The Uniqueness of the Bible (week 1)
Read for this week: Deuteronomy 32:45-47; Genesis 49:8-12; Isaiah 53:3-7; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, 51-55; Romans 12:2.
Memory Gem (to pray about and memorize): "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
Which Way Should I Go?
You might have heard the story about how a man discovered the right woman he was to marry. He flipped through his Bible and pointed to the words of Paul: "“Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” Later that morning, he walked into the church service, where a praise team was getting ready for song service. The praise leader introduced her team and then herself. Her name--you guessed it--was Grace. At that moment, the man's eyes grew big. Apparently, God had revealed who He wanted him to marry.
Numerous questions arise when we hear these kind of stories. Are they true or just urban myths? Did the man really ask Grace to be his wife? And was this a reliable method for seeking God's guidance? How can we discover the will of God for our lives? These are the issues we will touch on during this quarter's study on interpreting the Bible.
No Other Book
How many books have ever been published in modern history? According to Google's advanced algorithms, the answer is 130 million books. No, Google didn't sit down and count them all. This is an educated guess, at best. But it gives you a small idea of the pile of books that are out there. You'll find books on action and adventure, horrors and mystery, novels and science fiction. There are books to educate you, entertain you, and motivate you. But the Bible is one book that stands alone, having the power to change your life--not just on the outside. Motivational books can do that. But to change you from the inside. Drunks become sober. Murderers become kind and non-violent. Liars become honest and trustworthy. All because of the unique power found in the God's Word.
Where Does the Power Come From?
The apostle Paul gives us a clue. "All Scripture," he says, "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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
The Bible can be viewed in different ways. Many people look at it as merely a history of man's thoughts about God. But where did Paul's wisdom come from? He says it was given to him 'by inspiration of God.' In other words, the Bible's message came from God Himself! The word inspiration comes from the Greek word, theopneustos, which literally means "God-breathed." The power of the breath of God in divine inspiration pervades Scripture. God breathed “the breath of life” into Adam (Genesis 2:7), and Jesus “breathed on [His disciples] and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). In 2 Peter 1:21 we're told that “prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Here we see the truths of Scripture described as coming directly from God, not from the will of the writers He used to record them.
2 Timothy 3:16 is the only place where we will find theopneustos (inspiration) in the New Testament. And yet, the Bible is filled with similar claims that God is ready to guide you, bring you hope and peace, and lead you ultimately to your heavenly home. God wants you to know that you can trust Him. He's not going to say one thing today, then turn around tomorrow and change His mind. He's not going to renege on His promises. His Word is true because that's who He is. And as we open the Bible, we're going to hear His message for us today.
The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God's mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented...The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen.
It is not the words of the Bible that were inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions, but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is imbued with His thoughts. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God.
HOW TO INTERPRET SCRIPTURE, Week 1, Lesson 2
Wonderful Words of Life
If you knew today was your last day on earth, what would you want to say to your family? What would make such a lasting impression that they would stay faithful to God and serve Him from this day forward? When the life of Moses was drawing to its close, he knew he only had one more time to encourage Israel to walk closely with the Lord. "It was an important occasion, and with deep feeling he portrayed the love and mercy of their Almighty Protector" (Patriarchs and Prophets, 463).
He also taught Israel a special song, one which Jesus personally gave him. We find the words in Deuteronomy 32. At the end of the song, Moses made a final appeal to the dear people he had labored with for over 80 years:
"Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess" (Deuteronomy 32:46,47).
QUESTION: What did Moses call the words of God? How does this compare with the words of John the apostle (see John 1:4 and John 14:6)?
Take It to Heart
Could the final words of Moses make a difference in your walk with Jesus? What appeal did he make to God's people before he laid down his life?
- Verse 46: Set your _____________ on _______ the words which I testify...
- Verse 46: Be careful to ___________________ all the words of this law.
What does it mean to "set your heart" on everything that God says to you in the Bible? In the New American Standard version, it says to "take it to heart." The Bible in Basic English puts it this way, "go deep into your heart." We all probably know someone who took someone's words very seriously. Somehow, what they heard made a life-changing difference.
Kathy could tell her doctor was going to drop something serious in her lap. As he sat across from her in his office, he said, "You have let your weight get out-of-control. Your blood sugar levels have also shot way up. Unless you lose quite a bit of weight, you're going to have to start taking insulin." Kathy gulped. This was something she should have seen coming. She knew she was vastly overweight. It was something she'd struggled with all her life. But she definitely didn't want to be put on insulin.
