Five Truths You Should Know About Scripture
As many as 7 billion copies of the Bible have been printed making it the best-selling book of all time. The full Bible has been translated into more than 700 languages, and the New Testament into over twice as many. In the United States, the average household possesses more than 4 Bibles.
What is it about the Bible that makes it so important to so many people? Here are five truths you should know about Scripture, according to 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
1) The Bible is clear.
The New Testament book of 2 Timothy is a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a Christian leader named Timothy. In this letter, the Apostle writes, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14-15).
Notice that Timothy had been trained in Scripture since the time he was a little child (“from infancy”). Many people may find this surprising. They think of the Bible as an obscure, mysterious book, understandable only to scholars with a formal theological education. But Timothy, like many people I know, had begun to learn the Bible from an early age.
How can this be? According to The Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Bible is primarily intended to teach us two things: (a) what we are to believe about God, and (b) how God wants us to live. Though some parts of the Bible are more difficult than others to understand, when it comes to these two basic subjects, Scripture is clear. For centuries, people of all ages, with various levels of education, have read the Bible and found it to be a comprehensible, meaningful guide for living.
2) The Bible is deep.
Though Scripture is clear, it is not simplistic. Those who study the Bible for years continue to discover new truths within its pages that lead them into a deeper relationship with God.
When the book of 2 Timothy was written, Timothy was a fully grown adult who had been studying the Bible since childhood. He had served as a missionary and been ordained as a pastor. He regularly taught the Bible to a local congregation and had been personally mentored by the Apostle Paul. And yet the Apostle instructed Timothy to “continue in what you have learned” because Scripture is “able to make you wise for salvation.” In other words, even though Timothy was well acquainted with the words of Scripture, there was much more for him to learn.
St. Jerome (born in the 4th Century) wrote, “The Scriptures are shallow enough for a baby to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for a theologian to swim in without ever touching the bottom." Even if you have been studying the Bible for years, pick it up and read it some more. Read it prayerfully. Read it expectantly. There is much more for you to learn about God in this book.
3) The Bible is authoritative.
2 Tim. 3:17-16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
An important word in that statement is the word “all.” The Bible is not partially true and partially false. It is not reliable in some places but unreliable in others. Every word of the Bible can be trusted to communicate God’s truth to us. Therefore, when we study Scripture, it is important to submit ourselves humbly to its authority.
It is not uncommon for people to approach Scripture the way they approach a buffet line in a cafeteria. They take what they want and leave behind what they don’t like. This is a tragic mistake to make.
How can God function as an authority over our lives if we do not allow his word to tell us things we may not want to hear? St. Augustine (354-430) wrote, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”
4) The Bible is enough.
The purpose of Scripture, wrote Paul to Timothy, is “that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Notice that the Bible will not leave us “partially equipped for some good works.” We will be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In other words, everything we need to know to have a relationship with God and to live for his glory can be found in Scripture. The Bible is a sufficient record of God’s truth.
Over the years, the sufficiency of Scripture has been attacked in various ways. Some have suggested that, in addition to the Bible, Christians cannot know the fullness of God’s truth without receiving information from other sources such as the traditions of the church, the insights of prophets, or the writings of scholars. Though we can certainly benefit from the insights of others, we should never allow their input to function as an indispensable supplement to Scripture. Everything we need to know for life and godliness can be found in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. Any teaching we hear from other sources should be tested by what is contained in God’s sacred book.
5) The Bible is not enough.
This statement may sound like a contradiction of what is written above, so allow me to explain.
The Christian faith is more than a study program for the acquisition of knowledge. As important as the Bible is, the study of Scripture by itself is never enough to restore us to a relationship with God. To be accepted by God, we need more than a book. We need a Savior.
2 Tim. 3:15 says, “the Holy Scriptures … are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” That final phrase (“through faith in Christ Jesus”) is vitally important. There have been many people who study the Bible thoroughly and yet who never come to know God because they never place their trust in Christ.
Jesus said to the Bible experts of his day, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).
We cannot study our way into God’s favor. We do not earn God’s acceptance by reading a book. No Bible exam will be given at the gates of heaven. What separates us from God is our sin and the only one who can rescue us from sin is Jesus.
The purpose of the Bible is to lead us to Christ. We must allow Scripture to function for us as both Law and Gospel. As Law, the Bible points out our sin and our need for a Savior. As Gospel, the Bible points us to Jesus and the grace offered in him. We need Scripture so that we can know Christ. Learning the Bible is not the goal. The purpose of Scripture is to lead us to God’s Son.