The Bible proves itself

Is the Bible really God’s word? Yes, says Jesus, “scripture cannot be broken,” John 10:35. And yes, says Paul, “All scripture is inspired by God,” 2 Timothy 3:16.” There’s no doubt in their minds that the Bible is God’s inspired and infallible word.

But how do you prove it?

The Bible proves itself. How? By a prediction it made “before the beginning of time,” 2 Timothy 1:9, that “life and immortality” would be brought “to light through the gospel,” verse 10.

And has that happened, just as the Bible predicted? Yes, it has. Over the last 2,000 years it has dawned on millions of people that the Bible is talking about their eternal life and how it’s been made possible. The lights went on. They suddenly realized what the Bible was saying and what it was written for, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name,” John 20:31.

But what makes that prediction in 2 Timothy even more remarkable is that the Bible also predicted the opposite would happen too, that for most people the lights wouldn’t go on, and they’d have no clue what the Bible is saying. “None of the rulers of this age understood it,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:8, and brilliant minds through the centuries haven’t grasped it, either. Why not? Because God hid it from them, verse 7.

And has that happened, too? Yes. Millions upon millions of people in the last 2,000 years have not cared about, and therefore have not understood, what the Bible is saying, because it’s only by God revealing his “secret wisdom” through his Spirit to open minds, verse 7, that people understand, verse 10 – and this too was predicted before time began, verse 7.

The Bible provides its own proof. It predicted long ago exactly what has happened, that only a few would grasp its message and most wouldn’t – including serious Bible scholars, as we see in John 5:39-40. Jesus is talking to people who’d diligently studied the scriptures but they couldn’t see the source of life and immortality even when he was standing in front of them. Nor do many people today, including some Christians, who believe – and state publicly – that the Bible is just stories, metaphors and the stuff of Jewish legend. But the Bible predicted that, too. People mangle Scripture just as the Bible said they would (2 Peter 2:1-3).

We’re actually watching the Bible prove itself. When it says, then, 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,” 2 Peter 1:21, how can one not say that’s true? The evidence is overwhelming that it is true.

Advertisements

A story begging for storytellers

In the movie “Neverwas,” starring Aaron Eckhart and Sir Ian McKellen, an imaginary story of a boy rescuing a king becomes real in the lives of two adults living in 2005. It’s one of those stories looking for a script writer and a movie director, because it;s an inspiring story of how we’d  love our lives to be, with all those lofty ideals like courage, loyalty and love, and colourful worlds full of adventure and struggles against overwhelming odds, and how camaraderie and friendship defy all odds in the end. All that exists in Neverwas.

One statement stood out for me in the movie, that “a story finds its storyteller.” The movie itself is a story that found a storyteller. Someone picked up the story from somewhere and thought it would make a great movie. A goodly dose of movie magic later and hey presto, imagination bursts into life, which in turn stirs the imaginations of those who watch it.

And I thought, “if only I could do that with the Bible.” It’s a story begging for storytellers, the sort of people who see the Bible as exactly that, a story, that’s meant to be told as a story, with all the imagination a storyteller can bring to it. It’s got all those bits and pieces that make telling stories to children so enjoyable. The Bible is about a king leaving his castle to rescue his people from themselves, because their selfish attitudes are destroying them. But first he must let them create their own world, based on their selfishness. And 66 chapters of the Old Testament later we’ve got story after story of what happened, told through the eyes of one nation who had everything going for them but blew it all. And who cannot notice the obvious parallels with ourselves and our world today?

But that’s what stories are for. They bring to life who we really are, what we so much wish we could be, and why we fail so miserably to meet the ideals we write about in children’s stories, poetry, plays, movies and TV series. And the Bible does all that second to none, too. It tells us how all those ideals in our heads and hearts were built into us on purpose, to give us dreams, hopes and imagination so strong that one day we’ll be open (at last) to someone who says he can make what we hope for, dream of and imagine, actually possible. Because that’s what the Bible is all about too, about the deep down dreams we all have coming true. It’s a story begging for storytellers who can make it come alive.

Why bother with the Bible?

I used to wonder why people read a collection of old books called the Bible. Then I discovered in Galatians 3:14 that it’s all because of Abraham.

God made a promise to Abraham 4,000 years ago. What that promise contained did not bounce out as anything important or real, though, until 2,000 of those 4,000 years had passed by. And then, suddenly, out of the blue and to everyone’s surprise, Jesus appears on this Earth to live and die SO THAT, verse 13, “the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles.” That’s us.

And what is that blessing? According to Paul, verse 14, it’s the promised Spirit. And why is it such a blessing? Because of what the Spirit does. The Spirit, Jesus said, “will teach you all things” John 14:26, and “guide you into all truth,” John 16:13. What truth? The truth about Jesus himself – who he is (15:26) and what he said (14:26). But the only place that truth about Jesus can be found is in the Bible (5:39-40). It’s what the Bible is for – as Jesus said in those two verses – it’s all about him.

