As I mentioned in Part I posted earlier, Scripture convicts us of our own shortcomings and unfaithfulness to God. As we read the Bible, the Spirit tells us in what areas we can do better.
In addition, by reading the Bible we get to know God; we learn God’s plan for both ourselves and the human race; we understand how we are to live; and reading the Bible builds up our faith.
In the Bible, God tells us how important it is to study, learn, and properly interpret Holy Scripture. For example, God, through the Apostle Paul, advised us and Timothy to avoid being deceived, and the best way to avoid being spiritually misled is to:
…continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14b-15, NRSV)
Now that we know some of the functions of the Bible, let’s explore what the Bible is, and what it isn’t. The reason I want to do this is because the Bible is controversial and often misunderstood, so we need to address a number of issues:
·Some say the Bible is full of contradictions, which isn’t true, but there are some tensions and difficult passages in the Bible.
·Some say science and the Bible don’t mix, but each has its proper place. The Bible isn’t a science book and science shouldn’t be a religion.
·Some get hung up on some of the hard-to-believe stories in the Bible, and this can cast doubt on the whole book. Some obsess on how different miracles could have taken place and miss the point of the story.
·Some don’t know what the term “Word of God” means as applied to the Bible.
·Some attribute the Bible with almost magical powers, so we need to understand the work of the Holy Spirit with respect to the Bible.
Let’s tackle that last item. The Bible is special because it was inspired by God, as St. Paul wrote in today’s epistle reading (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NRSV):
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
The Bible is not God’s word-for-word dictation, but it communicates to us what God wants us to learn, using human intermediaries and various literary forms. Just as Jesus is both human and divine, so the Bible is both human and divine. God used men, but we believe the Bible’s message is a true and accurate representation of what God wants us to hear, learn, understand, and obey. Because of that, the Bible is truly useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, equipping us for every good work.
Many Christians believe that reading the Bible is a means of grace. Does that mean there is some sort of magic connected with the Bible? No, it means that when we are reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit works within us to fulfill one or more of the functions I mentioned earlier:
Convicting us of sin and our need for a Savior;
Getting to know God, especially in his Son Jesus Christ;
Learning God’s plan for ourselves and the human race;
Learning how we are to live as God want us to live;
Building up our faith in God.
Hebrews 4:12a says “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…”
That statement does not indicate any magic powers either, only that what God is telling us through the Bible under the power of the Holy Spirit can transform our life. That’s why I encourage you to read the Bible and take seriously what the Holy Spirit is telling you when you read it.
We see the importance of reading and properly interpreting the Scriptures when Jesus provided the disciples with understanding in Luke 24:45: “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” That’s what the Holy Spirit does with us today: the Holy Spirit opens our minds to understand the Scriptures, which is important for our spiritual growth.