Why Was the Bible Written?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 15-16

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 15:4-6

Many Christians believe that Bible was written to give us the word of God. Therefore, because the Bible is the word of God, we should believe and obey it, every single jot and tittle of it, literally.

Where do Christians get this idea?

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-16)

These Christians believe that the Bible should be taken literally because it was breathed out by God. Therefore, if we want righteousness, which generally means perfect moral behavior to these Christians, then we should literally believe and obey the Bible because it teaches, reproves, corrects, trains you in righteousness.

But, is that why the Bible was written?

My answer is absolutely not.

First, 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is theopneustos. This is the only time that the word is used in the Bible. And, it is believed that Paul coined this term himself. Theo means God, and pneustos comes from the word pneuma, which means spirit, breath, or wind.

Therefore, Paul could be saying that “all scripture breathed out by God” or “all scripture is God breathed.” In this way, all scripture comes by God’s breath or God’s Spirit. As a student of the Old Testament, Paul would know that God’s spirit was also God’s breath. The Hebrew word ru’ah was used for both.

However, Paul could also be saying “all God-breathed scripture.” If we translated it this way, then we come away with a slightly different understanding in English. This would imply that there is scripture, but there is also God-breathed scripture. In other words, there is an understanding of scripture, but there is another understanding of scripture when God breathes his Spirit into it.

This latter idea, that there are different understandings of Scripture, fits exactly with what Paul says in 2 Corinthians. There, Paul says that there is a literal understanding of scripture by the letter that leads to death and there is an understanding of scripture by the Spirit, a God-breathed understanding, that leads to life. The Spiritual understanding of scripture comes because Christ’s crucifixion, his suffering, tore the veil that blinded us to this true Spiritual meaning of scripture.

Further, Paul uses two key words – faith and righteousness – that help us understand what he means by God-breathed scripture. Over the last week, I have written about the meaning of faith and righteousness in “What Is Faith?” and “What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?

The key to understanding both words is to know the one thing that Jesus said all scripture spoke about. Twice in Luke 24, Jesus says that the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, that is all scripture, spoke about one thing – that the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead three days later so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all nations.

For 40 days, from his resurrection to his ascension, Jesus taught the disciples the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead. He told them this was what all scripture was about. But, to do this, Jesus had to interpret and translate the scriptures for them. In other words, the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead was not the obvious literal meaning.

Further, Jesus told his disciples the night before he died that he would ask his Father to “give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16)

This “Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14)

So, the Holy Spirit was given to us to be with us forever. The Holy Spirit teaches all things and brings to our remembrance what Jesus said. Jesus said it was necessary that he suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Because Jesus spoke these words, the Holy Spirit speaks these words since the Holy Spirit only speaks what Jesus speaks.

Therefore, God-breathed scripture, Spirit-filled scripture, is all about the necessity of Christ suffering and rising from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Remember, this cannot be understood literally from the scriptures themselves as Jesus had to interpret, translate, and open our minds to them. The Holy Spirit, through God-breathed scripture, does exactly the same thing.

While the meaning and understanding of theopneustos is contested, Paul says something very similar in Romans 15:4-6.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Just like in 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says that the things written were written for our instruction.

In 2 Timothy 3:14-16, Paul used the words faith and righteousness to speak of the necessity of Christ suffering and rising from the dead.

In Romans 15:4-6, Paul uses the word endurance instead of faith and righteousness to imply suffering. Endurance means the ability to withstand hardship or adversity, the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.

The very meaning of the word endurance implies that suffering is involved. In fact, earlier in Romans, Paul says links suffering and endurance. Romans 5:3 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that sufferings produces endurance.”

According to Romans 15:4, one way scripture instructs us is through suffering.

Also, Paul says that another way scripture instructs us is through encouragement. The Greek word for encouragement is paraklesis. It also means comfort and exhortation.

When Jesus said the Father would send us a helper, a comforter, he said the Father would send us a parakletos. The Holy Spirit brings the encouragement of the scripture to us. He is the helper, the comforter, the exhorter of the scriptures.

But, what does the Holy Spirit say?

