Nature of the Bible
Though composed of 66 books written by many authors across many centuries, cultures, and geographic settings, the Bible stands as a unified work, recounting a single story spanning Creation, the Fall, Redemption, and new creation. Scripture itself claims its divine origin. While Paul says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16),1 Peter recognizes that the biblical prophets “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). Its major importance lies in that it records truthfully, though not exhaustively, the origins (Gen. 1; 2) and destiny (Rev. 21; 22) of the human race in the context of the great conflict.
As author Ellen White says: “The Bible is the most ancient and the most comprehensive history that men possess. It came fresh from the fountain of eternal truth, and throughout the ages a divine hand has preserved its purity. It lights up the far-distant past, where human research in vain seeks to penetrate. In God’s word only do we behold the power that laid the foundations of the earth and that stretched out the heavens. Here only do we find an authentic account of the origin of nations. Here only is given a history of our race unsullied by human pride or prejudice.2
The words written down by Moses, Isaiah, and Matthew are the Word of God. This affirmation means that what Scripture says, God says. As the letter to the Hebrews summarizes, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1, 2).
Having its ultimate origin in God Himself, the Bible is sufficient and clear. It is sufficient because it reveals everything we need to know for salvation. As David expressed,
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb (Ps. 19:7–10).
What David affirms about the Law (Torah) holds true for Scripture as a whole. Thus, according to David, God’s Word is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, enduring, true, and righteous. Thus, it is “sufficient for reviving the soul, giving wisdom, and bringing joy. We should value it more than we do gold or chocolate—that is, honey, which was the chocolate of the ancient world.3
This truth does not mean that there are no difficult passages in Scripture. After all, Peter said that Paul wrote some difficult things that some people were twisting for their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:15, 16). Author Ellen White acknowledges that
“[s]ome passages of Scripture will never be perfectly comprehended until in the future life Christ shall explain them. There are mysteries to be unraveled, statements that human minds cannot harmonize.”4
However, when Scripture itself makes clear that when it comes to our relationship with God, the Christian life, and the future hope, the Bible expects us to understand it and thus presupposes its clarity. Jesus, for example, expected people to understand Him when He communicated God’s Word to them (Matt. 15:10; 12:3–5). On the way to Emmaus, the Lord chastened the discouraged disciples: “ ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!’ ” (Luke 24:25). With his assertion, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3), John presupposes that the audience of the book of Revelation would be capable of understanding and applying the message of the book. Thus, “all things we need for life and godliness are clear in the Bible.”5
Thus, the Bible does not endorse the current epistemological skepticism that views Scripture as an obscure and irrelevant book. If approached with the proper attitude and determination, the Bible provides everything we need for life, godliness, and a relationship with Jesus.
Purpose of the Bible
In this brief section on the purpose of the Bible, four points deserve attention. First, according to the locus classicus of biblical inspiration, Scripture’s purpose is to make us “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Scripture also conveys “doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15, 16). Although Scripture has a bearing on political activism for the construction of a better society, its primary purpose is to reveal Jesus (John 14:6; cf. John 5:39).
Second, in addition to bringing people into a saving relationship with Jesus, the Bible conveys divine teaching and strengthens our future hope. As Paul stated, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The eschatological message of the Bible, especially the books of Daniel and Revelation, reveals that God is guiding history to its consummation.
Third, Scripture provides sustenance and guidance for the Christian way of life. Jesus confronted Satan by saying: “ ‘ “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” ’ ” (Matt. 4:4, quoting Deut. 8:3). As daily bread maintains our physical life, so God’s Word sustains our spiritual life. In a similar vein, Peter writes to his church: “[A]s newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). “The ‘pure spiritual milk’ in this context must refer to the Word of God about which Peter has been speaking (see 1 Peter 1:23–25). The Bible, then, is necessary for maintaining spiritual life and for growth in the Christian life.”6 It bears noting that the Christian lifestyle7 recommended by Scripture centers its doctrinal content on Jesus. Without Christian doctrine, the Christian way of life makes no sense.8
Fourth, Scripture also has a missional purpose in providing the foundation, content, and goal for mission. God’s special revelation in Scripture forms the biblical basis of mission. After all, the Bible is the record of the missionary activity of God through His people (Gen. 3:15; 12:1–3; Isa. 53:1–12; Matt. 1:20, 21). During His earthly ministry, Jesus commissioned the disciples to preach that “ ‘ “the kingdom of heaven [is] near” ’ ” (Luke 10:9). After His death and resurrection, the forgiveness of sins became the heart of their message.
Although the gospel message has social and cultural implications, at its core, it consists of an offer of forgiveness and restoration based on what God has accomplished through Jesus’ death on the cross. As Jesus Himself stated: “ ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’ ” (Luke 24:46, 47; cf. John 3:16). Thus, according to Scripture, mission involves going into all the world to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit to persuade people to become disciples of Jesus and lead them to become faithful members of God’s remnant church so that they can worship the Lord and obey His commandments to the glory of God (Matt. 28:18–20; Rev. 14:6–12).
“Thus saith the Lord”
It has become clear that the current social and cultural climate poses significant challenges to the authority and interpretation of Scripture. Unfortunately, as one scholar put it, “Christians are often living more as an extension of the secular world today than as a distinct light to it.”9 To confront the current erosion of biblical authority, we must uphold a high view of Scripture with a clear understanding of its nature and purpose. As a result, our pulpits will grow stronger, and our parishioners will be better equipped to understand and apply Scripture to their Christian lives.
Given our solemn responsibility, this statement by author Ellen White offers an apt conclusion: “God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creed or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in its support.”10
- Scripture is from the New King James Version.
- Ellen G. White, Education (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), 173.
- Kenneth Berding, Bible Revival: Recommitting Ourselves to One Book (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2013), 35.
- Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1915), 312.
- Berding, Bible Revival, 32.
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020), 141.
- Ángel Manuel Rodriguez, A Christian Lifestyle: Biblical Foundation and Praxis (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, 2020).
- J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, new ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 18.
- Natasha Crain, Faithfully Different: Regaining Biblical Clarity in a Secular Culture (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2022), 17.
- Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), 595.