the Bible to be witnesses to all nations and followed the individual leading of the Holy Spirit and circumstances which led them to go to Brazil. But the Holy Spirit will only act in accordance with what the Bible also teaches.


Written Assignment:

1. A friend tells you that the Bible is the ''Infallible Guide to Faith and Practice'. Do you agree?

2. Another friend tells you that she has tried to read the Bible, but it just doesn't make any sense to her. What advice would you give?

Reading Assignment:

Ryrie: Chapters 12-14


Key Verses:

"If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command." (1st Corinthians 14:37)

"He said to them, How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25)

"Jesus answered, It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4)

"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple." (Psalm 19:7)

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Additional References:

"... all the words in Scripture are God's words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God." ( Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology )

"The Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the inspired, infallible Word of God, a divine revelation, the original writings of which were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are the supreme and final authority of faith and conduct." (Bible Fellowship Church Article 1.1)


All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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