We live in a time when many people have given up on the idea that there is such a thing as timeless truth or universal truth. Many people are convinced there is only your version of truth and my version of truth, and whatever works for you is fine, but it does not have any claim on me.
For followers of Jesus Christ, the question arises in this cultural context: Is the Bible true?
The Bible is not just a book - it is a library! It is 66 books under one cover, written over the course of 1,500 years by 40 writers. It contains various kinds of literature - history, law, poetry, gospel, parable, epistle (letters) and apocalyptic literature (end times imagery). Understanding the background of a passage of Scripture can go a long way toward understanding its message to us.
The Bible claims to be the self-revelation of the Living God. "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." (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV)
I am convinced that the Bible is timeless truth. Scripture is true truth. Rightly understood, it is completely reliable in terms of discovering God's truth and basing my life on that truth. While there will be differences of thinking about the truth of Scripture and even disagreement between honest, devout believers about the significance or application of a particular text, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with study and growth and maturity, we can come to a full, robust understanding of God's truth by studying His Word!
In my sermon today (July 18, 2021), I am unpacking eight principles for digging out truth in Scripture. (You can view the message here any time after 10:30am today.) Here are those eight principles:
It's all true and must be rightly understood. We must dig into figurative language and understand how to unpack its meaning in its own time and language. the Bible is true because it was God-breathed into the minds and hearts of the human authors.
The best interpreter of any verse of Scripture is the rest of Scripture. Sometimes an isolated verse can seem to say one thing, but the rest of Scripture tips us off that there's more to it than that.
Exploring the meaning of the original languages can get us to deeper truth. English Bibles are translations from Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Often the meaning of words in the original language casts great light on the meaning of the verse.
What's most important is the author's intention. What we want to get at is what God is saying through Moses or Isaiah or Matthew or Paul. We can be tempted to look for where Scripture confirms the thing we're looking for, instead of what God is saying to us.
Context determines meaning. The Bible says, "There is no God." Wait, what? Here is the statement in context: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' " (Psalm 14:1 NIV) Context can make quite a difference!
Interpretation is different from application. Once we have a good handle on what a text says and means, we still have to ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand what it means to us - how it applies to our lives. One application of Jesus's washing the disciples' feet might be that we should wash each other's feet every time we gather for worship. But His own application of that to the disciples was that He was teaching them to serve one another, not just to wash feet.
The New Testament should interpret the Old Testament. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Many parts of the New Testament give us deeper understanding into the texts of the Old Testament. Yes, the followers of Jesus came to understand and teach that they were not bound by the dietary laws of kosher Judaism, and so bacon is allowed!
We need the help of the Holy Spirit to rightly understand Scripture. Jesus promised this: "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth." (John 16:13a NIV) Prayerfully approaching Scripture and seeking the guidance and confirmation of the Holy Spirit illuminates the truth of the text.
I have been a student of the Bible for almost 55 years. While there are passages I still struggle to understand, I am convinced it is timeless truth. Even the parts that seem very challenging have something to say to us. As we study the Word of God, individually and together in community, our understanding grows and its truth is confirmed.
With the Psalmist, I say, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." (Psalm 119:105 NIV). So I keep reading Scripture, studying Scripture, digging deep into Scripture and seeking to apply Scripture to my life and to the life of the Body of Christ, His Church. Because timeless truth is reliable as a foundation for life here and now, and is the gateway into life eternal.