The Bible is God’s dynamic, powerful, inspired Word to us. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). God reveals Himself to us through His Word, and He speaks to us through His Word. The Bible is our complete guide to salvation, doctrine, and Christian living. It is God’s Word in that He gave it to holy men through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The word “inspire” has the same root as spirit. The Greek word of spirit is pneuma, which one can translate “wind” or “breath.” Therefore, the word “inspire” means to breathe into; so inspiration means that the Holy Spirit breathes into the recipient. The Bible is the result of God breathing His truth into holy men who recorded that truth to share with others. Therefore, we affirm that the scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, “are God’s revealed Word to man. We believe they are a sufficient and infallibly true rule and guide to salvation and to all Christian worship and service” [The Articles of Faith and Principles of Church Government for Original Free Will Baptists (of the English General Baptist Heritage), 1976 revision 43].
The word “inspire” does not mean that God dictated every word that He wanted to be written. It means that God spoke to the hearts and minds of His chosen writers, revealing the truth that He wanted to convey to human beings. These writers then recorded this truth utilizing their peculiar personalities, experiences, literary styles, cultures, and even defects. That is the wonder of God that He can and does use frail, imperfect, finite, fallible creatures just like us to convey His infinite truths. That is truly remarkable!
Augustus Strong (Systematic Theology 102–103) states, “Every imperfection not inconsistent with truth in human composition may exist in inspired scripture. The Bible is God’s word, in the sense that it presents to us divine truth in human forms…Rightly understood, this very humanity of the Bible is proof of its divinity.” These writers must have felt compelled of God to write, probably to a particular audience. Yet, God has taken that Word and directed it to millions throughout history.
The writers surely did not foresee how far-reaching their writings would extend, and they could not have imagined how many people would be saved and inspired by their writings. Yet the hand of God was in the writing. God planted thoughts in their minds that superseded anything they could have imagined. The Word did not come from their imaginations; it came from the mind of God. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).
The writers were not scientists writing a science textbook, so the creation story is not a scientific account of the beginning of the universe and life; instead, it is an account of man’s faith in God as Creator. However, it is remarkable how close scientific theory comes to the Biblical account. These writers were all men of faith who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what they knew about God in light of their faith. The happy result is a book of faith—faith in God as Creator, Preserver, Savior, and Sanctifier of the world.
The writers used many methods to convey the central truth. They used and recorded oral tradition, history, personal experience, speculation, allegory, symbolism, metaphor, figurative language, poetry, prose, parables, and even myth. Myth is a “four-letter word” to many Christians when used in connection with the Bible, but leviathan, seven-headed dragons, and other monsters are mythological creatures used in scripture to convey truth. An allegory is a short story, similar to a parable, expressing truth using symbolic characters. Jesus certainly used parables, and preachers today use sermon illustrations, some of which are not necessarily factual, to help convey the meaning of the message they are trying to get across. The writers’ speculation is God’s truth.
The story of Adam and Eve may very well be allegorical. Adam is a symbolic name meaning man or dust. This name is symbolic for all humanity, not just males, and not just for one man long ago. Eve is also symbolic, meaning mother of all living. Adam and Eve were created in the Image of God and were morally innocent at creation, and they were told right from wrong. When they disobeyed God, they fell away from Him. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. That’s the story of all of us.
We are created in the Image of God and are morally innocent at birth. We are taught right from wrong by our parents, but when we sin, and we all sin, we fall away from God. We blame others for our sin, including the devil, but we must face the consequences for our sins. A part of sin is the refusal to accept responsibility for our sins. However, God’s Word tells us that if we repent, God will forgive our sins, and we can receive eternal life with Him.
That’s what the Bible means by saying it is profitable for reproof and correction. The Bible itself tells us what sin is, and it tells us there are consequences to sin—that means reproof. The Bible also tells us what to do to receive forgiveness for sins: to confess and repent of our sins, and He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)—that means correction. So the Bible is the source of understanding sin, its consequences, and for correcting our behavior.
