What is the Bible?
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.
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.
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:
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:
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?
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.