Before I chose to become a follower of Jesus, I had never opened a Bible or looked inside one. Oh, I knew some people read and studied the Bible in churches, but I felt it was a somewhat mysterious, secret book with a black cover that people carried with them to church. Besides never having looked inside a Bible before I became a follower of Jesus, I had also very seldom attended church and had never attended Sunday School. But after I was converted by God and began attending church, sometimes I heard the children singing a song in Sunday School that went something like this, in part: “The B-i-b-l-e, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-b-l-e . . . “
What in the world does such an expression mean? How can someone stand on the Bible? Oh, I suppose it’s physically possible to stand on a Bible—maybe one of those large “Pulpit” Bibles measuring about 18″ x 12″ x 4″ thick. But why? Why stand on a Bible? What does that mean? To start at the very beginning of my thoughts about the Bible in this teaching, we must actually begin before the beginning. We must consider how, in the first place, we know anything about God—Whom the Bible is all about and Who caused the Bible to be written.
How We Know
There are essentially four “sources” of our knowledge about God. They are called “revelation” knowledge or how God “reveals” Himself to us. He reveals Himself to us in these four basic ways:
- Through creation: by studying the vast physical and material universe and all that’s in it from the “vastness” of the interior of the atom to the vastness of the reaches of space and everything in it; the Bible itself teaches this fact: God’s existence is clearly seen by every human being by means of his amazing creation; people who deny such evidence label themselves atheists. It’s not that atheists don’t believe in God, per se; they do believe in God, but simply make a conscious choice—an act of their will—to not believe in God Whom they clearly see in his creation. Moreover, many atheists actually believe in God; they’re simply angry at the God they believe in because some religious person in their past has done them wrong; thus, they blame God for the wrong done to them and claim they don’t believe in Him.
- By means of God’s intervention in human history and his “salvific” acts among humankind—especially the crowning salvation acts of Jesus’ birth, his life, his death, his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension to heaven.
- By means of God the Holy Spirit Who comes to live inside humans in his unbodied form.
- By means of his “revealed word,” the Bible.
Having laid that foundational groundwork about how God reveals Himself to humankind, let’s now examine the fourth proposition above: what the Bible is and where it came from. How did we get the Bible?
A Brief History Lesson
First, realize this simple fact: The Bible is not a novel to be read from cover to cover. Nor is it a single book flowing smoothly from “chapter” to chapter. The word Bible itself comes from a Greek word for “papyrus plant” (biblos) since the leaves of that plant were often used to write upon. Biblos is a Greek word meaning “books.” The Bible is a “collection” of 66 different books written by 40 different authors over a period of 1500 years. It’s not just one book, but a collection of books.
The books of the Bible are different styles of literature: stories, historical lists, genealogies, law codes, poems, hymns, and prophecy. Its writers were fisherman, farmers, political leaders, kings, educated philosophers, and even one medical doctor. Three different languages were used in its writing: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
Some of the books of the Bible are short, almost like leaflets or pamphlets (actually some of them were brief letters), some are lengthier. Because of the way the books of the Bible are arranged, you don’t need to feel you must simply pick up the Bible and read it from the beginning like you would a single novel, an autobiography, or a textbook.
So . . . when you first read the Bible (if you haven’t already) you don’t need to necessarily begin by reading the first book, Genesis. You could begin by reading one of the other books. For those who have never read the Bible, I generally recommend they begin by reading the book of John or “The Gospel of John, ” about ¾ of the way through the Bible in the New Testament portion. Next, read the book of Acts immediately after John, and then the rest of the books following Acts. Then go back and begin reading Genesis, the first book of the Bible, continuing all the way back to John where you started reading. That will give you a great overview and “feel” for the Bible.
Of course, if you’ve lived for any length of time, you have most likely heard stories about how the Bible is full of myths, fairy tales, and errors. Maybe you’ve heard how it’s just an ancient book that has no relevance to life in our 21st century world. I challenge you: how can you honestly believe such contrived stories if you’ve never read and studied the Bible completely through for yourself? That’s really not very fair, nor is it honest scholarship. Or . . . maybe you read the Bible in its entirety 40 years ago, or started to read it once and then quit because you couldn’t get past all the “thee’s” and “thou’s” and “whithersoevers.” Have I got some good news for you, if that’s the case. You may have no idea what’s available for Bible reading these days.
