Volume 29, Issue 9, November 2023
by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher Southern View Chapel
The American Bible Society just released the result of a startling survey, in which they claimed that Bible reading dropped dramatically in 2022, and it is unclear why. Roughly fifty percent of American adults reported reading Scripture at least three times a year from 2011 to 2021. In 2022, that number declined to thirty-nine percent. That means twenty-six million Americans stopped reading the Bible last year. Even more alarming than this drop in Bible reading is the idea that a Bible reader is described as one who reads his or her Bible three times per year. Is it any wonder that America is facing a famine in the land for the Word of God and that Christians are becoming progressively biblically illiterate by the year? More, in the Ligonier and LifeWay Research 2022 survey, concerning the statement, “The Bible contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true,” fifteen percent of evangelicals agreed in 2020, but twenty-six percent agree in 2022. We are in theological freefall, not just in America, but among so-called evangelicals as well.
That brings us to the all-important question of “So what?” What does it matter whether I read the Bible or not? I am still a pretty good person, and life is tripping along well for me. I can get along with minimal exposure, or none at all, with the Scriptures. The Word of God. I want to challenge that view by revealing what every Christian must know about the Bible. As with every one of the subjects we are addressing in this “What Every Christian Must Know” series, this one presents endless directions we can take. We will limit ourselves to three truths.
The Bible Is the Very Word of God
Firstly, all Scripture is inspired by God: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Timothy 3:16). Inspired means breathed out. When we read the Bible, we are not reading generalities or human wisdom, or being given tips for a good life. We are encountering communication directly from God Himself. In the Old Testament alone, there are about 3,800 instances in which the writer claims to be speaking for God. We must also know that God has chosen men to be the instruments by which He has communicated His Word to us (2 Pet 1:19-21), but this does not mean Scripture is men’s ideas or insights. They are not the ultimate authors; they are instruments used by the Holy Spirit to write God’s Words. Charles Ryrie said it best: “Inspiration is God’s superintending of human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error in the words of the original autographs His revelation to man.” In other words, “inspiration” means that the Holy Spirit of God superintended the human writers in the production of Scripture so that what they wrote was precisely what God wanted to be written.
Secondly, think of the wonder of the Word of God. It was written over a period of 1,500 years by forty different authors writing in three languages, who lived at different times and in various locations, and yet it has no contradictions and a central theme. It contains hundreds of prophecies that have been fulfilled. It was written in primarily pagan and superstitious times yet has no hint of any such thing. Compare the Bible to Homer or the Greek, Roman, or Norse mythologies, and you will see the difference. Although many have tried to destroy it, it has not only survived; it has thrived. Its depiction of reality is unparalleled. The Bible perfectly describes the nature of mankind, the problem of sin and its consequences, the issue of pain, and why people search everywhere for meaning in life and can’t seem to find it for it can only be found in God. It was the recognition of these facts that solidified my confidence in Scripture during my first year attending a secular university at the age of 18. My faith had never been challenged before this time, but some of my professors and fellow students caused me to question my beliefs. It was how perfectly the Bible depicted the realities of life that sealed my belief that it was in fact the Word of God and could have only been communicated to us via God Himself.
The Bible offers eternal salvation apart from human efforts, unlike all other religions. There is no book, no resource, like the Bible. Yet, while the average Christian has not renounced the Bible, they have simply stopped using it as the structure which makes sense of the world. Far too many do not read or engage in Scripture, and then they wonder why they are so confused, so anxious, and so messed up. They are ignoring God’s communication to them and suffering the consequences, but many do not seem to know why.
The Bible Is the Only Source of Absolute Truth
In Jesus’s great prayer in John 17, He requests of the Father, “Sanctify them (the disciples) in the truth; Your word is truth” (v. 17). Truth has fallen on hard times these days. When asked in the “The State of Theology” survey if evangelicals believed the Bible contains accounts of ancient myths and is not literally true, twenty-six percent agreed, up from fifteen in 2020. And regarding the next question, “Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth,” thirty-eight percent of evangelicals agreed up from twenty-three in 2020. Even within conservative Christianity, the Christian faith is becoming more and more subjective, rather than truth-oriented. Most people don’t know what they don’t know.
