The Book God Breathed
“It’s a big book, full of big stories with big characters. They have big ideas (not least about themselves) and make big mistakes. It’s about God and greed and grace; about life, lust, laughter and loneliness. It’s about birth, beginnings and betrayal; about siblings, squabbles and sex; about power and prayer and prison and passion. And that’s only Genesis.”
The Bible is central to Christianity. Unfortunately, there are about as many fights among believers over what the Bible is as there are fights recorded in its pages. Our Bible is composed of Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) and the stories of Jesus and the early church (the New Testament). Over the years Christians have developed words to describe the Bible or how to read it that sometimes develop a life of their own. New and old believers are often left with confusion over how to read the book. That’s unfortunate, because it is so essential to helping us in our faith journey.
Wright tries to take the emotion out of the arguments and boil things down to the essentials. Quoting from 2nd Timothy, “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 Greek work for inspired is literally “God-breathed.” The Bible isn’t just an accurate reference for people who want to looks things up. It’s there to equip God’s people to carry forward his purposes of new covenant and new creation.
The Story and the Task
The Bible is so important to Christian life, that Wright devotes two chapters to it. The first chapter described it and looked at what inspiration means. In the second chapter he addresses two other hotly debated topics and again tries to move us beyond debate into understanding.
Christians like to say that the Bible is “authoritative.” But just what does that mean? Wright suggests we look at what Jesus said about authority. Pagan rulers, he said, lord it over their subjects, but it mustn’t be like that with you. Anyone who wants to be first must be the servant of all, because the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Wright concludes that the Bible becomes an “authoritative instrument of what God accomplished through Jesus—particularly through his death and resurrection.”
It’s not simply a description of an event. It is part of God’s saving plan itself. It is a means through which we can see what God wants for us. Therefore, we must read the Bible in order to hear God addressing us—each one of us—here and now.
Another trap that Christians can fall into is arguing over whether the Bible should be interpreted “literally” or “metaphorically.” I cannot repeat Wright’s entire discussion here,
but I can say boldly that he confidently says, “Both.” What should be avoided is getting into arguments and missing the point of the Bible in the first place. “The only sure rule is to remember that the Bible is indeed God’s gift to the church, to equip that church for its work in the world, and that serious study of it can and should become one of the places where, and the means by which, heaven and earth interlock and God’s future purposes arrive in the present.”
I have studied and taught the Bible for about 30 years. I still learn something new every time I open the covers.
How often do you study the Bible?
Can you start a discipline of beginning every day listening to God talk to you through His word? Even if it means getting up a half-hour earlier every morning?