First, you can find in most Religious bookstores (and some of the large supermarket chain stores) and on the internet a daily Bible reading plan which you can follow in order to read the Bible completely through in a year’s time. You can even purchase Bibles which are pre-divided and marked for you to have daily readings. A great source for Bibles of all makes and models on the internet as of this writing is http://www.christianbookdistributors.com (or simply CBD.com).
Also available now are many versions of the Bible in modern, up-to-date English (or Chinese, or whatever your native language is). They contain language that’s as up-to-date as today’s newspaper text. No one—especially God—speaks in outmoded or dead languages; true, God understands all languages, but He chooses to “speak” to you through a Bible in your own, modern language. I encourage you not to purchase or read a Bible called “The King James Version” of the Bible. It was written in the English language over 400 years ago and is a very faulty and unreliable version of the Bible in the light of many of today’s modern translations.
There are also “talking Bibles” on CD’s or DVD’s you can listen to. And, there are even DVD, pictorial versions of the Bible you can purchase and rent. Anne and I recently viewed a 4-hour version of the biblical Book of Matthew on DVD in which the actors spoke only the words and dialogue from one of the modern versions of the book. It was fascinating; we’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Not very long ago, I even purchased a little electronic Bible which I often carry with me just for convenience’s sake. Not much larger than a billfold, I can use it to quickly look up any word, passage, reference, or book of the Bible. Amazing! And, of course, if you have any of the small, hand-held computers you can download the entire Bible to those devices. Some Bible societies are even providing the entire dramatized New Testament to our men and women in the armed services . . . on a “flash drive” or “memory stick,” no bigger than your thumb!
You probably know already that the Bible is still the most widely distributed book in the world—in all of history. Why? Why the fascination with the Bible? Let me put it to you very simply: Most people know when they read the Bible without any preconceptions that it truly is God’s written, living Word to all people on planet earth!
How We Got The Bible
Writing in many forms has been around for a long, long time—thousands of years. When God first began to “reveal” Himself to humans and help them sort out all the differences between all the idols and hand-made gods, on one hand, and the one true, living God, on the other hand, He prompted various people to begin writing down his words. Oh, they weren’t written on word processors and faxed or texted from place to place, but they were written down—on clay tablets, on special animal skins, on papyrus . . . writing surfaces like that. God simply caused people to write down what He wanted them to write. He simply put his thoughts and concepts into their minds.
If God is truly God, He can certainly do that sort of thing. Keep in mind the people He used to write the Bible were humans just like you and me; some were well-educated, some were not. They came from various walks of life and occupations. Some were kings, some were farmers and fisherman, but they could write.
Don’t believe the naïve notion they were sort of ancient “cave people” who were ignorant, who couldn’t read or write. That simply isn’t true. From China, the Middle East, and various other sites all over the world, archaeologists, toponymists, epistemologists, and other experts about humanity’s history are constantly discovering more and more writing that is more and more ancient—going back many thousands of years. Here’s how one reference in the Bible itself says God caused people to communicate in writing what He wanted them to. 2 Peter 1: 21 (that means the second book of Peter’s, the first chapter, and the 21st verse) says as they were guided and directed by the Spirit of God Who lived inside them, certain people communicated in writing what God wanted written.
Oh, those people weren’t automatons, where God just took their mouths and forced them to speak or seized their hands and forced them to write; no, God worked “behind the scenes” in their minds and spirits so they thought the thoughts God wanted them to think, and then wrote them down—using their own style of writing, their own languages, their own idioms, their own phrases. They weren’t robots or zombies who were forced to write certain things; they were simply human beings writing down the thoughts, concepts, phrases, and words God placed in their own thought processes.
The Spirit of God living within them acted as somewhat of an “overseer” to ensure they wrote what God wanted them to write. He didn’t override their own personalities and thought processes and force them to write. In fact, they probably didn’t know with any certainty at the time that what they were writing was the “word of God.”
