The Critical Value of the Bible – Part One
By T.A. McMahon
But [Jesus] answered and 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
Those of us who have been Christians for a number of years can sometimes lose sight of the critical value of the Bible in our lives. I’m not referring to those whose walk with the Lord could be characterized as lukewarm at best. I’m thinking more of those who consider themselves to be Bible-believing Christians, who attend and participate in a Bible-based church, who enjoy fellowship with committed believers, and who generally see the fruit of the Spirit in themselves and in their families. As great as those things might be, however, they can also dull to some degree (call it a creeping complacency) one’s awareness of how miraculous and necessary the Scriptures are. What I have in mind for this article is to underscore some things about the Bible that perhaps we’ve heard before and some things of which we may not have even been aware. The goal is to refresh our thinking and our thankfulness for God’s supernatural communication to mankind.
Here are some general thoughts about God’s Word that relate to all of mankind: without the Bible, humanity would be nearly clueless about God; without the Bible, people would be completely deluded about their moral condition; without the Bible, humanity would have no idea what its purpose might be; without the Bible, mankind is lost in a condition of hopelessness and worse. For Christians, however, if we are not serious about the Word of God, we may still be semi-clueless about God, about our moral condition, about our purpose in God’s plan (or clueless about the plan itself), and ill-equipped to deal with the problems of life. In fact, we may struggle as much as nonbelievers. So, what we think about the Bible and what we do about it are very important concerns.
Without the Bible, as I said, mankind would be nearly clueless about God. I say “nearly” because creation does give us indications of God’s attributes-in particular His omnipotence and His omniscience. Although evolutionists rail against intelligent design, it is obvious to any reasonable mind that the Intelligence behind creation must be all powerful and all knowing. Both the vastness of the universe and the incredible complexity of cellular and molecular life would indicate that the Designer must be omnipresent as well. Regarding creation, Romans:1:20 tells us (although in somewhat general terms) that mankind is without excuse, i.e., we are accountable to God, in terms of acknowledging and seeking after Him.
God has not, however, left humanity without specific information regarding what He wants us to know. What information has he given us? We can read about His attributes, His personality, His purpose and plan for mankind, and His relationship with His created beings (or lack thereof). That’s what the Bible is about, and then some. Furthermore, through it we can learn about the nature of humans when they were first created, as well as the change in that nature due to Adam and Eve’s disobedience, which affected all creation.
The Bible is a history book. From man’s creation, to God separating and preparing the Israelites as a chosen people to whom He would send the Savior of the world and to whom their Messiah will return.
It is a prophetic book, declaring the significant events that will take place in the future, including the Lord’s return for His church, after which will fall a time of unprecedented devastation and tribulation upon the earth. Next those left in the world will experience the thousand-year earthly reign of Christ, followed by the end of this present world and the creation of a new heaven and earth (Revelation:21:1).
The Bible is the Manufacturer’s Handbook, an instructional manual telling mankind what God wants us to know and do in order to live our lives righteously, fruitfully, and in a manner that is glorifying to Him.
The Bible is the only objective source of information for developing a personal, intimate relationship with God, who is love. It is His personal letter to us containing His words of counsel, comfort, encouragement, blessings, correction, protection, forgiveness, judgments, mercy, and grace.
The Bible reveals the true nature and heart of every human. It sets the record straight on what is morally and spiritually good…and evil.
Without God’s Word, His direct communication to His rational creatures, we have only man’s opinions, speculations, and guesses about God, not to mention the lies introduced by God’s chief adversary, Satan. Regarding the latter, his strategy from his first dialogue with Eve had been to turn humanity away from God’s words: “Yea, hath God said…?” (Genesis:3:1).
But are the words of the Bible indeed God’s words? That’s what the Scriptures claim. From Genesis through Revelation, in addition to the more than 4,000 explicit phrases such as “Thus saith the Lord” and “The Word of the Lord came to me,” we find God personally speaking to various prophets and other individuals. For example, in Jeremiah:9:23-24
God discloses characteristics about Himself that are beyond man’s ability to discover without His revelation of them: “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.”
God the Father spoke to Jesus after His baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration. After His ascension, God the Son spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus and He spoke to John on the island of Patmos. The Apostle Paul declares to Timothy that, ” All scripture is given by inspiration of God .” He also thanks God for the believers in Thessalonica because when they received the teachings from Paul they “received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (2 Timothy:3:16; 1 Thessalonians:2:13). Peter, referring to his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, declared, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter:1:20-21).
