A gracEmail subscriber asks: “Is the Bible a living, breathing, document like the U.S. Constitution, that can be variously interpreted in different times and circumstances? Or is it final, authoritative and absolute, not subject to different interpretation anytime or anywhere?”
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I confess with the historic Christian church that the Bible is authoritative in all that it teaches. Its affirmations are unchanging: God will always be infinite and personal, faithful but forgiving, merciful and also just. Jesus is always the Son of God, born of a virgin, crucified for our sins, raised from the dead. Judgment Day is coming and that is an unchanging fact. Idolatry is always sinful, as are hatred, injustice, oppression, adultery and a host of other things. Kindness, humility, forgiveness and patience are virtues in any time and place.
But this unchanging Bible is a living word, through which God speaks freshly to his believing people whenever and wherever they happen to live (Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:16). For 2,000 years, Christians have looked to the Scriptures for guidance even in particular situations not specifically envisioned by the original authors. Such guidance involves spiritual discernment and results from the inward teaching of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27; Rom. 12:1-2). Correctly done, it is always consistent with the Bible’s clear and unchanging affirmations.
Studying the Bible, reflecting on its meaning, discerning its principles and considering its applications all have a common, practical purpose. They equip believers to live and to serve God (Col. 1:9-11). The Bible is a living book for daily life. It is not a theological jigsaw puzzle, a resource bin for debate propositions, and certainly not a do-it-yourself salvation kit. Above all else it is a faithful witness pointing us to Jesus Christ, so that we migh believe in him and have eternal life.