Friday, April 10, 2015

The Doctrine of Scripture

A handout intended for a church weekend away

The Book of Common Prayer Collect for the 2nd Sunday in Advent

The necessity of Scripture

If we as sinful and limited creatures are to know God, he must reveal himself in a way that is suitable for us

                General revelation – the partial revelation of God in the skies (Ps 19:1-6)

Romans 1:20

                Special revelation – the perfect revelation of God in the Scriptures (Ps 19:7-11)


The nature of Scripture

                What the Bible says about the Bible

                What the Bible says, God says

                The Bible reflects the character of God, it’s author (e.g. truthful, reliable)

                God creates by speaking – Gen 1:3-4, 6-7 etc. – the creative power of the Word of God

The Bible is God’s written word – God’s words preserved for his people – God speaking to the church in every generation

Words do things – God acts powerfully by his word – Ps 29:5, 8

“For us” – God personally addressing us

Our attitude to God’s word should be the same as our attitude to God– though we don’t worship the Bible – the Bible is not God but it is God speaking

John Calvin (on 2 Tim 3:16-17): “…we owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it.”

                Is 66:2
The Bible is God’s words in human words – not magic words – not some kind of divine language!

                God spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of his servant David – Acts 4:25

Fully God’s word, fully human words – cf. Jesus – humanity need not take away from divinity

God is the Lord of language and people and history etc. He can shape a Paul to write Paul’s letters

Inspiration – not just inspiring – expired – God-breathed / Spirited - 2 Tim 3:16

                “Men wrote as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” – 2 Pt 1:21

                Verbal inspiration – the actual words are inspired, not just the ideas

Given in a variety of ways e.g. dreams, visions, oracles, cf. Luke 1:1-4 & Quran

                Scripture is suitable for us, it is adapted to our nature and capacity – God’s baby-talk

The truthfulness of Scripture

                Infallible / Inerrant – without error - The Bible is true in all that it teaches / affirms

God is truthful (Num 23:19; Tit 1:2; Heb 6:18) and trustworthy so God’s word is truthful (Jn 17:17) and trustworthy

                Rightly understood, of course! – e.g. “There is no God” (Ps 14:1); Job’s Comforters; Prov 26:4-5

Not to be understood literalistically e.g. are parables “true”?; ordinary ways of speaking: approximations – 5000 men; not necessarily word of word quotations; descriptions of how the world appears e.g. sunset; see Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Hermeneutics & Application

No contradictions but different complimentary perspectives

Grudem: “… there are many evangelical Bible scholars today who will say that they do not presently know of any problem texts for which there is no satisfactory solution…. The present writer, for example, has during the last twenty years examined dozens of these “problem texts” that have been brought to his attention in the context of the inerrancy debate. In every one of these cases, upon close inspection of the text a plausible solution has become evident.” Systematic Theology, p99

The authority of Scripture

What teachings of Scripture are most ignored or attacked today?
What teachings of Scripture do you find it hardest to embrace / obey?
Are you willing to change if you are convinced of something from the Bible? Even if you disagree with it and it seems weird or hard or other people aren’t persuaded and obedience will be costly and… ?

                The supreme authority of Scripture e.g. trumps reason, experience, tradition, anything else

“Scripture alone”? – sola Scriptura not solo Scriptura – the supremacy and final authority of Scripture doesn’t mean that Scripture is the only source of knowledge

                The Bible as court of appeal

                Is it a circular argument to say:
(1)    The Bible is the Word of God and tells us it is the Word of God
(2)    We must believe the Word of God because God’s Word is true
(3)    The Bible is to be believed as the truthful Word of God

God speaking Scripture is the ultimate authority – what greater authority could there be?

An ultimate authority must be its own authority otherwise something else is the ultimate authority

Other arguments for the truthfulness of Scripture are a bit like using a torch to look at the sun!

A way out of a circular argument: The Lord Jesus’ attitude to the Bible

                Jesus believed the Old Testament is the Word of God – Mt 5:18

Jesus refers to OT events without any apparent doubt that they happened exactly as recorded and he bases much teaching upon these accounts: 

What people or events etc. from the Old Testament does Jesus refer to in the following passages?