Although we have a host of biblical statements claiming God’s personal communication to mankind, the Bible nevertheless gives a prerequisite, something that must come first, before anyone can understand His communication and truly know God. We must be born again . Speaking to Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders of the Jews, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John:3:3). Paul explains why being born of the Spirit of God is the only way that God can be known: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians:2:14). Once we turn to God and by faith believe the gospel, the good news that Jesus, who is God, became a man to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind, we are born of the Spirit. We become new creatures in Christ, in which the Holy Spirit dwells. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians:5:17).
Unless I have the Spirit of God, I have only my fleshly mind to rely upon to know God-which is an impossibility. Jesus declared that “the flesh profiteth nothing.” Paul wrote, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (John:6:63; Romans:8:5-6).
Not only does the Bible claim that its words are God’s direct revelation to mankind, but it also claims that the words of God are absolutely true. Psalm:119:160 states, “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John:17:17). Not only does the Bible make numerous claims of being the truth of God, but it gives support of those claims in a verifiable way. That is called prophecy.
In the Book of Isaiah, God establishes Himself as the God of Prophecy. He challenges the pagans to prove the reality of their gods by having them foretell future events, something only He can do: “Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together….And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any” (Isaiah:41:22-23; 44:7-8).
Nearly a third of the Bible contains detailed prophecies of future events, most of them related to Israel and the First and Second comings of the Messiah. Israel, the Lord declares, will be a witness to the world of God’s direct involvement with humanity: “Ye are my witnesses…and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me” (Isaiah:43:10). In other words, God will use them and their land to be “witnesses” both to themselves and to the world-not only that He exists but that He is actively involved in shaping the history of Israel as well as bringing about His purpose for all of mankind.
Prophecy is compelling proof for the existence of God, and it is also evidence that the Bible is exactly what it claims to be-His Word! “What proof?” someone might ask. The answer is found in the fulfillment of what God prophesied. He announced to Abraham (Genesis:12:1), and then to Isaac (Genesis:26:3), and after that to Jacob (Genesis:28:13) that He would give them the land “from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis:15:18), and that this Promised Land would be theirs. It’s a fact of history, as the book of Joshua records, that the Israelites took possession of the land that God promised. Although His promise was irrevocable, He nevertheless warned them that should they cease to obey Him He would cast them out of the land for a time: disobedient Israel “shall be plucked from off the land whither [they go] to possess it” (Deuteronomy:28:63).
They were, and He did-resulting in the Assyrian captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Babylonian captivity of the Southern Kingdom (Judah). Jeremiah prophesied that the captives would return from Babylon to Jerusalem “when 70 years [were] accomplished” (Jeremiah:25:12). Even so, a still more devastating dispersion of the Jews was foretold: “And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other” (Deuteronomy:28:64).
This, the last major diaspora, took place when the Roman army under Titus destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Not only have the Jews been widely dispersed, as the Bible predicted, but God’s Word also gives details as to how they would be treated: “And I will…deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them” (Jeremiah:29:18). This treatment would be known as anti-Semitism, carried out by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages, raised to a demonic level by Hitler, practiced from the 7th century onward, and continued today by Islam-yet it was first prophesied by Moses (Deuteronomy:28:37) 3,500 years ago!
It would seem that this dispersion, along with accompanying persecutions and attempts at annihilating the Jews, would have placed God in an untenable position. After all, He promised unconditionally to Abram (Abraham) that the Promised Land “which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Genesis:13:15). The Lord declared also that while Israel would not go unpunished, He would “not make a full end of thee” but would “save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob [Israel] shall return” (Jeremiah:30:11; 46:27). That a scattered and persecuted minority could live for 2,000 years or more among other races without being absorbed into them (especially when doing so could have avoided endless repression) and yet remain a uniquely identifiable ethnic group, is inconceivable-it is certainly beyond chance and without precedence in world history. Add to this astonishing fact that they would then be gathered from around the world and brought back to the land that God had promised to them more than three thousand years ago. Yet as the world knows, this took place “officially” in 1948 when Israel was recognized as a sovereign nation.
God’s Word is indeed just that: the very words of God. Fulfilled biblical prophecy is the undeniable proof that mankind has direct access to the God of all creation. That fact should make the Bible the most exciting book in the world, which it is. Believers who have lost that excitement need only to get back into it on a daily basis.
More on the critical value of the Bible in Part Two. TBC