by D.P. Brooks
How can we account for the amazing vitality and relevance of the Bible? It was written over a period of many hundreds of years by all kinds of people: kings, shepherds, statesmen, farmers, prophets, fishermen. We have writers today who are far better educated than were the biblical writers. Many men in our culture have literary skills far beyond that of most of the humble people who helped write the Scriptures.
Yet, Christians point to the Bible and declare that here is our unique source of guidance for salvation and service. Here is a revelation that will never be outmoded, never superseded, never equaled. Brilliant writers will continue to produce books about the Bible and the Christian life, but these will not supplant the Scriptures. The Bible continues century after century as the divinely ordained medium of God's communication with his people.
Theologians in speaking about the Bible and trying to explain its authority use such words as "revealed, inspired, infallible, authoritative." But these words can conceal as well as reveal. Such words do not in themselves bring us knowledge of the Bible's authority. We must look to the claims of the Bible for its own role:
"In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things" (Heb. 1:1-2).
"All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).
"First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21).
"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished" (Matt. 5:17-18).
The authority of the Bible is not on the surface; it is a deep, interior quality that must be experienced to be known. More than a quarter of a century ago an editorial strikingly declared that the Bible is not the word of God, is not inspired and infallible to us until it takes our feet from under us. It is in the startling experience of being found out and laid hold upon that we come to know the authority of the Bible.
[This paragraph needs a bit of clarification. The writer is not saying that the Bible has no authoritative power over and in our lives until we recognize and acknowledge it. The Bible is the Word of God whether we admit to that fact or not. God doesn't need our stamp of approval upon His words before they become authoritative. Paul tells us (quoting from Isaiah 45:23) that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10; Rom. 14:11). It matters little if we admit to the authoritative power of the Bible; it is authoritative with us or without us. What the author (D.P. Brooks) actually means here is that the Bible becomes authoritative for us, personally, through experience and not simply through the act of reading the words. Many people have read the Bible cover to cover many more times than you or me and still have yet to hear God speaking through it. The Bible becomes the Word of God in a real sense, only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians do not believe that the words of the Bible have some sort of magical power, like so many words of a chant or a spell; but they do believe that a very real and present Power lies behind the words. The Bible is foolishness to the natural man (yet he will still be judged by it), and wisdom to the spiritual man (that is, the one in whom the Spirit dwells) (1 Cor. 1:18-31). —Editor.]
When God himself lays hold of us through the message of the Bible, we are ready to understand the function of the Bible in God's economy. Then it is not simply that we know God but that we are known by him. The Bible's importance lies in its ability to form a line of communication between us and God. As someone has well said: "The Bible finds me at a deeper level than any other book."
(From D.P. Brooks, The Bible—How to Understand and Teach It [Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1969], 120–121.)
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