For what purposes is the Bible necessary? How much can people know about God without the Bible?
The necessity of Scripture means that the Bible is necessary for knowing the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God's will, but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God's character and moral laws.
A. The Bible is Necessary for Knowledge of the Gospel
- Eternal salvation comes only through belief in Jesus Christ and no other way. Therefore, one must either read the gospel message in the Bible for oneself, or hear it from another person in order to be saved.
- Even those believers who came to salvation in the old covenant did so by trusting in the words of God that promised a Savior to come.
- Even in the lifetime of Adam and Eve there are words of God that point toward a future salvation: in Genesis 3:15 the curse on the serpent includes a promise that the seed of the woman (one of her descendants) would bruise the head of the serpent but would himself be hurt in the process--a promise ultimately fulfilled in Christ.
- Matthew 4:4 (which is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3): But he answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
- Here Jesus indicates that our spiritual lives are maintained by daily nourishment with the Word of God, just as our physical lives are maintained by daily nourishment with physical food. To neglect regular reading of God's Word is as detrimental to the health of our souls as the neglect of physical food is detrimental to the health of our bodies.
- God has not revealed all things to us, but he has revealed enough for us to know his will: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29)
- If we are to have a certain knowledge of God's will, we must attain it through the study of Scripture.
- What are our options for having certainty about any one fact?
- We must learn all the facts of the universe in order to be sure that no subsequently discovered fact will prove our present ideas to be false, or
- Someone who does know all the facts in the universe, and who never lies, could tell us some true facts that we can then be sure will never be (accurately) contradicted.
- The first option is of course impossible while the second option is what we have in the words of Scripture.
- In summary, for people who are not omniscient (hint: that's everybody), the Bible is necessary for certain knowledge.
- Evidences of God are all around us in creation to be seen by those who are willing to see them.
- Romans 1:19-21: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
- Paul notes that even wicked men recognize the evidence of God in creation, but this knowledge alone is rarely enough to bring them to salvation.
- Romans 2:14-15: For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
- Even the consciences of unbelievers bear witness to God's moral standards (think of fairness, justice, right vs. wrong, etc.), but the evidence of God's law on the hearts of unbelievers is typically distorted or suppressed.
- Saving faith does not come about by human speculation alone: rather, it is confidence or trust in God that rests on the truthfulness of God's own words.
- James 1:18: Of his own will he brought us forth (metaphor for new birth) by the word of truth (God's Word), that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
- 1 Peter 1:23: . . . since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.