by Matthew C. Harrison
How shall Christians regard and understand the Bible? The common narratives of Western culture are evaporating, especially knowledge of the Bible. Someone told me recently she was ordering a cake and wanted it decorated with a depiction of Noah’s Ark. The clerk had no idea what she was talking about.
Christians may still have some modicum of familiarity with the Bible, but today, we ought be very clear about what the Bible is and what it teaches so we are not swept away by the cesspool of biblical ignorance (i.e., pop culture, pop religion, pop psychology).
Agnosticism is more popular than ever. It’s the faddish pseudo-religion that asserts in absolute terms (ironically) that we can’t make any absolute assertions about “God” or religion. Behind the masquerade of a religiously uncommitted “high ground” — claiming all religion is the same, etc. — lurks a chasm of ignorance about what the Bible and genuine Christianity teach.
The best place for us to get hold of what the Bible is and how we should understand it is found in the person of Jesus Himself. How does Jesus regard the Bible?
- The Bible is about Jesus. Jesus cajoled His contemporaries who read the Bible but missed the point. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me” (John 5:39). On the road to Emmaus, Jesus said to the two, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures that things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:26–27).
- The Old Testament contains many prophesies about Christ. Jesus said, “Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” The point is quite simple, according to Jesus. “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:45ff.).
- The New Testament, especially the Gospels, is the accurate record of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and teaching, written by the power of the Holy Spirit. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
- Jesus regards what is written in the Old Testament as true and accurate. “Have you never read what David did . . . ?” (Mark 2:25). Jesus regards Adam and Eve and the story of Jonah, Moses, etc., as actual people and events (Matt. 19:4ff.; 19:8).
- Jesus believes that the writers of the Old Testament were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord’” (Mark 12:36). His apostles had the same belief (Acts 4:25).
- Jesus regards the Bible as the very Word of God and authoritative. “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).
- Jesus believes that the commandments of the Old Testament are actually God’s own. “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8).
- Jesus regards the Scriptures as the very Word of God that cannot be contravened, questioned or trumped by human authority or reason. Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
- Jesus understands the Bible according to Law and Gospel (i.e., God’s commands and God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation), which point to Him as Savior. Jesus piles on the Law when someone thinks the point of the Bible is works righteousness (Matt. 19:16ff.), but he also tells His disciples that His whole reason for existence is not “to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Also, anyone who comes to Jesus empty-handed, begging for mercy, always goes away forgiven, healed, comforted (Mark 1:40ff., 2:1ff., 5:21ff., 7:24ff.)! See especially Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9ff.) and then that of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18ff.). Jesus told the first “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). They’d missed the whole point of the Bible and Jesus!
- From the above, it’s certain that Jesus regards the basic teachings of the Bible as quite clear.
A criticism of our teaching on the inerrancy and authority of the Bible is that we first must somehow convince people of the Bible’s authority and only then can the Gospel of forgiveness in Christ be shared and believed. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The message of damnable sin and complete forgiveness in the cross and resurrection of Jesus creates faith in Jesus. Such faith recognizes the voice of the Good Shepherd in the Scriptures: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27).
As sheep precious to the Savior, we recognize the Bible to be what Jesus did: the very Word of God. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:1).
Pastor Matthew Harrison