United Church of God

Council Letter: January-February 2021

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Council Letter

January-February 2021

The books of the Bible constitute eternal truths that no human can discover on his or her own. All other books pale before it in spiritual significance. When one reads and applies all of God’s revealed knowledge, immeasurable benefits to life occur, both now and forever. Applying Scripture to every aspect of our lives is rewarding: “Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

Text copies of the Scriptures such as we have today were not as widely available to members of the Church in the first century. Members relied mainly on live teachings from pastors, elders and visiting apostles who spread the Word of God, a combination of Scripture and of Christ’s teachings. Today people of many nations and languages can easily access both Testaments of God’s written Word. 

The entire Bible is God’s divine gift to mortal human beings. Inside are His spiritual and eternal laws accompanied by His judging authority of human behavior and morality. God’s words reveal the way that every human should live (Psalms 119:105) as taught by the One who designed and created us (Genesis 1:26-27).

Old and New Testaments 

The first section in the Bible is called “the Law” and comprises the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. God commanded every king of Israel to write out his own copy of the Law “and he shall read it all the days of his life” (Deuteronomy 17:18-19). It seems that King David did so and meditated upon it (Psalm 119:97). God also commanded that all Israelites, young and old, were to hear His Law read aloud during the Feast of Tabernacles every seven years (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). That directive was followed as late as the second temple period and read by Ezra (Nehemiah 8:18). God’s intent was to have a refresher of His way of life restated publicly throughout their generations. 

When Paul wrote to Timothy, “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15), he was speaking of what today is called the “Old Testament.” Church members in his day often relied on committing Scriptures they heard read aloud at church to memory. Purchasing a personal copy of the Old Testament transcribed onto parchment scrolls would have cost about a full year’s salary. Since up to 97 percent of the population in Jesus’ day was illiterate, hearing God’s Word read aloud was a crucial element of one’s spiritual development and endurance. 

The oral teachings of Jesus were later preached by the apostles to the members in that day along with letters and epistles that remain for our benefit today. The New Testament Church relied heavily upon the Old Testament as their written Word of God at the time. Paul used it throughout His ministry. His last mention found him imprisoned in Rome where “many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23). 

The New Testament is an invaluable blessing to our deeper understanding of our New Covenant with God, yet reading the Old Testament remains a vital resource for one’s salvation. It is this first section of our Bibles that Paul’s words refer to as “the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

The entirety of the Bible reveals to its readers the sole “way of life” that is able to bring one happiness, fulfillment, good relationships and which leads to eternal life. As King David wrote: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly . . . but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night . . . Whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalms 1:1-3). God’s Law, as written throughout your Bible, prescribes the only successful way to live. 

The written Word of God is unlike any other text. Other books provide a reader with information that once read is then complete. The words of the Bible have compounded information that seemingly can never be fully gleaned. This spiritually authored material speaks in various ways at various times to an individual who is constantly navigating through different periods of their journey in the New Covenant. Bible passages have multitudinous connections with other passages, stories, blessings, promises, prophesied future events, and applications to a plethora of changing circumstances throughout one’s lifetime. That is why reading the entire Bible seems like a re-read of an old friend that somehow always has new material added, precisely for your current situation. 

Labor in the Word

Choosing to spend time with the Bible each day is key to your success, period. Yet, who has extra time today to devote to studying these words of God? Commentator Adam Clarke reflected, “There is a depth in the word of God which cannot be fathomed except either by Divine inspiration, or by deep study and research, for which the majority of the people have no time” (The Holy Bible, Commentary and Critical Notes, 1843, Vol. 2, note on Nehemiah 8:17). 

As the first century Church declined in spirituality, the apostle James encouraged members to be successful through reading the Bible: “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). 

You have God’s gift to humanity readily available to you. Read some of it every day for the rest of your life. Develop a daily reading plan and digest all of it. The key to being successful at reading your entire Bible is to quickly establish a habit of doing so. 

Schedule morning prayer and Bible reading at a specific time and location and then be consistent with them. Soon your life and your relationships above and below will be blessed in ways that you have never imagined.