Do we need the Bible: The Church & the Word of God

Do we need the Bible for church? The Bible itself says, in effect, 'Wherever two or three people come together in Christ's Name, there is Christ among them' (Matthew 18:20). How 'essential' is reading the Bible to church meetings?

In Pentecostal and charismatic churches around the world today, it would seem as if the spirit and life and growth of the Church was dependant on the quality of the music, not the preaching. But if preaching is important, it is the ability of a speaker to connect with his audience, or speak with relevance about real-to-life issues. The nature and function of 'leaders' in the Church has become just that; 'leadership'. The chief responsibility of leaders is to empower every-member ministry, so as to keep seats full. The Bible may get a mention, maybe even a look-up, but then again, sometimes not.

The church growth movement has spawned a growing trend, particularly within Pentecostal and charismatic circles, towards 'seeker sensitive' meetings, with the focus on attracting new comers. Dynamic and prolonged 'praise and worship' times feature strongly in meetings, followed by highly 'relevant', and at times entertaining, practical and 'down-to-earth' messages, aimed at kick-starting Christianity for new comers and 'charging up' the spiritual energy of regulars. The move away from Bible-teaching centred church meetings is extenuated.

Sadly, this trend portrays a deep ignorance in Pentecostalism and wider about how God is known and makes himself known to people. It comes from a conviction that God is known via 'encounters' in the experience of worship, and that this begins by coming to know him for the first time in the emotion of an initial encounter.

But what does the Bible have to day about all this? How has God revealed himself in the past, and how does he make himself known today, both individually, and in the Church?

The Revelation of God

God is light, says 1 John 1:5. He is open, and not secretive, and delights to make himself known. He wants to reveal himself to the people who are his creation, shining his light into people's darkness (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).

But more than that, God has acted. God has actually taken the initiative to reveal himself in deeds. He has shown his power and deity in his creative universe. He has given his redemptive plan in the Old Testament through Israel, and accomplished it in the New Testament through his most mighty act: the birth, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

But also in addition to his actions, God has spoken. He has actually communicated to his people by speech (Isaiah 40:5; 55:11; cf. Psalm 115:5). His self-revelation is not only in historical deeds, but through explanatory words, and the two are together. Even his ‘Word made flesh’ would remain vague had he not described it and interpreted him through his apostles.

God is light (and so wanting to be known), that God has acted (and thus made himself known), and that God has spoken (and thus explained his actions).

The Word of God

God has not only acted, and spoken, but the divine speech, recording and explaining the divine activity, has been committed to writing. Scripture is God’s Word written. God’s words through men’s words, spoken through human mouths and written through human hands; the Bible has both 100 per cent human and divine authorship (2 Timothy 3:16; cf. 2 Peter 3:16).

But the God who spoke centuries ago is not silent today. Scripture is not a museum of ancient documents in which the words of God a preserved. On the contrary, it is a living Word to living people from the living God; a contemporary message for a contemporary world. (Hebrews 4:12; e.g Hebrews 3:7). God still speaks through what he has spoken. That is, God speaks to us today through the Scriptures.

We must guard against two opposite errors in thinking: The first is that, though God spoke in ancient times, God is silent today. The second is the claim that God is indeed speaking today, but his Word has little if not nothing to do with Scripture. God has spoken, and God speaks, and it is through what he has spoken that he speaks. We must keep the Word and the Spirit together, for apart from the Spirit, the Word is dead, but apart from the Word, the Spirit is unknown.

But not only has God spoken, and continue to speak through what he has spoken, but when he speaks he acts. God’s Word is powerful. The Word does more than explain God’s actions, it is in itself active. God accomplishes his purpose by his Word (Isaiah 55:11; Hebrews 4:12). God’s Word is so different from ours, because in his Word his speech and actions are combined.

The Church of God

The universe was formed by God's Word and is sustained by it. So too, the Church is the creation of God by his Word, and as God’s ‘new creation’, it is as dependant upon his Word as his first creation (the universe). Not only has he brought it into being, but he maintains and sustains it, directs and sanctifies it, reforms and renews it through that same Word. The Word of God is the scepter by which Christ rules the Church and the food with which he nourishes it. That is, the Church lives by the Word of God in the Bible.

'The quality of preaching and the spirit and life of the church have advanced or declined together' (Stott, 1982). The spirit and life and growth of the Church is dependant on the quality of the teaching of God's word in the Church. The nature and function of 'ministry' in the Church is 'pastoral'. It is a ministry of the Word where the chief responsibility of pastors who ‘tend’ the sheep is to ‘feed’ them the Word of God; 'leading' them to obey the Word of God, and 'protecting' them from false teaching and godlessness by teaching them accurately the Word of God (Ezekiel 34:1-3; Psalm 23:1,2; John 10:9; 21:15,17; 1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11).


Stott, John. I believe in Preaching, Hodder and Stoughton, 1982. | joe towns: christian discussion on pentecost, charisma, pentecostal and charismatic beliefs, the Bible and Jesus; including the origin and history of pentecostalism, baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, gifts and miracles, divine healing and word of faith, prosperity and wealth, praise and worship, guidance and hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit.