Scripture isn’t like a mystery novel or a complex code only solvable by the most cunning. The Bible is a revelation, an unveiling. Anyone who reads the Bible from start to finish will understand its basic message.
If you were going to introduce Christianity to someone where would you begin? You might start with God and his holiness. The first fact is that “there is one simple spiritual being, whom we call God.”[i] Or you might lead with our need for God to deliver us from Satan’s tyranny.[ii] Both approaches are valid.
Here is another idea. Start with the basic notion of revelation. How can we move beyond nature’s evidence for God and truly know him? This is how the Westminster Confession of Faith begins its magisterial summary of Christianity. What we believe about Scripture shapes how we think, not just about faith but about all of life. The ten sections of this first chapter—aptly, the confession’s longest—beautifully articulate four attributes of Scripture as God’s written revelation.
Scripture Is Necessary (1.1–1.2, 1.10)
God has always been revealing himself. From both the evidence in nature and our divine image-bearing God’s deity is obvious (Rom. 1:19–20). But because of sin general revelation asks a question it cannot answer: how can sinners be saved? The frustration of fallen creation tells us that we need redemption, but not how to be redeemed. We need God to tell us how we can be cured of the disease of original sin. From the beginning of this broken world, God has been seeking out his people, telling a simple message: your sins have made you dirty. But if you trust me I will wash you (Is. 1:18). His prophets constantly told this message both inside and outside of Israel. His holy law and its ceremonies stressed his purity and his willingness to purify.
But, so that his truth could be shared with all people without corruption God caused his word to be written in sixty-six books. Our Bibles are “a more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19 KJV). Only these writings are the very breath of God and must inform everything we believe and all that we do. Scripture is God’s final way of speaking to us in this present age (Heb. 1:1–2). It records the final redemptive work of God in the ministry of Jesus.
Scripture Is Authoritative (1.3–1.5)
There is no agency above Scripture that grants it authority. The Bible is authoritative because God breathed it; it is his actual word.
But we come to know it as God’s authoritative word in several different ways. The church urges believers to a “high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures.” The church has always heard God’s voice in his word. The true church directs people not to human leaders but to the Bible.
Scripture’s uniqueness also proves its authority. The Bible is not the kind of book humans could or would write. Authors from a variety of cultures over many centuries wrote a fully harmonious record of human fallenness and divine redemption. Its remedy for sin is beyond comprehension—what is a God-man? Moreover, the doctrine of Scripture is efficacious; it does what it wants regardless of human willingness (Heb. 4:12–13).