For Christians, there is sometimes a difficulty in coming to terms with the true significance of the Bible. It is, almost without exception, seen as a book to be highly respected and used as a guide for living life. But there are other books which fit into this category, as well. What is it that makes the Bible so special?
Every worldview is founded upon some authority source which is the last word regarding the beliefs of that system. Every belief system literally rises or falls on the validity of its authority. The authority source for the Christian faith is the Bible.
But even that is not a significant enough point to help us understand the true import of the Bible. In our Christian faith, God is viewed as a real person that we are able to engage in a real relationship. The Bible is a personal communication from him. It is when we recognize that point and follow it as if he were speaking personally to us, that we begin to gain an appreciation as to why the Bible is so invaluable.
It is not the purpose of this article to give a defense of the Bible. We have done that in numerous other newsletter articles. Rather, our purpose here is to build on our founding assumptions – that the Bible expresses the truth about the nature of reality and that it reveals God, his ways and his will.
As human beings, our relationship with God is a personal relationship. It is an intimate interaction between self-conscious persons. An essential element of that interaction is communication – communication which goes two ways. That is, meaning must be passed back and forth between the individual and God.
The most common way that most people conceive of this communication relates to prayer. And that certainly is a critical means of communicating with God as we express our hearts to him and hear his voice by his Spirit. But another part of the communication process happens as we receive the message of God that is recorded in the Bible.
The Bible is not merely another book. In fact, in its essence, the Bible is God’s revelation of himself to mankind. In it God has revealed who he is, what he is like, his purposes and how we can know him. And this is not sterile information – it is a personal message which takes place in real time for the person who is listening. When we read the Bible, we are reading the very thoughts of God. As such, the Bible is a personal communication to us.
At this point we must be careful not to limit what it is all about. God did not reveal the information in the Bible simply for us to become more knowledgeable. It is there so that we can know him – it truly is personal. When we read it, we are able to apply it directly to our lives personally so that we may know what God wants with us.
As we consider how we may receive this message and understand it personally, there are three means by which we are able to receive this message as something personal for our lives.
In modern society, meditation tends to be most closely associated with Far Eastern Thought belief systems. In these systems, meditation is used as a means of emptying the mind so that the experience of the impersonal life force can become more real to an individual.
Christian meditation seeks precisely the opposite. In Christian meditation, the idea is to fill one’s mind with something – Scripture. It is the Christian’s understanding that the Bible is, literally, a communication from God. Thus, if we fill our mind with a word from him, he is able to share information with us in real time which has direct and personal implications for our lives. Of course, we must be careful that as we meditate we are not misinterpreting the text of the verses we are meditating upon. But if our understanding is correct, God is able to teach us truths which have a very personal application to our lives.
Bible reading is a means of absorbing large swaths of God’s communication to us at single sittings. The purpose in this is to obtain a greater understanding of the larger context of Scripture. There are many cults and false religions which come up with incorrect interpretations of Scripture by “proof texting” – taking various passages of Scripture out of context – to try and support their preconceived doctrines.
Reading large passages of Scripture at single sittings helps to avoid many of these kinds of problems by providing the opportunity to keep the context in tact. This process is also a valuable means of gaining understanding of the entire scope of the Bible. There are a number of systematic Bible reading plans in existence and it is very useful to use one of these on a regular basis.
Bible study is the process of digging deeply into the meaning of a limited passage or topic. The Bible was written over a period of about 1500 years by about 40 different authors in different cultural contexts and languages. It is important to understand the background information correctly in order to accurately interpret what has been written. We can’t read the words of a farmer in the 6th century BC as if he were a Wall Street banker in 21st century America.
There are numerous means of Bible study such as word studies, character studies, language studies, geographical studies, and others. This kind of study is very valuable in helping us to make sure that what we are interpreting as we read is consistent with what the writers intended as they wrote.
The Scope of Our Understanding
At this point it is important to reiterate the most important point of this article. Based on a Christian worldview, the Bible is not merely another book. It is, literally, a personal communication from God to humanity. God wanted to pass on information to us about himself which could not be perceived by natural human means. As human beings, we are not capable of looking beyond this physical universe to find out about God. If we are to know anything, God must somehow communicate to us from his side.
He has provided for this in various ways, not the least of which is the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate arbiter of Truth about who God is, what he is like and what he wants from us. As such, we should make every effort to not only learn the truth contained therein, but also to figure out how to listen to the voice of God as he speaks to us through this miraculous communication source.
© 2009 Freddy Davis