What is the Bible?

The Bible

Written by: George J. Elling

The word “bible” simply means “book.” It has sometimes been called “The Book” or “The Good Book” because it is the most widely published book of all time and because of its content.

Actually, the Bible is not really a single book. Its content was written over a period of about 1,500 years by approximately 40 authors. The subsections of the Bible, also called “books”, consist of various types of literature; from historical narratives to poetry, proverbs, letters, and prophecies. These books are grouped into two main sections: The Old Testament, originally written almost exclusively in Hebrew, and the New Testament, originally written in the common Greek of the first century A.D.

The first 5 books are called the Books of Moses, or the law (“Torah” in Hebrew). They tell us about the creation of man, how we came to be separated from a personal relationship with God, and the consequences of that. They also tell us about the beginnings of God’s plan to bring us back to Himself.

First God called a man, Abram (later called Abraham), to have faith in Him. From the descendants of this one man, God promised to bring blessing and created a nation known today as the Hebrew or Jewish people. Early in their existence, the Hebrews became enslaved in Egypt. So, God called another man, named Moses, to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery and give them laws and regulations to become the nation known as Israel. In this process, God entered into a covenant with the Hebrews such that they would become a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” with the task of revealing God’s Word to others. The history of Israel and God’s revelations through them make up the rest of the Old Testament until we come to the time of Christ, the Messiah.

Many people do not realize that the word “Christ” is a title and means the same thing as “the Messiah”. The term “Christ” is from the Greek and “Messiah” is from the Hebrew. Translated into English, these terms mean “anointed one.”

As God had sent a deliverer to lead the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt, God spoke to the Hebrew prophets, priests, and kings about a coming anointed one who would be a deliverer to redeem all people of all nations from their bondage to “sin”, i.e., their acts and attitudes that fall short of God’s holiness and perfection. This sin is what separates us from God and from each other leading to conflicts. The Bible says:

“for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;”
Romans 3:23

The arrival the Christ and the consequential changes brought about in people’s lives is the story of the New Testament. The New Testament describes Christ’s coming as Jesus of Nazareth, his ministry on earth, his death on a cross, his resurrection to new life, and the development of the early church. The New Testament ends with prophecies of things to come.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus Christ’s death redeemed us from our sins and through his resurrection we are given new life, His life, in and by the Holy Spirit.  That is, we can now have a spiritual rebirth through the spirit. The Bible says:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 6:23

Thus, the Bible is sometimes referred to as “the gospel” which means “good news.” Yes, the Bible has some hard things to say about us, and the people whose stories it recounts. But it also tells us how we can now be reborn spiritually, and in the future, experience a resurrection to life with God eternally and restoring the relationship we were created to have with Him.

How do you avail yourself of this opportunity for new birth, for a spiritual reset? The Bible says:

8 “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 
9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 
10 “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 
11 “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 
12 “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 
13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Romans 10:8-13

You can call upon the name of the Lord by prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God by faith, out loud or silently in your heart. Express to Him your need for a Savior, or Redeemer, and invite Christ into your life to change you into the person He would have you to be. Then thank Him for His death on the cross for the forgiveness of your sin and for the promise of the Holy Spirit in your life. You will now experience a new life, Christ’s life in your heart.

To grow in your understanding and to express worship to God and to experience fellowship with other believers, seek out a good Bible-teaching church and go there. Ask God to lead you to the right church. As with anything new, it will take some time for you to adjust to what God is doing in your life now that you have placed your faith and trust in Christ. Also, spend some time reading the Bible each day to better understand what is happening in your life. I’d recommend that you start with the New Testament section of the Bible, the section that recounts the Life of Christ on earth and the teachings of the early church. In time you will learn about the Old Testament section of the Bible that recounts what led up to the arrival of Christ on earth and it will give you more foundation for your faith.

Additional Notes about the Bible Quotes:

The words after the biblical quotes, for example, “Romans 10: 8-13”, refer to where the quote came from in the Bible. First is the name of the book within the Bible (Romans 10: 8-13). In this example, the book is called “Romans.” The numbers after the book’s name refer to the chapter and verse, or range of verses where the quote is found (Romans 10: 8-13). In this example, it is chapter 10, verses 8 through 13.

If you are not familiar with the books of the Bible you can look them up in the table of contents in the front of most Bibles.

-GJE

©Mark Davis 2021

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Tough Encounters

The events of recent days have tried many people’s patience and understanding. We are seeing it all; from the sickness of the Covid19 virus to marches in the streets, to rioting and looting, and political intrigue. In the midst of it is easy to lose a focus on what being a Christian is all about.

Written by: George J. Elling

The events of recent days have tried many people’s patience and understanding. We are seeing it all; from the sickness of the Covid19 virus to marches in the streets, to rioting and looting, and political intrigue. In the midst of it is easy to lose focus on what being a Christian is all about.

