By Larry Ray Hafley
Writers have a purpose for writing. One may write to inform, entertain, oppose, expose, persuade or to preserve facts. Why was the Bible written? In this study, we shall seek to answer that question. Our opinion as to the Bible’s purpose is not valid or sufficient (Isa. 55:8, 9). Accordingly, we shall let God, the Holy Spirit, tell us why it was given unto man (1 Cor. 2:6-16). If we know why the Bible was written, we shall know how to use it more effectively (2 Tim. 2:15). Dr. Seuss and Mother Goose are literary works, but their purpose differs from that of Sandburg’s “Lincoln” or Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. If you doubt that, read them to a three year old at bedtime. Hence, to understand the reasons why the word of God was written will assist us in receiving its intended benefits and blessings (Cf. 2 Cor. 2:4).
The Bible Was Not Written
To better understand the Bible’s purpose and reason for existence, it may help us to see goals that it was not given to accomplish.
First, it was not written for profit. Men may make money for publishing it, but the Bible was not written for that purpose. God said, “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine and the fulness thereof” (Psa. 50:12). Many of the apostles suffered “the loss of all things” (Phil. 3:8; 1 Cor. 4:9-13). Money was not their motivation.
Second, the Bible was not written to satisfy idle curiosity. God gave man a curious, inquisitive nature. This wondering trait is extremely useful, but the word of God was not given as a mental stick for the mind to whittle. “For the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” The word spoken by Paul was not designed to gratify their curiosity (Acts 17:18-31). If that were the aim and intent of the Bible, perhaps God would have given us the “secret things” which he has reserved unto himself (Deut. 29:29).
Third, while the Bible often reflects the culture, beliefs and superstitions of the writer’s era, that was not its ultimate design. Many ancient customs, some of which are now lost to us, are cited (Gen. 24:2; Ruth 4:7,8). Understanding of some of these items gives us a greater appreciation of the point of certain narratives (cf. Lk. 7:44; Rom. 16:16), but it was not the author’s aim to school us in their peculiarities.
Fourth, ancient myths and legends of pagan tribes are noted in the Bible (1 Sam. 6; 1 Kgs. 20; Acts 14:11, 12), but it was not written to perpetuate them. Even among those who profess faith, the creation and flood of Genesis, along with the strength of Samson and the swallowing of Jonah are viewed as myths, as are the accounts of the works of Jesus. However, Peter said, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16).
Fifth, the Bible was not presented to define current events. Neither is it, to use the words of James P. Needham, an eschatological road map.” Every earthquake, every stock market crash and every ruler from Nero to Napoleon and from Hitler to Hussein is to be found in the Bible, or so some would have us believe. If the Bible contained a chart of occurrences of each generation, it would be so large that one could not fit it on a semi-trailer truck. If Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation are fulfilled in our daily newspapers, what did they mean to men in the first nineteen centuries?
Sixth, though the word of God may cause hurt, grief, pain and shame, that is not its primary object. “I write not these things to shame you” (1 Cor. 4:14). “I wrote unto you. . . not that ye should be grieved” (2 Cor. 2:4; 7:8,9,12; 10:9, 10). The word of God does cut and stab the heart. It produces sorrow (Acts 2:37; 7:54; 2 Cor. 7:8-10; cf. Jer. 23:29; Hos. 6:5), but that is not its chief intention. When the word of God pricks nd sticks one’s conscience, his attitude should be, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head” (Psa. 141:5). “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).
Seventh, the Bible’s object is not to promote “self esteem” or to develop a “positive mental attitude” (PMA). It is not a “self help” book which teaches man how to lift himself up by his own proverbial boot straps. However, the “amazing secrets” to “leading a successful life,” which many PMA gurus think they have “discovered,” are to be found in the book of God (Prov. 4:23; 14:14; 23:7; Phil. 4:4-8). The Bible teaches that man is the highest, finest, noblest creation of God, but that he is “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked,” and “in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity” apart from God. Without Christ, he has “no hope.” The treasures of wisdom and knowledge are not to be found in increasing one’s self esteem, but in Christ (Col. 2:3). Beware of the preacher who would tell you that you need to create a better “self image” through the PMA philosophy. It is a lie, a snare. Perhaps what you need is to see yourself as God sees you, lost and undone in sin (Lk. 18:9-14). “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Col. 2:8-10).
