Walking Through the Confession Series | Part 2
The Necessity of Scripture
Years ago, my father-in-law was on his way to come out and visit my wife Sarah and I. He pulled out of his neighborhood with the tank full, car packed, coffee in hand, and left for Alabama from Boerne, Texas. He got on 1-10 headed towards I-35, and where he thought he was supposed to turn right to get on I-35 north, he instead got onto 1-35 south without realizing his mistake. Everything seemed to be going well until he noted that the billboards were no longer in English, but Spanish. By the time he made this observation, he was a quarter-mile away from the Texas-Mexico border. Do you remember that scene from Dumb and Dumber where Harry yells at Lloyd? That’s exactly what happened- Brad drove for three hours in the wrong direction. They returned home and were delayed a day from visiting with us.
The question in your mind may very well be “why did that happen?” Well, Brad had confirmation bias. He didn’t need a map or a GPS, his wife and daughter were asleep, he went the way he knew was right to come and see us in Alabama. While this is a funny story (to everyone but Brad), this is exactly the way that most of us ignore scripture. We assume that what we think dictates reality. Have you ever heard someone say “well I don’t believe in a god who XYZ!” or “the god I know wouldn’t do that!” Folks, this is the problem. It is not about the god we “know” or “believe in”, God is who He is. When He declared to Moses from the burning bush “I Am who I Am,” that was a statement about Himself. He has no end or beginning, He exists and always has. Do you think it would have mattered if Moses looked at Him and said “I don’t think you are!”? Certainly not.
What we believe about God doesn’t change who God is.
Through the scriptures, God has revealed himself to us and declared who He is. Just as some may doubt the reality of gravity, or whether birds are real, this doesn’t dictate whether they exist. Our feelings and beliefs about God do not change the reality of the God who is there. In His kindness, God has made Himself known to us plainly by His word.
What are the Holy Scriptures?
There are 66 sacred books and writings that make up the Bible. They were written over the span of 1500 years, by 35-40 men, on 3 different continents, in 3 different languages, and are compiled into the Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament:
The Old Testament has 39 books and 5 distinct parts: the books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. They are typically divided as follows: The Law (Genesis - Deuteronomy); History (Joshua-Esther); Poetry (Job-Ecclesiastes); Major Prophets (Isaiah-Daniel); and Minor Prophets (Hosea-Malachi).
The New Testament:
The New Testament has 27 books and 4 distinct parts: the books are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. They are typically divided as follows: The Gospels (Matthew-John); History (Acts); Letters (Romans – Jude); and Prophecy (Revelation).
While the above list and description help determine what books make up the entirety of the scriptures, it is also important that we have an idea of what exactly scripture is. Scripture is the certain, infallible written word of God that He has given and preserved for men and women as a measure of His kindness towards us. There are two characteristics of scripture that I think are necessary to discuss for an orthodox understanding of the text itself. The two characteristics are infallibility and sufficiency. Scripture has lots of characteristics and to list them all would make this post something it is not meant to be: exhaustive. I will list several resources below which I have found to be helpful for a fuller understanding of the text. Let’s discuss the two characteristics below.
First, I mentioned scripture as infallible. Infallibility simply means that scripture is incapable of making errors. Typically this is where the secularist, or maybe just the curious, person starts to ask questions about the original language, multiple translations, and doctrinal disagreements that seem to find themselves rooted in the text. We are getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, but to be brief, scripture in the original language is without error. Yes, it was written at the hands of men. Yes, men are capable of error. However, it was inspired (read “breathed out”) by God and is the word of God (2nd Timothy 3:16). God himself being and defining truth (John 14:6), cannot speak anything untrue. As we discuss the importance of the text, it is important to note that we are referring to the scriptures in their original languages. Any kind of disagreement about the parsing of verbs, gendering of nouns, or addition and removal of pronouns and prepositions should be done according to the original text. It alone has supreme authority. This is the doctrine known as Sola Scriptura (which we’ll discuss later). Most doctrinal disagreements can be resolved by looking at the text (the whole text) and reading it in context. Of course, this is not true all the time. This brings us to the matter of Scripture’s sufficiency.
