What does the bible do?

Last week we found ourselves thinking about the relationship of the Trinity to the Scripture.  But we may have been left wondering ‘Why?’  Why has God revealed His Son by His Spirit, through the Scriptures?  A short answer might simply be God’s desire to honour His Son and exalt Him in the hearts and minds of His people that they may worship Him.  But we may need to press this a little further and ask how that worship is to manifest itself, simply because Scripture itself gives us warrant to.  God has revealed His Son by His Spirit in the Scriptures in a very specific way, for a very specific purpose:


All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting

and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be

thoroughly equipped for every good work.


II Tim. 3:16-17


A couple of observations before we get to the central emphasis.  First, Paul has already shown how the Scriptures have been instrumental in bringing Timothy to faith, making him ‘wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’ (v.15).  The salvation of the Church is integral to the purpose for which God designed the revelation of His Son through His Spirit by the Scriptures.  Secondly, Paul describes the Scriptures as ‘God-breathed’.  The issue here is the Divine origin of Scripture: it is breathed out by God.[1]  Thirdly, while Paul undoubtedly includes what we now call the Old Testament in ‘All Scripture’, he is also keenly aware that his own writing is ‘not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words’ (I Cor.2:13).  Paul isn’t the only one who recognised that he was writing Scripture.  Peter acknowledges that ‘Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom that God gave Him.  He writes in the same way in all his letters… which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures…(II Peter 3:15-16).  Peter puts Paul’s letters in the same category as the rest of the Scriptures.  Paul’s experience was not unique.  The Apostles had Jesus’ own promise that the ‘Holy Spirit … will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you’ (Jn.14:26).  We are wary of restricting ‘Scriptures’ to exclude the writings of the Apostles.


But back to the main point:  Why were the Scriptures written in the way they were?  Paul gives us penetrating insight into the wisdom of God.  They are written to be used by the Holy Spirit to teach us about Christ in such a way that they would be useful in conforming us to the likeness of Christ, so we can live

authentically as disciples of Christ.   Paul explores similar territory in Eph.4:11-24.  Paul begins by saying that Christ gave the Church Apostles (among others) to ‘prepare God’s people for works of serviceso that the body of Christ may be built up in the … knowledge of the Son of God and become mature’.  The climax comes in verses 23-24, in which Paul tells us that we are ‘to be made new in the attitude of our minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness’.  This sounds very like Paul’s comments in II Tim.3:16-17.  The Scriptures are perfectly designed for the purpose of bringing Christians to maturity of life and faith i.e. intimacy with and conformity to Christ.  Their usefulness in these matters is not incidental.  They are designed to be a tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit to teach, rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness.  As we study them – individually and corporately – each of these elements should be part of our experience.  We should find ourselves feeling the sting of rebuke; we should hear the Word of God with a humility that allows the Holy Spirit to correct us; we should be willing to be taught through them and from them, and so be trained for righteousness.   Sin is exposed, motives laid bare; behaviour, speech and thoughts are seen to have fallen short of the glory of God (Heb.4:12).  Our behaviour, opinions, morals and values are all tested against the reality of Christ found in the Scriptures.  We are taught how to live differently.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb.12:11)


If we do not find ourselves developing in righteousness as a result of studying the Scriptures they are not achieving the purpose for which they were designed.  Too often we can find ourselves looking to the Scriptures for a comforting thought, or a stimulating intellectual insight we can share at our next home-group meeting.  But the Bible has not done its work until it has been used by the Spirit to change who we are and the way we live.


The Scriptures hold forth to us the glorious portrait of Christ in such a way that they can be used by the Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of God in Christ.  There is a transformative power in our vision of Christ.  John teaches us that when Christ ‘appears [or: is made known] we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is’.  When our vision of Christ is absolute, it will transform us absolutely.  In the interim, we find Christ is made known to us by the Holy Spirit in the pages of the Bible.  But our vision of Christ has the same transforming effects.  To know Christ is to be changed to be like Him, and to long to be so.   This is authentic worship, and is how we fulfil God’s desire to exalt His Son.


[1] We’ll come back in another article to explore the relationship between the Holy Spirit who has ex-pired the Word of God, and the in-spired human authors.

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