Here is the next installment in my ongoing series of postings under the title Bible Basics”. (Previous one have been “God”, “Jesus” and “The Holy Spirit”) The purpose of this series is to get us and keep us acquainted with the most basic issues of our faith. Read and be healthy…
No one really knows how many copies of the Bible have been printed, sold, or distributed. The Bible Society’s attempt to calculate the number printed between 1816 and 1975 produced the figure of 2,458,000,000. A more recent survey, for the years up to 1992, put it closer to 6,000,000,000 in more than 2,000 languages and dialects. Whatever the precise figure, the Bible is by far the bestselling book of all time. (From the “Internet Public Library”)
There is no doubt about that. It seems as if every home and hotel in America has a Bible, most of us probably own more than one, and some of us, quite a few. In spite of that, the biggest problem facing God’s Church is our glaring ignorance of His Word. In Hosea 4:6 God says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” So if God’s own people, at least those who call themselves Christians, are so ignorant of God’s Word, what about those who are not Christians? It is not difficult to see that members of religious cults and false religions know far more about what they believe than Christians do about what we believe. Seems like the first thing we need to do is to get clear in our minds what the Bible is to begin with, then what we are supposed to do with it. Let’s begin with some basics…
1.) “Basic Facts About the Bible” = Apart from being the best selling book in all history, it has a unique origin.
A.)Apart from the Bible, there is only one other religious book that claims a divine origin. The other is the Koran, and its origin is so dubious, and what the Koran has been through as a document of history would make anyone very suspicious about its current state. (See “Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross” By Norm Geisler and Abdul Saleeb)
B.) The Bible has 66 books written over a 1500 years span of time by 40 authors from all walks of life. It was written in different moods, places, and times across three continents, in three different languages (that are still alive today), in a wide variety of literary styles. (History, poetry, music, prophecy, romance) But for all its diversity it has one continuous message, God’s love and the redemption of mankind.
C.) The Bible was one of the very first books in history translated to another language. Its text was kept alive by translators and copyists whose only purpose was to copy the Bible using a precise mathematical formula to ensure an exact copy every time.
D.) For historical accuracy the Bible is unparalleled in all books of antiquity. The science of “Textual Criticism” is the science of determining whether a book of antiquity faithfully represents what was originally written by its authors. There are three basic tests; Bibliographic (transmission of the text to us), Internal Evidence (giving the document the benefit of the doubt), and External Evidence (does history confirm or deny it). Here’s something good to remember; as far as manuscript evidence is concerned the Bible is without peer. There exists today over 5,686 Greek manuscripts plus 19,284 manuscripts in other languages. The entirety of the N.T. was written before 100AD with most of it written as early as 40-50 AD. There are no original manuscripts. The first available manuscripts date from as early as 50AD. That puts the gap between date of original writing and first available less than inconsequential. The Bible is hands down the most accurate historical document in history. The NEXT most accurate (Citing the above criteria) historical book is the Iliad by Homer. There are 643 manuscripts and the first available copy comes 400 years after it was written!
The time gap between the original writings of the N.T. and the first available copies in most cases is less than 50 years. That gap is filled in by the early Church Fathers, those who were disciples of the Apostles themselves. People like Justin Martyr, Irenaus, Clement, Origen, etc. wrote letters themselves. When they wrote they quoted the apostles writings to the extent that if you take the quotations of the apostles from the letters of the early church fathers, you can reconstruct the entire N.T. with the exception of a few verses.
There is no book in history that has withstood the scrutiny and criticism that the Bible has, and it continues to stand as the most accurate and reliable document in antiquity. Now, all that being said, if this is really God’s Word, don’t you think He can protect and preserve it for us? This has obviously been a VERY cursory look at the Bible as a document of history, but as Christians we believe that the Bible is indeed God’s word, and we believe that history and study shows this to be true. So if we can conclude these things are true, then what do we do?
2.) “What the Bible is Not” = Let me slide this point in here, there are many things people think about the Bible and what it is for that are in error. The Bible is NOT a science book. It contains things pertaining to science but it is not a book of science. It is NOT a “self-help” book. This book will not help you to realize your full potential, or to discover the giant within you, or to help you get in touch with your true self. The Bible is NOT a book of things we have to do in order to be good. The Bible is NOT a guide book for life, although we have often called it the “owner’s manual for the human being”. It is NOT a book of philosophy, morals, or ethics, although it contains all those things. AND, it is NOT something to be trifled with!!
In both Old and New Testaments we are warned to NOT add or subtract anything from God’s Word. (Rev.22:18-19, Deut.4:2, Prov.30:6) Let’s make sure we are not guilty of that. That’s clearly one of the biggest faults of non-orthodox religions today. So the Bible is NOT alot of things, but it IS the Word of God. That means that every word has something to say to you and I right now, so we best pay attention to what it says. There is much in God’s word about God’s Word, but there are four specific things I want to settle in on for us today.
3.) “What God’s Word is to Us” = This is where I want to settle for the remainder of our time. I like the claims that the Bible makes about itself. Then when it does we have a chance to either believe it or not. Here are four claims that the Bible makes about itself and what we are to do about it.
