How to study the Bible

Do you desire to be a good student and/or teacher of Scripture?

The five basic steps of Bible study listed below will provide a helpful guide to keep you on the right track in understanding and applying the Bible.  Each step answers a particular question in relation to Bible study.

1. Preparation: Am I ready?

It is important to come to Scripture with a prepared heart. An attitude of humility and submission to God is the best way to approach God’s Word.

  • James 1:21a ‘Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the Word ….’
  • James 4:6-8a ‘…God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and He will come near to you…’
  • Isaiah 66:2b ‘…this is the one I esteem; he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my Word’ (see also – I John 1:9).

2. Observation: What do I see?

When approaching Scripture, it is best to allow the Word to speak for itself.  We must avoid reading into a text something that is not there.

Six questions will help this step of Bible study: When? Who? Where? What? Why? and How?

Some additional things to notice:

  • Repeated words that imply emphasis
  • Obvious changes of subject
  • Connecting and contrasting words: therefore, but, since, and.
  • Illustrations: nature, cultural things. (Sermon on the Mount,  book of James).
  • Key people, places, verses, themes or challenges
  • A command to obey, a promise to claim, a sin to avoid, an example to follow

3. Interpretation: What does it mean?

Steps one to three will help protect you from misguided applications of Scripture. Wrong ideas and confusion often result from careless interpretation or a failure to interpret Scripture before applying it.

When interpreting the Bible, our aim should be to arrive at the valid meaning of a text. The primary consideration for doing this is context. By using various contexts, one can arrive at an accurate understanding of the meaning of Scripture. The valid meaning of a text could be a literal, metaphoric or symbolic reading. The important issue is to arrive at the valid meaning based on context. This is especially important if a less expected meaning is chosen. Scripture is to be treated with great care as God’s Word (II Timothy 3:16-17). Careless interpretation of Scripture can lead to incorrect views about God and misdirected living. As a general rule: “If the plain sense makes sense, use no other sense or it will most likely be nonsense.”

Four contexts must be considered: The key to Bible interpretation is context.

  • Historical context: Is there anything in the culture, geography or history of this Bible book or passage that will help in understanding the meaning?
  • Grammatical context: Does the meaning of specific words or phrases in the original language help in understanding the meaning?
  • Immediate context: Does the flow of the chapter or book of this passage aid in understanding its meaning?
  • Theological context: Does the teaching of Scripture in other places add to a proper understanding of the meaning of this passage?

Be careful not to take Scripture out of context simply to prove a point or support your own ideas. The Scripture must be taken in its normal sense unless otherwise specified. Scripture is a completed progressive revelation. Some of the things God did and required at earlier times, He does not do or require now.  The Old Testament sacrificial system had its purpose when it was revealed, but today we are no longer under it because of Christ. We must be careful not to apply our assumptions to Scripture unless they are in agreement with the clear teaching of properly interpreted Scripture.

4. Evaluation: What do others say?

There are many Bible commentaries, introductions, as well as other available helps for our use.  After you have completed steps one through three, it would be wise to consult with other Bible teachers. (see: The Expositors Bible Commentary series; The NIV Application Commentary series; Old Testament Commentary Survey by Tremper Longman III; New Testament Commentary Survey by D. A. Carson).

5. Application: How does this apply to my life?

Application of God’s Word to our lives is not optional. Diligent application of Scripture is a mark of spiritual maturity illustrated in the lives of godly men and women.

  • James 1:22  ‘Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.
  • Hebrews 5:14  ‘But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.’
  • Ezra 7:10  ‘For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.’

God’s children should have as their goal the application of His Word to every area of life (see, Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Application of the Bible must first be personal before we extend it to others (see, Matthew 7:1-6).

Steve Cornell

See also: 

A realistic understanding of the world

When asked why I believe in Christianity and follow the Bible, among other reasons, I admit that I can’t find an alternative worldview that corresponds with reality as comprehensively as what I find in the true account of Christianity.

This doesn’t mean that I find everything easy to understand or explain because of Christianity. Life is painfully complicated and even parts of the Bible (on which Christianity is based) are difficult to explain. Some biblical passages are written in cryptic prose; others are hard to absorb on an emotional level.

