God's Word and Me!

A Vacation Bible School Curriculum by Barry McWilliams
an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America

Teacher's Study Guide: God's Word and Me!

Basic suppositions

Basic Characteristics:

Study Questions

© 1991 Barry McWilliams and Mission Church Fellowship, Hypertext Version © 1996 Barry McWilliams
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God's Book: Basic Suppositions

God has given us the Bible. This makes it a special book. We believe that God has revealed Himself, His Son and the way of salvation in it's pages. It was written with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Because of its divine nature it is without error and authoritative over our lives. God's word has come to us through men, who lived and wrote in historical contexts. The following terms and concepts are important for us.

REVELATION: is the act by which God discloses Himself and communicates truth to the mind.

We can speak about two kinds of revelation. God has revealed himself in the creation. Psalm 19:1-6 speaks about this "General" revelation. Romans 1:19-20 teaches us that God's attributes, power and divine nature are clearly seen in what is made. However, Romans 1:18ff teaches us that the revelation of nature is such that we are left without an excuse for disbelief, yet it is insufficient to lead us to salvation, due to the fallen state of man, whose heart and reason are darkened. So we need a "Special" revelation from God, and Psalm 19:7-14 teaches us about this. To come to God and be saved, we need that "Special revelation". See Romans 10:8-17. Cf. 1 Cor 2:6-16 and Isa 55:6-11.

INSPIRATION: That operation of the Spirit of God by which He bears (guides and supervises) men in the process of composing Scripture so they write, not of themselves, but "from God."

There are three passages that teach us about inspiration.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 - "All Scripture is inspired by God (lit. "God breathed") and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." There are not exceptions, "all Scripture" is inspired and therefore profitable. These are the same Scriptures that Timothy had learned from Childhood, which give wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ. And it is the written word, not the writers that are inspired.

2 Peter 1:15-21 - We aren't following cleaverly devised tales. Peter wrote as an eye-witness to the transfiguration of Christ and speaks of the Word made more certain. No prophecy had its origin in a prophet's thoughts and interpretation, rather, "They spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." The phrase "carried along" indicates that God did not dictate the Bible - rather each writer wrote in his own style and form - sometimes as we shall see from Jeremiah - progressing through various drafts - but the finished product - through the work of the Spirit - was God's inspired word.

Matthew 5:17-19 - Jesus proclaims he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Scripture), but to fulfil them. Not one letter will pass away until all is accomplished. Inspiration extends not only to the content (message) but also to the words and letters of the original manuscripts. The Bible thus is verbally inspired - the words, grammar and syntax are significant for interpretation and just as inspired as the whole.

There are some today who would claim the the Bible is not inspired, but that we gain inspiration from it. But The Bible does not "contain" the word of God, it is more than just a "witness" to the word of God, it does not somehow "become" the word of God as we "encounter" it, but regardless of whether or how we receive it, it is the word of God written, fully and verbally inspired.

INERRANCY: The Bible can be trusted. It is without mistakes and is to be believed in all matters upon which it touches. There are not errors in what it says about God's acts in creation and the events of world history, nor what it says about its own origins, nor in its witness to God's saving grace. Could we trust it to reveal our Salvation, if it was full of errors and mistakes in historical events or scientific facts? (cf. Isaiah 45:18-25, 1 Peter 1:23-25)


The Bible's Characteristics

Text and Translations: The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek with a brief portions in Aramaic. We believe it is inspired and without error in the Original manuscripts and languages. This does not mean we can not trust our translations, but the final authority rests upon the originals.

There are some characteristics of the revelation that is given in the Bible that are important to note:

Historical Revelation: God has given His revelation of Himself in historical and cultural events and contexts. Much of the Bible is a narration of historical people and events, whether the history of God's people - the Patriarchs, the Exodus, the Conquest and kingdoms of Isreal and Judah, or the life of Christ, and the Early Church in Acts. God acts in history. The Prophets and Epistles were addressed to real people and situations.

The Bible is not a collection of myths. The events recorded in it actually took place. The Scriptures were understood by the contemporaries of the writers and had meaning and application for them.

Progressive Revelation: God gradually revealed His will. While the major doctrines (teachings) of the Bible are there from the beginning, they are not understood in their fulness until the coming of Christ and the completion of the New Testament. For example, from Genesis 3:15 on, a savior was anticipated. The prophecies of the Older Testament gradually revealed his divine and human natures coming together into one person and his three fold office as a Prophet, Priest and King, but these come together only as Jesus was born and ministered; and we have the clearest understanding of Christ from the Epistles of the Apostles.

We are not however talking about an evolution of doctrine, where over a period of time man's beliefs changed and evolved. There is not conflict or change in the doctrines of the two Testaments. It is man's understanding that becomes clearer with the growth of the Bible. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the Same Father who sent his beloved Son, and from whom that Son will come again. For example, Some "History of Religions" classes try to give the impression that Christianity evolved - that the Patriachs were polytheists, Moses introduced Monotheism and the concept of the Trinity is only a New Testament concept.

Unity: There is a tremendous unity in the Bible, though written over a period of 1,500 years, by many different writers, and in several languages. There is a clear unity of doctrine. what is taught in one passage is assumed and supported in others. The whole Bible agrees concerning God, His nature, attributes and actions; Man, his creation, fallen state; The Savior, his nature and work and God's purposes and promises.

"There are three strands in particular that tie the Bible together and these make up the story of Salvation. First there is the Bringer of Salvation, then the Way of Salvation and finally the Heirs of Salvation. The central message of the Bible is God's Covenant with man, and the strands are the mediator of the Coovenant, the basis of the Covenant and the covenant people. God himself is the Savior of His people; it is he who confirms his covenant mercy with them. The bringer of Salvation, the mediator of the covenant is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The way of salvation, the basis of the covenant, is God's grace, calling forth from his people a response of faith and obedience. The heirs of salvation, the covenant people are the Isreal of God, the Church of God." F. F. Bruce, New Bible Dictionary, p. 139.

Diversity: The Bible is given in a variety of literary forms. There are historical narratives, laws, poetry, proverbs, prophecies, sermons, object lessons, epistles (letters) and parables. Each must be treated in in a manner appropriate to its particular literary type. You do not interpret poetry in the same way you interpret a law or historical event.

Clarity: Interpreting the Bible: The Bible is its own best interpreter. We interpret the Old Testament by the New; the unclear by the clear; Gospels by Epistles, parables and symbols by instructive passages, and individual passages by the teaching of the whole. While there may be a variety of applications there is only one meaning to a passage. We follow the "plain" sense unless there is clean reason to do otherwise. The meanings of words and phrases are determined by looking at their usage in other passages of Scripture.

"The infallable rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture, it must be searched out and known by other places that speak more clearly." Westminster Confession of Faith I.ix.


Questions to be Prepared to Answer:

How would you respond to the following questions from a child?

"Why is the Bible God's Word? Did God write it?"

"I don't understand a lot of things I read in the Bible?"

"My school teacher said the Bible has a lot of mistakes?"

"How does the Bible show me God?"

"The Bible is not relevant to me and my world?"

Be sure and write down any questions you may have, and be sure to ask them at the VBS Team training sessions.