On July 6, 1415, the Roman Catholic Church declared the teachings of John Wycliffe to be heretical. Wycliffe had died about 30 years earlier, but that didn’t stop them from burning his writings, digging his body out of holy ground, burning his remains, and then scattering his ashes into the Swift River.
The teachings of Wycliffe, however, like his ashes in the river, had spread to other parts of the world. The most prominent leader of these teachings was a Bohemian priest named John Hus (Bohemia is in the western part of what is now the Czech Republic). Hus was also condemned by the Catholic Church. Six bishops stripped him of his priestly garments. They shaved his head. And they placed a paper hat on his head with pictures of demons and the word “heretic.” The bishops then committed his soul to Satan.
Hus was bound in chains, handed over to the Emperor, and ordered to recant his beliefs or die. He would not deny his writings, so he was led away to what was called The Devil’s Place. There, he was burned at the stake.
John Hus died because he believed that the Bible was the only authority for the church, and that it should be translated into the language of the people. John Hus died because of what he believed about a single book. And it is the same book we hold in our hands today. It is the Holy Bible.
Would you die for a book? Would you be burned at the stake because of a book? … I suppose the answer to that would depend on the nature of the book. How you respond to a book has to be connected to what you know about it… Well, what do we know about the Bible? What is it that makes this book so special, so different? That’s the question we want to answer today.
Before we get into other subjects of theology, we have to start with an understanding of the Bible itself, because that is where we will turn for answers about the things of God and ourselves and the world. Maybe you think there are other, more significant theological topics that should be addressed first. But the reality is that any topic of doctrine we discuss will be shaped or molded by our view of Scripture.
We live in a culture that rejects absolute truth. It assumes “truth” is like fashion. It can be agreed upon by a certain group for a certain amount of time, but it isn’t something we should expect to last forever. In fact, these people say, the only “truth” that can be agreed upon for all people and for all time, is that no one can claim something for all people and for all time. That is, no one except themselves with their claim. Well, if that’s your view of truth, then you have no hope of ever finding it.
We also live in a culture that’s dominated by emotion and personal experience. So even if we have a standard of truth, we can all interpret it in a different way. The words might be the same, but the message might be different. That is a very dangerous position.
Lastly, we live in a culture where people believe themselves to be the bosses of their own lives. It’s an age of pride and rebellion against any established authority. It’s an age that says “we know better now. We don’t have to listen to what someone else said many some time ago.”
How do we address a culture like that? A culture that rejects truth, exalts personal experience and independence, and rebels against authority. We do so by getting back to what the Bible actually is.
Have you ever had somebody ask you: What is the Bible? Maybe they don’t say it aloud, but it has to come up at some point. People know that we use it. But that doesn’t mean they understand what it is. And sadly, I’m not too sure many people who go to church understand what it is either.
The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word bíblos, which simply means “book.” The study of the Bible is called Bibliology. But this is not an ordinary book. It’s a holy book. Why?
Well, let me give you the broadest answer first. If someone were to ask you: “What is the Bible?” You could simply say to them, it is God’s written revelation to man. This book is God’s written revelation to man.
I’d like to unpack that for us today, by focusing on six different qualities of the Bible. I’m going to give you six different statement about what the Bible is. I don’t think they’ll come as a surprise to most of you, but they are a helpful reminder.
What is the Bible? Well, number one: The Bible is Inspired. Inspired. All that means is that it is from God. But we need to unpack that a little bit.
Foundational to the idea that the Bible is inspired is the belief that God intends to communicate with us. God wants to talk to His people. Hebrews 1:1 says that God spoke many times and in many ways.
At times, God spoke directly to people like Adam and Abraham and Moses and the Israelites. Other times, God spoke through a person, a prophet. In this case, it was God’s words coming through a human being. This is why you repeatedly run into the phrase “thus says the Lord." These prophets weren’t just giving God’s ideas; they were giving God’s exact words. But there are also times when God gave to the people written words. In Jeremiah 30, for example, God tells him: “Write down my words in a book.”