They were simply writing down what they believed God was communicating to them in their thoughts—from inside them, for the most part; although occasionally some of them would actually “hear” God’s voice from out of heaven, or from a cloud, or from some other “outside” source. But for the most part they wrote what the Spirit of God guided them to write from where He lived inside their thought processes and spirits.
Another biblical reference, 2 Timothy 3: 16 and 17, says the entire Bible is “inspired” by God. Literally, the word “inspired” means all the Bible is God-breathed. Well, what does that mean? How did that “work?” Look at the word “inspiration.” Let me spell it this way: in-spirit-ed-action. What that means is that God was inside certain people—inside their spirits—and He took action by his Spirit to cause them to think—in their minds, in their thought processes—certain thoughts and to write whatever words He wanted written.
Some people question God’s “ability” to cause the Bible to be written in the manner I’ve described. Although the Bible claims that God did cause it to be written through various people, God didn’t “control” their every move. The writers used their own minds, and their individual personalities show clearly in the different styles of writing found in the various books. God is God. Can He do that sort of thing, or can’t He? You decide . . . Can I prove that’s exactly how the Bible was written? Nope. I wasn’t there. But the Bible claims that’s how it happened.
It’s a matter of choice. Is God trustworthy? Can I believe Him when the Bible says that’s how it happened? I believe I can. Can you? That’s up to you. Our entire lives are made up of daily choices and decisions. So . . . it’s a matter of your choice. Who ya gonna believe? God or his detractors who continually “attack” the Bible? Does that type of explanation seem farfetched to you? It doesn’t to me—if I believe God is God: a real living Person in unbodied spirit form Who lives inside of people.
The Faith Factor
There’s another factor that comes into play at this point—an important factor in whether or not we believe the Bible to be God’s word. It is the factor of faith. One way we come to believe and understand the Bible’s origins, it’s text, and the way it “works” in the lives of people is by the means of faith. I want to take a few pages now and teach about faith before we come back to the origins, history, and nature of the Bible.
Let’s begin examining faith in this manner . . . Beyond our five senses, beyond our mind, beyond our own thoughts, beyond our consciousness or subconsciousness . . . lies an inner, limitless expanse of faith “residing” in our spirits. What is faith? How many definitions of faith have you read or heard in your life? Confusing, isn’t it? I’m not going to spring anything new on you. The best definition I’ve found anywhere is right where some people least expect to find it. Where might that be? Surprise! Surprise! Right in the Bible . . .
Follow me carefully here. I want you to turn to a reference in your Bible, but not in the old King James version; that version was written almost 400 years ago. English is a “living” language, which means the language is constantly changing and growing. In some respects, 20th century English is much different from what it was 400 years ago. Having said that, please turn to your own Bible’s definition of faith. It is Hebrews 11: 1.
Here’s that definition of Hebrews 11: 1 in modern English: Faith is being confident of what we hope for—perceiving as evidence phenomena not learned by our five senses. Let’s analyze that definition. Before we do, though, please turn to Romans 4: 18 – 21 and read that reference, too; it’s about ancient Abraham’s faith being a “model” or “prototype” for our faith today. It’s one of the Bible’s own interpretations of the definition of faith in Hebrews 11: 1.
Notice that Abraham had given up hope by reason of his five senses, but he hoped by faith; he was confident—his faith did not weaken. He didn’t waver by unbelief or distrust, but was strong and empowered by faith to trust that God would keep his word and do what He had promised. That is why his faith was credited to his account as right standing with God. That’s just a little bit about what this reference teaches us about faith. There’s more, much more . . .
Inside And Outside Your Skin
From the instant you were conceived, everything you have ever learned or experienced has come to you through your five senses; think about that: besides your genetic, biological being—your entire self-ness—that which makes you “you,” has all occurred as a result of data entering you from outside you through your five senses. Your five senses are how you perceive all the data coming into you from your external world. Yes, everything outside your skin comes to you through your five senses.
In other words, by means of your five senses you have “constructed” the person living inside your skin whom you call “me” (and whom others call “you”) out of the mega-quadrillions of bits of data you have received from outside your skin since the instant you were conceived.