Exactly what Jesus said.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

And, it cannot be emphasized enough, this meaning of the scriptures had to be interpreted and translated to us. Our minds had to be opened to it. It is not the literal, obvious, plain meaning of the scriptures.

In the very next verse, verse 5, Paul calls God the God of endurance and encouragement. God is the God of suffering that produces life for repentance and forgiveness of sins. As this God, he grants, or gives, you “to live in such harmony with one another.”

The phrase “to live in such harmony” is “to auto phronein” in the Greek. The word auto means his. And, the word phronein means think, set one’s mind on, to be minded.

Paul is saying that God of endurance and encouragement, the God that suffers to give life, is giving us his mind. We are to have God’s mind toward one another. We are to think like God towards another.

How does God think towards us?

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

God suffers for us, his enemies, to bring us life.

God gives us his mind “according to Christ Jesus.”

God gives us his mind, which is the mind of Christ. And, the mind of Christ was to glorify God. In John 17:1-4, Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given me authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

Why did God give us his mind to suffer to bring forth life, which is the same mind that Jesus had?

“That together you may with one voice glorify God.”

The Greek word for together is homothymadon. Homo means the same. And, thymadon comes from the word thymos, which means passion (as if breathing hard).

Breathing?

Like God breathed?

God gives us the mind of suffering to bring life so that we can have the same passion as Christ to glorify God.

It was in his hour, his crucifixion, the necessity of his suffering, which led to his rising from the dead, that Jesus glorified God.

We are to have this same passion so that we can all glorify God together in one voice.

Or, present your bodies a living sacrifice as Paul says in Romans 12:1.

Look how similar this is to what Paul says in Philippians 1:29-2:8.

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe [that is have faith] in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. So if there is any encouragement [paraklesis] in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy be being of the same mind [to auto hina phronete], having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The Bible was written for our instruction. It was God-breathed, inspired, so that we would know what God was really saying.

God was really saying that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

But, this is not the literal meaning of scripture. The true meaning of scripture can only come to you if Jesus translates and interprets scripture for you. He has to open your mind to this meaning.

And, Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit forever to teach us and tell us exactly what Jesus taught the disciples. It is the Holy Spirit’s interpretation and translation of the scriptures that makes them God-breathed.

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning is how the scriptures “are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning causes us to know it is suffering for our enemies that leads to life for us and our enemies.

The literal meaning of scripture just produces death.

At the Word of Jesus 3,000 Lived

Today’s Reading: Exodus 31-34

I’m sure we have all heard someone say, “God said…” Many times throughout history, leaders of countries, nations, and peoples have said, “God said…” God is always on their side. I still see leaders doing this all the time today.

So, have you heard someone say “God said…” and wondered to yourself, “I don’t think God really said that. That doesn’t sound like God to me.”

Perhaps some of us are even bold enough to admit that we have said, “God said…” But, at some point later in our life, we came to know God in a deeper way and realized God didn’t really say what we thought he said.

Why do people wrongly attribute things to God? Because they want to believe that whatever they are doing and saying is right. We are always right in our own eyes. So, in order to justify our own words and actions, we attribute those words and actions to God.

If people do that today, if leaders of people do that today, then is it possible that people and leaders of people did this in the Bible? Is it possible that God recorded people wrongly saying “God said…” in the Bible for our learning? If this is a common phenomenon among people, to attribute some words or activity that we want to be true to God, which I believe it is, then why wouldn’t God record events like this in the Bible?

I have to come to believe that God did indeed record people wrongly attributing words and actions to God in the Bible. He did this for our learning. In Romans 15:4, Paul says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” And, Paul, speaking of the nation of Israel, says in 1 Corinthians 10:11-13, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”

Everything in the Bible is written for our learning. That doesn’t mean that everything written in the Bible is an example that we should put into practice. People learn the most from their failures. So, why shouldn’t we expect failures to be recorded in the Bible so that we can learn from them?

Any temptation we suffer has been common to all people throughout all history. If we today wrongly attribute words and actions to God, then shouldn’t we expect that to be recorded in the Bible too? Why wouldn’t God record these failings for our learning and instruction?

