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Effective, Instructional, and Useful

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The Bible's Effect

This page looks at the meaning of terms that describe the ability of the Bible to bring about change, action, and repentance. Also, it defines words that describe how the Bible teaches you, and helps you have greater impact as the Spirit impacts you through it.

The words below are offered as a place to begin to think about the Bible, and its role in your life and that of believers in Christ as a whole. Take up this challenge: think prayerfully about the use of each of these words. Are the words true and/or helpful, and in what ways? What effect does that have on how I read the Scriptures? In what way does the word go too far, or not far enough, or miss the mark? Does some other word or phrase describe it better? Some words are used to confine, and other words to broaden - how does the word do that? Is it intellectual gibberish? Deceptive nonsense? Who in the past has said such things, and what did it lead them to do? If you find out what you really think of the Bible, you can lay the groundwork for how you learn Jesus through it.

When talking about the Bible, what is:


Effective means it gets the job done.

The Effective Bible

Effective [ < Latin effectus, past part. of efficere (to accomplish)]. It is capable of causing its intended effects.

The Bible succeeds in doing what it is created to do. Through the Spirit's work, it shows God, God's vision, God's purposes, and God's good news to us. Our collective openness to the Bible seems to be shrinking, but the Spirit is still using it to pry us open to God.

Yet, there is this warning from . This is at the end of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The rich man begs to Father Abraham to send a warning to his five brothers that they not land in the realm of torment like him. Abraham says that they have Moses and the prophets to warn them. But the rich man persists, asking that someone be sent from the dead, so that they would change their ways. But Abraham says, "If they don't listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded by someone rising from the dead." The last part is a reference to Jesus. But the first part is a reference to the Hebrew Scriptures of their day. God had already told them plenty. They knew better than to live the way they live, with no love for the poor or oppressed. But they chose to live without regard to what the Spirit says. The Bible can teach you, and even stuff your mind. But if it doesn't have any effect on how you live, ultimately, the Scriptures are of no help to you. That becomes a serious matter between you and God.

Other words like 'effective' include :

  • efficacious (has, or is fully able to have, a desired effect)
  • effectual (has the desired effect; enough for the purpose at hand)
  • able (has the resources to accomplish its purpose)
  • consequential (bringing about significant events or changes)

You can also check for in the dictionary.


The Bible is Decisive

Decisive : When something is called the decisive factor, it means that it is what causes things to be the way they will become; it sets the path, tips the scales. When someone is a decisive leader, that person is someone who leads without blind impulse but also without waffling. Such a leader is focused, direct, and purposeful; any differing thoughts in that leader's mind are harnessed to make the decision wiser, better, clearer and fuller. A decisive moment is a turning, tipping point, or even revolution, when the changes stop being potential and start taking effect.

And so it is with the Bible. When you're waffling on how to live your life, or even on knowing what a Godly life is, Scripture can be decisive. It shows the way to go; it is what is given to you by God to set your path and tip your scales. And it is bypassed only at great spiritual cost. But it is still your decision, and your change.

Other words in this same field of meaning as 'decisive' include :

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The Bible is Potent

Potent : [ < Latin potens, pres. part. of posse (to be able) < potis (able) + esse (to be) < assumed Indo-European poti- (a root word indicating ability or power to accomplish)] Strong, vigorous; more than able to get the work done; exerting strong influence, control, or authority; able to cause reproduction. Related words: potency, omnipotent, potential.

One of the classic divine attributes is that God is all-powerful (omnipotent), most notably through God's creative word. But how much potency do the Scriptures have? The onmipotent Holy Spirit, as God, has the power to touch people through the Spirit's tool of choice, the Scriptures. Touch, heck -- often the Spirit really lays the hammer down, smashing to pieces your strongest resistances and shaking your worldview at its foundations. That's what being 'potent' is about. Through the Bible, the Spirit has moved many people at roughly the same time, with ideas whose time has come or a new awareness of what's really at stake. Even after thousands of years, the Bible still has the potential to cause its readers to give birth to new ideas, expressions, and angles on the challenges of life. It exerts an influence over each Christian's life. But it lacks the potency to do so on its own. It can only do so through what the Holy Spirit is doing in you.

Other words like 'potent' include :


The Bible is Striking

Another term like it is 'striking' (as an adjective). One of the most common occurences people have when reading the Bible is when they're busily reading, plugging ahead with nothing happening, and then suddenly they come across something that hits them like a baseball bat. They get stunned, can't get it out of their mind, and are caught in a eureka moment where they see things differently. This is done by the Spirit. Not that all the Spirit does through the Bible has "pow!"; most of what happens is gradual, adding up, accreting. But "pow!" happens quite a bit, and lives get shook by it.


The Bible is Useful

Useful (adj.) [ < Old French user < Latin uti (to use, utilise)] Having a beneficial or practical application; able to be put into service for a purpose..

Most terms for describing the Bible are not words that the Bible's inspired writers used. (They were too busy living it to spend much time thinking about how to describe it.) However, in , it says that the Scriptures are God-breathed (inspired) and useful (for teaching, training, and correction). The Greek word there is ophelimos; the root meaning has to do with using something in order to progress, gain, or profit.

Other words in the same field of meaning as 'useful' include:

Two other such words, 'progress' and 'profit', are best avoided in the context of the Bible's usefulness. These words carry far too much partisan and polemical baggage in philosophy ('progress of humankind'), politics ('progressivism') and economics ('profits'). Not that these are themselves evil things; they may even be good at times. But their sharply partisan meanings would give a false impression about the Bible, and thus those words should not be used.


The Bible is Instructional

Instructional is another of the words like 'useful' which spring from 2 Timothy. The Bible teaches us what God most wants us to know. It enlightens or illuminates the way forward in a world of shadows.

The Bible itself has two key things to say about this. In Matthew 22:29, Jesus teaches us that if we come to understand Scripture, we will not spend our time on working out the technical details as these Sadducees did. Instead, we'd focus on what God is revealing in Scripture - in this case, that there is a resurrection, and that resurrecting and restoring is the way God does things. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Timothy is being taught that through the Scriptures he has known from childhood (that is, the Hebrew Scriptures), he has been given the tools he needs for the task he's about to be given in Chapter 4. He's taught that Scripture's really good at such teaching and training. "Reproof" and "correction" refers to the work of Scripture as the norm for instruction. "Teaching" and "training in righteousness" refer to this instructional work of Scripture, so that the believer can tell the difference between the insight given by God and .
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Other words with meanings like 'instructional' include :