Wait a minute, though, doesn’t the Bible’s definition say faith perceives as evidence what is not revealed to the senses? Yes, it does say that. So where does faith come from? It comes from inside of us. Faith comes to us as evidence from God who lives inside of us in his unbodied Spirit form. For purposes of illustration at this point, let’s say that in a manner of speaking faith is another “sense” (not the traditional sixth sense, however) that receives data from inside our skin rather than from outside our skin.
The Bible says in Romans 12: 3 that God has given every human being a certain “measure” of faith as an unmerited, free gift. Ephesians 2: 8 and 9 addresses the same matter. You have a certain measure or portion of faith. I have a certain measure or portion of faith. Another way of putting it is that God has given each of us an appropriate amount of faith. None of us can say we don’t have faith. We all have faith. The important point is in how we “use” our faith. Some people place their faith in money . . . or cars . . . or in other people . . . or in dead, manmade religious works . . . or in houses . . . or in Hollywood . . . or in their intellect or knowledge . . . or in reason and logic . . . or in nothing at all. And, some people place their faith in God.
The differences in how people use their faith lie in the object of their faith, not in the faith itself. Faith is faith. And God has given each of us an appropriate amount of faith. How are you using yours? What’s the primary object of your faith? Yes, Holy Spirit who lives inside each of us “transmits” reality (by means of faith) to our “inner person” from the inside where he lives in our spirits; this is in addition to the reality which comes to us from the outside by means of our five senses.
There’s another way in which faith is transmitted to us, too. Yet, it originates from the same Holy Spirit who lives inside each of us. Faith also comes from the Bible. Look at Romans 10: 17. Who caused the Bible to be written? Holy Spirit. So . . . faith comes from the Bible, too. As we read and study it—and obey it—Holy Spirit makes it real to us. That’s how we know the Bible is the “Word of God,” not by means of our five senses, but by means of our greater, inner “sense”—faith! The Bible is unlike any other book ever written; it is actually full of dynamic power and is LIFE-giving as Holy Spirit uses it to “grow” and strengthen our faith. You might want to examine Hebrews 4: 12, also.
Yes, from inside of us Holy Spirit makes the Bible come alive as we read, study, and obey it. He’s the one who causes the Bible to actually become “food” for our inner persons. See Matthew 4: 4. He’s the one who causes the Bible to be more than mere paper and ink. By faith it is a power-full, living book Holy Spirit uses to help transform and “grow” our lives. By means of our faith-sense, the Bible actually imparts God’s own eternal, self-existent, uncreated, abundant LIFE to us. By faith, it is a book unlike any other book ever written. It is THE trustworthy, error-free, infallible, mistake-less Word of the Living God!
Another example of how the Bible “works” and is activated in our lives is found in the New Testament book of James; James was the half-brother of Jesus, by the way. Here’s what he wrote in James 1: 21: “So get rid of all your sin and wickedness and in a humble manner receive the Word of God which He has implanted in you; it contains the power to save your souls.”
Now let us return to our study about the Bible itself.
66-Book Home Library
I’ve already mentioned that the Bible is not simply one book; rather it is a collection of 66 different books; a number of them are actually letters, but they’re still called books. There are 39 books in the part called the Old Testament (the part written before Jesus lived) and 27 books in the New Testament (the part written about Jesus when He was here on earth as a human, and for approximately 40 years after He left to return to heaven). The oldest book of the 66 books is probably the Book of Job (pronounced Jobe), likely written about 1500 – 2000 years before Jesus.
Chronologically, the last books of the Bible were written around 65 – 70 A.D.; they are the 3 brief letters written by John entitled 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John. All the books of the Bible are not placed in chronological order. For example, the real last book of the Old Testament chronologically is 2 Chronicles, just as the last books of the New Testament chronologically are the 3 little letters noted above.
That can make things a little confusing for a new reader or student of the Bible, because the normal tendency would to presume the last books placed in order are the book of Malachi in the Old Testament and the book of Revelation in the New Testament, respectively. No, those 2 books are not the oldest chronologically, merely in terms of placement in the format of the Bible.
