BASIC TRAINING-HOW PRECIOUS IS THE BOOk DIVINE
Dear Christian friends,
There aren’t many books that claim to be inspired by God. I think that there are basically five. 1) There is Science and Health: Key to the Scriptures, a book written by Mary Baker Eddy. It’s the “Bible” of the Christian Scientist. On Sundays Christian Scientists go to their reading rooms and they hear readings from Science and Health: Key to the Scriptures. It is neither Christian nor scientific. 2) There is the Book of Mormon written by Joseph Smith. According to Smith's account, the Book of Mormon was originally written in unknown characters referred to as "reformed Egyptian” engraved on golden plates. Smith said that the last prophet to contribute to the book was a man named Moroni. Smith said he buried it in a hill in Palmyra, New York. Moroni then returned to earth in 1827 as an angel, revealing the location of the book to Smith. In it, among other things, Smith claims that the pivotal event was the appearance of Jesus Christ in the Americas shortly after his resurrection. 3) Then there are the Hindu Vedas. I know very little about these. The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. It is composed in Vedic Sanskrit. Hindus consider the Vedas to be "not of a man, superhuman" and "impersonal, authorless."
4) There is the Koran. Muhammad, an illiterate, dictated the book. It is horribly hard to read and understand. Muslims say that it was never to be translated from the original Arabic. It says some awful things like the infidel must be killed. An infidel is anyone who is not a Muslim. A professor I had made the statement that there is no other book that teaches self-righteousness as the way to heaven more than the Koran.
5) But then there is the Bible. While God is the author, he used forty people to write the Bible, not just one like all the other books I mentioned except maybe the Vedas. It is interesting that the Bible even says that truth must be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. The Holy Scripture lives up to that. The others don’t. The Bible has many different contributors, but it is the same old story that comes out. Jesus will come…the message of the Old Testament; Jesus did come…the message of the New Testament.
Today as part of Basic Training we look at THE BOOK, the Bible. “How Precious Is the Book Divine!”
One of the blessings all pastors in our church body receive is training in the original languages of the Bible – Hebrew and Greek. In fact, you may not be aware of it but our church body is translating the Bible for publication since the latest revisions to the New International Version have some definite weaknesses.
What a book the Bible is! God inspired Moses to write down the first words of the Bible around 1450 BC. The first five books that are often called the Torah or the Law. That was followed by the writings of the prophets and kings. The Old Testament was finished in 400 BC with the book of Malachi.
What is it about? There are those who protest that the Bible is nothing more than just another old book – a book of myths and stories and rules to live by. We know better. It is a history of God’s people Israel – the special nation from whom Christ came. If we really look closely we see that the story of how Christ would come is woven in its pages. There are over 300 passages that say so. A secondary theme of the Old Testament is the story of everyone’s life. There is the faithfulness of God versus the unfaithfulness of humanity. Israel so often wavered and wandered from the Lord. Isn’t that the story of us all? Yet, God doesn’t turn his back on any of the promises he makes.
One thing we must be clear about is that this book is not just another book. It is God’s book, inspired by Holy Spirit. Jesus makes that very clear. I chose the Gospel lesson this morning about the Levirate marriage. But I wanted you to hear the verse where Jesus says to the stubborn Sadducees, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” When Jesus used the word “Scriptures,” everyone knew, even the Sadducees knew he was referring to the Old Testament – God’s book.
Another example of Jesus confirming that the Old Testament is the Word of God is in the high priestly prayer Jesus prayed on the night he was arrested. One little verse in that prayer is packed with meaning. As he prayed to the Heavenly Father he asked, “Sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth.” He refers to the Word as the Father’s Word. And it is truth. It has to be since it is the Father’s word.
At a post-Easter appearance by the Sea of Galilee Jesus spoke to a doubting group of disciples. Jesus did some good old fashioned Bible teaching, He said to his followers, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms was a commonly used division of the Old Testament. Notice how Jesus points to it as the authority to predict how Christ would come to suffer and die and rise. Those prophecies could only be fulfilled because of their origin. They came from God. The Old Testament is the Word of God.
