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Three Unique Characteristics of God's Word,
The Bible

Because of Its Inspired ("God-breathed") Nature - 2 Timothy 3:16

 

 
Introduction

People seem to have a tendency to get things backwards. There is a purpose for resources and Bible study helps. There may even be some limited value for "interpretational schemes" - though I haven't found one yet. But the tendency is for people to elevate such things to a position of authority that is higher than the Word itself.

There are so many "facts," "principles," and other types of background information, that people often claim we must know, before (according to them) the Bible can be understood. These people often insist that a person cannot correctly understand the Bible unless we interpret it in the "light" of their teachings, rules or principles. This type of practice occurs not only among obscure "fringe" groups, but throughout the entire "spectrum" of people who claim to be "Christians."

A person who compares the claims of various so-called "authorities" will often find himself surrounded by a confusing mass of contradictions. Which "authority" should he believe? After all, they all claim to be the "right" way, and most of them seem to use Scripture to "prove" their view! They may even claim to be "using Scripture to interpret Scripture" - and this sounds very "spiritual"!

Before we give-up in despair, or conclude (wrongly) that it is not possible to know for sure what the Bible says, perhaps we should ask some important questions. For instance, if this "information" is so vital to our understanding of the Bible, then why did God leave it out of the Bible? Why is it that we must trust some human "authority" to give us the information that God, for some reason, "forgot" to tell us in his Word? If God knew about it when he gave us the Scriptures, and if it was so important, then why did he leave such vital information out?

Perhaps it is because this so-called "vital information" isn't as vital as some people would like us to believe! Perhaps God left it out for a purpose - so that we wouldn't be lead astray by it, or led into a truncated distortion of the truth! Maybe he even did so, in order to give us an opportunity to trust him over human "authorities"!

It is our view that God included in his Word all that he needed to include, in order for us to have an accurate understanding of the Word. And so, this article is written, in part, as a protest to all the schemes and "prerequisites" that people have invented and added to the Word of God. Let God speak for himself, through his Word! This may seem like a novel (or impossible) idea, but if more people did this, perhaps there would be less disagreement between them, over what the Bible says! At least we would be able to agree on where to start, when we were trying to understand the Bible!

 


Many things can be said about the Bible, but the following three characteristics set it apart from all other books and "holy writings." These three things are true because of it's "God-breathed" nature (2 Timothy 3:16).

 
1) The Bible is relevant in any society or culture.

The books of the Bible were written within specific historic cultures, yet they transcend all cultural lines. Lack of knowledge of historical cultural details may prevent a person from understanding some of the minute details, but the main points - whatever is necessary for life and godliness - will not be hidden.

2) The Bible can be understood in any language.

The books of the Bible were written in specific historic languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), yet once accurately translated, they can be understood in any language, if accepted as written, without adding to or subtracting from the message. Lack of knowledge of the original languages may prevent a person from learning certain minute details about a passage being studied, but it does not leave one impaired and unable to know what is necessary for his salvation and sanctification. He will be well-equipped for living a godly life, and will not be lead into error. 

 


All three of these characteristics are important. Yet the third, given below, focuses on what is often the greatest source of problems, disagreements and conflicts, among people who claim to be "Christian." Because of this, much more is written about it.

 
3) The Bible tells us what God wants us to know, and it does so in the best way possible.

The books of the Bible are totally perfect and very precise in the way they say things, even though they do not say things the way people often want them to be said. What people want and what they need are two different things.

These three things can be said about the Bible's message:

It is important to remember that the intended purpose of the message is not to distribute a sterile list of doctrinal facts in an easy-to-memorize, "systematic" manner. Nor it its purpose to give us a collection of "inspirational stories," which we can interpret in whatever way we want. Rather, its purpose is to change a person's whole perspective on reality, along with his conduct. It wants to make these changes within all the contexts of life - even those not explicitly mentioned. The form in which the words of Scripture have been given is the best form possible for accomplishing this task. Even if we do not fully understand the reason for the way something is presented, we can trust God to accomplish his purposes through it - even if those purposes involve other people, rather than us!

Note that we are focusing here on the message of the Word, and the way God gave it to us. There is history, poetry, doctrinal presentations, stories, songs, genealogies, and much more. The Word was given to us over a span of perhaps 20 centuries, through approximately 40 human authors who came from many different cultures and backgrounds. Yet it all comes together as a unified message from God. Note that we are not focusing on the issue of variations between manuscripts (copies of the original documents which the apostles and prophets wrote). Passages do exist, in which there are questions as to the exact wording. Yet we have thousands of manuscripts available for examination, and it has been shown that, among all these variations, there are none which have a significant impact on the message of the Word! (Errors of this type are just a fact of life. Even today, with computers, printing presses and other forms of technology, there are often spelling errors and other types of mistakes in printed literature. Even without comparing thousands of manuscripts, we can normally understand the message being communicated with no problem at all. I repeat: Errors of this type are just a fakt of life!)

 
Final Comments

We don't have to have an "anti-intellectual" attitude and reject everything that appears to help us when we study the Bible. However, if our ultimate loyalty is to the Bible, we will be constantly submitting these "resources" to the message of the Word, rather than submitting the Bible to these "resources." Though there may be value in certain helps, and we don't need to be afraid of using them, we need to remember that many of the godliest people in the history of Christianity didn't have them. And not having them did not cause them to suffer in their spiritual growth.

If we are willing to accept what we can understand, without adding to or subtracting from the Word - accepting it the way God gave it to us - then we will know all that we need to know for life and godliness. Missing out on some tiny detail won't be a "life-or-death" matter. However, our willingness to accept and live by what we do know will!

Dennis Hinks © 1994, 2003
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