The Authority of Scripture

By James L. Morrisson

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"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

 

Introduction

I grew up in a household where the Bible was not read. I can't recall having seen a Bible in my home. My father never referred to it. My mother admired the literary qualities of the King James version, and sometimes quoted a phrase from it as one would quote from Shakespeare or Emerson, but that was all. My own love of, and respect for, Scripture has come to me late in life.

My father considered himself an atheist. By that he meant that he tried to deal only with what he regarded as facts - things that could be measured or demonstrated scientifically, or dollars and cents business and economic data. For him, anything else either did not exist; or he couldn't handle it, and so he ignored it as much as he could. In Paul's terminology, he considered only "what is seen" and denied the existence of anything unseen (see 2 Corinthians 4:18). (All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted; any emphasis is mine unless otherwise noted.)

In the early 1940s I came to Washington, D.C. as a New Deal lawyer. I believed in man's capacity to solve any problem by the correct application of enough intellect, energy and money. I have since learned better. We became active in the Unitarian Church, which, as I experienced it, believed in man's ability to perfect himself by his own efforts. I remember a time when someone, for some reason, wanted to consult the Bible and there was none to be found in the church building. Later my wife and I became members of a New Age organization in Virginia Beach, based on the psychic "readings" of Edgar Cayce. They encouraged people to read the Bible, but always through the lens of the Cayce materials.

At age 66 I decided that the Cayce materials and the Bible were inconsistent with each other, and I decided to trust the Bible and to take it at face value. Since then, under various pastors and professors (I have a Master's Degree in Biblical Studies), I have read and studied the Bible quite a bit. I find that the more I read it, the more amazed I am at how it all fits together. I am also amazed at how I can keep coming back to the same passages and find new material and new insight into them.

When, in 1983, I decided to put my faith in the Bible, and in the God it reveals, I felt that these words of Psalm 40:2-3 had a special meaning for me: "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." Scripture is the "rock", the "firm place" on which I can stand. When everything around me seems like quicksand, it stands solid and secure. For me, Scripture has become the touchstone of truth, by which I evaluate everything else.

Scripture can only become such a rock, such a touchstone, if we accept its authority as the word of God. In this paper I want to indicate why I believe we should accept it as authoritative. I shall also talk about the power it can have over our lives if we allow it to, and the joy it can give us. I also touch briefly on a few basic principles of interpreting Scripture. I hope that in so doing I may help some to discover what can be a major source of both security and joy in their lives, as it has been in mine.

Much has been written about Scripture and its authority. I have drawn on some of this literature. But perhaps what I can best contribute is some personal sense of what the Bible has come to mean to me. I respect the work of professional scholars. But I shall try to write in simple, nontechnical terms, partly in the hope of being understood, and partly out of a sense that if I can't express my ideas in simple lay language then I may not understand them very well myself.

 

The Bible is the Revealed Word of God

Physically, the Bible is a collection of 66 books, written by some 42 different human authors over a period of about 1500 years. But actually it has a single author. The entire Bible is the word of God. It declares this many times over. This is an amazing assertion, but I believe it is true. I think we cannot get much benefit from the Bible unless we are willing to accept it as the word of God.

The Christian Bible has two basic divisions which we call the Old Testament and the New Testament. I believe they are a seamless web. The Old Testament points to the New; the New Testament fulfills the Old. Both are inspired by the same author, who does not change. Everything I say in this paper applies to both.

All Scripture is Inspired by God

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16, King James Version). The Greek word, theopneustos, literally means "God-breathed" or "God-spirited". (From theos, "God" and pneuma, "breath" or "spirit"). Everything in Scripture is breathed, or inspired, by God. Romans 3:2 says that the Jews, to whom the Old Testament Scriptures were given, had been entrusted with "the very words of God."

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe" (Hebrews 1:1-2). What an amazing statement! God speaks to men and women. The Bible is our record of the words he has spoken.

Paul commended the people of Thessalonica because, "when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:13; see also Galatians 1:11-12).

We find many specific examples that confirm these general statements.

