What is the Bible?
Jesus said, "It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4
Jesus revealed a profound truth ... that man needs more than what his five senses can provide, what he can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. There is another part of man that is not of the five senses, and Jesus said that this is our true life. This is because we were created in God's image, we are spirit beings and the Word of God is food for our souls. God knew when He created us that the five senses would only lead to despair and a lust for "more", and without a relationship with God mankind would only have emptiness and a constant yearning for the creator of all things. When the great sin happened in the Garden of Eden God began to make His voice known, and He began to reveal Himself through the Holy Spirit. The prophets of old began to speak as they were moved by the Holy Spirit and the "Scriptures" were born.
"For every prophecy of Scripture came not by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:21
As time went on the Scriptures were gathered by men of God and put into a book. This is the Bible, and it is inspired "breathed out" by God Himself to reveal a holy God and His holy promises.
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God" 2 Timothy 3:16
The central message throughout the Bible is God's promise of a Messiah who would die for the sins of the world, rise from the dead, and then return again to set up a kingdom that would never pass away. (Daniel 7:14).
Jesus and the Scriptures
Probably the most important thing to consider when thinking about the question, "What is the Bible?" is to consider what Jesus thought about what the Bible is. Jesus made some very interesting statements about the Scriptures when He said:
"The Scriptures cannot be broken" John 10:35
"This day the Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" Luke 4:21
"Hath not the Scripture said" John 7:42
"These things were done that the Scriptures might be fulfilled" John 19:36
Jesus was very clear that He considered the Scriptures to be the Word of God, given to man as promises that were intended to be fulfilled, and that men were expected to learn them. He taught that not only every word of God would be fulfilled, but every letter of every word would be fulfilled in due time:
"Until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle will pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Matthew 5:18
But what was the Bible during the time of Jesus? The Hebrew Bible of the first century AD contained all of the books which are in the Christian Old Testament today. The Christian Old Testament starts with Genesis and ends with Malachi, where the Hebrew Bible in the days of Jesus started with Genesis and ended with Chronicles, yet it contained the same books.
Jesus did not hold any of the books of the Hebrew Bible in question, but considered them all to be the Word of God. He believed in the actual historical people, places, and events mentioned in the Scriptures, and it is easy to see this when He reminisces on the great people and events of the ancient Biblical world. He mentioned people like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon, as well as events like Creation, the Flood, Lot's wife, and Jonah in the belly of the whale. Jesus also mentioned cities which had vanished like Sodom and Gomorrah and Nineveh, and also many of the miracles like the "manna" provided by God in the wilderness to sustain Israel from starvation, and the bronze serpent lifted up on the pole for healing.
What about the New Testament?
"For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Matthew 26:28
It is very interesting to go back in history and research how the Bible actually came to us, and how it was put together in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. There is no doubt that God had his hand on the Jews to be the "chosen ones" to preserve the oracles of God (Romans 3:2), and placing Israel in the center of the world for all men to see. But the New Testament is a bit more complex. Jesus, the incarnate "Word of God" clothed in human flesh came and did good...ministering to all who would come, yet He was rejected by His own people, the Jews, and was delivered over to the Romans for crucifixion...all in fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures. Yet Jesus chose apostles to watch Him, and learn from Him, and then continue His work and His message throughout the world. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance all things He had said and done so they could tell His story wherever they went. He also empowered them on the day of Pentecost to be His witnesses even unto the farthest parts of the earth. When they began to preach the good news (gospel) they were persecuted by a religious Jew named Saul of Tarsus, and this man had a conversion on his way to Damascus. His name was changed to Paul and he became the apostle to the gentiles (non Jews). It was Paul and these apostles who wrote the New Testament. They were in charge of handing down to us the exact writings about Jesus and His life and events. God entrusted them to do this and we now have their records as a testimony and this is the New Testament.
"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty." 2 Peter 1:16
We Have the Bible
Today we have the Bible, probably the the most underestimated miracle of all, and critics have tried to discredit many things about it, yet it still stands today ... the Word of God ... revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 10:17 "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
"We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up." 1 Corinthians 8:1
Such with a great capacity for good can also have a great capacity for evil. Consider fire. It can warm your house, cook your food, and provide energy. Used improperly, it can burn your house down. Nuclear power can provide clean energy or incinerate a city. The word of God can be used to save a soul or justify killing the Son of God. Scripture can bring life or death depending on the operator. The devil quoted Scripture to Jesus in the wilderness. Learning God's word is hugely important. But right from the beginning we should ask God to help us side-step the pitfalls of pride and self-righteousness that can accompany the increase in knowledge. The Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees were very well versed in Scripture, yet they did not recognize the Living Word of God when He appeared. They knew the entire Old Testament, and teachings handed down by their elders who also knew the Scriptures. But with all their knowledge, they did not know God and crucified their own Messiah, creating the greatest irony in all of history. So knowing Scripture as important as it is, does not guarantee we will know the heart of God. For this we need that loving relationship with the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. (John 14:17)
Consider how the religious leaders opposed Jesus and tried to trap him publicly in false doctrine or contradiction.
Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. Mark 12:13
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" Matt 19:3
Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied." You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” John 7:44-52
They were angry at how Jesus handled the Sabbath. The Old Testament is full of references on keeping the Sabbath holy by resting from work. The religious leaders have also their Rabbinic writings to flesh out what is and is not work. Jesus did not agree with their interpretations.
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” Matt. 12:1
But the Pharisees said, "It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons." Matt. 9:34, Matt 12:24
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” Luke 13:14
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” John 5:8-11
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. John 9:16
The religious leaders set up a trap where Jesus would have to choose between his desire to bring forgiveness and his adherence to the Law of Moses. A woman's very life weighed in the balance for whom they showed no concern.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:1-11
A primary lesson of Scripture is humility. (James 4:6) If we lose this, the very knowledge of God's word can harden us with pride, producing a 'personal turf' to defend. Studying Scripture can be used to justify ourselves, bolster our position and defend against enemies, instead of bringing us to our knees in worship and gratefulness. Who has perfect doctrine? Some may think they do, but this is what the Pharisees thought about themselves and it turns out, God knew a few things more about His word. Who lives without sin? The Apostle John said we deceive ourselves if we believe this. (1 John 1:8) So there is still room for all of us to walk in humility, stay teachable and grow in the knowledge of God's grace by the Holy Spirit. This seems to be safe ground from which to worship and learn God's word.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17, 18
Heavenly Father, please teach me your word and show me your heart revealed in it. Help me to gain the lessons you have woven into your truth and put them into practice. Help your word to make me more loving and less prideful. I trust that your Holy Spirit will guide me into all truth and transform me into your image, from glory to glory. Amen.
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Bible Study Questions
- What is the significance of the Sermon on the Mount?
- How do we discern God’s will for our lives?
- What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer?
- What are the key teachings of Jesus regarding love and compassion?
- How do we understand the role of angels and demons in the spiritual realm?
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- What is the role of community and fellowship in the Christian faith?
- What is Original Sin?
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- What is the Incarnation?