While there are painful and complicated issues that are beyond my full comprehension, I come back to one compelling question: “What way of seeing things corresponds most with reality and does not contradict what I clearly know to be true?” Asked differently, “What seems to be the most plausible way of seeing things in light of what we know about humanity, the observable world and its history?

I believe a Christian worldview offers the most logically consistent and plausibly realistic understanding of life and the world. It simply does the best job explaining the world we encounter each day. And it offers the best explanatory frame for the most extensive range of evidence in the world and in the human spirit.

There is no other way of understanding the world that corresponds with reality as comprehensively as Christianity.

For an overview of a Christian worldview, see here and here.

Steve Cornell


Seven guidelines for understanding the Old Testament

  1. The laws revealed in the Old Testament (O.T.) were not originally given for us to follow today as God’s will for our lives. They were required of God’s people during Old Testament history to distinguish them as they lived in ancient near eastern cultures (see: Misreading the Bible).
  2. We don’t understand all of the reasons for some of the laws in the O. T., but we know that the times during which they were written were exceptionally evil. Although some laws appear to us as unusual, it likely reveals our lack of understanding regarding the circumstances of the time. The laws were at least meant to distinguish God’s people from the nations around them. 
  3. The O. T. was never intended to be a complete or perfect expression of God’s will. It was provisional for a specific time and pointed to a new covenant that would be a fulfillment and replacement of the old covenant (see: A truth we must accept).
  4. Those who follow the Bible should not quote laws directed to Israel as if they are God’s will for people today unless reaffirmed in the New Testament. We should not, for example,  look to detailed legislation in Leviticus to specifically guide us as followers of Christ.
  5. We only apply Old Testament Scriptures to our lives if they are taught by Jesus and the apostles. Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament (see – Matthew 5:18-20). Although He was “born under the law” (Gal.4:4) and “fulfilled all righteousness” (Matt.3:15), Jesus wrapped up the era of biblical history where the law regulated the covenant relationship of the people of God. Jesus is the new locus of authority for God’s people. He established for us what is pleasing to God.
    (see: Christ is the end of the Law)
  6. The primary way O.T. law speaks to us is in the revelation it gives of the holy nature of God in contrast with our sinfulness. This prepares us to see our need to be forgiven and reconciled with God through the grace offered in Jesus Christ.
  7. Those who mock people for following Scripture should reflect on their hypocrisy because they also hold to standards (even the one they’re using to discredit those who follow Scripture). Why do they expect others to accept their ethical code as reasonable?

Steve Cornell

10 Methods of Bible Study

  1. Analytical: detailed examination of a passage in which the text is divided into its smallest parts.
    1. Book – chapters – paragraphs – sentences – clauses – phrases – words – grammatical points
    2. Diagram the passage to understand grammatical structure, flow and connections.
  2. Inductive: a detailed examination of a larger portion of Scripture in which the notation of key words, persons, places, and things takes precedence over grammatical points.
  3. Historical: a detailed study of the historical situation surrounding a book of the Bible including cultural and geographical information.
  4. Critical: a detailed study of academic questions surrounding the text and circumstances that produced the text.
    1. Higher criticism: a study of authorship, recipients, unity, date, and geographic reference in Bible books.
    2. Lower criticism: a study of textual variants and text types in the history of the transmission of the Bible.
  5. Topical: tracing a particular topic throughout Scripture and making relevant observations and conclusions.
    1. Note repeated words or emphases.
    2. Follow the progress of revelation on the theme.
  6. Theological: tracing the development of a particular doctrine throughout a section of Scripture and making relevant observations and conclusions.
  7. Biographic: a detailed study of the personalities in the Bible noting their individual traits, motivations, thoughts, circumstances, and actions. Ask: who, what, where, when, why, how?
  8. Rhetorical: a detailed study of the communication methods used by Biblical authors.
  9. Comparative: Cross reference Scripture with Scripture based on some common word or topic.
  10. Devotional: a study aimed primarily to gain spiritual encouragement for one’s soul.

