The word literal is complicated. According to one of the first definitions in the dictionary, literal means: “adhering...to the ordinary construction of primary meaning of a term or expression.” In other words, being literal can just mean saying what you mean to say, giving primary importance in the moment to...
Consider this verse from the Bible:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
What the Word Is
Notice that God’s communication with us, which is normally referred to as the Word of God, is described here as the Word of Christ. That phrase appears only twice in the New Testament. Even so, it reminds us of a very important truth:
The whole Bible is one story, and it is all about Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “The Scriptures… bear witness about me” (John 5:39). On the road to Emmaus, Jesus took two confused disciples through the Old Testament Scriptures, showing them “in all the scriptures, the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).
Jesus Christ is the central figure in the whole Bible, in both the Old and the New Testaments. The Old Testament anticipates him, and the New Testament reveals and enjoys him.
The point of the Bible is that we know, enjoy, love, serve, and believe in and live for Jesus Christ. He is the Savior, the Lord of all.
This is the great theme of Colossians: In him, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (1:19). In him, God has triumphed over all the dark powers (2:15). In him, believers are rooted and built up and established in the faith (2:7).
The word of Christ, the Bible, is God speaking to us about his Son, or God speaking to us through his Son.
New Thinking about the Bible
The Christian church has been in agreement for nearly 2,000 years that the Bible is the Word of God. We agree this word is one that speaks primarily about his Son, Jesus Christ. I say nearly 2,000 years, because about a hundred years ago some people introduced a new and very different view of the Bible.
Charles Darwin grasped the minds and hearts of many people with his theory of evolution. He suggested we could explain the world entirely in terms of natural causes and processes.
It’s fascinating to follow the story of how, in the years that followed, some church leaders began to recast their view of the Bible in the light of evolutionary theory.
The church had always held the conviction that the Bible was God’s word to us. The church believed that God exists, that he made himself known, and that the Bible tells us what God has said and what he has done. The Bible is essentially a story about God: God’s world and God’s Word to mankind.
But the new thinking turned all of that on its head. You can imagine how some began to say, “Other have told us that the story is all about God. What if the story is really about us?”
If this were true, then the Bible would be the evolving story of human thinking about what God might be like. And the Bible would not be God’s words to us, but the record of our words about God.
These are two very different views of the Bible. In one, the Bible is God’s Word to us. In the other, the Bible is our word about God. What you believe about the Bible shapes how you use it, and how you respond to it.
How Christians View The Bible
If you believe that the Bible is a human word about God, you may want to read it for inspiration. But what if it does not fit well with your view of life or of the world? You will feel free to disagree and choose your own path.If the Bible is merely a collection of human words about God, it will be natural for you to say, “That was then, but this is now.”
I want to make this very clear: We do not view the Bible as a collection of human words about God. It is not our word about God, it is God’s Word to us.
Here’s a helpful statement for all believers regarding the Bible (from the Evangelical Free Church of America statement of faith):
We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors
As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged.
Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.
What’s at stake?
If the Bible is our word about God rather than God’s word to us, then God’s promises are replaced by our wishes, and we lose the basis of hope. God’s truth is replaced by our opinion and we lose the foundation of faith. God’s welcome is replaced by our journey and we lose the assurance of his love.
Do you see how much is at stake here? The basis of faith, hope, and love all rest on God having spoken—giving us promises, telling us who he is, inviting us into a relationship with himself, and telling is how that is possible through his Son Jesus Christ.
When I think about all this, it makes me step back and breathe a big sigh of relief. Thank God for the Word of Christ!