So, when her doctor ordered her to go for 10 minute walks after every meal, Kathy was determined to follow his words to the letter. She walked every single day after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After several weeks, she increased her walks to 15 minutes and then 20 minutes. Gradually, the weight was coming off and the blood sugars were coming down--all because she'd taken her doctor's order to heart.
What would taking God's words to heart look like in your life?
Words of This Life
In the book of Acts, we see the power of God's life-giving Word in action. Page after page shows the incredible boldness of the disciples in working as Christ worked, healing the sick and preaching in the name of Jesus Christ. "Through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people," (Acts 5:12) so much so that people would bring their sick on beds and couches, waiting for the shadow of Peter to pass over them. All of them were immediately healed.
The Sadduccees were worried with what they saw. They'd warned the disciples not to preach in Christ's name, but nothing could stop them from. "They were not intimidated through persecution, imprisonment, and death; but they continued to speak with all boldness the words of truth, setting before the Jews the work and mission and ministry of Christ, his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension; and believers were added daily to the Lord, both of men and women" (Review & Herald, November 6, 1894).
- What did the high priest do to stop the work of the apostles in Jerusalem? (Acts 5:17,18)
- How did God rescue the disciples? (Acts 5:19)
- What instruction did God give the disciples after their rescue? (Acts 5:20)
What do you think of the angel's term for God's Word? How does this coincide with Moses' words to the children of Israel in Exodus 32? How are they different?
Let's Dig Together
How do other Bible writers describe the Bible?
WORDS OF JESUS. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are ___________" (John 6:63).
WORDS OF THE APOSTLE JOHN. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of ___________" (1 John 1:1).
WORDS OF PAUL THE APOSTLE. "Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the _____________________________, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain" (Philippians 2:14-16).
WORDS OF THE PSALMIST. "I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have _______________ me life" (Psalm 119:93).
God's Creative Power
"The creative energy that called the worlds into existence is in the Word of God. This word imparts power; it begets life. Every command is a promise; accepted by the will, received into the soul, it brings with it the life of the Infinite One. It transforms the nature and recreates the soul in the image of God" (Education, 126)
How have I experienced new life through the Word of God? Can you look for a way this week to share with someone what a wonderful difference God's Word has made in your life?
WHO WROTE THE BIBLE, week 1, lesson 3
Why Isn’t the Bible Arranged Chronologically?
It’s important to remember that the Bible is a collection of writings. No one sat down and said, “Let’s write the Bible from start to finish.” The scrolls that make up the books of the Bible were written by more than 30 authors and accumulated over thousands of years.
These books were laid out by literary genre:
- The books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
- The books of history (Joshua through 2 Chronicles)
- The books of wisdom (Job through Song of Songs)
- The prophets (Isaiah through Malachi)
- The Gospels (Matthew through Acts)
- The epistles (Romans through Jude)
- Final prophecy (Revelation)
At the beginning, the Bible is in chronological order. If you read the books of Moses in the order that they appear, you’re reading biblical history in its proper sequence. And of course, the Old Testament is chronologically before the New Testament. But eventually you’ll come to places where timelines weave together or overlap. And there is benefit to this arrangement, as for example stopping to read a prophet can give you insight into a historical narrative, and reading one of Paul’s epistles can clarify events in the story of Acts.
Why Reading the Bible In Order Can Help You See More
What if you could gain insight into Nathan’s confrontation with David over Bathsheba? Reading Psalm 51 after 2 Samuel 12 gives you a touching look at the extent of David’s repentance. It also connects a clear cause-and-effect relationship between Nathan’s rebuke and David’s response. Here’s a potential chronology for each Psalm.
Like most of the prophets, it’s easy to read the book of Amos as a free-floating prophecy without understanding its placement in the Israelite narrative, but 2 Kings 14:23–29 gives it an anchor. Reading Amos’ prophecy where it occurs historically (Amos prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam) contextualizes the prophet’s words.
That’s why reading the Bible chronologically offers new insights and perspectives into passages you may already be familiar with.
Bible Gateway provides a helpful chart for discerning where the books of the Old Testament prophets would have landed in Israel’s timeline.
Reading the Epistles with Acts
Over 25 percent of the New Testament was written by the apostle Paul, and all of his letters fit into the narrative Luke provides in Acts. Reading Paul’s epistles as we read alongside his missionary journeys can give us a new appreciation for his relationship to these churches and their backstory.
In Acts 17, we read about some of the struggles Paul went through in planting the church at Thessalonica. This provides a perfect backdrop for reading his first and second letters to the Thessalonian churches.
BlueLetterBible.org provides a helpful chronology of the New Testament starting with the second chapter of Acts.
A Chronological Reading Plan
If you’re wondering where to get started reading the Bible chronologically, check out Bible Gateway's plan using the New King James Version. You can find it here: Bible Gateway Chronological Reading Plan.
