Section 1: Learning From The Bible
Oh how I love your Law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119: 97-105
Introduction to the bible
In this chapter we look at the importance and value of the Bible. It took 1,600 years to write, involved over 30 writers. It has been translated into many hundreds of languages. In spite of many attempts to burn, destroy or discredit it in other ways, the Bible is still being printed and distributed in huge quantities all over the world. But where did the Bible come from and why do Christians believe it is a unique book? The answers to those questions lie in the Bible itself, sometimes called the scriptures, and in the hearts of Christians who have come to know and experience its power in their lives.
a) Bible History
Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, Exodus, Deuteronomy
Written by Moses, these books tell of the creation of the world and God's choice of Israel as his own people. He rescued them from Egypt and took them to a new life. But because of their disobedience, they were 40 years in the desert.
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles
The story of how Israel settled in its new land. They were led first by prophets and later by kings including Saul and David. But not all the kings were good. Some led the Israelites in a sinful way. God punished them through their enemies.
God used Ezra and Nehemiah to build Jerusalem once more, after it had been destroyed.
Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
The Bible contains lots of songs and poems. Many of the Psalms were written by David. Solomon, a wise king, wrote Proverbs. We can still find a lot of wisdom in its chapters.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai
The prophets warned Israel that God would punish the nation if they disobeyed him. The punishment was usually to lose their lands. Men like Daniel grew up in the country of Babylon. But the prophets also foretold that the land would be returned to Israel.
The land was returned to Israel.
30 AD Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts
The birth of Jesus Christ had been prophesied in the Old Testament. He lived on earth for 33 years and in that time began a work that is still active today. His miracles were continued by his disciples in the book of Acts.
Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I & 2 Thessalonians, I & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews
Paul wrote many letters, especially to churches. He taught the early Christians many truths about God and his salvation tried to answer many of the questions that arose in the churches. For this reason, the letters of Paul are still very valuable for Christians today.
James, I & 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Revelation
Other Christian leaders also wrote letters. They tell us what life was like in the early church. And tells us about the future.
The Bible is God's Word
Although written by men, the Bible was planned and given by God himself. The Holy Spirit moved upon the writers in a special way whenever God wanted to record his words for the benefit of people on earth. Verses in 2 Timothy and 2 Peter leave us in no doubt that we are not merely reading the thoughts of men. The Bible tells us what God thinks, and who he is.
1 Timothy 3:16-17
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
2 Peter 1:21
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is an inspired book. 'Inspiration' means that God breathed on each writer to ensure that the exact words were written down. This is what happened in the case of Moses, below. He recorded exactly the words that God revealed to him on Mount Sinai. He was in no doubt that they were God's words and thoughts, not his own.
Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
The Bible is God's gift to us
Look at 2 Timothy 3:16.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The Bible is 'useful for teaching rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness'. It was written for our benefit and is God's gift to us. That's why we should value it Without the Bible, we would have no idea who God is, and how to please him. And we would have no hope of ever knowing him personally. The Bible is therefore, a book that reveals vital truths to us.
a) It reveals God to us
Everything that we know about God comes from the Bible. John 1:18 says that no-one has ever seen God, but at various times, men and women have had experiences which revealed some truth about God to them. But it is through the scriptures that he is most fully revealed. By giving the Bible to us, God is making it clear that he wants us to know him personally.
During his ministry on earth, Jesus often referred to the old testament scriptures which he claimed spoke concerning him and his coming as the Christ. He was able to show that even in the books of Moses and the prophets, he had been revealed.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.
MORE PRECIOUS THAN LIFE
The Bible has been published in more than 1000 languages. William Tyndale was one of the very first translators of the Bible into the language of ordinary people. Because of this he was persecuted and was forced to leave England and flee to Wittenberg in Germany. There he translated the New Testament from Greek into English. His New Testament was printed in the city of Worms. When copies were smuggled into England, King Henry VIII ordered that they should all be destroyed. Tyndale was eventually arrested in Antwerp, Belgium, and after spending sixteen months in prison, he was tried and found guilty of spreading lies. He was burned at the stake on August 6th, 1536.
