To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to accept that there is such a thing as absolute truth and that God has revealed His will to mankind to show us how to live. This revelation is found in the Holy Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible gives us God’s standard for living. It is the plumb line for how we build our lives.
In Old Testament times, and even still today, a plumb line was used in construction. It consists of a long piece of string, weighted at one end, which, when held from above, indicates a perfectly straight line. It is used for comparison in a building project to be certain the walls and structure are not leaning to one side or the other.
With this understanding in mind, it is easy to see how Scripture is to be the ultimate plumb line in our lives, the measuring rod against which everything must line up.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV).
The word “inspiration” in this verse is translated from the Greek word theopnuestos, which literally means “God-breathed.” Some theologians translate this word as “es-spired,” or “breathed out.” In other words, God breathed forth his Word to mankind. He didn’t just stir the imaginations of the writers, who then wrote something that touches on God’s leading, as some Bible critics have surmised. The God of the universe inspired the writers of Scripture in such a way that they wrote accurately and precisely what God wanted them to write.
God will always be faithful to His Word. This is a great assurance to us as we begin to read the Bible to find God’s plan for how we are to live our lives.
The only way that we can know anything about God and His ways is through what He reveals to us. Since the beginning of the Church Age, Christians have held firm to the Holy Bible—both the Old and New Testaments—or as theologians would call it, the canon of Scripture, as the guiding truth for all believers.
The apostle Paul spoke of this in his second letter to Timothy:
“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught.
You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who
taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from
childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the
salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus” (3:14-15 NLT).
What is the Bible?
The Bible was written over the span of 1,500 years by 40 different writers. These godly people lived centuries apart, in different areas of the ancient Middle East. The background of these people varied greatly from shepherds and fishermen, to doctors, lawyers, and kings. Parts of the Bible were written in three different languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. There was no way for these people to gather and discuss what was being added to the Bible—it had to have been compiled under the divine direction of the Holy Spirit.
Even though they wrote in different languages, at different times, in different places, often having no knowledge of what the others had written, the messages they wrote were unified under the guidance of God’s Spirit. These 66 books are each colorful strands in a magnificent tapestry that we call the Holy Bible.
Only God could orchestrate such a book—and what a magnificent book it is.
The Bible consists of 66 different books with one message: man’s need for a Savior and God’s provision of that Savior, Jesus Christ.
But the Bible is not just words on a printed page. The writer of Hebrews speaks of the spiritual power of God’s word in our lives.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV).
Jesus made it clear in his earthly ministry that He spoke only what the Father wanted Him to speak (John 12:49). So when he quoted the Old Testament, He was speaking from the authoritative Scriptures. In other words, Jesus was confirming that the Old Testament is God’s Holy Word.
Christians believe and teach that the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit—God spoke these words to men who faithfully wrote them down. So the Scriptures are the final authority for our faith and life. Through His Word, God can and does speak to His people!
Truly God’s Word?
No other holy book can truly be called God’s word. The Scripture is our guide in life, and so we need to know how to properly read and interpret it—then apply it to our lives.
Non-Christians may respond, “Hey, why are you so narrow minded? What makes the Bible any more special than any other holy book? How is the Bible different than the Qur’an, or the Book of Mormon, or any other book that claims to be Scripture?”
The Christian view of the Bible is that it isn’t just a holy book—we believe that it is the inspired revelation from God. If it is truly the final word from God, then there can be no other book that could be God’s Word. Scripture speaks of God as “Almighty,” which means “all powerful.” It also describes Him as being the essence of love. If God is truly Almighty then He has the power to protect His revealed word from inconsistencies and errors. If He is truly loving, He would make sure that you received a copy of this revelation. Well, He is all powerful and all loving, so you can be confident that the Bible you are reading is, in fact, His will for your life.
The Jews in Biblical times felt such awe and respect toward Scripture that they worked with almost fanatical discipline to preserve the unblemished accuracy of the documents. In ancient times, no printing presses existed. Instead, professional people known as scribes were trained to meticulously copy documents. These devout Jewish scribes believed they were entrusted with the authentic Word of God, so they approached their duties with extreme devotion and precision.
All of the earliest copies of the Hebrew text are in remarkable agreement. Comparisons of various texts have revealed that great care was taken in copying and that little deviation occurred during the thousand years from 100 BC to 900 AD. But until recently, there was no way of knowing how what was written in 100 BC compared with the original texts.
Then a discovery of monumental proportions happened by accident in 1947. A young Bedouin goatherd was exploring some hot, dry caves near the valley of the Dead Sea when he stumbled upon some ancient clay jars. Inside these jars were scrolls of papyrus, leather, and copper—the now-famous Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in eleven different caves between 1947 and 1956. The discoveries include a complete copy of the book of Isaiah and references to every book in the Old Testament except Esther. The majority of the fragments are from Isaiah and the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—the first five books of the Bible). Fragments of the books of Samuel were found along with two complete chapters of the book of Habakkuk. There is universal agreement among scholars that these materials were written during the last centuries of the second temple, from 200 BC forward.
As scholars have examined the Dead Sea Scrolls and have compared them to texts copied a thousand years later, they have made an amazing discovery. A comparison of the Qumran scroll of Isaiah with the later copies, known as the “Masoretic Text,” revealed them to be virtually identical.
