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The Simple Truth: What the Bible Says about Itself

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## WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT ITSELF? ### By Jeremy Cagle Of all the Frequently Asked Questions, this one might seem to be the most out of place.  As you are looking at the list, you are probably thinking, “Does God Exist?  I can see why that question is on the site.”  “What is the Bible? Yeah, that makes sense.”  “What is a Christian?  That’s a good thing to address.”  “But, ‘What does the Bible say about itself?’  Why did that one make the list?  Who cares what the Bible says about itself?”  And, while that is an understandable response, there is a good reason this one made the list. If the Bible does not claim to be a divinely-inspired book, we should not treat it that way.  If the Bible does not say that it is the Word of God, written by the hand of God, as authoritative as the one true God, then we should not submit to it.  Let’s just approach it like we would any other book and pick and choose what we want to follow. But, on the other hand, if the Bible does claim to be all of those things, it should be given the utmost respect.  If the Bible demands our obedience, it should be given our obedience unless there is a good reason not to give it. As F. F. Bruce put it, > But the character of Jesus can be known only from the New Testament records . . . Whether our approach is theological or historical, it does matter whether the New Testament documents are reliable or not.1 I would echo that and say that, not only does it matter whether the Bible is reliable or not, it matters what claims the Bible makes about itself.  It matters what the Bible says about itself because its testimony gives us an idea of how we should respond to it. So, with all of that said, here are six statements that the Bible makes about itself. # 1. The Bible says it is the Word of God  There are numerous times when the authors of the New Testament make references to the Old Testament and tell us what they think about it.2  One of those references is in Romans 3.  Earlier in Romans 2, the Apostle Paul made the comment that the Jews were as sinful as the Gentiles (vv.11-13, vv. 21-24) and now he answers a very important question. > Then what advantage has the Jew?  Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect.  First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God (3:1-2). The Greek word for “oracles” in this passage is _logion_.  _Logion _means “a little word, a brief utterance, the words or utterances of God.”3  Paul asks, “If the Jews are as sinful as the non-Jews, then what advantage is there in being Jewish?  What’s the big deal?”  And he answers his own question in verse 2, “First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.”  Paul says that the Jews were given God’s utterances, His _logion_, His words.  And that makes them special.  That is the big deal with being Jewish.  The Jewish people were given the oracles of God in the Old Testament. For centuries, something has been handed down from one Hebrew to another that is divine.  Something has been given to their race to pass down and that something is the communication of God to man.  That something is the Hebrew Bible. But, not only does the Bible claim to be the “oracles” or the “utterances” of God, it also claims to be the Word of God.  Singular.  Not plural. Hebrews 4:12 says, > For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. “Word” in this passage is _logos.  Logos _means “word” but it means something much deeper than our English “word.”  _Logos _does not refer to grammar but to a collection of what someone has said.  It refers to a body of doctrine.4 _ _The author of Hebrews says that the Old Testament is the body of the doctrine of God.  And it is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, etc. It is said that when Jewish scribes were copying the Old Testament, they did so without leaving any space between the words.  They wrote straight across the page without allowing any room between one word and the next.  And they did this to emphasize the fact that they were copying the Word of God.  Not many words of God.  Not some ideas from God, but the Word of God.  Singular. Not plural.  God’s Word is complete.  It is unified.  It is all one Word. # 2. The Bible says it is God-Breathed  Second Timothy 3:16 says, > All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness . . . The phrase “inspired by God” in the original language is actually one word: _theopneustos_.  It literally means “God-breathed”5 or “breathed out by God.”6 _Theopneustos _is a compound word that comes from _theos _(God) and _pneustos _(Spirit).  In saying that “all Scripture is inspired by God,” Paul is saying that all Scripture contains the Spirit or the breath of God in it. Second Peter 1:20-21 also describes this inspiration when it says, > But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. The word for “moved by” is used in Acts 27:15, 17 to describe a ship being “moved” across the water.7  Just as a ship is carried along by the wind, the authors of Scripture were carried along by the Holy Spirit as they wrote the Word of God. Now this does not mean that the authors of Scripture lost their distinct personalities as they wrote.  If you read through the New Testament, you will see that Matthew did not write like Mark and Luke did not write like John.  If you read through the Old Testament, you will realize that Genesis reads very differently from Psalms and Proverbs and Isaiah.  