The very first translator of the Bible into English was John Wycliffe. He has been called the 'morning star of the Reformation'. Many of Wycliffe's followers were burned at the stake because they possessed and read the English Bible. Fifty years after Wycliffe's death, his grave was torn open, his body burned, and his ashes scattered in a stream.
Many Christians have been put to death because of their love for the Bible. For many years it was a hated book in communist countries. But now they are being printed and shipped in vast numbers to some of those countries: the word of God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).
Thank you Father for your word. Help me to read it with a sincere and humble heart, remembering that many have died in order that your word might be brought to all men and women. Give me an obedient spirit at all times, that your truth may be fruitful in my life, and in my service'.
b) It reveals the way of salvation to us.
It is only through the Bible that we can discover how to find a relationship with God, through forgiveness of sins. In writing to Timothy, the apostle Paul recalls how Timothy had received the same sincere faith that first his grandmother, and later his mother, had possessed. But how had he received faith for himself? By hearing and reading the Bible from an early age.
2 Timothy 3:15
....and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
c) It helps us to grow as Christians.
The same verse that tells us that the scriptures are inspired by God, goes on to show us how we can benefit from them.
2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
Paul lists four reasons why Christians should read and study the Bible closely:
1. The scriptures teach us to know the truth about God.
2. The scriptures challenge us when we deliberately act wrongly.
3. The scriptures help us to correct our behavior.
4. The scriptures train us to walk in the ways of God.
The result is, that we become useful to God and ready to do acts of service.
2 Timothy 3:17
...that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
How important then, the Bible is for Christians. Our attitude towards its teachings will determine how strong a Christian we become.
The Authority of the Bible
We have already seen that the Bible is a unique book. Only the Bible contains God's inspired words. Many excellent books have been written about the bible, and may help us to understand it better. But they do not have the same authority. In order to benefit from the scriptures (or Bible) we must therefore submit ourselves to them. Obeying the Bible, believing and doing what it says, is the same as obeying God himself. After all, it contains his words.
a) All teaching must be tested by scripture.
Over the centuries there have been many false teachers. The word of God said that this would happen in the last days before Christ's return. Christians must be on their guard, and beware of wrong teachings inspired by Satan, intended to confuse and divide.
1 Timothy 4:1-2
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared...
A UNIQUE BOOK
'It's the Bible that has kept us alive all these centuries, and it is the Bible that holds the greatest hope for our survival in the future'. - David Ben-Gurion, first prime minister of Israel.
'It's 66 books, and yet it's one book. It has many authors and yet it has one author. It's the oldest book in the world and yet it's more up to date than tomorrow's newspaper' - Arthur Wallis, writer and Christian teacher.
'There is but one book, the Bible'. - Sir Walter Scott, novelist.
'My love for the Bible and its sacred truth, is stronger at ninety than it was at nineteen'. - Fanny Crosby, hymn writer.
'I put the scriptures above all the sayings of the fathers, angels, men and devils. Here I take my stand.' -Martin Luther, German leader of the Reformation.
'The Bible is the window of hope through which we look into eternity'. - Timothy Dwight.
'I know that God's word is sufficient. One word from him can change a nation. His word is from everlasting to everlasting. It is the food of faith'. - Smith Wigglesworth, evangelist.
'The best way to show your gratitude to God for the Bible is not to preserve it in its nice cardboard box, or give it an honored place on your bookshelf, or carry it around like a lucky charm. The Bible does nothing for you until you receive its truth into your heart and let it change you'. - Arthur Wallis.
Paul was able to write to the church at Ephesus that he had taught them the whole will of God. He also warned the church that false teachers who he described as 'fierce wolves' would come after he had left them, and try to destroy the church.
For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
No wonder then, that Paul taught Timothy the importance of 'rightly handling the word of truth' (2 Timothy 2:15). Since the Bible was written between 2-4000 years ago, it has to be understood and applied to the present day. Certain verses may not be relevant in the 20th century in the same way as the 1st century or before. Many questions and situations that arise today are not dealt with directly in the scriptures.