In his book Know Why You Believe, Paul Little writes, “A comparison of Isaiah 53 shows that only 17 letters differ from the Masoretic text. Ten of these are mere differences in spelling (like our ‘honor’ and the English ‘honour’) and produce no change in the meaning at all. Four more are very minor differences, such as the presence of a conjunction (and) which are stylistic rather than substantive. The final three letters are the Hebrew word for light. This word was added to the text by someone after they shall see in verse 11. Out of 166 words in this chapter, only this one word is really in question, and it does not at all change the meaning of the passage.”
Proof in Archaeology
Archaeological discoveries over the last 200 years have proved Bible skeptics wrong again and again. Today, archaeologists have unearthed more than three thousand different, ancient Greek manuscripts containing all or portions of the New Testament. In the twentieth century, the remains of many ancient manuscripts of all kinds were found, especially in the dry climates of North Africa and the Middle East.
Biblical scholars of all persuasions around the world have come to an increased confidence in the reliability of the Bible based on these exciting archaeological discoveries. One of the leading archaeologists of all time, William Albright, placed the date for the writing of the New Testament as the first century AD.
“We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about AD 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today.”
He further clarifies his position in an interview for Christianity Today. “In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century AD (very probably sometime between about AD 50 and 75).”
How to Interpret What You’re Reading
In order to properly apply the truth of Scripture to our lives, we must first learn how to read and interpret the Bible for ourselves. Every believer should make it his or her goal to eventually read through the whole Bible.
One of the biggest mistakes many Christians make is to ascribe to Bible passages meaning that the original text never intended. The best way to approach Bible study is with a goal of discovering first what the Biblical texts meant to the people for whom they were originally written. In other words, in order to apply meaning from the Scriptures for ourselves today, we must first discover what the meaning was for the readers then. This technique is called “inductive Bible study” (more on this in chapter 10).
This kind of study is not intended to take the joy from daily devotional reading of the Bible. Instead it will enhance devotional reading because the principles and insights gained from this exercise will open new and exciting understanding of the Biblical text. This will deepen and broaden your daily time in communication with your Heavenly Father.
Logos vs. Rhema
The apostle John used the term “logos” in relationship to Jesus Christ as the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14). As the logos, both the Bible and Jesus are eternal, and they are one. The written Word is a revelation of the Living Word. Theologians have said that the Bible is not simply one book God could have written; it is the only book because it is a revelation of Himself, and there is only one revelation of God.
The logos word is given to all man—it is God’s revelation to the world. But people must act upon this written word in order to receive all from the Scriptures that God intended for them.
Millions of people own a Bible, and many may even read it. But it is just lifeless text until we act on it in faith. God has given us amazing promises in His word, but unless we step out in faith to receive them as our own, they will be just like the lifeless family Bibles that sit unread on many people’s shelves.
We can have the Word come alive for us as we read and study the Scriptures. The Lord will often speak to us out of the Scriptures by what is known as a rhema word—a Holy Spirit-inspired Word from the Logos that brings life, power, and faith to perform and fulfill it.
It is a personal word—a rhema—that God illuminates for you from the general word—the logos—that He has given to all mankind. As you are seeking the Lord by reading His Word, specific things may leap out of the page and come to life—this is a rhema for you. God will bring something to your heart. The Holy Spirit will quicken it to you—this is one of the ways that God leads us through His Word.
It’s important to remember that what we believe to be rhema from the Word of God must be evaluated by both the Spirit and the context of the logos. It must not only agree with the letter of the Word, but with the spirit of the Word as well. The rhema word is dependent upon the logos just as a branch is dependent upon a vine.
A helpful daily process for developing your relationship with God is through a program called Reading God’s Word with Purpose, designed by Rev. Chuck Huskins of Reconciliation Ministries. The simple steps include:
- Ask the Holy Spirit for revelation from God’s Word (to open your spiritual eyes, ears, and heart to receive from God).
- Read one chapter from a book in the Bible (the Gospel of John is a great place to start).
- Write down what jumps out to you when you read the Scripture (a word, verse, multiple verses, a phrase, theme, etc.).
- Write down why this jumped out to you.
- Write down how this insight from God’s Word changes the way you will live your life.
- Write down your prayer for the day based on this revelation from God’s Word.
Meditating on the Word of God
God will keep you in the center of His plan as you meditate on His Word on a daily basis. To meditate is to think often about the things of God—of His teachings, principles, and the example of Jesus Christ on the earth—and to apply them to the circumstances of your life.
As we read the Bible on a daily basis, we endeavor to apply the principles to all the situations that we encounter in that day. We are open to the influence of what we have read and seek to be Christ like in all we do. If this is our lifestyle, then life will be opened in a dramatic way to the Lord’s guidance in all that we do.
As we study and meditate on the Word of God, we grow to understand His principles. As we put those principles to use in life, we receive the blessings of the Kingdom of God as a result of our obedience. As God’s blessings increase in our life, we are drawn closer to the Lord, and we desire an ever-deeper relationship with Him. And as our relationship grows deeper we learn to hear and discern His voice, and He leads us forward in His will.
If you want guidance from the Lord, and if you want to recognize the voice of God, then get to know the Word of God through reading and meditating on the Scriptures. God is faithful to all His promises, and He will never contradict Himself. Knowledge of the Bible will keep you from falling into deception and error.
You can stake your life, your future, your marriage, your health, your hope—everything—on God’s Word!
One of the key themes of the Bible is living a life of prayer. Press on to chapter 6 to learn how to make this a part of your daily walk with Jesus.
 Little, Paul. Know Why You Believe. Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1968.
 Albright, William F. Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1955.
 Albright, William F. “Towards a More Conservative View.” Christianity Today 18 January 1963: 3.