It helps to always see the Bible as one unified whole. It does not stand as separate books, chapters, or passages, but rather as many building blocks that together form a single structure. They all support each other just as individual bricks in a building are built one upon the next. For example, for this reason we can choose any single topic or theme and see how it is woven throughout the entire Bible. Together these individual books, chapters, and passages build an entire superstructure of some of God’s pertinent thoughts about any given biblical subject.
At any rate, are all those 66 books reliable? Can they be trusted? You have to answer that for yourself. No other human can convince you that the Bible is trustworthy and reliable; only God’s Spirit who lives inside people can convince you by means of your faith-sense. All I can tell you is that the Bible has been around for a long, long time—one of the oldest books in existence.
People have tried to burn all the copies in existence, kill people who owned them, prove it’s false and full of myths, contradictions, and errors, prove that it wasn’t written by those who claim to have written it . . . and it’s still here, still being printed, still being distributed, still being read by multitudes of people, still radically changing the lives of millions of people in each generation who believe and obey its teachings . . . What can I say? You have to decide for yourself your relationship with the Bible and the God of the Bible.
That’s what the real issue is: What is your relationship with the Bible? You must use your own spirit and mind to read and study it. Does the Spirit of God live within you? If He caused it to be written—as the Bible claims—have you ever asked Him to interpret if for you and help you to understand it? What better Person to explain it to you than the Person who caused it to be written. If I were studying a textbook which I didn’t understand clearly, wouldn’t it be helpful to know the author and ask him to explain to me what he meant when he wrote the textbook? Think about it . . .
The Format Of The Bible
What about the format of the Bible? Who put it together in its final form? Who decided which book was which and in what order to place them in the “library” of 66 books? At first, a few “books” of the Old Testament were carried around from place to place by the Israelites (the 12 tribes of Israel, the original “people of God”); they were written on papyrus, animal skins, etc. As time passed, and more and more books were considered by the Israeli spiritual leaders, they were grouped together in categories.
For example, in the Old Testament there are books of history, poetry, drama, proverbs, and prophecy grouped together. By the time Jesus was born most of the Old Testament as we know it today was compiled and accepted by God’s people as being authentic. Jesus Himself quoted scores of times from the Old Testament, showing He accepted it as being God’s Word, and He considered reading and studying it necessary for his daily life.
The Old Testament was read and studied regularly in both Jewish “church” meetings at the time of Jesus and shortly thereafter in early church meetings by followers of Jesus. As the Old Testament was being read in the Christian meetings, it was quite natural that the early Jesus believers began to add to the Old Testament additional writings about things they had seen Jesus do and heard Him teach.
Later, some of the Jesus believer leaders began to compile what Jesus’ earliest followers had spoken and written. Doctor Luke, M.D., for example, was a highly skilled and well-trained physician who was also an historian. His first book of the Bible (The Gospel of Luke) is a well-researched book showing all the careful study and research Dr. Luke conducted in order to be historically accurate. The Book of Acts, also written by Dr. Luke, is simply a continuation of his first book—sort of a followup Dr. Luke wrote in order to give an authentic, historical account of the earliest beginnings of Christianity, very shortly after Jesus was resurrected and returned to heaven.
By the way, in case you don’t know this, the word “Gospel” simply means “good news.” What good news? Good news about God visiting earth as a human: his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his return to heaven. That’s why the four books in the New Testament which are biographies of Jesus are called Gospels. They are good news about Jesus. Those 4 books are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Still later, men such as Peter, Paul, James, Jude, and John wrote letters to some of the new churches God had birthed and formed in various communities throughout the Mediterranean area. Their letters were letters of encouragement, letters of teaching about God the Father and God the Son, letters of admonition, letters of hope. Their letters became some of the books of the New Testament which follow the four Gospels and the book of Acts.
Finally, by the year 400 A.D., about 1600 years ago, trusted leaders among Jesus’ followers from throughout the Roman Empire got together in great council meetings and, after much prayer and fasting—and asking Holy Spirit for guidance and direction—put the Bible’s books together in essentially the same format we now have. After the Bible was put together in its present format, then it began to be translated into more languages and dialects, including English approximately 500 years ago. It has now been translated into well over 3500 languages and dialects!