Much of what we find in the Old Testament prophetic books is the direct words of God, spoken in the first person. For example, God said to Jeremiah "Now, I have put my words in your mouth." "Stand up and say to them whatever I command you" (Jeremiah 1:10, 17). Isaiah declares, "So this is what the Sovereign Lord says", "This is what God the Lord says" (Isaiah 28:16, 42:5). Amos says much the same (Amos 1:3, 6, 11,13, 2: 1, 4, 6). So do the other prophets. Much of Exodus and Deuteronomy consists of the direct words of God which were spoken to Moses and which Moses delivered to the people. I could give a great many further examples. Summarizing all this, Peter wrote, "prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). (I shall discuss the whole question of prophecy more fully later in this paper.)

God also told his prophets to write down the words he spoke to them. He told Jeremiah, "Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken concerning Israel, and all the other nations" (Jeremiah 36:2). When the King burned that scroll God told him to write another (Jeremiah 36:28). Moses wrote "in a book the words of this law from beginning to end" (Deuteronomy 31:24). "This law" refers, I believe, to all the words God spoke to Moses.

God told Joshua to meditate day and night on "this Book of the Law" (Joshua 1:8).

David wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, referring to one of the Psalms, said, "David, speaking by the Spirit" (Matthew 22:43). Peter referred to "the Scripture... which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David" (Acts 1:16). Peter and John said that God "spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David" (Acts 4:25).

Joshua 1:2-9, 3:7-8; 7:10-15, and 24:2-13 record the very words of God. Throughout Samuel's life "the Lord revealed himself to Samuel through his word" (1 Samuel 3:21). 1 Samuel 8:7-9, 22 records the words of God spoken to Samuel. Chapters 38-41 of Job record the words of God spoken to Job. 2 Chronicles 7:12-22 records the very words which God spoke to Solomon one night, words of promise and warning to the nation of Israel. 2 Chronicles 20:15-17 gives a prophecy, "This is what the Lord says to you", by the prophet Jahaziel, giving hope, encouragement and a battle strategy to the kingdom of Judah. Genesis records many direct words of God, spoken to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There are many other such examples.

Jesus said that the words he spoke (which are recorded in Scripture) were the very words of God. "What I have heard from him [God] I tell the world" (John 8:26). "For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it... Whatever I say is just what the Father told me to say" (John 12:49-50). "I gave them the words you [God] gave me" (John 17:8).

Should we then say that these particular examples, and the many similar examples that could be given, are the words of God while the rest of Scripture is not? No. The basic principle is that "all scripture is God-breathed". Some parts are the direct words of God. In other parts the precise wording may be by its human author, but all of it is inspired by God.

This means that those who take the Bible as literature, or as human teachings or human historical accounts, are not taking it according to its own terms. It is inspired by God, breathed out by God, and we need to accept it on that basis. The difference is vitally important. If the Bible is just a human book, then we are free to take what we like out of it and reject the rest. But if it is the word of God, then we must accept it all. If it is a human work, we can judge it. If it is the work of God, it judges us.

Does God Speak to People?

Some may ask, does God really speak to people, give them his exact words, as many of the passages cited above say? How can this be?

The question arises because most people have not heard God speak in this way. He does not do so to everybody. But Scripture records many cases in which God has spoken directly to certain individuals, and even carried on fairly extended conversations with them. Following are a few examples of such conversations. Adam (Genesis 3:8-19); Noah (Genesis 6:13-7:4; 9:1-17); Abraham (Genesis 15:1-9; chapter 18); Moses (Exodus 3:1-4:17); Isaiah (chapter 6); Paul (Acts 9:4-6); Peter (Acts 10:13-15).

The record of Scripture is very clear that God does talk to people. "God spoke", he "has spoken" (Hebrews 1:1-2), and men have recorded his words. He has done so many times. To those who would still say, "But he can't do this", I simply reply that Scripture tells us that "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). (I discuss what that means more fully later in this paper.)

On the evidence of Scripture, I think we must conclude that much of Scripture records the direct words of God and all of Scripture is inspired by God. All of it is God's book, given in the words God wanted, to achieve God's purposes.