What about the New Testament? Jesus has confirmed that too is the Word of God. He told his disciples the night before he would die how they would be given the responsibility to tell others of all the things he did to save the world from sin. The Holy Spirit would come to them. “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit, sent on Pentecost, would remind them of everything that he taught them. They taught and they wrote down what the Holy Spirit gave them. Where? That’s the New Testament. It too is given to us by God.
We believe in the verbal inspiration of Scripture. That means every word God gave was chosen by him. The apostle Paul explained it like this. “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” The very words are God’s. That’s why we need to spend time getting to know them.
There are a lot of people who believe that the Bible contains the word of God. If you hear in a conversation, it can sound pretty good. It isn’t. It can be misunderstood. It doesn’t say enough. I compare that to running the bases on a baseball diamond. It is like rounding first and getting to second and then to third but getting thrown out at home. You didn’t quite make it. To believe the Bible contains God’s Word doesn’t go far enough.
It is a little like saying Messiah membership contains the Fedke family. There are a lot of Fedke’s here in our membership, and we are glad of that, but not just the Fedke’s. The Bible is God’s Word; it doesn’t just contain God’s word.
Since the Bible is the book divine, we know what it says is true. Jesus said that. “Your Word is truth.” I get sickening chills up and down my spine when I hear someone say something like this, “I know that the Bible says that homosexuality is sin but I don’t agree with it.” “I know what the Bible says about a six day creation, but I don’t agree with it.” “I know the Bible says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but I think there are many ways there.”
Someone once said that “people do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them.” The problem with people is that we give ourselves way too much credit for knowing things. When our thoughts and ideas contradict what the Bible says, it is not time to be stubborn but time to admit we are wrong.
And, yes, the science and geography in the Bible is always right. We often make a mistake when we hear something in geology or archeology that confirms what the Bible says is true. We often say or hear someone say, “The research proved the Bible is true!” No, the Bible was always true. Nothing proves the Bible to be true. There is no higher authority than the Bible itself. A better way to handle that is to just smile and think to yourself that others are now realizing what has been known all along.
A Bible scholar wrote the following: “For me to confess that Scripture is infallible and inerrant is to bind myself in advance to follow the method of harmonizing and integrating all that Scripture declares. Without exception, I must believe that it is from God, however little I may like it, and whatever change of present beliefs, ways, and commitments it may require, and I must actively seek to live by it.” The Book Divine does not come with a “pick and choose” option. It is all true, not just a percentage less than 100%.
Let me conclude by giving some principles on how to understand the Bible. Anyone can make the Bible say just about anything if verses are picked apart and not understood properly in context. Jesus once said, “Whatever you do, do quickly.” You might say that to your pastor as he preaches. Do it quickly. Preach it quickly, Pastor. Jesus said so. Jesus gave that command to Judas when he was identified as the traitor in the Upper Room. Get it over with Judas! Always understand context.
Secondly, take the Bible literally unless the Bible indicates otherwise. If the Bible presents something as fact, understand it that way. If it says it is a parable or a vision, understand it that way. Remember the Bible uses parts of speech too like idioms and figures of speech that are generally easy to identify.
Thirdly, let the Bible interpret itself. Consider difficult passages in the light of easier ones. Sometimes you just need to keep going and as you read further a hard passage is explained by an easier one. No passage will contradict some of the most obvious truths found in Scripture like sin and grace, the Trinity, Jesus the Savior of all.
Fourthly, ask yourself in the end how does God get the glory? A lot of false teaching comes from thinking the Bible is all about me instead of God. Sure there are things said about humanity like sin and the need for grace and our inability to save ourselves, but we need Him. Scripture shows he is the God of splendor and majesty and love. Ask yourself how God gets the glory.
John, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit says something that is so important for us to understand and put into practice. “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” To show us God’s love in the person of Christ so we can be saved– that is the purpose of the Book Divine.