So it shouldn’t surprise us to find that by the time of the New Testament, the Old Testament writings were seen as the words of God. I’ll give you a couple examples. We’re going to be covering a lot of verses today by the way, so if you’re not that comfortable flipping through your Bible, just write down the reference and you can look at it later. Or you can relax a little bit while you listen and then review the sermon once it gets posted online.
Matthew 1:22 says this—All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet. God spoke through the prophet.
Or we have Matthew 19:4-5, where Jesus, in talking about marriage, says: “He who created them male and female said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother…’” Jesus credits these words, not to Moses, the human author, but to God, the final author.
To say that the Bible is inspired means that it is God’s message through man and to man. So the Bible, in a sense, has two authors—a human author and a divine Author. Well, what was that relationship like? Turn with me to 2 Peter 1:21. Peter is discussing the certainty of the faith, and he points the people to the reliability of the Bible. 2 Peter 1:21.
Even though men wrote the Bible, it is not a human work. Ultimately, the Bible was God’s idea. Its origin is found in Him. Men spoke as they were “carried along” or “moved.” It’s a passive word. Something happened TO them.
The word Peter used here refers to movement caused by something else. It’s used in Acts for a ship being driven by the wind. The ship and the crew are involved, but the driving force is the wind. And the same is true for the Bible. Each author was involved, but the Holy Spirit was the moving force. It wasn’t a trance of some kind, and it wasn’t always like God was dictating. The author was very involved. He was thinking. He was writing. But God was directing the entire process.
Look at how Paul describes this in 2 Timothy 3:16. He’s telling Timothy not to fall away from the faith and to stay close to Scripture, the writings. So he reminds him: all Scripture is breathed out (inspired) by God. These words came from God’s own breath. That’s what we mean when we say the Bible is inspired. Every word is from God. Not just the ideas, not just the big picture. Every word.
Notice, it doesn’t say the authors were inspired. It is the writings that are inspired. And although Timothy would think of the Old Testament, this statement also applies to the New Testament. Paul, slong with other New Testament writers acknowledge that what the Apostles wrote was Scripture.
Why is this important? Why do we have to believe that every word is from God? Well, there are people today who call themselves Christians who say that the ideas are from God but not the words. They’ll say the Bible CONTAINS the word of God or that it BECOMES the Word of God, but they won’t say that it is the WORDS of God. And that’s a pretty convenient thing to say because then you get to decide what is from God and what’s not.
We can’t take that view. To say that the Bible is inspired means that God oversaw everything that went into its writing. He prepared the writers and he ordained the circumstances so that the end result (the original document) was the exact message He wanted. It was a supernatural occurrence. That’s what we mean when we say the Bible is inspired. Every word is from God.
Now that’s the first of the six characteristics. But it’s also the most foundational. The rest of the traits flow from it. If the Bible comes from God, then its qualities mirror God’s qualities. To attack the Bible is to attack God. To submit to the Bible is to submit to God.
So let’s move on to the rest of our terms for today. The Bible is inspired. Number 2, the Bible is true. It is true. It is trustworthy. The theological terms we use for this are inerrant or infallible. Without error. Unable to mislead. It is reliable.
There are times in the New Testament, when someone will make their point based on a single word, or the tense of the word. This is because they understood the Bible to be true. If God is a God of truth, then He will give us a Word of truth. Titus 1:2 and Hebrews 6:18 say God cannot lie. John 14:16, Jesus says I am the truth. John 17:17–Your word is truth.
And again, we’re talking about the original documents. But to the degree that our translation is faithful to the original, our English Bible is inerrant. It is true.
It’s one thing to debate whether or not the Bible is actually saying something. It’s a very different thing to agree on what the Bible says, but to argue that it’s not true. That’s a dangerous position.
The Bible might not give us all the details about something, but we have to believe that it is true in what it tells us. That includes the stuff that’s connected to our faith and our life. And it includes all the things related to history or science or chronology or geography. It’s all true.
