- What is the Bible?
- The Message of the Bible
- The Person of the Bible
- The Inspiration of the Bible
- Reasons to Believe in the Inspiration of the Bible
- Has the Bible been Changed?
- True Christianity and the authority of the Bible
- The Authority of the Bible
- Who Can Interpret the Bible?
- Principles of Interpretation
- The Nature and Power of the Word
- What will the Word Produce
- What Must We Do with the Word of God
- A Final Note
- Verses to Memorize
The Bible is a collection of 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament or Old Covenant, and 27 in the New Testament or New Covenant. We can think of the Old Covenant as being the old contract or the old deal between God and men, while the New Covenant is the new contract or the new deal between God and man. The Old Testament contains the Law of Moses, books of history, books of poetry, books of wisdom, and books of prophecy, many of which are fulfilled today in amazing detail. The New Testament contains the story of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the story of the early church in the book of Acts, letters written to various churches and church leaders, and a book of prophecy – Revelation.
All the books of the Bible, written over a period of around 1600 years, give a consistent picture of who God is, who we are, what God wants, and what we can expect depending on our choices in this life. The Bible reveals the story of how God has dealt with mankind, His chosen nation of Israel and His New Covenant people, the Church. The Bible speaks with the same authority and relevance today regarding who He is and what He is doing in our times. It speaks to us regarding what will happen in the future
and how God will change everything.
The Bible is not just a book of rules and ancient history. It contains thousands of wonderful promises which are applicable to all who believe in all times. The challenge that faces mankind today is to know, understand and experience the wonderful things that God promises to do for those who believe. God’s promises in the Bible guarantee us more than enough for all our needs in every area. The only condition is to trust and obey God, and expect Him to do what He says He will do. If we don’t we are the losers.
If we know the New Testament or the New Contract well, and apply it intelligently to our lives, we will be blessed both now and in eternity. If we reject its warnings and disregard its promises we do so to our own hurt – both now and especially for eternity.
The Old Testament begins in the book of Genesis with an account of the creation of the world by God, and then continues with the story of the beginnings of human history. The rest of the Old Testament reveals mostly the history and the heart condition of the people of Israel in different periods before the coming of the promised Messiah.
The New Testament shows us the most important events of the life and work of Jesus the Messiah, how many Jewish people rejected their own Messiah and how from there God’s offer of salvation began to go out into all the world. It uncovers more of God’s promises and more information
about our enemy, Satan, and how we can overcome his plans by trusting and obeying God.
The Bible tells us about God and how we can come back to Him. It shows us the character and ways of God, the person of God in Jesus Christ our Lord, who we are and how we ought to live. It tells us our origins, our identity and our destiny.
The Central Person of the Bible is the Lord Jesus Christ. Any understanding of the Bible which ignores Jesus has missed the point of the Bible (see John 5:39-40). The Scriptures point us to Jesus, the Word of God (Rev. 19:13), in whom we have life. The Pharisees and other religious people study the Bible but miss Jesus and thereby miss the purpose of it.
The Bible was written down by different human authors of varying backgrounds. Some were fishermen, others, shepherds. One was a tax collector! Yet behind each one of them was God the Holy Spirit who inspired what they wrote. “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21). “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Jesus taught that the Scripture is the Word of God. Talking about the Old Testament, Jesus said “Have you not read what was SPOKEN to you BY GOD“. (Matthew 22.31). And again, in John 10:34,35, Jesus equates the Old Testament or Scripture with “the Word of God”. He says that “the Scripture cannot be broken.” Anyone who disobeys God’s Word breaks himself, but not God’s Word or its integrity.
Jesus claimed that his teachings were the teachings of God. He said, “My doctrine is not mine, but his who sent me.” (John 7:16). Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, speaking with the full authority and inspiration of God (John 7:18). He said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will
by no means pass away.” (Matthew 24:35). He is promising that God will not allow the record of the true words and teachings of Jesus to cease to exist. If you believe that Jesus is God’s Son, you must go on to believe everything else Jesus taught. If you don’t believe what He taught, you don’t really believe in Him fully. And Jesus taught us that God speaks through the Old Testament, through His Words and through the words of his apostles. Read John 14:26 and Matthew 28:20. The writings of Peter and Paul recorded in the New Testament are also the Word of God. Peter, speaking of the letters of the apostle Paul, writes: “in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:16). The apostle Peter calls Paul’s letters Scripture. We see then that according to its own claims, the New Testament as we have it is the Word of God. Both experience and reason have shown that it can be trusted. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. It is inspired by God.
