People often read the Bible and are put off, primarily because they expect the book to be something it’s not. Folks want inspiration, comfort, or self-improvement, but they fail to realize that above all else, the Bible is a book about relationships and reality.
Some readers get quite distressed when they find that some men of God had multiple wives and still slept with people other than those women. Supposedly godly people arranged murders, raised rebellious children, killed multitudes in acts of war, owned slaves, constructed elaborate lies, engaged in deliberate acts of deception, and generally acted in less than exemplary ways. These biblical figures aren’t intended to be examples, at least not of perfection or godliness. They are, however, flesh and blood portraits of people caught up in life; sometimes they were walking closely with God, and sometimes they weren’t.
Christians like to say that the Word of God is perfect, and it does perfectly reveal man’s imperfections. There are honest psalms where, besides offering praise to God, the speaker seems to crave vengeance or arrogantly compare himself to other people, and one even blesses those who bash the babies of the psalmist’s enemies against rocks (Psalm 137:9).
Does all this really demonstrate God’s perfection? Jesus Himself said at least a portion of God’s perfect word reflected not so much His perfection as man’s lack thereof when he told the Pharisees that part of the laws concerning divorce were written because of man’s “hardness of heart” and not because of God’s perfect will, which always has been for one man and woman to cleave to one another (Matthew 19:7-9).
I Corinthians 13:9 indicates, “We know in part and prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, they will be done away.” Some of my non-Charismatic friends interpret this to mean that when the Bible was assembled, we no longer needed certain gifts like tongues and prophecy, but I beg to differ with them. The “perfect” refers not to the Bible, but to Christ Himself. A few verses later, Paul, writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, wrote, “Now we see in a mirror, but then face to face; now I know in part, then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known” (13:12).
At some point, we will see Jesus face to face, and when that day comes, we will have full knowledge. Until that time, we have a collection of writings inspired by God’s own Spirit that can be misinterpreted, mistranslated, and used in deceitful ways, but that doesn’t invalidate them in the least. For thousands of years, God’s people have used these written words as a standard against which they can measure their thoughts and experiences, and we do well to consider these writings as nothing less than completely relevant.