READ : John 1:1-3, 14
There is one supreme reason that sets the Bible apart from and above any other book. It is Jesus himself. The Bible is the book of Jesus. It is where we find him, the place we come to know him.
These are the opening words of the Gospel of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Here is one of the very first songs I ever learned in Sunday School:
Yes, that’s the book for me!
I stand alone on the Word of God,
Do you know that one too? I’ll bet you do. But why is this so? Why is the Bible the only book for us? After all, there are plenty of other holy books in the world. Almost every major religion has its own sacred scriptures. Is the Christian insistence on the uniqueness and supremacy of the Bible just another example of our narrow chauvinism?
That increasingly seems to be the view of many today. The last century or so has seen a steady growth in our exposure to other, non-Western cultures, which is good. We are more aware than ever as a result of the teachings of non-Christian religions. This growth in awareness has been accompanied, though, by a growing reluctance to make what we call “value judgments,” which is not so good. We seem to have developed an aversion to critical thinking. Many people today no longer have the desire, or even the ability, to recognize and distinguish truth from falsehood. The default attitude is that any opinion, especially any religious opinion, is as good as any other. All beliefs are equally valid, as long as they are sincerely held. And it is very impolite, to say the least, to imply that my religious beliefs are from God, and are therefore right, but yours are not.
What that sometimes leads to for Christians is a defensiveness about our view of the Bible. What grounds do we have for believing and asserting that this book – and this book alone – is the Word of God? Christians have traditionally pointed to many things about the Bible that seem to underscore its uniqueness.
They emphasize the Bible’s unity. Despite the wide variety of human authors who wrote in different languages over a long period of time, the Bible still speaks the truth about God with one voice.
Christians also draw attention to the many biblical prophecies that have been fulfilled, and to its accuracy in historical details, an accuracy that has repeatedly been confirmed by archaeological discoveries.
They hold up as well the testimonies of countless people throughout the ages who have been changed by reading this book, and who have been inspired to lead lives of selfless service because of its teaching.
But none of these points, however valid they may be, is what makes the Bible unique or proves that it is God’s Word. No, the one who does that is Jesus himself. Jesus is the Word of God, the Word made flesh, who was with God in the beginning, and who was God, and who is God. We believe that the Bible is God’s word in written form because it bears witness to the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s Word in human form.
WHAT JESUS THOUGHT ABOUT THE BIBLE
Because of that, it’s significant to consider what Jesus thought about the Bible. How did he relate to it? What did he do with it? In the first place, Jesus loved the Bible. He had a great regard and esteem for it. That comes through every word he speaks about it. Indeed, his whole life was steeped in Scripture from beginning to end. Do you remember how when Jesus was a little boy of twelve, his parents once lost track of him for three days in Jerusalem. When they finally found him, he was in the temple discussing the scriptures with the learned teachers of Israel and amazing them with his precocious understanding of the Bible. At the end of his life, even as Jesus hung on the cross, it was the Bible that occupied his mind as he quoted again and again from the book of Psalms. So for Jesus’ whole life long the Hebrew scriptures were his chief joy and delight. He must have echoed the psalmist often: “Oh, how love I your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Ps. 119:97).
Second, Jesus lived by the Bible. For forty days after his baptism Jesus fasted alone in the desert. During this time Satan visited him with a variety of temptations. And each time Jesus resisted, fighting back by quoting the scriptures. “Man does not live on bread alone,” Jesus recited, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3). And by that he meant, “every word written in the Bible.” And what he said, he did. That is exactly how Jesus himself lived, by those words from the mouth of the Lord.
Third, Jesus obeyed the Bible. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets,” Jesus declared in his famous Sermon on the Mount, “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). And he fulfilled the Law by keeping it. No one else ever before or since has obeyed the Law of God perfectly the way Jesus did. In even the smallest details, Jesus was completely obedient, right down to dotting every “i” and crossing every “t.” “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” he once asked his enemies. None of them did. None of them could.
Finally, Jesus fulfilled the Bible. That is what he said he came to do – to fulfill, not just in the sense of obeying all the commands of God’s Law (which he did) but to fulfill in the sense of completing the scriptures, filling them full, being the answer to which the Old Testament posed the question. Jesus Christ is himself the true meaning of the Hebrew scriptures. He is their fulfillment. Their history is fulfilled in him because Jesus is the offspring of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head. He is Israel’s Messiah, David’s royal son, the one for whose coming all the long centuries were a preparation. The Old Testament’s religion, its rituals and ceremonies are fulfilled in him. All that blood of all those temple animals, all the sprinklings and cleansings, all the sacred garments and furniture and the incense clouds rolling up, all those things point to Christ. They point specifically to the cross, where Jesus, the great High Priest, offered a once-for-all sacrifice, the reality of which all the rest is but the shadow. And the Old Testament’s prophecies are fulfilled in him. He is the one of whom the prophets wrote. After his resurrection, Jesus took his disciples aside and as Luke in his Gospel reports, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:45,27).
PEOPLE OF THE BOOK
All of this has relevance for us if we claim to be Jesus’ followers. If Jesus was a person of the book, then we need to be people of the book. We must have the same attitude toward the Bible he did. That means we need to love it and to live it, to obey it, to respect and reverence it.
Evangelical Christians have sometimes been criticized for practicing bibliolatry, the worship of a book. But that’s a false accusation. We don’t worship a book; we worship the Word, Jesus Christ. And because we do that, we also reverence the Word of God in its written form just as he did. Authentic Christianity is always biblical Christianity, a faith marked by love for the Bible, and formed and shaped and directed by biblical teaching.
When all is said and done, there is one supreme reason that sets the Bible apart from and above any other book. It is Jesus himself. The Bible is the book of Jesus. It is where we find him, the place we come to know him. You know that the Bible testifies to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. But have you ever considered that the opposite is equally true? Jesus’ resurrection testifies to the truth of the Bible. If Jesus Christ really is the risen, reigning Lord, the Son of God and Savior of the world, then his endorsement does make all the difference in the world.