The Bible is such a common book that we rarely stop to think about what it actually is. Many Christians hold the Bible as the most important book in our lives, as well we should. But in order for us to understand and obey God’s word, we have to first know clearly what it is.
The Bible is a book about God
We cannot accurately understanding, interpret, or apply the Bible if we do not first know it is a book about God. This may seem obvious, but often we read the Bible as if it is a book about ourselves. It does mention humans quite a bit, but the Bible primarily intends to teach us who God is, what He has done, and how we are to relate to Him.
The Bible is an Account of God’s Actions in the World
The main actor in the Bible is God. He is the center of the story that scripture tells. He is the protagonist. The story begins with God creating the world and all that is in it, and concludes with God making all things new and restoring everything to how it should be. In between, humans tend to just mess things up. God rescues, redeems, restores, and renews.
The Bible is Literature
While the Bible is Word of God spoken to his people in all times and places, the it is also literature. But that spoken word takes the form of various types of literature. In modern day writing, we know to read poetry differently than we would read a medical journal. The rules and expectations are different, and we intuitively know to read them differently. In Biblical times, there were various types of literature. We have to understand the rules of the literature we are reading in order to understand what it says. If we try to read Psalms the same way we read Leviticus or interpret Daniel the same way we do Romans, we will create confusion and misunderstanding for ourselves. We should not value one over the other, but that we approach them each according to their own literary conventions.
The Bible is Made of Words
Again, this may seem obvious, but its implications are significant. God chose to speak to his people through written words. He could have spoken to us through collective visions or pictures in the stars or some other means of communication. But he used the modality of communication most natural to humans: language. And he had people write it down so that we, even thousands of years later, might know what was said.
Thus, the words chosen are important and worth close study. They are not the flippant words thrown onto social media (or a blog). They are carefully chosen by the God of the Universe through the prompting of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of specific persons that he chose to write them down. They are worth careful examination and study.
The Bible is Not God’s Love Letter to Us
I’ve often heard this description of the Bible. The intent behind it is good. Whenever I hear this sentence, I think of a goateed youth-minister in the 90’s trying to convince a room full of teenagers in metal folding chairs to read their Bibles every day. But maybe that’s just my experience. Regardless, this is a inaccurate representation of Scripture. The Bible does convey God’s love for his people, but it does so in the context of focusing on God and his actions in the world. If it were just a love-letter, we could not know The One who loves us. But when we begin to see God’s character, his majesty and holiness, his glory and sovereignty, then to know that we are loved by him should brings us to our knees in worship. The primary focus in scripture is God. His love for us is a part of that, but it is not the whole of it.
Each of these points should shift our perspective as we read scripture and enable us to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for this text we hold so dear. Reading the Bible with these principles in mind opens us up to the joy of knowing God more through his Word.
As this series continues, we will look at who the Bible is for and how this perspective changes our interpretation Scripture. Finally, we will walk through an example of putting this knowledge into practice.