No book is misused, misunderstood or collects more dust than the Bible. Much of this stems from some misconceptions about what it is. While the Bible is 100 percent true, there are a few “buts” to consider. It’s important that we understand these buts so we can have a better understanding of the Bible and the message it’s communicating. Not only what the Bible is, but also what it isn’t. The BUTs are important.
Let’s look at some.
All True But Not All Equal
While everything in the Bible is true, not everything is equally applicable or relevant for every life stage.
Take for example John 3:16-17; this passage is valuable for the young, the old and the in-betweens. It’s good truth for a new Christian, someone who’s been a Christian for a long time, and for people considering following Jesus. It gives a concise message of the Gospel. It’s applicable at every life stage.
Now compare John 3:16-17 to the Song of Songs. Both are true. But Song of Solomon would be of little use to teach a Sunday School class of 4-year-olds. It’s not applicable to them yet. It’s true, but in their life stage, they do not need to know the fullness of that truth.
We must evaluate each truth in Scripture to discover how we should apply it in our lives.
All True But Not the Center of Christianity
I might lose some of you on this one. But bear with me.
Everything in the Bible is true, but it’s not the center of Christianity, nor does it claim to be. Christianity is built upon Jesus (God in flesh), His death for our sins, and most importantly His resurrection and victory over that death. That’s the center of Christianity.
The Bible is not the center of Christianity, rather it is written about the center of Christianity: Jesus.
Pastor Andy Stanley summarized this point when he said: “Christianity does not exist because of the Bible any more than you exist because of your birth certificate. Your birth certificate documents something that happened. If you lose it, you do not go out of existence.”
We should let the Bible point us and guide us toward Jesus. The Bible is all true, but it’s not the center of faith for Christians. Jesus is that center.
All True But Not Comprehensive
Everything in the Bible is true, but not everything that is true is in the Bible. Truth exists apart from the Bible. I don’t go to my Bible when I’m trying to repair my car. Why? Because that truth is not in there. That doesn’t make the Bible any less true. It just means that truth exists apart from the Bible.
The purpose of the Bible is to tell the story of God redeeming His people, and communicate the hope we have because of what He has done. It’s not to tell us every little thing we need to know in life.
All True But Not the Same Purpose and Style
Everything in the Bible is true, but not everything is written for the same purpose. The Bible is often viewed as one book, but really, it’s a compilation of 66 unique books, with different styles, authors and purposes. Each book was not meant to be read in the same way.
You can roughly break down the books of the Bible into six categories: law, history, wisdom/poetry, prophecy, Gospel and letters. Each must be read and interpreted differently. You don’t read a history textbook the same way you read a book of poetry. One is read as literal truth and the other is an artistic expression. They are both useful and needed, but they communicate through vastly different styles, and they serve different purposes.
When we approach the Bible, we must do our best to read each book the way it was intended to be read.
Jeffery Poor lives in Virginia Beach, VA and works for Real Life Christian Church as a Connections Pastor. He writes regularly for rethinknow.org.