What does the Bible say about itself? I want to focus on three aspects of the Bible’s testimony to itself here. Further posts on the Bible will pick up some other aspects.
The most obvious claim the Bible makes about itself is that it is God’s own Word, in short, God speaks in and through these human words to his creatures. The writer of Hebrews says this about God’s word, and thus, the Bible: “God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions” (4:12,13). Through the Bible God’s Word creates and effects God’s plans and purpose, laying bare the “innards” of us humans.
The Bible bears witness to God’s Word in human form: Jesus of Nazareth. As Karl Barth memorably put it in the Barmen Declaration directed against the Nazis, “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.”
That makes Jesus the center and criterion of God’s Word. Jesus himself says, “Examine the scriptures, since you think that in them you have eternal life. They also testify about me, yet you don’t want to come to me so that you can have life” (John 5:39-40). What God has for us and wants from us are found in him. God’s Word for us will ultimately be consistent with who he is and what he did and does for us.
Finally, the Word of God is insistently practical. The classic passage is Paul’s word to Timothy (which is also his word to the whole church): “Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). The Bible is God’s gift to remake us all in the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), in whom we will live with God forever in his new creation. Through the Bible God authors a people, a people fit to dwell with him eternally.
God’s Word, attested and witnessed to in the Bible, is creative, Christ-focused and centered, and for the building up of the community of faith.
More on the Bible in upcoming posts.