Some side with a particular political or activist group. Some side with the police and others with the call to defund the police. Some identify with this racial or ethnic group and others with a different group. There are plenty of viewpoints to go around. As we all respond to people and the issues of the day here are a few things to keep in mind from a Christian perspective.

What has been happening is Nothing New nor a Surprise to God

There have been intergroup misunderstandings, dissentions, inequities and wars since the beginning of human history. Education, politics, police, armies, etc. cannot solve the basic problem of people’s hearts. Only God can change us from within. That is why Jesus told a very religious and pious man that he needed to be “born again” or “born from above” (John 3). God is in the business of changing us.

Also, remember that all of what comes your way is “filtered through the hands of God.” He knew this was going to happen and is with you through the midst of it.

“…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Matthew 28:20b

Act as God did, out of Love

“For God so loved the world that He gave…
John 3:16a

God was under no obligation to rescue us and save us from ourselves. He acted from a pure, self-giving love. This type of love always has a cost. This is why God’s actions to save us are referred to in the Bible as redemption and as God “paying” a price for our redemption.

Jesus instructed us to love as He loved, and to go so far as to love even our enemies.

If we are to have this type of giving love for enemies, how much more should we have this love for those who simply disagree with us or advance a different cause? Also, note that we are to pray for those we believe persecute us. Some of our problems are because we are not praying for those we disagree with.

See people and people-groups as God does – See them from Above

Our basic perspective is very limited. All we do is see things from our natural limited point of view and time on this earth, which is all too brief and self-focused.

Paul wrote that he no longer saw people after the flesh, i.e., from the viewpoint of a natural man who is without the Spirit of God in his life.

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh:”
2 Corinthians 5:16a

Instead, Paul urged the following:

“1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
“2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

Colossians 3:1-4

Our present and future is not to be that of the natural man or woman who has not been born again of the Holy Spirit. We are to see people from the perspective of God and eternity. Our own rewards and glory will come when Christ is revealed again in all of His glory.

Resolve to be an Ambassador who is a Peace Maker

An ambassador is someone who represents another person or a country. An ambassador does not represent himself or his own self-interests. As we interact with others, we need to keep in mind that as a Christian we are to be ambassadors for Christ.

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:20

Christians are to be God’s ambassadors to bring about reconciliation between God and man and between men. Jesus taught his disciples:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Matthew 5:9

And,

10 “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 
12 “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:”

Matthew 5:10-12a

A peace maker is one who brings reconciliation. We should ask ourselves what would Christ have us do to reconcile a person to God and to bring about reconciliation between people we interact with.

Your actions are not to focus on You, but about the needs of Others

Your needs will be met in Christ:

“But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” 
Philippians 4:19

With your own needs met in Christ you can move forward with confidence in helping others.

Listen carefully, you don’t know the Whole Story

Each person you meet is coming to you with a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad. They are most likely acting out of that compilation of cultural inputs, teachings, successes, failures, rejections, and hurts. So, listen carefully to understand before you try to speak. This isn’t about you winning a Harvard style debate. It is about you being an ambassador for Christ (see above).

19 “…Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” 
James 1:19b-20

God is at work to Change You as much as He wants to Change Them

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Philippians 2:12

Each believer is called upon to apply the Word of God in everyday situations as part of “working out” or the “out working” of his or her salvation. As noted above, God knew you would be in an interaction with whoever it is that you are interacting with today. Now is the time to be the man or woman God intends you to be.

James teaches us:

22 “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 
23 “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 “For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 
25 “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein
, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
James 1:22-25

God will bless us through interacting with others in a godly way in spite of tough or challenging circumstances.

Count it all Joy

James wrote:

2 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 
3 “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 
4 “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” 

James 1:2-4

God is more interested in you becoming a complete man or woman in Christ with Christ in you (Colossians 1:27) than He is in your “solving” whatever challenge you are facing. The trial or challenge you face helps accomplish this goal. Therefore, rejoice in challenges as an opportunity to grow as a person and help fulfill the mission of Christ.

“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Christ’s name).”
Acts 5:41

You also may be helping to fill up what was “lacking” in Christ’s suffering on behalf of others in the body of Christ. Paul wrote of himself:

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:”
Colossians 1:24

What you are going through is not without purpose for your life and others.

Take Courage!

As stated in the beginning of this essay, Jesus told His disciples that:

“…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Matthew 28:20b

The apostle Paul was so convinced of his life being “in Christ” that he could therefore confidently say:

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21

In life, or death, Paul’s life was safe in Christ. Yours is too if you have received Him into your life.

Abide in Christ

Trying to do any and all of the above will be futile self-effort if you are not abiding in Christ. Give up on your self-efforts to control people and situations. You are not God. Give up on trying to have an immediate answer for everything and focus on Christ and His word. Jesus told His disciples:

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
John 15:5

Some ways to abide in Christ include:

  • Read and meditate on God’s word
  • Memorize God’s word
  • Listen for God’s voice
  • Pray for God’s direction, for the needs of others, and to be an instrument of His love.

-GJE

©Mark Davis 2021

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