In fact, there aren’t many of the 7,000 or so languages or dialects remaining on this planet which don’t have at least a small portion of the Bible which people can read in their own language and dialect. Not too shabby for a 1600 year old collection of books, huh? But, there’s still a long way to go until the entire Bible is translated into every language and dialect on planet earth!
There’s been a lot of contention through the centuries that the Bible is full of myths, fairly tales, and discrepancies which no thinking person can accept. Hmmm. I’m a thinking person with two masters degrees, a Ph.D., and additional graduate credit–and I don’t find those myths, fairy tales and discrepancies. Am I being fooled? Am I naïve? I don’t think so!
True, there are some minor challenges here and there in the Bible, but any serious ones were resolved long ago. The few remaining challenges or discrepancies are cleared up more and more as the sciences of human history become more reliable and exact. It’s interesting how scoffers in each generation keep bringing up the same old challenges that were, for the most part, resolved centuries ago.
Today, more than 99.5% of the Bible’s text is considered to be accurate based on archaeological and epistemological findings and comparisons with other ancient writings. That’s more accurate than some of the writings from only a few hundred years ago in other types of literature. Interestingly, more time and attention has been devoted to attempting to discredit the Bible than has been devoted to any other book in history!
Yet, thinking, intelligent people from all walks of life, all races, all creeds, all cultures, all levels of society keep right on reading the Bible, studying it, and obeying it—to find their lives transformed by it. The Bible was not written for information, but for our transformation! Yes, in every generation for 4000+ years millions of people have had their lives irrevocably altered for good and transformed because they have “discovered” the Bible anew in their generation!
Decisions And Choices
It really boils down to a matter of choice. Are you going to believe what the critics say—many of whom have never even read the Bible? Many of them have simply read what someone else has written, and that person read what someone else wrote, and so on. Or, are you going to read and study the Bible for yourself, apply it’s teachings to your life, obey what you read, and let God transform you by means of the Bible applied to your life?
It’s not a “magic” book or a positive self-help book, but God “breathed ” it, caused it to be written—and uses it to transform the lives of millions of people in every generation. Some of you reading this teaching might want to reach up to that shelf where your Bible’s been laying, blow the dust off it, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and begin giving it another reading (or a first reading). Read with an open mind and spirit, ask God to “interpret” it for you, obey what you read, share it with others. Who knows what might happen . . . ?
It’s amazing to me when I see people open themselves up to the Bible for the very first time. It’s like they’ve discovered a new best seller at their local mall bookstore. They start digging around in it, and all of a sudden it comes alive to them; their lives begin changing; they start talking about God. Their Bible cover gets well-worn and the pages all tattered, and they buy a new Bible; all of a sudden, they’re excited again about new stuff they’re finding out about God in their new Bible. And so it goes as each person in his or her own way and own time discovers the Bible to be the LIFE-giving Word of the of the Living God!
Just for example, right now I’m teaching sort of a Bible overview course to a friend who recently began reading the Bible for the first time in his life—after 57 years of never having given reading it even the tiniest thought! Every week when we get together to study it, he gets so excited at times that he can hardly contain himself. He keeps saying stuff like, “Bill, this is so awesome! Why did I not know these things for so many years?”
For myself, as best as I can recall, I have now worn out about six copies of the Bible since I purchased my very first one in Spokane, Washington, while I was a young man newly enlisted in the United States Air Force. In fact, just recently I purchased my newest version of the Bible in a well-stocked Christian bookstore in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. Am I dumb? Am I stupid? Am I naïve? Am I terribly deceived by believing some ancient, outdated, irrelevant book? I don’t think so . . .
Jesus put it this way on one occasion; He said: “People really can’t live well and abundantly on food just for the body. They must also have food for their souls and spirits; they need God’s Word in order to really LIVE.” (Matthew 4: 4) What are you feeding on these days? Is it feast or famine?
