Your Bible Is Not An Encyclopedia
Many Christians try to handle the Bible as if it was God’s great encyclopedia—a topical index of human problems and divine solutions.
If you go to Scripture looking for specific issues, you might not find it explicitly referenced between Genesis and Revelation. (For example, a midlife crisis, teenagers, social media, a global pandemic, and many others).
Frustrated and discouraged, many of us look to other sources and choose only to use the Bible’s help when it speaks clearly about the matter at hand.
Alternatively, we might fall into another subtle error. Because we believe that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching (2 Timothy 3:16), we risk bending, twisting, and stretching Scripture to make it say something that it doesn’t say.
Both errors miss the genius of what the Bible is about. The Bible is a narrative, the incredible story of redemption with divine theological notes that encompasses every human life. It is comprehensive in scope but not exhaustive in content.
So even though the Bible might not directly address every experience you face in 2021, it can exegete (or interpret) the most profound issues of your existence. Here are four reasons why:
1. The Bible presents us with a real world.
You cannot read very long before encountering the shocking honesty of the Bible. Living in the fallen world isn’t minimized or sugar-coated (see Romans 8:20–22). Yet, many Christians are confused, discouraged, surprised, and unprepared because they do not understand the environment in which they live, work, play, and worship.
2. The Bible introduces us to real people.
The characters of Scripture are not wax figures in a museum of human nobility, nor are they cartoon characters with saccharine smiles and melodic voices. A rich display of the full range of human emotions dyes almost every page of Scripture.
By studying the Bible, we are ushered into the hallways of human hearts to examine their thoughts, inspect their desires, and understand their choices. In the process, we are exposed and confronted. There is no better method of self-knowledge and self-exposure than the mirror of Scripture (James 1:22-25).
3. The Bible calls us to the worship of a real God.
The God of Scripture is not the hero of myth. He is not the projection of weak minds who need something more to depend on than themselves. On the contrary, he, the creator, sustainer, and ruler of all that is, is the only being in the universe worthy of worship.
The revelation of God in Scripture is the only place to find real hope for absolutely every area of life. He is the only one who is at once entirely above everything that we face (Ephesians 4:6) yet intimately familiar with all of it (Psalm 139:3, Hebrews 4:15). We run to him because he is Lord over it all and has the power to help.
4. The Bible welcomes us to real redemption.
The world is full of false systems of redemption. Government, education, philosophy, sociology, and psychology all promise redemption, yet none can deliver. If they could have dealt with the comprehensive and devastating results of sin, Jesus would have never come.
The Bible invites me to the hope that can only be found in a Redeemer. If there is no help and hope for what is inside of me (Psalm 51:10), there is no way that I will ever accurately deal with what is outside of me.
These four biblical perspectives—Real World, Real People, Real God, Real Redemption—give us essential wisdom for anything we will face in human life.
Only when we see the world as broken, ourselves as sinners, God in all his glory, and the completeness of the Redeemer’s work, can we have a balanced and functionally worthwhile perspective on anything and everything!
Paul David Tripp
1. Identify a current personal struggle of your life that Scripture doesn’t explicitly address. What are some new cultural or technological challenges that we face that didn’t exist in Biblical times?
2. How have you recently experienced the brokenness of the Real World that the Bible addresses? Did this take you by surprise, or were you unprepared for what you faced?
3. Name some Real People in the Bible who experienced similar struggles to you. How did they respond? What was their relationship with the Lord like, and how can you learn from their story?
4. What comfort can we find in the fact that God is “acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:3)? Be specific. List how your Savior was tempted like you and which of your weaknesses he can sympathize with (Hebrews 4:15).
5. In what ways did you display your need for the ongoing work of sanctification yesterday? Where do you need to confess and repent of sin? How do the promises of God give you hope for today in your battle with temptation?