The Bible is the best-selling book of all time and is the cornerstone of the Christian religion. For Christians, this book is not merely a collection of wise sayings or enlightened knowledge—it is the very Word of God. The Bible tells us that Scripture is “God-breathed,” which means it was inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). Scripture did not originate from the biblical authors, but they “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Paul also taught his readers that his teachings were not merely human, but “the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Jesus himself affirmed that the Old Testament writings and his new teachings were the words of God (Matthew 4:4, 15:6; Luke 11:28).
What the Bible Is
Since the Bible is God’s Word, what else does that mean for us? The Bible is authoritative. If the Bible were simply a collection of human writings, we would have no obligation to follow it, no matter how intelligent or wise its authors were. But since the Bible is God’s Word, it has authority over our lives in the same way that people must abide by their government’s laws. The Bible tells us as much. Jesus said that Scripture is a commandment from God (Matthew 15:3), as does Paul (1 Corinthians 14:37). John affirmed both Old and New Testaments carried commands from God (1 John 2:7–8).
The Bible being authoritative means that it is powerful. We should not think of the Bible as a book of magic spells that have mystical powers based on the words themselves, though. No, the Bible has power because it is God’s Word. For example, if a young girl tells her brother, “Clean your room,” that statement may not have much of an influence on him. However, if the girl tells her brother, “Mom said to clean your room,” this statement has authority because a mother has authority over her children. A command is only as authoritative as the person who made it. God is the ultimate authority in the universe, so his commands are ultimate. This is why the Bible could command us to follow earthly authorities (Romans 13:1), but Peter could tell a ruling authority that he must obey God rather than humans (Acts 5:29). God supersedes all earthly authority. And while laws may change based on the current ruling regime, God is the permanent King of the universe; thus, his Word is binding forever (Mark 13:31).
A command is only as authoritative as the person who made it. God is the ultimate authority in the universe, so his commands are ultimate
What the Bible Does
Since God’s Word contains power and authority, what does this power do? Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This one verse tells us much about the Bible. It is “alive” and “active,” not dead and passive. It “penetrates” deep to the soul, judging our very heart. Indeed, the Bible offers conviction and comfort, solace and strength. This is not a mere temporary emotional response, like a happy song or tragic story may elicit. Instead, Scripture has a deep, lasting impact on us. The Bible is alive because God is alive and active, and so the Word of God gives us life and sustains us (John 6:63; Matthew 4:4).
God’s Word not only affects individual humans, but is the means by which he accomplishes his plans in the world (Isaiah 55:10-11). The Bible tells us not to simply listen to the Word, but to “do what it says” (James 1:22), as “faith without deeds is dead” (2:26). The Bible repeatedly tells us to love others, to care for the sick, to provide for the needy, and to stand for the oppressed. Throughout history, Christians inspired and empowered by God’s Word have risen to the call. Let’s look at a few ways that the living and active “word of God continued to spread and flourish” (Acts 12:24).
Medicine & Literacy
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” –Romans 10:15
While many Christians have fulfilled the Great Commission by going throughout the world to preach the gospel, they bring more than the good news of Jesus. Missionaries have brought medicine, technology, education, and literacy to underdeveloped nations. Not only have Christians provided for those in need, they have also given people the means to bring themselves out of poverty.
We who live in the modern West take for granted the rights that all people are provided here. But this has not been the case throughout much of history. Christianity arose in a culture in which men held most of the power, both in society and in families. Women, children, slaves, and other marginalized people could be oppressed and abused in whatever manner those in power thought fit. But Christianity taught that all people were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that there are no distinctions in value between persons who are in Christ (Colossians 3:11). Men were called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and not to divorce them. Christians rescued abandoned babies. Followers of Christ fought to end the global slave trade and to this day seek to end human trafficking. The Bible teaches the full humanity of all people, whether rich or poor, powerful or oppressed, and its believers have strived to provide freedom, dignity, and hope to all.
But Christianity taught that all people were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that there are no distinctions in value between persons who are in Christ (Colossians 3:11)
Science & Cosmology
“The heavens declare the glory of God.” –Psalm 19:1
While many modern skeptics believe that Christianity is anti-science, modern science would not exist without people who believed in the teachings of the Bible. Many of the greatest names in science—such as Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, and Isaac Newton—believed they were honoring God by exploring his universe. They believed the universe could be known because an intelligent, personal God created an orderly, uniform world.
These are just three of the many ways that the Bible and those who follow it have influenced the world. God’s Word continues to “spread widely and [grow] in power” (Acts 19:20) since his words are full of his Spirit and life (John 6:63). These life-giving words have also been the cornerstone of Western civilization, inspiring everything from literature to art, music to architecture, education to law. Scripture is not only able to make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15), but also serves as the foundation for human flourishing in all our endeavors.