If I said that the Bible is not enough, that I need more than just the words written on the pages of the Bible, some sincere believers may think I’m a heretic, right? To many, if I said that, I would be denying the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, which is a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith!
I don’t mean to be heretical, or even controversial. Just honest. I’m saying it. It’s the title of this BlogPost. But please, hear me out.
This is a thought that I have expressed from time to time and even sung in a song. Many people seem to resonate with what I have attempted to express. But not everyone. Initially, I was surprised by the kick back this thought has generated from some Christians. I’ve had more than a few tough conversations, emails and Facebook posts. It might be the reason why some Church groups don’t invite me back.
Please understand that, when I say “The Bible” I mean the book – the product of a book factory, the ink on paper bound in leather, or perhaps the text in my iPhone ESV app. I believe that these words, in their original form, were written by people who were directly inspired by God’s Holy Spirit to write exactly those words. I believe The Bible is a carefully, prayerfully considered collection of sacred, holy scriptures that undoubtedly (in my mind at least) reveal truth about God. But I need more than the text – the words on the page – I need God Himself. I need the author.
It troubles me that, within much of the Christian Church, the terms “The Bible” and “the word of God” are used interchangeably to mean the same thing. To most Christians, these are synonyms.
So when we read a verse from the Bible in isolation like …
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
… we think that this is a verse about the Bible. But read the rest of Hebrews Chapter 4! This is not a chapter about scripture. Not about The Bible. Consider the whole book of Hebrews! Inspired by The Holy Spirit, the writer is describing more than the words on the page – more than scripture. He’s referring to Jesus Himself – our High Priest – as “the word of God.”
In its description of the Word of God, Hebrews is perfectly in line with what we read in the book of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:1-3 (ESV)
Jesus Himself makes a clear distinction between scripture (our scripture being The Bible) and the word of God. He speaks these harsh words to the religious leaders of that time – the ones who read, studied and knew scripture better than anyone else!
And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word [of God] abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. John 5:37-38 (ESV)
And Jesus continues.
It seems that it is entirely possible to know the Bible, yet remain entirely disconnected and unchanged by the Word of God. If that’s possible, then they are not the same thing.
I don’t know about you, but I find these scriptures (and many others besides, like Genesis 15:1, Luke 5:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and 1 Samuel 3: 1) that speak about the bigger meaning of the word of God extremely compelling. I’d go as far to say that God reveals truth to me, and all of us, through these and all of The Bible.
But I also find it compelling when the same God speaks to me through other writers (like Chambers, Bonhoeffer and Lewis), through sermons, songs or a set of circumstances, through conversations and relationships. Truth about God is evident to me through His creation – in nature. I believe that I have been given The Holy Spirit who comforts, guides me and speak to me. Call me weird, but I believe I hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit … and it’s sometimes not so still, nor small!
Hey, I’m not the sort of person who walks around telling people that “God told me this” and “God told me that,” especially about specific, detailed things. I realize that I could mishear God’s voice. But if the basis of my faith is the Bible – rather than the author of The Bible – it’s also easy (and dangerous) for me to mishear, misquote, mistranslate or take out of context God’s words as they are recorded in scripture. God Himself is the source of truth. To me, the Bible is not the source of truth. It’s a conduit. The essential component is God’s Holy Spirit revealing truth to us – whether it be through scripture, or in any other way He chooses.
It might be more convenient for us today to limit God’s communication and revelation of Himself to a text that we can hold in our hands, study and feel like we know better than other people – just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time on earth in bodily form. But as we do so, we may be limiting how we are prepared to hear God speaking to us. As we do so, we are fashioning a god that fits our own requirements.
It seems clear that God wants us to know that He is bigger than the words on the page of The Bible. God’s Word – Jesus the Christ – cannot be contained in the product of a printing press. He is so far above and beyond any human effort to limit Him and bind him into a size, shape and intellectual comprehension that we believe we can handle. God is God. He will communicate however He wants to.