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L E S S O N 1

Why the Bible
Is the Word of God

Part 2



In ages past, how did God choose to reveal His knowledge to humankind?

"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets . . ." (Hebrews 1:1).

God Almighty, Creator of all we see, does not leave humankind without guidance and direction. He has put His thoughts into words for our benefit. God has revealed Himself through the vehicle of words.

The Bible itself calls Jesus Christ "the Word" (John 1:1, 14). And, according to this introductory New Testament passage, the message of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) is the true Word of God (compare Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4; Acts 24:14; 28:23).

But how did God choose to reveal even more precious knowledge?

"[God] has in these last days spoken to us by His Son . . ." (Hebrews 1:2).

Moses prophesied of a coming, future Prophet similar to himself whose words the Bible encourages us to heed (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18). The apostle Peter identified this great Prophet as Jesus Christ Himself (Acts 3:20, 22-23). No doubt about it--Jesus Christ was that Prophet! (compare John 1:45; Luke 24:27).

Jesus Christ, as God's own Son, is the ultimate Prophet, and His words are the very essence of prophecy (Revelation 19:10). We should listen carefully to what He tells us (Matthew 17:5).

Christ's words are chiefly found in the four semibiographical accounts of His life and teaching: the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. However, in a much larger sense they are found in the whole Bible. Jesus Himself endorsed the truth and the authority of the Hebrew Writings, commonly called the Old Testament, by calling them Scripture (Luke 24:44-45). He also provided for the inspiration and writing of the books that would later become the New Testament (John 14:26; 16:13).

Christ consistently treated the Old Testament as the true record of God's dealings with and divine instruction for humanity. His teaching and conversations were replete with quotes and allusions from the Hebrew Bible.

How did God guide the thoughts of His servants?

"For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).

The apostle Paul also tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is "inspired" (literally "God-breathed"). Consider his choice of words. Paul described Scripture using the Greek term theopneustos. The first part of the word, Theo, means "God." The second part is neustos--meaning "breathed." So the apostle says, as some translations put it, "All Scripture is God-breathed," meaning it came directly from the mouth of God.

Clearly our Creator directly inspired the divine message revealed by both the apostles and the prophets (compare 2 Peter 3:2). As we will show by many scriptures, God

Christ consistently treated the Old Testament as the true record of God's dealings with and divine instruction for humanity. His teaching and conversations were replete with quotes and allusions from the Hebrew Bible.

made known His divine message to man through the patriarchs and prophets of old as well as through the New Testament apostles.

In fact, Peter ranks Paul's epistles with "the rest of the Scriptures" --the latter primarily referring to the Old Testament (2 Peter 3:15-16). In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul refers to two quotations as Scripture. One is from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 25:4), and one is from Luke's Gospel (Luke 10:7). So, when Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy around A.D. 64, some additional writings apparently were already being considered on a par with the Old Testament and were called Scripture.

Nearly 4,000 times, passages in the Hebrew Bible are introduced by such expressions as "The Lord spoke," "Thus says the Lord" and "the Word of the Lord came." Scripture is consistently portrayed as coming from the very "mouth of God" Himself (Matthew 4:4).

Yet in one sense the authorship of the Bible is dual because both God and man are clearly involved. Our Creator directly inspired these Hebrew prophets. "For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). So God spoke "by the mouth of all His holy prophets" (Acts 3:21)--and by their writings as well (Luke 21:22). The natural conclusion is that all Scripture comes from God!

Says The Lion Concise Bible Handbook: "It is interesting that the New Testament makes no distinction between what 'Scripture' says and what God says. Old Testament quotations are given as what God said, even though God was not the speaker in the Old Testament context" (p. 10).

What are some of the qualities that God ascribes to His Word?

"Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21, King James Version, emphasis added throughout).

Paul also calls it "the faithful word" (Titus 1:9), "the word of life" (Philippians 2:16) and "the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). These potent expressions help us to comprehend the true nature of Scripture and the God behind it. The healing qualities and power of the Word can be engrafted (or implanted) into our very beings. As we seek our Creator, His Word will enable us to produce lasting good fruit in our lives (Isaiah 55:6-13).

