15 December 2017

CONSIDER … The Bible

raIf I asked you to describe the Bible how would you go about it? People criticise the Bible saying it is unreliable because it doesn’t agree with science or archeology. If the Bible can be shown to be flawed in one area then people feel they have the right to disbelieve everything it says and ignore God. However the Bible is true in everything it says, it is just misunderstood because we do not grasp what sort of a book it is.

If you want to know about science get a book from the library or research it on the internet, but if you want to know about God then read the Bible. While it is made up of 66 shorter books written in three different languages over approximately 1600 years it is still only one story, that of God’s plan and purpose in creation and His relationship with mankind. Many of the books give an accurate historical record of a tribal people inhabiting the middle east from around 2000 BC, yet is it more than history? Some would argue it is one of the finest works of literature ever created, containing beautiful poetry and prose. The wisdom literature, which include truths of philosophy and psychology about the nature of man, are as true today as when they were written. Uniquely, it also looks forward, as God spoke through His prophets, about His plans for the future.

What are we to make of this, the best selling book of all time? Is it just a random collection of many different sorts of texts, gathered together over the millennia, which are interesting but outdated and mostly irrelevant to us today?

For Christians it is not just a book, but rather it is the book of books, for while it was written by about 40 individuals it has been inspired by the Holy Spirit and is the very word of God. It is one big story, that of God’s plan of redemption. It is a legal document containing two testaments, an old and a new one. Testament is not a word that we may be familiar with. It is best known in ‘the last will and testament’, and it is defined as ‘something that serves as tangible proof or evidence’.

In court, someone’s testimony is the evidence they give, while the document read out on behalf of a deceased person is the tangible proof and evidence of their will, regarding the disposal of their estate. Likewise, the Bible is God’s written evidence of His will towards mankind and our inheritance. Unlike legal documents of today which are written in legal jargon, the Bible tells truths about God and His plan for each of us through stories that everyone can understand. Stories of real life people with all their faults and failings; stories about families and feuds; stories about everyday situations that illustrate human nature and the need for change.

These two testaments represent agreements between God and man. In the first, His plans to bless His people are laid out, along with the punishments that befall the disobedient. However man wanted to be God, turned his back on his creator and became disobedient by nature.

As a result, no-one could inherit His greatest gift, that of immortality lived out in God’s presence. God could not abolish the law, in the same way we would never consider doing away with the law because without it there would be no justice. None of us wish to see murderers, rapists or child molesters go unpunished, for their behaviour is intolerable to the safe functioning of society. Equally God’s moral laws can not simply be overlooked. Even though God is Love and wants everyone to receive the inheritance He has prepared for them, He is also righteous and just (holy), and therefore can not tolerate any law breaking (sin), no matter how small, and the punishment for sin is death.

The good news is that the Bible does not end at Malachi, there is a second testament based not on law but on grace, centred on the person of Jesus.

He is the one person who lived a sinless life and therefore is the rightful heir to the inheritance. However, He chose to take upon Himself the punishment of God for our sins, dying in our place, so we could become children of God. This is the message of Christmas! God became man in Jesus and dwelt amongst us, showing us what God is like and making a way for us to be reconciled to God through his death and resurrection. This is the greatest story ever told, and everyone needs to hear it, that there is mercy and forgiveness and freedom from sin and guilt. By acknowledging our rebellion against God and accepting the Lordship of King Jesus, He gives us the Holy Spirit to direct and control our lives. One story, one book – the Bible!