Why The Bible Was Written
(1) “That Ye Might Believe” (Jn. 20:30, 31). Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). That is why the devil does not want the word in your heart (Lk. 8:11, 12). He knows that it produces faith. A child of God is sired, fathered, begotten by the word of God (1 Cor. 4,15; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:22-25). One trusts in Christ “after” (not before) he hears the word of truth (Eph. 1:13). Rhetorically, Paul asks, “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:14) Obviously, they cannot believe without hearing the word of God.
Many may think this point need not be belabored, but in an era when much of the preaching and publishing of spiritual themes is devoid of Scripture, it must be stressed. As you read and listen to essays and addresses, consider their biblical base. Are you reading and hearing the word of God, or are you being entertained and inspired by cute stories and clever narratives? An eloquent man, fervent in spirit, who speaks boldly with enthusiasm may lull you into receiving “good words and fair speeches” as gospel preaching. Faith is attained and maintained by the word of God (1 Pet. 1:22-25; 2:2), not by the congenial wit, winning smiles and personal grace of men.
“But times are changing. Men will not sit still for plain, old-fashioned preaching. We need a modern message for modern man.” Sounds like I have heard that somewhere before. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3,4). What was Paul’s prescription for this condition? Did he recommend an updated gospel, “new and improved”? Did he suggest a renovation of the word of reconciliation? No, but because of man’s desire for a 44contemporary message,” because of his wish to have his ears scratched, Paul said, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).
(2) “For Our Admonition” (1 Cor. 10:11). The Bible is given for our learning, for our warning (1 Cor. 4:14). Paul catalogs the sins of Israel in 1 Corinthians 10, citing everything from murmuring to immorality. This follows the exhortation of 9:24-27 and concludes with “these things . . . are written for our admonition.” Note the “wherefores” of verses 12 and 14. 2 Peter 2 and the book of Jude are of the same nature. Preaching that does not alert and warn with Scripture is not Bible preaching. Count the number of times the words “warn” or “warning” are used in Ezekiel 3:17-21. Surprising number, is it not? Are you hearing the Bible preached as a word of warning (Heb. 3:7-4:1)? Listen very carefully, and you may hear preaching that belittles Bible warnings against sin and damnation. It seems that the only warning some will give is a warning against preaching that warns. These men are dangerous to your soul.
(3) “How Thou Oughtest To Behave Thyself” (1 Tim. 3:14,15). God has a plan, a pattern of behavior that he expects of us. The Bible was written to tell us how we ought to behave ourselves in the church. “These things command and teach” (1 Tim. 4:11). “These things teach and exhort” (1 Tim. 6:2). The Bible is not a book of suggestions; it is a book of “ought,” “how thou oughtest to behave thyself.” Be wary of the man who decries and derides the use of what men “ought” to do. If the Bible is not used to tell men how they “ought” to live pure, holy, godly lives, it is not being applied according to its purpose. Rejection of the word of God often occurs among those who want to walk after their own lusts and not after the conduct demanded by the Lord (2 Pet. 3:3,4; Rom. 1:21-28).
(4) “That Ye Sin Not” (1 Jn. 2:1). “Sin is the transgression of the law” (God’s law – 1 Jn. 3:4). “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). The remedy for sin is the blood of Christ (1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 1:5). When Jesus met the temptation of the devil, he appealed to the Bible, to the word of God, saying, “It is written” (Matt. 4:4,7,10). Jesus was tempted in all points, in all ways, as we are, “yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He escaped the snares of the devil by relying on the word of God. But what of us? “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psa. 119:9-11).
When I was a boy, my dear mother would say, “Don’t get in the mud.” But when I was drawn away of my own lusts and enticed, when I forgot my mother’s word, I played in the mud. Is there a parallel? Is there a lesson there? If we hate sin, if we want to overcome sin, let us hear and heed the Bible, for it was written that we sin not (1 Cor. 15:34).
