The Bible writers in both testaments saw themselves as bearers of God's Word. An electronic search from the King James Version reveals this concept very clearly.
"Thus saith the Lord" 413 times
Word of the Lord 255 times
Word of God 48 times
The tradition of giving authority to the Bible for doctrine, teaching, correction, and instruction in righteousness is not without a proper foundation (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus and the apostles quoted from, made reference to, or paraphrased from the Old Testament several hundred times and did this in the sense that their source was authoritative. Peter referred to the writings of Paul as being part of the Scriptures (see 2 Peter 3:16). The early church fathers quoted from Paul and other New Testament writers as being authoritative sources for teaching and doctrine.
Is absolutely everything in the Bible the Word of God? I don't think even the most rigid fundamentalists would want to say that if they would stop to think about it. Do we not have a lot of "filler" in the Bible to make up the narratives, the chronologies, the way things are worded, etc. that are not the Word of God per se, although we may truly find God's Word in the midst of all these things? A good example of this would be the narrative in 2 Chronicles 32:1-22 where the story is told of how Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem and tried to intimidate the people of God into submission. In the midst of the details of the narrative we find a powerful Word of encouragement from God as given by King Hezekiah:
6 He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: 7 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles." And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. 2 Chronicles 32: 6-8 (NIV)
Do we not find in this story courage to face the most formidable obstacles of life, knowing that our God is always with us and that His power is greater than anything that could ever come against us? Is not God's Word speaking to us in this narrative? However, the words used will vary greatly according to the many translations of the Bible, manuscripts used, languages, etc. So is the inspiration in the exact wording or the thought?
Most people probably find large portions of the first five books of the Bible to be rather difficult to read, somewhat perplexing at times, and perhaps boring. However, even in the midst of these books are many wonderful words of encouragement, challenge, instruction and spiritual uplift. For a few examples read: Leviticus 10:10; 18:3-5, 19:1, 2; 26:11-13; Numbers 13:26-33. Deuteronomy is just filled with sublime eternal principles of truth about God's power and might. The Holy Spirit helps us to find "the Word of God" in all parts of the Bible if we are open to be taught.
My heart has often been filled with overflowing joy as I've discovered God's precious Word in the Old Testament stories, the Psalms, Proverbs, and Prophets. That "Word of God" is what makes the Bible the most sought after book in the history of human existence. Nothing has equaled the hunger that people have for this book. Truly we find the Word of God throughout the entire Bible and I'm thankful for that. Everyday my soul is fed with rich morsels from the Lord's table when I prayerfully meditate upon portions of scripture.
The plan of restoration for human beings is revealed specifically in the Bible in a way which can't be found anywhere else in the same way. Theologians have called this "special revelation" and I totally concur with that viewpoint. That is truly the uniqueness of scripture above all other ways that God reveals Himself. Notice these words from John that could apply equally to all scripture:
31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31 (NIV)
I believe that the primary purpose of the Bible is to reveal Jesus Christ as our Way Shower and Savior and that everything else is secondary to that. Many of the "wisdom sayings" found in the Bible, if not all of them in principle at least, can be found in other writings, both ancient and modern. But Messiah Jesus and His mission to this earth, foretold in the Old Testament, and unfolded in the New Testament, is the central focus of scripture. All of the history of the Old Testament is tied to the coming Savior in some way. Those who fail to make the transition from "literal Israel" in the OT to the "spiritual Israel" in the NT do untold harm to the very Book they uphold as "the Word of God." When we start to deviate from the focus on Jesus Christ and His gospel and "major on minors and minor on majors" we get into trouble very quickly and set equally sincere people against each other. All of those who are sincerely seeking for God, want to experience His power in their lives and who study the Scriptures with an open heart, will find a fulfillment that words could never describe.
[This is part of an ongoing series on the Bible. I revised this article in January 2013. I invite my readers to join my email list for updates. TD]