God, the Author of the Bible
Whether one gazes into the expanse of the heavens or the world of microscopic life, the profound order, design and interdependence of creation is remarkable. On every side, the created world bears silent testimony to the existence of its Creator, yet apart from the Bible, man would forever remain ignorant of earth's origin and destiny.
The Bible is the revelation of God to man. It clearly sets forth the truth concerning God and man; it reveals the divine purpose in creation, the origin of sin and death, the destiny of the nations and the coming kingdom of God. But the Bible also has personal value. It provides young and old with hope. It unfolds the real reason for living and it exposes the foolishness of following a world which has divorced God from His creation. In brief, it can change our lives.
The aim of this article is to show that there is but one supreme Creator who has inspired the scriptures which reveal His character and purpose. ."You, however, continue in the things you have learned and of which you have become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:14-17). "So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the holy spirit spoke from God (2Peter 1:19-21).
The Bible: God's revelation to man
Though divided into sixty-six different sections, the Bible is one book, setting forth one consistent message. It claims to be the word of God; no less than 500 times in the first five books it asserts "The Lord said" or "The Lord spake". Again, some 300 times it repeats these phrases from Joshua to The Song of Solomon. The books of the prophets repeat the claim another 1,200 times.
The writers of the Bible were really fulfilling the role of scribes for God; He was the real author. He expressed His teachings through mortal men. They wrote by His inspiration (Heb 1:1-2; Neh 9:20). God guided them in what they should say, although the language they used was their own; for this purpose God selected men from every class of society: kings, statesmen, priests, scholars, shepherds and fishermen were among those He chose. They were divided from each other by social status, time and place. One wrote in Syria, another in Arabia, a third in Italy, a fourth in Greece, a fifth in Babylon, a sixth in Palestine, so they had little personal contact with each other.
Moses, the earliest writer, wrote the first five books of the Bible some 1,500 years before John recorded the last book, Revelation. Yet, despite these great differences, there is a wonderful and complete harmony in all that was written which unites the 66 books into one message, and makes the Bible unique in the literary world. God has placed this book in the hands of men to provide them with hope (Rom 15:4). It alone can reveal the way to salvation (2Tim 3:16); to refuse its message means death (Deut 30:17-20; Prov 14:12).
The Bible is commonly divided into two sections styled the Old Testament, 39 books, and the New Testament, 27 books. But the division is man- made, and the whole Bible should be treated as the one consistent revelation of God to each one of us. The OT was originally written in Hebrew and the NT in Greek. The King James Version of the Bible was first published in 1611, King James 1st of England initiated the translation. Since then many other translations have appeared, some helpful, some less so.
While the original manuscripts would have been without fault, only copies have come down to us. However, there is now general agreement that the texts we do have do not contain any significant errors, only trivial translation faults, so that we can be sure that God's word is truly available to us.
The Bible: inspired and true
Peter set it forth as a basic principle that the Bible is inspired (2Peter 1:20-21). He declares that we should know "this first that no prophecy of the scriptures is of any private interpretation; for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of men, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the holy spirit". The words "private interpretation" have been variously rendered: Robert Roberts gives them as "private prophet's interpretation", Weymouth as "prophet's own prompting", and Maenight as "prophet's own invention".
Every confidence, therefore, can be placed in what the Bible proclaims. No genuine critic can show it to be false in any of its historical details. Its worst opponents have been forced to admit that here, at least, it is true. But the remarkable witness of prophecy shows that it is not only factually true, but divine. It demonstrates that God is its author, for only He can so wonderfully foretell the future. The Bible's amazing prophecies have been remarkably fulfilled in every detail:
· Babylon is still in heaps (Isaiah 13:19-21; Jeremiah 51:37). · Nineveh still lies empty, void and waste (Nahum 2:10) · Egypt is among the basest of nations (Ezekiel 29:15) · Ancient Tyre is literally a place for the spreading of nets (Ezekiel 26:5) · Israel has been scattered among all nations (Deut 28:64) and is being regathered again (Jeremiah 30:11; Exekiel 37:21-22) · A northern power hostile to Israel, ie Russia, has developed (Ezekiel 38:2-7,15-16)
The God of the Bible
The Bible opens by concentrating attention upon one person: God (Gen 1:1). Its revelation concludes by showing how one person will be manifested in all creation, "that God may be all in all"(1Cor 15:28). It reveals that each of us can be involved in that glorious consummation. The gospel appeals to us to step aside from the endless procession of men and women who are making their way to an eternal abiding place in the grave. God is "taking out of the Gentiles a people for his name" (Acts 15:14).
A first essential is a correct understanding of who God is (John 17:3; Hebrews 11:6). We must acknowledge the unity of God, that is there is only one God, the Father of all. Consequently we must reject as unscriptural the commonly held idea that God is a trinity (1Tim 2:5; Deut 6:4; Is 45:5: 1Cor 8:6; 2Cor 1:3). In line with this, note that Jesus is set forward as subservient to his Father (John 12:28; 1Cor 15:24-28) and that the holy spirit is described as God's power (Luke 11:35; Acts 3:12).
The Father's Character
There are two sides to God's character and we are called upon to consider both, Paul exhorts: "Consider therefore the goodness and severity of God" (Rom 11:22). These two aspects of God's character were revealed to Moses at Mt Sinai (Ex 34: 6-7) and are revealed in all His dealings with men. Consider, for example, the occasion when God sent Moses to deliver His people from Egypt. He saved Israel at the Red Sea, but destroyed Pharaoh's hosts. Also, the Lord Jesus is coming to judge the world in righteousness. This will entail mercy and redemption for God's elect, but death and destruction for the wicked. The reason for this is man's rebellious attitude: "Let favour be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness" (Isa 26:10-11). God disciplines mankind for his good and his ultimate salvation.
The Bible teaches that God is unchangeable in His purpose (Malachi 3:6). He is all-knowing (omniscient) (Ps 139:1-6): everywhere present (omnipresent) (vv 7-12): all powerful (omnipotent) (vv 13-18). The fact that God knows all (Heb 4:13; Jer 23:24), and can enforce His will shows how circumspect we should be in our conduct before Him. Nevertheless, He would rule by love and not fear. The purpose of His revelation is to change our characters that they may conform to His, so fitting us mentally and morally for the bestowal of eternal life (a physical change) at Christ's coming (Phil 3:20-21).
The Father's purpose
The divine purpose is expressed in its simplest form in Num 14:21: "As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh". What does this entail? Certainly the whole earth will display the majesty of God, but God's glory involves more than this: it also involves His character. When Moses asked God to show him His glory, God in reply revealed His character: "Merciful, gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exodus 33:18; 34:6-7).
God's glory will be revealed in all the earth when it is peopled by men and women who reflect in their lives His character. In his life, Jesus revealed "the glory of the Father" in that He was "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Jesus was resurrected and is the firstborn of many brethren. We can be among those who will be redeemed if we follow his example (1Peter 2:21; Rom 8:29-30).
God is calling men and women now for this purpose. If we understand the divine purpose and show God's character in our lives now, when Christ returns we will be given divine nature (1Peter 1:4) and will display the divine character in the perfection of immortality. Let us apply ourselves, therefore, to our studies of the Bible so that we might be made "wise unto salvation" and be accounted worthy of an abundant entry into the kingdom when the Lord comes.
Lessons for us
· Only by reading the Bible can we know the ultimate destiny of the earth and mankind · God requires us to know the truth concerning Him · A study of the Bible can and should affect our lives: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to thy word" (Ps 119:9), "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh" (Heb 12:25), · "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good" (1Thes 5:21)
Bro Herbert Tigerebasi (Lusaka, Zambia)