THE REVELATION OF GOD - 6
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
The Bible -
The Bible -
Before the Apostle Paul went to the bosom of his Creator, he gave a young preacher a powerful charge. He told Timothy: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord is Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching eats; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Earlier he commanded the same young preacher to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightfully dividing the word of truth; but shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Tim. 2:15-16). This preacher desires to obey the words of God through Paul just as Timothy surely did.
Loved Ones, the Bible is conceded to be the oldest, the grandest, and the most wonderful book in the world; and yet no book is so much neglected, so badly treated, so carelessly read, or made responsible for so much that is false, delusive, and destructive. It is said to be the will of God; but its friends, its apparent friends ‑ its enemies, in fact ‑ do not hesitate to use it as a book that is devoid of system, plan, or arrangement. They therefore conclude that one part is as good as another for the Christian dispensation, and profess to find the way of salvation in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, or the Psalms; as well as in the New Testament. “Inasmuch as it is all true” (they say), “we can learn our duty, what we must do to be saved from our sins, in Proverbs or Daniel, as well as in John or Acts! It is all good for us, and we must, therefore, receive each part, each of the distinct and separate books of which it is composed, without any effort to discover when, by whom, or for what purpose they were written!” This view of the Bible is prevalent among many that pretend to be orthodox Christians. Do they not understand the commands of 2 Timothy 2:15 to rightly divide the word? It does not matter to them when it was written, or whether it was intended for Jew or Gentile, for patriarch or prophet, for apostle or evangelist, for saint or sinner, the Old Testament times or the New Testament times; they proceed on their journey rejoicing (as they say), in the hope of heaven. All the while they have no definite idea of the plan of salvation made known through Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles, or the relation this plan sustains to antecedent ages of the world.
What is the cause of this confusion? Where does it originate? Who is accountable to God? In our humble judgment, the difficulty lies in this: a great many people read the Bible; very few people study it. A great many read it for present or temporary benefit; very few read it in order to "keep in memory" that which it contains. A great many people receive it as a “tale that is told;" very few meditate upon its teaching day and night. A great many scholars and critics strive to interpret the Bible; very few, alas! HOW FEW, permit it to interpret itself. The advocates of denominational “Christianity” attempt to sectarianize or bend it to their way of thinking. Very few of them are ready and willing to acknowledge the supremacy of the Divine truth in all things, or bend their systems, their creeds to its demands. Large numbers of professing Christians declare their allegiance to it; yet deny it by their works. Thus the Bible is murdered, traduced, destroyed in the house of its friends.
Does the Bible interpret itself, explain itself, or submit a harmonious or coherent system of doctrine or teaching? If not, it is impossible for all men to understand it alike. Can we learn what to do in order to have our sins forgiven under the reign of Christ, away back in the visions, voices and revelations intended only for patriarchal times? If so, why did the Lord burden the world with sixty‑six books, when our duty is clearly revealed in the book of Genesis? If we can learn what to do to be saved in the Old Testament, we have no special use for the New Testament. Of this there can be no doubt.
Where did the plan of salvation originate? Answer: In the love or mind of God. The Bible is the revelation of God and His plan. It contains sixty‑six books; Genesis is the first, the Revelation is the last. The Bible takes hold of its Author and extends from the dawn of history to the end of time. Exodus throws more light upon the unfolding purposes of God than Genesis, and Leviticus throws more light upon it than Exodus; in other words, each book helps to interpret or explain all the books that precede it. Genesis contains the first intimation of the purpose of God in the redemption of men, and it broadens with each successive book until we reach the law and the Levitical priesthood, the cross of Christ, the twelve apostles, the Great Commission, the Gospel in its fullness, the church of Jesus Christ, the epistolary writings; and at last, the Revelation of Jesus Christ lifts us into the everlasting city of God.
Genesis begins with man in darkness; the promise, like the stars of heaven, shone far away; the law of Moses, like the moon, shadowy, imperfect, prophetic; the Gospel, the glory of the "Sun of righteousness" (Malachi 4:2); the home of the people of God, where they need no light of the sun nor of the moon, “For the glory of God will lighten it and the Lamb will be the light thereof " (Rev. 21:23)! The unfolding of the plan and the intellectual development of the people proceeded together, and each period of development was the product of everything before it. You may investigate it from Genesis forward, or from the Revelation backward, and in either case you cannot fail to discover that the cross of Christ is the foundation of the world's hope. You may begin with the source of the stream and follow it on until your frail bark floats out into a boundless and fathomless ocean. This is what every earnest and devoted Bible student is able to do. Genesis is the beginning of the stream, and the Revelation and beyond it, is the ocean.
We ought ‑ it is a duty that cannot be compromised or neglected ‑ to read the Bible in order to understand it; in order to "Be ready always to give an answer," a Bible answer, "To every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us” (1 Pet. 3:15). How can we do this? How can the preachers do it? The first requirement is study. What must we study? The Word of God. What for? In order that we may be able to divide it - rightly divide it. Why is it necessary to divide the Word of Truth? In order that we may apply it to that for which it was intended, that we might be successful workmen in the vineyard of the Lord. If the preacher claims a "direct call," or a special Holy Spirit qualification for his work, study is absolutely unnecessary. If the Christian claims direct and indisputable evidence of his acceptance with God, it is a waste of time to study a book that affirms that it contains the Revelation of the Truth.
We cannot learn anything concerning God, salvation, or heaven outside of the Bible; hence Paul wrote to Timothy: "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). How must we proceed that the Bible may interpret or unfold itself to our mind? A few examples will be enough to convince the most incredulous:
When God passed sentence upon the devil for the part he performed in the transgression, He said: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:14-15). What does this mean? What does it imply? What does it include? What does it suggest? "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
When God called Abraham out of his country He gave him the promise of another country, the land of Canaan. God also gave him a promise for the world: "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:1‑3). This promise was renewed to him when he offered his son (Gen. 22:1‑18); also to Isaac (Gen. 26:3‑5), and to Jacob (Gen. 28:10‑15). What does it mean? Who is Abraham's seed? Does the Bible explain this promise? "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16).
Just before the death of the patriarch Jacob, in the land of Egypt, he called his sons around him and blessed them. When he came to Judah he said: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10). Who is Shiloh? “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah” (Heb. 7:14). "The lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book and to loose the seven seals thereof” (Rev. 5:5).
“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, besides thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him” (Isaiah 64:4). What does this passage mean? Does it refer to the eternal state, to heaven? "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-10). These things were not known in the olden times, but they are fully revealed under the reign of Jesus Christ.
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). What is faith? Taking God at His word (Rom. 4:21). On what does it rest? "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). What is repentance? "Cease to do evil; learn to do well” (Isaiah 1:16-17). What produces it? “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10). "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). How is this confession made? What produces in the human heart a willingness to make this confession? Where must it be made? "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness: and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10). “A good profession before many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12). "Baptizing them” (Matt. 28:19). How many baptisms does the Bible demand? "One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). What is the action? “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). What is it for? Baptism brings us into Christ (Gal. 3:27) where all spiritual blessings are found (Eph. 1:3). These blessing include but are not limited to forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Matt. 26:28), salvation (2 Tim. 2:10), the indwelling Spirit of God as an earnest and intercessor (Eph. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:26), eternal life (1 John 5:11).
The Bible answers every question fully, clearly, pointedly, that you can ask concerning your duty to God, the church, and your fellowman. In other words, the Bible is the only book in the world that ever did or ever will interpret the Bible. The church in reference to this proposition ought to be transformed into one great interrogation point. It is our duty to ask. It is the province of the Bible to answer.