The Word Of God
ON MODEL AIRPLANES AND INSTRUCTIONS
Have you ever built a complex model? I’m not talking about the snap-together ones you find in cereal boxes. I’m talking about the models with hundreds of tiny parts, where you use so much glue that you feel intoxicated by the end of the day. Imagine that someone had the audacity to think that he could build a complex model airplane without ever referring to the instructions. Since many of the parts look familiar, he wastes no time gluing the fuselage together, and the cockpit to the fuselage.
But soon, he begins to experience major frustrations. He didn’t realize that some of those remaining little parts were to go on the control panel, which is now permanently sealed beneath the windshield. And that tail fin was designed to fit in before the fuselage was glued together. As you can imagine, the final result would be a disaster.
How much more complex is running a business or a family? Fortunately, God didn’t leave us to figure out life on our own. He gave us an instruction manual for successful living. As God said to Joshua when he took over the leadership of Israel,
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)
If we want to live successful lives, we dare not neglect God’s instruction book.
MOST AMAZING BOOK EVER WRITTEN!
Anyone searching for spiritual truth would want to consult the Bible. Why? Just think about its:
•Distribution: It’s the bestselling book of all time, with no close competitor.
•Translation: It’s been read by more people and published in more languages than any other book.
•Accuracy: Over and over, archeologists and historians have proven its historical reliability. According to a renowned Jewish archaeologist, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.” (1)
• Transforming Power: Those who study it and believe it testify that it’s the most valuable book ever written. It’s the only place a person can go to find God’s perspective and direction. It tells us how to have a relationship with God and how to grow in that relationship.
The Bible is certainly a remarkable book! We can even better appreciate its importance by answering several questions about it.
WHO WROTE THE BIBLE?
First, it has dual authorship. The Holy Spirit is one of the authors. But rather than dictate the words in a mechanical way, He revealed truth to human authors and inspired them to write it down in their own words and styles.
All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16)
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (II Peter 1:20)
If we want to live successful lives, we dare not neglect God’s instruction book.
Since God inspired the Bible, we can be assured that He preserved the human authors from error. We don’t have to pick and choose what to believe out of the Bible. Since we follow Jesus as Lord, it makes sense to view the entire Bible as He viewed it. Jesus said,
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)
WHY WAS THE BIBLE WRITTEN?
The Bible tells us all about how God dealt with His people through the years. But why did God tell us all this? To satisfy our curiosity? No! He wanted to show us why we’re here, who He is, how to connect with Him and how to live.
Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
Without a word from God, we could not know any of this. Some people think they can find the answers to life through experimentation with the world. But without a word from God (revelation), science fails to give us the answers to life’s most important questions.
Nobel Prize winning physicist Erwin Schrodinger came up with arguably the most important equation in science and founded wave mechanics. Although he loved science, he knew its limits. He once said, “I’m very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world is very deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight, knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.“ (2)
Others think they can find life’s answers through philosophy. Yet, Frederick Copleston was one of the greatest authorities on philosophy who ever lived. Along with many other books, he wrote the most comprehensive, most respected history of philosophy in existence. Its massive 17 volumes of microscopic print in paperback have been called “one of the enduring intellectual achievements of the twentieth century.” (George Weigel)
After an almost single-minded study of philosophy for almost seven decades, did he think that it offered the answers to life? In his autobiography, published a year before his death, he spoke of how his confidence in philosophy’s ability to deliver the goods waned over his years of inquiry. He concluded that even the best mind’s limited ability “doubtless shows the need for religious Revelation….” (3)
And what place does that revelation of God have in our lives? According to Copleston, ‘’…God did not reveal this or that truth simply to impart some more or less interesting information. Revelation was granted for salvation, to bring human beings to union with God; and Christ is recorded as saying that He came that human beings might have life—and might have it more abundantly.’’ (4)
So God has revealed Himself and His will to mankind through His Word.
HOW IS IT LAID OUT?
The first part of the Bible is called the Old Testament. It has four parts.
“The Pentateuch” or “The Law” (Genesis–Deuteronomy) begins with a fascinating account of the Creation of the world, the beginnings of the Jewish nation, their miraculous escape under the leadership of Moses from Egyptian captivity and the origin of the Ten Commandments.
The Historical Books (Joshua–Esther) After Moses’ death, we find Israel first led by Joshua, then a series of Judges and finally a succession of sometimes good and sometimes bad Kings. After “doing what was right in their own eyes” one time too many, God finally allowed another nation to take them over. This got their attention and as a result, their God of infinite patience and mercy allowed them to return to Israel.
The Poetic or Wisdom Literature (Job–Song of Solomon) writings include the devotional writings of King David (Psalms) and the extremely practical wisdom of Solomon (Proverbs).
