Lesson Number One
God's Letter to You
Heaven's Pledge - Our Assurance
At some stage in life, individuals question their existence and purpose in life. A young mind generally has hopes and aspirations for the future. A discontented or discouraged mind finds it hard to accept a purpose or reason for life. Then there are the lonely, the empty, the unhappy. How can your life become more fulfilling, healthy, interesting? What lies after death? Is it possible to receive eternal life? Human hearts of every walk of life question the uncertain, yet desire an answer to satisfy their needs of security and contentment. No doubt at times such questions enter your mind. Are there answers to life's vital questions? Where can you find them? We all have some beliefs or ideas, but how accurate are they? No book ever written reveals so well the answer to these and many other fundamental questions except the Holy Bible. It reveals how life can be lived and enjoyed to the fullest. This is a promise.
Who Wrote the Bible?
Some critics have claimed that the Bible is only a book written by ordinary men, and therefore is just like any other book. The first part of this assertion is partly true but the latter is false. Yes, the book was written by men, but they had one different characteristic to most authors.
“ . . . holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21.
God selected righteous men to pen His messages. They were not naturally creative writers, but events and messages were recorded as they were revealed and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Visions and thoughts were received and these holy men, knowing these were from God, faithfully wrote in their own language what they were shown.
Thus there is a variety of style and of expression in the Bible, but no contradictions. There is a common theme throughout the collection of writings and a unity of beliefs.
“The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” 2 Samuel 23:2.
No one was entrusted to write God’s sacred messages without receiving divine assistance.
Actually the Bible is a compendium of books and its real Author is the Almighty. Throughout all these sacred writings is the theme of salvation from sin and its consequences, if we accept God's provisions and counsels.
“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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
The Scriptures also tell us of God and His loving character. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39.
Sixty-six books were written by nearly 40 writers during a period of approximately 1,600 years. Thirty-nine of the books constitute what is known as the Old Testament and twenty-seven comprise the New Testament. Whenever Jesus referred to Scripture, He quoted the Old Testament (the New Testament had not yet been written).
The Old Testament has three major sections. Jesus said, “. . . These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” Luke 24:44.
“The law of Moses” refers to the first five books of the Bible. They were written by Moses and are often referred to as “the law,” because they contain all the laws that were given to ancient Israel. The ceremonial laws were symbolic and terminated at the cross. But there is far more to “Moses” than just the ceremonial system. Primarily it consists of the doctrines and principles of establishing God's church on earth. First there is the moral law as given by God Himself, then nature's laws, health, and doctrines of order and organization.
“The prophets” refer to all the prophetic books. Some books in other classifications also have prophetic sections but, for ease of identification, each book is only placed in one category. For instance, Jesus used this type of terminology when talking with two disciples who were traveling to Emmaus after Jesus' resurrection: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27.
One of the most compelling tests of the authenticity of the Scriptures is the evidence of prophecy, for true prophecy is the recording of history in advance. Many of the prophecies of the Bible were written hundreds of years before their fulfilment, others are occurring now, some refer to our future. So important is prophecy that God challenges anyone to accurately predict the future in detail as He does.
“Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. 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.” Isaiah 41:21-23.
“Psalms” or poetry. The poetical books are Job, the Song of Solomon, and the Psalms. Some translations of the Bible record all the poetical sections in poetical format rather than prose. Although the meter is lost in translation from the original language, the beauty, majesty and pathos of the poetry of the Bible is still apparent and may be readily appreciated.
The Power and Purpose of the Bible
The power of God's word is demonstrated in many ways. When we scan the heavens and behold the sun, moon, planets and the myriads of stars, all orbiting their appointed trajectory through the immense expanse of space, we are witnessing the power of the Word of God!
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:6, 9.
Yet a still greater power is contained in the living Word. Jesus, the son of God said, “. . . the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63. What is this power? What is its purpose?
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.
“The word” has within itself power, deep, abiding, and eternal. It leads us to see ourselves as we really are. It searches our inmost failures and yearnings, and provides the power to raise us from the lowest degradation. It has power which is able to make and keep men right, something we cannot do for ourselves. The Bible is able to transform our character and to make each person radiant, joyous, and full of hope.
The Psalmist testified of this marvelous transforming power: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119:11.
How long will the word of God endure? Christ declared: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35.
Comparing the short life span of man with the Word of God, the apostle Peter wrote: “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth forever . . . ” 1 Peter 1:24, 25.
On the midst of all the turmoil and strife of this present age, the Bible stands as an immovable, unchangeable beacon, with its light pointing to the true haven. It is a teacher and counselor of the highest order.
Can Everyone Understand the Bible?
For centuries it has been claimed by the clergy that the Bible should not be read by lay members because only learned theologians are able to interpret its doctrines. This withholding of the Scriptures from the people resulted in an intellectual, spiritual, and moral decline known, today, as the “Dark Ages.” “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6.
Contrary to the stated belief of “the clergy,” “the entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” Psalm 119:130.
Therefore, the Word of God is not only for intellectuals to understand, but if studied and obeyed, it will ennoble and elevate the humble searcher for truth, whatever his station in life. Christ declared that God's Word was more readily understood by those of open minds “babies” in trusting and absorbing just what God says, than by those who claim to be “wise.”
“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” Matthew 11:25.
Often men of considerable learning, whether secular or theological, are too proud to admit wrong and thus disqualify themselves from understanding the truth of God. This is clearly illustrated in the Bible by the attitude of the learned scribes and Pharisees toward the teachings and person of Christ. Although they had theoretical knowledge, they could not accept the truth being presented to them.
The Lord sees those who are humbly seeking for truth: “. . . to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Isaiah 66:2.
As we have read before, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” In other words, the “Spirit of God” gave the messages to the various writers. In order to understand the Word of God aright, we need this same Spirit to guide our mind when we read the Bible.
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” John 16:13.
The written Word of God is God's voice speaking to us. It should always be treated with respect and should be studied with genuine desire to understand truth and its messages. Time spent searching the Scriptures should be regarded as time being spent in contact with the Divine. Therefore, before opening your Bible always pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance and believe that you will be directed and taught aright.
Why Are There So Many Different Interpretations of the Bible?
This question is often asked by skeptics as an argument that the Bible is unreliable. But are they right? What is the key to true understanding?
One reason is given by the apostle Peter: “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:16.
In addition the Bible reproves sin and lays open the hidden secrets of the heart. This is not agreeable to our human nature which seeks to obscure the Scripture's plain explanations. The apostle Paul prophesied: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, have itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3, 4.
It is impossible to come to a right understanding of the Bible if our hearts are not changed, because sinful human nature is opposed to the Spirit of God. “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.
Today men are eagerly seeking for personal advantage. For the sake of gaining riches, honor or power, they place the maxims, traditions and requirements of men above the requirements of God. From such the treasures of God's word are hidden.
Obedience is one key to a true understanding of the Scriptures. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” John 7:17.
The Theme of Bible Inspiration
Many books have a central figure around which the story is woven. The Bible too has a central person in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus said: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39.
When conversing with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus after His resurrection, Jesus explained this vital truth to them: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27.
Will There Always Be Opportunity to Study God's Word?
Many people put off searching the Scriptures until they retire, or to some other time in the future. But they are making a fatal mistake!
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.” Amos 8:11-13.
This wonderful book—the Bible—will soon be of no use for men. There will be no more opportunities to understand it or to obey its teachings. The Holy Spirit will not then be available to help people know the truth. Nevertheless, today we still have opportunity. There is still time to become acquainted with God's plan for us.
Quiz for Lesson Number One
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