Bible Catechism: The Doctrine of the Bible

Doctrine The Bible 

What does the Bible teach about the Bible?

Question What is God’s word?

Answer God’s word is His fullest revelation of Himself. He has spoken in audible words, by His Son Jesus, and through His Word the Bible. His word is pure, personal, and powerful.

Scripture Hebrews 1:1-2a Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Explanation| We’ve already looked at ten questions and answers about the doctrine of God—or, what the Bible teaches about God. Now, we’ll look at ten questions and answers about the doctrine of the Bible—or, what the Bible teaches about…the Bible? Yes, that is correct! The Bible tells us about itself. And in fact, as God’s word, the Bible is the best word about the word of God. It is the best teacher about itself. So, let’s learn about God’s word, from God’s word, the Bible.

God’s word is His fullest revelation of Himself. God has made Himself known—He has revealed Himself to us. When we talk about revelation in this way, we are talking about either what God has made known or how He makes things known (including Himself). As we saw briefly in our previous question, God has made Himself known in a number of ways. But our focus, here—and over the next several questions—will be on His revelation through His word. God is not just a showing God, He is also a telling God. That is, He speaks—He uses words. And God’s word is the fullest and best revelation of Himself. What do I mean by fullest and best? You’ve probably heard the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” To be sure, pictures are great! And as this phrase implies, pictures can do something that words cannot. God has given us eyes to see, and through our sight we see something of the worth (or significance) of a thing and are often moved to feel a certain way as a result. At the same time, pictures are limited. Pictures actually don’t say anything. They can certainly stir up feelings, but they can’t tell us what the image actually means, let alone what we ought to do with what it means. (Think also of the game, charades—acting something out without using your words may be fun, but it’s not nearly as clear, obvious, or specific as if we were to speak, and we can more easily misunderstand that something’s meaning!) Pictures are not as specific as words, nor are they as powerful as words. To use another common phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Meaning, words—thoughts, ideas, and admonishment spoken or written down—have been more effective in changing people than images or pictures. What we’re saying, here, with this question is that, though God has made Himself known without words (for example, through His creation), He is known most clearly and most effectively through His word.1 And, as we’ll come to see, His word is always—by God’s design—the best way to know Him.  

God has spoken in audible words, Jesus Christ, and the Bible. As we read the Bible, this is what we discover—God talks. And He speaks in many different ways. In fact, isn’t that what our verse above tells us? God has been speaking (‘long ago, at many times’), and He has spoken in various ways (‘in many ways…by the prophets’). But even more, Hebrews 1:1-2 notes especially that how He has chosen to speak now (‘these last days’) is different and better than how He spoke before. How does He speak now? By His Son, Jesus Christ. Interestingly, this verse is actually telling us that God spoke by (or in) ‘Son.’ Meaning, for example, while we speak English, God speaks Son! We might put it like this—Son is God’s most fluent language, His “native tongue.” (The rest of the book of Hebrews explains further how and why Jesus Christ, the Son is the best language for God to speak and for us to hear.) The apostle John tells us that Jesus Christ is the ‘word’ of God.2 What this means is that Jesus makes God known to us in a way that nothing else had before, and nothing else could, ever.3 In Jesus, we both see and hear God, and are able to know and understand Him. Now, how does the Bible fit into all of this? If Jesus is God’s word, what is the Bible? Well, the Bible is God’s word, too. But, it’s not another word, as if it were a different word. Rather, the Bible is another form of God’s same word to us. It’s His written word. So, as it relates to Jesus, the Bible is all about Him, it is the only trustworthy record of His earthly life and ministry, and it is ultimately His word for us who do not see Him now.4 God’s normal way for you and me to hear Him, today—what He’s intended and what we should expect—is His word, the Bible.

God’s word is pure, personal, and powerful. With these three words, we begin to understand some of the characteristics of God’s word. (We’ll look at other characteristics in later questions.) His word is pure.5 What does this mean? For God’s word to be pure means that it is not mixed with impurities. There is nothing in it that shouldn’t be there. Everything in it is supposed to be there. And what is in it—what it is, itself—is God’s word, through and through. Another way of thinking about purity is this—all of God’s word is His word, and all of His word is perfect, or without error of any kind. His word is also personal. By this we mean at least a couple of things. First, it’s His very own word. It comes from Him. In many ways, it’s so closely related to Him that we can’t rightly separate God from His word and His word always rightly represents Him. In fact, one of the most important verses for understanding the Bible, uses the idea of breath to help us understand how closely connected God’s word is to Himself.6 Second, by personal, we also mean that the Bible is for peopleIt’s for each person, for me and for you. His word is also powerful. We noted this before, but think with me about this again. Can you create something by simply speaking? No, but God has! And He’s the only one who can. His word creates something out of nothing. His word brings life out of death (for example, Jesus spoke and Lazarus was raised and came out of the tomb, cf. John 11:43). And, His word will always do what He sends it to do, and it will endure forever.7 There is nothing else like the word of God. And there is no better way to know Him than by His word.

This is what the Bible teaches about…the Bible!

1 Psalm 19The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts 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 rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (This passage uses many synonyms for God’s word, and demonstrates its unique effectiveness that goes well beyond a picture and is thus for valuable than money.)

2 John 1In 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… 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (See also, Revelation 19:13)

3 John 118 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (See also, John 3:34; 5:19-14)

4 John 539 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (See also, Luke 24:27, 44; John 20:31; 2 Peter 1:19)

5 Psalm 12The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. (See also, Psalm 19:7-11)

6 2 Timothy 316 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of Godmay be complete, equipped for every good work. (See also, Psalm 33:6; Proverbs 2:6; Isaiah 11:4; Jeremiah 1:9)

7 1 Peter 122 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (See also, Isaiah 40:8; 50:4; 55:10-11; Jeremiah 23:29)