What Is The Word?
UCC is a Bible centered church. You’ll hear the Bible at the center of all we do; it shapes our life, our community, and our ministries. All churches say they are “Bible Churches”, but that can mean many different things to different people. Here’s what we believe about the Bible at UCC.
Why we need the Bible
There are two kinds of revelation which are complementary. General revelation tells us that there is a God (Romans 1:18–20), while special revelation tells us how to be reconciled to God (Romans 3:21–26). Special revelation is necessary (2 Timothy 3:14–17). God has declared His glory in nature (Psalm 19:1-2), leaving humans without excuse. God speaks to us so that we can know him, giving verbal communication. His word is written rather than oral, giving us a public standard so we are not self-deluded. The written Word makes God’s truth universal and objective.
What we believe about the Bible
UCC holds to a “high view” of Scripture. That is, we hold it to be God’s inspired, inerrant word that is sufficient for all matters of faith and Christian living. A person who takes his or her Christian faith seriously will want to give serious attention to the Bible in its entirety.
The UCC Statement of Faith summarizes our beliefs about Scripture this way:
We believe that every word in the original writings is inspired by God and is without error. The Word of God reveals God’s nature and will for all of humanity, and because of this it is to be the foundation of faith and practice. We affirm that while the Scriptures are accurate in all matters it was never given to be an end in and of itself, but rather a means to a relationship with God. Because of this the authority and teaching of Scriptures will have a preeminent place in our church (II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:20-21; Hebrews 4:12; John 17:17).
It is important to understand the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and sufficient.
Inspired: We believe the Bible is inspired (“breathed out”) by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The 10 commandments are the first “Bible,” and set the pattern for all the rest of Scripture (Exodus 20:1ff; 31:18; 34:27). God commissioned Moses to write and considered Moses’ words to have the same authority as his own. The first stone tablets were “written by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). There is no difference in the authority of what God commanded Moses to write, and what God had formerly written himself. In the same way, God “commissioned” the authors of the rest of Scripture and considers their words to have the same authority as if he had written with his own finger.
How do we know the Bible is inspired? From the testimony of Scripture itself. Jesus considered the Old Testament, his Bible, to be God’s Word (Matthew 4:4; Matthew 22:41–44). The writers of the New Testament also considered the Old Testament and their own writings to be authoritative (1 Corinthians 2:12–13; Romans 3:1–2; 2 Peter 1:20–21; 3:15–16). We must also have the inward witness of the Holy Spirit to know that the Bible is God’s Word (John 16:12–15; Ephesians 6:17 with Hebrews 4:12). The inward witness of the Holy Spirit is just as necessary to recognize the Bible as the Word of God, as it is to recognize that Jesus is the Son of God. This is not a matter of imparting new information, but of enlightening darkened minds.
Inerrant: We believe that the Bible is without error (inerrant). The very words of the original texts of the 66 books of the Bible are free from error, not just in matters of faith and practice, but also in all aspects (Galatians 3:16, Matthew 22:32). The character of God informs the way we approach his Word: it is the product of an all-powerful, all-knowing God who is free from error (Psalm 12:6; 18:30; 19:7; Proverbs 30:5–6; John 17:17).
Sufficient: We believe that the Bible is sufficient for all matters of faith and practice, of Christian living (2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:3). Experience is severely limited as a basis for determining truth because it is changeable, ambiguous (it does not interpret itself), and is subject to self-deception. Thus, we should seek to interpret our experience in the light of God’s Word, rather than interpreting God’s Word in light of our experience.
What we do with the Bible
It becomes a matter of life commitment to understand properly what God has said to us as a church and to us as individuals. In addition to God’s Word shaping our weekly church gatherings, we must spend time daily feasting upon the Word of God. Our high view of Scripture must translate into a deep dedication to know God’s Word and to live it out.
Questions to ponder:
- What would be the implication for Christianity and for your own life if the Bible were simply an ordinary book and not inspired by God?
- If someone were to say to you that the Bible can’t be trusted because it is full of errors and outdated information, how would you respond?
- What opportunities do you have to hear the Word of God? What can you do to be more intentional about applying the Bible to your life after you hear it preached or taught?
- Do you have a personal “reading plan” for the Bible? If so, what is it? If not, what can you do to implement one?
Study: We must be studying God’s Word regularly in order to better understand it and better know God. Personal study of the Bible (using trusted sources such as commentaries, books, lectures, etc.) and group study of the same are crucial for Christian growth.
Personal Devotion: Christians should read, meditate on, and pray the Bible daily. Reading plans help facilitate a consistency in Bible intake. Journaling and reflection are ways of helping us bring the truths of Scripture deeper into our hearts. And as John Piper has said, “Virtually all of the Bible leads us to praise God, thank God, cry to God, and confess to God.” So praying through God’s Word is a rich way of engaging letting God Himself shape our prayers.
Corporate Worship: The Word is central to weekly Christian gatherings. At UCC, our corporate worship consists of hearing the Word (Scripture reading), preaching of the Word (sermons), singing the Word (music), praying the Word (prayers), seeing the Word (Lord’s Supper/Communion). Worship services are governed by the regulative principle, which Mark Dever summarizes like this “everything we do in a corporate worship gathering must be clearly warranted by Scripture” (Deliberate Church, 77).