Large books have been written presenting in detail powerful evidences which give strong reasons for believing in the divine inspiration of the Bible. Here are some in very short form:
1. No other religious book has specific fulfilled prophecies as the Bible has. We have today manuscripts dating well before the time of Jesus, containing Biblical prophecies which directly point to Him. In fact, Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies in his lifetime. Some of the strongest are found in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. These passages are so strong that in Jewish synogogues today they are skipped over in the reading of the law.
The emergence of the Persian, Greek and Roman empires was prophesied by Daniel at a time when the Babylonian empire covered the world.
The re-creation of the state of Israel in 1948 is a fulfilment of both Old and New Testament prophecy. Present world conditions were prophecied by Jesus almost 2000 years ago in Matthew 24. Large books have been written showing the detailed fulfilment of hundreds of Bible prophecies. No other religious or occultic book comes even close to the Bible when it comes to prophecy.
2. Events and places described in the Bible are confirmed more and more by archaeology and other historical writings as discoveries are made. In this century, men have found Noah’s ark mentioned in Genesis 7 and 8 on Mt. Ararat in modern Turkey. It can be seen on by satellite photo! Archaeologists have discovered ancient tablets and city sites which confirm time after time the historical accuracy of the Bible. Those who have speculated otherwise have been proved wrong again and again.
3. The internal consistency of doctrine right across the 66 books of the Bible, despite widely different authors in different periods of time, points to the common source of inspiration of the Bible. If we asked 20 people in this country to each write a separate book about God we would certainly have conflicting opinions and doctrines. Yet because the Holy Spirit inspired the many human authors, this didn’t happen in the writing of the different books of the Bible, even though the books were written at
different times. They all reveal God as a God of mercy and justice.
4. One of the most important reasons for believing in the Bible is the fact that it works today. Hundreds of millions of people around the world today testify that Jesus Christ has changed their lives, and that the promises of God work when believed and applied. People have been healed physically and emotionally while reading the Bible or acting on its teaching. Thousands have been miraculously delivered from the effects of drug abuse or other harmful practises. The character of the man believing the Bible from the heart is changed from selfishness to love. All kinds of people from
all kinds of backgrounds in all countries of the world will testify to the reality of all this. While not all have heard these testimonies, more and more are hearing and believing every day – going on to experience the same things for themselves.
5. Then there is the historical evidence for the physical resurrection of Christ. The apostles preached this message right from the start, and most of them died for this faith. They knew what they saw. They would not all die for something they knew to be a lie of their own making. And the plain fact was, after many saw Jesus die and be buried, three days later, Jesus’ grave was empty. Hundreds testified to seeing Jesus alive from the dead. Hundreds of thousands today, a number of them formerly muslims, testify to having seen him in a vision or a dream speaking to them in a way that changed their lives altogether. Miracles happen in Jesus’ name today. All this shows that Jesus is alive. And if Jesus is alive, His book, the Bible, can be trusted.
If Christ rose, we should listen to him, believe his claims, share his attitude to the Scriptures, trust his ability to preserve his written Word to us.
Nevertheless, some people, especially those who don’t like the moral constraints of the Bible, want to say that the Bible has changed since it was written. If Jesus was proved to be the authentic Son of God through the resurrection from the dead, this cannot be so.
The textual evidence for the integrity of the Bible is better than for any other ancient book or document. Compared to other ancient writings, we have more manuscripts still in existence, and manuscripts whose age we know is much closer to the time of original writing, than it is in the case of
other ancient writings. All variations which exist are of a very minor nature which do not affect any major doctrine of the Bible. We believe that it can be deduced which manuscripts in fact are closest to what was originally written, but it is outside the scope of this lesson to discuss this.
There are amazing mathematical patterns in Bible when looked at in the original Hebrew and Greek languages. Hundreds of facts based around the number 7 appear in every passage of the Bible when you look at the numerical values of the words in the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible. Many of these patterns were discovered by Ivan Panin in the 19th century. This discovery turned him from being an agnostic to being a Christian. His subsequent research provides a virtually irrefutable evidence that the Bible is not simply the product of human minds. No computer today could create such a text. The conclusion is once again that the Bible is the Word of God.
