Bible Catechism: The Doctrine of the Bible

Doctrine The Bible 

What does the Bible teach about the Bible?

Question What is the Bible?

Answer The Bible is the inspired written word of God, consisting of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. It is the foundation of all true unity and the standard for all faith and practice.

Scripture 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Explanation| With our last question, we began looking at another doctrine—the doctrine of the Bible. So, with this question (and the eight questions that follow), we zero-in more specifically on the Bible as God’s word. What is the Bible? Good question! Let’s find out.

The Bible is the inspired written word of God. What does this mean? First, the Bible is the inspired word of God. We often use the word ‘inspired’ to describe an extraordinary idea that comes to us, or even a sudden and powerful motivation to say or do something. That’s not what the Bible means when it tells us that God’s word is inspired. I mentioned in our last question that 2 Timothy 3:16 (our verse above) uses the idea of breathing to help us understand God’s word. Inspired, in this way, means that something is breathed-out. The Bible is breathed-out by God, like it’s His very own breath, His very own word. And guess what? It is! The Bible is God’s very own word.1 So, rather than God being inspired to create the Bible, or the Bible being an inspiration to us, the Bible is itself God’s breathed-out (inspired) word. Though we’ll look at other important and related characteristics of this later, for now, that the Bible is inspired means that it is entirely unique among all other books. No other book is the product of God Himself. No other book is His word. Second, the Bible is the written word of God. That is, it is a book of written-down words. In fact, another word used in 2 Timothy 3:16—scripture—means ‘writing’ or ‘writings,’ words that are written down. As we’ve already seen, God is a speaking God and He has spoken in different ways, at different times. But the Bible is intended by God to be His word written down.2 And, think about this—because it is written down, then to hear God we must read (or, have read to us) His written word. Further, because it is written down, then every generation that comes and goes can know what God has said by reading His written word. That the Bible is God’s inspired written word means that it, in it’s parts and in it’s entirety, is God’s word. It is not the word or words of people that have come from people. It’s the product of His will and mouth, through and through.

The Bible consists of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. The word ‘bible’ means ‘book.’ Though the Bible doesn’t use this word as a name for itself as a whole, it does use this word to refer to some of its parts.3This word has also been used by Christians for many years as a fitting name for God’s written word. Why? Well, the Bible is a book, and even more, it is a book of books. Meaning, within the Bible there are many books—sixty-six to be exact. The 66 books of the Bible are divided into two major parts or sections that we typically call Testaments. The word ‘testament’ means ‘covenant,’ or an official agreement that usually includes promises and responsibilities. The Old Testament in the Bible includes books (39 of them) which tell us about the people, events, and especially, God’s plan in relation to the old covenant that He made with His people before Jesus Christ was born. The New Testament includes books (27 of them) which tell us about the people, events, and especially, God’s plan in relation to the new covenant He has made with His people because of His Son, Jesus. So, in the New Testament, God tells us of things related to and following the birth of Jesus. The 66 books of the Old and New Testaments are, together, the Bible, and are the Bible in its completion. Meaning, there are no other books—no more, no less than these 66 books. All 66 books are God’s written word. All 66 books are inspired by Him. How do we know? In short, because God’s word comes from Him, His word always bears His characteristics. Put another way, the 66 books of the Bible demonstrate that they are His word because they are consistent with who He is. In some places of the Bible, we are told directly that what we are reading is God’s word.4 In other places of the Bible, while we aren’t told directly, we can see indirectly (through what is said and how it is said) that what we are reading is in fact of the exact same quality as the rest of the word of God.5 This is true of no other book or books.

The Bible is the foundation of all true unity and the standard for all faith and practice. A foundation is what something is based on. A standard is what something is measured by. To put this rather lengthy description of the Bible another way, ultimately, the Bible is our final authority. It is what we should listen to most of all, and it is what we of all things most need.6 But more specifically, this description of the Bible means that it is what we need in order to have the right relationships with other people and, especially, with God. When we say that the Bible is the foundation of all true unity, we are saying that no one can be truly one with others without the Bible. For example, I’m guessing that you’ve experienced conflict with other people. I know I have! We often have a hard time getting along with others, and we do so in part because we don’t see things the same way or desire the same things.Should we, can we, how can we be at peace with others? The Bible tells us. It is the way—the only way—for us to experience unity with God and with others.7 When we say that the Bible is the standard for all faith and practice, we are saying that no one can know—let alone do—all that it means to faithfully follow God apart from the Bible. All people, if you were to ask them, have an idea about God and what it means to follow Him. But that doesn’t mean they’re right! What should I believe, how can I believe, how should I practice my faith and live my life? Again, the Bible tells us. It is the way—the only way—for us to know accurately who God is and what He expects of all people.8 If you want to relate rightly to God and others, then you need to hear, understand, and obey what God has said in His written word, the Bible.    

This is what the Bible teaches about…the Bible!

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1 Isaiah 5511 So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

2 Romans 15For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (See also, Exodus 34:27; Deuteronomy 31:19; John 12:16)

3 Matthew 1The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (See also, Mark 12:26; Luke 4:17; John 20:30; Acts 1:20; Acts 7:42; Hebrews 10:7; Revelation 1:11)

4 Zechariah 4Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (See also, Exodus 9:13; Isaiah 28:16; 49:5-6; Hebrews 3:7-8)

5 Luke 2042 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, “‘The Lord said to my Lord,“Sit at my right hand, 43 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ (See also, Matthew 26:56; Luke 4:21; 24:27; John 2:22; 5:39; 7:38; Acts 1:16; 13:32-33; 2 Peter 3:15-16)

6 Deuteronomy 8And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every wordthat comes from the mouth of the Lord. (See also, Psalm 1:1-6; 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4)

7 Ephesians 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (See also, Ephesians 4:11-16)

Jude 1:3Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.(See also, Daniel 9:11)