Scripture: God's Written Word -- Chapter
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
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The Purpose of the Scriptures
This leads to a consideration
of the purpose of the Scriptures. Why were they written? To what end
has God set forth His word in writing? Are they a guide for any and
everything, or do they have a rather clearly defined purpose? Let us
examine this matter carefully.
A. The "Things" of God
It is apparent that Scriptures throughout are basically concerned with
God and His waysfrom "In the beginning God created"
(Genesis 1: 1) to "Even so, come, LORD Jesus" (Revelation
22:20). The Bible is about God, His ways with the world and man, His
purposes from creation to consummation. Paul speaks of "the things
of God" (I Corinthians 2:11 KJV) which only the Spirit knows, yet
by that same Spirit we may be given understanding. The Scriptures throughout
treat of divine matters, not in themselves,32 but in relation
to the world He has made.
Hence whatever God does, whether in creation, or covenant, or redemption,
or glorificationor in any other areais a concern of the
Bible. This is to say, then, that the purpose of Scriptures, in the
broadest sense, is to portray the mighty acts of God, their connection
with the world and man, and the eschatological future.
We might single out the word "hope." Paul says, in another
place, that "whatever was written in earlier times was written
for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement
of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4 NASB). Surely
if that was true of the "earlier times"times of the
Old Testament erait is no less true of the New, where hope is
a continuing theme. In a world that often seems rather meaningless and
even purposeless, the Bible cries forth, "Hope thou in God."33 The Bible was written that
we might have a genuine and sure hope.34
In sum, the Bible enables us to know Godin His majesty and wonder,
in the revelation of His grace and truth, in the unfolding of the mysterious
purpose of His will. There is no other such book.
B. The Way of Salvation
The Scriptures at heart are the declaration of Gods way of salvation.
From the narrative of the early fall of man onward, there is the continuing
story of God's activity to bring about mankind's redemption. Indeed,
outside the opening two chapters in the Bible (Genesis 1 and 2) depicting
the creation of the world and man, and the final two chapters (Revelation
21 and 22) depicting the new heavens and the new earth, all in between
is the unfolding drama of salvation. There are many aspects, of course:
for example, the early promise, the calling of Israel, the coming of
Christ, the work of redemption, the final victory over evilbut
through it all God s will and purpose to save is vividly set forth.
So it is that Paul speaks of the "sacred writings which are able
to instruct35 you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus"
(II Timothy 3:15). Salvation is the principal matter; hence through
Scripture one may be instructed in the way of salvation. Thus the good
news of salvationthe Gospelis the central theme. It is "the
gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in
the holy scriptures" (Romans 1:1-2), namely, the Old Testament,
and is fulfilled thereafter in Jesus Christ and the way of salvation
which He made possible.
The Scriptures, therefore, focus upon Christ as the Savior. According
to Jesus himself, "it is they the Scriptures that bear witness
to me" (John 5:39). Indeed, it is said of the risen Lord, in relation
to the Emmaus disciples, that "beginning with Moses and all the
prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning
himself"(Luke 24:27). If the Scriptures of the Old Testament testify
of Christ, how much more those of the New! Hence to set forth Christ
as Savior and Lord is the thrust of Scripture from beginning to end.
By the exposition of the GospelJesus Christ and salvationthe
Scriptures declare a divine mystery. Paul writes about "my gospel
and the preaching of Jesus Christ" as being "according to
the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long
ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings [or Scriptures]
is made known to all nations
to bring about the obedience of faith"
(Romans 16:25-26). Thus the Scriptures make known a mystery long hidden,
namely the Gospel of salvation, and their purpose is to bring about
faith among all people.
To summarize: The heart of Scripture is the message of salvation and
the way whereby it is to be received. It is this central purpose that
binds everything together.
C. Direction for Living
Finally, the Scriptures are written to set forth the way of true living.
The laws, commandments, and injunctions of the Old Testament are declared
to be the way of life. The Israelites are enjoined to obey the commandments
and live: "choose life, that you and your descendants may live"
(Deuteronomy 30:19). In the New Testament, even more fully, the way
of life in Christ and in His commandments (for example, the Sermon on
the Mount: Matthew 5-7) is declared. The Christian has been given the
ability through redemption in Christ and the indwelling of the Holy
Spirit to do what the Israelite could not consistently do, namely to
walk in Gods will and way. The Scriptures are his guide.
This brings us back to the words of Paul about Scripture: "All
scripture is inspired by God." The verse continues with the words:
"and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and
for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work" (I Timothy 3:16-17). "Reproof,"
"correction," "training"all belong to the
Christian walk. Scriptures have much value in showing the way wherein
"the man of God"the believeris to live his daily
One more verse may be quoted, this time from the Psalmist: "Thy
word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
The word of God in its written form is for all believers a guide for
the way wherein they should go.
32 The Bible is in no way a book of speculation on the mystery of Gods
being, His ways in eternity, etc. It is always, and everywhere, concerned
only with God in His relation to His creation.
33 An expression thrice repeated in Psalms 42 and 43 (KJV).
34 Hope is vividly described in Hebrews as "a sure and steadfast anchor
of the soul" (6:19).
35 Literally, "to make wise" (sophisai)so in NIV
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Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams,
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