What You Can Learn from the Unity of the Scriptures
- Keri Folmar Author
- 2017 25 May
The Self-Attesting Nature of the Bible
The Bible is much more than a book of wisdom for life’s questions. It is the true story of God creating a people for Himself to know Him personally through His Son, Jesus Christ. With many different genres, these sixty-six books read like a library, and yet unity pervades the entire collection. Streams of meaning run through words and themes, connecting prophets, law, poems, history and discourse. Water from the rock leads to living water from the rock of salvation. Manna in the desert points to the bread of life, coming down from heaven. Priests who sacrifice bulls and goats make way for the Great High Priest who sheds His own blood once and for all for sinners. One has only to open and read to see the unity of the Scriptures. As B.B. Warfield observed:
‘On first throwing open this wonderful volume we are struck immediately with the fact that it is not a book, but rather a congeries of books…These treatises come from the hands of at least thirty different writers, scattered over a period of some fifteen hundred years, and embrace specimens of nearly every kind of writing known among men.
Their writers, too, were of like diverse kinds. The time of their labors stretches from the hoary past of Egypt to and beyond the bright splendor of Rome under Augustus.
Let us once penetrate beneath all this primal diversity and observe the internal character of the volume, and a most striking unity is found to pervade the whole; so that, in spite of having been thus made up of such diverse parts, it forms but one organic whole. … The same doctrine is taught from beginning to end, running like a golden thread through the whole and stringing book after book upon itself like so many pearls.’
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Just as a beautiful pearl necklace is evidence of a skilled jeweler, the unity of the Bible testifies to the supernatural Author. When you read the book, it’s evident only God could have written it!
In addition to themes and doctrine, something else unites the books of the Bible. There is a central character. Warfield says it is ‘strikingly apparent’ that, ‘Amid all the diversity of its subject matter, it may yet be said that almost the whole book is taken up with the portraiture of one person. On its first page he comes for a moment before our astonished eyes; on the last he lingers still before their adoring gaze.’3 Warfield is writing, of course, of Jesus, the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament and the risen Savior proclaimed in the New Testament. He is the rock of salvation, the bread of life and the Great High Priest. As He ‘upholds the universe by the word of his power,’4 the Word of God holds Him up as ‘the way, and the truth, and the life.’5.
The inward witness of the Holy Spirit
In a dingy back office full of smoke in Eastern Turkey, my husband and I drank tea with a young man named Ugur. After becoming disillusioned with Islam, he had set out to find the truth. While in college in Istanbul he investigated many religions and read their sacred books, but still truth eluded him. Then a professor suggested he try the Bible. So (since none of the churches would give him one) he ordered a Bible online. Upon opening the book, Ugur said, ‘The Truth jumped out at me, and it was this man, Jesus!’ Ugur became a Christian and an avid Bible reader, opening it daily in front of his shop and inviting others to read along with him. He tasted and saw that the Bible, sweeter than the lumps of sugar he put in his tea, was God’s true Word. Four years later, Ugur was martyred for his commitment to the Word. He was murdered at a Bible distribution center where he was working to spread the Scriptures that he so valued.
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Ugur had joined in the experience of countless others from throughout the ages. He had experienced the inward witness of the Holy Spirit, who uses the harmony of the Bible and the centrality of Jesus to open blind eyes to see that only God could have written the book. Unbelievers, of course, can read and understand the Scriptures like any other book, but it takes the Holy Spirit’s testimony to know the Bible is from God.6
John Bertram Phillips was an English classics scholar, translator and clergyman who was overcome by the inward working of the Holy Spirit as he studied the Bible. He wrote:
‘Although I did my utmost to preserve an emotional detachment, I found again and again that the material under my hands was strangely alive; it spoke to my condition in the most uncanny way. I say “uncanny” for want of a better word, but it was a very strange experience to sense, not occasionally but almost continually, the living quality of those rather strangely assorted books. This very close contact of several years of translation produced an effect of ‘inspiration’ which I have never experienced, even in the remotest degree, in any other work.’7
In a time when most contemporary scholars were calling the inspiration of the Scriptures into question, Phillips was convinced the New Testament documents were from God by his own heart’s response to those documents. In the foreword to his book, A Translator’s Testimony, he cheekily wrote, ‘I do not care a rap what the “avant-garde” scholars say; I do very much care what God says and does.’8
The final and ultimate test for the Bible is to ‘taste and see.’ Read this magnificent book! As the Bible says of itself, ‘The word of God is living and active.’9 It speaks to the reader. As Martin Luther said, ‘The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.’10 Amen! May the Bible truly lay hold of us!
3. Ibid., 438.
4. Heb. 1:3.
5. John 14:6
6. See 1 Cor. 2:11-14.
7. J.B. Phillips, Ring of Truth: A Translator’s Testimony, (Mar. 7, 2000), pp. 24‑25.
9. Heb. 4:12.
10. Draper's Quotations, s.n. Bible 712.
Excerpted from The Good Portion—Scripture: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman ©2017 by Keri Folmar, used by permission from Christian Focus Publications.
Keri Folmar is a Bible study writer and leader, pastor’s wife, and the mother of three engaging teenagers. She has contributed to Word-Filled Women’s Ministry and the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible. Keri and her husband, John, moved from Washington DC to Dubai in 2005, where John serves as senior pastor of the United Christian Church of Dubai.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Thomas-Soellner
Publication date: May 25, 2017