There will always be people however who refuse to believe. This is basically because they are not willing to consider the evidence honestly. Human beings often believe things for reasons other than logic or persuasive argument. Many times people believe what they want to believe, because it is convenient that way or too emotionally painful to recognise that they and their family have been fundamentally deceived all this time. People today are often “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of
God.” (2 Timothy 3:4). Hiding in their pride and communal ignorance, they do not want to consider the evidence for the Bible, in case they are forced to admit it is true and they have to give up their ungodly passions and pleasures. The Bible makes it clear that God is looking for a change in our
lives. But that change will be good, because God is good, wise, and able to help us be what we were created to be.
Since God is manifest in creation, in our consciences and our personhood, we are without excuse if we do not believe in a personal God. The Bible points this out in Romans 1:18-20. The truth is that a person who rejects the message of the Bible will often believe something very improbable or
ridiculous from a rational point of view. This is actually part of God’s judgment on those who willfully suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:11,12).
Many claim to believe in Jesus or to be Christians. Yet many times people believe in a Jesus of personal or popular imagination. The real Jesus – the one who died and rose again historically and actually lives today, is the Jesus revealed in the pages of the Bible. Any other Jesus is a false one. The
Bible declares, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). The clearest picture of Jesus we can have is not some paint on the wall of a church building, but the picture we see of his life, mission and teaching as revealed in the New Testament. Unlike church traditions, the New Testament has not changed. Any form Christianity based on changing traditions and not on the teachings of Jesus recorded in the New Testament is a false Christianity. It does not
matter for how many hundreds of years it has been in existence. The Pharisees also could point to a tradition going back hundreds of years. But Jesus said to them that they were “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down.” (Mark 7:13).
Authority and author are directly related concepts. Because the Holy Spirit (who is God) is the author of the Bible, the authority of the Bible is the authority of God. That means, when the Bible speaks to us then God is speaking to us. To disobey the New Testament is to disobey God.
Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
“He who rejects Me, and does not receive my words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” (John 12:48). The Word has authority to judge and will judge in the last day. Therefore it is indeed wise to “tremble at God’s Word” (Isaiah 66:2). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7).
Jesus said, “But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I say?” (Luke 6:46). Lord means master, and just calling Jesus ‘Lord’ is not enough. In vain we call Him ‘Lord’ if by our lives we demonstrate that we do not know what we say, or we do not mean what we say.
Jesus is Lord of your Life if and only if the true intention of your heart is to do what he says in His Word. We must come to Jesus, hear His sayings, AND do them. (Luke 6:47-49). We must dig past all the traditions, prejudices and errors of men. We must get to the solid rock of Christ’s Word and put it into practice if our lives are to pass the test.
God has promised to preserve His words forever (Ps. 12.7). If we believe in the faithful God who causes the sun to rise every day, then we should believe He has preserved his Word to us also.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) The true doctrine of Christianity may never contradict the clear meaning of Scripture. We have the right to rebuke and correct people
using the Scripture, as long as we ourselves are being led by the Spirit as the Scripture commands us to be (Galatians 5:16).
Some religious leaders have the idea that only certain people have the right to read and pray to God in order to understand what God is saying to them through the Bible. For this reasons in some churches the Bible was kept for centuries untranslated in the language of the people. In this way religious leaders could claim to represent Christ and teach the truth without people being able to check them out. Just as Jesus said to the Pharisees, so we say to such leaders: “Hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matthew 23:13).
We do not need to have a perfect interpretation of all things in the Bible in order for God to able to speak to us through it. Those who want to do God’s will shall be guided into all truth (John 7:17), step by step. We are commanded to be filled with the Word of God, and we must begin. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16).
All who want to be disciples of Jesus (i.e. true Christians – see Acts 11:26) must remain in His Word. “If you remain in my word, you are my disciples indeed.” (John 8:30-32; John 15:7; John 14:21,23). True believers must know what they believe and in whom. It is not just a matter of believing that Jesus existed and is somehow a savior.
Religious leaders who tell us not to read the Bible are telling us to disobey Jesus. They cannot show that they teach all of God’s Word themselves. Noble hearted people will verify the teaching of any man – even if he is an apostle – against the Scriptures (read Acts 17:11).
