by James M. Bramblet
To some, it may seem unnecessary to point out the centrality of God in the Bible as this fact seems so obvious. But we live in a day when humanism has so pervaded the thinking of the world that even God’s Holy Word has not escaped its ravages. We often hear it said that the Bible contains good literature, that it presents a system of ethics that is valuable to men, or that it contains valuable history. All these things are true but they fall far short of indicating the veal nature and purpose of the Bible.
Christians sometimes erroneously think that the main purpose of the Bible is to reveal to us a way of salvation from sin. This view of the Bible does not see God as the center, but it sees man as the center. I will read the Bible so I can find out how I can be saved from my sin. In Christ’s time, the Jews took this same view of the Scriptures and the Lord rebuked them as follows:
“Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39-40).
Jesus was saying that He is the central figure in all of Scripture. Salvation is found in a Person and not in a book. The Bible was written to reveal Christ, not as a blueprint for us to be able to build a heavenly home. We should read and study the Scriptures in order to get acquainted with Him. When we come to know Christ we will discover that He is the answer to eternal life; but that is a by-product and not the main purpose of Bible study. It is possible to read the Scriptures from a selfish motive, as some of the Jews did, and never come to know the Savior of the Scriptures.
Another humanistic use of the Bible by some Christians is to think of it as a source for building their doctrinal system. As ultimate-originals, we tend to put ourselves at the center of everything. We each have certain pet ideas which we like to promote as our own. It is possible to use the Bible to try to find authority for these ideas. Once we have done this, then we can present them as being “Scriptural,” and, of course, anyone who disagrees with them will be “unscriptural.”
Much of the doctrinal bickering among Christians comes from using Scripture in this way, for if it is our doctrine or our philosophy, then, of course, we need to defend it. We need to adopt the thinking of Christ when He said:
“My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but He that seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true” (John 7:16-18).
We need to study the Bible so that we can think God’s thoughts after Him, not so that we can promote our own ideas. If we “will do His will” then we will open the Bible seeking to know His mind. Only if we see ourselves as ultimate-originals or little gods in our own right will we talk about our doctrine. Sincere Christians, recognizing that they are images of God, should seek to know the mind of their great Original, God. When we differ, we should humbly seek to find our error. To do otherwise indicates, according to Scripture, that we are carnal and walk as men. “For ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, ‘I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos.’ Are ye not carnal?” (I Cor. 3:3-4).
A third humanistic approach to Bible study is to study the Bible in order to prepare ourselves for some Christian ministry. The humanism in this approach is even more subtle than the other two because it is true that we must know the Bible if we are to serve God. The error is in studying it only for that purpose. We are to study the Bible in order to know God, and what we know of Him we can witness to others. This witnessing is a Christian ministry; but it is the result of knowing God and not the objective we are to have in mind when studying God’s Word.
By now it should be clear that the Bible should not be studied from a humanistic, but rather, from a theistic point of view. God is central to His Scriptures and His written Word only makes sense when it is studied with that point in mind. He has revealed Himself through His general revelation in creation. He also reveals Himself by the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Godhead. But His primary revelation of Himself is through the Bible. We would not know that the other two were intended to reveal God if we did not read that this is so in the Bible. Jesus made it clear that the Old Testament was a revelation concerning Himself: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). In verse 44 of the same chapter, He includes the Psalms in those Scriptures specifically mentioned as revealing Himself.
We speak of the Bible as the Holy Bible. Peter tells us that it was written by “holy men” (II Pet. 1:21). But primarily, it is holy because it reveals a Holy God. The stories and accounts in the Bible vary, but each story and each page were written for the purpose of revealing God to men. God’s holiness is so great that He could not reveal Himself directly to fallen man. When God manifested Himself at Mt. Sinai, His glories were so great that the people withdrew and said to Moses, “Speak thou with us and we shall hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Ex. 20:19). So God has written us a book to tell us about Himself. God could show us His great power in creation but only in a book could He tell us of His love. As we study the things God has made, we are aware of His great knowledge, but we see His graciousness in dealing with sin only in the book He has written for us.
Man was created in the image of God, and like God, he is a spiritual being. The created world is too impersonal to satisfy the spiritual needs of man. That God’s message is a spiritual message is demonstrated by those who are able to understand it. We are told that the “natural man,” or the unsaved man, cannot understand God’s message at all (I Cor. 2:14). The carnal Christian who is dominated by the flesh can only understand the simplest spiritual truth, or the “milk” of the Word (I Cor. 3:1-2). It is only the spiritual man who is able to “judge all things” and fully understand the spiritual message of God’s Word (I Cor. 2:15).
Since sin has come into the world, man needs a graphic and personal description of his great Original in order to overcome the evils and discords resulting from sin. God has been gracious in meeting this need through Jesus Christ, the living Word, and through the Bible, the written Word, which reveal Christ to us.
Excerpted from Chapter 4 of An Introduction to the Christian School by James M. Bramblet, Copyright © 1985 by James M. Bramblet.