When I was in Middle School, we bought our first personal computer. I believe it was a Packard Bell. At the time I didn’t know much about computers. We had them at school and used them a little bit to play Oregon Trail, but I hadn’t taken a typing class or a class on how to use any of the programs yet.
I remember when I looked at the keyboard for the first time. I knew what the letters and numbers did. Delete and enter were self-explanatory, as was Caps Lock, but I had no idea what the other keys did, which meant they weren’t all that useful to me until I learned what they did and what they were for.
In a similar way, we may look at the Bible and ask: What is the Bible and what’s it for? Until we are able to answer that question, it is not going to be all that useful to us just like those other keys on the keyboard weren’t all that useful to me.
What is the Bible and What is it for?
The Bible is a Unified Story that Points Us to Jesus
In 2 Timothy 3:14 and 15 Paul speaking to Timothy says,
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Ti 3:14–15)
When Paul uses the phrase “the sacred writings,” he is referring to Scripture. The Scripture for Paul is what we know as the Old Testament. The New Testament wasn’t complete yet. It was being written and collected as Paul was writing his letter.
Here, Paul reminds Timothy and tells us that the Old Testament points us to Jesus. It’s not just a bunch of stories about some dead old guys who did some cool things, like slay a giant or survive a lion’s den. Instead, it’s a unified collection of books that form one story that points us to Jesus. Which means:
- The Bible isn’t a self-help book.
- It’s not a science book.
- It’s not meant to be a comprehensive history book
- It isn't a book that’s going to answer all our questions. In fact, a lot of times it’s probably going to raise more questions than it answers. Just read the book of Job or Revelation and you will have a good idea of what I’m talking about.
The Bible isn’t any of these things. Instead, the Bible is God’s special revelation of Himself in a unified collection of books that form one story whose purpose is to point us to Jesus so we can glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That’s what the Bible is.
The Bible Tells Us the Real Story of Human History
We all inhabit a story. Our culture tells us that we inhabit a story of our own making. One that we forge for ourselves, which is why we are often told, “You can be who you want to be and do what you want to do.”
In order to be who we want to be and do what we want to do, in order to write our own story, we are told that we have to discover ourselves. Our culture tells us that we discover who we are by looking within.
While that sounds great, it’s not true. If we look within to discover who we are and begin writing our story based on what we find, it is going to be one messed up, self-absorbed story. All you have to do is look at people’s Facebook or Twitter feeds to know that’s true.
We are messed up people who have been corrupted by sin so instead of looking within, we need to look outside of ourselves. By outside of ourselves, I don’t mean to our culture. It’s just as messed up as we are because we make up the culture. Instead, we have to look beyond ourselves and our culture to God.
We look to God not only because He is perfect and able to reveal the truth to us, but also because it’s His story that we inhabit. Listen to what the Psalmist says in Psalm 33,
"By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” (Ps 33:6–12)
We inhabit God’s story. A story that began in Genesis chapter 1 with God's creation of the world and everything in it and one that culminates in Revelation 22 with God’s people who will inhabit a New Heavens and New Earth for all eternity. So if we want to find ourselves, if we want to know our true identity, we must read the Bible because it provides the real story of human history.
Four Main Acts:
The Bible’s story can be broken down into four main acts.
You see, we weren’t created by a time plus chance evolutionary process. Instead, we were created by God. After man was created, he was placed in a perfect garden and given dominion over all the earth. But man rebelled, which is why we and the world we inhabit is so corrupt and messed up.
But even though we rebelled against God, He didn’t abandon us. Instead, He sent a Savior to redeem us and make a way for us to once again enjoy a relationship with Him. The Savior is Jesus who came, died on the cross for our sins, resurrected on the third day defeating death, and ascended into heaven to sit on His throne. One day Jesus will return and set everything right. After Jesus' return, we will once again live with God for all eternity in a perfect world.
That’s quick, but that’s the barebones story of the Bible. A story we inhabit. If we want to learn more about who we are, we don’t look within, instead, we look outside ourselves to God’s Word — the Bible. It tells us who we really are, how this world can be fixed, and what our hope for the future is.
The Bible is a Divine Human Word
In 2 Timothy 3:16 we learn that:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16a)
Now when Paul says that Scripture is breathed out by God he doesn’t mean God literally wrote with His own hand every word in Scripture and delivered it to man. We know men wrote the Scriptures. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy. And the other books were written by other men. So we know that God didn’t just hand us a completed book right out of heaven.
While it is true that men did write the Bible, it’s still said to be God’s Word. 1 Peter 1:20 and 21 give us an idea of how the Bible, which was written by men, is God’s Word. The text says,
"knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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.” (2 Pe 1:20–21)
So Peter tells us that the Holy Spirit worked alongside and through men to produce the Word of God. That is how the Bible, which is written by men, is consistent with God’s character and can be said to be His word.
Since the Bible is God’s Word, we can’t just ignore it as if it was something written for people a long time ago. God’s Word is still applicable today. It’s still relevant. It still provides encouragement, joy, and hope. It still teaches and challenges. It still tell us how we are to live. The Bible, then, can’t and mustn’t be ignored because it’s God Word to us.