The bible

What do we believe?

We believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the human authors of holy scripture(1) so that the bible is without error(2) in the original manuscripts.  We receive the sixty-six books of the old and new testaments(3) as our final, absolute authority, the only infallible rule of faith(4) and practice(5).

– from the Association of Vineyard Churches Statement of faith

  1. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; John 14:26.
  2. Psalm 19:7-9; Psalm 119:11,30,43,89; Matthew 5:17-18; John 3:34; John 10:35; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Revelation 22:6.
  3. Luke 24:44; 2 Peter 3:15-16; Revelation 22:18-19.
  4. Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35.
  5. Matthew 7:21,24; Luke1:38; James 1:22-25.

The bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

In 2 Tim 3:16-17, Paul describes scripture as being “God-breathed” – literally “breathed out by God”.  The word used here for “scripture” occurs 51 times in the New Testament and is only ever used regarding the Old Testament.  We can, therefore, be certain that the Old Testament is God’s word in written form.  In the OT there are several references to the Torah (the first five books in the bible – the Jewish Law) as “your word”.

In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter classes Paul’s writings with “the other scriptures” and in 1 Tim 5:18, Paul quotes the words spoken by Jesus, which are used in Luke 10:7, and calls them scripture.  And so, even at this stage, we can see that the New Testament is also being classed as scripture.

The bible is without error

Psalm 19:7-9
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring for ever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.

Matt 5:17-18
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil 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 until everything is accomplished.

Obviously, there have been several translations of the bible into many languages.  It was, however, originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and, in the form that it was originally given, it is without error.  It is a good idea to have a few translations of the bible as some are more interpretative (paraphrasing what the translator thinks that a given passage means) and some are more literal (almost word for word – bearing in mind that in other languages have different sentence structure and as such it is rarely totally literal).

The bible is our final, absolute authority, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

This is a prophecy that is true for all men for all time.  It is God’s words that stand forever.  God will still speak to us personally today, but He will never contradict Himself and so, any word given today must be able to stand up to the bible – in other words, prophecy from God will never contradict scripture.

We must treat all the bible as uniquely infallible as we can trust absolutely that this is true and spoken by God.  We cannot give this status to anything else above the bible.  We are told to always test prophecy but the bible is the standard by which we test it.  If we think that God has spoken to us, but it contradicts the bible, then we can be sure that it was not Him!  All that we believe, in terms of faith, and all that we are called to do, in terms of practice, are contained within scripture.

What is the bible?

The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by several authors over some 1500 years.  We divide it into two major sections; the Old Testament (or Old Covenant – meaning contract or agreement) which tells of the creation of the world through to the return of God’s people from exile from their beloved land, and the New Testament (New Covenant) which is from the birth of Jesus through to the early church.

There are several types of literature within the Bible

Narratives True stories of what happened, e.g. Genesis, Exodus, Acts, the gospels etc.
Poetic, wisdom literature songs, poems, wise sayings e.g. Psalms, Proverbs etc.
Law direct laws and requirements from God, e.g. Leviticus, parts of Deuteronomy and Exodus etc.
Epistles letters written to churches or leaders of churches mainly for teaching.
Apocalyptic (literally “unveiling”) Very poetic, imaginative and allegorical as well as often difficult to understand. This was a recognised style of literature at the time in that culture and consequently, we need to be very careful when interpreting this type of book, e.g. parts of Daniel, Revelation.

How do we read the bible?

We have to be aware when we read the bible that it was written by real people in real situations for other real people in other real situations and that there is a gap in culture, time, geography, language and concepts between when these books were written and the 20th century western society today.  Sometimes, some of the parts of the bible are described as like listening to one side of a telephone conversation.  We hear the answer but in order for us to apply it for ourselves we need to know what the question was in the first place.  in order that we can successfully understand what the Lord is saying through the Bible we need to employ two stages of interpretation:

Exegesis What did a given passage mean to its originally intended readers, in their culture and setting?
Hermeneutics What does it mean for us today? How do we transcribe the timeless principles to us today?

How often should I read the bible?

2 Peter 1:3 says that everything we need for life and godliness comes through our knowledge of Him, therefore one of the best ways to know Him better is to read what He has said to us.  The more we study the bible, the better we will know Him and the more He will change us and make us more like Him.  In other words, read it as much as you possibly can!

Get our ‘read the bible in a year plan’ – PDF, 47KB

What can I get to help read the bible?

The Bible says that understanding comes through the Holy Spirit.  Only God can reveal the meaning  of His words to us.  His wisdom is not human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) and so it doesn’t make any difference how clever you are!  Sometimes it is useful to have other aids for studying the bible, these may give us more historical and contextual background to passages and often help us to be disciplined and systematic about Bible-study.  For an excellent book on reading the Bible, I thoroughly  recommend “HOW TO READ THE BIBLE FOR ALL IT’S WORTH” by Fee and Stuart; for daily readings, I recommend “EVERY DAY WITH JESUS” (a series of booklets available by Selwyn Hughes); or for more in-depth daily study, I recommend “SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES”.

What about this church?

We are committed to teaching the Bible, both within housegroups and within the Sunday Celebrations.  The form of this may vary from expository teaching from a given passage to, more often, teaching on a subject.  It is my hope that we shall always be accountable for providing sound biblical reasoning and theological methods in presenting all teaching.  I do not want to ever teach on what I, or we, think but to present what God says.  In the end, however, it really has to be up to you to go away and to spend time with Him and studying His words to you.