This probably isn’t going to be the most popular post I’ve ever written but it may be one of the most important. It won’t be the most popular–not because it is controversial or has a message people hate–but because this is something so many just don’t really care about. It’s rarely taught anymore and that’s probably because it’s something that doesn’t meet “felt needs” or provide any specific application.
But, oh, it is so critical we understand this as believers so that we can protect ourselves from the very real danger of false doctrine and from that self-centered religion that calls itself by the name of Christianity but looks nothing like it.
What is this, you may ask?
Well, it’s about the Bible. Understanding just what it is and being dedicated to interpreting it correctly. In other words: dividing it rightly. Officially it’s called Hermeneutics.
Hermeneutics is a big word, but it simply means this (according to dictionary.com): the science of interpretation, especially of the Scriptures.
I was listening to a powerful sermon yesterday entitled “Cutting it Straighter” by Dr. Abner Chou. He is a professor at the Masters University, so it was more like a lecture and there was a lot to take in because he talks pretty fast. But I was absolutely struck with just how important it is that we approach the scriptures with the right hermeneutics. Improper hermeneutics is the path to all false teaching.
Dr. Chou encouraged his listeners to first have a hermeneutic of surrender. We must be willing to bow our knee to what the scripture says. He went on to say how important it is that we know what the author intended to say.
Not what we want it to say. Not what it seems to say at first glance. Not some lesson we like that we can squeeze out of a particular passage. But what the author intended to say.
Have you ever thought of that before? This sermon was for pastors who are weekly expositing the Word before their congregations, but it is helpful for any of us who are in the Word on a regular basis.
For, you see, reading the Bible is only half of the equation. How we approach what we read is equally important.
Have you ever heard someone say that they read their Bible every day and yet they have no fruit to show for it? This is because they do not have a hermeneutic of surrender.
So just what is the Bible? Why does it matter? I thought it might be a good idea to just give an overview of this marvelous book to increase our awe of it and its contents. To give us the bigger picture of God’s plan. This will help us to remember that the Bible isn’t just about us in this minuscule bit of time and space. It will help us to understand that there is great value to all verses of the Bible–not just the ones that comfort and encourage us. And it will remind us of the Author, Who, behind the scenes, has woven all of scripture together and then preserved it so perfectly, that it can only be described as miraculous.
There are 66 books in the Bible. They were written over a period of 15 centuries by over 40 different authors. It is broken down into the Old Testament, which has 39 books and the New Testament, which has 27 books.
The Old Testament focuses on the history of Israel and the promise of the coming Savior.
The New Testament focuses on the person of Christ and the establishment of the Church.
The Old Testament is broken down into five categories–
1. The Law (5 books: Genesis – Deuteronomy)
2. History (12 books: Joshua – Esther)
3. Wisdom (5 books: Job – Song of Solomon)
4. Major Prophets (5 books: Isaiah – Daniel)
5. Minor Prophets (12 books: Hosea – Malachi)
There were then 400 years of silence that was broken by the arrival of John the Baptist announcing that the promised Savior had come.
The New Testament is broken down in this way–
1. The four Gospels record the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Of special note: Matthew looks at Christ through the perspective of His Kingdom; Mark through the perspective of His servanthood; Luke through the perspective of His humanness; and John through the perspective of His deity.
2. Acts records the impact of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which results in the establishment of the Church.
3. The 21 epistles are written to churches and individuals to explain the significance of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
4. Revelation which starts by recording the current church age and culminates with Christ’s return to establish His earthly kingdom.
Every portion of scripture–whether Old or New Testament– relates to one of these dominant themes–
1. The character and attributes of God.
2. The tragedy of sin and disobedience to God’s holy standard.
3. The blessedness of faith and obedience to God’s standard.
4. The need for a Savior by whose righteousness and substitution sinners can be forgiven, declared just, and transformed.
5. The coming glorious end of redemptive history in the Lord Savior’s earthly kingdom and the subsequent eternal reign and glory of God and Christ.
(The above is from Biblical Doctrine , pages 42-47, by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue)
Answers in Genesis also provides a framework through which we can understand the overall themes of scripture. As Ken Ham and Stacia McKeever put it here in this article: Most people look at the Bible as a book that contains many interesting stories and theological teaching. While this is true, the Bible is so much more—it’s a history book that reveals the major events of history that are foundational to the Bible’s important messages.
They have come up with these 7 C’s that will help us to remember the Bible’s overall theme and message–
1. Creation (In the beginning…)
2. Corruption (Adam and Eve and original sin)
3. Catastrophe (The Great Flood)
4. Confusion (Tower of Babel)
5. Christ (The Coming of Jesus Christ to earth the first time)
6. Cross (Jesus’s death on the cross and sacrifice for sin brings hope to all)
7. Consummation (The second coming and final reign of Jesus Christ!)
Okay, so that is a lot of information. And even this is just touching the surface, quite honestly. So what is my purpose in giving it to you? I want you to see that the Bible is not just some book that is full of unrelated verses. It is not just a book that we should let lie around gathering dust while we read the fodder of modern man and their take on the Bible. No!
It is a book that we should pick up daily with reverence and awe. It is something that should be studied with diligence and a desire to know and understand the bigger picture. And it is something that should be approached with humility and surrender and a willingness to obey. It is critical for us to interpret in context and to be dedicated to using sound, biblical resources as we seek to understand what the Word says. We must use the proper hermeneutic and take care to divide it rightly. Because…
It’s not just a book!