A.) “God’s Word Has a Purpose” = Isaiah 55:11, God’s Word was sent here for a purpose, and God says that His Word will accomplish exactly what He sent it for. In the case of those of us who believe, it has accomplished its first purpose, it has brought us to Him for salvation. We could not have been saved apart from what we learn by it and the power of it through the Holy Spirit. See Romans 10:14. But let’s also not underestimate the power of the Word “implanted”. What I mean is this; the best and most powerful thing we can give anybody is the Word of God. When we share with them our faith we have two things that are the most powerful; one is our testimony (no one can argue with what Christ has done for us or in us) and the second is the Word itself.
In Matt.13:1-23 is the parable of the Sower. We all know the story but let’s focus in on a few details. We know that the seed is the Word (vs.19), and it will be received differently by different people (vs.20-23), or even that satan is able to rip some people off for what they have heard (how many times did we hear before we surrendered?). But note that with all farming what we sow today does not bear fruit today. What we sow today may take many years before it bears fruit. That may be God’s purpose, but we can rest assured that if we sow with good seed then a crop will come forth because that is God’s purpose. You need a purpose in your life? Here’s a good one and guaranteed to produce fruit, sow the Word of God into people’s hearts and minds and wait for God to bring forth the harvest. His Word will accomplish what He sends it out to do. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but it will.
B.) “God’s Word Builds Faith” = Rom.10:17, this is the faith to believe and receive, but also the faith to live for Him. All of us who know Christ today came to Him through His Word. This is one of the fallacies of the modern Church, that people can be led to Christ apart from His Word. If we go back to John 14:25-26, 16:13-15 we see again the stated purpose of the Holy Spirit working through the Word. If we go through the book of Acts the one characteristic that was common in all that the Holy Spirit did in those years was the faithful preaching of God’s Word.
For those of us who are saved we look to the Word daily for our necessary food. In Job 23:12 Job says, “I have treasured the Words of His mouth more than my necessary food…” Also the entirety of Psalm 119 is about the word of God in the life of the believer, or how about Psalm 19:7-11. So God’s Word builds our faith as we read and are trained by it. (more on that in a minute…) But God’s Word also builds our faith as we see what God has done before with other people of faith. That is both positive and negative.
Look at 1Cor.10:6, 11. We have the Biblical record to see what to do and what NOT to do, and the results of both. Now our faith is built up by learning what not to do as well as what to do. Not only that, but through it all we see the faithfulness of God to His people. We see that God is not here to destroy you, but that He does have a plan for your life, (Jer.29:11) far better than what you can imagine, and if His plan for your life includes adversity or even suffering, we see God is faithful to sustain His people. So we are led to faith, built up in our faith, and encouraged in our faith by God’s Word.
C.) “God’s Word is Profitable” = 2Tim.3:16-17, again God’s Word is “breathed” (NIV) by the Holy Spirit. As we remember from John 14, Jesus said that; “…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” And again in John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” Here in 2Tim3:16-17 God gets specific about that. Look at the list…
a.) doctrine = good teaching
b.) reproof = rebuke
c.) correction = to restore to an upright position
d.) instruction in righteousness = nurturing godly living
So that we may be…
a.) complete = perfected or fitted
b.) thoroughly equipped = perfectly furnished
For every good work, which God has prepared in advance for us to do! (Eph.2:10)
There is something missing in our understanding about God’s Word, and I think this is the place to put it. We are not dependant upon it. We live our lives oblivious to His Word and all the profitability of it; we live as if we don’t know what to do! We know exactly what to do! Psalm 119:105 says; “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Look at the equipping promised here, are there any of us who do not need this? The fact is we cannot live without the equipping of God’s Word, and yet we do! Then we can’t figure out why our lives get so messed up, then we blame God or come looking for Him after the fact to get us out of the situation we created for ourselves! How much better it is to be equipped by His Word, then walk in obedience to it!
D.) “God’s Word is Surgical” = Hebrews 4:12-13, up to this point all we have looked at may be as much intellectual as anything else. But here it gets down right medical. Here is where God’s Word becomes to us a diagnostic as well as a surgical tool. Notice how deep it cuts and how fine the incision; between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, thoughts and intents. There is nothing in all creation or the invention of man that cuts that deep. There is no drug, no therapy, and no meditation that gets as deep as the Word.
As we come to the Word and absorb it through our minds, it sinks deep into our hearts and there it goes to work. Look at Acts 2:37, at the preaching of the Gospel they were “…cut to the heart…” Jer.23:29 says, “Is not My Word like a fire? says the Lord. And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” Note again from Heb.4:12 that God’s Word is “living and active”, it is not just an intellectual exercise to read it or study it, it is downright dangerous! If we expose ourselves to it, then we must be prepared to accept the consequences. God’s word will utterly and completely change us because the Holy Spirit is the driving force behind it.
It is interesting to note here in Heb.4:13 that the term “naked and open” comes from a Greek term used of an combatant taking the head of his adversary and bending it backwards to slit the throat, this is also the position of greatest vulnerability. Do you want God’s Word to have its way with you?
2Tim.2:15 tells us to be “diligent” in our study of the Word. Acts 17:11 tells us that the Bereans were. Col.3:16 says you are to let “…the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” The challenge for us today is; are we even concerned for the Word? The Word of Christ may not dwell in you richly, but does it have any place in you at all? God has left us with two things in this world, His Holy Spirit and His Word; we ignore either at our own peril.