It’s very significant that our statement of faith starts with defining what the Bible is. As we learned last week, truth must be objective, otherwise we can’t be sure we know anything. So we start with understanding what the Bible is in order to have confidence in what it says about God, who He is, what He’s done, and what He’s doing.
Here’s what our statement of Faith and Doctrine says about the Bible…
1) We believe in the Bible, as contained in both the Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God and without error in the original language. We believe that the Bible is the final court of appeals in all matters of Christian doctrine and Christian practice. (II Timothy 3:14—17)
This statement has two parts. The first has to do with its content and the second with its authority.
1) Regarding its Content…
1) We believe the Bible, as contained in both the Old and New Testaments.
We don’t believe the Apocrypha, the Koran, the book of Mormon are a part of the Bible.
The 33 Old Testament books are accepted as God’s word because Jesus accepted them. Over 295 times Jesus and the NT authors quote from the OT as divinely authoritative.
We accept the 27 books in the New Testament as a part of the Bible because they were written by the apostles or approved by the apostles.
A few New Testament books, like Hebrews, are self-attesting, that is they declare themselves to be God’s word and that is how the church has always received them, so we do, too.
Over a long period of time the church ratified the books using criteria similar to this:
1) Was the book written by a prophet of God?
2) Was the writer authenticated by miracles to confirm his message?
3) Does the book tell the truth about God, with no falsehood or contradiction?
4) Does the book reveal a divine capacity to transform lives?
5) Was the book accepted as God's Word by the people to whom it was first delivered?
The books we accept as the Bible pass this test but others don’t. For example, the Apocrypha does not claim the same kind of authority as the Old Testament writings. It was not even regarded as God’s words by the Jewish people from whom they originated or by Jesus or the New Testament authors. And it contains teachings inconsistent with the rest of the Bible.
So, we don’t consider it a part of the Bible and we can give similar reasons for not including other extra biblical texts.
What about future additions to the Bible? Hebrews 1:1-2...
Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. 2 In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son.
In the past God spoke through the prophets but today, in these last days, he speaks through His Son. There is a finality to this verse which limits the ways God speaks to us so we don’t expect any future additions.
Ultimately, our confidence in the content of the Bible is in God’s faithfulness. God, who is in control of history, loves us and therefore has seen to it that we have all of his words that are necessary to have in the Bible. We don’t believe He’s going to trick us or kept us from having something we need.
Secondly, regarding the content...
2) We believe the Bible…to be the inspired Word of God and without error in the original language.
What does the Bible mean by inspired? Inspired doesn’t have a very strong meaning today. Everyone, it seems, is inspired. Performers are “inspired” to give great performances. The audience is inspired after seeing it.
But when the Bible uses the word “inspired” it literally means “God breathed.” So the meaning is that all the Bible, the whole Bible, is made up of God’s very words.
That’s what the apostle Paul means in 2 Timothy 3:16 when he said, “All Scripture is inspired by God.”
Watch out for someone who says the Bible “contains God’s word.” What they usually mean is that parts of it are inspired but other parts may not be. That’s not what we believe. We believe all of God’s word is inspired.
And because the words of the Bible came from God, as he communicated through human authors, the Bible is without error in the original languages.
The Bible doesn’t contain any mistakes because if it it did God’s own truthfulness would be subject to question.
The Bible, itself, claims to be without error. Numbers 23:19 says…
God is not a man, that he might lie, or a son of man, that he might change his mind. Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?
If the Bible has errors, even in some of the smaller details, how can we trust God with the more important things?
So we believe God always tells the truth and when he speaks it is always the truth.
John 17:17 says it this way,
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t say “Your word is true” but that God’s word is truth itself. God’s word doesn’t just conform to a higher standard of truth, but is truth itself. The Bible is the definition of truth and it is without error in the original languages.
“Without error” doesn’t mean the Bible can’t use ordinary language that everyone understands but may not be technically accurate. For example, the Bible speaks of the Sun rising even though we know that isn’t what technically happens. The earth revolves around the Sun so it technically is the earth that moves but “the Sun rising” is still a true statement from our perspective. God is also free to use metaphor and simile even though the are not technically accurate either.
We believe there will never be a historical or scientific “fact” discovered that will contradict the Bible. We believe it is impossible for the Bible to be in error and eventually the supposed “fact” will be proven wrong. There are no errors in the Bible, not even in the details.
2) We believe the Bible…to be the inspired Word of God and without error in the original language.
The qualification of this is that it’s only true in the original languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. What we read today are English translations made by fallible people.
Our English translations are not inspired or without error. That can only be said of God’s word in the original languages and English is not an original language.
So, by implication, the best translation is one that most closely captures the meaning of the original words. If you speak German a German translation is best. If you speak Chinese you need a Chinese translation. The complete Bible has been translated into over 670 languages but none of them are without error.
