THE book called "The Holy Bible" is the most maligned, criticized, and misused book ever compiled. "You can prove anything by the Bible," is a commonly held belief. No volume in history has ever been subjected to so much scrutiny as this Book of books. Is the Bible really of any relevance in the 20th century? Should you bother to read and study it? Can it be relied upon as an accurate guide for living? These questions cry out for answers in an age when seemingly nothing is sacred.
What Is the Bible?
Is the Bible merely a collection of Hebrew and Greek religious literature? Is there more to the Bible than simple human wisdom and folklore? Is there anything truly supernatural about this ancient Book? "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness ...." explained the Apostle Paul to the Evangelist Timothy (II Tim. 3:16). The words of the Bible are inspired by God — they are "God-breathed." The Bible is the word of God in print. You might say it is the "Maker's Instruction Book." It is the manual by which the human creation is to be operated. God's written Word explains why the Creator created human beings. It instructs us how to live. It gives instructions on how to handle emergencies and breakdowns — both physically and spiritually speaking. The Bible explains how any person may realize his maximum potential as a human being — how he may achieve "self-actualization." Nor is the Bible an ordinary book. It is unique in that it contains revealed knowledge. It includes information man could not normally obtain by conventional investigation. The motto of Ambassador College sums up the real purpose of the Bible: The Word of God is the Foundation of Knowledge. It is the basis by which all other knowledge and philosophy may be evaluated. It is the standard, the only really reliable point of reference. While the Bible does not contain all scientific and technical knowledge, it does contain the philosophical basis for correctly placing such information in its right perspective. The Maker's Instruction Manual helps crack open the understanding of history. It sheds light on the real significance of the human chronicle. Neither history nor science can be correctly understood without the revealed basis of biblical light. Yet the Bible is neither a science textbook or a comprehensive history text. Human behavior cannot be correctly interpreted apart from the Bible. Why do we see evil? What is sin? What is good? What is normal and what is deviant? Only the Word of God can supply the true answers to these important questions. And what lies ahead for mankind? Will we survive the present direction the human race is taking? Will there be a brighter day tomorrow — or oblivion? The Bible reveals the answers to these and other crucial questions with which humanity is faced.
The Bible — a Deadly Weapon!
While the Word of God does use the term "two-edged sword" in self-description, some unscrupulous men have used it as a club over the heads of gullible "believers." Dishonest men, claiming to represent God, have twisted scriptures to their own ends and advantage. They have capitalized on the ignorance of the masses of biblical illiterates. Peter spoke of such individuals: "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things [new heavens and a new earth] be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, with out spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (II Peter 3:14-16). Notice, it is those who are unlearned and unstable who twist scriptures! The word "unlearned" is translated from the Greek amatheis which refers to someone who is rude in knowledge and uninstructed. Such people are uneducated in what the Bible really says. They are unstable in the faith of Jesus Christ — lacking a solid relationship with God. Secular education is not the criterion. Many highly educated men — scholars of considerable note — have not truly understood the Bible, even after decades of study. Whole commentaries have been written without basic understanding. Many have been prevented from understanding because they have not been willing to be corrected by Scripture (II Tim. 3:16). "... A good understanding have all they that do his commandments" (Ps. 111:10). Those who read and don't do, rarely understand!
The Sadducees' Problem
This appears to have been the problem with a group of religious leaders in Christ's day known as the Sadducees. The Sadducees were men very learned in the forms of contemporary religion. Yet they lacked understanding with regard to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. They were reasoning with Jesus about the mechanical difficulties of such an event. The account is quite revealing: "Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection ...." They then asked Jesus whose wife a woman would be if she had been married to seven successive brothers, all of whom were deceased. Jesus was quick to isolate their problem: "Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?" (Mark 12:18-24.) And as Matthew's account puts it: "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures" (Matt. 22:29). While the Sadducees were highly educated by contemporary standards, they were actually unlearned in the Scriptures. By the same token, many of today's theologians and scholars are actually biblical illiterates! The Prophet Isaiah offers an interesting commentary on the question of scholarship: "And the vision of all this is become unto you as the words of a writing that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying: 'Read this, I pray thee'; and he saith: 'I cannot, for it is sealed'; and the writing delivered to him that is not learned" (Isa. 29:11-12, Jewish Society Publication). The real problem is the fact that men pay lip service to God's way, but are not really willing to simply obey Him! Verse 13 points this out: "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men." Jesus Christ later quoted this very scripture to show the Scribes and the Pharisees their real problem: All the human rhetoric, tradition and ceremony in the world is no substitute for the pure truth of God's Word! Only a knowledge of, and obedience to, the Bible will provide the real base needed for true conversion and spirituality. The world of theology is in a sad state. There are as many theories as there are scholars to propound them! Few things are considered axiomatic in the world of biblical scholarship. Priests, ministers, rabbis and theologians of all stripes have served up a tableful of theological inconsistencies. "But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink... they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean" (Isa. 28:7-8). Yes, the heady wine of humanly originated tradition and theology has rendered its adherents ill. The sheer intellectual vanity of modern scholarship has indeed created a great spiritual sickness in this age. When theologians — who claim to be the custodians of theological truth — can seriously consider and propound the idea that God is dead, you know that all is not well in the world of theological scholarship!
