I wrote recently about the meaning of the phrase “the Bible is inspired,” and in wrapping that post up, I realized that I had not really included anything applicational.
And then I realized that I need to do a bit more with the theological before we could dive into the application, so, if you’ll bear with me, we’ll get to it.
Believing that the Bible is completely, divinely, and verbally inspired “Word of God” comes with consequences. You see, if we truly believe something to be true, then, depending on the scope or severity of what this belief is, our lives ought to reflect our belief. For example, I believe that cavities are painful and expensive to have treated. As a result, I brush my teeth regularly and avoid sugary drinks like soda.
Now, that’s a very small thing—my beliefs concerning cavities—and yet it produces action on my part—preventative dental care. Likewise, the belief that the Bible comes to us from God ought to give it some authority over our lives. When we talk about the Bible’s authority, we use two words: infallibility and inerrancy. We’ll go over what those two word mean, and then we’ll look at the idea of the Bible as a divine revelation, our need for illumination, and the role of Jesus in all of this. Then, finally, this will all lead to some of the applicational truths that we need to take away from all of this doctrine.
Infallibility – Moral Authority
The Bible offers to us a lot in the way of moral teachings, examples, and so on. It contains so much more that this, but morality is still a prevalent topic. Regarding morality and issues of faith, i.e. how to follow God, the Bible is said to be “infallible,” which means that it cannot fail us. It cannot deceive or mislead lead us away from God. What the Bible presents to us about righteousness and having a relationship with God is exactly what we need to know in order to follow Jesus. Nothing vital has been left out, and nothing that’s been included is wrong.
Inerrancy – Historical/Scientific Accuracy
Some of the things that the Bible talks about—or at least references—are details of history and science. We believe that all of these biblical references are correct, completely valid. This is why we say that the Bible is “inerrant,” which means that it has no errors. Regarding history, our case is getting easier to make as archaeology is continually proving the Bible’s historical record to be accurate. Science, however, is a bit more difficult, but that’s partly because too many people—both those who believe the Bible and those who’d like to discredit it—read it incorrectly. The Bible was no written to instruct or inform its reader about science, so any scientific references are only included as detail elements. They are still inspired, but they are not the focus of the Bible. Furthermore, some individuals miss the fact that the Bible is, to some degree, a literary work which contains several different genres and numerous passages that are written figuratively using poetic or prophetic/symbolic language, which should not be taken literally, especially with regard to comments or allusions to science.
Revelation, Illumination, and the Role of Jesus
The Bible isn’t just a book about religious doctrine. It was inspired by God as a means to reveal Himself to us. If we truly believe that the Bible is inspired, infallible, and inerrant, then we ought to treat it as the revelation of God that it was intended to be. This means that we must see the Bible as our ultimate authority for guiding our faith. This is the doctrine known as sola scripture—only Scripture. Only the Bible can be completely trusted to lead us to Jesus.
Now, this leads us to our need for illumination, which is just a fancy word for understanding. You see, “illumination” literally means “light,” and the idea here is that need someone to provide a light to help us see and understand the Scripture clearly. This “Someone” is the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples in John 14 that the Holy Spirit would guide and teach them, bringing to their minds all that Jesus had taught them. It’s the Spirit’s job to take the words on the pages of the Bibles and make them alive in our hearts. As I said in the last post, God “breathed” the words of Scripture, which makes me think of how He breathed life into Adam. The Bible is what we call the “Living Word” because of the cycle of inspiration and illumination: God breathed the words into the authors, and His Holy Spirit now lifts them from the page and plants them in our hearts.
So how does Jesus fit into all of this? In John 1, Jesus is referred to as the “Word,” with the Greek being logos. The meaning of this word is profound. There was a Greek philosopher who espoused this concept of a universal law or “word” that kept our ever-changing world—a “chaos”—balanced, stable, and in order—a “cosmos.” John, in writing his introduction to his gospel account, is stating that Jesus is this “word,” the logos that keeps everything in order. Later on, in the writings of Paul, we read that Jesus is not only the One who keeps the world in order but that He’s also the one has fulfilled the law of God, all that was commanded regarding righteousness and holiness. Putting this all together, Jesus is the incarnate (“in the flesh”) Word of God, the truly Living Word who embodies all that the Bible teaches us about living for God. Reading the Bible, studying it, memorizing key passages, all lead us to a greater understand of God, a greater revelation of what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ.
So, we’ve finally hit the applicational pay-off. And rather than ran on and on for another few paragraphs, I think that we can sum this last bit up with a few if/then statements.
If you believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, then you need to trust its teachings and obey its commands.
If you believe that the Bible truly reveals Jesus to us, then you must ready, study, and memorize it in order that you understand what it means to know and follow Jesus.
If you believe that the Bible is completely, divinely inspired, and serves as God’s written revelation of Himself to humanity, then you have to accept that it is the ultimate authority for your life as a Christian and must resist the desire to pick and choose what aspects of the Bible you will accept and follow.
I hope I don’t sound like a pulpit-pounder, but I’ve got one more for you:
If you call yourself a “Christian, then you are claiming to be like Christ, in increasing measure, and reading the Bible, under the prayer-sought illumination of the Holy Spirit, is the only way to be truthful to the name of “Christian.”
I hope I haven’t been too heavy-handed; my goal is simple, logical honesty. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, fulfilled completely in Christ, and is our only authoritative guide to a deeper relationship with Jesus.