Questions abound as to how we arrived with the 66 books of the Bible we have today. These are legitimate questions that deserve an answer. Because of human involvement often skeptics stumble over the accuracy and trustworthiness of Scripture. Wayne Grudem, in his condensed theology, Christian Beliefs (edited by his son Elliott) gives five steps in how God gave, and we receive, His Word.
Revelation, Inspiration, Preservation, Interpretation, Illumination
In revelation, God reveals Himself. If God were to choose not to reveal Himself we would know little of him. There are two kinds of revelation: general and special revelation. In general revelation, God reveals himself through creation. In Romans 1:20, Paul writes, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (ESV);
Through inspiration, God the Holy Spirit moves through men to write God’s revelation of Himself down. This is special revelation–words that describe and reveal God. Peter writes: For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21 ESV) Paul adds: All Scripture is breathed out by God 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. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
Preservation is the process by which God protects His written message and enables it to be passed down from Moses (author of the first five books of the Bible) to John (author of Revelation). God worked faithfully to preserve a written record of his dealings with man. Preservation involves the process of canonization which we will deal with tomorrow in great detail. Peter explains: And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. (2 Peter 1:19-20 ESV) Peter’s point is that Scripture wasn’t contrived–it was engineered by God Himself. Jesus came as the fulfillment (day dawns and the morning star) of the Old Testament prophecy.
Interpretation gets the Bible into our own language. There are three kinds of copies of Scripture available today: literal, dynamic equivalent and paraphrases. Literal translations are word-for-word (KJV, NKJV, NAS, ESV). Dynamic equivalent translations are thought for thought translations, making them easier to read (NIV, NLT). Paraphrases are not considered to be translations and heavily depend on someone’s interpretation (The Living Bible, The Message).
When you read and study Scripture, the Holy Spirit illuminates it, enabling you to understand. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible which includes a reference to Scripture in every verse, has this prayer: Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18 ESV) Unless the Holy Spirit illuminates God’s Word we will be blind and void of understanding.
What should you do with all of this information? Simply put, read God’s Word! Take time today to jump into this precious gift called the Word of God.