The Unity of Scripture — It All Matters

“That Book in Your Hand”

I posted last week (continuing my series on the nature of the Bible) on the Unity of Scripture, the fact that it is a single story told by a single Author, the greatest story ever told.  The message of the Bible?

It is the story of God’s love, the story of
THE SAVIOUR
who gave His life that we might live in love with Him forever.  

I want to spend some time looking at what this unified understanding of the Scriptures means for us practically.  Today, we’ll look at the fact that it all matters.

Rewind

Sermons on the nature of the Bible (Bibliology):

  1. The inspiration of the Scriptures, their divine nature, from II Timothy 3:16.
  2. The moving of the Spirit in giving us the Scriptures, from II Peter 1:19-21.
  3. The inerrancy of God’s Word (its complete reliability).
  4. The preservation of God’s Word.
  5. The illumination of the Scriptures, the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us to understand spiritual truths.
  6. The perspicuity of Scripture — the Scriptures can be understood and rightly interpreted.
  7. The canon of Scripture — this wasn’t a sermon, but I wrote on it as an important part of Bibliology

Read It All

This point shouldn’t be surprising.  II Timothy 3:16 tells us all Scripture is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness….”  In Acts 20:27, Paul told the elders at Ephesus that he had “not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” — all of it is important.

It’s all part of the story.  Those lists?  Yes, they make hard reading, but they are part of the story, too.  They drive home the reality of the entire account — these were real people, with real families.  You wouldn’t just make up lists like that for a religious book — this is history, a true account.  When compared with other Scriptures, these lists often give important information.  If you are new to Bible reading, and the lists discourage you, just go ahead and skip them this time!  Whatever you do, don’t stop reading — but don’t drop the lists out of your Bible, either.  Next time through, read a few, and the next time, a few more.  There is profit in those lists, even if it isn’t always obvious at first.  You’ll find that value in time.

You don’t have to read every detail to “get it.”  The first time you read a really good book, you get the plot.  When you read again, you see personality interplays, character development, etc.  Many details come to life that you missed the first time.  You don’t expect to get everything the first time.  It’s the same with the Bible.  Read the whole story, then go back and read it again and learn more details.  It all matters — if you want to increase your understanding of the loving relationship God wants to have with you.

We Can’t Ignore Challenging Parts

God told us to “rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice!”  Do you ever wish He hadn’t said that?  I do.  Sometimes, I just don’t feel like rejoicing, or being thankful, or disciplining myself to do my work.

We can’t pick and choose which parts matter.  This book tells us how a properly functioning love relationship with God works.  Sometimes that challenges us in ways we might not want to be challenged.  It all matters, and it is all worth it.  Don’t dodge the challenges of Scripture.  The cross is proof that those challenges have their origin in God’s love for you — He wants this love relationship to be all it should be.  Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished by doing only the easy stuff.  Why would we think something as important as developing an eternal loving relationship with Almighty God is going to be a piece of cake?

We Can’t Ignore Unpleasant Parts

Sometimes we might wish some parts of the Bible weren’t there.  When is the last time you heard a pastor say, “I can’t wait to preach on the last few chapters of Judges!”  Yet, they are an important part of the story.  They show just how rebellious man is, even when God has blessed him abundantly.  They show just how patient is His love, in not casting off His people forever.

There are some pretty brutal things in the Bible.  We may not really like seeing Ananias and Sapphira struck dead in Acts 5.  We might wish they got a second chance.  There’s plenty of brutality in the Old Testament as well.  If we could plan it our way, we might invent a way for everyone to be in Heaven.  (Of course, Heaven wouldn’t be much of a place if God allowed unrepentant sinners to be there.  All we have to do is look around to see what a mess unrepentant sinners always make.)

When we see all these things in the story of man’s rebellion against God, we see that they need to be there.  It all matters.  These parts teach us how devastating is man’s rebellion, how much damage it does, and how severe its consequences.  They help to teach us just how repulsive sin is, and the demands of justice in response.  They teach us of the importance of the Cross.

  • We need the unpleasant parts to really understand the horror of sin.
  • We need to understand how bad sin is to really understand Christ’s suffering.
  • We need to understand His suffering to really understand the greatness of His love.
  • We need to understand His love to really love Him as we should.

We Can’t Decide Some Parts are Non-Essential

Some teachers speak of essential and non-essential Scriptural teachings.  If we believe in the unity of the Scriptures, we can’t consider any part “non-essential.”  It is all part of the wonderful account of God’s redemptive work in restoring loving fellowship with rebellious people.  We can’t decide that some parts don’t matter.

I understand why some say this.  Salvation comes by trusting Christ, not by scoring 100% on a theology test.  Certain Scriptural teachings have to be received for salvation, but you can get a lot wrong and still be saved.  People call those things that you have to get right for salvation the “essential” doctrines.

It is dangerous language, because it implies other Scriptural teaching isn’t very important.  But just as it would be foolish to talk about “essential” and “non-essential” obedience, it doesn’t make sense to talk about non-essential truth.

