By David Prairie
In October of 2021, I participated in a group discussion about the importance of the Bible for the work that God does both around the world in missions and in the lives of Christians on a daily basis. The discussion was led by my friend Scott Hicks, the Upper School Principal for Grace Baptist Academy in Chattanooga, TN. Others participated in the discussion, but I have only included my responses to his questions here.
SH: Why is the Scripture important?
DP: To put it simply, if we don’t have Scripture, we don’t have life. Or at least, we don’t have the kind of life that is worth living. Nine times in Psalm 119 the Psalmist prays, “Give me life.” He wants to live! But each request for life is tied to Scripture itself. For example:
“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (v. 25, see also v. 107)
“Give me life according to your promise!” (v. 154)
“Give me life according to your rules.” (v. 156)
The kind of life that this Psalmist prays for is a life that is according to God’s word, God’s promises, and God’s rules. So, I would say that Scripture is important because whether we realize it or not, we have no life outside of it. If we don’t think of Scripture as vital to our very existence, then we have too low a view of it.
SH: Is Scripture applicable to today’s questions, problems, and issues?
DP: I think the answer is yes, but I’ll give an example to explain why I think the answer is yes. God identifies very closely with his word. To accept God is to accept his Word, and to accept God’s Word is to accept God. But the opposite of that is also true. In 2 Chronicles 12 we are told that King Rehoboam “abandoned the law of the LORD” (v. 1). He forsook the scriptures. But a few verses later the Lord tells Rehoboam, “You abandoned me” (v. 5). To reject the scriptures is to reject God. I give this example to say that I think that Scripture is applicable and relevant today because God is applicable and relevant today. If we think that the Bible cannot guide us through our modern questions, problems, and issues, then we must also think that God has no answer for them. But I think that God is eternally active, and therefore Scripture is as well.
SH: Is the importance of Scripture viewed differently in the USA vs. other countries, continents, and cultures?
DP: It seems to me that all cultures view the Bible as important to some extent, even if that extent is only that it is important historically or for religious purposes. I would say that yes, the Bible is important in those ways, but that it is also important because it is God’s sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary revelation to us about himself. Any culture that does not believe that Scripture is sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary may view the Bible as important historically, but probably not as important personally.
SH: Can you share a story from ministry where the Scripture changed a person’s life?
DP: Sure. Early on in my tenure as a youth pastor, I led a weekend retreat for our students, and for three days on the retreat, instead of having a speaker come and preach, we used our chapel times to just read the Bible together. We read the entire New Testament in three days. And that event so profoundly shaped our relationship with the Scriptures that the Bible became front and center every time we were together after that. I would often have students visit our youth services and say that they couldn’t believe how much time we spent just reading and studying God’s Word. And I still have students who have graduated come back and thank me for immersing them in the Scriptures because it shapes how they think now as college students and young adults. And it reminds me of when people gave Martin Luther a great deal of credit for what took place during the protestant reformation. Luther basically said, “I did nothing. I simply read and wrote and preached God’s Word. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”
SH: What are some important topics that Scripture teaches us that should influence how we live on a daily basis?
DP: I’ll give one. We need to remember that Scripture is not primarily about us. It’s primarily about God revealing himself through his Son. In a sense, the Bible addresses many topics. But in another sense, the Bible addresses one topic: who God is and what he has done in Christ. If that central message of the Bible is the primary influence on our lives, the way we live on a daily basis will display that gospel message to others.
SH: Why should we submit to the teaching of Scripture to be our guide through life?
DP: I’ve probably already answered this with other things I’ve said, but I’ll try from another angle. Something will guide your life. It might be the Bible or it might be ambitions you have for success or relationships or money or power. But I would once again want to echo the Psalmist who says to God, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Psalm 119:72). If Scripture is the guide of your life, it will be better to you than riches and rewards and prizes and promotions.
SH: What message about the Word of God do you want to leave with the upper school students of GBA?
DP: If the Bible seems mundane or uninteresting or not compelling to you, then I would suggest a couple of things. First, commit to read the Bible with other Christians. Ideally, they would be others within your own church but they could also be classmates or family members. And as you read, see if you can find connections within the Bible. How do earlier parts foreshadow later parts, and how do later parts expand on earlier parts, and what key themes keep showing up as you read? And the second thing is, there are a lot of people who would be very interested in helping you to make sense of your Bible. Seek out a pastor or youth leader or teacher or parent who could help your understanding of Scripture, or find good books about how to interpret and study the Bible, or listen to gifted preachers and take good notes of sermons at church and in chapel. As you do this, remember that the goal is not so much to apply the Bible to your life, but to apply your life to the Bible.