Here are a few things we could never know apart from Scripture. First, our need for salvation, “And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Apart from Scripture, none of us would know we are dead in sin and hopelessly lost and separated from God. Second, the means of salvation would be a mystery apart from Scripture. We could not know that all of our efforts to be good, religious, or adequate to please God are a waste. Only through Scripture would he learn that the good news is that Jesus died for our sins and offers us the free gift of salvation received by faith alone. It would be only through the Scriptures according to 2 Timothy 3:16, that we could know what is true (teaching), what is wrong (reproving), how to correct what is wrong, how to develop right patterns for living (training in righteousness), and how to be equipped for every good work, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (v. 17).
“Adequate” in this verse, means to be “capable, proficient, able to meet all demands.” Equipped has the same root as adequate. It is the idea of being “finished or complete.” It is the same Greek word used for setting a bone in the first century, or for mending nets. “Every good work” is all-inclusive. The Lord outfits us through the Word to such a degree that we are capable of performing every good work that God has called us to do. As I observe people, as well as myself at times, fumbling through life, I often think about how the Scriptures address every need and inform us on how to handle what we are facing. What a glorious resource is the Word of God.
To add to the list, without Scripture we cannot know with certainty why we are even here, or how we got here; what truth is and how to know it; what is wrong with us and the world in general (how can we do such great things and turn around and do horrible things?); if there is a God, and if so how we can know Him; who Jesus is, what has He done, and what will He do in the future; the person and power of the Holy Spirit; the reason for the church; what life is all about and how we are to live; how the world will end and what will replace it; and where we will spend eternity. Shut your Bible, and what do you know of the spiritual world, of God, of yourself, of forgiveness? Nothing!
The Bible Changes Our Lives
We are given six descriptions of God’s specific revelation in Psalm 19. Each description is broken down into three parts: a title, a depiction, and what the Word accomplishes in our lives.
The first title is “law”: “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (v. 7). The word for law is torah and means instruction. One of the primary purposes of God’s Word is to teach us truth and how to live it. This instruction in truth, we are told, is perfect. It is without flaw. It is not deficient in any way. And it restores the soul. “Restores” means transforms, and so it is all-sufficient to change us. It will turn us from sins, feed and enrich us, and teach us how to have the right relationship with the Lord. Our souls are broken down because of sin. We need restoration with God, with others, and with ourselves. It is the instruction of God that restores us.
The second title is “testimonies,” which means the witness of God to the truth. These testimonies are not the mere ideas of people; they carry the stamp of the approval of God. And the testimonies are sure. That is, they are trustworthy and reliable. God’s testimonies are one-hundred percent reliable. What He says happened—actually happened. Because the Lord’s testimony is sure, all who heed it will become wise, even those considered simple.
The third title is “precepts”: “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (v. 8). These are divine directions or appointments. The Scriptures are pointing us in a direction, and that direction is always the right one. The Lord’s GPS never gets confused, as mine does on occasion. When we are going the God’s direction, we will be happy (“rejoicing the heart”). When we are lost, physically or spiritually, we will be unhappy. It is an anguishing thing to get lost in a city where you do not know where you are, but it is a source of happiness to find your way. How much more joyful it is to know you are on the right track with God.
The fourth title is “commandments.” Commandments need no explanation; we know what they are. Concerning God’s commandments as found in Scripture, we are told they are pure. Purity implies that they are unmixed; they are clear. The problem is not in understanding the commandments of God; it is in how we want to receive them. It must be kept in mind that the commandments of God are not suggestions; they are clear directives. Mark Twain wrote, “It’s not the things I don’t understand in the Bible that bother me. It’s the things I do understand.” That is the way it is for those who do not want to follow the Lord; but for those who do they find that the commandments enlighten the eyes. We often view commandments as if they are merely prohibitions—they tell us what we cannot do, or at best what we are allowed to do—but God’s commandments give us insight as well. They show us what is wrong and, therefore, bad for us. They show us what is right and, therefore, good for us. Rightly understood, we should love the commandments of God. David said in Psalm 119:47, “I delight in your commandments, which I love.”
