What the Bible teaches us about … The Bible

What the Bible teaches us about … the Bible



 We looked last time at “the Word of God” and the different ways in which God speaks. In his speaking God tells us about who he is, what he has done / will do and what he expects of us.

We saw how through the centuries God’s Word has come in different forms –

Q> Can you recall them?

Another way of saying ‘God speaks to us’ is to use the word REVELATION.

God reveals himself to us – or if you like God’s self-disclosure. The point being that we only know what we know about God because he has told us. We can not know about God unless he chooses to reveal that knowledge to us.

As we saw this morning in David’s words to Solomon >1 Chronicles 28:9

9 ….. If you seek him, he will be found by you; ….

Jeremiah 29:13-14 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, ….

  1. 1.     REVELATION.

Traditionally the concept of revelation has been divided into two types – general and special.


READ Romans 1:18-20

Paul is arguing that there is enough of a witness in the created order to show that there is a God and tell us something about him so that if any reject God they are without excuse when God judges them.

READ Psalm 19:1-4

1 .. The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

2 Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they display knowledge.

3 There is no speech or language

where their voice is not heard.

4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

The presence of God is all around us. Nature shows us the glory of God. Nature is not divine but it does reveal something of God’s glory if we have eyes to see.

Q> What other way does God reveal himself generally to all people?

Directly to the human mind.

To use the words of the Bile God’s laws are written on human hearts and consciences.

Romans 2:14-15 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) (NIV)

There is an in-built, moral conscience in every person.

Traditionally cultures everywhere have some kind of religious activity that acknowledges the existence of some kind of deity of greater force.

This can be suppressed and distorted – that is what sin has done – but it is still there. Ecclesiastes 3:11 11 … He [God] has also set eternity in the hearts of men; ..

Deep within our souls we know that God exists and he has given his law to us. We try to suppress this knowledge in order to escape God’s commands but no matter how hard we try we cannot silence this inner voice. We can muffle it but not destroy it.

OHP1 General Revelation


I don’t want to repeat what we looked at last time. We saw the different ways God speaks. All of which are in addition to the way he speaks in creation and conscience.

The two primary forms of special revelation we have today are Jesus, the Living Word and the Bible, the written Word.

Q> What about when Christians witness or preach? Is this revelation?

Some think that Preaching / teaching and witnessing of Christians is a third form of special revelation. We need to be careful!! Yes God can and does speak through Christians to others BUT this can only serve as revelation when it is faithfully expressing the truth of God’s Word, Written and Living. However, all we know about the Living Word is recorded in the written word.

Q> What are some of the dangers if we broaden the concept of revelation to include things other than the Bible?

Basically anything goes then. It becomes very subjective. We end up with lots of claims to truth but no standard of truth.

ILLUS.: A CD album by Manic Street Preachers is entitled “This is my truth tell me yours”

This is the danger of subjectivism that we will come back to a little later when we talk about interpretation.


Q> What is it that makes the Bible different from other books?

Or put another way

Q> Since the production of the Bible involved human effort how can it be regarded as the Word of God?

The Bible teaches and Christians {and Jews regarding the OT} have always believed that the human writers were not merely expressing their own opinions but that their words were inspired by God.

Q> What key verses teach us about inspiration?

2 Timothy 3:16 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (NIV)

2 Peter 1:20-21 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

God-breathed – can also be translated “inspired by God” – lit. breathed out by God.

carried along by the Holy Spirit

The prophets didn’t concoct what they wrote. This term carried along is used in Acts 27:15 with reference to a ship being carried along by the wind.

We must be careful not to read too much into the imagery but it clearly asserts  that there was divine activity in the production of Scripture.

If we say God inspired >>

Q> What do mean? Do we mean that he dictated and that the humans were simply keyboards or Dictaphones through whom he communicated?

Q> Do we mean that God simply accommodates himself to the writers’ limitations and that his truth is therefore somehow filtered by the human element?

Supervision is the best term available. God used and supervised the culture, personality, and language of the writer to communicate his truth. God is the ultimate author of the Bible and it is therefore both true and authoritative.

  1. 2.     CANON.


This is a complicated subject and I don’t want to spend time here!

We tend sometimes to think of the Bible as one large book. It is a library of 66 books. Together they are called the canon – which means, “measuring rod”, “standard” or “norm”.

We can accept the OT reasonably easily as we know that it was completed by the time of Jesus and he referred to it as ‘The Scripture’ giving it his divine approval.

There is a dispute between Roman Catholics and Protestants in that the Catholic Church accepts the Apocrypha as part of the OT. This was not part of the Jewsih Scripture in its Palestinian version, which is what Jesus would have had. Further more, the Alexandrian Canon [a Greek translation] used by Jews living in Egypt did have it, although there is even some doubt about that.

This canonising of the books of the Bible took place over many years as they were recognised as authoritative.

What of the NT books? Initially the teaching of the Church was by oral tradition as the Apostles taught what they had learned from Jesus.

Eventually these things began to be written down in the gospels and Acts and letters were written.

As the Church grew and became more formalised and as it encountered false teaching there was a need to recognised the writings that were authoritative and standardise {canonised} what was genuinely of God.

Q> How did the early Church recognise NT books and scripture?

[The final NT list of 27 books at the Council of Carthage in 397 AD]

1)    Apostolic authority – not necessarily penned by an apostle but given their approval.

2)    External evidence – the consensus of opinion among the churches as to the authenticity and authority of the books – there was surprising unanimity.

3)    Internal evidence – the books  ‘made a spiritual impression of their readers as being not of men but of God – i.e. the witness of the Spirit. [Didn’t Jesus say that he would lead his followers into all truth]

NB Peter’s comment about Paul’s writings – 2 Peter 3:16 16 He {Paul} writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (NIV)


Q> How are we to interpret the Bible?

1) Literally – [not to be confused with literalistically] Q> What is the difference? EXAMPLES?

Strictly speaking it means that we must interpret the Bible as it was written!

Kind of Literature>

In other words, poetry as poetry. Historical accounts as history. Narratives as narrative. Parables as parables.

The original meaning> as far as that is possible.

Try to discover the original setting and meaning before we we try to relate it to ourselves. For example Head coverings in 1 Corinthians.

The context> don’t take bits of passages / verses in isolation to what is around it.

{Example – Deuteronomy 22:8

8 When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof. (NIV)

Now you must all go home and built parapets around your roofs}

NB> The Bible was not written in chapters and verses. We need to look beyond artificial divisions. Example > Ephesians 5:22-23

22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. (NIV)

This can be and has been / still is sometimes grossly misinterpreted unless seen in the context of verse 21 {and the whole letter} Ephesians 5:21

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (NIV)

2) Scripture must be interpreted by scripture>

Example > Hebrews is difficult to understand without the Jewish laws and practices of the OT. Likewise the Jewish laws are understood better in the light of the NT.

3)    Scripture must be interpreted by the holy Spirit>

Psalm 119:18

18 Open my eyes that I may see

wonderful things in your law. (NIV)

John 16:13-14 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. (NIV)

4) Scripture must be interpreted dynamically>

The Bible is not a dead book it is living. We don’t simply want to know what it means but also what it teaches us today in our own situation.

Briscoe >    What?

So what?

Now What?


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