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Dr. J. Rodman Williams
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THEOLOGY

Scripture: God's Written Word -- Chapter 3

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
Theologian

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

 


Chapter Three

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 ways—from "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 glorification—or in any other area—is 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 era—it 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 God—in 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 God’s 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 evil—but 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 salvation—the Gospel—is 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 Gospel—Jesus Christ and salvation—the 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 God’s 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 believer—is to live his daily life.

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.

Footnotes

32 The Bible is in no way a book of speculation on the mystery of God’s 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 and KJV


Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

 

Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams, Ph.D.

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