Another point I want to make about the Bible: Everything God knows, thinks, comprehends, and understands is not found in the Bible. It would really be naïve for any person to think that. You can’t put all the water in the world’s oceans and seas in a teacup. The Bible simply contains enough of God’s knowledge, wisdom, and thoughts—what He chooses to reveal to us—in order for us to know about and experience his great salvation. The Bible is “complete” as far as what we humans need to know for our salvation and life here on planet earth, but it doesn’t contain all of God’s infinite (limitless) thoughts.
How could 66 relatively short books written here on planet earth contain all God thinks, knows, and understands? One writer put it this way: “Finite [limited] humans cannot bind the Infinite Indefinable God with the bonds of human words; it cannot be done.” Keep that in mind and you dig in and explore your way through the Bible. Out there . . . beyond this life . . . in eternity . . . there’s more . . . there’s more!
Jesus In Every Book Of the Bible
After He died and was brought back to to life by the power of Holy Spirit, Jesus appeared to over 500 people in his new, resurrected body. Among those 500 people, He appeared to two of his followers while they were walking enroute from Jerusalem to the nearby suburb of Emmaus. When He appeared to the two followers and began to walk along with them, they asked Him some questions, obviously puzzled—as well as excited!—by his death and resurrection to new LIFE.
In response to their questions, Jesus said, “If you had really understood the Old Testament, you would have known ahead of time all that has happened to Me.” Then, beginning with the book of Genesis clear through to the book of Malachi (the last book in the format of the Old Testament), He explained to them how the Old Testament was really all about Him.
In essence He told them, “Yes, the Old Testament is about history and contains poetry, proverbs, and prophecy, but the ‘bottom line’ is that the 39 books of the Old Testament are full of teachings about Me.” He went on to say, “Don’t study just the history, the poetry, the proverbs, and the prophecies for their literary sake alone, but, instead,” Jesus continued, “look for me in all 39 of those books; that’s what they’re really all about: Me.” (Luke 24: 13 – 49) So . . . if the Old Testament is really all about Jesus in one way, shape, or form, and we already know the New Testament is all about Jesus, then it logically means the entire Bible is actually about Jesus!
Jesus made essentially the same point on one other occasion. Some of his detractors were attempting to argue with Him and trap Him into saying something they could use to wrongly accuse Him of being a false teacher. Jesus talked with them about the “scriptures” (the Old Testament): “You search the scriptures because you think doing so will give you eternal life. Not so! Just reading, studying, examining, and even memorizing the Old Testament in and of itself won’t do you any good. No, that’s not enough. You must understand that the Old Testament is really all about Me,” declared Jesus. “I give eternal LIFE; searching and examining the Bible alone won’t do it. That’s not how you get eternal LIFE; you get eternal LIFE from Me!” He exclaimed. (John 5: 39) That’s it; that’s what the Bible ultimately is all about: Jesus. Look for Him in every book every time you read and study the Bible.
In every age there have been those skeptics who do not believe the Bible is really God’s Word. Actually, the more modern archaeology reveals about the Bible, the more evidence mounts that the Bible is extremely accurate. We should never let the skeptics and critics distract us. When God acted to communicate in written form his message to us, he chose to preserve it as well. By Holy Spirit’s means of inspiration, He guaranteed that process of writing. And He preserves the Bible from generation to generation. Yes, the Bible is a revelation from God we can trust.
The Bible Comes Alive!
Another thing the Bible does . . . We don’t know how He does it, but Holy Spirit makes the Bible “come alive” in us. The Apostle Paul wrote about being “washed” by the Word of God (Ephesians 5: 26). Jesus said his words give us LIFE (John 6: 63). When we read and study the Bible there is a sense of peace, of refreshing, of guidance, and even our thought processes become transformed—what the Bible calls the “renewing of the mind” (Romans 12: 2).
In some mysterious way, the Bible is LIFE-giving and full of power to transform our lives (Hebrews: 4: 12). It is not a mere human book written by a mere human author! It is not merely words on paper. It is unique. There is no other book in the world like it. I have read most of the other books of the world’s major religions, and I can tell you without fear of contradiction, no other book on this planet is “alive”—LIFE-giving and power-full, like the Bible is.