Work/Study Sheet

Verse or Verses Questions, Comments, Outlines, Illustrations, Examples, Word Studies, Applications  Cross references


 Steve Cornell

In Step with the Master Teacher

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As I was studying the methods and content of the teaching of Jesus, the word reality kept coming back to me. Jesus kept things real in exposing religious hypocrisy. But reality for Jesus was far more than life in this world.

I also thought about a quote from a book we’re using in our parents of teens group:

“The more accurately you think about something, the healthier your life will be. The converse is also true. The more inaccurate your thinking the more dysfunctional your relationship with your teen will be — even if you assume your thinking is fine, which most of usually do.” 

“Reality can be a hard pill to swallow. But last time I checked, when you fight reality, you lose. Reality wins.” (Tim Sanford, Losing control and liking it, p. 10,14).

But what is reality? It depends on who you ask. If you look closely at the teaching of Jesus, any version of reality that disconnects earth from heaven is a dangerous kind of unreality. Jesus relentlessly insisted on this connection.

Earth and Heaven

As the Master Teacher, Jesus moved from what is seen and known to what is unseen and eternal. He transformed everyday earthly objects into lessons about God, heaven and eternity.

The people of his time had grown blind to the connections between earth and heaven. So Jesus connected the truth around them in the visible world with the truth before them in the Scripture — truth about eternity.

“They didn’t think of God’s word when they sowed seed, or the new birth when they felt the wind, or faith when they gathered the tiny mustard seed; but Jesus did.” (Warren Wiersbe, Teaching and Preaching with imagination, p. 161)

He connected what they could see in creation and life with truths about eternal life to come. Through many object lessons, he turned his listeners ears into eyes to help them see the truths he taught.

  • Jesus spoke of salt, light, wind, bread, vine and branches, flowers, trees, seed, fields white for harvest, birth, gates, coins, treasure, pearls, nets, cups, dishes, tombs…
  • Jesus used, fox, birds, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, serpents, fish, gnats and camels, a hen and her chicks, ….
  • He referred to physicians, shepherds, land owners, builders, friends, bridegrooms, virgins, farmers, tenants, sons, teachers, wine merchants, the rich and the poor, an unjust judge and a widow, blind guides,…
  • He spoke of banquets, weddings, feasts, temples, his father’s house with many rooms…

The teaching of Jesus is characterized by “an evident absence of artificial oratory” (C.H. Spurgeon). Yet what Jesus taught is consistently a combination of simplicity, and complexity that was often provocative and challenging.

Jesus told stories that often exposed the religious and social prejudices of the establishment. Yet there don’t appear to be any great shifts in tone and inflection; no special vocabulary or arresting theatrics, — just stories. The problem, however, is that in Jesus’ stories the wrong people win. The Samaritan shines as a keeper of God’s commands; the gentile demonstrates faith, the tax-gather goes home justified before God and the sinful women with a past is welcomed and forgiven. 

It was hard to miss his point — and they didn’t! 

Many times the simplicity of application cannot be missed. But this didn’t reduce the complexity and challenge. After hearing Jesus, one might respond with, “I get it … I think…” But wait,… does he mean…? Or, should I take it as …” His words invited deep contemplation and reflection. 

The elements of simplicity are unmistakably clear — on one level. When Jesus exposed hypocritical approaches to praying, giving, fasting; we get the point each time. But we also feel the challenge to consider subtle ways that we seek attention and praise for our acts of service.

When Jesus said, “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice” – we get it (Matthew 7:24). But it troubles us that so “many” people could call Christ “Lord” and engage in works of the kingdom (“did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?”) only to hear the Lord say to them,  “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Where are we hearing but not doing?

Back to reality

All of this takes us back to that word “reality.” According to the Master Teacher, the person who lives without making deep connections between earth and heaven lives in unreality. He might be a “man of the world” but if he thinks this is his only world, he is profoundly misguided. In 70-80 years, the connections will become clear.

To build your house on the rock, as a wise builder, you must follow the teachings of the one who continuously connected this life with eternity. He taught his followers to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He taught us to think of reward with our father in heaven and to store treasure in heaven — that place where corruption cannot damage treasure. 

A matter of perspective

How will you see things? How will you respond to the successes and trials of this life? If you live only on the horizontal level, only looking at things that are temporal, you’ll build your life fantasy not reality. Instead, join with Jesus Christ and make connections between what is known and visible to what is unseen and eternal.

