The Character of Scripture (2) – Scripture’s Titles and Features10 min read
Scripture’s Titles for Itself
Studies have often, and rightly, been done on the names and titles of the Lord Jesus, because those names and titles are intentionally meant to describe a certain aspect of His nature. So with Scripture, there are a number of different titles, even besides the common designations “Scripture” and “Word.”
Titles Communicating Its Authority. Even in our Psalm 19 passage, we saw different titles for Scripture, many of which carried a note of authority with them – titles like “Judgments,” “Statutes,” “Law,” “Precepts,” and such. Alone, these titles would still connote authority, but when it comes to Scripture these titles are qualified by being “of Yahweh.” This implies three things: (1) Scripture derives its authority from the nature of God Himself, for it is His Word. Thus it is not simply authoritative, but supremely authoritative. (2) God owns the Scriptures, thus making its composition, interpretation, and application thoroughly based on His own intention. Man has no claim on this Book. (3) Because God’s personal Name “Yahweh” is used, the Book He has given is personal and brings people into relationship with Him.
Titles Communicating Its Authenticity. Scripture not only derives its authority from God, but its very identity is rooted in God. It is called “The Holy Scriptures,” because it is set apart – a wholly unique set of writings, penned by the initiative of God. “Oracles of God” is another name, because Divine communication is the central point of the Bible; “Word of God” and “Word of Christ” are also used. The Spirit of God also emphasizes the veracity of His Book by calling it “The Word of Truth,” “The Scriptures of Truth,” and even just “Truth.” Though many have quibbled and quarreled about the authenticity of Scripture – the extent it is from God or the extent of its truthfulness – embedded in the very names of Scripture is the declaration that this book is wholly of God and inerrant. If a so-called “theologian” wants a partly-inspired, semi-true book, he should get a different book. The Bible is what it is – of God and concordant with His nature by its very definition. One does not have the Bible if it is not authentic in every way. One does not have the Bible if it is not central to the Christian faith. View the Book from its own claims, or get a different book!
Titles Communicating Its Nature. If Scripture did not have various aspects of what it is, we could expect only one or two titles; but its vast array of varying titles tells us it has far more depth and impact than most will ever realize. Just briefly, notice the different thoughts contained in these titles.
- As God’s Testimonies (Psalm 119:2), Scripture is God’s witness of Himself.
- As the Word of Life (Philippians 2:16), Scripture embodies the life-giving and live-reviving message of God.
- As the Burden of the Lord (Jeremiah 23:36), the Word of God is seen to be a weighty and solemn – perhaps judgment-bearing – communication.
- As God’s Way(s) (Psalm 119:3) it is God’s prescribed pattern.
- As The Book (Psalm 40:7-8), it is God’s singular volume of His dealings, past, present, and future.
- As The Word (1 Peter 2:2), it is the embodiment of God’s message and communication.
- As The Scriptures (Writings) (1 Corinthians 15:3), it is the God-given written record of His dealings and message.
- As The Prophecy (2 Peter 1:19-20), it is God speaking through men.
- As the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), it is God’s (and our) means of battle.
Features of the Scriptures – Scripture is…
A different way of saying “That man is a father” is to say, “That man leads and cares for his family as the God-ordained leader of his home.” This turns a title into a description or feature of the person. So with Scripture, though there are not names for every characteristic, there are assumptions in several texts which communicate different features of the Bible.
Scripture is Christ-Centered. A proof of this is in Luke 24, when the Lord conversed with two on the road to Emmaus. The text says, “He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” It could only be “all” if the entirety of Scripture is focused toward Him. He admitted such in John 5, “[The Scriptures] are they which testify of Me.” How could one not see him in the types, such as Isaac, Joseph, the Offerings, and the cries of many psalms? How could one not see Him as necessary to complete the Old Testament? How could one not see Him in prophecies? How could one not see Him either by contrast in man’s failures or comparison in examples of godliness? Scripture is about Christ. This matter’s doctrinally, because it will turn abstract observation into meaningful pursuit of seeing Christ’s glory unveiled.