To find myself studying the Bible to learn more about Jesus, it must be the Spirit in action, then. So I say, “Thanks, Abraham,” because without that promise made to him, I wouldn’t have the Spirit teaching me now. And without the Spirit, I’d have no clue what God and Jesus are all about, for “no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God,” 1 Corinthians 2:11. Only the Spirit, verse 12, can help us “understand what God has freely given us.” Without the Spirit, the Bible is meaningless, verse 14: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Some things can only be discerned spiritually. No human, Paul writes, “has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit,” verses 9-10. Only by the Spirit of God can we understand “God’s secret wisdom,” verse 7. To have the Spirit guiding and teaching us is an incredible blessing, then, just as God meant it to be when he first made the promise to Abraham.

We’ll know we’ve got the Spirit, too, because when we hear the truth about Jesus and we believe it, the Spirit “works miracles” among us, Galatians 3:5, filling us with “all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” Colossians 1:9.

So why do people study an ancient book, written thousands of years ago? Because of the promise God made long ago to Abraham.

The Bible knows us well

I woke up the other morning just furious at my neighbour, because he’d lined up ten cars on my front lawn and was trying to sell them. I stomped up to his front door and yelled at him “Who gave you permission to do that?” I’d been dreaming, of course, the dream likely triggered by an experience the week before, when I’d confronted a large group of Christians who think the Bible is merely a collection of stories and Jewish legend, and it doesn’t carry any authority whatsoever. They like to pick and choose which bits they think are credible and dismiss the rest as metaphor, or stuff that was only relevant to the people who wrote it.

I felt like yelling at them, “Who gave you permission to do that?” because the Bible isn’t their property any more than my front lawn is my neighbour’s property, yet they think they can do what they like with the Bible. Who do they think they are?

The irony is, the Bible itself tells us who they think they are. Right after my dream about the cars on my lawn, I thought of Galatians 6:12-13, which talks of preachers teaching their own ideas rather than taking the heat for telling the gospel truth. And why do they do that? Because they like to “boast of their success in recruiting you to their side.” They like the idea of people following them, and they’ve found a way of doing it. All they have to do is stand up on a stage, or write a book, publicly proclaiming the Bible is just fables, and people love it, including Christians. Why? Because they don’t like the Bible.

And why don’t they like it? The irony again is that the Bible explains that too, in 2 Timothy 4:4. Paul says “there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.” There’ll be times when preachers won’t have a stomach for truth and nor do the people they’re talking to. No wonder they get along so well together.

It’s a pity because the Bible states it has the “power to make you wise and lead you to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” 2 Timothy 3:15. The Bible carries some real power. So, why would people deny themselves such power? Because the Bible says they will, verse 5. The Bible seems to know an awful lot about us. Enough to think twice before dismissing it, perhaps?

When God seems distant

But hasn’t God deliberately made himself distant, by being “up there” while we’re “down here”? Why can’t we be with him, watch him in action, be able to converse with him and go to him at any time? Wouldn’t that make it easier for us to know him and love him in return?

You’d think it would be, yes, because that’s how it works between us humans. Love between us comes from being together, and having easy contact with each other. It’s a rare relationship that develops love from a distance, and love is severely tested when one person is away a lot and communication is difficult. So why doesn’t God communicate personally with us?

Because he already tried that, with angels. They had free access to him, as we see in the book of Job. They could go into God’s office, so to speak, and talk to him face to face. But one third of the angels ditched God. They didn’t like him. They wanted him dead. Easy contact with God, then, was no guarantee of a loving relationship.

With that lesson firmly imprinted, God then creates humans, and immediately demonstrates what a relationship IS based on. it’s based on trust. So he gives Adam and Eve a test, to see if they’ll trust him. They don’t. A slick charmer turns up and they both fall head over heels for him instead. And when God tries the personal contact route again with the nation of Israel, they ditch him too, for other gods. And when Jesus then comes as God in person, we kill him. God being close to us, therefore, is no guarantee we’ll trust him or love him in return.

So what on earth does God do now? He either has to ditch us all together because we reject him, or he has to love us from a distance. But if we can trust him without seeing him – now that would be amazing. It would also be the greatest test of all, because God only offers humanity a book about himself, that people would have to read and understand to spark their trust in him. He said it would work, though. Faith would come through hearing (or reading), and from faith would then come love.

God may seem distant, then, but he isn’t. He’s talking to us through a book, and we can either pick it up and read it, or not. If we read it, he says, something magical happens: God comes alive to us. So he’s done his part. His book is still the world’s best seller. Any feeling of distance between us and God, then, isn’t his fault.