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October 2005

Believing the Bible

‘Believing the Bible’ is something all Evangelicals claim to do. But what if I say, ‘I believe in using safety ladders to rescue people from fires’, and then refuse to use one when my own house goes up in flames? It means I never really trusted in ladders at all. My belief was merely nominal.

Suppose I loudly affirm my neighbour’s integrity but refuse to lend him £10. Then I am declaring in practical terms that (although he might not rob a bank) I can’t actually trust him with my money!

Many who claim to ‘believe’ the Bible fall short in just this way. Affirming that the Bible is ‘our sole authority for faith and practice’ sounds grand. But if we then adopt a lifestyle dictated by what others think rather than what the Scriptures teach, we deny the integrity of God’s Word.

Practicalities and distrust

I therefore ask, do we

really believe in the authority of the Bible? Believing it for great gospel issues — like salvation through faith in Jesus Christ — sounds fine. But if we then refuse or neglect its guidance in other matters, we declare in practice that we never really believed it all that much!

If we agree to be saved by biblical truth but decline to apply the Bible’s teaching seriously to life’s common issues, does it not suggest that we expect to be ‘short-changed’ by the Lord if we do? What lies behind such distrust of God’s Word?

Firstly, we may have a sneaking suspicion that while the Bible may indeed be infallible, it is not up to handling the practicalities of twenty-first century life. After all, we live in the age of DVDs and multinationals — and God’s Word never mentions computers or global warming!

But the Bible

issufficient. As the Westminster Confessionputs it: ‘The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture’.

Problems and fears

Secondly (and we would never dare own up to this!) we sometimes secretly suspect that God really intended us no good after all. If I follow the Bible all the way, won’t it mean a lot of grief and little satisfaction — especially since (as the servant with one talent convinced himself) the Lord is tight-fisted with his favours (Matthew 25:24-25)? Such thinking, of course, has been the devil’s lie from the beginning (Genesis 3:4-5).

Our third reservation fears that a robust biblicism will cause problems, leading us into harsh fundamentalism or sectarianism. This fear is understandable in the light of some Christian behaviour but it is still wrong. It betrays ignorance of the Bible’s inner message — the unsearchable riches of Christ.

We must surely admit (to our shame) that these ugly and divisive sins too often mar our reformed witness. But they

never arise through a right use and application of the Bible’s teaching, for all their self-justifying appeals to Scripture!

Peace and joy

The Bible was not given to carve us up into self-righteous, squabbling sects called ‘churches’ — incessantly falling out with one another over points of practice and doctrine and generally ignoring the awful spiritual plight of those around us.

The Bible was given rather to lead us into a personal -experience of salvation through a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:2-3; 20:31) — and thereby liberate us from all that is sinful, petty and mean.

God gives us eternal life, and this life is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). It empowers Christians, as salt and light in society, to serve Christ and love others — thereby glorifying God.

But we shall only know this ‘more abundant’ life (John 10:10) if we follow the Bible — all the way along the line!

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