The Holy Spirit created the Scipture, not the Church (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20). The 4th century church merely ratified what the Holy Spirit had already written. The church has no right to modify the eternal teachings of Jesus. God has exalted His Word above all his name (Ps. 138.2). This means that the Word has the ultimate authority – not traditions of churches. Traditions can only be good when they don’t contradict the Bible, and when they don’t seek to replace the need for a personal dynamic
relationship with God.
The Scripture is never superseded by man’s tradition (Mt 15:1-9; Mk 7:8,13). Jesus condemned those who put there own traditions before the written word of God. We are commanded to test all things. (1 Thessalonians 5:21). How? By the Standard of God’s Word, the Scripture. “To the law and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20).
All church leaders and those claiming to be Christians who reject Christ’s words will one day be judged according to the words of Christ which are recorded in Scripture (John 12:48)
God reveals the truth about doctrine to those who want to do his will (John 7:17). We cannot trust those who willingly and consistently disobey God’s Word to interpret the Bible correctly to us. Such men do not have the Holy Spirit. They are blind leaders of the blind.
Thus, everyone who wants to follow Christ must seek the first hand knowledge of the Scriptures diligently. Laziness and indifference are not excuses. The matter is urgent. Our response to God’s Word has eternal consequences and must be attended to now!
Being the Word of God, the Scripture is consistent with itself – Scripture interpets Scripture (2 Peter 1:21; Ps 12.6-7). We cannot build a doctrine just based on one verse taken out of context. This principle gives us an important safeguard against false interpretations and doctrines. So we must know Scripture well.
The Holy Spirit, as author, is ultimate interpreter. No man can say that he is always right about Scripture and its application simply because he claims a position of religious authority. Even Peter the apostle was wrong at times and had to be corrected. See Galatians 2:11-14.
The Holy Spirit never contradicts himself. So if an interpretation of Scripture contradicts another part of Scripture, taken in the context of the whole Bible, it cannot be right.
Jesus said the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (John 16.13). We should therefore ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our search for truth in the Bible, without being afraid. The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God (Acts 5.32). Let us therefore seek to please God by believing and acting on what He has already revealed to us through the Bible and our consciences.
Daniel studied Jeremiah to understand it (Daniel 9:2). Likewise we are commanded to study it (2 Timothy 2:15). We should ask God for wisdom in our study of the Scripture (James 1.5). God promises to give us the wisdom we need.
Everyone must be fully convinced in his own mind about issues of importance (Romans 14:5). Much study, prayer and listening to godly men will help us to know the truth. We should not allow ourselves to be full of doubts on issues of major importance such as salvation.
The concept of present truth (2 Peter 1.12) shows that the church may grow in its understanding and application of the Scripture as history progresses. Therefore we must not reject an interpretation just because no one has preached it before in the last centuries. A more relevant question is whether there is evidence that the apostles could have accepted that interpretation.
God judges us according to the light we have, or the light we claim to have (John 9:41; Romans 2:11-16). This means that it is more important to submit to what we understand God wants, than to understand all the finer points of doctrine that men argue about.
“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
God’s Word is at work in the world today. It is an active force. It governs the spiritual activity in the Universe. It changes things, especially when spoken and believed, both in the hearts of men and in their circumstances. God is watching over his word to perform it (Jer. 1:12).
God’s Word is compared to a seed (Luke 8:11; Mark 4:14; 1 Peter 1:23). This seed produces new life if planted well. Like seed, it is growing in hearts and multiplying and spreading all over the world today. Satan, his demons and antichrist people cannot stop the inevitable progress of this seed.
Every seed produces life after its own kind. The seed of God’s Word, if planted well in soft hearts, open hearts, will produce the life, character and faith of God in its hearers.
For hard hearts, the Word correctly applied will be like a hammer to break the hard heart open (Jer. 23:19).
The Word of God is compared to a fire. ” ‘Is not my Word like a fire?’, says the LORD, ‘And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’ ” (Jer. 23:29). It can act as a fire (Jer. 5:14; 20:9). Fire spreads, gives light, warmth, energy and comfort – but it can also destroy. God’s Word destroys the power of evil as it is believed and applied. It can break Satan’s influence in our hearts and lives.
In a world that is many times casual and uninterested in the things of God, the Word of God can produce conviction of sin (Romans 7:7). The Holy Spirit works through the knowledge of the law to show us how unrighteous we are and how we deserve condemnation.
