Question | Who is the Bible for?
Answer | The Bible is for all people. It is able to be understood by anyone with the help of the Holy Spirit. It ought to be heard, read, studied, loved, and obeyed by everyone.
Scripture | Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Explanation| Some books are for kids, while other books are for adults. There are some books which are difficult for kids, and even some adults, to understand. And then there are other books which neither kids nor adults shouldever read. The Bible, however, is for all people. What does this mean?
The Bible is for all people. What do I mean by ‘all people’? Very simply, everyone. No one is excluded, no matter how old you are, if you are male or female, your background and beliefs, how much stuff you have, your physical features and abilities, where you live, or even when you live in human history. So, as we’re talking about it here, ‘all’ means all people—every person. Everyone. But how do we know this? Well, the Bible shows us that it is for all people. By that I mean, how God intends for His word to function demonstrates that it’s for everyone. That is, the Bible is God’s word and has been given to us by Him so that we might know Him. Does God want everyone to know Him? Most definitely. And since His word is the best way to know Him, then His Word is for all people. But, the Bible also tells us that it’s for all people. Throughout the Bible, God lets us know that His word is meant to be pursued and cherished by everyone—young and old, alike.1 For example, look at our verse above. God hasn’t revealed everything to us. But, ‘the things’ He has revealed to us, ‘belong to us and to our children forever’ (Deuteronomy 29:29). We can see the same sort of thing in Psalms as well—‘incline your ears to the words of my mouth,’ and ‘tell to the coming generations the glorious deeds of the Lord’ (Psalm 78:1, 4).2 Proverbs also makes it very clear that God’s word is for all sorts of people, especially, for parents in the instruction of their children.3
Now, I also said that the Bible is ‘for all people.’ How should we understand ‘for’? First, it is intended for all people. God has given His word, the Bible, as a gift not to a select group of people, but to all people. Second, it is applicable for all people. Unlike some gifts that are given that only help a few people, all people can benefit from the Bible. Third, it is necessary for all people. The Bible isn’t only helpful for all people, but even more, it is what everyone needs. And, fourth, it is understandable. If the Bible is for all people (in the three ways we just mentioned), then all people must be able to understand it. But what does this mean?
The Bible is able to be understood by anyone. In a previous question, we briefly looked at the understand-ability of the Bible. Here, I want to go a bit further, though. Because of how the Bible was written and what God intends for the Bible, there’s a sense in which anyone can (and should) pick it up, read it, and be able to come to a basic understanding what it says. It is, after all, written in normal human language, using normal human literary forms (grammar, figures of speech, genre). But know this—no one naturally understands the meaning of those same words, sentences, and passages. What does God mean by what He has said, and what does His word mean for me? These are the questions that anyone on his or her own—no matter how smart they are—cannot accept. The Bible, in this way, is, again, unique among all other books. For, though it is literary (it is a book),it is also spiritual (it is authored by God). It is the product of the Holy Spirit, communicating spiritual truths, intended to transform our souls.4 And, God tells us that ‘the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,’ and that ‘he is not able to understand them’ (2 Corinthians 2:14). Natural, here, means someone who doesn’t ‘have’ the Holy Spirit (more on Him later). Natural is what everyone is apart from God. In this way, understanding the Bible is not so much a matter of how smart I am, but of what my heart is like before Him. So, while the Bible is for all people, and it is intended to be understood by all people, yet no one will profit from God’s word without His help. We must approach the Bible as it is (as God’s word), and as God intends (with humility and submission).5
The Bible ought to be… This is where the rubber meets the road. Because the Bible is for all people (in the ways we’ve discussed above), all people—including you and me—ought to pursue the Bible. The Bible is for me. The Bible is for you. God has given it to us, but we must do something with it. To put it another way, each one of us have certain responsibilities with regard to the Bible. It’s one thing to know about the Bible. It’s another thing to do something with the Bible. We need the Bible, and we must pursue the Bible. But what does that mean? Let me summarize what you and I need to do with the Bible. Then, between the two remaining questions about the Bible, we’ll look at this a bit more. We ought to hear it. By hear it, I do mean we should listen to the Bible read and taught to us. But I’m also using hearing as the Bible often uses it—we should hear in such a way that we take seriously what God has said.6 We ought to read it. The Bible was written down. It was meant to be read. So we should read it like so many people have faithfully done in the past.7 We ought to study it. The Bible uses words like ‘meditate’ and ideas like eating and digesting food to help us understand that we should carefully study what it says.8 We ought to love it. Our joy and delight should be in the very words of God.9 And, we ought to obey it. If we read the Bible but don’t do what it says, the Bible will be ineffective in our lives. So, as much as we should take it in, we should also work it out in obedience.10
This is what the Bible teaches about…the Bible!
1 Psalm 119: 97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (See also, Psalm 119:159)
2 Psalm 1: 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (See also, Psalm 119)
3 Proverbs 22: 6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (See also, Proverbs 1:8; 2:1; 3:1; 5:1; Deuteronomy 6:1-4; Ephesians 6:4)
4 2 Peter 1: 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2: 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
1 Peter 1: 22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
5 1 Thessalonians 2: 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
Revelation 5: 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
6 Luke 8: 8 “And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
7 Nehemiah 8: 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (See also, Matthew 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31; 24:15; Acts 8:27-32; 1 Timothy 4:13)
Ephesians 1: 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (See also, 1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Ephesians 1:10; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:17-18)
8 Joshua 1: 8 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 will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (See also, Psalm 1:2; 119:15, 27, 48, 78, 148; Jeremiah 15:16; 2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 2:1-3)
9 Psalm 119: 47 For I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. (See also, Psalm 119:48, 97, 113, 119, 127, 159, 163, 167)
10 1 John 5: 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. (See also, 1 Samuel 15:22; Romans 16:26; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Galatians 5:7; Philippians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:14)