As a Bible blog, I’m surprised that I haven’t written about the importance of God’s Word sooner. I think we take for granted that people understand that the Bible is important, and it suffices to leave it at that.
But if we really understood the Bible’s importance, wouldn’t we all be devouring it daily?
Now, for the most part, Christians know and have been taught that they should read the Bible, but do they truly understand why? Do they truly understand the depth and power that its words contain?
The Bible tells us to hide its words in our hearts, and to meditate on it day and night. It doesn’t say find a few of your favorite Bible verse quotes and move on.
I also hope to reach those who don’t know much about the Bible, who see the Bible as merely a philosophical book containing wisdom at best, or a fairy-tale at worst.
This blog post is about the importance of God’s Word and why we need to read it.
What is the Bible? Is it simply a book of wisdom? Is it an instruction manual given to mankind by God? Is it a book of stories and events that occurred through man’s history?
One simple but transformative truth about the Bible is that the Bible is not about us. The Bible is about God. The Bible is the story of God’s acts in human history – from the beginning of time – to reveal to us what God is like.
Do you want to know God? Read the Bible.
The Importance of the Bible: How We Know God
God communicates to mankind through revelation. He has communicated and revealed himself to us through two kinds of revelation:
- General Revelation
- Special Revelation
God has revealed himself through general revelation in two ways: he made his existence known to us through creation.
‘They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature.’Romans 1:19-20 (NLT)
And God has also revealed himself through the minds of men, within our very consciences.
‘Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.’Romans 2:14-15 (NLT)
This is a general knowledge of the existence of God. The Bible tells us that no one has any excuse for not knowing God because of God’s general revelation. But this revelation of God was not intended to either save or condemn people. Its purpose was to declare the glory of God as our Creator and give general guidance to creation.
So how did man come to know about God’s redemptive plan of salvation in order to accept or reject it?
Special revelation refers to how God reveals himself more clearly. It is a fuller revelation of himself to mankind. God has revealed himself to all of humanity more fully in two ways:
- Through the Living Word of God – Jesus Christ,
‘In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.’John 1:1-2 (NLT)
- and through the written Word of God – the Bible.
‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.’2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
God also reveals himself through particular revelation such as dreams, visions, and prophecies. But this is not universally applicable to all mankind.
God reveals himself through the Word – both Living and written – as Redeemer.
How is the Bible Inspired by God?
2 Timothy 3:16 says that ‘All Scripture is inspired by God’. But inspiration is not a property of the writers of Scripture. They were not inspired to write down Scripture, so that the words came from the minds of men. The words themselves are inspired. The end product – the totality of Scripture – is what is considered inspired.
2 Peter 1:20-21 says,
‘Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.’NLT
That the Bible is inspired by God means that the text is inspired by God, and the authors were moved by the Holy Spirit. And furthermore, the inspiration of Scripture doesn’t refer to the general ideas in the Bible, but every single word.
How Can We Trust the Bible Is an Accurate Translation of the Original?
God revealed himself in Hebrew and Greek sentences – the original text. Our Bibles today are translations. A good translation will provide us with the same meaning as the original text.
How certain are we that the Bible we now read is a good translation?
There are now over 5800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts, and 9300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages – all copies of the originals. Some of these manuscripts date as far back as the early 2nd century. The oldest manuscript fragment, named P52, contains part of the gospel of John and scholars believe it could be dated to 10 years from the original text.
Compare this wealth of Biblical writing with other ancient writing.
The writing of Homer (author of the Iliad written in 900 B.C.) is the ancient text which is considered to have the next greatest number of manuscripts recovered. It has 643 copies of manuscripts with the earliest one dating 500 years after the original. These manuscripts are widely accepted by scholars to be accurate.
Scholars have pieced together the Bible manuscripts with a high degree of accuracy. Of the 138,000 words in the New Testament alone, only 1400 words remain uncertain of their accuracy. This is a 99% confidence in accuracy, and central Biblical doctrine is unaffected by any of these uncertain words.
What Does the Inerrancy of Scripture Mean?
Another foundational doctrine of Scripture is that it is inerrant. Many people believe this means ‘error free’, and so the Bible is continuously being criticized for having errors – or at least discrepancies – that seem to exist in the Bible.
But what inerrant actually means is that it is free from falsehood – that Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy.
I won’t go into the criticisms of the Bible’s inerrancy in this post (it would be way too long!), but essentially, the difficulties people have with the Bible’s inerrancy is that there are apparent inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible. There also appears to be factual mistakes where external sources seem to be inconsistent with Biblical facts. And finally, some people have difficulty with some of the ethical or moral teachings of the Bible because it seems inconsistent with their understanding of a loving God.