 

Jesus and the Apostles Treated
Scripture as Authoritative

The Old Testament Scriptures are quoted or referred to over 1,000 times in the New Testament. Always they are treated as authoritative.

Jesus spoke of his life on earth as the fulfillment of Scripture. He said that he had come "to fulfill" the Law and the Prophets - that is, the Old Testament Scriptures (Matthew 5:17). At the beginning of his ministry he said, "The time has come" (Mark 1:15). He read in the synagogue from Isaiah 61:1-2 and then said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). He several times spoke of events in his life as the fulfillment of Scripture (see Mark 14:49; John 13:18, 17:12). "The Scriptures must be fulfilled" (Mark 14:49). He said of his parables, "In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah" (Matthew 13:14). He said that the Scriptures "testify about me" (John 5:39). When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew his sword and struck the High Priest's servant; Jesus said, "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Matthew 26:53-54). Jesus was so convinced that the Scriptures must be fulfilled that he went to an agonizing death without resistance. After his resurrection, while walking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus "explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). Later he said to the disciples, "This is what I told you when I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" (Luke 24:44).

Jesus resisted the devil's temptation by quoting Scripture, saying , "it is written" (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). He told some Sadducees, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). He often referred to Scripture in his discussions and teachings, declaring "it is written" (for example, Matthew 26:31). He said, "Haven't you read this Scripture?" (Mark 12:10; Matthew 19:4, 21:16, 42). And always it is with the assumption that Scripture is true and authoritative.

The apostles similarly treated Scripture as authoritative. Peter quoted Psalms to show that it was necessary to choose one to take Judas' place among the twelve disciples (Acts 1:20-22). On the Day of Pentecost he said, "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16). Repeatedly he quoted from Scripture (see, for example, Acts 2:25-28, 34-35, 4:11, 25-26). The gospel writers repeatedly point out how events in Jesus' life are the fulfillment of prophecies in Scripture. The epistles repeatedly quote Scripture as authoritative. In 1 Corinthians 15:3 Paul summarizes the gospel he has taught: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..."

If Jesus and the apostles treated Scripture as authoritative, should not we?

 

Two Areas in Which Some Find Problems

Before I go any further I want to deal with two areas which make it difficult for some to accept the Bible as true.

Miracles and the Supernatural

The Bible is full of miracles and supernatural events. There are miraculous healings by Jesus, his disciples, Paul, Elijah and Elisha. People are raised from the dead. There is multiplication of food, calming of a storm, walking on water, and much else. There are crossings, dry shod, of the Red Sea and the Jordan River. Three young men were thrown into a very hot furnace and not burned; Daniel was thrown into a den of lions and not harmed. At Elijah's command there was no rain or dew in Israel for three and one half years. At Moses' command many plagues came upon Egypt. At Joshua's command the sun stood still for a day.

There are miraculous victories in battle: the walls of Jericho falling, Gideon's army of 300 defeating many thousands, Jehoshaphat defeating a much larger army without even having to fight, an angel striking 185,000 Assyrians dead and saving Jerusalem from attack.

There are appearances of angels, and casting out of demons.

There are even more amazing things than these. At God's command the physical universe was created. There was a flood that destroyed the whole world. Jesus was fully God and fully man. Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Jesus, Elijah and Enoch were taken up bodily into heaven.

How can anyone believe that such things actually occurred? And if they did not occur, why should anyone believe the Bible? How can it be said to have been inspired of God if it tells of things that are simply not credible?

To our western, scientific/materialist minds the question may seem unanswerable. But I have no problem with it. I have no problem with accepting all of these supernatural things as having actually happened.

If God is God then he is all-powerful. That's what it means to be God. It's part of his nature.

And if he is all-powerful, then he can do anything. This is exactly what Scripture tells us. "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). God "can do all things" (Job 42:2). "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14).

Scripture says that God is above everything. God said, "I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is none like me" (Isaiah 46:8). Jesus Christ (who is God, John 1:1) is "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come" (Ephesians 1:21). God is not limited by the "laws of nature" or anything else. His power and authority have no limits.

This may be hard for our modern Western minds to accept. But it is what God's word tells us over and over. If we can once really accept it, then there should be no difficulty accepting the Bible at face value when it tells of supernatural events.

