LET GOD IN!
There is one statement made in Scripture that separates the one true and living God from all other gods that are created after the imagination of man.
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:8).
This one statement should make the rebellious person lay down his life in humble reverence for God. It should make the religious terrorist lay down his gun. The suicide bomber will wake up after the blast and discover that his god sent him to the wrong place, and that place was not a land of virgins, but a realm of vengeance by a just God who must work according to the law of an “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”
The fact that God is love necessitates justice, for there is no love where there is no justice. Love without law is a frivolous mockery of God. Love without law would be creating a god after our own desires to do that which we want without any chastisement. The one true and living God would say to those He loves, “For whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hb 12:6).
We desire to be received by a loving God, and thus, we understand that we must be disciplined when we fail to allow His instructions to permeate the entirety of our beliefs and behavior. We do not desire discipline, but we understand that when we are rebellious children it is because of God’s love that He disciplines us to keep us close to Him. His discipline is proof of His love for us. It is for this reason that we accept the Bible as the only road map into the presence of our Father. We consider the Bible to be this road map simply because our loving Father would never leave His creation without instructions on how to find and stay close to Him.
I. Direction from God:
We would logically conclude that if God is love, then as our Creator He would certainly reveal instructions as to how we would avoid His discipline. So Paul said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God … so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tm 3:16,17). Essentially, Paul was saying that Scripture must be God’s authority in all aspects of our lives because all Scripture came from God.
Jesus referred to Scripture as the word of God (Jn 10:35). Daniel referred to it as the “Scripture of truth” (Dn 10:21). Since the Bible claims to be Scripture from God, truth revealed to man, then it must be concluded that the word of God must have authority in our lives in order that we avoid the discipline of our Creator. Therefore, any word we would have from our Creator must be considered the final authority in all matters of belief and behavior.
II. Understandable direction from God:
One of the most preposterous accusations of those who seek to avoid the authority of the word of God over their lives is that God revealed Scripture (the Bible) in a manner by which it cannot be clearly understood. Some go as far as to say that the Bible cannot be our guide to heaven simply because there are so many different interpretations, some even contradicting one another. They conclude that certainly God would not demand that His word be the final authority for those who seek eternal life, since it is supposedly so difficult to understand.
The problem is not the Bible, but the lack of sincere students. Because there is so little study of the Bible by those who make the preceding statements, we would expect nothing less on the part of those who find the Bible difficult to understand. It would be correct to state that the less one knows the Bible, the more he will accuse the Bible of being a book that is not possible to understand in a way that will bring unity among believers, and subsequently, be our road map to heaven. We have found it interesting that men will read the daily newspaper and clearly understand it, but when it comes to the Bible, they accuse it of being difficult to understand. The Bible is always difficult to understand by those who seek to create a religion (their own road map) after their own intellect or emotions. The Bible is always difficult to understand by those who are simply Bible readers, but not Bible students.
So why do so many quote from the same Bible, but come to different conclusions? If two people come to different conclusions of the same passage, then we would first say that someone is not interpreting the Bible correctly. There cannot be two differing correct conclusions from the same passage. Someone, or both parties, have to be wrong. Or one party is right and the other is wrong. Both parties may be wrong, but both parties cannot be right. For example, the Sadducees interpreted Deuteronomy 25:5 to mean that there would be no resurrection (See Mt 22:23-33). The Pharisees believed in the resurrection (See At 23:6-8). In Jesus’ personal conversation with the Sadducees on this subject, He said, “You are in error, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mt 22:29).
It was important to Jesus, therefore, that we interpret the Scriptures properly. But some do not, for Peter said that some twist the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pt 3:15,16). Peter also identified why some err in their twisted interpretations of the Scriptures. They do so because they are “untaught and unstable” (2 Pt 3:16). Both Jesus and Peter were giving us a word of caution. If we sign off the Bible as impossible to understand, then we have judged ourselves to be “untaught and unstable,” and subsequently, in error in reference to our interpretations.
We must keep in mind that our attitude toward the Scriptures is critical. If we have twisted motives in our study of the Bible, we will end up with twisted interpretations. If we are unstable in our moral life, we will end up with twisted interpretations of God’s instructions for moral behavior. On the other hand, a desire to search the Scriptures daily from a sincere and obedient heart will lead us into understanding and using the Bible as God meant it to be for His children (See At 17:11).
III. The message of the Bible.
The message of the Bible is Jesus Christ. No matter what translation one may have, this message comes through loud and clear, without any contradictions or misunderstandings. If one cannot understand the message of God’s redemption of man through the cross, then certainly he is not a willing believer. Though this gospel message was hidden from man for centuries, it was revealed in the fullness of time, and subsequently recorded for those who did not personally experience the cross and resurrection. The good news was recorded for us through the inspired hands of the New Testament apostles and prophets. It was of this message that Paul wrote,
… how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words. Therefore, when you read you can understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets … (Ep 3:3-5).
The Holy Spirit used Paul and the other New Testament prophets to reveal the mystery, which is the message of the good news of Jesus’ death for our sins and His resurrection for our hope (See 1 Co 15:1-4). This message was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets who wrote of what was to come after them.
“Of this salvation the [Old Testament] prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them did signify, when He testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow. To them it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to you … (1 Pt 1:10-12).
Though the message of the gospel was a mystery to the Old Testament prophets, it is not to us who live this side of the revelation of Jesus and the event of His atoning sacrifice. Anyone can pick up a New Testament and understand this message. This was Paul’s affirmation of Ephesians 3:3-5. His readers did not have to have a commentary of what he said he clearly revealed through writing. If one wants to understand what was a mystery to the Old Testament prophets, then all that is needed is to pick up a New Testament and clearly read the fundamental facts of the event of the gospel. No commentaries are needed.
Since the gospel has been clearly revealed through the Bible, it is no longer a mystery. It was a mystery to those Old Testament prophets who first wrote of it in prophetic writings. But it has now been revealed to all mankind through the New Testament. It is for this reason that Peter and John could stand up and say to the unbelieving world the following words:
And there is salvation in no other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (At 4:12).
The salvation that comes only through Jesus is for all men, and thus if one would be with God for eternity, then this gospel message must have authority in one’s life. One must submit in obedience to the gospel. If one does not allow the message of the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection for our hope, to have authority in his life through obedience thereof, then the Holy Spirit’s message of his end was clearly revealed through Paul.
… and to give you who are afflicted rest with us when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These will be punished with everlasting destruction away from the presence of the Lord and away from the glory of His power (2 Th 1:7-9).
If one would allow the authority of God’s salvation (the gospel) to come into his life through obedience thereof, then we must conclude that obedience to the gospel is absolutely necessary to bring one into the eternal presence of God. Now one should be asking, How can I obey the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus that took place over two thousand years ago? This was what thousands on the day of Pentecost asked when the message of the gospel was revealed and preached for the first time in human history. In response to Peter’s preaching of the good news of Jesus in Acts 2, the people “were cut to the heart. And they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what will we do?’” (At 2:37). There was only one answer that Peter could give to this repentant response of the people.
Then Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (At 2:38).
And how would they obey the death of Jesus for their sins and His resurrection for their hope? Paul explained:
Or do you now know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, even so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, we will also be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rm 6:3-6).
And now we know why Jesus said to all humanity in His parting words before He ascended into heaven,
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. But he who does not believe will be condemned (Mk 16:15,16).
[Thank you for reading through this series of lectures. If you want the entire series published in an e-book, please make your request known at the following email: email@example.com Please ask for the following: Book 58. You can also download the book from our website at www.africainternational.org ]