Gaining a Firmer Grasp on Scripture
If you want to develop a better understanding of the Bible and God’s story of salvation, reading the Bible chronologically will help. You’ll increase your appreciation for God’s patience and love for his people and reinforce a deeper admiration for God’s story—and your place in it!
How have I experienced new life through the Word of God? Can you look for a way this week to share with someone what a wonderful difference God's Word has made in your life?
HOW TO INTERPRET SCRIPTURE, week 1, lesson 4
Can we turn to prophecy to find Jesus? Many people think we can only find Him in the New Testament or in the Gospels. But as we open the pages of the Bible, we see that it's all connected--the Old Testament and the New Testament. It all points to God’s complete story of the fall and redemption of mankind through His son Jesus Christ!
1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies: 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies: 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies: Only Jesus!
It is the magnificent detail of these prophecies that mark the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Only God could foreknow and accomplish all that was written about the Christ. This historical accuracy and reliability sets the Bible apart from any other book or record.
AMAZING PROPHECIES: If you'd like a list of the many prophecies that point to the life of Jesus, you can find it here.
Many Prophecies have been fulfilled already, just like many more will be fulfilled in the near future. All you have to do is look at the prophecies surrounding the first coming of Christ to understand the precision of God’s Word. If the predictions for the 1st coming of Christ were all fulfilled to the letter, we can be sure that all the promises regarding His 2nd coming will be fulfilled in the same way.
The reason behind all of these prophecies is clear. Jesus wants to give you abundant hope and peace. He knows what the future holds and He wants to fortify you for what's ahead. This is why He wants your faith in Him to be rock-solid. No matter what happens, He is saying, you can trust in Me. I will be with you through it all. I will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
Bible Prophecy points us to Jesus because it gives us hope. I don’t know about you, but as I look around the world, seeing it getting darker by the day, if I did not have the hope of Jesus and the hope of our future Glory, I would have no peace at all! But Jesus gave us His Word, including His prophecies, to bring us perfect peace: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
As we see the fulfillment of prophecy, our faith in the final triumph of Christ’s kingdom should strengthen; and we should go forth with renewed courage to do our appointed work.
THE BIBLE AS HISTORY, week 1, lesson 5
I have always been a lover of history. Ever since I was a child, I've gobbled up the rich stories of men and women of the past. It was also the avenue God used to reach me and help me discover He was real. When I was in high school, I lost my childhood faith and began doubting God's existence. I had such an emptiness in my life (in spite of having many friends and even a loving boyfriend)! And I couldn't find that Christ made a difference in people's lives. My family attended church every week but I didn't know anyone who really seemed to know God first-hand. So I fell into atheism.
But God knew I was honest in my unbelief. He knew I was really searching for peace with Him. So He reached me using my love for history. I went to church with my boyfriend where we both heard, for the first time, about an amazing prophecy in Daniel 2. As I saw how history documented what God had predicted hundreds of years ago, I began to think, "There must be something to this book that it could be so accurate!" Soon after, I began reading a book on Christian history called The Great Controversy. That opened my mind even more to the trustworthiness of God's prophecies. As I saw men and women laying down their lives for this Book, I finally picked it up for myself. I had to know what made this book so special. I sat down to read the gospel of Matthew for the first time and in just a matter of weeks, I was in love with Jesus and gave my life to Him.
Bible and history are a dynamic team in leading us closer to Jesus and His undying love for us!
I Am the Resurrection and the Life!
The more we examine the prophecies in Scripture, the more we can fuel our faith in what God says. We can have greater confidence in our living Savior who rose from the dead, just as the Bible prophecies. Here are some prophecies to build your faith and mine.
PSALM 16: This is a prophecy that was used by the apostles when they first began proclaiming Christ's resurrection (see Acts 2:25-28; 13:35-37). The first eight verses of this fascinating psalm were used by the apostle Peter on the great day of Pentecost when he was used by God to bring 3,000 to accept Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah: ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades,Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption" (Acts 2:25-27).
These verses speak poetically first of His burial, then His resurrection and ascension into heaven to be seated at the Father's right hand.
We find references to Christ’s resurrection not only in the Old Testament but also in the New Testament. In fact, the resurrection was the cornerstone of Jesus’ teaching about Himself.
TEMPLE PROPHECY: We find this prophecy in John 2:19-21 where Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body."