Some will say, "does this mean that God can violate the laws of nature?" I think the question has a faulty premise. What we call "the laws of nature" are not laws at all. They are the best efforts of scientists to describe what God has created and to predict how it will function. Scientists have done a very good job of this, and their descriptions and predictions usually work. But their descriptions and predictions are necessarily incomplete because they have no tools with which to describe God or to predict how he will act. God is not limited by the descriptions men have formulated. He is not limited by man-made "laws". Much as we may admire science, the human scientists have no power or authority to tell God what he can or cannot do.

Consider the fact that "the laws of nature" change from time to time. It used to be said that matter cannot be destroyed. Now it is said that matter can be converted into energy and vice versa. It used to be said that one chemical element could not change into another. With the discovery of radioactivity, we know they can. It used to be said that everything operated by a principle of continuity. Now many scientists believe there was a discontinuous creative event, a "big bang", that got everything started. Etc. Does this mean that the "laws of nature" have changed? Does "nature" operate differently than it used to? Of course not. It merely means that scientific descriptions have become more nearly accurate.

When God does a miracle he is not acting outside of, or contrary to, the "laws" of the universe. He is merely acting outside the comprehension, and sphere of activity, of scientists.

There have been some who, in an effort to make the Bible more acceptable to our Western scientific mindset, have sought to remove the miracles, the supernatural events, from the Bible. Sometimes they try to explain them in naturalistic terms - which are often harder to accept than the Biblical, supernatural, explanations. Sometimes they deny that these passages are authentic. The effort is bound to fail. God, by definition, is supernatural. To take the supernatural out of the Bible is to take God out of the Bible. Then it is no longer the Bible. It is no longer the record of God's words and actions but is just an ordinary book of human wisdom.

Prophecy

Seventeen books of the Old Testament are referred to as prophetic books. Prophecy is simply God speaking through a human. "This is what the Lord says" (Amos 1:3). Often these words of God are saying how God sees what is going on in the world. Sometimes they include predictions of future events.

Prophecy in the Bible is not limited to these 17 books. Moses is said to have been the greatest prophet (Deuteronomy 34:10) and the book of Deuteronomy begins with these words, "Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the Lord had commanded him concerning them" (Deuteronomy 1:3). There are many other prophecies in the Old Testament. There are a number of predictive prophecies in the New Testament. Jesus, who referred to himself as a "prophet" (Matthew 13:57), gave a tremendous end-time prophecy (a prophecy of what would occur at his Second Coming) recorded in Matthew chapter 24. Jesus gave a number of other predictive prophecies. Both Paul and Peter gave predictive prophecies (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-2:12; Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; 2 Peter 3:10-13) . Revelation is a "prophecy" (Revelation 1:3, 22:18), a vision of "what must take place after this" (Revelation 4:1).

As I have already noted, both Jesus and the gospel writers repeatedly spoke of aspects of Jesus' life as the fulfillment of prophecy.

Some have trouble with these passages of Scripture because they do not believe future events can be predicted. My answer is, very simply, if all things are possible with God, why cannot God give his chosen prophets advance knowledge of things that are going to happen? This is exactly what he says he does. "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come" (Isaiah 46:10). "I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted and they came to pass" (Isaiah 48:3). Jesus warned his disciples of what would happen in the end times, and said, "See, I have told you ahead of time" (Matthew 24:25). Scripture says,"Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). Why should we not believe him?

Scripture records a great many prophecies that have been fulfilled. I shall mention only a few.

Soon after a group of people were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied that the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10). When the 70 years were up, Daniel, who was one of the captives, prayed intensely for his people (Daniel 9:1-19). The result was that "in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia" to allow the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1). (By this time Persia had conquered Babylon).

Psalm 22 (written about 1000 B.C.) and Isaiah chapter 53 (written about 700 B.C.) give remarkably vivid descriptions of the crucifixion of Jesus, which occurred about 30 A.D. It's almost as if the prophets were actually seeing it happen.