When I write about LIFE and capitalize it in that manner I do that for a reason. Lot’s of people have an inadequate or incomplete view of what “eternal life,” or “everlasting life” really means in the Bible. First, the emphasis on that type of life God implants within us when we are born again is upon the quality of that life, not necessarily its duration. Yes, some day we will live in a state of being called eternity, but God’s emphasis upon the life we have in us is this: The LIFE God implants within us when we become followers of Jesus is a “piece” or a “portion” of God’s very own, eternal, self-existent, uncreated, abundant LIFE; and we receive that life now, not in some far-off eternity.
In fact, the LIFE we now have is the same LIFE we will have in eternity—only in eternity it will be greater and even more abundant. But, the point is that we have that LIFE of God in us NOW!
And, it’s Holy Spirit within us and the Bible that God uses to implant that LIFE within us. For example, let’s examine Hebrews 4: 12. In the original Greek language in which it was written, it begins this way: “For the Word of God is LIFE-giving and full of God’s power . . .” That verse says much more, of course, but let’s stop right here for a minute. When we read and study—and obey—the Bible, in some way we certainly cannot understand, the Bible becomes a LIFE-giving book. In other words, God uses the Bible to implant his very own eternal, uncreated, self-existent, abundant LIFE in us.
As we read, study, and obey the Bible, too, Holy Spirit who lives inside us also gives us his power to help us change, grow, and develop in our lives—a lifelong process which begins when we choose to become followers of Jesus.
God doesn’t want any of us merely to get “saved, sanctified, and petrified” as the saying goes. He wants us to continually be growing by applying the LIFE-giving Word of God, the Bible, to our lives for our entire lives. There’s another saying: “If we’re not green and growing, we are ripe and rotting!”
Here are a couple of other biblical references about how God gives us his very own LIFE by means of the Bible. Please turn in your own Bible to Isaiah 55: 8 – 11. In essence, this passage says that when “God’s Word goes out of his mouth” it always “germinates” in the lives of people and brings forth fruit. When you read, study, and obey God’s Word, the Bible, it ought to be growing fruit in your life; what kind of fruit? Well, for starters read about the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5: 22 and 23. John 6: 36, 51, and 63 tells us that in some mysterious way Jesus is “bread” that we should “eat” in order for us to be nourished. Do I understand what that means? No!
But I certainly get the sense from reading all of the 6th chapter of John (and other related passages in the Bible such as Matthew 4: 4) that somehow when we read, study, and obey the Bible we are nourished by it and become more Jesus-like because we are “eating” Him, the Living Bread which comes down from heaven. I can’t explain that, but I believe it because I have experienced it and have been nourished by Jesus for many years now.
Also, in 1 Thessalonians 2: 13, the Bible claims of itself that it effectively (power-fully) works in people who believe it. Again, how does it do that in and of itself? I don’t know, but I can tell you from at least my own personal experience that as I “encounter” the Bible openly it does work in me effectively. And it has been doing so for many years since I first became a Jesus-believer at the age of 18 while serving in the United States Air Force.
How do we first receive this eternal LIFE God implants within us. John 17: 3 says it very simply. We receive eternal LIFE if we know God and Jesus. We first come to “know” Jesus when we are born of the Spirit (John 3: 5 – 8). At that precise, atomic second the Spirit of God comes to live permanently within our spirit.
Then as we read, study, and obey the Bible we come to know God the Son (Jesus) and God the Father more and more by the “teaching ministry” of Holy Spirit Who lives within us, teaching us the Bible so we are nourished and continue to grow in our faith and lives as followers of Jesus. Holy Spirit within us also empowers us to make the transforming changes necessary as we progress and grow more and more into the image of Jesus, Who is the image of God. When we grow in the image of Jesus and come to know Him better and better, we are visible representations of the invisible God.
Dear Reader, that’s what the Bible is all about. It’s a LIFE-giving book which transforms us more and more into the image of Jesus as we read, study, obey it, and apply it to our lives daily throughout our mortal lifetimes here on planet earth! If I could summarize for you in one sentence everything written in this teaching, it would be: The Bible was not given to us for our information, but for our transformation!
Life Enrichment Services, Inc
Revised and Updated November 2020