The Prophets (Isaiah–Malachi) Although prophets sometimes spoke of the future, they were primarily engaged in receiving relevant messages from God and telling these messages to His people. The first five books are called the “Major Prophets,” the last twelve the “Minor Prophets.” Don’t confuse this use of the terms with “Major League Baseball” and “Minor League Baseball.” Regarding the prophets, it has nothing to do with their importance or how good they are. The major prophets merely wrote lengthier books than the minor ones did.
The second part of the Bible is called the New Testament. It also has four parts. The Gospels (Matthew–John) are accounts of Jesus’ life by four authors who either lived with Him or researched His life from eyewitness testimonies. Acts gives us a history of the early church.
The Epistles or Letters (Romans–Jude) explain how to understand and live the Christian life. The first thirteen (Pauline Epistles) were written by the Apostle Paul. The final eight (General Epistles) were written by five different authors.
The Revelation is a very symbolic, prophetic letter about the second coming of Jesus, the end of the world as we know it, and God’s establishment of a new heaven and new earth.
IS THE BIBLE IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER?
In the Old Testament, The Pentateuch and historical books are in chronological order. The rest of the Old Testament fits within the chronology of those historical books.
In the New Testament, the Gospels each go through Jesus’ life. Acts continues the history where the Gospels leave off. The letters are ordered by length, not chronologically. Some fit back into the timeline covered by Acts. Others were written later. Revelation was written last.
The chapter and verse divisions were not in the original writings. They were added much later in order to help the reader find specific information.
HOW IS IT UNIQUE?
One day a representative of Great Books of the Western World came to Josh McDowell’s home, trying to recruit him as a salesman. After describing the Great Books series, McDowell challenged him to take “just 10 of the authors, all from one walk of life, one generation, one place, one time, one mood, one continent, one language and just one controversial subject….” Then he asked, “Would they agree?” The recruiter responded “No!” McDowell asked, “What would you have?” He immediately responded, “A conglomeration.”
A couple of days later, the recruiter committed his life to Christ.(5) Apparently McDowell had shared the following information about the Bible:
•Consists of 66 books
•Composed by 40 different authors
•Written over a span of 1600 years
•By men from all walks of life, under different conditions, on three different continents, in three languages, concerning hundreds of controversial subjects.
Yet in spite of all these variations, it addresses hundreds of controversial subjects with harmony and unity throughout. Now that’s miraculous!
How can we get the most out of the Bible? First, pray that the Holy
Spirit will both motivate you to study God’s Word and help you to
understand it. A part of the Spirit’s job is to reveal God’s truth.
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, 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, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. (I Corinthians 2:12-13)
Second, apply yourself to read, discuss, pray over and obey God’s Word.
…like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. (I Peter 2:2,3, NASB)
I heard of a primitive tribe who cooks their meat by covering it with sand and building a fire over it. Problem is, some of the sand stays in the meat, with the long-term side effect of grinding down their teeth. So, in order to feed the elderly members, younger members actually chew up the food for them, giving the pre-chewed meat to their grateful elders.
As gross as this may sound, many Christians think nothing of surviving off predigested Bible passages. They rely totally on the teachings of others, rather than using their full set of healthy teeth to feast on the Word, reading and meditating on it for themselves. God wants better for His children. Eat it fresh!
But what if you really hate reading or the Bible seems as dry as dust to you? Here’s what one young man did. He knew from the above passage that it was God’s will for him to crave God’s Word. He also knew from I John 5:14,15 that God promises to give us whatever we ask for that’s in His will.
Follow God’s instruction book and you’ll avoid many of life’s disasters.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.
So, he felt confident that if He continued to pray for a desire for God’s Word that God would come through. Sure enough, after reading the New Testament consistently over a period of time out of obedience, God eventually answered his prayers and gave him an incredible hunger for God’s Word. That young man is now one of the authors of this material!
Third, learn from those who are strong at studying and teaching the Word. The Christian life was never meant to be a solo effort. God has uniquely led some of His people to devote their lives to study, interpret and apply God’s Word.
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (II Timothy 2:2)
It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
In a large gathering of believers you can worship together with others and hear the teaching of a mature student of the Bible. In small groups, you can discuss the meaning and implications of Scriptures. Getting involved in a dynamic, Bible-believing local church will both motivate you to keep up your personal Bible study and keep you on track with your understanding of Scripture.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24,25)
In the introduction, we talked about the model airplanes and instruction guides. Follow God’s instruction book and you’ll avoid a lot of life’s disasters.
.(1) Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert: History of Negev (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publications Society of America, 1969), 31.
.(2) Cited from Dr. Henry F. Schaefer, III, Scientists and Their Gods, http://leaderu.com/offices/schaefer/docs/scientists.html (2001).
.(3) Frederick Copleston SJ, A History of Philosophy Volume 1: Greece & Rome from the Pre-Socratics to Plotinus, Part 1 (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1993), 7.
.(4) Frederick Copleston SJ, Memoirs of a Philosopher (Kansas City, MO: Sheed and Ward, 1993), 44.
.(5) Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Volume 1 (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life
Publishers, 1979), 17.