Summary: Five key concepts about what Christians think about the Bible for seekers investigating the Christian faith.
If you take away the Bible, and you’ve taken away the entire Christian message. Yet lot of confusion exists today about the Bible. According to a 1996 Barna survey, 42% of Americans say they believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. Yet almost half of Americans believe that the Bible is too hard for them to understand, so on given week very few people actually read the book they claim to embrace as God’s literal word. Clearly there’s a discrepancy between what we say we believe and our true beliefs as demonstrated by our actions.
This series is designed to help people understand the basics of the Christian faith--to tell the world --in a way that people can understand and make sense of. This sermon explores what Christians believe about the Bible.
1. What Is the Bible?
Before we actually start, I need to clarify what I mean by the word "Bible." There are lots of books out there with the word "Bible" in the title that have nothing to do with what we’re talking about. There’s "The Beauty Bible," "the Freshwater Fisherman’s Bible," "The Golfer’s Bible," even "The Cooking Bible." These books are not what I’m talking about.
So let’s go back to real basics: What is the Bible? The word "Bible" means a book or collection of books regarded as authoritative on a topic. Books like The Beauty Bible and The Fishermen’s Bible use the word Bible in the title to claim that they’re the standard authority on that particular topic. I recently heard a local newspaper claim, "If your religion is sports, then our newspaper is your Bible."
No other book is more authoritative on the topic of the Christian faith than the Christian Bible. The Christian Bible is a collection of 66 different books divided into two sections (Old and New Testaments) written by over 40 different authors over a span of 1,500 years in three different languages, yet it presents a unified message of God’s plan and purpose for humanity. Thirty-nine books make up the Old Testament, which was written between around 1,500 BC and 400 BC, starting with the book of Genesis and ending with the Malachi. The Christian Old Testament and the Jewish Bible contain the same 39 books, though they’re listed in different order.
(The Roman Catholic church also includes 15 other writings in their Old Testament called the Apocrypha which means "hidden books." The Roman Catholic church added these books in their Old Testament about 500 years ago at the Council of Trent, but for the first fifteen hundred years the Apocrypha was considered good devotional literature, but not part of the Bible).
The 27 books that make up the New Testament were written over a 50 year span, and they deal with Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection, the beginning of the Christian church, and instruction about how to live as a follower of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament is written primarily in Hebrew, with a little Aramaic, and the New Testament is written exclusively in Greek. Yet these diverse authors each in their own way present a unified portrait of God’s plans and purposes in our world.
As to different kinds of literature, the Bible contains history, poetry, humor, prophecy, romance, letters, biographies, songs, journals, advise, laws and stories. So the Bible is an entire library of different kinds of literature. The Bible was also the first book every printed on the printing press, it’s the best selling book of all time, and portions have been translated into over 1,946 different languages.
So when I say "Bible" this is what I’m talking about, these 66 books that have been the foundation for the Christian faith since it’s very beginnings.
Now as modern Americans, we’re Bible rich. We have over 30 different English translations of the Bible available to us. I use the New International Version of the Bible, though there’s also the King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, and so on. Twenty-four percent of Americans own at least five Bibles.
Now this brings us to our original question: What Do Christians Believe About the Bible? We’re going to look at four key concepts on this topic starting in 2 Timothy 3:16.
2. The Relevance of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16)
Let’s look at what the Bible says about itself.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV).
Here here we’re introduced to another word that describes the Bible, the word "scripture." This word "scripture" means "sacred writings." Other religions have their own sacred writings, for instance Islam has the Koran, Mormonism has The Book of Mormon, and Hinduism has the Bhagavad-Gita. The Bible is the Christian faith’s sacred writings--or Scripture.