The human authors were not robots but they were divinely inspired. In his book, _The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, _B. B. Warfield explained this phenomena in the following way: > As light that passes through the colored glass of a cathedral window, is light from Heaven, but it is stained by the tints of the glass through which it passes, so any word of God which is passed through the mind and soul of a man must come out discolored by the personality through which it is given, and just to that degree ceases to be the pure Word of God. > > But what if this personality has itself been formed by God into precisely the personality it is, for the express purpose of communicating to the word given through it just the coloring which it gives?  What if the colors of the stained glass window have been designed by the architect for the express purpose of giving to the light that floods the cathedral precisely the tone and quality it receives from them?8 The personalities of the Bible’s authors were not weakened by God’s inspiration.  Instead, they were prepared by God to be just what He intended them to be – distinct, unique, and free people.  If God created the “stained glass,” then whatever light that comes through the stained glass is not discolored, it is whatever color God wants it to be.  An all-powerful, sovereign God can communicate His perfect Word through imperfect men and make it come out perfect. As one author put it, > “To err is human – Scripture is human – therefore Scripture errs” [should be taken away and replaced with] “To err is human – ergo, God gave the Scripture by inspiration – so that it does not err.”9 To quote from another, > It is sometimes said, “If you want to train a person, you should begin with his grandparents!”  When a college student arrives at seminary, it is too late for professors to shape his heredity and early training.  However, in God’s eternal plans, He could guide in all such particular factors.  The writing of Scripture was no last-minute emergency operation in which God had to use whatever He could find to work with.  He who knew all things from the beginning graciously planned to communicate through the oral and written work of the prophets and the apostles.  Jeremiah was set apart from before his birth (Jer. 1:5), as was Paul (Gal. 1:15).10 # 3. The Bible says it is Sufficient  Second Timothy 3:16-17 goes on to say, > All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. The Bible says that it is sufficient to meet all of man’s spiritual needs.  It is God-breathed and, because it is God-breathed, God has left nothing out of it that man needs.  Scripture is adequate to address every issue of the heart. That is the idea behind the King James translation of verse 17, “that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”  “Perfect” here is _artios_.  It means “fitted, complete, perfect.”11  It refers to having all of the required skills for a given task.  The Bible gives every man the skill to accomplish every good work.  If you have the Bible, you lack nothing as you strive to please God. Second Peter 1:3 says this another way, > His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Repeating what Paul said earlier in Second Timothy, Peter says that God’s power has “granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” Paul says this another way in First Corinthians 4:6 when he writes, > Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. “Do not exceed what is written.”  Why?  Because you do not have to.  The Bible gives you all the information you need to follow God.  You don’t need to wait for an inner sensation to hear God speaking to you.  You don’t have to have some amazing mystical experience to know what God is telling you to do.  God has already spoken to you in His Word and that is all you need. As John MacArthur writes, > The spiritually mature always turn to God for help in times of anxiety, distress, confusion, or unrest in the soul, and they are assured of wise counsel and deliverance.  That’s because every need of the human soul is ultimately spiritual.  There is no such thing as a “psychological problem” unrelated to spiritual or physical causes.  God supplies divine resources sufficient to meet all those needs completely.12 If you understand the Bible and apply it to your life, you will have the answer to every problem that comes your way. The problem is not that we don’t have enough information to go by, the problem is that we don’t go by the information we already have.  We want God to touch us in some special way.  We want a glorious light to shine down on us from Heaven.  We want a warm-fuzzy to hit us and keep hitting us but God does not promise us those things.  We are given God’s Word and it is sufficient. # 4. The Bible says it is Clear  In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  In this story, one man is rich and the other man is poor.  One man is righteous and the other man is unrighteous.  One man dies and goes to Heaven and the other man dies and goes to Hell. And, in the middle of the story, the rich man begs Abraham for mercy from the fires of Hell (v. 24).  Abraham refuses.  So the rich man begs Abraham to send a warning for his brothers to avoid that terrible place (vv. 27-28).  Again, Abraham refuses.  Why?  Verse 29 tell us, “‘But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'” At this point in the story, one might wonder, “How could Moses and the prophets keep the rich man’s brothers out of Hell?  What could they possibly do?” “Moses and the prophets” refers to the entirety of Scripture.13 Abraham says that the Bible will keep the rich man’s brothers out of Hell.  