This past Sunday we began a new series of messages on the importance and use of the Bible. The claim this week was that God has spoken, and that the Bible is the clearest form of communication that God has given humanity. The question I seek to address in this blog is whether or not the Bible claims this for itself. In other words, do the Christian Scriptures testify that they are in fact divine in nature, and from the very hand of God?
The reason this question is important is that it goes straight to the issue of what the Bible actually is. If, as many believe, the Bible is little more than an ancient book with one group’s religious speculation about their God, then the Bible does little more than teach us about ancient anthropology and religious beliefs. If, on the other hand, the Bible is the revelation of God to humanity, if the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are God’s word to us, then the story and teaching of the Bible is of utmost importance as week seek to understand God and find our purpose in the world. The amazing thing is that the Bible is incredibly clear about what it proclaims for itself on this issue. To cover every angle and every passage where the Bible claims that it is divine in nature would take several volumes of books to write. My goal here is to point out a few passages in the Bible that involve people who deeply believe that the content of the Scriptures are the very words of God, and they are to be believed, honored, and obeyed in that way.
I’ll begin with the first five books of the Bible, which is a section of Scripture called the Torah or the Law. These books give the basic history of the ancient Hebrew people and their interaction with God. In Exodus 24:3-4, we are told that Moses wrote down the very words that God had commanded him to write, and that the Hebrews agreed, “All the words that the Lord has spoken, we will do.” These words became known as the book of the Law or the Torah. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the Hebrew people are commanded to take the words that God has spoken and that their leader Moses has written, and they are to do several things with them. First, they are to believe and obey them. They are to be on their heart and in their mind constantly. Furthermore, the people are to teach the words of the Scriptures to their children diligently. They are to talk about the words contained in the Scriptures when they rise in the morning, as they go about their day, when they come home in the evening, and when they lie down at night. The point being, they are to understand that the words given to them in the books of Moses are so much more than the human words about God. They are to be treated as the very words of their Creator and, they should be treated with incredible weight. It would be one thing if this type of language was a chance occurrence, but the truth is that this sort of language is everywhere in the Bible.
This language is continued in the Psalms, the ancient book of hymns, prayers, and poetry used in Hebrew worship. Psalm 19:7-10 is a great passage declaring the incredible nature of the writings contained in the Scriptures. David calls the text of Scripture “the law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord, the precepts of the Lord, and the commandment of the Lord,” among other things. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. This entire chapter is in the form of an acrostic. The author writes stanzas of Hebrew poetry, with each stanza beginning with the different letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each stanza expressing the importance of the Scriptures, and the value of meditating, memorizing, and knowing the words of the Bible. Once again, the consistent view from the text of the Bible is that the Scriptures are not merely human musings, but they are God’s revelation of Himself.
The Old Testament prophetic books takes this train of thought to a different level. These books were written by men, each of whom claimed to be speaking for God. The favorite phrase of the prophets was, “This is what the Lord says…” The books of prophecy contain writings and sermons given by these men. But they did not believe that their words were just their own. Each of them believed they were speaking the very words of God, and that the things they said were to be obeyed and believed, and to disbelieve or disobey would be to disbelieve God. Listen to the way Jeremiah states this in Jeremiah 1:6-9.
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth,’ for to all to whom I send you , you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak… Behold I have put my words in your mouth.”
The New Testament testimony is consistent with that of the Old Testament. The writers of the New Testament often quote passages from the Old Testament, treating them as the speech of God. More importantly, Jesus often quotes and refers to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, with the understanding the text to be equivelant with the speech of God. Matthew 4:1-11 tells the story of Jesus temptation by Satan in the wilderness. Three times, the devil approaches Jesus with the temptation to exalt himself and deny God’s purpose, and three times Jesus responds by quoting Scriptures. It is as if he listened to Satan, and then responded by saying, “Now, let me tell you what God has to say about this.”
The New Testament also contains some incredible declarations about the written words of the Scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is inspired by God. 2 Peter 1:20-21 declares that the words of the prophets came because, “Men spoke from God as they were carried by the Holy Spirit.” The Apostle Paul commends the Christians in the city of Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 because when they heard the Scriptures, “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.” An interesting twist on this occurs in 2 Peter 3:15-17, where Peter calls the letters written by Paul Scripture, meaning that he believes that Paul’s letters are to be accepted as the communication of God. Finally, the closing words of the Bible in the New Testament book of Revelation contain an incredible warning, coming from the reality that the author believes his writing to be so much more than his own ideas. In Revelation 22:18-19, John warns the reader that he or she is not to add to or take away from the words of the book, because to do so would result in the judgement of God. No follower of Jesus would make this sort of statement believing their ideas were of great importance. John would only say this sort of thing if he believed that his writings were the very words of God.
A long blog, but to be honest, this is just a short sampling of the places where the Bible takes a look at itself and makes the incredible claim that the ideas, history, thoughts, and words contained in the text are the words of God.