Jesus, just before his crucifixion, predicted that the great temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed and "not one stone here will be left on another" (Matthew 24:2). Some 40 years later, in 70 A.D. the temple was utterly destroyed by the Romans; not one stone was left standing.

Some critics who cannot accept the idea of prophecy have assumed that these writings must have been written after the date of the event prophesied. For example, they ascribe quite late dates for the second half of Isaiah and for Daniel. There are two major problems with this. (1) It is contrary to the fact that the words are given as prophecies of future events. In effect these critics are saying that Scripture, in this respect, is false. They are saying that the authors of these books are liars and deceivers. (2) It fails to deal with many other predictions by the same prophets of events which have not yet occurred. For example, Isaiah gave many prophecies of the coming of Jesus. We know they were given before the event occurred because one of the Dead Sea scrolls, dated a century or more B.C., is a manuscript of the book of Isaiah. Again, both Isaiah and Daniel prophesied events which have not yet occurred. The logic of these critics' position would seem to require us to conclude that the books of Isaiah and Daniel have not yet been written! In this area, as in all others, I think the wisest course is to take the Bible on its own terms.

 

The Power of God's Word

Because the Bible is the word of God it has a power that no other book has. It can change people's lives. It works in them, if they will allow it to.

Here are some of the things Scripture says about the power it has and the ways in which it can affect our lives. I have seen them confirmed over and over in my own life and that of many others. There are probably many more things that could be said about this. What follows are just the things that impressed themselves on my mind as I was writing this. Hopefully they will suggest how much the Bible has meant to many and how much it can mean to anyone who approaches it with the right attitude.

God's Word is Alive and Powerful

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12, New King James Version). Much could be said about this remarkable passage, but for the present I wish to emphasize simply that it says that God's word, in Scripture, is alive and powerful; it cuts sharply; and it discloses and discerns our inner thoughts and intentions. There are many, including myself, who can confirm this by their own experience. As we read and reflect on Scripture, there are passages which have a way of jumping out at us. They may bring a new revelation of who God is and what his ways are, or a new understanding of one's self. They may say to us forcefully, "This is something you need to deal with, now." The process is not always enjoyable, but the end result is always good. Perhaps one reason some do not like to read Scripture is that they do not wish to have the thoughts and intents of their heart discerned!

The prophet Jeremiah, writing some 600 years earlier, said something quite similar. "'Is not my word like fire,' declares the Lord, 'and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?'" (Jeremiah 23:29).

God's word created the physical universe. "And God said" (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26). "He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm" (Psalm 33:9). "He commanded and they were created" (Psalm 148:5). "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command" (Hebrews 11:3; see also Romans 4:17). If God's word had the power to create the physical universe out of nothing it should not surprise us that his word has power over our lives.

It Transforms Us

Paul has told us, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). The transformation he is calling for is a radical one. We are to become like God in character, to "put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:24), to have "the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16), and to be "transformed into [God's] likeness with ever-increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18). (See my paper "Be Transformed"). It is Scripture, more than anything else, that is the agent for this transformation. It is through reading Scripture, studying Scripture, making Scripture a part of us, that we come to know God's ways, his heart and his character, and can begin to bring ourselves into conformity with them.

God is at work in those who believe in him and his son Jesus Christ. "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion" (Philippians 1:6). "It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purposes" (Philippians 2:13). "In all things God works for the good of those who love him..." (Romans 8:28). God is "able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). Paul said, "I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works within me" (Colossians 1:29). One of the principal ways God works in us is through his Scripture. Paul wrote that the gospel he preached is "the word of God, which is at work in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

The Christian life should be a life of spiritual growth. We are to grow "in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10). We are to "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" and "grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ" (Ephesians 4:13, 15). We are to "add" various qualities to our faith (2 Peter 1:5). Much of this growth is achieved through reading and study of the Bible. It by Scripture that "the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17).

This process of transformation does not come quickly. It continues throughout our life. Near the end of his life Paul wrote that he had not yet "attained" (Philippians 3:12, KJV). But, he wrote, "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" (Philippians 3:12, NIV) Nor does the transformation come easily. The "old self" does not give up without a struggle. When Paul said we must go through "much tribulation" to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22, KJV), he was speaking of physical things, but I think the statement applies also to the inner conflicts we often have to work through. Thanks be to God, we can prevail. "We are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:37). Jesus never said it would be easy, but he said it would be worth the effort.

