The Bible, God's Message to Mankind
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the Pentecostal Evangel in a series entitled, "Theology in a Nutshell."The Bible is the primary source of the universe’s most significant truths. Bibliology is literally “the study of the book.” The Bible is the Book. It has earned that designation. It has outsold all other books ever written … by so much that it is seldom listed on best-seller lists anymore.
There are two sources of spiritual truth. Theology calls them general revelation (nature teaching about God in a general way) and special revelation.
The Bible is God’s special revelation.
This just means that the Bible is a special and unique Book. It is a special, or specific, way that God reveals His truth. This is the source for all Christian doctrine. As a pastor, I often told my people, “Be sure to bring your Bibles to church. Never believe what I say simply because I’m your pastor. Look in the Bible to make sure it’s there.”
The Bible is God speaking to you.
It is the logos (in Greek), meaning the “Word” of God, God’s letter to mankind. That’s why it is so valuable, such “special” revelation.
God’s Word is of infinite value.
In the 1980s, my wife, Peggy, and I had the privilege of going into Iron Curtain countries, delivering Bibles to people who had never had them. When we handed God’s Word to a person who had never even held a Bible, the effect was consistent — there were tears and joy. Our tears always mingled with those of the recipients.
When the Soviet Union crumbled and the Iron Curtain fell, Bibles began to flow freely into many of those countries. What rejoicing.
Anoosh Bullock lived in the Soviet Union. “When I came to America,” she says, “I went to a Christian bookstore. I stood at the foot of a clearance table. I could not believe what I saw — a Bible on sale for 97 cents. I fought back tears. I remembered how my pastor during the time of communism copied the Bible by hand. I remembered tearing pages from my Christian books to share with other believers. Every time I read my Bible today, I say ‘Thank You, God, for allowing me to have my own personal Bible.’”
The Bible is one Book … and many books.
God preserved the original words of the Bible as it was copied by hand and passed down.
The Old Testament was already established by the time of Jesus. It was the Bible Jesus used. Jews and Christians are in agreement upon it today.
The Early Church strongly agreed upon all the books that were genuinely sacred. By the fourth century, the church had compiled the books that would make up the canon, or standard, of 66 genuine books that appear in our English Bible.
The church agreed with the words of Athanasius in 367: “These [books] are the fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. … Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these.”
There are proofs that the Bible is God’s Word.
It is indestructible. The Bible has survived repeated attempts to destroy it. Voltaire, the noted French atheist of the 18th century, boldly proclaimed, “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity-seeker.” But he was not a prophet. A century later, a first edition of Voltaire’s work sold for the French equivalent of 11 cents, while half a million dollars was paid for a Bible manuscript found in a monastery. His old office eventually became a storage center for Bibles.
It has had supernatural influence. The Bible has had a profound and unequaled effect upon the world. Though the Koran has had widespread cultural influence, it has not matched the Bible’s spiritual impact.
Its prophecies have been fulfilled. In the person of Jesus Christ alone, more than 300 prophecies about the Messiah were fulfilled, a record that transcends statistical possibilities. The nation of Israel is also a major subject of fulfilled prophecy.
There are counterfeit books.
Some have added to the Bible. The Apocrypha is a group of books that are not genuine Scriptures. Martin Luther called these “books which are not held equal to the sacred Scriptures.”
There is also a group of books called the pseudepigrapha (meaning false writings). These books are forgeries, purporting to be from biblical authors like Thomas, Philip, John, James, Peter and Paul. There are even books supposedly from biblical characters who never wrote a Bible book, like the Gospel According to Mary, which is riddled with false doctrine, the Gospel of Nicodemus, and the Epistle of Barnabas.
God is the Author.
The Bible is inspired, or breathed by God. The words of the Bible are literally the breath of God. The Bible is, thus, a living book (Hebrews 4:12), full of spiritual life for those who will allow it into their spirits. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
Men are also the authors.
Man is the author also, in a sense. The books of the Bible were written by some 40 individuals over about 1,600 years in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. These are called the original languages. The authors recorded what God told them, but their personalities and the specific situations they faced were factors in their writing.
The Bible is without error.
Inerrancy is another technical theological term. It is basically synonymous with “true.”
The Bible is also said to be infallible with regard to matters of faith and conduct. Thus it is a practical book. Martin Luther’s words at a meeting called the Diet of Worms are just as appropriate for believers today as they were when first spoken nearly 500 years ago: “Unless I be convicted of error by the Holy Scriptures, I neither can nor dare retract anything, for my conscience is held captive by God’s Word. Here I stand, I can do not otherwise.”
There are, at times, apparent contradictions in the Bible. But these are always eventually reconciled.
Inerrancy and infallibility simply mean this: You can trust the Bible.
God’s Word is powerful.
More powerful than the most fearsome sinner. I met Armen in Armenia. He was a barrel-chested bull of a man, dark and imposing, who was once called “Devil” in his village. He was a drug addict who lived on pot, alcohol and crime. He struck fear into any who crossed his path.
“I had a wife and two kids,” he told me. “I was their worst nightmare. I was never sober. I enjoyed beating people.”
His wife finally ran away after he beat her severely and threatened to kill her. In a drug-induced stupor, he read the Bible in order to ridicule it. But, instead, God broke through the haze. He went to the only Christian person he knew and gave his life to the Lord.
Today there is no vestige left of the old villain. The new, mild-mannered Armen is an assistant pastor who also has planted a number of churches.
God’s Word is full of love.
I met Shamir in Afghanistan. As a Pashtun refugee to Pakistan, he was given a Bible by a friend. With no job, he had time to read. He read the whole Bible.
“I noticed that everything in the Bible was full of love,” he told me. “[My religion] was just killing and war. Wherever Christians go they go with love. Their weapons are God’s Word and prayer. Because of this I had to become a Christian.”
Liberal scholars have created imaginary Bibles.
Many in institutions of higher learning believe there is no Word from God, while some have shortened the Bible, claiming only parts of it are God’s Word. I attended a seminary (not Assemblies of God) where this was the case. My professors all asserted that some of the Bible was genuine, but they couldn’t agree on which parts.
Saint Augustine said, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”
Plenary inspiration means that all of the Bible came from God.
We must use God’s Word daily.
The Bible is spiritual nutrition for mind and spirit. Yet, too many Bibles gather dust. It does no good to revere it but seldom use it.
First Peter 3:15 tells Christians to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Christians must study the Word daily so they know what and why they believe.
But, as C.S. Lewis said, “A man can’t always be defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it.”
Wise Christians both study the Word and read it devotionally.
The Holy Spirit speaks to believers by illuminating passages of Scripture.
Most Christians have had the experience of a Scripture passage “jumping out at them” — even though they had read it before many times. This is called illumination, the Holy Spirit shining a light on a Scripture and applying it to your life. It is wise to read the Bible with the anticipation that the Holy Spirit will speak like this. When I open God’s Word, it has long been my practice to use words similar to those of David in Psalm 119:18: “Open my [spiritual] eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
God longs to speak to you daily through the pages of His wonderful Book, the Bible.