The Qualities of Scripture: Perfection
What makes the Bible the Word of God is the fact that God speaks in it. We can summarise this doctrine with a simple statement: What the Bible says is exactly what God says. Now if all this is true, then what God said and what God will say in the Bible it’s going to be very different from what we say to ourselves and what other people say in the culture around us.
The Word of God always tells us something fresh, something that we have never heard before. And what’s that? That God made us for his glory. This is why God makes himself heard in Scripture.
The Triune God says things in the Bible to change us and to prepare us for the perfection of glory, a condition of life which is free from sin, evil, suffering and imperfection. So in that sense the Bible is perfect. There’s nothing lacking in the Word of God for growing in holiness and developing a passion for the perfection of God. Psalm 19:7-8 says this about the Word of God:
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
Here, the Hebrew poet tells us that God’s revelation is specific and is also perfect for the spiritual community. Since the Word of God is complete it would be a crime to add or to subtract anything from Scripture. In fact- we have strong warnings in Scripture against the practice of manipulating the content of divine revelation. In Deuteronomy 4:1-2 Moses said:
Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
The first thing we see here is the connection between the Promised Land and the commandments of Yahweh. If Israel and the generations to come want to live on the land and enjoy physical wellbeing, they must be faithful to the words of the Lord. But something more important than the “land” is at stake here.
The verse implies that God will be their Lord as long as they don’t mess around with his commandments. So the thing that Moses wants the people to understand is that listening to words with inferior authority will make our commitments to God become weak or even neutral. The other text that forbids adding or subtracting to the Word of God is Revelation 22:18-19:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
The warning is serious. And it shows us that God himself puts a tremendous importance on his words. God obviously wouldn’t be saying this if He didn’t think that his divine revelation wasn’t perfect. It seems to me that the church hasn’t fully appreciate the weight of this text. We’ve downplayed the seriousness of the warning by insisting that God doesn’t mean what he says or by deliberately adding things to the prophecy. We need to remember that God has a meaning for every word he says and that “all” his works and words are perfect.
Since the Bible is the basis of our faith and necessary for our salvation and perfection in glory we need to love Scripture. How do we do this? I have some suggestions for you:
First, people who want to live for the glory of God must interact with the Word of the Lord as if God himself is speaking to us though his mouth. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul tells us that the church should engaged the Scripture.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
You see. The church in thessalonica received the message of the gospel as Word of God and God immediately began to work in their lives. I believe this also applies to how we listen to the preaching of the Bible. Some people listen to a sermon but they they say to themselves “there was nothing” in that sermon for me. This attitude is very often the outcome of pride or because we’re listening sermons with the anticipation of finding things to criticise. If we’re doing this we are telling God: Lord I’m not ready to let You say anything to me. What is needed here is repentance and humility.
The second reason for why we should love the Bible is because God is the author of it. Don’t forget: God is not an everyday person. He is the King of kings and Lord of Lords, Father-Son and Holy Spirit -the great and only immortal God.
If we love the literature produced by poets and theologians and philosophers and scientists, why we shouldn’t we love the writings of God, especially when all human writings are limited and imperfect. I love the way Psalm 12 describes the speech of God:
And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.
Another reason for why we should love the Bible is because the Bible equips us to live with glorious purpose in life. Without the Bible we are dead to God and if we are dead to God life becomes tedious and exhausting. The Word of God helps us to experience the joy of living for God and the comfort of “being” loved by the God of the Bible. There are many more reasons to love the Word of God but I think we have enough to see that the Christian life must be interpreted, guided, conditioned and transformed by the Word of God.