[Editor's Note: The following article is an excerpt from chapter one of Dr. Ware's book entitiled Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God (Crossway Books, April 2009). This book is a tremendous resource to help equip anyone working with children to teach the essentials of the Christian faith in an understandable, chapter-a-day format. To read the moving Foreword to the book by the author's two daughters, go here. Dr. Ware was one of the featured speakers at the 2009 Children Desiring God National Conference.]
We've just learned that God has made known to us something of himself both through the world he has made and through the sense of right and wrong that he put into every human life. God's greatness, wisdom, power, and beauty are shown in the created world. And God's holiness, righteousness, goodness, and justice are shown through the senses of right and wrong we all have. So yes, God is both great, and God is good. He acts with power, but he always does what is right.
Notice, though, that both of these ways that God has made himself known to us come through his actions--we know he is great and good because we see these qualities shown in what he has made. But there is another amazing way that God has made himself known to us, and it is this: God talks! One of the first things we learn about God in the opening chapter of the Bible is that God is a talking God. For each of the days of creation, he brings about what he makes by speaking. Have you noticed this? The first one comes in Genesis 1:3, "And God said, ‘Let there be light,' and there was light." And the words, "And God said" are repeated in verses 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, and 26, where each of the special acts of creation are brought about when God speaks. We learn from this that God's word is powerful and active, and it is meant to create what is new and glorious, not only to instruct.
Knowing that God is a talking God helps us understand better one of the most important and precious possessions we have in all of life--our Bible. We can far too easily ignore the Bible or spend too little time reading it and learning from it. But when we realize what it really is, our desires grow to spend much more time learning just what the Bible says. Why? Because the Bible is where we hear what God says. Yes, it is true. What the Bible says is what God says; as the Bible speaks to us, God speaks to us. One of the most important ways that God has spoken is through the very pages of the Bible itself. Consider with me a few verses that help us see this.
Paul describes the Bible this way in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." Notice that Paul says "all" of Scripture--not just part of it, but all of it--comes from God. So we should see the Bible as a different kind of book from any other book there is. In the entire Bible, God tells us what he wants us to know. Not just parts of the Bible come from God, but all of it is God's own word to us. Also, notice that the Bible is "breathed out by God." This is a way of saying that it comes from God's own mouth. God speaks and breathes out the very books that form the Bibles that we have. Of course, human writers are responsible for writing these books also (we'll say a bit more about this in a minute), but here Paul's main point is that the Bible should be seen as God's Word.
Look next at what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: "And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." This helps us because Paul shows that the word spoken to these Thessalonian believers really was God's Word, even though it was spoken to them by Paul. So the Bible is the word of certain men, to be sure. But because God is working through those men as they speak and write, the Bible is really "the Word of God," as Paul says.
But how can the Bible be from men but really from God? How can we be sure that humans who spoke and wrote actually have spoken and written what God wanted them to express, so we can be sure that the Bible really and truly is God's Word? Our answer comes from a very helpful statement by the apostle Peter. In 2 Peter 1:20-21 Peter writes, "no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." Here is our answer. The Holy Spirit of God, who lives in the lives of all of those who trust in Christ, did a special work in producing the Bible. As Peter says here, the authors of Scripture, who spoke forth the prophesies of the Bible and all of its teachings, were "carried along by the Holy Spirit" as they wrote. So, what they wrote was not as much from them as it was from the Holy Spirit who moved them to write what they did. In this way the Bible is from human authors but even more from God. God, by his Spirit, worked in these writers so that these "men spoke from God" as they wrote the books that we now have in our Bibles. This doesn't take away from the fact that Moses and Isaiah and Paul and Peter and many others wrote different books of the Bible. But it means that with these books, unlike any other books, God worked by his Spirit to make sure that what they wrote would be exactly what he wanted.
Go back again for a minute to something else that was said in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Not only does Paul say that all of the Bible is "breathed out by God" and so is God's Word, he also says that this Bible is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." His point is this: because the Bible is from God, it is also very helpful and useful in causing us to grow as we should. Or think of it like this: because the Bible is what it is (it is the Word of God), it can do what it does (it is profitable to help us grow and be equipped for every good work). But if the Bible were not really the Word of God, we could not be sure that it would work in these positive ways to help us to grow. What the Bible is (the Word of God) enables it to do what it does (help us to grow).
God is a talking God, and how thankful we should be that he "talked" into the very pages of the Bible all of the teachings that he wanted his people to know. How foolish we are when we forget to read and study this book. But how wise and blessed we are when we go to this book constantly for instruction, guidance, correction, and help with living life as God wants. We should thank God every day that the Bible is his Word, that the Bible has the power to help us grow. And we should commit ourselves to knowing the Bible better all the time, so we can learn all that God has for us and live more in ways that honor him and bring blessing to our own lives.
Questions for Thought
1. How important is it to believe that the Bible is fully God's Word while it also is the writings of different human authors? That is, why does it matter that the Bible is from God but was also written by men?
2. Since the Bible really is God's Word, that is, since God really talks to us through what is written in the Bible, what should our attitude be to listening to the Bible when it is read? When reading the Bible for ourselves? When hearing the Bible taught and preached?
2 Timothy 3:16-17—"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."
Copyright Crossway Books 2009. Used with permission. This article originally appeared here on March 11, 2009.
Dr. Bruce Ware, Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a highly esteemed theologian and author in the evangelical world. Dr. Ware has written numerous journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews and, along with Thomas Schreiner, has co-edited The Grace of God and the Bondage of the Will and Still Sovereign. He also has authored God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism, God's Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance. Dr. Ware and his wife Jodi have two grown daughters and one grandchild.