Who May Understand?
To whom will God reveal the simple truth of His Word? Can the "unlearned" average person come to understand the deep spiritual truths of the Bible? Is it possible? Or is advanced scholarship necessary? Paul said to the Church of God in Corinth: "I fear, lest by any means... your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Cor. 11:3). Granted, there are some things that are more difficult to understand in the Bible. Not everything is childishly simple. But the basics are. Those fundamental principles in which every Christian should be well-grounded are not really that difficult to grasp — with the help of God's Spirit. It is necessary to first come to understand the simpler principles of the Bible. The more advanced "meat" of the Word follows later. Isaiah answers the question asked earlier: "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isa. 28:9-10). We may learn several things from this important scripture. God reveals truth to those who are humble as a child — to those who tremble at His Word. This is explained in Isaiah 66:2: "... But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." Jesus said only those who had the humility of a small child would ever enter into the Kingdom of God! And this is the attitude one must have toward God and His Word before one can progress spiritually. Once an attitude of respect for the Bible is developed, then one must learn step by step — from simple to complex — the fundamentals of the Maker's Instruction Book. All the scriptures on a subject must be compared and considered together. No scripture is of any private interpretation (II Pet. 1:20).
How God Revealed Truth
The Bible has been a developmental process over the centuries. God did not give the whole story in a single package at the outset. He has revealed truth on a number of subjects more or less piecemeal over the millennia. Human experience has provided a rich chronicle of case histories. The basic law of God has been in force since creation week,
"All such words were written of old for our instruction, that by remaining stedfast and drawing encouragement from the scriptures we may cherish hope" — Rom. 15:4, Moffatt
but God has progressively explained its application as new situations have arisen. Much of the Bible is a record of what has happened when God's great law of love has been violated — both individually and nationally. The entire Bible really rotates around the two great principles of the Decalogue — love toward God and love toward neighbor. God intends that we should learn from the record contained in the Bible.
The Lessons of Biblical History
If there's one thing we may learn from history, it's the fact that we haven't learned from history! Humanity today seems to continue in the same path it has for millennia. We make the same mistakes with the same results. Yet, if man would only learn from history, we would not have to repeat it! Speaking of the recorded biblical events, the Apostle Paul stated: "It all happened to them by way of warning for others, and it was written down for the purpose of instructing us whose lot has been cast in the closing hours of the world" (I Cor. 10:11, Moffatt translation). Again, speaking of the Old Testament record, Paul said: "All such words were written of old for our instruction, that by remaining stedfast and drawing encouragement from the scriptures we may cherish hope" (Rom. 15:4, Moffatt). God has laid bare the lives of those with whom He has worked over the centuries so that those who read and study their Bibles might learn and avoid the mistakes made in the past. The Bible is the most meaningful assemblage of case histories of human behavior ever recorded! No wonder Paul called the Scriptures "living oracles"!
Your Best Insurance Against Error
A thorough knowledge of your Bible is the best insurance you have against being led astray into doctrinal error. The strident voices of those who claim to represent God are being raised everywhere. How can you know who does and who does not? Simply by getting your nose into the Maker's Instruction Book! Read it. Study it. Drink deeply of its teaching and examples. Become familiar with it. Pray and ask God to help you understand His Word. If you do so, you will be able to say along with David: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105).
The Book Nobody Knows! More than seven million Bibles were sold last year. Forty different publishing companies print this Book and the total number of hundreds of millions of copies printed and distributed is impossible to estimate. It has now been translated into 1400 different languages. The Bible consistently is every year's best seller by a very wide margin, yet it is little read. It is the most-printed. most-purchased, most freely distributed. and certainly least understood book known to man! You need to know this Book; to know it you have to read and study it. But how? What are the best methods? To answer these questions, we have published two booklets explaining what you need to know. Read the Book and How To Study the Bible.