Then when the torrential rain comes and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against your life, the rock-solid foundation of Christ’s words will withstand all the way into eternity.  

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:16-18).

Steve Cornell 


Longing for a better world

As we honor those who served and currently serve the armed forces of our nation, I find myself longing for a world without the need for military.

Obviously this world will never be without such a need. But have you ever given serious thought to why our world is so filled with evil and violence? Why can’t people get along and relate peacefully with one another?

No, I am not getting ready to sing what the world needs now is love, sweet love. But the endless wars that make up so much of world history are a sad reminder of our fallen condition. And most people intuitively feel that things are not the way they were meant to be.

The human story is certainly more one of war than peace. Someone cynically suggested, “Peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.”

Telling our story requires contrasting terms between goodness and evil; love and hate; beauty and cruelty; life and death; even war and peace. Themes of dignity and depravity are relentlessly recurrent in all cultures – at all times throughout history.

There are surprisingly few places to turn for thoughtful answers to why things are this way. Most efforts to explain good and evil are either based on scientific reductionism or naïve utopianism. I have only found one source to be wide enough to explain the complex dimensions of the human story and large enough to speak to innate longings of the human heart for a better world.

The source I have found most helpful is popular but not well understood — even among those who feel surprisingly justified in rejecting it. Mere mention of this source in academic settings typically invokes condescending reactions. Those who take the source seriously are wrongly treated as unenlightened and narrow-minded. Yet those who react this way rarely offer thoughtful alternatives for the dilemma of good and evil.

The source I look to offers truths that range from simple and accessible, to complex and mysterious. It speaks to a child and challenges a scholar. It covers the physical and the metaphysical. It reaches both time and eternity. It tells us where we came from; why we’re here and what went wrong. It addresses universal longings for peace and goodness by revealing where to find hope for a better future. It speaks deeply to universal human needs for forgiveness, freedom, and peace.

It is the most widely circulated and best-selling book of history. It’s main character came from eternity to humble earthly circumstances and died a brutal death. His death, we are repeatedly told, was a redemptive sacrifice for all people.

He transformed countless individual lives and human history itself more than any other person who has lived. He introduced himself as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who is, who was and who is to come. He said, “I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever” (Revelation 1:18). The source is the Bible and the main character is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ remains the most amazing person who ever lived on this planet. Although born in obscurity over 2,000 years ago, the world can’t escape his legacy and global influence. No individual comes close to the impact Jesus made on humanity.

Jesus Christ is so amazing that he can only be fully explained by use of terms that defy normal categories.  We need terms that reach beyond our reality and shatter many of our common assumptions. Jesus,

  • fulfilled ancient prophecies in his birth, life and death?
  • predicted his own death and resurrection?
  • claimed to exist before Abraham was born?
  • claimed the right to forgive sins?
  • claimed that he would be the judge of all people?
  • claimed eternal duration for his words?
  • claimed equality with God?
  • claimed the ability to give eternal life to those who believe on him?

He is too much for us to fully wrap our minds around. His existence demands a God who breaks in on the natural order. Jesus Christ is so extraordinarily unprecedented that he shatters our categories and demands our worship.

Some people find the central message about Jesus a bit difficult to accept because it involves exclusive claims about the only way to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the father but through me” (John 14:6). “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” (I Timothy 2:6)

The sacrificial death of Jesus is repeatedly emphasized as something offered for the sins of the world, for all men; for the whole world (see: John 3:16,17; I John 2:1-2), but this inclusive demonstration of God’s love is the only way to be forgiven and accepted by God.

There is a better world coming where there will be no more war; no more need for military.

So while I give thanks for the faithful men and women who serve our nation, I long for “a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.’ And he also said, ‘It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.'”

Heaven is our point of reference! Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But we must not stand gazing into heaven because there is work to be done for the honor of God’s name, the advancement of God’s kingdom and the fulfillment of God’s will.

Steve Cornell

The divine origin of Scripture

Sometimes it is necessary to restate basic truths. Such a time has come regarding the origin and nature of the Bible. At the present moment in the life of the Church, there is an urgent need to reaffirm with deep conviction and clarity the divine origin of Scripture. 