The Bible is profitable for doctrine. That could be an understatement, if we dare say the Bible is ever understated. The Bible is indeed profitable for doctrine, but it is and must be our only source for doctrine. Our doctrines come from scripture and no other source. We might quote great theologians who might help us understand the scripture, but scripture is our only source, not anything that human beings can make up.
The Bible tells us who God is. He is Creator of the whole universe and everything in it. He created all the stars, all the planets, all their moons, all the comets, all asteroids, all minerals and gasses, and all life forms on any planet. God created the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. In short, God provides everything we need to live.
The Bible tells us that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, present everywhere, and eternal. We cannot answer where God came from, because the Bible doesn’t choose to reveal it, but we know that He has always been and always will be. God is merciful and full of grace and love. It would take more than one paragraph to tell everything the Bible says about God, but our source for knowing God is the Bible.
The Bible tells us that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Father is in heaven. He is the Creator and Provider that we just spoke of, but He miraculously became one of us in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ. The Son was and is God. He came in the flesh to tell us who God is, to give an example of how we should live, to die as an atonement for our sins, and to be resurrected to assure us of eternal life in the House of God. The Bible tells us of the Holy Spirit, God with us in this life to teach us that the Bible is true and to teach us the truth about God, salvation, and sanctification. The Holy Spirit is God with us now to remind us of sin and its consequences, to lead us down the right path of salvation, and to inspire us to do whatever God says do and go wherever God sends. He is present in worship, Bible study, and prayer. The Holy Spirit continually reinforces the Scriptures as the Word of God.
The Bible is also the source of all our other doctrines: of salvation, sanctification, the church, and last things. The Bible does not give details about last things, but it tells us precisely that God’s faithful children have the assurance of eternal life with Him, and that sinners are condemned to eternal suffering.
Finally, the Bible is profitable for instruction in righteousness. All businesses and professions have a code of ethics—that is a set of guidelines that people in those businesses or professions must adhere to. The Bible never uses a word that can properly be translated as “ethics” or “morals.” The Bible uses the term “righteousness.”
The Old Testament has a set of “Thou shalt nots” to tell us what is evil in the eyes of God. Jesus gave three commands that are a perfect guide to righteousness. They are: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30–31); and you shall treat other people like you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). If everybody in the world would do these three things, the world would change immediately—there would be no more crime, no more war, no need for jails, no more poverty, no more hatred, no more road rage, and no more negative attitudes toward others. Everyone would become brothers and sisters under God, our heavenly Father.
However, the earth is afflicted with sin. Therefore, Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit for Christians live by. Yet they are not suggestions, and they are not orders; they are the results of our living by the Spirit. If we truly have the Holy Spirit living in us, then we possess the fruits of the Spirit. We have love for God and our neighbor. We can even love our enemies enough to pray for their salvation. We possess joy. Christian joy is not happiness that comes from a moment of pleasure; it is such contentment in life in every situation that we constantly have a joy in the Lord even amid the turmoil. Some situations can cause unhappiness at the moment, but real joy is complete satisfaction in life that is given through the Holy Spirit. We have peace with God, peace within ourselves, and peace with other people who will let us have peace with them. People who refuse to grant us their peace are the people we can avoid but lift to God in prayer. Jesus said, “Pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Patience is a gift that comes from the Holy Spirit because it does not come naturally. But if we can develop true patience, we can be kind, good, and gentle toward others. Faithfulness to God, to one’s spouse, to one’s job or profession, and one’s obligations is a virtue that comes from the Holy Spirit. Temperance or self-control is the ability to control our behavior no matter what the circumstances. Substance abuse and emotions can cause us to lose self-control. We can control what we put into our bodies, but we cannot control our emotions. However, we must learn to control our reactions to emotions lest we harm others.
The point of all this is that the Bible is our complete guide to salvation, sanctification, and Christian living. It is the Word of God.
Note: Much of this article comes from the author’s book, A Systematic Theology for the Twenty-first Century (From an Arminian Perspective). Mount Olive, N.C.: Mount Olive College Press, 2002.