The fifth title is “fear”: “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether” (v. 9). This is the effect that the Word of God should produce in our lives. The fear of the Lord is clean; it has no foul spots; there is nothing polluted or corrupt in it. Several years ago, while painting the outside of my house, I discovered some wood that had been eaten away by termites. It was a disturbing discovery, especially since I had no idea that termites had been feasting on my house. We are never in danger of uncovering such corruption when it comes to the Scriptures, and this is true forever. The Word of the Lord does not change with the fads of time. God’s Word never gets out of date; it never alters; it never adjusts to the whims and demands of changing societies. It will never need to be amended, updated, or edited.
The final title is “judgments.” Judgments refer to verdicts. At the end of a trial, the judge delivers a verdict. In the case of the Lord, His verdicts are always true. In contrast to human judges, His verdicts are always right. He is never swayed by false testimony or slick maneuvering. He cannot be bought, and He does not care about the wealth or social status of those in front of Him. Nobody impresses God; nobody intimidates God. Therefore, His verdicts always lead to righteousness. Because they are right, they lead us down the right path. The Word lays down tracks that lead to true life; we are wise to walk in these tracks and never stray from them.
In light of the great value of Scripture, the psalmist goes on to make several applicational statements and asks of the Lord some important things. He recognizes the desirability of the Word of God: “They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (v. 10). When a person sees something as desirable, they will not have much problem seeking it. When you fall in love with something, you naturally have a deep interest and desire for that something. To this end, two metaphors are used: gold and honey. These are desirable things, and if you like them, no one has to force you to seek them. So it is with the Word of God. Once you realize the incredible value of the Word of God, you can’t get enough. Brett McCracken writes in his book The Wisdom Pyramid “Do we wake in the morning with a hunger for the ‘sweeter than honey’ daily sustenance of Scripture, full of God-given nutrients that have fed billions of people over thousands of years, or do we instead go to the vending machines of our smartphones, snacking on whatever addictive candy appeals to our tastes in the moment?” 
The psalmist also recognizes the protection of the Word of God, “Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;” (v. 11a). How many heartbreaks and personal disasters could be avoided by those who heed the warnings of Scripture? Paying careful attention to Scripture’s warnings is one of the most powerful things you can do to guard yourself from sin and its effects. D. L. Moody once wrote concerning the Bible, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” Many people have written these words in the front of their Bibles, as a reminder of its infinite value.
The psalmist recognizes the great reward that is found in the Word of God: “In keeping them there is great reward” (v. 11b). This is of course the counter to protection. Not only do the Scriptures keep us from ruining our lives, but it also results in rewards for those who keep its teachings. “We should read God’s Word not like an attorney but like an heir.”
David moves on to the recognition of the power of the Word of God in reference to sin, “Who,” he writes, “can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression” (vv. 12-13). David knew how easy it was for certain sins to gain the upper hand in our lives, for even those who love the Lord, cherish His Word, and want to live to please Him, it is easy to get caught up in sinful behavior or habits to the extent that it controls and ruin us. How important it is to keep short accounts of sin. Someone has said, “Sin is like trash and needs to be taken out occasionally or it will stink.”
Finally, he recognizes the importance that his communication is acceptable to God: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (v. 14). The psalm ends about where it began. In the opening verse, the communications of the heavens are revealing the glory of God. In the final verse, David desires that his communication, both verbal and inward, be of that same nature.
 Christianity Today, Feb, 2023, p. 17.
 John MacArthur, Final Word, Why We Need the Bible (Sanford, FL: Ligonier Ministries, 2019), p.78.
 Charles Ryrie.
 Hearers and Doers p. 109.
 Gabriel N. E. Fluhrer, ed, Solid Ground: The Inerrant Word of God in an Errant World (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2012), p. 77.
 Grace to You, One Foundation: Essays on the Sufficiency of Scripture (Panorama City, CA: Grace to You, 2019), p. 69.
 Brett McCracken, The Wisdom Pyramid, Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), p. 84.
 D. L. Moody.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, ed., Giant Steps (Grand Rapids, MI: Bakers Book House, 1981), p. 71.
 Mark and Grace Driscoll, Real Marriage, The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013), p. 86.