The Bible must be understood in two different contexts:
- Historical and cultural context
- The various genres of the Bible
Historical & Cultural Context
What was an acceptable practice in ancient times, as well as the way language was used, has to be considered before understanding the context of much of the Bible, particular the Old Testament.
God does not change. The way he loves and saves has not changed throughout history. If you have been following along in my Romans Bible study, you will know that God has always counted us as righteous by faith. Laws and practices that were required and acceptable in ancient times, are not necessarily acceptable today. But God is always consistent.
The Bible tells us the story of how God works and interacts with man throughout history – whether man is obedient or wicked. It’s a picture of reality, a picture of a fallen world. Not all of the Bible is inspirational and happy, but it is truth.
People will try to claim that if it’s in the Bible then it is endorsed by God. But evil and sinful acts in the Bible are simply demonstrations of a fallen world – mankind trying to go their own way – and our need of a Savior.
The Genres of the Bible
There are several different genres, or styles of writing, in the Bible and each of them have to be interpreted differently. Not all of the Bible should be taken literally, but the meaning it conveys is still truth. Here are some of the genres and examples:
- Historical Narrative: such as Exodus, Ruth and Acts, and the Gospels
- Poetry: such as Psalms, Proverbs and Job
- Prophetic: such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel
- Epistles: which are letters like Romans, Philippians, and Galatians
- Apocalypse: such as Revelation and Daniel
Sometimes other genre types are used such as Wisdom Literature (Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes), or Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are simply titled ‘the Gospels’ as a genre. And sometimes Bible scholars dispute the genre category for a given to book of the Bible.
However, regardless of historical or cultural context, or the genre of a given passage, the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and its words are true. Many seemingly inconsistent or contradictory statements can be understood and disappear when understood in light of these two contexts.
Another Reason to Believe that the Bible is True: Jesus
Historical, prophetic, and other evidence, such as the resurrection, show us that Jesus is God. This means that whatever Jesus teaches is true. Jesus taught that the Scriptures are the inerrant word of God. Therefore, the Bible is true and can be trusted.
We don’t believe in Jesus because we believe in the Bible; we believe in the Bible because we believe in Jesus.
The Benefits of Having God’s Word
What would happen if the Bible did not exist?
- If the Bible didn’t exist, we would have no saving knowledge of God. Romans tells us that our sinful nature suppresses the truth about God, but the Holy Spirit opens our eyes in tandem with God’s Word.
- The Bible allows us to have fellowship with the living God. This doesn’t mean that we have to have the Bible open in order for God to communicate to us. When we read the Bible, we hide its words in our hearts and minds, and God recalls those passages to our minds as he speaks to us.
- The only authoritative communication from God with any certainty comes from God’s Word. We can’t rely on our own feelings or thoughts to know what is true. Truth is found in Scripture and Scripture alone.
- Reading the Bible is food for our soul. We would never think of starving our physical bodies, however we often don’t give our souls a second thought. But we can’t live a victorious life without reading the Bible.
The Bible has withstood the test of time and much opposition, yet it continues to exist as it always will. God’s Word can never be extinguished.
God expresses his will for us and his love for us on the very pages of the Bible. He tells us what pleases him and how we can enter into a relationship with him. Its not enough to know about God, God wants us to know him, and that all starts with reading the very words he gave to us.
If you would like to go deeper into some of these details, here are some resources I recommend:
1. Wes Huff is a PhD student that offers a lot of excellent content, adding to our understanding of apologetics, as well as how the Bible, as we have it today, came together.
Helpful YouTube videos: The Authorship of the Gospels, Your Bible has been changed, but here’s why that doesn’t blow up inspiration or inerrancy , Who was choosing the books in your Bible?
2. William Lane Craig offers free classes on understanding Christian apologetics and doctrine called Defenders. These classes are taught at a seminary level and provide you with an excellent foundation for understanding Christian theology and apologetics. I have taken this class and it has greatly enhanced my understanding and appreciation for God’s Word!
The Bible Jesus Read: Why the Old Testament Matters by Philip Yancey – Yancey challenges the perception that the New Testament is more important than the Old, that the Hebrew Scriptures aren’t worth the time they take to read and understand them.
How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart – Understanding the Bible isn’t for the few, the gifted, the scholarly. The Bible is accessible. It’s meant to be read and comprehended by everyone from armchair readers to seminary students. A few essential insights into the Bible can clear up a lot of misconceptions and help you grasp the meaning of Scripture and its application to your twenty-first-century life.