The Uniqueness of Scripture

There is no other book in history that can be compared with the Bible. It is not merely human words about God; it is the very Word of God to humanity. It is in fact the voice of God in print, and as such Scripture is of divine origin and in a class by itself.

The Bible is composed of sixty-six books, divided into two testaments. There are thirty-nine books in the Old Testament and twenty-seven books in the New Testament. The Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years by almost forty different authors who were unified in the central purpose of perfectly communicating the truth of God to humanity so that he could be glorified and his Kingdom advanced. The ultimate uniqueness of Scripture is that it is alive and is able to pierce into the deepest depths of a person’s life, emotions, and thoughts (Heb 4:12-13) and to transform the lives of those who respond to its message.

The Authority of Scripture

Many Christians live their lives according to their own set of laws because they do not respect God or acknowledge his rule over every area of their lives. Just as a driver should fear the authority of a police officer (i.e., take the officer seriously) whether they see him or not, Christians show true reverence for God by how they acknowledge his authority. As it turns out, God has infused his authority into the truth of Scripture.

Scripture is authoritative because it is truth (John 17:17). Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. It’s God’s view on every subject. In Scripture, God has made truth knowable (John 8:32). Since God cannot lie (Heb 6:18) and since his Word is eternally settled in heaven (Ps 119:89), then his Word can be completely trusted (Pss 12:6; 18:30).

Christian doctrine has developed over the centuries but not out of thin air or out of the imaginations of men gone by. These doctrines we hold dear were articulated from Scripture itself. For those of us who take Scripture seriously, we affirm the divine authority of the Bible: Sola Scriptura—that is, by Scripture alone.

Since God’s nature is perfectly true (1 John 5:20) then his Word is inerrant. Inerrancy means that the original autographs of Scripture are completely true concerning everything about which they speak and were completely recorded without error down to the most minute detail (Matt 5:17-18). Therefore, Scripture is binding on every aspect of our lives (John 10:35).

What can we say, then, about Scripture? It is divine in its authority. It is the absolute final authority for all matters of our lives. We can live under God’s perfect rule, trusting that he has given us the governance we need through the pages of Scripture.

The Revelation of Scripture

Imagine going to a play, sitting while the curtain is closed waiting for the performance, and then watching the curtain open to reveal the scene. If you go to a play, you receive a program in which you can read about that play, but you’re waiting for the curtain to open because you want to see it on display. That’s revelation.

In theology, revelation refers to the initiative of God to disclose or reveal himself to humanity (Heb 1:1-3) so that we could know what otherwise we would not know or understand. Since he is totally unique and distinct from his creation (Isa 55:10-11), revelation is needed for finite people to understand and properly relate to an infinite God. God has revealed his eternal attributes in general revelation (i.e., nature/creation, Rom 1:19-20), and he has also revealed himself in special revelation through the living Word, Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14), and the written Word of Scripture.

It is in this special revelation that we find God revealing to humanity his true nature, done primarily through the pages of the Bible (Ps 19:1-6; Rom 1:18-20; 2:14-16; John 1:14-18; Acts 17:24-34). All creation can plainly see that he exists, but those who have been illuminated by the Holy Spirit can begin to see who he really is.

The Inspiration of Scripture

Inspiration refers to the process by which God oversaw the composition of Scripture so that its message was perfectly recorded (2 Tim 3:16) without error through the instrumentality and personalities of human authors. Human authors were perfectly guided by the Holy Spirit in the writing of every word of Scripture (2 Pet 1:19-21). In the same way that the Holy Spirit used humanity’s instrumentality in the birth of the living Word (the incarnation) keeping the sin nature of Mary from being transferred to Jesus, he likewise kept sin and error from being transferred from the human authors in the writing of Scripture.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that Scripture is the “living and effective” Word from God, one that is able to pierce the very soul and spirit and to discern our thoughts and intentions. In other words, the Bible is no empty collection of stories about people who lived long ago. Rather, in its pages, we encounter the living God, and its words are enlivened by the Spirit of God. When we open the Bible, we are not just opening a book, we are opening ourselves up to the discerning, piercing voice of God that calls forth an active response from us.

By studying inspiration we seek to understand the origin of Scripture, the process of faithfully recording God’s revelation about himself, and how these inspired (“living and effective”) Scriptures are uniquely authoritative in the life of the believer.

The Canonicity of Scripture

We might think that the Holy Scriptures always existed in the perfectly convenient form that we find today, yet the process was more complex than that. The journey through time and culture to compile our Bible has always been a divine process in which the Holy Spirit supervised both its writing and development.

Canonicity refers to the principles and processes of recognizing which writings were the inspired books to be included in the Bible. Jesus stated that the whole Old Testament was Scripture (Luke 24:27). He also prophesied that the Holy Spirit would disclose to the apostles the truths that would become New Testament Scripture (John 16:13-15).

While it may seem uncomfortable at first to dissect the manner in which all sixty-six books came to be recognized as God’s Word, you will find that the hand of God was present at every turn, guiding this process through the church. The same God who inspired holy men to record every word exactly as he wanted it also oversaw the process by which the books were assembled into the complete and authoritative collection of Scripture.

The Interpretation of Scripture

Perhaps you have heard the popular phrase, “Something got lost in translation.” When people use that phrase, what they mean is that what someone says isn’t always understood by the one who receives the message. If this is true with people who speak the same language in the same society, then you can only imagine the complexities in communication that can occur when we study a more complex subject matter such as the Holy Scriptures. With the Word of God, ultimately the Lord is the originator, or encoder, of his message, and we are the decoder, the person tasked with understanding the message that is being communicated.

Interpretation refers to meaning—what is the text actually saying. It seeks to understand what the author was saying to the audience to whom he was speaking, and then, relate that meaning to us today. Interpretation is a science since words have meaning and language follows certain rules of grammar and composition that can be observed and cataloged.

Interpretation is also an art as we seek to understand and match the meaning of words from one language, culture, and context to another. Thus, God wants us to be diligent in our study of his Word so that we will understand what the biblical authors were communicating in their day and how his eternal truth relates to us today (Ezra 7:10; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17).

The Illumination of Scripture

Illumination refers to the Holy Spirit’s work of personally enlightening the human mind to the understanding and application of biblical truth (1 Cor 2:9-16) for the purpose of bringing spiritual conviction to unbelievers (John 16:7-11) and transforming believers into the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:17-18). Through the process of illumination, you and I are able not only to grasp the truths of God but to internalize and live out his precepts.

There is a danger in speaking of illumination as a lightbulb moment, such that spiritual insight into the Scriptures may seem like something that is instantaneous. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the lightbulb, famously stated that the genius behind his inventions was “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Similarly, there is a process at work that brings the experience of the illumination of God’s Word to the heart and mind of the Christian. This process of illumination finds its origin in the Holy Spirit, yet it also involves the responsiveness of the believer. We must be careful, though, not to think that spiritual illumination will come through our study alone. Spiritual insight is also founded on the Holy Spirit working within us.

The Sufficiency of Scripture

Sufficiency refers to the comprehensive nature of Scripture in its ability to address every area of life. It is therefore the standard by which all of life is understood and evaluated. Scripture also possesses the power to address what it proclaims (Isa 55:11) both in creation (Ps 33:6) and in every aspect of our daily lives (Ps 19:7-14).

Paul writes in 2 Tim 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” That means we do not need to rely on extra knowledge, wisdom, or insight to do what God wants us to do. We have been fully equipped for living abundantly in his kingdom based on the truth he has provided in the pages of the Bible.

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