This statement by Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521 was the crux of the entire Protestant Reformation. For the first time, people began to question the teachings of men, which drove them to search for the truth elsewhere – in the word of God. As a result, the reformers were held captive to the Word of God and not the doctrines of men. Today, 500 years later, the question before Christendom remains the same. Do we believe the Bible? Don’t be fooled, though. This question does not simply deal with “why we believe the Bible”. It is dependent even on what we mean when we say, “we believe the Bible”. It is how we believe it that makes the difference. The vast majority of Christians will agree that the Bible is the word of God and that we must believe it. But do we believe it as we should? It is one thing to say that we agree on the centrality of God’s word, and entirely another to actually believe His word and be transformed by it in our day to day lives. Are we, like Luther, captive to the word of God? Or are we still captive to popes, councils, pastors, denominations or money, while we praise God with our lips and exalt His word with only our mouths?
I have heard many Christians say that by giving preeminence to God’s word, a person is, in effect, ‘putting God in a box’. I call it the God Box argument. They say that God is bigger than the Bible and that we must take care to not constrain Him, or His glory, within the four walls of a book. They agree that the Bible is the word of God, but with an emphasis on the fact that God is bigger than the Bible. I used to think this way myself, and often felt sorry for those who would give such importance to God’s word. They were, in my opinion, narrow minded and blinded to the power of the eternal God. But I was wrong. Yes beloved, God is bigger than the Bible. Yes, His magnificence and splendour cannot be contained in any book. However, by giving supreme importance to the Bible, it is not that we have somehow limited God to a book. On the contrary, we acknowledge and magnify the indescribable glory of God by holding in the highest esteem the incomparable riches of the knowledge of His word! He cannot be separated from His word!
I often use the example of a man renowned for his integrity. People listen to the words of such a man because they know that he is one who keeps his word. His family would trust him, his friends would lean on him, his colleagues would respect him, and others around him would praise him. The one thing they know for sure is that such a man would remain as true to his word as he could. But what man is there who has the integrity of God? For the words of a man are wind, but the word of God endures forever. The Bible is His word, and even though heaven and earth may pass away, not a dot of His word shall pass away (Matthew 24:35). As God is divine, so is His word divine. That is why the Scripture is the sure foundation of all Christian faith and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16)
Yes, God is bigger than the Bible. Yes, His magnificence and splendour cannot be contained in any book. However, by giving supreme importance to the Bible, it is not that we have constrained God in this book. Because popes, councils, pastors, denominations and programs are all bound to fail, but the revelation of God in the Bible shall never, ever, fail. Does that sound to you like a God constrained? When a Christian gives preeminence to God’s word, he is not putting God in a box. He is trusting in the integrity of His Lord and His revelation to mankind. He is taking God at His word, knowing fully well that nothing in this book would fail. If we lived in a world without the Bible, we would be a people blinded to the glory of His Name, and the purposes of His divine will would be lost to us.
This infinite God whom we serve has chosen to reveal Himself to us. He did this by giving us a book. The words of this book, although written down by men, are God-breathed words that the Holy Spirit inspired in those men. Jesus, in His life, constantly modelled for us the way in which we must trust His word. It is interesting that Jesus, when tempted in the wilderness, quoted the written Scripture to resist the devil. You see, Jesus is God. Whatever He said would have, by definition, been the “word of God”. Yet, He chose to quote the written Scripture from the Old Testament in order that He may model for us how to run the good race and fight the good fight – by being captive to the word of God. Such was His modelling of love and devotion to God’s word that the apostle John calls Him the incarnate Word who was God from the beginning (John 1:1).