Practically, our belief means that when disagreements among translations occur we need to be informed by those who understand the meaning of the original words.
When a German Christian and an American Christian disagree about a text neither one of them can claim their translation is best solely on the basis of the translation they prefer. They must show that it is what the original meant.
So we need humility as we approach the Bible and we need to acknowledge our own limitations and the limitations of our translations.
We have so many good English translations and we can be confident in them but none of them are without error. This is only true of the original they were translated from.
2) Now, regarding the authority of the Bible…
We believe that the Bible is the final court of appeals in all matters of Christian doctrine and Christian practice.
A court of appeals is where you go when you have a dispute over a verdict. If you think a verdict is unconstitutional you appeal to the supreme court for them to settle the matter. You can’t appeal any higher.
Regarding Christian doctrine and Christian practice, there is no higher authority than the Bible.
Of course, there are other things we might appeal to. We might appeal to feelings or to intuition or a vision. You might even hear God audibly speak to you but we believe there is no higher authority than the Bible.
Regarding doctrine, we can learn a lot about God by observing nature and reading the works of theologians, but there is no higher authority on who God is and what He’s doing than the Bible.
In Christian practice, when we are unsure about a decision that needs to be made we may go to a friend and take their advice. Or, we might have a series of circumstances that we interpret as God speaking and make a decision based upon that.
But circumstances or the advice of others are not higher in authority than the Bible. There is no higher authority we can appeal to than the written word of God, the Bible.
The Spirit may very well guide us into all truth as John 16:13 says but we don’t believe He does so in isolation of Scripture. Rather, our belief implies that the Spirit helps us to understand what the Bible as “the final court of appeals in all matters of Christian doctrine and Christian practice” means.
God’s written from of communication is our final authority. God wrote the ten commandments. It was written scripture that Paul said was God breathed. In 1 Corinthians 14:37 it is Paul’s writings that are said to be a command of the Lord.
37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, he should recognize that what I write to you is the Lord’s command. 38 If anyone ignores this, he will be ignored.
So, obviously, we believe that in order to not ignore the Bible we need to know and understand the meaning of what it says. As we learned last week, it is the meaning of the original author that has authority over us and over every area of our life.
2 Timothy 3:15-17 says…
15 You know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
What must we do in addition to what is revealed in Scripture? Nothing, because the Bible is the final court of appeals and is complete in what we need to know. Psalm 119:1 says…
1 How happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk according to the LORD’s instruction!
Notice that happiness is for those who walk according to the Lord’s instruction. Where is the Lord’s instruction? In the Bible! It’s not in some thought you have while driving or in a feeling you have while walking in the park. The Lord’s instruction is in the Bible. The Spirt may can to mind a part of Scripture while you walk in the park or drive the car but it is only Scripture that has final authority.
This understanding is so freeing because it allows us to focus on what the Bible says instead of trying to wrestle with all of our subjective feelings and impressions that pop into our heads each day.
This belief gives us confidence that we can find what God wants us to do in all areas of life. It might take some effort but it’s possible to know what God expects of us!
And remember, when God doesn’t speak dogmatically in his word that should tell us something. We need to be content with what God doesn’t say, too. Deuteronomy 29:29 says,
29 The hidden things belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.
We aren’t held accountable for the things that haven’t been revealed in the Bible.
The reason for our various denominations is at least partly because we insist upon saying more than God has said on various subjects in the Bible. We divide over issues like church government, who should take the Lord’s supper, who to baptize, Bible translations, and other subjects that God is less than dogmatic about.
I don’t think we should ever be more dogmatic about a doctrine or a Christian practice than God is.
God’s word is an absolute standard that we can use to know about who God is and what he expects, and doesn’t expect, of us.
A word of warning, though, don’t proof text. Don’t pick your favorite verse and use it in isolation of the rest of scripture to make your case. The Bible, as a whole, is the final court of appeals in all matters of Christian doctrine and Christian practice, not isolated verses.
It’s relatively easy to find a single verse to support what you want to believe. If I’m a Jehovah Witness I can pull out my New World Translation and quote John 1:1…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.
Even though that’s a terrible translation it’s hard to explain away all the other verses that support the Trinity.
If I believe salvation is by works I can quote James 2:14
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him?
Almost all of our doctrinal beliefs can be “refuted” by quoting isolated verses. It’s only when we consider all of the verses together that be get the whole meaning, so be careful about proof texting.
We believe in the Bible, as contained in both the Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God and without error in the original language. We believe that the Bible is the final court of appeals in all matters of Christian doctrine and Christian practice.
This is what the Bible teaches and this is the belief of Kittredge Community Bible Church. And we encourage you to believe it, too.