2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Therefore, the scriptures have to be interpreted. In so doing, always ask yourself:
1. is a teaching repeated more than once? In his wisdom, God has made sure that all major truths are repeated - sometimes over and over again- so that we cannot miss them. For example, even in the Old Testament, the importance of faith can be seen.
2. does a teaching fit in with the rest of scripture? God does not lead us into confusion. And the Holy Spirit, who Jesus said would guide you into all truth (John 16:13), will never say anything against the scriptures, which are themselves God's words. On every occasion a verse of scripture can be interpreted and understood by looking at other scriptures - if we 'handle them carefully'.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
3. is our translation of scripture correct? Translations of the Bible are the work of men, no doubt helped in many cases by the Holy Spirit. But a translation may be incorrect in certain places altering the meaning.
4. is a teaching being used by someone to gain followers for himself? This happened often in the New Testament times, and still occurs today.
b) Our lives must be tested by God's word.
God's words and thoughts are relevant to every generation, and every nation on earth. They challenge us to live in God's way, not our own. Left to ourselves, we inevitably live to please ourselves, and the Bible describes that as a path to death. On the other hand, God's ways lead to life. Only by allowing God's word to rule in our lives, can we discover God's way to life.
As we read and study the Bible, we need two vital things: humility and faith. Without the first we will find it difficult to accept God's rebuke and correction. And we will need faith that the Bible is indeed God's word and that he knows what is best for us. God's commands are always for our good.
The Bible is a tool for Christian service
So far we have seen that the Bible is a guide book, leading us to God, and a rule book, enabling us to live as God intended men and women to live. But it is more than that, as Jesus showed when he was tested by Satan in the desert. Having spent forty days by himself, Jesus was hungry, perhaps lonely, and open to Satan's attack. On three occasions Satan tried to persuade Jesus to obey him rather than God. Jesus' reply each time was to use the scriptures to answer Satan, and to silence him. Jesus was showing us, that the way to overcome Satan in our lives is to use the scriptures as he himself did.
Read through the verses in Matthew chapter 4 that record Jesus' temptations. Notice especially, that when he challenged Jesus to throw himself down from the temple, Satan used the scriptures himself. Jesus knew that Satan was trying to trick him into forcing God to rescue him. In other words Satan was using the scriptures as a tool against God. But Jesus turned the situation around completely, so that it was Satan who was defeated.
And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
Satan still tries to persuade Christians to do things his way, instead of God's way. The Bible calls this, 'temptation'. Like Jesus, we must use the scriptures as a tool to overcome temptation. Often, Satan is cunning. For example, Jesus told his disciples that even if they picked up deadly snakes, or drank poison, they would not be harmed. But we must not go looking for such things in order to see if God's promise is true. That is to put God to the test, which Jesus refused to do. We must believe that God's promises are true because they are his words, not because we have tested them all personally.
...they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.
The Bible is a life-changing book.
Jesus said that the words he spoke were 'spirit' and 'life' (John 6: 63). By that he meant that his words were able to penetrate into the hearts of those who listened, bringing life to those who believed.
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)
The Bible is not merely a history book. Nor is it a dead, lifeless book. It is a collection of God's thoughts, which when received humbly and by faith, have the power to change a person's life, meet their needs and lead them into God's ways.
This is what happened on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts. If you have a Bible, read the sermon of Peter to the crowd (Acts 2: 14-42). Almost half the verses were made up of quotes from the Old Testament scriptures, from Joel and Psalms. The result was that the people were 'cut to the heart' (Acts 2: 37) - and three thousand people were converted. Sharing the scriptures with unsaved people is what evangelism is all about As Christians seek to sow the seed of the gospel in others, God will ensure that great results will follow. His promise in Isaiah 55:11 is our assurance. Make up your mind to read it daily in an attitude of submission and faith.
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams....’”
David said about him: 'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken....' (Acts 2:25)
For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37)
....so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
SEVEN WAYS OF DESCRIBING GOD'S WORD
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalms 119:105).
'Is not my word like fire,' declares the Lord, 'and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?'(Jeremiah 23:29).
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:23-24).
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword...(Hebrews 4:12).
Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:23).
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation...(1 Peter 2:2).