There are countless expressions of a low view of the Bible: shifting morals, unchallengeable traditions and the elevation of opinions about God above his revealed truth. On the African continent one of the clearest expressions is the overemphasis of prophecy. Heard on every corner are phrases such as, “God said” and “I had a vision”. These claims are not harmless, because they cause us to reevaluate God’s Word. Ultimately, what we are seeing across Africa are churches that prefer powerful words rather than God’s.
Jesus the Son reveals God
Usually discipleship involves reading the Gospel of John. The goal behind this is to provide believers with a rich understanding of the person of Christ. But have we considered how John introduces us to him? He writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). There are a few things that stand out. First, the Word is eternal: “In the beginning was the Word.” Secondly, he is God: “The Word was God.” Third, he is a distinct person within the Triune God, “he was in the beginning with God.”
On the African continent one of the clearest expressions of a low view of the Bible is the overemphasis of prophecy
John continues and says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This shows us that there are two persons: God the Son and God the Father. The Word that became incarnate is the Son. Jesus Christ is the Word incarnate, the Son from God, this is made explicit in John 1:16-17, “And from his fullness, we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Therefore in Scripture, the “Word of God” can refer to a person, the Son of God. As Wayne Grudem writes in his Systematic Theology, “This usage is not common. But it does indicate that among the members of the Trinity it is especially God the Son who in his person as well as in his words has the role of communicating the character of God to us and of expressing the will of God for us.” Because the revelation of God in his Son is personal, we cannot expect a better revelation. God’s revelation culminates in Christ and his work.
God’s revelation climaxes in Jesus Christ. Therefore, no prophet can claim the same authority as the prophets before Jesus, and none can claim the same authority as Jesus
Though the Son is the final form of God’s revelation he is not the only way God spoke in the past. Hear how the author of Hebrews introduces Jesus, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). It is clear from these verses that God used prophets, among other means, to communicate his will. But the contrast between those ways and the Son is stark. See how the Son is described, “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the World. He is the radiance of the glory of God” (Hebrews 1:2-3). The contrast is not on the value of the words the prophets spoke in relation to his Son, but on the vessels God used. He once used the prophets but now he used his Son who is not only the finality, but is more valuable than the prophets.
God’s revelation climaxes in Jesus Christ. Therefore, no prophet can claim the same authority as the prophets before Jesus and none can claim the same authority as Jesus, the Son of God. In Jesus God consummates the revelation of himself and his will for us. Therefore, if we desire to know God we must study the Bible, God’s Word through the prophets and ultimately his own Son.
Through God’s Word he continues to reveal himself to us
Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Here Paul says to Timothy that the Bible is inspired by God and sufficient to make us into the people God desires and demands us to be. When Paul wrote he was most likely referring to the Old Testament, which Jesus taught centred on him (John 5:39-40, 45-47). Even though the Son is God’s final and fullest Word to humanity, we can plumb the depths of his person and work throughout the Bible. Thus in 2 Peter 1:20-21 we read, “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
God is not going to provide us with anything more personal and powerful than his own Son. Let us stop chasing after fresh words and prophecies. If we need hope Paul wrote, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the scripture we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). If we really want to be the people that God desires us to be, “All Scripture is breathed by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If we really want to hear from God, the author of Hebrews said, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through who also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
The Bible is enough to make us the people God wants us to be. It is sufficient to encourage and give us hope as we run the race and face life’s challenges.
If we have doubts about our salvation or who Jesus is and are in need of assurance, Peter said, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty…And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:16, 19-20).
If we want to be mature and stable, not moved by any form of false doctrine, Paul said, God gave the church the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:11-14). The Bible is enough to make us the people God wants us to be. It is sufficient to encourage and give us hope as we run the race and face life’s challenges. Therefore, brothers and sisters, seek to grow in your knowledge of the word of God.