The Bible doesn’t call some Scriptural truths “non-essential.”  It is all part of God great story of redemption, and it is all true.  You don’t understand His love the way He wants you to if you don’t have all Biblical truth.  If you don’t understand His love the way He wants you to, then you won’t love Him the way He wants you to, either.

None of my family knew how to eat with cutlery when they became my children.  By now, it is essential for them to properly use knives, forks, and spoons, or it will mar their fellowship with their parents, and I’ll make them eat outside!  Christians, and especially mature ones, should not refer to “non-essential” truths.

It All Matters

A person doesn’t have to read the whole Bible or properly understand everything it teaches to be saved.  You don’t have to learn to appreciate all of it to be loved by God and to love Him.  But the Bible is a unit, a single Book written by a single Author with a single Purpose — to tell us of God’s great love for sinners who have rebelled against Him, restoring them to proper fellowship in a loving relationship.  Every part of it helps us understand His love, man’s rebellion, and how the restored love relationship is supposed to function.  The Scriptures are One Book.  It all matters.

Next in Series:  The Unity of Scripture — the “Analogy of Faith”

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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4 Responses to The Unity of Scripture — It All Matters

  1. Michael says:

    “None of my family knew how to eat with cutlery when they became my children. By now, it is essential for them to properly use knives, forks, and spoons, or it will mar their fellowship with their parents, and I’ll make them eat outside!”

    I should note that I was eating with my fingers when I read this… 😀

  2. seismicmike says:

    I see what you’re saying about essential and non-essential and I can’t disagree with you. All truth communicated in Scripture is essential. However, coming from a church who has, as one of our mottos, “On the essentials, unity. On the non-essentials, liberty,” I can say that this is not always what is meant.

    The intent here is not to say that there are some Scriptural truths that are more important than others, rather it is to say that there are some doctrines that are open to more variability of interpretation within what could be considered orthodox, but that where the Scriptures do teach clearly, we hold to what they teach.

    For example, on eschatology, there are many different views on how things will play out in the future, and many of them, including some widely diverse ones, fall within orthodoxy because they all hold to the bodily return of Christ, which would be the essential doctrine of eschatology. But matters of exactly when the rapture is going to happen with respect to the tribulation and whether the 1,000 year reign is exactly literal, these things are not as essential. It’s not that the truth isn’t important, but that God has not given us the detail in Scripture to draw a harder line of distinction. On the divinity of Christ and the humanity of Christ and the Trinity, there is very little acceptable variance. You stray from those doctrines very far, and you’re a heretic. But if you believe in a mid-trib rapture, does that make you a heretic? Of course not. Full Preterism would, but only because it denies the bodily return of Christ.

    So by saying “On the essentials, unity. On the non-essentials, liberty,” we are saying that where Scripture is clear on a matter, we will hold to what the Scriptures teach, but on matters that involve speculation, or human constructs in attempts to systematize or codify the Scripture (e.g: Calvinism), we’re not going to break fellowship if someone can’t recite our understanding of Limited Atonement word for word and whole-heartedly agree.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Well, Mike, I certainly agree — there are areas where this statement of yours is true: “It’s not that the truth isn’t important, but that God has not given us the detail in Scripture to draw a harder line of distinction.”

      But let me ask — doesn’t that take us outside “Scriptural doctrine?” If non-essentials means “beyond what God says,” wouldn’t it be better to say that, rather than imply that some doctrine isn’t essential?

      In a postmodern world, people choose which “truth” they want. Dare we even implicitly suggest some truths are less important? That really has no Scriptural basis. Wouldn’t this be better: “In Biblical doctrine, unity. In speculative doctrine, liberty”? It maybe lacks the same ring, but it doesn’t undermine the complete authority of all of Scripture.

      Our greatest problem is not that people get into fights on speculative doctrine. I’m not saying it isn’t a problem — it is. But the greatest problem in churches today, which impacts in many, many ways, is a lack of respect for the complete authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

      If we had that respect, among many other things, we’d respect the silence of Scripture, too. And we’d also have humility and charity, which is a better antidote to speculative theology fights than “non-essential.” The proud and uncharitable will not agree with you as to what is essential, anyway, and you’ll have a hard task showing them Scripture that delineates what is and is not essential.

      If you mean by “essentials” and “non-essentials” the difference between revealed and speculative, I don’t have any problem with what you mean by it. But I sincerely doubt that everyone who hears it takes that meaning, and it seems a very unwise way to express it in the day and age in which we live.

      Somewhat side note: Eschatology has more essentials than the bodily return of Christ. For instance, God’s faithfulness to keep His promises is an essential in eschatology. Exactly how He will do so may wander into speculation, but any eschatological view which doesn’t reflect that essential will certainly impact fellowship at some level — or should. I’m a dispensationalist, but any form of dispensationalism that sees anyone ever earning their salvation by works violates an essential.

      Thanks for the comment. The motto (which as I’m sure you know many people use) is unwise, but I certainly don’t think everyone who uses it means ill by it, or intends to undermine Scripture. I’m afraid that many inadvertently do so with at least some of their hearers.

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