(5) “That Ye May Understand” (Eph. 3:3,4). Man hag a duty to understand “what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). The Bible was given that we might see, know and understand the will of God. One must have a “desire” and “give diligence” to know the truth (1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:15). Faithful preaching will give the sense of Scripture and cause the eyes of understanding to be opened (Neh. 8:8). Jesus did this in his teaching (Lk. 24:25-27,45).
It has been said that man is the only creature that inquires (A) Where did I come from? (B) Why am I here? (C) Where am I going? Where would you go to have those questions answered? To whom would you turn? “Lord, to whom shall we go?” The Bible is the only book that can give man insight and understanding as to his place and purpose in creation. If one would know the will of God for his life, he must turn to the Bible for light, for guidance, for understanding (Psa. 119:105).
(6) “That Ye May Be Mindful” (2 Pet. 3:1,2). The Bible stirs and kindles the pure mind to remember the words of the “holy prophets” and apostles of our Lord and Savior. Though one may already know and be “established in the present truth,” he needs “to give the more earnest heed” unto the things which he has heard, lest they slip away (2 Pet. 1:12-15; Heb. 2:1). Preaching should stir remembrance of the word of the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:35). Peter thought it “meet” (fitting, suitable, proper) that he should put the brethren “in remembrance” of things which they already knew. All sound doctrine will draw us back to the words “which were spoken before”; that is, back to the Bible!
There is a great need today for preachers to draw men back to the word of God. Because we forget, let us go back to the gospel plan of salvation, back to Acts 2, back to Philip and the eunuch, back to the Philippian jailer. Because we let such things slip away, let us go back to the Bible to see how the church worked, worshiped and served the Lord. Because we forget, let us tell of God’s grace and mercy and love as manifested in Jesus the Christ. Because we forget, let us be mindful of apostasies, both ancient and modern. “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not” (Jude 5; Heb. 3:7-4:11).
(7) “That Ye Might Learn . . . Not To Think Of Men Above That Which is Written” (1 Cor. 4:6). One’s faith must be rooted and grounded in Jesus and in his word. Men will disappoint us; men will fail and confound us with their sins; men will mislead us, whether they mean to do so or not. Hence, our faith must be in “that which is written,” and not in men. Guy N. Woods’ debate with the Baptist, Nunnery, was a classic. I borrow a copy (because I am unable to get one of my own) each time I am to debate a Baptist. The writings of Foy E. Wallace are classics. However, when these men departed from the truth and built the very things which once they destroyed (benevolent societies, sponsoring church arrangements, church sponsored entertainment and recreation), they had to be opposed.
Is there someone in your life whom you love, esteem and admire “for their works’ sake”? Surely, there is. What should you do when they sin? What should you do when they teach doctrines that are contrary to “that which is written”? Should you defend them in their sins? Should you excuse their teachings which, if followed, will cause souls to be lost in hell? God forbid! Should you, then, hate them, spurn them and turn against them with vicious, malicious words? Again, “God forbid!” What is the “loving” or right thing to do in such cases? See Matthew 5:23,24; 18:15-17; Galatians 2:11-14; 6:1:2 Timothy 2:24-26; 4:2; James 5:16,19,20. The Bible was written to instruct us how to act on these occasions. Whatever you do, learn not to think of men “above that which is written” (Matt. 10:37).
Assume that Hymanaeus and Philetus were aged, venerable men of sterling character who had spent their lives in service and devotion to Christ. Assume that they have played a leading role in fighting Judaism and circumcision and that their pure and holy lives have been an example for many. Now, however, they are teaching “that the resurrection is past, already and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:16-18). How do you react to Paul’s severe censure of their doctrine? He calls it “profane and vain babbling” and likens it to cancerous gangrene. Loving these men (Paul, Hymanaeus and Philetus) as you do, how do you respond? Do you take sides? Do you accuse Paul of playing politics, of seeking to build himself up by tearing others down? Do you charge Paul with being a “brotherhood watchdog” who “keeps a file” on people? Do you say that Paul is overreacting, that the consequences of their doctrine are not as bad as he imagines? Do you say that the teaching about the second coming is not as clear as that of circumcision and the law and so excuse it on that basis? Do you say that doctrines about the Lord’s return should be treated as the eating of meats and the observing of days in Romans 14? What should you do (1 Cor. 4:6)?