What one quality of that Word would we all do well to heed?

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

The Bible was not designed to be read casually as simply good literature, or as a contribution to our historical learning, or even as an interesting exercise in academic theology. The purpose for reading and studying God's Word is to gain understanding of His will, to learn to live by His Word. As a result of diligently studying the Bible, God desires and expects action on our part (compare Hebrews 4:11, 13).



"It is astonishing that any man can forebear enquiring whether there is a God; whether God is just; whether this life is the only state of existence"

--Samuel Johnson

More than 200 years after the period of literary giant Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), journalist and historian Paul Johnson wrote: "The existence or non-existence of God is the most important question we humans are ever called to answer. If God does exist, and in consequence we are called to another life when this one ends . . . our life then becomes a preparation for eternity" (The Quest for God, p. 1, emphasis added).

All that said, even in our secular Western world the majority at least acknowledge the existence of God. So perhaps the more relevant question for our modern age remains: Is God real to us? Even the best of us occasionally behaves as if God is powerless to deal with our misdeeds: unable to forgive, free us from guilt and set us back on the right path.

However, the Bible tells us that "he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). The patriarchs, prophets and apostles all experienced the reality of God in a personal way. Consider the patriarch Abraham. He learned over time that whatever God had promised He was able to perform (Romans 4:20-21).

Of course, the Bible itself never questions the existence of God. The Holy Scriptures are built upon the solid reality and presence of God. They are reliable witnesses to many personal encounters between God and His chosen servants--first the historic Hebrew prophets and later the first-century apostles. The Bible includes the Hebrew writers in the "great cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1) listed in Hebrews 11, which recounts the stories of many of God's faithful servants.

Did God establish personal contact with certain people?

"God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, 'Here I am'" (Exodus 3:4).

Just as a finely tuned watch doesn't come into existence by itself, our magnificent, awe-inspiring universe did not somehow create itself. God carefully planned, crafted and created it.

This is the account of the burning bush--the first of many personal, direct conversations between God and Moses (compare Numbers 12:6-8; Exodus 33:11).

As professor Keith Ward wrote in his book Religion & Revelation, "When one reads the biblical accounts of revelation, one finds records of long, almost everyday, conversations between God and Moses. It is as though God is Moses' companion, telling him in particular situations what he needs to do" (p. 115).

Truly God did appear to Moses, revealing His divine words, which the prophet carefully recorded for future generations. In the Bible we are told that "Moses wrote all the words of the Lord" (Exodus 24:4).

Did God clearly identify Himself?

"Moreover He said, 'I am the God of your father--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God" (Exodus 3:6).

The One Moses encountered was the God of the Hebrew patriarchs such as Abraham, who also had personal conversations with this same God (Genesis 18). Moses' initial fearful reaction to the awesome presence of God is entirely understandable. Later he overcame that fear and requested to see God personally (compare Exodus 33:18-23; 32:11-14; Deuteronomy 3:24).

Many today don't know who and what God is! This fundamental knowledge has escaped the majority of mankind. The prophet Hosea lamented that the house of Israel had willingly lost and abandoned the knowledge of God, with tragic consequences (Hosea 4:1-6). How much more in this present age!

Do the biblical prophets tell
us who the Creator is?

"Thus says God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it" (Isaiah 42:5).

God clearly tells us that He is the Creator of both the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)--and human beings (Genesis 1:26-27; compare Acts 17:24-26).

From time to time throughout history God has
chosen to remind certain men that He is the Creator
of all things. The patriarch Job was one such man. Four chapters in the book of Job are devoted to God extolling the intricate wonders of His creation (Job 38-41). Genesis 1 is not the only chapter about creation in the Bible.

Can we understand more about God through
His creation?

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead . . ." (Romans 1:20).

A millennium earlier, King David similarly expressed the understanding that God also reveals Himself through

There is ample scientific
evidence from many fields of learning confirming the
existence of God.