It is clear enough to warn them of the doom awaiting them if they do not repent.  In fact, the conversation goes on to tell us, > But [the rich man] said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!”  But [Abraham] said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (vv. 30-31). In other words, the Bible is so clear that it can keep your soul from eternal damnation.  The _Old Testament _is so clear that it can keep your soul from eternal damnation. God was not trying to hide when He inspired the Scriptures.  He was communicating clearly to us.  This does not mean that the meaning of some passages won’t come to us without study.  And it doesn’t mean that the interpretation of every verse will be as clear as crystal.  The Bible has its mysteries.   But it does mean that, if the Bible doesn’t convince you of your need for salvation, then you will not be convinced even if you see someone rise from the dead. The Bible was written in plain language.14  It was written thousands of years ago but it was written with the intention of being clearly understood. # 5. The Bible says it is Finished  Revelation 22:18-19 says, > I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. When the Apostle John was writing the Book of Revelation, false prophets were a dime-a-dozen.  Numerous deceivers were coming to the churches in his area, claiming to speak a direct word from the Lord.  In light of that, John makes a very clear statement here that their time is finished.15  John’s words in the Book of Revelation are the last prophecy from the Lord.  “If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues . . . if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life.” Some have interpreted John’s words to only refer to the Book of Revelation and not to any prophetic word being spoken today.  But that is only half true.  As Robert Thomas writes, > This is a warning not just to the would-be prophets themselves, who might try to continue ministries beyond the time of Revelation’s writing, but also to “everyone who hears,” i.e., those in the churches who need to refuse any authority that challenged the divine authority, accuracy, and finality of this prophecy.  The observation is true that this warning applies specifically to the book of Revelation only, but by extension it entails the termination of the gift of prophecy and the NT canon also.16 In other words, with the writing of Revelation, all prophecy has officially terminated.  As far as the Bible is concerned, the Book of Revelation is the final book.  The Word of God is now complete.  “Don’t add to or take away from this” John says.  “Don’t say that God is still speaking when He is not.” Jude 1:3 also mentions this when it says, > Beloved, when I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Jude says that “the faith” has once for all been handed down to the saints. It is not continually being handed down.  It has been handed down once and for all.  It is not that God could not have written more than this, it is just that He chose not to.  The Bible is complete.  It is finished.17 # 6. The Bible says it is Authoritative  It probably goes without saying that something that is the Word of God and God-breathed and sufficient and clear and finished is also authoritative.  A book that is all of those things must be obeyed. In his _Systematic Theology, _Wayne Grudem defines the authority of the Bible as > The idea that all the words in Scripture are God’s in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.18 Scripture treats itself as if its very words are God’s Words and as if its very commands are God’s commands. Joshua 1 provides an excellent example of this.  In this passage, Joshua is about to enter the Promised Land and take over.  After inheriting the leadership of Israel from Moses (Deut 31:1-8), Joshua’s first order of business is to embark on a military campaign through Palestine, conquering everything he sees.  In light of that, you would think that the Lord would give Joshua some military advice.  You would think He would tell Joshua about the movement of troops and the attack strategies needed to conquer the cities Israel would be facing.  But that is not the case at all.  Joshua 1:6-8 givessome of the Lord’s first words to Joshua, > Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.  This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Joshua’s attack strategy is to obey the book that Moses gave him.  When Joshua entered the Promise Land, he took with him the five books of Moses[19](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about- itself/#footnote_18_48) and the Lord said, “If you want to be successful in battle, Joshua, obey that.” In the fifth book of the Bible, the example is clear: the Word of God is authoritative.  In fact, it is not just _an _authority.  _It is the _authority.  Joshua was to follow the Law of Moses and only the Law of Moses. He was to have no other authorities in his life but this one.  This book and only this book was his guide.  And, as we have seen in our studies above, that theme is repeated all throughout the Scriptures. # CONCLUSION The Bible is a wonderfully unique book.  There is nothing like it.  Its claims are astounding.  Its words are piercing.  No book will ever claim more of your life than this book.  And no book will ever give you more of life than this book will.  And with that in mind, let me close with these words from Christian Apologist Josh McDowell. > Over and over again, like a broken record, I hear the phrase, “Oh, you don’t read the Bible, do you?”  Sometimes it is phrased, “Why the Bible is just another book, you ought to read . . . etc.”  