(8) “That Thou Mightest Know The Certainty Of Those Things Wherein Thou Hast Been Instructed” (Lk. 1:3,4). “Have I not written to thee . . . that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth?” (Prov. 22:20, 21) “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Tim. 3:14). The wisdom of this world requires constant revision. There is no certainty in it (1 Cor. 2:6). The churches and councils of men even now are debating changes in their creeds. What is true today was not true yesterday. They have no certainty, but the Bible is given that we might “know the certainty of the things wherein” we have been instructed. “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23).
(9) “That Ye Also May Have Fellowship With Us” (1 Jn. 1:3). “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. ” One may have fellowship with the “unfruitful works of darkness” and “with devils” (Eph. 5:11; 1 Cor. 10:20), but the only fellowship worth having is that which we have with God. The Bible provides us with the necessary information to achieve and acquire that blessed relationship of fellowship in Christ (Eph. 3:6,9). One cannot have fellowship with the apostles if he has not heard, believed and obeyed their word (Jn. 17:20). You may have a wonderful “church fellowship,” but unless you have accepted that which is written in the Bible, you have no fellowship “with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Finally, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 Jn. 1:6).
(10) “That Your Joy May Be Full” (1 Jn. 1:4). “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Joy is an overlooked aspect of the Bible’s purpose. It is through “comfort of the Scriptures” that we have hope (Rom. 15:4). “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18). The word of God is a balm, an oil of gladness to the bowed back, the furrowed brow and the broken heart. Oh, what peace we often forfeit; oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not turn to the Bible for solace and consolation. In sorrow and suffering, in anguish and affliction, in trouble and torment, we have the sweet and soothing words of the Spirit to provide us help and hope. He who neglects the Bible neglects the only avenue of true peace and everlasting joy (Phil. 4:4-8).
(11) “That Ye May Know That Ye Have Eternal Life” (1 Jn. 5:13). “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 Jn. 5:11,12). Eternal life is “in his Son.” Eternal death is out of his Son (Jn. 3:36). Grace, salvation and eternal glory “is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1,10). Wrath, damnation and eternal misery are out of Christ Jesus. The Bible was written that we may know that redemption is ours in Christ. Do you know that you have remission of your sins? “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ. whom thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3). “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:3,4).
Do you know him? Have you obeyed him? Have you been “baptized into Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27)? “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:20).
(12) “That Ye Should Earnestly Contend For The Faith” (Jude 3). Scholars have said that “earnestly contend” in the original language is the strongest expression possible to describe the intense effort that is to be made for the faith. One is to “over agonize,” to go beyond agony, for the faith.
Men will contend for their schools, their politics, their parties, their pride and their prejudices, but how many will I earnestly contend for the faith”? Christians will contend for their opinions, their favorite preacher, for a shorter service of worship, and they will contend against the elders or against their least favorite preacher, but they will lend neither money, nor time, nor effort “for the faith which was once delivered.” What does this tell us? It tells us a great deal, and none of it is very good.
In faith, with faith, by faith, let all saints resolve to stand fast in the faith and to earnestly contend for it.,Lay aside hypocrisy, pretense, pettiness, prejudice and every weight of sin. Forget past slights. Ignore personality conflicts. Avoid meddling in other men’s matters. Cease going about from house to house with gossip, backbiting and evil reports, and get on with the business of earnestly contending for the faith. The Bible was written to encourage us in this noble work. Therefore, pray for those who carry the fight in the fray for the faith. Support them; pray for them; help them; commend them; work with them.
Since the Bible was written for the ends and aims listed above, are we using it for those purposes? Are we using it to accomplish the goals for which it was given, or are we using it selfishly to carry out our own human schemes and hidden agendas? Use the Bible as God intended for it to be used. Only in this way can we save ourselves and them that hear us. Only in this way can we glorify its Author and Finisher.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 6, pp. 176-179
March 19, 1992