What’s the Bible for?

Writers of the various books and letters contained in holy Scripture sometimes spell out why they wrote. They include purpose statements or declarations of what they hoped to accomplish, what effect they hoped to have on their readers.

John was clear about the reason for taking up his quill—faith and life.

“Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” John 20.30-31.

In his gospel preface, Luke told Theophilus that he wrote “so that you may know for certain the things you were taught” Luke 1.4. He aimed for certainty, which is certainly a great need today as well.

In his first letter to the Christians in Corinth, Paul stated, “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children” 1 Corinthians 4.14. Not a few beliefs and practices needed to be corrected in that city, so Paul is quick to write and help them. Admonishment is warning and instruction, and Paul does it with profound love and tears of intense desire.

The writer of Hebrews described what he was doing at the end of his discourse. “I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly” Hebrews 13.22. Lawrence Richards describes exhortation well:

“Encouragement strengthens and calls forth renewed commitment. Typically believers are encouraged to some godly course of action … The purpose of encouragement is that we may be strengthened for fresh faith and obedience” (Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, 246-247).

In his first letter, Peter states something similar: “I have written to you briefly, in order to encourage you and testify that this is the true grace of God” 1 Peter 5.22. Apparently, there were some false ideas about grace back then, just as there are now. Peter wanted his readers to embrace suffering as part and parcel of their life in Christ.

In the Old Testament, there are fewer such statements. But Jeremiah sums up well the purpose of the prophets and, by extension, their writings, as God speaks through him:

“I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, ‘Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.’ But you did not incline your ear or listen to me” Jeremiah 35.15.

All of these purpose statements are threads of the same cord that runs throughout Scripture. Each one turns upon the person and work of God. The Bible exists to show us God and his work on our behalf. That work ultimately culminates in the person of Jesus Christ.

So perhaps the best answer from Scripture itself as to what the Bible is for comes from the Lord Jesus himself.

“You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me,” John 5.39.

In the Bible we see Jesus. He is God’s answer for our every need, the greatest of which is reconciliation with our Creator.

If the Jews were so thorough and rigorous in their study of holy Scripture, in their search for eternal life, how much more should we be studying and applying it to learn of Christ and enter into the life that is God’s?

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