There is the student who is proud because his Bible is on the shelf with his other books, perhaps dusty, not broken in, but it is there with the other “greats.” > > Then there is the professor who degrades the Bible before his students and snickers at the thought of reading it, let alone of having it in one’s library. > > The above questions and observations bothered me when I tried, as a non- Christian, to refute the Bible as God’s Word to man.  I finally came to the conclusion that they were simply trite phrases from either biased, prejudiced, or simply unknowledgeable, unread men and women. > > The Bible should be on the top shelf all by itself.  The Bible is “unique.” That’s it!  The ideas I grappled with to describe the Bible are summed up with the word “unique.” > > Webster must have had this “Book of books” in mind when he wrote the definition for “unique”: “1. one and only; single; sole.  2. different from all others; having no like or equal.” > > Professor M. Montiero-Williams, former Boden professor of Sanskrit, spent 42 years studying Eastern books and said in comparing them with the Bible: > > “Pile them, if you will, on the left side of your study table; but place your own Holy Bible on the right side – all by itself, all alone – and with a wide gap between them.  For . . . there is a gulf between it and the so-called sacred books of the East which severs the one from the other utterly, hopelessly, and forever . . . a veritable gulf which cannot be bridged over by any science of religious thought.”20 1.  _The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? _(Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, n.d.) 3. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_0_48)] 2. The phrase “Word of God” actually appears 39 times in the New Testament.  For example, see 2 Cor 2:17; Eph 6:17; 1 Jn 2:5. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_1_48)] 3. Jospeh H. Thayer, _Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament _(Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996) 379. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_2_48)] 4. Ibid., 380. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_3_48)] 5. This is the translation of the New International Version. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_4_48)] 6. This is the translation of the English Standard Version. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_5_48)] 7. Thayer, 650.  The word is _pheromenoi.  _It means “to be driven, to be conveyed or borne.” [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_6_48)] 8. _The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible _(Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Press, 1948) 155-156. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_7_48)] 9. Clark Pinnock, _Biblical Revelation _(Chicago: Moody, 1971) 176. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_8_48)] 10. Gordon R. Lewis in _Inerrancy, _ed. by Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980) 249. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_9_48)] 11. Thayer, 75. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_10_48)] 12. _Truth Matters: Landmark Chapters from the Teaching Ministry of John MacArthur _(Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004) 2. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_11_48)] 13.  Leon Morris, _Luke _in The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, ed. by Leon Morris (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1988) 278. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_12_48)] 14. For an example of the plain language in the Bible, Psalm 19 says that the Word of God makes wise the simple (v. 7) and enlightens the eyes (v. 8).  Only a plain book can make simple people wise.  And only a plain book can enlighten the eyes. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_13_48)] 15. Robert L. Thomas, _Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary _(Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995) 516-517. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_14_48)] 16. Ibid., 517-518. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_15_48)] 17. For more information about this, please see our “The Close of the Canon” article in Issue 2 of /jtst/. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_16_48)] 18. _Systematic Theology _(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994) 1236. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_17_48)] 19. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_18_48)] 20. _Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith _(Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc., 1972) 17-18. [[↩](http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-itself/#identifier_19_48)] Originally posted here: http://www.justthesimpletruth.com/what-does-the-bible- say-about-itself/

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1 Sarah R = "If we don't believe what the Bible says about itself, why should we believe anything else that it says?  On the flip side, if we do believe the Bible's claims about itself, then how can we ignore everything else it says? That kind of "pick and choose" faith can be very dangerous. "
2 Sarah R = ""In the New Testament, the Gospel of John begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4). Here it is clear that the “Word” or Logos is a reference to Jesus Christ."Read more:http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-the-Logos.html#ixzz3ZGbe3NRh"
3 Sarah R = "For more on the uniqueness of the Bible, check out these other articles:Fast Facts about the BibleShould We Trust the Bible?Concise Bible Summary: Part I"