But praise God, the Word of God does more than that. By the Word of God also comes salvation (Romans 1:16). We receive wisdom for salvation through the Word (2 Tim. 3:15). “Faithcomes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17). If you don’t have enough faith, you can get it by paying attention to the preached Word.
“Your Word has given me life” (Ps. 119:50). The Word gives a new spiritual life when received. It produces the new birth of the human spirit (1 Peter 1:23). The Word gives us hope (Romans 15:4; Ps. 119:49) both for this life and for the life to come.
The Word acts to wash and cleanse us (Eph. 5:25). Jesus said, “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17). So the Word can produce in us true holiness. It gives us truth. And that truth, if we really know it, will make us free (John 8:31-32). Through the Word we can cleanse our way and keep sin out of our lives (Ps. 119:9,11). We can have victoryover Satan through the Word, as Jesus did (Matthew 4:4,7,10,11; 1 John 2:14).
We can find wisdom in the Word when we don’t know what to do. “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Ps. 19:7). To God we can truly say, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). So in this way the Word gives guidance.
The Word of God can work in our spiritual and emotional lives to produce joy and rejoicing (Neh. 8:12; Ps. 119:14; 1 Cor. 13:6). Its purpose is to produce in us a true love, that we will live by (1 Tim. 1:5; Eph. 5:2).
Paul commended the Ephesian believers to the word of God’s grace, “which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). So the Word produces spiritual growth.
If we need physical healing, we should apply God’s Words and promises. “For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.” (Prov 4:22). Note that it is for the flesh, not just for the soul. Many times God will send his Word and heal us (Ps. 107:20) if we need healing.
True prosperity and success will come to you if you consistently “meditate on the Word night and day, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8; Ps. 1:1-3).
If our souls prosper through obedience to the Word (3 John 2), then God wants our bodies to be in health too and for us to prosper. Concerning the works of men, by the Word of God’s lips, we can keep ourselves from the paths of the destroyer (Ps. 17:4). This means protection. It comes to those who obey the Word and abide in the presence of God (Ps. 91; John 15:10).
Everything that is really important for the man of God in his ministry can be obtained through the Word. The Word is given, “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:17).
When the Word of God is spread to enough hearts, and put thoroughly into practice in at least a few, the Word will bring revival or spiritual awakening (Acts 19:20; Ps 119:25; Neh 9:3). The value of a true spiritual revival of God is beyond human calculation. This is because the salvation of even one soul is worth more to God than all the material things which are.
The most important thing we can do with the Word is to give it our whole hearted attention. “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart.” (Prov. 4:20,21). Only in this way will we experience personally the full benefits described above. If we keep our eyes on the Word it will crowd doubt out of our minds.
We should keep God’s Words, and treasure them within us. “My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you.” (Prov. 7:1). Treasuring God’s Word means meditating on it with pleasure (Ps. 1:1- 3), knowing that God’s Word in your heart will produce enormous spiritual riches.
The Word of God must be mixed with faith (Hebrews 4:2) or it will not really do us very much good. “Faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17), not by “having heard it”. Therefore to build our faith we should speak the Word with our mouth much (Joshua 1:8), so we ourselves hear it and it gets into us. Hearing preaching of the Word in church or on media can build our faith very much, especially when the preacher is himself full of faith and the Holy Spirit.
However, if we can read, we ought to read and study the Scriptures also for ourselves. “Study or be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15). The Scripture should be read and taught in church.
Paul said, “Til I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Tim. 4:13)
It helps greatly to memorize God’s Word, both for our own personal meditation and for the future when we will communicate it to others. We should let it consume us (1 John 2:14) like a fire (Jer. 23:29).
Most importantly, we should obey it. True faith leads to obedience (Romans 1:5). “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” said Jesus (Luke 11:28). “But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22). We deceive ourselves if we think that hearing the Word is enough. We must put it into practise. Otherwise our faith is dead.
Once we have begun to obey the Word as disciples of Christ, we should preach it to others (2 Tim. 4:2) so that they can be saved, and teach it to others in a practical way. Jesus said, “Teach them to obey all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20).
These instructions apply to those who are born again by the Spirit of God. The following lessons explain some basic things regarding what the Word of God teaches about God and salvation. If you would like to be born again, read the prayer in “The Good News” and pray it. Then the Word of God will come more alive to you, and you will get new power and desire to apply these things in your life.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16,17)
This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
Copyright (C) 1996, Michael Fackerell.