(1) Lk 4:25-6 (2) Lk 6:3-4 (3) Lk 6:23, 26 (4) Lk 10:12 (6) Lk 11:29-32 (7) Lk 11:51 (8) Lk 13:28 (9) Lk 13:34 (10) Lk 17:26-32

                Mt 19:4-5 – quotes the words of Gen 2 as the word of the Creator

Scripture cannot be broken – Jn 10:34 / must be fulfilled - Lk 4:21; 7:27; 18:31-3; 21:22; 22:37; 24:25-7, 44-7;  Jn 13:18; 15:25; 17:12 

                In his many discussions with others, “It is written [in the Scriptures]” settled a matter for Jesus

                Jesus argued from the exact words / tenses used in the Bible – Jn 10:34; Mk 12:26

                Jesus authorised the Apostles to write the New Testament – John 14:25-26; 15:27

                The Apostles wrote with authority – 2 Cor 14:37-38; 2 Thess 3:6, 14-15; 1 John 4:6

                1 Tim 5:18 quotes Jesus’ words from Lk 10:7 as Scripture
                Peter recognised Paul’s writings as Scripture – 2 Pt 3:16

Reasons to trust the Bible

How might you persuade a sceptical friend about the truthfulness of the Bible?

                C. H. Spurgeon: “Defend the Bible? I would sooner defend a lion!”

                As above: It is God’s word! Jesus believed it

                It speaks with its own convincing power (self-authenticating) – read it and see!

                The Holy Spirit witnesses to it in our hearts and in the church

                The church has always believed it (Tradition)

                When we can check it, it proves to be right e.g. archaeology

                The Bible makes psychological and philosophical sense e.g. the human condition

                The life-changing power and influence of the Bible

Arthur Pink said: The influence of the Bible is worldwide. Its mighty power has affected every department of human activity. The contents of the Scriptures have supplied themes for the greatest poets, artists and musicians which the world has yet produced, and have been the mightiest factor of all in shaping the moral progress of the race.”

WW2, Remote Pacific Island, GI meets islander who can speak English carrying a Bible

According to The Guinness Book of World Records, since 1815 the Bible has sold approximately 2.5 billion copies and has been translated into more than 2,200 languages or dialects.

The remarkable unity of the Bible (written over ?2000 years by ?40 different writers)

The remarkable artistry of the Bible – only God could have written such an amazing book!

                The remarkable preservation of the Bible (compared to other ancient documents)

The clarity of Scripture

                What passage of the Bible do you find most unclear / difficult to understand?!

God is a competent communicator – he can speak clearly to us

                The Bible is clear enough for the church to understand it adequately (not necessarily fully)

                Clear in essentials – for salvation, for Christian living

                It is meant to be obeyed so it must be understandable

                It is meant to be taught even to children – Dt 6:7

Tyndale: “I defie the Pope and all his lawes. If God spare my life, ere many yeares I wyl cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he doust.” (Quoted in John Foxe, Acts and Monuments / Book of Martyrs)

                Clarity is not the only thing the Bible is aiming at! Prov 25:2

                Some passages of Scripture are hard – Peter on Paul – 2 Pt 3:16

                We need the help of the church, the power of the Spirit, use of “means”, study etc.

                The problem is with us not the Bible!

The sufficiency of Scripture

                2 Tim 3:16f – thoroughly equipped for every good work

For the purposes God intends (see below), for salvation, for life and godliness

The relevance and applicability of Scripture

                God speaks his Word today – “The Holy Spirit says…” not “The Psalmist said…” – Heb 3:7

                “for us” - 1 Cor 10:6, 11; Rom 15:5

The purposes of Scripture: The Bible in the Christian Life

God’s word governed Adam and Eve’s life in the Garden. The original sin was disbelieving and disobeying the Word of God

2 Tim 3:15-17

A light for our path Ps 119:105 – that we should walk in the light of it, for obedience

                Scripture testifies about Christ – Lk 24:25-27, 44-46

Jn 5:39-40 –– the Bible is the handmaiden / servant of Christ (Bavinck)

                A mistake to pit the Bible, Jesus or the Spirit against one another

The Bible as the book of the covenant – the record of the covenant between God and his people, his means of relating to them

We work away at the meaning of the Bible and God helps us to understand it – 2 Tim 2:7 – The Spirit illuminates and applies the Bible he has caused to be written

The effects of Scripture: what it can do for you

The Bible is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17) – the only offensive weapon, the means by which he works in the world

The Bible as a means of resisting the devil – Jesus’ temptation Mt 4:4, 7, 10

                The Bible as (essential) food to the soul – Mt 4:4

                Ps 119:9 – how to live a pure life

Ps 19:7-11

Coronation service

                Sweet (v10) – is that your experience?