LIKE-JONAH PROPHECY:In Matthew 12:38-40, we find a discussion going on between the Pharisees and Jesus: “‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’”
RESURRECTION TEACHINGS: In Matthew 16:21, Jesus told His disciples that His resurrection was central to His purpose in coming: “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”
So central was Jesus’ belief that He was going to be raised from the dead that even His enemies understood it. That is why His enemies went to such extreme measures to make sure that His tomb was protected. They knew that Jesus was claiming that He would rise from the dead, so they wanted to make sure His body stayed right in the grave to discredit that claim.
Testimony of the Disciples
HOW MANY SAW THE JESUS CHRIST AFTER HIS RESURRECTION?
"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time" (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
The power of the resurrection is not only seen in the life of Christ but also what people see in our lives every day. Read Paul's testimony to the Philippians in chapter 2. Hear how he turns from seeking his own righteousness through the law (rather than through the righteousness that comes by God alone). In the heart of his testimony, he prays, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (vs. 10-11, ESV).
The righteousness that Paul thought he had was now worthless in his sight. His own righteousness was like rubbish (vs. 8). Now the deep longing of his soul was to know Jesus and the life that only comes from Him. He wanted the power of His saving grace, who could save even him, a persecutor of God's people. Experiencing Christ's resurrection power became Paul's dearest treasure. And it can be yours and mine as well.
"This same resurrection power is that which gives life to the soul “dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1. That spirit of life in Christ Jesus, “the power of His resurrection,” sets men “free from the law of sin and death.” Philippians 3:10; Romans 8:2. The dominion of evil is broken, and through faith the soul is kept from sin. He who opens his heart to the Spirit of Christ becomes a partaker of that mighty power which shall bring forth his body from the grave" (The Desire of Ages, 209).
THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE WORD, week 1, lesson 6
"Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53).
The Bible may contain valuable information about history, prophecy, and a knowledge of who God is. But even this broad description falls short of the most vital reason for the Word of God in our lives. That is to give life--spiritual life. And without feasting on the Word of God, we can have no spiritual life at all.
How can the Bible be a transforming power in your life?
- HEBREWS 4:12--How deep does the Word of God penetrate into your heart?
- 1 PETER 1:23--How can you be born again?
- COLOSSIANS 3:16--How can the Word live in you so that you can be like Jesus?
- 2 PETER 1:4--How can your nature be changed by God's promises?
Growing in Jesus
When God said, "Let there be light," there was light. "He spoke and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast" (Psalm 33:9). In the same way, reading God's Word can create a love for spiritual things where there was none. We are born again through God's Word. And just as we receive new life from the Bible, we must be kept spiritually alive by the same Word.
How can you continue to thrive in your walk with Jesus?
COLOSSIANS 2:6--What should you do after reading what God's Word says?
JOHN 8:31--How can you continue to be a disciple of Christ?
1 PETER 2:2--What spiritual food has God given to each of us so we can continue to grow in His grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is Speaking to You and Me
The Bible is God’s voice speaking to us, just as surely as if we could hear it with our ears. If we realized this, with what awe we would open God’s Word and with what earnestness we would search its precepts. The reading and contemplation of the Scriptures would be regarded as an audience with the Infinite One--Call to Stand Apart, 69.
Christ's Life is in His Word
The life of Christ that gives life to the world is in His Word. It was by His word that Jesus healed disease and cast out demons; by His word He stilled the sea, and raised the dead; and the people bore witness that His word was with power. He spoke the word of God, as He had spoken through all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament. The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ, and the Saviour desired to fix the faith of His followers on the Word. When His visible presence should be withdrawn, the Word must be their source of power. Like their Master, they were to live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4--The Desire of Ages,390.
"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
One summer vacation, our family went on a v honeymoon to the Smokies. One of our side trips was at Ruby Falls in Tennessee. We went on a walking tour in the cave and even walked behind the waterfall. The cave was lit so you could see where you were going and view all the amazing rock formations. But when I was standing behind the waterfall, the guide said she was going to shut off the lights. She said we wouldn’t be able to see anything, even if we held our hand one inch away from our face. She was so right! When the light went off, that cave was pitch black—I’ve never felt such blackness! I was so relieved when the light went back on!
God’s word, the Bible, will be a lamp on the path of life that is filled with darkness. It will shine its holy light into the unclear and shadowed areas of life and makes them clear. It is a bright light that will positively show the right and profitable way to travel through this life on earth.
I entreat you to open the door of your heart and let your Saviour in. Give Him the whole heart—that which He has purchased. Ever bear in mind that it is you who must choose. God forces no man. He has chosen you and engraven your name in the palms of His hands. Will you not give yourself fully to Him? Time is short. You have not a moment to lose in hesitation. The divine Word is in your hands, to be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. Let Its beams shine upon you, pouring light into your mind and heart. Will you follow the divine radiance?—Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, p 13.