I only began to read the Bible this way when I truly allowed the Holy Spirit to be my teacher. I only began to separate what was truly God from what people professed to be God in the Bible when I let Jesus be my translator (see Luke 24). Jesus is the clearest, simplest view of God ever. If we have seen Jesus, then we have seen the Father. So, when I began to focus on Jesus first and let him show me where he was and was not in the Old Testament, then the Scriptures began to take on an entirely new meaning. My learning took a dramatic increase.

Many people don’t want to read the Bible this way. It’s too scary. They want a flat Bible where everything written is equally true, equally valid, and equally worthy of us doing. But, that doesn’t require any discernment at all. It’s equivalent to asking God for a set of rules to follow. That’s not life though. God wants us to depend on us voice. He wants us to discern his still, small voice in the tempest that is going on around us.

Therefore, I believe that God has written the Bible in such a way that it is not flat. There are multiple voices speaking in the Bible. And, we need the Holy Spirit to teach us which voice is God’s. The Holy Spirit teaches us this way through the Bible so that he can lead us in exactly the same way in our every day life. Every day we have multiple voices speaking to us. And, not all of them are God. We need to be able to discern which voice is God’s and which voice is not.

I believe the clearest evidence of the need to read the Bible with this sort of discernment is Romans 12:1-2, which says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

See, all of us, myself included, like to quote the part about not being conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewing of our mind. However, almost all of us leave off the last part, which is the most important and explains why we are to be transformed and have our minds renewed. Why our are we transformed and our minds to be continually renewed? “So that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The Holy Spirit gives us discernment so that we can test the Bible. What in this book is really God? What in this book is just someone professing something to be God but really isn’t?

Perhaps, you’ve read this far and think I have lost it. Perhaps, you think I’m trying to make the Bible say whatever I want it to say. Perhaps you think I am denying the truth of the Bible. But, that is not so. I want to clearly see Jesus in it. i want to discern what is God and what is not.

So, with that long introduction, let me give you an example to show what I mean.

MOSES SPEAKS AND 3,000 DIE

Moses was the leader of the nation of Israel. Therefore, I believe there were times when he was just like every other leader of every other nation throughout history – sometimes he wrongly attributed words and actions to God. I think Exodus 32 is an example of Moses doing this.

At the beginning of the chapter, Moses is on the mountain with God. He’s gone a long time and the people don’t know what happened to him. So, Aaron tells the people to take off their earrings so he can make a golden calf for them to worship.

Now, Moses obviously didn’t write about this in real time. He wrote about this event some period of time after it happened. So, while all scripture is inspired by God, we can also see Moses’ personality and perception coming through. This is Moses’ retelling of what happened, but a retelling inspired by the Holy Spirit for our learning.

In Exodus 32:7, Moses writes that God said to him, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.” It’s always bothered me that God said this to Moses. It never made sense to me. God called Israel Moses’ people? God said Moses brought them out of Egypt? Everywhere else in scripture Israel is God’s chosen people. Everywhere else in scripture it is God that brought Israel out of Egypt by his mighty hand. I don’t think God just had a slip of the tongue here or was blaming Moses for what the people were doing while he wasn’t with them. No, I think we are seeing evidence of Moses’ pride coming through. He is taking credit for things that God did.

Then, Moses has a conversation about God’s wrath burning against Israel. Was it really God’s wrath that was “burning hot” against Israel? Or, was it Moses’ wrath? Was there some of that old spirit that killed an Egyptian rearing its ugly head again in Moses?

When Moses comes down the mountain, he sees the golden calf. Verse 19 says, “Moses’ anger burned hot.” Why doesn’t it say that God’s angered burned hot? Is it important that it was Moses’ anger that burned hot? Was Moses putting his anger onto God to justify his own actions?

So, Moses asked Aaron what could the people have done to cause you to make a golden calf for them to worship. In verse 22, Aaron replied, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot.” Aaron sees the burning hot anger coming from Moses. And, Moses doesn’t correct him on that. Moses doesn’t say, “It’s not me you have to worry about. It’s God wrath and burning hot anger that you better worry about.”