I. Origin of the Bible:

The word “Bible” is derived from the Greek word biblos meaning book. The word is used today in reference to the thirty-nine Old Testament and twenty-seven New Testament books of Judeo-Christian Scripture. The sixty-six books of the Bible repeatedly declare themselves to be God’s revelation to mankind. This truth is substantiated through careful examination of key passages of Scripture.

A. Two key passages: The Bible gives clear testimony to its own origin. The internal witness of Scripture demands a response from those who deny its divine origin. Consider the following witness concerning the origin of Scripture.

1. II Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (NASB)

Prior to these verses, the apostle Paul reminded Timothy of his early training in the holy Scriptures (vv. 14-15). In v. 15, the apostle identified the Scriptures as “sacred” (i.e. holy). This places them in association with God’s own character (cf. Isa. 40:25; 57:15). The word scripture itself could refer to writings of another nature. The point made here is that these writings are holy. They are set apart from other writings due to their origin with God.

In verse 15, the apostle also wrote of the central purpose of Scripture as “able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Christ is the central person of Scripture (Lk. 24:25-27; 24:46-47; John 5:39, 46; Acts 17:2-3) and the Scriptures have an innate ability to make one wise unto salvation. The Scriptures are powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and initiate the conviction (John 16:8-10; Ephesians 6:17) that leads to conversion. Having mentioned the Scriptures, the apostle takes the opportunity to restate two basic facts about all Scripture: a) their divine origin and b) their specific usefulness (vv. 16,17).

a. Divine origin: (v. 16) All Scripture is God-breathed.

“This is another way of saying that Scripture is God’s word (cf. Jesus’ use of ‘Scripture’ and ‘Word of God’ in apposition to each other in Jn. 10:35). The same thing is also said when the NT uses ‘God says’ for what is found in Scripture, whether the words were originally spoken by God or not and when Paul insists that the message he speaks consists of words taught by God’s Spirit (I Cor. 2:12-13; cf. Heb. 3:7; Acts 1:16; II Pet. 1:21)” (p. 447, N.I.G.T.C. Commentary on the Pastorals, George W. Knight III ).

Old Testament Writings as statements from God

Scripture as something inspired of God (God-breathed) points to the origin and nature of what was written. ”All” reveals the extent of what is considered to be inspired. The word “Scripture” may refer to the O.T. writings as in v. 15 “sacred writings” (i.e. holy scripture) or to an enlargement from that to include NT writings as well. It is significant that the apostle Peter includes the writings of Paul in the category of Scripture (cf. II Pet. 3:15-16).

“Paul insisted that his letters be read (I Thess. 5:27), exchanged (Col. 4:16), and obeyed (e.g. I Cor. 14:37; II Thess. 2:15) and identified the words he used to communicate the gospel message as ‘those taught by the Spirit’ (I Cor. 2:13). In this letter, Paul has praised Timothy for following his teaching (v. 10), has urged Timothy to continue in what he has learned from Paul (v.14), has commanded Timothy to retain ‘the standard of sound words’that he has heard from Paul (1:13), has commanded him to entrust what he has heard from Paul to faithful men so that they could teach others (2:2), and has insisted that Timothy handle accurately ‘the word of truth’ (2:15). After his remarks on ‘all Scripture’ he will urge Timothy to ‘preach the word’ (4:2), i.e., proclaim the apostolic message about which Paul has said so much in this letter” (George Knight, P. 448, N.I.G.T.C., The Pastorals).

Other parts of the Bible under the title “Scripture”:

b. Specific usefulness (vv.16-17).