Scripture is sufficient in the sense that God has made himself known by and through the scriptures how He wants us to know Him. While the full nature of God is not revealed in totality (and never will be fully understood in eternity), God has made Himself adequately known to us by the Scriptures. God has made himself personable to us through the reading, teaching, and preaching of His word. So, while we may not know Him fully, we can know Him truly. Think of a photograph (but please not the Nickelback song). We may be able to comprehend and see the beauty of the person in the photograph, but we do not truly know that person fully. We can know their name, information, stature, and even character, but still, we do not know them fully. Through scripture, God has made Himself personable and sufficiently known to man as a means of communicating His redemptive plan to us.
The Sufficiency of Scripture can be summed up by this phrase: Scripture is sufficient to instruct us on how we are to live and how we are to be saved.
These two characteristics point us to one simple fact- Scripture is necessary for the Church. While Scripture does not necessarily speak to every decision we could hope to make, such as what color shirt you should wear today, it does speak to how we make many decisions and how we can know God. It is through the text that we learn His true nature and determine a rightful understanding of God as He has made Himself known.
How does Scripture talk about itself?
There are three texts I often think of when discussing the doctrine of scripture: 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, Romans 3:4, and Psalm 119.
Often Paul’s letter to Timothy is where people go when discussing the importance of Scripture- there is a reason for this. Paul plainly states, “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 speaks to the inspiration and use of Scripture, but also the notion that this is true of all of Scripture. Some may make arguments about staying in the New Testament, the Old Testament being outdated, or the red lettering being what’s important. Such controversies should be dismissed and corrected- all means all. Not to mention, the writer of Hebrews speaks of a persistent role of the Scripture to cut, not to lay dormant (Hebrews 4:12).
The whole of Scripture works to inform us of the rightful relationship we are to have to the Father, through the Spirit, because of the mediation and intercession that has occurred by his only begotten son, Christ Jesus.
Secondly, Romans 3:4 addresses the reality of trusting in the word of God even if that means calling everyone else a liar. Some may see this similar to an ostrich burying its head in the sand, but it testifies to the faithfulness of God. Scripture speaks plainly to some hard truths concerning our position (apart from Christ) before the Father, as well as the reality of sin. It is better that we hold fast to these truths as God’s children and delight in them than to believe what the world around us has to say. For instance, something echoed in society is that we should “follow our heart.” This statement is something that Scripture refutes (Jeremiah 17:9), and instead points us to the reality that our heart is not good enough to save us- we are dead. We must be raised to life in Christ to be cleansed of our sins and made right with God. Thankfully, Christ has done the work necessary for this to occur (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Thirdly, I want to reference the longest chapter within Scripture. In Psalm 119, the psalmist continually points to the goodness of the Lord’s statutes and commandments. He is pointing not only to the goodness of God but the goodness of his written word. He “delights” in the testimonies, “meditates” on the statues, and “loves” the Lord’s commandments. This should be our heart’s attitude towards the Scriptures. We need not try to do away with any of it, but instead, accept the full Bible as the word of God and delight in how He has revealed Himself to us. This also means trusting and rejoicing in how He has called us to live, as challenging as it may be.
Why is Scripture important?
Scripture is important because it gives us a true, infallible, inherent, understanding of the Lord of creation.
When we don’t believe the Bible, or worse, we try to explain away the Bible, we confuse who we are in the story.
Scripture is not true because we believe it, scripture is true because God has declared it to be true.
We must be a people of the book. We must compare everything to Scripture. Within the Scriptures, God has revealed Himself, the truth about salvation, the plan of redemption, and so much more. So, why do we need scripture? Because it is within the text that the Lord has given us the knowledge needed to save- The Gospel of Christ Jesus.