In verse 26, Moses responded to everything he saw, saying, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.” That’s interesting. If Moses wanted to know who was on the Lord’s side, why didn’t he say, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to him.” In Joshua 5, when Joshua meets the commander of the Lord’s army, Joshua asks whose side is he on – Israel’s or the Canaanites? The commander of the Lord’s army says neither. He’s on God’s side. That’s not what Moses seems to ask or answer though. Moses wanted to know who was on his side, which he believed to be God’s side.

So, all the sons of Levi gather around Moses. Verse 27 says, “And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kills his brother and his companion and his neighbor.'” Many, many times in the Old Testament we read, “God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel…'” God would say something to Moses and tell Moses to say it to Israel. But, that doesn’t happen here. Moses says something without any instruction from God, but Moses attributes it to God as if God told him to say it. And, it isn’t interesting that Moses standing in the gate, the place of man’s government, when he said this.

Now, Jesus told us over and over to love our enemies, to love our neighbor, to love those that persecute us, etc. Therefore, does it really seem like God would have told Moses to tell one of the tribes of his people to kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor? Or, was Moses tired of having the people grumble and complain to him about God leading them out of Egypt? Was Moses looking for support? Is it possible that when the tribe of Levi came to his side, Moses said let’s get rid of all those who are complaining against me?

Verse 28 says, “And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell.” Levi did according to what Moses said. Why doesn’t the Bible say Levi did according the word of God? Could it be because that’s not what God said to do?

Now, I’m sure there are many of you thinking I’m just twisting scripture. You’re thinking I’m reading way too much into this. But, their is a contrasting event in the New Testament that makes believe everything I have written so far. And, i believe what Moses did and wrote was given to us to directly contrast with the event this particular event in the New Testament.

JESUS SPEAKS AND 3,000 LIVE

In Acts 1:6, the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” Even after living with Jesus for three years and being taught by the resurrected Jesus for 40 days, the disciples still want to overthrow the Roman empire and have the kingdom restored through some sort of revolution with the sword. But, Jesus responded it was not for them to know times and seasons. Jesus says in verse 8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Interestingly, the Greek word witnesses is martys. It is where we get our word martyr. Jesus told the disciples to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit so they would be ready to die, just like he did, to bring about the kingdom instead of being ready to kill.

In Acts 2, the 120 disciples locked themselves in the upper room. They were all praying in one accord. And, the Holy Spirit comes rushing upon them, giving them the power to speak words in other known languages. The 120 disciples spoke about the mighty works of God, they spoke the words of Jesus, to Jews gathered from all over the world. The power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, came to strengthen the disciples so they would be willing to die in order that God could gather his people through them.

Peter goes on to explain what happened. They weren’t drunk as some thought. Rather, this was the beginning of the Spirit of God being poured out on all flesh. The Spirit of God is life and freedom. Peter powerfully preaches through the Holy Spirit the words of Jesus.

Acts 2:41 says, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

How interesting! Peter preaches Christ and him crucified, the word of God, with the power of the Holy Spirit and 3,000 people came to life.

At the word of Moses, the tribe of Levi killed 3,000 of their own brothers by the sword.

Jesus said that those who live by the sword would die by the sword. Jesus told Peter to put away the sword. Jesus is the image of God, the exact imprint of his nature. Did God tell Moses to tell the sons of Levi to put the sword on their side and kill 3,000 of their brothers? Or did Moses say that and wrongly attribute it to God?

Is it just a coincidence that the when Jesus, the Word of God, was preached that 3,000 souls were saved? That 3,000 souls lived instead of dying?

Or, should the fact that 3,000 lived by the word of Jesus and 3,000 died by the word of Moses, a man, a leader of a nation, tell us that we are to purposefully contrast these events so that we can learn from Israel’s example? Should we not take heed lest we fall to the temptation that is common to all men?

I think this is precisely why these contrasting events are recorded in the Bible.

We need to see Jesus. We need to know Jesus intimately. We need to be transformed by him, having our minds continually renewed, so that by testing we can discern what the will of God is, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

God is life! Let us follow Jesus!