Scripture is a Thoroughly Spiritual and Spirit-taught Book. The text that proves this is found in 1 Corinthians 2. As an apostle, Paul says, “Which things also we speak [truth which we find in Scripture], not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches [truth of a higher order than man’s mental compositions], but which the Holy Ghost teaches [thoroughly Spirit-guided]; comparing spiritual things with spiritual [thoroughly spiritual in nature].” Many approach the Bible like a “reliable historical document” before they approach it as a book from God. It has to be about history or about science before it is about spiritual things, some would say. (And yet, it is fully accurate in science and history, because both are God’s). Some say it is inspirational or purposed to boost self-esteem. It is none of these things. It is revelation from God about God to make us like God. If we approach it without understanding its nature, it will cease to hold the same power in our lives as it was designed for.
Scripture is True and Accurate. The Bible is full of statements like, “as God has said” or “as Scripture has said” or “[this is true, because] the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” These convey the assumption that when God speaks, whether written or orally, His statements are true and accurate. They correspond with what really is and with what really will happen. Scripture is not simply a perspective for the cultures “then and there” but timeless truth for “here and now.” God expects to be held to His Word; it is our obligation when reading it to do this. Thus, it is demanded that we not be intimidated by man’s “wisdom,” for it has no claim upon the veracity of God’s Word. “For truly I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)
Scripture is Unbreakable and Permanent. When Scripture was penned, it was “set in stone” as it were. God revealed, not random words, but content and a message that are embedded in Himself; thus His revelation endures simultaneous to His own changelessness. So then, we read, “The Scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35). In other words, it cannot be undone, reversed, made of no effect, etc. God says in Isaiah that His Word will not return unto Him void, but it will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it. As to permanence, we read, “Forever, O LORD, Your Word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89). In other words, if the Word is established, never to move, in the unshakable dwelling-place of God, nothing of any created order could shake its existence or its nature.
Scripture is Always Profitable and Purposeful. James asks a rhetorical question to his audience that demands a specific answer and a specific assumption to make any sense. He says, “Do you think the Scripture says in vain, ‘The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy?’” The answer has to be no, because it is assumed that Scripture is always profitable and purposeful. Further, we can find Paul saying to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” We live in a world that is full of vanity. Its entertainment is vanity. Its motivations are vanity. Its pursuits are vanity. And all too often believers are fooled into believing that they can profit from the world’s things. The spiritual Christian directs his attention to true profiting found in the Word. It will not cease to profit; it will not cease to fulfill its purpose. To any passage we can say, “Does Scripture say in vain…?” and always reply with a resounding, “No!” We must let it have its due impact, for it is from God.
Scripture is The Substance of a Man’s Preaching. When Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch, he had a message to give. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” (Acts 8:35). Philip, even in gospel preaching, was an expository preacher. Peter in Acts 2, Stephen in Acts 7, Paul in Acts 17 – all of these men were thoroughly Biblical in their preaching. They had no message of their own: they were burdened to convey the message of God which He had already revealed. “Preach the Word” was the charge of Timothy’s ministry (2 Timothy 4:2). Such is the teacher’s obligation today. Scripture, by virtue of its depth, empowers the teacher to function as “the utterances/oracles of God” even without merely reading a passage over and over again. Communicating the communication of God is the ideal of every assembly’s teaching ministry. The minister of the Word has no right to be anything but that – a minister of the Word. “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” (Nehemiah 8:8).
Scripture is The Content of God’s Promises. When God calls people into connection with Himself, He has a goal of blessing in the end for those people. These blessings are made up of promises. To Israel, there were the promises of a Messiah, a Kingdom, restoration, etc. To the Gentiles, there was the promise of the rainbow – a sign that God would never again flood the earth. To the Church, there are the promises of a coming Saviour, a day of reward, eternal union with Christ, glory, and so many other beautiful causes for hope. These promises enliven the hearers, bring confidence in the goodness of God, and grant a source of consistency through life’s ever-changing sea of tumult. How do we know these promises? “[The gospel of God concerning His Son] He had promised before by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures.” (Romans 1:2). In that the Book is about God, it is about His faithfulness to us; have we enjoyed and lived in the light of such faithfulness?
Scripture is The Believer’s Source of Learning, Hope, and Comfort. “For whatsoever things were written in former times were written for our instruction, that we through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). Our involvement in the Book will determine our vibrancy in spiritual living. Without instruction, our ignorance will give way to error. Without endurance, our faithfulness will yield to complacency and lethargy. Without encouragement, our strength will be traded for weakness. Without hope, our glorious anticipation will give way to anxiety at the sight of temporal things. Such needs are what God had in mind when He entrusted us with Scripture. “He knows our frame,” and He desires to strengthen it by His vast power. Such power is in the Book.