The usefulness of Scripture extends beyond “giving wisdom that leads to salvation” (v. 15). In vv. 16-17, the divine origin of Scripture points to a usefulness that invades all areas of life under God. The apostle reveals positive and negative uses in the following pattern:

  • Positive: Teaching (Instruction cf. Rom. 15:4; II Tim. 2:19)
  • Negative: Reproof (rebuking error cf. II Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9)
  • Negative: Correction (setting right with reference to conduct)
  • Positive: Training in righteousness (right conduct in keeping with the teaching)

The New English Bible paraphrases this: “for teaching the truth, refuting error, for reformation of manner and discipline in right living.” Knight points out that the first pair deals with belief and the second with action. (Ibid., p. 449)

Note: By virtue of their origin, the Scriptures are the final standard for faith and practice. Every believer is to be subjected to the Authority of the Word of God which is powerful and able to judge the motives and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). The authoritative place of the Scripture is especially seen in relation to the way the NT writers applied the OT to their readers (Lk. 16:29-31; Rom. 15:4;I Cor. 10; Heb. 12:5-6 w/Prov. 3:11-12). For more on the authority of the bible, see also: I Cor. 4:6; I Thess. 5:12; II Thess. 3:14; II Tim. 3:16-4:2; II Pet. 3:1-2.

2. II Peter 1:19-21

“And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (NASB).

The major theme of II Peter is the danger presented to the church by false teachers. In v. 19-21 the apostle identifies Scripture as the ultimate source of stability and confidence for the believer, as well as the needed antidote to heretical teaching (2:1).

In v. 19 Peter encourages his readers to pay attention to the prophetic word (OT), which he identifies as a more certain source of revelation and guidance than even his own dramatic witness of Jesus’ transfiguration (v. 16-18). Peter goes on to provide the two-fold bases for the absolute reliability of Scripture’s teachings.

a. Negatively — The source of Scripture is not human (v. 20).

In verse 20, Peter was addressing the question of the origin of scriptural revelation. He asserted that it is not a matter of one’s (the prophets) own interpretation. In other words, the prophets did not “put their own spin” on what they saw or heard. They did not “interpret” with their own limited human minds what God said or showed them. Peter was probably countering the false teacher’s charge that the Scriptures were merely human myths, much like they discounted the report of Jesus’ transfiguration as “cleverly devised tales” (v. 16).

In v. 21a, Peter placed added emphasis on his denial of a merely human thought process in the formation of Scripture: “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will . .”

b. Positively — The source of Scripture is Divine (v. 21).

Although Peter acknowledged a human element in God’s revelation through the Scripture (“Men ……. spoke”), his focal point was the motivation and source of their speaking: “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”.

The apostle Peter taught that it was not the prophet’s will, but God’s Spirit actually “moving” (guiding, superintending) the human agents that brought about the writing of Scripture. Therefore, when men spoke, God spoke. Scripture is the communication of God’s truth to us, arriving through the agency of human writers and speakers who were so guided by the Holy Spirit that they reported exactly what God intended. (See Jer. 1:9; Num. 22:38).

To assert or imply that “the Bible is just a book written by men,” is to wrongly assume that there is no process by which a sovereign God could use fallible man to convey infallible truth. II Peter 1:21 reveals such a process, though some of the technical details remain a mystery to finite minds.

A wise word from the late OT scholar Dr. John Bright: 

“We do not worship a book. On the contrary, the sole legitimate object of worship, and the supreme authority to whom the Christian submits himself, is God — the God who, according to the Scripture, worked his redemptive purpose in Israel and, in the fullness of time, revealed himself in Jesus Christ.  The Christian’s God is the Creator and Lord of all things, and is the Lord also of Scripture.  He existed before there was a Bible, and quite independently of it. He performed his work of creation when no man was there to record it. He gave his covenant law at Sinai, and that law had authority in Israel before the Pentateuch was written. He did his saving work in Jesus Christ, who came, did mighty works, died, and rose again, and this would be just as true had the Gospels never been penned.”

“The Bible, therefore, derives its authority from God; it does not have authority of itself, but rather by virtue of the God to whom it witnesses and who speaks in its pages.  The God of the Bible is the Christians’ supreme authority in all senses of the word.”

“True. Yet there is a practical sense in which this comes to much the same thing. What, after all, would the Christian know of his God, of Christ, and of the nature of the Christian faith apart from the Bible? Suppose for a moment the Bible had never been written or had been lost to us. What would we know of the history and faith of Israel? What would we know of Jesus, his life, his teachings, and the significance of his saving work as the early church understood it? The answer is: precious little” (p. 31, The Authority of the Old Testament, 1975).

Steve Cornell