“Moreover, the knowledge of God, which is set before us in the scriptures, is designed for the same purpose as that which shines in creation, i.e., that we may thereby learn to worship Him with perfect integrity of heart and unfeigned obedience, and also to depend entirely on His goodness.” – John Calvin
1 Timothy 4:15 (ESV)
Practice these things, immerse (μελέτα) yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.
Have you ever wondered why the Bible is important? Yes, we all know the right (i.e. repeated) answer taught to us since the time we could crawl, “because it’s God’s word to us”. But is that enough to bring us to its pages every day? Be honest. Is your relationship to the Bible important for your relationship with God, others, and understanding your life?
The answer is yes, there is not doubt that the Bible is important. However, it’s not in the same way that a history book or Shakespearian play are: the Bible should not receive recognition because it contains history, or poetry, or wisdom, and cultural details. It should be important because it’s a privilege and beautiful gift given to us by our Creator for everything we need to live a life that pleases Him and reveals His character and Gospel to others. In other words, your relationship with God is directly tied to the Bible and what it reveals to us about God. Without revelation (either of Creation or Scripture) there is no knowledge.
Of course, your relationship with God is a priority, but not in the same way paying your landlord is: we don’t have an eternal, saving relationship with our landlord. We do, however, have a relationship with God. Everyone has a relationship with God, it just depends what kind of relationship that is. If, therefore, our relationship with God is functionally and foundationally different from every other relationship in our lives, this means we should view everything given to us by God as specific and meaningful. After all, Paul says that God “breathed out” the Scriptures, it proceeds from God. The eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, glorious, beautiful, wrathful, merciful God poured out Himself in these pages! How amazing!
For the Christian, you know you have a relationship with God that is about Jesus dying for your sin and rising again: but the problem many of us have with why we don’t read or even like the Bible is found in feeling like our relationship with God is several different things at once. We don’t see the Bible being from God the same way we view Jesus coming down as God to die for us; we don’t see God at Church the same way we do at home. We run to God more than to His word: this seems rather confusing, and we all know it.
Ask yourself this question: Why don’t I crave God’s word as much as I do God Himself? Maybe even turn the question over: do you desire God, or only a specific thing about Him? If we don’t see the Jesus of the Bible as the same Jesus we pray to and trust, problems will arise. The fundamental error made with Jesus and the Bible lies in two very important questions: 1) Did Jesus have a specific view of Scripture (affirming what we have in our hands today). 2) If so, what was His view?
The way you view Jesus affects the way you view the Bible, if Jesus is distorted, your walk with Him will not be clear and steady. The captain of a ship needs to know where to steer the ship: if all he reads is “north” without reading how long and how far he should travel, he will miss his destination. Don’t neglect the words of God, if you do, your life will reveal only fragments of Him. And your eyes will be set somewhere else! Then you will question whether you are saved to begin with. Know for sure of your salvation, learn from Christ! Jesus Christ apart from the Bible is no Savior at all, but an idol of our own invention.
1) How Jesus saw the Bible.
The synoptic Gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark and Luke. Synoptic meaning “see similar”) paint a picture of Jesus that is centered on Scripture: Jesus quotes, reads, teaches, and fulfills the Old Testament, not just a few verses but hundreds (and He lived in perfect obedience to it! This means He understood it greatly and read it rigorously). Jesus was not a John 3:16, Philippians 4:13 Jew, meaning He knew whatever the common Old Testament verses were and never picked up a scroll. No, Jesus taught us what He heard from God the Father, and this included the Old Testament. Jesus even told the Jews that the Old Testament was written about Him (see John 5).
There is a very constructive and specific intent from Matthew, Mark and Luke to prove that Jesus is not only the Son of God, but also the fulfillment of OT Scriptures about the Messiah. He is the redemption forIsraeland the World. He is mankind’s only road and hope of salvation. The Gospel of John (not a “synoptic” yet nevertheless Scripture) declares Jesus to be the “Word” of God (i.e. Creator, and the pinpoint of the Gospel). When we seek Jesus, it’s through the eyes of Scripture: like a telescope that gives the weak eyes of our soul the ability to see the enormous reality of grace, hope, and love by faith. The Apostle Paul says that the Bible produces faith (Rom.10:9), faith is enabled by the Bible. This faith is a heavenly gift, enabling us to trust God and believe Him more strongly and with greater maturity.
Jesus believed the Bible to be so foundational and inseparable from the Christian life that He told the Disciples that they were ignorant of the Resurrection because they failed to understand the Bible. He then spends time after the Resurrection, not to teach a multitude and show off His glorified body, but to teach two Disciples about the Old Testament Scriptures about Him! (Luke 24). If Jesus spent time ministering to two people about the Bible, shouldn’t we then consider having, not just the OT, but also the New Testament as something radical for transforming our faith and our lives?
2) Did Jesus teach that there were only 66 books in the Bible?
Answer: Yes, in part.
The New Testament was not written yet, but Jesus did affirm that the Disciples would write Scripture:
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.
The New Testament was written either by Apostles or close associates of them. This is what the council of Nicea in the fourth century used to determine inspired NT writing from what was false. Everything written in the NT is tied to Jesus, topically, and historically.
Now onto the OT: Did Jesus teach that there were only 39 books in the OT? What about the Apocrypha that contained more that many Jews read during the time of Jesus?
49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.
In verse 51, Jesus specifically mentions Abel and Zechariah by name: Why is this important? The account of Abel is found in Genesis, and Zechariah in Zechariah. The Hebrew Bible was not arranged the same as the Bible’s we have today. The Jews saw the Bible in three divisions: the Law (books of Moses), the Prophets, and the Writings (i.e. wisdom books, narrative books, etc). This version of the Hebrew Bible, most commonly used, begins with Genesis and ends with Zechariah. All together, there were 39 books in this Hebrew Bible. Jesus verified our Bible right under our noses!
Therefore, when we see the Bible in light of these texts, a different response is called for. We’re no longer seeing the Bible from the Bible, but the Bible within the Bible. The Jesus, not as a preacher taught to us, but from the Holy Spirit who dwells inside us and lives on the pages of Scripture. You see? We know Jesus, the fully man, fully God, Savior in all His revealed fullness in the Bible. What’s stopping you from reading it now? Go to the map, turn to Jesus!
Until next time, Be blessed!