Christians use the Bible as the basis for life decisions, doctrine, teaching and preaching. So it’s important to establish what the Bible is, whether it is the Word of God and authoritative, what effect it has in our lives, and how we should read it.
What is the Bible?
The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by 40 different human authors scattered geographically, historically (1500 years) and from all walks of life (kings, statesmen, scientists, shepherds, fishermen, scholars, priests, tax collectors). It is a record of salvation history showing God’s plan for the relational restoration between God and man.
The purpose of the Bible is to provide us with a revelation of who God is, His way of salvation for us, and it also provides guidelines for living godly lives with regards to doctrine and practice. It’s the handbook and manual by which Christians live.
The Word of God
In our Christian walk it’s very important to establish whether the Bible is the Word of God, and therefore whether it has authority in our lives above what other people say, what culture dictates, traditions or our feelings. We will have a look at some of the reasons that lead as to the conclusion that the Bible is indeed God’s Word given to man:
Jesus’ claims regarding Scripture
Jesus constantly and emphatically accepts and endorses the Old Testament with quotes and references. He stressed the divine origin and eternal value and endurance of Scripture (John 10:35) and repeatedly claimed He came to fulfil the law and the prophets (Matt 26:54-56, Mark 9:12-13, Luke 4:21):
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.Matt 5:17
He used the Old Testament to refute Satan (Matt 4:1-11) and to expose false teaching (Matt 22:23-33). He confirmed historical events mentioned in the Old Testament, like creation (Matt 19:4-5), the flood (Matt 24:37-39), Lot and the destruction of Sodom (Luke 17:28-29) and the miracles of Elijah and Elisha (Luke 4:25-27). And He also used the Old Testament as a foundation for His own teaching, and urged His disciples to obey it (Matt 19:16-19, 22:37-40).
The Bible’s claims about itself
The Bible’s claims about itself are so strong that it leaves us with little option but to either accept its authority as the Word of God or ignore it completely.
In the Old Testament there are over 3800 phrases, particularly among the prophets, where it claims to be the Word of the Lord e.g. ‘This is the Word of the Lord’, ‘The Lord spoke to me’, ‘The Word of the Lord came to me saying…’.
The New Testament quotes the Old Testament more than 300 times, with references from 28 of the 39 books, thereby giving their stamp of approval that it was a voice of authority.
The New Testament writers clearly regarded their works as complementary to the Old Testament and equal in authority (Luke 1:67, 2 Peter 3:2, Jude 17,18, 1 John 4:6). Paul claims that He was taught and led by the Holy Spirit as he wrote the letters of the New Testament (1 Cor 2:13, 14:37, 2 Cor 10:8, Gal 1:8-9) and that his gospel was not man-made but received through revelation:
I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.Gal 1:12
The Bible states about itself that there is one supreme, invisible influence by which God controlled, directed and communicated with the men by whom the Bible was written. And this was through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.2 Tim 3:16
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.2 Peter 1:20
Prophecies in Scripture
The accuracy of Biblical prophecy is yet another indication of the divine inspiration of Scripture. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, we were given accurate events and details concerning His life (see Appendix A).
There are also numerous prophecies about cities and nations in the Old Testament that have already accurately come to pass (Tyre, Sidon-Samaria, Gaza-Ashkelon, Nineveh, Capernaum, Palestine, Jerusalem, just to name a few).
Other proofs for the authority of Scripture
Year after year, the Bible still maintains its place as the best-selling book globally. This is an indication of its universal appeal which transcends culture, intelligence, education and age. Its message is timeless and as relevant today as it was when written by its authors. Its truths are eternal and it has endured for millennia.
The effect of the Bible is enormous. It’s changed millions of lives, it comforts and convicts. It answers every human need, and at the same time is a practical and relevant guide to everyday life.
The truths revealed in the Bible are completely different to other religious books, and worldly thinking. It presents a message of forgiveness not judgement, grace rather than works, written by so many authors over long periods of time, yet completely consistent and unified in its message.
Despite many efforts no-one has ever managed to prove inaccuracy in the Bible, scientifically, historically, or any other way. This is remarkable considering how long ago it was written. Many secular authors (Mishnah, Josephus, Thallus, Bar Serpion, Pliny, Tacitus, Seutonius) without specifically intending to, have supported the historicity of the Bible accounts. Archaeological discoveries have also confirmed the historical accuracy and truth of the Bible, with over 25000 Old Testament sites having been excavated.
Although the Bible is not a scientific textbook, it does make amazing statements of a scientific nature that have only been proved and accepted recently. The earth is a sphere (Is 40:22), the movements of the planets and constellations (Job 38:31,32), static electricity and water vapour (Jer 10:13) were all written about long before they were discovered by man. Only God could have written these truths.
The conclusion of all these facts clearly points to the fact that the Bible is trustworthy and historically reliable. It is the inspired Word of God.
The Effects of God’s Word
‘The Word of God is living and powerful’ (Heb 4:12) it ‘effectively works in you who believe’ (1 Thess 2:13) and Jesus said that ‘the words that I speak … are life’ (John 6:63). The Scriptures have practical effects on those who read it and receive it. The manner and the degree to which the Word works in us, depends on the response of those who hear it. When we come to God’s Word with humility, sincerity, patience, openness of heart and mind, and reverence and respect towards God, it is powerful to lead, guide and transform us. We can grow in:
Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about ChristRom 10:17
2. Spiritual nourishment
it is the sustenance that enables us to grow and mature. 1 Peter 2:1,2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation
Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of GodMatt 4:4
3. Physical healing
the Scriptures speak of health and healing coming by following its commands. In life we see the physically destructive powers of sin, stress, anger and unforgiveness. Following the wise counsel of God’s Word (freedom from sin, forgiveness) gives us peace, joy and physical health.
Pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.Prov 4:20-22
God’s Word provides ‘light’ and ‘understanding’. It shows us our Creator, our identity, our destiny, the Redeemer, our self-worth, and His divine plan.
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.Psalm 119:130
5. Victory over sin
Scripture identifies for us what sin is, and instructs us on how to live a godly life. It guides us on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, who strengthens and enables us to live for the ‘glory of God’ (1 Cor 10:31)
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.Psalm 119:11
6. Victory over satan
with a proper knowledge of the Word, we understand the power of the cross, the victory of Christ over satan, and our victorious position in Him. We can come against the lies of the devil when we use ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’ (Eph 6:17)
we mature as Christians and become more like Christ as we continually read, appropriate and apply the Word to our lives.
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.John 17:17
As we look into the mirror of God’s Word, we can see our true spiritual condition and see ourselves as God sees us. After reading God’s Word and under the guidance of God’s Spirit, we can see that which is unclean, harmful and unpleasing to God in our lives. It also shows us the good, the new creation we are in Christ, our salvation and righteousness in Him.
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.James 1:23-25
9. Our judge
If we refuse and reject God’s Word, it will be our judge on the last day. If we accept and obey it, it assures us that we are free from judgement, with assured salvation and righteous before God.
Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.John 5:24
Reading God’s Word
It’s an essential part of every Christian’s life to be reading, studying and meditating on God’s Word regularly.
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Joshua 1:8
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night.Psalm 1:2
The best way to do this is to make it a daily priority. There isn’t one particular method that is better than another, but rather using several methods simultaneously or during different seasons enables us to read the whole Bible as often as possible, while also studying shorter portions of Scripture more closely.
Reading through the whole Bible
It’s good practice to read through the Bible. And to repeat this as often as possible. There are many daily Bible reading plans available online ranging from chronological, thematic, to reading the books in the order they appear that cover the whole Bible in one year. Choose the one that suits you the best. And when you’ve finished with one, start another one.
Quiet times are dedicated times we spend with God, getting to know Him better through His Word and prayer. The Bible reading during this time tends to be of shorter sections of Scripture, looking more closely at the text, and seeking the relevance for the words in our lives. There are many ways to do this, and it’s important to find a way that works best for you.
Here is a guideline put together by Tim Keller that might be a useful starting point:
Be Still (and know that He is God):
Take a moment to be impressed with what you’re about to do. Some ideas — think about:
- “Come, let us bow down and worship Him. Let us fall on our knees before the Lord our Maker.”
- God is my Father, therefore I can come to Him as a child.
- Jesus is my High Priest, which means I have access to the throne of grace.
- The Holy Spirit is inside me, so that what I pray will be through His leading.
Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to hear from Him, and to give you a humble and responsive heart that will be transformed by Him.
Slowly read the scripture passage 2-3 times. Read for understanding.
- Observe basic facts, e.g.: Who, what where, when, why? What does it mean to the audience of the time?
- What does the text say about God? (e.g. His attributes, desires, promises, commands) About mankind?
Become aware of God’s loving presence and read the passage again, perhaps out loud. Notice how He might be speaking to you. Dwell on a word, phrase, or theme that jumps out at you.
- What has connected to my heart or mind? (e.g. a characteristic of God to be grasped, a command to be obeyed, a comfort to be savored)
- Think deeply about it. What does it mean? What is it really saying? Put it into your own words.
- What can I adore God for because of this? What sins can I confess? What can I thank Him for? What petitions can I make?
- Why is God showing me this today?
- How does God want me to respond? How does He want to transform my heart, thinking, habits, and/or relationships?
Talk to God about what He has shown you through this text. Some find the ACTS model of prayer below helpful. But the essence is simply to respond to what God has revealed to you. Be yourself; ask questions; try not to rush. A response can also be silence, tears, or worship.
- Adore God for who He is (e.g. His attributes revealed in this passage)
- Confess the sinful emotions, attitudes, and behaviours that result when we forget who He is
- Thank God for what He has done
- Supplicate (ask) God to transform you and to help you apply what He has shown you today
Intercede for Others. The Bible is not just my story — it is first and foremost God’s story, then our story, and finally my story. What does this passage reveal about God’s heart for the people and world around you (e.g. family, neighbours, workplace, Redeemer, City)? Who or what has God put on your heart today? Pray this passage for them too.
Pray about whatever else is on your heart or on your prayer list. Now that you’ve listened to God’s word and prayed on the basis of what He has told you today, you can better trust your own heart — it’s been given guidance and rails to run on.
“See the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” End by adoring and appreciating some aspect of the excellence and beauty of Christ.
Old Testament prophecies tell us that Jesus would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem, the descendent of Judah, Jesse and David. There would be the killing of children in Bethlehem. He would be called out of Egypt. He would be preceded by a forerunner. He would be entering into His public ministry in Galilee. He would be entering publicly into Jerusalem and come into the temple. He would live in poverty and meekness, tenderness, and compassion. He would be without the deceit. He’d be full of zeal, preaching with parables and working miracles. He would be rejected by the Jews. His disciples would forsake Him. He would be sold for thirty pieces of silver. He would die with intense suffering yet be silent under that suffering. His hands and His feet would be nailed to the cross. He would be forsaken by God. Gal and vinegar would be offered to Him. His garments would be parted. Lots would be cast for His clothing. He would die but not a bone of His body would be broken. He would be pierced long before crucifixion would even ever be invented. He would be buried with the rich. He would be raised from the dead. These are just some of the prophecies about Jesus that were predicted and accurately fulfilled.