Can we trust the Bible (i) - Incarnation

There is a deep interconnectedness between Jesus and the Bible.  We thought last time more specifically about the purpose of the Scriptures as the means by which we ‘see’ Jesus.  They are designed to be used by the Spirit to conform us to the image of Christ, as He presents to us a magnificent view of Christ in and through the pages of the Bible.   Revelation leads to worship, and to change.  With that in mind we aren’t at all surprised to hear Jesus speak about the Bible in ways that are focussed on Himself.  We hear Him explaining to His disciples that ‘Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’ (Luke 24:44); or declaring to the Pharisees: ‘These are the Scriptures that testify about me’ (John 5:39).   This is the nature of the Bible: It is inspired by the Father by His Spirit for the purpose of revealing His Son. 


This changes how we pray when we read the Scriptures.  We are not primarily looking for things God is telling me to do, or even for words of comfort or guidance (though all these may in fact be experienced).  Rather our goal and heart’s desire as we open the Bible is that the Holy Spirit would lead us to see and encounter Jesus.  Out of this will come guidance for how we live life;  out of our vision of Christ will come comfort and instruction – but we are missing the heartbeat of the Bible if we seek those ‘results’ but bypass Jesus.  Our vision of the Christian life will be both powerless and hopelessly egocentric and distorted.  The Bible is a radically relational book.  It brokers the interaction between Jesus and His people.  As we’ll see later in the series, this is a key reason for defending the inerrancy of the Bible.  It is telling us about a Person, and it critical that we can trust the Bible to faithfully teach us who that Person is.  Our entire faith hangs on the question of the trustworthiness of this book.  It is, as we all know from bitter experience, devastating to any relationship when you realise that someone is not who you thought they were…


More on that later.  Back to exploring the interconnectedness of Jesus and the Bible.  There is a beautiful symmetry between Christ and the Scriptures.  In both, the Father is breathing out His Word by the Spirit.  We have begun to consider how the word (Bible) relates to the Word (Christ); but beyond that even, there are profound similarities between these two ‘breathing-outs’.   Most intriguing is the realisation that both these key moments of revelation are revealed in and through humanity.  The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us … No-one has ever seen God, but God, the only Begotten Son, who is at the Father’s side has made Him known (John 1:14 & 18).  The full humanity of Jesus is pivotal, and it is one of the deep wonders of the incarnation that in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Col.2:9).  And that incarnated, fully human-Word is testified to by the word that is also fully human.  For all their Divine origin, the Scriptures are penned by human authors.   But, despite what is often alleged, the humanity of the authors does not call into question the trustworthiness of the words they wrote.  In fact, as we consider Christ, we find in Him a model of how to understand the nature of Scripture, for in both, the Father breathes out the revelation of Himself by His Spirit, without compromise, but nevertheless, intrinsically through humanity.


One of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church to think this through in detail was BB Warfield.   He had this to say:


“As in the case of Our Lord’s Person, the human nature remains truly human, while yet it can never fall into sin or error because it can never act out of relation with the Divine nature … so in the case of the production of Scripture by the conjoint action of human and Divine factors.  The human factors have acted as human factors, and have left their mark on the product as such, and yet cannot have fallen into that error which we say it is human to fall into, because they have not acted apart from Divine factors, by themselves, but only under their unerring guidance’.


It is important to realise that all our speaking of Scripture as of Divine Origin does not in any way undermine the reality that it was real human beings (Moses, David, Peter, Paul et al) who penned the Bible.  But neither does our speaking about the Scriptures as written by men, undermine our recognition of the Bible as the ‘breathed-out’ Word of God.   This is why the Church has historically seen the Bible as authoritative in a way that other theological writings (such as the creeds) are not.  So Article 21 openly acknowledges that Church Councils ‘may err, indeed sometimes have erred, even in things relating to God’. 


Of course there are important differences between the Word of God and the word of God, e.g. the Word is a Person; the word is a book (albeit a personal, relational book).    But the point of the analogy still stands.  As JI Packer puts it: “it points directly to the fact that as our Lord, though truly Man, was truly free from sin, so Scripture, though truly a human product, is truly free from error … we understand that the written Scriptures as such are ‘the oracles of God’ and we study their character as a human book only as one aspect of their character as a Divine book’. 


And so, we can rejoice in the authentic human character of the written word of God, while retaining our confidence that in the inerrancy of it as the written word of God.

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