It Cleanses Us

Part of this transformation is a cleansing. Scripture tells us to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" (Hebrews 12:2). Scripture enables us to do this. The Psalmist wrote, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11). He says that we can keep our way pure "by living according to your word" (Psalm 119:9). Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17). Peter said, "It is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:16).

When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he resisted the temptation by standing on Scripture. Three times he said, "it is written", and then the devil left him. (Matthew 4:1-11).

It Is Able to Save Us

"Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you" (James 1:21). (The King James Version calls it "the engrafted word.") We need to have the word of God "engrafted" in us so that it is a very part of us. Paul speaks of "the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15).

It Is Our Source of Truth

Jesus said, "Your [God's] word is truth" (John 17:17). He told his disciples, "If you hold to my teachings... you will know the truth" (John 8:31-32). Jesus told the Sadducees, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). The gospel is "the word of truth" (Ephesians 1:13). "All your words are true" (Psalm 119:160). Scripture commends the Bereans because, after Paul had taught them, they "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).

It is against Scripture that we measure our own thoughts and what we hear from others. Scripture is the touchstone by which we know what is true. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105). "Direct my footsteps according to your word" (Psalm 119:133). "The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple" (Psalm 119:130). "Give me understanding according to your word" (Psalm 119:169).

Scripture tells us to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). One of the best ways to do this is to compare our thoughts with Scripture. We identify every thought that is not Scriptural and replace it with the truth of Scripture.

It Is Our Spiritual Food

Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, said, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4). In Deuteronomy 8, God's word is compared to the manna which was given daily as physical food. The implication is that we need the spiritual food of God's word daily. (The same comparison is suggested in John 6:47-51). I believe that when Jesus prayed "give us today our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11) he was speaking, not only of physical nourishment, but also of spiritual nourishment from the word of God.

Hebrews 5:12 says, "you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food" (see also 1 Corinthians 3:2). Again we see the comparison between God's word and physical food. God's word is our spiritual food that we need daily.

It Teaches, Encourages, and Strengthes Us

All Scripture is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16). "Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4).

It Enables Us To Succeed

God told Joshua, just before he began the conquest of Canaan, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful" (Joshua 1:8). David, Israel's greatest king, wrote of the man whose "delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night"; he said that that man "is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers" (Psalm 1:2-3). Jesus taught that "everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash" (Matthew 7:24-27).

In his explanation of the parable of the sower Jesus said that when "the word of God" is sown, it can fall on different kinds of soil. It can be stolen, or wither away, or be choked out. "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" (Luke 8:11-15). It is those who receive the word of God, retain it and persevere who bear good fruit, "a crop, a hundred times more than was sown" (Luke 8:8).

Peter wrote, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that by them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:3-4). It is primarily through Scripture that we gain our knowledge of God, and it is in Scripture that God's "very great and precious promises" are recorded.

I sometimes like to compare Scripture to an owner's manual, in which the manufacturer of a product tells us how his product is intended to operate and how it needs to be cared for and maintained. If we don't follow the owner's manual - if we don't change the oil and replace it with the right kind of oil, or keep the tires properly inflated, etc. - the product will not function as it should and may break down. In the Bible, God, who created us, tells us how we are expected to function. If we understand and follow his instructions we will be successful. If we do not follow them we can expect to have a lot of trouble.

To avoid misunderstanding I need to point out that God's idea of succeeding and prospering is usually different from ours. We tend to use material wealth as the measure of success. These passages of Scripture are talking about succeeding and prospering in the sense of doing what you set out to do, accomplishing the task that God has given you. I am not saying that reading the Bible will make you wealthy. I am saying that if you allow the Bible to work in your life and change you, you are much more apt to lead a life that is satisfying and fulfilling.

God's Word Lasts Forever

"Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens" (Psalm 119:89). "The word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8). Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35).

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Copyrightę 2001 by James L. Morrisson
  

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     08/19/2007