Faith 101: What is the Bible?
An Excerpt from “The Journey” by Billy Graham
July 23, 2010 - For three years Billy Graham worked to distill into one book his lifetime of experience and learning about how to live the Christian life. The result of this effort is “The Journey.” “This book summarizes everything I have tried to say in the course of my ministry over the last 65 years,” says Mr. Graham. The following excerpt from “The Journey” emphasizes the power of the Word of God.
The Bible deals with timeless questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? How should we live?
What makes the Bible so different from other books? At first glance it looks like any other book (although you may be intimidated by its size). You also might wonder if it’s of any use to us today, since it mostly tells about events that happened thousands of years ago. And yet people in every generation have found its message indispensable, and its influence on individuals and society over the centuries has been enormous. Why? What is the Bible?
For one thing, the Bible is a collection of books, written by dozens of authors over many hundreds of years. Some are very brief—less than a page—while others are much longer. But in spite of their diversity, when you examine them, you discover they all have a common theme: God’s relationship with the human race.
This is one reason why the books of the Bible are just as relevant today as when they were written. The Bible deals with timeless questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? How should we live?
Can you think of any questions more important than these? How can we ignore them?
The Word of God
But the Bible is important for a much greater reason: The Bible is the Word of God. Yes, various human authors wrote it—but behind them was another Author: the Spirit of God. Even when they weren’t fully aware of it, God was guiding them so that what they wrote wasn’t just their own words, but God’s Word. The apostle Peter wrote, “No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). God wanted to speak to us in words we could understand—and the Bible contains those words.
The Bible isn’t just a collection of men’s ideas about God, nor is it a guidebook for living that people developed over the centuries. It is the Word of God—and that makes all the difference. This means the Bible is our authority in everything it touches. This means the Bible is our guide to show us how to live. Most of all, this means the Bible is our instructor, teaching us about God and His plan of salvation in Christ. The Old Testament points toward Christ’s coming; the New Testament tells of His arrival. From Genesis to Revelation we see God’s great plan unfold—His plan to win a lost humanity back to Himself. The central theme of the Bible is salvation, and the central personality of the Bible is Christ.
The Bible is God’s gift to us. It came from God, and it points us to God. The Bible says of itself, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV).
Can We Trust It?
Since the Bible is God’s Word, we shouldn’t be surprised if Satan tries to convince us otherwise. The very first question in the Bible came from Satan’s lips, casting doubt on what God had told Adam and Eve: “Did God really say ...? (Genesis 3:1). Then he became bolder, flatly denying what God had said: “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Ever since that dark day in the Garden of Eden, one of Satan’s most persistent strategies has been to make us doubt the truthfulness and authority of God’s Word.
In the summer of 1949, my team and I were preparing for the most intensive evangelistic mission we had ever attempted, a citywide outreach in Los Angeles, California. Although the press had ignored it, several hundred churches had come together to prepare and pray for the planned three-week-long event. We believed God had led us there, and many were praying He would use the meetings to bring many to Christ.
Just weeks before the mission was to start, however, I experienced a major crisis of faith—the most intense of my life. Some months before, a fellow evangelist whom I respected greatly had begun to express doubts about the Bible, urging me to “face facts” and change my belief that the Bible was the inspired Word of God. “Billy,” he said, “you’re fifty years out-of-date. People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do. Your faith is too simple.” I knew from my own reading that some modern theologians shared his views.
For months doubts about the Bible swirled through my mind, finally coming to a boil during a conference at which I was speaking in the mountains east of Los Angeles. One night, alone in my cabin at the conference, I studied carefully what the Bible said about its divine origin. I recalled that the prophets clearly believed they were speaking God’s Word; they used the phrase “Thus says the Lord” (or similar words) hundreds of times. I also knew that archaeological discoveries had repeatedly confirmed the Bible’s historical accuracy.
Especially significant to me, however, was Jesus’ own view of Scripture. He not only quoted it frequently, but also accepted it as the Word of God. While praying for His disciples, He said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). He also told them, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law” (Matthew 5:18). Shouldn’t I have the same view of Scripture as my Lord?
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Finally I went for a walk in the moonlit forest. I knelt down with my Bible on a tree stump in front of me and began praying. I don’t recall my exact words, but my prayer went something like this: “O Lord, there are many things in this book I don’t understand. There are many problems in it for which I have no solution. ... But, Father, by faith I am going to accept this as Thy Word. From this moment on I am going to trust the Bible as the Word of God.”
When I got up from my knees, I sensed God’s presence in a way that I hadn’t felt for months. Not all my questions were answered, but I knew a major spiritual battle had been fought—and won. I never doubted the Bible’s divine inspiration again, and immediately my preaching took on a new confidence. This was, I believe, one reason why our Los Angeles meetings had to be extended from three weeks to eight.
Don’t let anyone shake your confidence in the Bible as God’s Word. If you have questions about it, don’t use them as an excuse to turn your back on God. Instead, face your doubts and seek answers; you aren’t the first person to ask them. (Your local Christian bookstore can help you.) In addition, read the Bible for yourself with an open heart and mind. Ask God to show you if it truly is His Word—and He will.
Your life will never be the same once you trust the Bible as God’s Word. God will begin to use it to change your life.
©2006 Billy Graham, W. Publishing, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tenn. All rights reserved. Bible verses marked NKJV are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers, Nashville, Tenn. ©1951 (renewed 1979; revised 1993, 1997, 2000) All other verses are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, Colo.