What is the Bible?


Word of God

What is the Word of God?1

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, being given by divine inspiration, are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Isaiah 8:20)

What is the Old Testament?2

The Old Testament consists of books written by the people of the Old Covenant, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to show God at work in nature and history.

What is the New Testament?3

The New Testament consists of books written by the people of the New Covenant, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to set forth the life and teachings of Jesus and to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom for all people.

How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God?4

The Bible evidences itself to be God’s Word by the heavenliness of its doctrine, the unity of its parts, its power to convert sinners and to edify saints; but the Spirit of God only, bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in our hearts, is able fully to persuade us that the Bible is the Word of God. (1 Corinthians. 2:6-7, 13; Psalm 119:18, 129; Acts 10:43, 26:22; Acts 18:28; Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 19:7-9; Romans 15:4; John 16:13-14; 1 John 2:20-27; 2 Corinthians 3:14-17)

Why do we call the Bible the “Holy Scripture”?5

The Bible is the “Holy Scripture” because God the Holy Spirit gave to His chosen writers the thoughts that they expressed and the words that they wrote (verbal inspiration). Therefore, the Bible is God’s own Word and truth, without error (inerrancy) (John 10:35; Mark 8:38; John 14:26; Acts 24:14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21). 

Note: God gave the Old Testament in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament in Greek. Errors in copying or translations are not part of the God-breathed (inspired) Scripture.

Reading the Bible

How is the Word of God to be read?6

The holy Scriptures are to be read with an high and reverent esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very Word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer.

How is the Word of God to be preached by those that are called thereunto?7

They that are called to labor in the ministry of the Word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.

What is required of those that hear the Word preached?8

It is required of those that hear the Word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine: What they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

May all men make use of the Scriptures?9

All men are not only permitted, but commanded and exhorted, to read, hear, and understand the Scriptures. (John 5:39; Luke 16:29; Acts 8:28-30; 17:11)

Understanding the Bible

What do the Scriptures principally teach?10

The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 20:31; Acts 24:14; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Ecclesiastes 12:13).

What basic distinction must we keep in mind in order to understand the Bible? 11

We must sharply distinguish between the Law and the Gospel in the Bible (John 1:17; 2 Corinthians 3:6).

What does God teach and do in the Law?12

In the Law God commands good works of thought, word, and deed and condemns and punishes sin (Mark 12:30-31; John 5:45; Romans 3:20).

What does God teach and do in the Gospel?13

In the Gospel, the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ, God gives forgiveness, faith, life, and the power to please Him with good works (John 3:16; John 6:63; Romans 1:16; Colossians 1:6).

How do we understand the meaning of the Bible?14

We understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures.

How are you to use it in order to profit by it?15

By embracing it with entire heartfelt persuasion, as certain truth come down from heaven — by being docile, and subjecting our minds and wills in obedience to it — by loving it sincerely — by having it once for all engraved on our hearts, and there rooted so as to produce fruit in our life — finally, by being formed after its rule. Then shall it turn to our salvation, as it was intended.

Are all these things put in our own power?16

None of them at all; but everything which I have mentioned it belongs to God only to effect in us by the gift of his Spirit.

But are we not to use diligence, and zealously strive to profit in it by reading, hearing, and meditating?17

Yea, verily: seeing that every one ought to exercise himself in the daily reading of it, and all should be especially careful to attend the sermons when the doctrine of salvation is expounded in the assembly of the faithful.

How is human reason to be used in understanding Holy Scripture?18

Holy Scripture is given in human language. To determine what it says we need to apply the rules of language, such as grammar and logic. It is right to use reason as a servant of the text, but the guidance of the Holy Spirit is essential for its proper understanding (Psalm 119:73; Matthew 13:19; Matthew 22:37; Acts 17:11).

Unlike all other books, Holy Scripture is God’s Word and truth. It is wrong to question or deny the truthfulness of the sacred text (as happens, for example, with historical criticism) (Romans 3:4; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Colossians 2:8; 2 Peter 3:15-16).

Footnotes

  1. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 4.
  2. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 56.
  3. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 57.
  4. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 5.
  5. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 3.
  6. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 157.
  7. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 159.
  8. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 160.
  9. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 6.
  10. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 7.
  11. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 6.
  12. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 7.
  13. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 8.
  14. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 60.
  15. Geneva Catachism (1545), Question 302.
  16. Geneva Catachism (1545), Question 303.
  17. Geneva Catachism (1545), Question 304.
  18. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 5.

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