Throughout its long and difficult journey, the Bible has successfully withstood the many assaults leveled against it. Forbidden in the Middle Ages, bombarded with higher criticism during the 19th century and grossly neglected in the 20th, the Bible nonetheless continues to offer humankind sure hope and guidance.
As author David Ewert put it, "the Bible has resisted not only the ravages of time but also repeated attempts of the enemies of God to obliterate it" (From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations, p. 16).
Although many writers authored the Bible, the perceptive reader gradually becomes aware of one great mind at work permeating its pages from Genesis to Revelation. No wonder the apostle Paul reminded early Christians that the Holy Scriptures are the "oracles of God" (Romans 3:2). They are divine utterances.
When God revealed His will at Mount Sinai, He commanded Moses to codify and pass on this Word to the people (Deuteronomy 5:31; Deuteronomy 6:1; Deuteronomy 17:18; Deuteronomy 31:24-26). Eventually the Scriptures were habitually read aloud in the temple at Jerusalem and elsewhere. Citizens could hear, understand and act accordingly. For instance, we find Jesus Christ had ready access to the Scriptures and read them aloud in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-22). The audience there marveled at Christ's gracious words as He applied Isaiah's prophecy to Himself.
Later the apostles were inspired to write letters to the Church, often explaining the Holy Scriptures. With other writers and followers of Christ, they also penned the accounts of Christ's life and work that came to be commonly known as the Gospels. God saw to it that these unique writings were preserved for later generations (2 Peter 1:15).
Centuries later, after the invention of printing and translation of the Scriptures into popular languages, the common people increasingly gained access to the Holy Bible. Today this Book of books is accessible in almost all nations. Yet the secular thought patterns of our modern age often act as a powerful restraint on reading and understanding its pages.
The basic thinking of today's world often turns people away from the Bible. This is why magazines and study courses properly explaining and expounding God's Word are absolutely necessary. We need to read the Bible with godly understanding!
How does God communicate with His creation?
"It is he who fashions the mountains, who creates the wind, and declares his thoughts to mankind . . . His name is the Lord, the God of Hosts" (Amos 4:13, Revised English Bible).
By creating man in His own image, God ensured that communication would be possible. Then with God's help, human beings are able to understand and respond to His spiritual purposes.
When God wanted His people to return to Jerusalem from their Babylonian captivity, was He able to accomplish His purpose by transmitting an important message to an ancient king who could carry out this task?
"Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing . . ." (Ezra 1:1).
God can communicate with anyone He chooses, even worldly kings and rulers like Cyrus. Solomon once commented, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes" (Proverbs 21:1; compare Ezra 6:22; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23).
How did God reveal the truth about His Son's divine identity?
"Jesus answered and said to [Peter], 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17; compare Matthew 16:13-16).
Far more important than messages to unbelieving kings, God has revealed His precious truth to His apostles and prophets—who in turn preserved it for future generations (compare Amos 3:7; 2 Peter 3:2; Ephesians 2:19-20). Today our understanding of God's Word is based on this same written revelation (2 Peter 1:19-20). Spiritual illumination of the Scriptures continues down to our present age (compare John 17:20; Matthew 28:20).
What was one of the main ways that God disclosed His truth to the early Church?
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).
The term doctrine simply means "teaching." It relates directly to God's Word. The apostles' teaching summarizes the Christian way of life. Those early first-century congregations did not at first possess the books we now call the New Testament.
However, they did have specially chosen apostles who taught them from the Hebrew Bible as well as continually repeating the things they had learned firsthand from Jesus Christ (compare Luke 6:12-13; Matthew 28:18-20). Their authority came directly from Christ. "He who receives you receives Me," said Jesus (Matthew 10:40; John 13:20).
Christ's chosen apostles were given a unique role as first-generation witnesses—a function not assigned to any succeeding generation. Jesus told them, "And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning" (John 15:27). And the apostle John wrote: "This is the message which we have heard from Him [Jesus Christ] and declare to you . . ." (1 John 1:5; compare Ephesians 3:4-5; Acts 1:22; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the early apostles and their converts actually lived the New Testament before it was put into writing. Their lives composed the flesh, bone and sinew of what later would become the written New Testament.
Summing up the experiences of these apostolic witnesses, John wrote: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:1-3).
What are God's intentions for man?
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).
God uttered these encouraging words to a nation in Babylonian captivity centuries ago, but they apply equally as well today. His Word offers a message of hope and a bright future, both for individuals and entire nations.
God's words apply today just as well as when they were first recorded long ago. Human nature is timeless. The men and women of old were of "like passions" (James 5:17; Acts 14:15, KJV). They weren't some different breed of humanity. The things that happened to them were for our learning, encouragement, hope, comfort—and sometimes as a solemn warning (compare 1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 15:4).
What does God guarantee about His Word?
"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10-11).
God does not speak His Word in vain. It will accomplish His great purpose on earth!
What does God require in order that He might share additional knowledge?
"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3).
We must first have a spiritual hunger for God's Word (Matthew 5:6). Then, through reading and studying the Bible, we can discover basic truths about God and His revealed way of living. We can also see them amply demonstrated by real events in the lives of His chosen servants. These biblical teachings and examples illuminate His character and illustrate His will for us (compare Proverbs 3:1-6). We can trust God to direct our lives into right paths as we give Him our heartfelt obedience. Wrote author John Stott: "The Bible is the prism by which the light of Jesus Christ is broken into its many beautiful colors." Christ is the living Word of God!
During what time frame is the Word of God to be our guide?
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8).
The certain destiny of God's Word has been prophesied for thousands of years (compare Psalm 119:89, Psalm 119:111, Psalm 119:142, Psalm 119:152, Psalm 119:160). Jesus Christ said: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Luke 21:33).