And we also thank God constantly for this, that 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. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV)
A hallmark of true Christianity is respect for and reverence toward the Bible as the Word of God. As such, the Bible stands in contrast to the words of human beings. It is the divine message that God’s Spirit has inspired through human hands and minds, and though each of these human authors conveys his own unique personality, it is still the Word of God that we have.
The Concreteness of Circumstances
We should not be discouraged that these various books of the Bible came from various individuals dealing with specific concrete circumstances, for that fact commends their practical value to us. It has often been observed that among all the great speeches of humanity that each of them was given on a specific occasion to address a specific concrete circumstance. And the Bible was also written in real situations for real and historical people.
As such the books are peppered with various customs that applied to those circumstances but are not demanding on all people for all times. For example, Romans 16:16 says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss,” and a practical interpretation for that verse does not demand that Christians through all centuries and in every culture must kiss each other, rather than we are to acknowledge our Christian brothers and sisters and to greet them in a culturally appropriate way that reflects true holiness.
This interpretation is called the Grammatical-Historical Method of Biblical Interpretation and it simply means that the Bible is to be interpreted in light of its original historical situation, using the rules of grammar, and in consideration of where it lies in salvation history. For example, many things that were bound or forbidden in the Old Testament were loosed or allowed in the New Testament — the eating of different meats, for example. Mark 7:19 states that Jesus declared all meats clean, and Paul affirms this in Romans 14:20, so those commands in the Old Testament that forbade the eating of certain foods are no longer obligatory on a Christian.
The concreteness means that it is readily helpful to us today. When we read that Paul urged two women in Philippi to agree with one another and stop their divisive feuding, we can understand the relevancy of the biblical point. When we read about fleeing temptations, we understand and can apply that to our circumstances. When we read about James rebuking the gossips in his church, warning on the danger of the human tongue, we understand that we also deal with those problems.
And historically, when we read of Obadiah’s rebuke to the nation of Edom, descendants of Esau who was Jacob’s brother, when they stood aloof when their brother Israel was in need, when they looted Jerusalem with the invading armies, we see the condemnation against every Christian who ignores his spiritual brother’s or his spiritual sister’s spiritual needs.
The Power of the Word
The word of God is to be embraced with faith and obedience, and in this is our hope. God has spoken to us today and His word is always fresh to the one who believes it. The true power of the Word is not against demons, that we read it aloud to merely cast them out, but its power is found in the way it touches the human heart, leading people to repentance and faith and obedience.
No one can be a good growing Christian without a daily diet of the word of God. It is the “word of life” (Phil. 2:16) or the word that brings life to our hearts.
- It saves us from our sin: Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes through hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
- It feeds our souls; Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
- It cleanses our consciences, as Paul wrote, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Eph. 5:25-26).
- It unites the church: Romans 16:25 says, “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ.”
- It strengthens us against temptation: Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
- It encourages us in difficult times: Psalm 119:81 says, “My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.”
Both for the church and for the individual believer, the Bible is God’s message of salvation, hope, strength, direction, wisdom, encouragement, rebuke, and more.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)