The basis of the Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus, without which there would be no Christian faith or salvation. These truths are recorded in the Bible. However, as a reaction to some people who question the relevancy and reliability of the Bible, some believers take a different approach, pointing people away from the Bible to focus their faith on Jesus alone. Is it correct to say that the Bible is the foundation of our faith—or is it Jesus?
Undoubtedly, Jesus is the object of our faith. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (emphasis added). Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (emphasis added). So, we place our faith in Jesus. The question then becomes, can we believe in Jesus apart from the Bible?
A foundation is the basis or groundwork of something. The Christian faith has the person and work of Jesus Christ as its foundation: our faith is built upon Christ, the rock of our salvation (Psalm 62:1) and the chief cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16–17; 1 Peter 2:6). Jesus, God in the flesh, is a real person who came to earth at a specific time in history. His death and resurrection are historical events. At the same time, the person and work of Jesus cannot be understood apart from God’s Word, the Bible. Ephesians 2:20–21 tells us that our faith is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord” (emphasis added). Christ is the cornerstone of our faith, and our understanding of this is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets—i.e., what they recorded in the Bible (Matthew 23:35; 2 Timothy 3:16).
The entire Bible points to Jesus (see John 5:39): the Old Testament reveals our need for a Savior, predicts His coming, and sets the stage for the significance of His sacrifice; and the New Testament describes His coming, His death and resurrection to bring salvation to our sinful world, and His ongoing work as we await God’s kingdom and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21; Revelation 21:1). The Bible sets Jesus as our foundation and leads us to understand salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).
Romans 10:17 reveals that our faith comes from hearing God’s Word: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Likewise, 1 Peter 1:23 tells us that we are born again “through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” What saves us? First Corinthians 15:3–4 indicates that it’s the gospel and then spells out what the gospel is: “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. . . . For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (emphasis added). Notice how the work of Christ is linked to the Scriptures. The foundation of our faith is the person and work of the historical Jesus, and we know that through what God, in His grace, has revealed to us in His Word.
We cannot have saving faith or believe the essentials of the faith without the Bible, because we would not know who Jesus is and what He did for us without the Bible. In that way, the Bible is the foundation for our faith. At the same time, we must be careful not to fall into bibliolatry (Bible worship). Believing that the Bible is true and authoritative is not bibliolatry, but we must remember that the Bible is not God. Rather, the Bible reveals to us who God is and points to the object of our faith: Jesus Christ.
Some attempt to separate Jesus from the Bible, but the implications of this approach have far-reaching consequences. If we remove the Bible as the foundation of our faith, what can we believe? What is true about Jesus, and what is false? What do we base our understanding of Jesus on? God gave us His Word so we could know and believe in Him. Praise God that He has given us His Word!
Jesus is the object of our faith; we place our trust in Christ. He is the foundation of our faith. The Bible is also the foundation of our faith in that it leads us to know God and His plan of salvation. Having Jesus and the Bible as the foundation of our faith is not a contradiction. As we seek God through His Word, we are led to saving faith in Jesus.