                Delight – Ps 1:2; 119:97

                Mary Jones lived from 1784 at the foot of the Cader Idris mountain, in Gwynedd

the Kimyal people of Indonesia receiving the NT in 2010 -

                The Word of God as living and active – Heb 4:12 – performs heart surgery!

                The effectiveness of Scripture - Is 55:10-11 – God’s word always achieves his purposes

“Using” and benefiting from Scripture


The Holy Spirit

According to its purposes (above) – with a willingness to obey

Principles of interpretation e.g. context, the story of redemption, harmony, the hard in the light of the easier, how the Bible writers uses words, genre

In the fellowship of the church

What do you find are the biggest challenges in reading / using the Bible?
What most helps you?
What tips would you give?
Are there resources you’d recommend?

(1) Private Bible memorisation
Meditating / reflecting on / praying (in the light of) Scripture
(2) Family / household Bible use
(3) Small groups
(4) Church

Further reading / resources:

Marc Lloyd, "What the Bible Says, God Says: B. B. Warfield’s Doctrine of Scripture," Ecclesia Reformanda 1.2 (Oct. 2009): 183-210 – available free at - 7 sessions by Dr Steve Jeffrey

The Westminster Confession of Faith (available online) chapter 1 – good summary of the doctrine of Scripture

Bible gateway website – audio Bibles – variety of Bible translations – more literal e.g. English Standard Version, New American Standard Version; free-er paraphrases e.g. New Living Version, Good News Bible (more simple English), The Message

Bible memorisation cards – Navigators, NavPress

Bible reading plans e.g. Robert Murray McCheyne, Don Carson, For The Love of God – or make your own using James Oakley’s Bible reading plan generator – or just keep a note of what you’ve read for the sake of balance -

Music – The Psalms, Sovereign Grace Music, Matt Searles, Mark Peterson songs from Philippians, Seed Family Worship (uses the exact words of Scripture)

Bible reading notes e.g. Explore (Good Book Company) – apps – some notes contain the text of Scripture, useful e.g. for taking on the train

IVP Bible Dictionary, Bible Commentary, Dictionary of Theology, Atlas etc.

Commentaries e.g. Tyndale, The Bible Speaks Today, For You series, Ryle expository thoughts (old)

Sermons including online e.g.

Evangelical publishers and book sellers e.g. 10 of Those, Good Book Company, Day One, Christian Focus / Mentor, Evangelical Press

*** Tim Ward, Words of Life (IVP) *** Best single recent book on the doctrine of Scripture

John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God

Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon in the New Testament Church – Jesus believed our Old Testament

John Wenham, Christ and the Bible – Jesus’ attitude to the Scriptures

Andrew Wilson, Unbreakable: What the Son of God Said About the Word of God (recent, only 78 pages)

A Bible overview e.g. Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture or Graham Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom

Andrew Sach (& others), Dig Deeper, Dig Even Deeper, Dig Deeper into the Gospels (Bible study “tools”)

Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart, How To Read The Bible For All It’s Worth

Christopher Ash, Bible Delight: Psalm 119 for the Bible teacher and hearer

Michael Ovey & Daniel Strange, Confident: Why We Can Trust The Bible

F. F. Bruce, New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? – on ancient manuscripts etc.

Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels

Hymns relating to the doctrine of Scripture:

Lord Thy Word Abided
How Sure the Scriptures Are
Speak O Lord
Your Word is a Lamp
King of Kings, Majesty
God has Spoken
How Firm a Foundation
Now in Reverence and Awe
Powerful in making us wise to salvation / God-breathed to teach us, living to shape us (Christopher Idle)

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