Let me give you one example. The Bible tells us drunkenness is a sin, right? I don’t think any of us here are prepared to say that the Bible doesn’t present drunkenness as a sin. So what happens when modern society says: “We don’t like the term ‘drunkenness.’ We’re going to call it ‘alcoholism,’ because science shows that it’s a problem related to physiology. It’s a chemical dependence.” So people start saying that drunkenness is no longer a sin. We understand it better now. … That’s a problem. It’s an assault on the truth of Scripture. It’s an assault on the reliability or trustworthiness of God.
If it can be shown that the Bible is clearly saying something, then we have to believe that it is true. Was Adam a real person? Was there a worldwide flood? Did the Red Sea part in two? Did Israel conquer Jericho? Did a large sea creature swallow Jonah? Did Jesus turn water into wine? Did Jesus rise from the dead? How dare we sit back and think we get to decide what is true and what is not.
Number three. And this connects to inspiration. The Bible is authoritative. It is authoritative. If the Bible comes from God, then it comes with the authority of God. We won’t spend a lot of time laying this out because I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.
Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself off the Temple, and Jesus’ response was what…? “It is written: You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” He quoted Scripture. If God says don’t do something, you don’t do it. If He says DO it, you do it. It’s not that complicated. You just better be sure that God actually told you to do it.
None of us are building an ark. None of us are marrying a virgin named Mary. Why not? Well those commands were not for us. They were given to specific people at specific times. But when you can clearly show that a command is intended for all people, and it’s rooted in an eternal God, then you have to obey it.
This is so fundamental, but inside all our hearts is the sin which cries out “NO! I don’t want to!” When you sin, you are ignoring the authority of the Bible. You’re saying: “I know God said not to do this, but I’m going to do it anyway:” It’s like our idea of authority is: Do what the Bible says, unless it’s really hard or you really disagree with it. If that’s the case, we’re not taking the Bible’s authority seriously. That’s how kids respond to parents.
God created you. God knows more than you. God wants what is best for you. So He has authority over you. But we need to submit to that authority. Listen to how Paul describes the new Thessalonian believers. This is from 1 Thes 2:13–“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.”
Is that how you respond to the Bible? Is that how you listen to a sermon? The elders don’t have any authority in ourselves, but when we teach the word of God, it comes with the authority of God.
The Bible is inspired. The Bible is true. The Bible is authoritative.
Number 4, the Bible is clear. You don’t have to know the fancy word for this because it’s NOT a clear word. But in theology we call this the perspicuity of Scripture. That means it’s plain.
This doesn’t mean that everything in the Bible is easy to understand. It means that the Bible is clear enough to guide you to saving faith and to a life that honors God.
How horrible would it be if we knew the Bible was true and authoritative, but we didn’t know what it said?! But that’s not the case.
We know the Bible is clear enough because God commanded fathers to teach their children (Deut 6). So even children can learn about God and what He expects. Psalm 19:7 says that it gives wisdom to the “simple.” Even simple people can learn from God’s word. Jesus, when he confronted unbelievers, never said: “That’s okay, the Bible is hard to understand.” No! He says “Have you not read? Do you not know?” Paul writes his letters to all believers, not just to the leaders in the church. So we need to embrace this idea and be encouraged by it.
Not every passage of the Bible is easy to understand, but if you’re a believer, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and you come to the Word of God with humility and a willingness to listen, you can understand what God expects of you. There’s no excuse for disobedience.
One of the comments I appreciate most regarding a sermons is when people say that I was clear. Someone will tell me that it made sense. That’s a great start. Once it’s clear, then we can be obedient to it.
Don’t listen to yourself, when you think, this is too difficult to understand. And don’t let others tell you the same thing. Typically, that’s an excuse for not wanting to submit to it. The Bible is clear.
We’ve got two more qualities. Number 5: The Bible is necessary. It’s necessary. What does that mean? It means that you need the Bible in order to know the gospel and in order to know what God requires from your life. You need the Bible to be saved and to mature spiritually.