His wondrous creation (compare Psalm 19:1-6). It makes a lot of sense to most human beings that the creation requires a Creator. Just as a finely tuned watch doesn't come into existence by itself, so our magnificent, awe-inspiring universe did not somehow create itself. God carefully planned, crafted and created it. He is not a blind watchmaker. God fully understood what He was doing (compare Genesis 1:31; Revelation 4:11).

Does God say that there is a direct relationship between belief and behavior?

"The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt" (Psalm 14:2-3).

The context of Psalm 14 is clear. Unbelief and corrupt behavior go hand in hand. But, the better we know and understand God, the better our Christian conduct is likely to be.

Although God is Spirit (John 4:24) and far above us in nature and stature, what is His approach and attitude toward His people?

"For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isaiah 57:15).

God "inhabits eternity" and therefore is not inhibited by the physical laws of time and space. Yet He is quick to forgive and encourage those who are really repentant and desire in their hearts to do His will (Isaiah 55:6-7).

And, although there is ample scientific evidence from many fields of learning confirming the existence of God, the most meaningful proof remains personal. When we really achieve a private spiritual relationship with God as our Father and Jesus Christ as our elder Brother, we know that They exist.

We should not underestimate the power of God's Word. Lydia of Thyatira heard the preaching of the apostle Paul. As a result, "the Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14; compare Romans 10:14-15).


Believers in God

"This beautiful system of the sun, planets
and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being . . ."

Sir Isaac Newton (17th-century
British mathematician and physicist)

"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible"

George Washington
(first president of the
United States)

"Personally I have always taken the view . . . that Almighty God, far from setting the universe in motion and then letting the drama enact itself--as many think--is an ever-present, ubiquitous arbiter in all affairs"

Paul Johnson (20th-century
British journalist and historian)

"I want to know [God's] thoughts; the rest are details"

Albert Einstein (20th-century
German-American scientist)

"The intellectual beauty of the order discovered by science is consistent with the physical world's having behind it the mind of the divine Creator"

John Polkinghorne (20th-century
British scientist and author)


A Close Encounter

When the Roman general Pompey successfully entered Jerusalem in the first century B.C., he was determined to satisfy his curiosity about certain stories circulating around the Mediterranean world about the worship of the Jewish people. After conquering this city he made it one of his personal priorities to ascend the Temple Mount to find out the truth behind the puzzling reports that the Jewish people had no physical statue or image of God in their most sacred place of worship, the Holy
of Holies.

Pompey the Great

To Pompey it was inconceivable to worship God without portraying Him in a type of physical likeness, as a statue. So Pompey "bravely" entered forbidden territory, the most-holy sanctuary--and lived to tell about it. What Pompey saw left him greatly puzzled and bewildered. He found no physical statue, no religious image, no pictorial description of the Hebrew God--only an empty space. He left the temple without saying a word!

What this powerful emissary of Rome experienced in Jerusalem, he had seen nowhere else on his travels in the empire. How unlike the worship of other nations! How different from other religions! Jerusalem represented a totally different God from those to whom the rest of the world paid homage.

Pompey did not understand that this was the invisible God (Hebrews 11:27) who was not to be portrayed by human imagery, but who inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15)--the One who revealed Himself to Moses as "I Am Who I Am" (Exodus 3:14). This God had eternal life within Himself (1 Timothy 6:16).

This omnipotent, all-knowing, invisible God has to be worshiped in spirit and in truth because He is Spirit (John 4:24). But, to the ancient Romans, Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians, religious imagery constituted a normal part of their worship. Initially this is why Pompey refused to give credence to reports from Jerusalem of a people honoring their God without the aid of statues. He knew of no such worship elsewhere. It made no sense to the Roman mind to worship a god without knowing what he looked like.

But when Israel was called out of Egypt--out of abject slavery and religious deception--this generation of God's people was introduced to the One whose unique requirements would make His adherents different from the rest of the world (Deuteronomy 7:6). So it was to a nation of former slaves that the Ten Commandments were given (Exodus 20:1-17)--a moral code not of human origin, but divinely authored and delivered to ancient Israel by the eternal God.


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