Do you know what the essence of the Bible is? The dictionary defines essence as the indispensable quality of something, the most important ingredient or crucial element of that thing. This is important because what something is determines how it’s handled. Thus, knowing the essence of the Bible determines how we handle the Bible.
We need to look below the surface
Consider an orange. When we look at an orange, we see its round shape, its orange color, and its smooth texture. All these observations are correct, but if we don’t know the essence of the orange, we might use it for something besides its intended purpose. We might play with it because it looks like a ball, or we might use it as decoration. But we won’t enjoy the essence of the orange!
However, once we know what the essence of an orange is—its nourishing fruit and juice—we treat it very differently. We no longer want to play with it or put it on a shelf. We want to eat it or juice it to enjoy its essence. That’s how we get the full benefit of the orange
We should consider the Bible in the same way. When we look at its “surface,” what do we see? We may see a compilation of interesting stories, a book of good morals and high ethics, a manual for religious practices, or a reference for doctrinal teaching. But when we handle the Bible as a storybook or a manual, we don’t get the full benefit from it.
All these things are found in the Bible, but they aren’t what the Bible is. To get the benefit God intended from His Word, we need to see the essence, the crucial element, of the Bible.
What is the essence of the Bible?
The answer is found in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed.”
This verse doesn’t say that all Scripture is God-mandated, or even God-given. It says that all Scripture is God-breathed. The first part of note 2 on God-breathed in the New Testament Recovery Version elaborates:
“This indicates that the Scripture, the word of God, is the breathing out of God. God’s speaking is God’s breathing out. Hence, His word is Spirit (John 6:63), or breath. Thus, the Scripture is the embodiment of God as the Spirit. The Spirit is therefore the very essence, the substance, of the Scripture.”
Breath and Spirit are the same word in the original languages of the Bible. By saying that all Scripture is God-breathed, the apostle Paul indicated that the essence of the Bible is the Spirit.
John 6:63 says,
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
It’s not the black and white letters of the Bible that give life, but the Spirit, who is the essence of those words. Once we know this, we’ll come to the Bible not simply to learn something new, but to touch the Spirit, the life-giving essence, in the Word.
The Bible gives us life
Just like with the orange, we can become distracted by the “surface” of the Bible. When this happens, we’re likely to mishandle the Bible and miss the life contained in the Word of God.
However, John 10:10 tells us God desires that we “have [His] life and may have it abundantly.” So the most important thing for us to get from the Bible—more important than any doctrines, teachings, or stories—is God’s life. God’s breath, His Spirit, gives life. Good teachings can’t give us life. Ethics can’t give us life. Only the Spirit can give us life, and this Spirit is the essence of the Bible.
If we see that the Spirit is the essence of the Bible, we’ll change our approach. We’ll come to the Spirit in God’s Word, and the Spirit will give us life. This life will refresh us, enliven us, feed us, and cause us to grow in Christ.