This doesn’t mean that you need the Bible to know God exists. Psalm 19 and Romans 1 and 2 tell us that creation and conscience bear witness to a powerful and holy God, that’s called God’s general revelation. But they only give us enough information to condemn us. If you want to find salvation, you need God’s special revelation from Him—from Christ.
Listen to the words of Romans 10:13–17 — For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
You need the Bible for salvation. That’s why we need to proclaim it. People can’t believe in Christ unless they’ve heard of him. Acts 4:12—there is salvation in no one else.
You need the Bible for salvation, and you need it for spiritual growth. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3—Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Peter calls the Bible our pure spiritual milk. Jesus said we are sanctified by it. Do not neglect the necessity of God’s word in your life. Soak it in. Memorize it. Think about it. You need it. The Bible is necessary.
We’ve got one last characteristic, and then we’re done. Number 6: The Bible is enough. It is sufficient. This is a little different than saying it’s necessary. Eggs are necessary for making a cake. You need eggs. But they are not sufficient. You don’t need ONLY eggs. You need something else.
Well for salvation and spiritual growth we don’t need the Bible and something else. The Bible, throughout history, has always contained the words God intended his people to have. It has everything you need for salvation, for trusting in Him, and for obeying Him.
Go back with me to 2 Timothy 3. This is a very important section when we talk about Scripture and what it accomplishes. 2 Timothy 3:14-15.
Paul doesn’t say you need the writings and something else. Through faith in Jesus Christ, you have everything you need. Continue in these things. Look at verses 16 and 17. 2 Tim 3:16-17.
What do you think they teach in seminary? There are a lot of seminaries that teach a lot of weird stuff. But if you want to be taught, if you want to mature, if you want to be trained in righteousness and equipped for the work God has for you, it’s all here. We just need to do the work of finding it.
Second Peter 1 says we have been given everything that pertains to life and godliness. There is no situation in life, where we are allowed to say that God has not given us enough information to deal with it in a way that glorifies God. The Bible is enough.
You want to be a good marriage counselor, you want to be a good husband or dad, then search the Scriptures. And use resources that point you to the principles of Scripture.
We don’t need to add to it, like the religious cults have done. We don’t need to look for more revelation. We don’t need to feel guilty about something that the Bible doesn’t say is a sin. We just need to be diligent to find out what God has said to us.
(1) The Bible is inspired. It comes to us from God Himself. Therefore we honor it.
(2) The Bible is true. It is without error. Therefore we must believe it.
(3) The Bible is authoritative. Therefore we must submit to it and obey it.
(4) The Bible is clear. Therefore we study it. We have no excuse.
(5) The Bible is necessary. Therefore, we proclaim it. We preach its truth.
And lastly (6) The Bible is enough. It is sufficient. Therefore we aren’t looking for something extra. This may be the last point on our list for today but it is really close to my own heart.
You look at the New Testament and you look at the history of the church, and you don’t see anything extraordinary in programs. You don’t see anything extravagant. You don’t see impressive kids ministries or exciting youth ministries or engaging men’s camps. You see a people dedicated to the word of God.
Those things are not bad. I’m not saying churches shouldn’t have those things. But we need to do our best to make sure that what is primary stays primary. And the primary thing is to feed people God’s Word. That’s what works.
If you’re someone who jumps around from church to church. How can you tell what a good church is? Is it the coffee shop? Is it the size of the building? No.
If you’re a dad, how can you tell if you’re doing your job as a father? Is it how many sports or instruments your kid plays? Is it how many exciting vacations you go on? Is it how nice of a TV you have? No. It’s whether you’re raising your child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. That’s what works.
If you’re the leader of a ministry, if you’re an elder or a Youth Pastor or a children’s teacher, how do you know if you’re doing your job well? If you’re feeding people the word of God.
I’m not anti-thrills or anti-fun. But we just need to make sure that the foundation of our ministry is the word of God. It is powerful in itself. We don’t have to rely on other things for salvation and spiritual growth. But we can enjoy the good things of God.
You may not be called, like John Hus, to die for the word of God. But you are called to live for it. And with the Spirit’s help, it becomes to us a joy. Sweeter than honey. A delight to our soul.