Monthly Archives: February 2001

Can We Understand the Bible by Jeff Himmel

You don’t have to conduct a formal poll to know that people are divided religiously. Even those who claim to be Christians often differ from one another, or even contradict one another, in belief and practice. Why?

Many people explain religious division by saying that the Bible cannot be understood. Some argue that anything coming from the mind of God must be beyond our ability to comprehend. Others say that the Bible is so old, so far removed from our culture and language, that 21st century people can’t possibly understand it. But if God has spoken to us, we can understand His word. And we must.

God said to the ancient Israelites, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). They could both understand and obey God’s instructions. He expected them to. That was true of the Old Covenant given through Moses, and it is true of the New Covenant given through Christ.

Consider what the inspired New Testament authors said about their message. They wrote to produce belief (John 20:30-31). They wrote to reveal God’s wisdom (Ephesians 3:4-5). They wrote to instruct us (1 Timothy 3:14-15; 1 John 2:1). They wrote to warn us and stir us to action (1 Corinthians 4:14; Jude 3). Clearly these men expected people to understand what they said. If their words are incomprehensible, then how can they accomplish their purposes? “For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (2 Corinthians 1:13).

If the Bible can’t be understood, then God hasn’t spoken to us clearly. That means He is either unable or unwilling to do so. We could hardly think He is unable. If He is unwilling, it means He has purposely left us with no way to know Him or His plan for us. Yet, Jesus promised that we will be judged by His words (John 12:48), and that His words can bring eternal life (John 5:24). If Scripture can’t be understood, then it defeats its own purpose.

Jesus said that God’s word is truth, and that it sanctifies us, or sets us apart to Him (John 17:17). In the same breath, He prayed that all who believed in Him through that word would be united as one (verses 20-22). God wants unity! Would He then make His word, the basis of that unity, something we can’t understand? God “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Would He then make the gospel, His power to salvation (Romans 1:16), something we can’t all comprehend? God wants us to “speak the same thing” and to “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). How can we, unless we are united in our understanding and application of His will?

Does all this mean that everything in the Bible is easy to understand? No. Even Peter admitted that some of the things his fellow apostle Paul wrote were difficult (2 Peter 3:15-16). But he also warned that people who twisted those things brought destruction on themselves. That implies that understanding them is not only possible, but essential. God wants us to give careful, prayerful attention to His word so that we can handle it rightly (2 Timothy 2:15).

I’m amazed that so many people express dismay at religious division, then perpetuate it by insisting that we can’t understand God’s word. To do so is to blame the division on God. The problem is not with God, but with us. The problem is not in our inability to understand God’s message, but our unwillingness to accept it. “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

God Has Spoken by Jeff Himmel

The Bible makes a bold claim for itself: it claims to be the word of God. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired of God [literally, ‘God-breathed’]” (2 Timothy 3:16). Peter said of the Old Testament, “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21). God’s Spirit also inspired the gospel, the New Testament (1 Peter 1:10-12). Jesus promised His apostles, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth . . . for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you” (John 16:13-14).

The Bible claims to be God’s word. If that’s true, then to read the Bible is to hear God speak. And if God has spoken, we’d do well to consider the implications.

If God has spoken, His word can be trusted. Every test has shown that the Bible is by far the most accurately preserved ancient writing. That’s no accident. “The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord abides forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25). The Scriptures are trustworthy because their Author is trustworthy (1 Corinthians 1:9).

If God has spoken, His word is right. Skeptics have charged that the Bible is full of mistakes. Worse, many “Christian” scholars think so, too. Consider the “Jesus Seminar,” a group of scholars who set out to determine which parts of the gospels are historical. So far they’ve concluded that Jesus actually said and did less than 20% of what is recorded about Him; the rest is misreported, exaggerated, or made up. But if the Bible comes from the all-knowing God, then it isn’t wrong — not even a little bit. God can’t lie (Titus 1:2) and He doesn’t get His facts wrong. His word is truth (John 17:17).

If God has spoken, His word is our authoritative standard. God’s word was enough to create the heavens (Psalm 33:6-12); it is enough to direct us! We must follow where it leads us, and stop where it limits us. Modern day thinking tends to reject absolute moral standards. And in fact, moral absolutes can’t come from imperfect men; they can only come from God. His message is the one perfect standard for determining right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and evil. If we abide in His word, we are true disciples of His (John 8:31). If not, then we don’t have God (2 John 9).

If God has spoken, His word is relevant. Even professed Christians will sometimes dismiss certain scriptures as nothing but products of someone’s cultural environment or personal views. Some pass over the Bible’s teaching against homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9) as a personal dislike of Paul’s. Some write off statements about women’s roles in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) and the family (1 Peter 3:1-6) as reflections of first-century social thought. They regard such passages as irrelevant to our modern situation.

I see two huge problems with this. First, if some Bible passages are just ancient men’s opinions, how can we trust any of it? How do we tell which teachings are from men and which are from God? If we dismiss parts of the Bible as irrelevant, we cast serious doubt on the whole thing. Second, the Bible writers claimed to be directed by God’s Spirit. If they were, then their words are God’s words (see 1 Corinthians 14:37). Do you want to tell God that He’s not relevant?

“But,” someone insists, “if the church is to survive, we have modify the Bible’s message to fit a changing culture.” Since when is God driven by public opinion? What He says is right, whether people accept it or not. I’m all for trying to make God’s word appeal to people, but if we alter it to match our likes and dislikes, we’re saying God is unable to give mankind a message that’s always relevant.

If the eternal, unchanging God is behind the Bible’s message, then it is relevant in any and every age. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

God has spoken. We need to hear what He has to say.

The Nature of God By Jeff Himmel

If the statistics are right, most people in America believe in God. Chances are that you do. But if you believe the God of the Bible exists, have you thought about what that means?

God is eternal — without beginning and without end. He is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2), the One “who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8). As an eternal being, God isn’t bound by time as we are (see 2 Peter 3:8). We humans can measure the passage of time, but we can’t move within it at will or free ourselves from its effects. Yet for God, time presents no constraints.

God is all-seeing, or omnipresent. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). David asked, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). God is everywhere, sees everything. If you find that thought a little disturbing, you should! We may be able to hide some things from one another, but “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13).

God is all-knowing, or omniscient. “There is no wisdom and no understanding And no counsel against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30). “God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20). With every advance in science, technology, medicine, and learning, we become more aware of how much we still don’t know. Yet God is able to know any and all things.

God is all-powerful, or omnipotent. Job proclaimed, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). We can’t create matter out of nothing, but God can (Exodus 20:11). We can’t undo death, but God can (Acts 17:31).

God is our Creator; we are made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). That means He has authority to define how we should live — what’s right and what’s wrong. He has authority to judge our obedience to that standard and to punish us if we don’t follow it (2 Corinthians 5:10). So when we violate His law, it involves real guilt; it is sin (1 John 3:4). And all of us are guilty, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

God is a Person, not some unfeeling force. He created us with a purpose: to have fellowship with Him. Sin destroys that relationship. But God’s authority means He can forgive our disobedience. And because God loves us, He has provided a way to do that — in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 8:1). Since it’s our sin that destroys the relationship, it follows that only God can set the terms of pardon. We can’t save ourselves; we have to submit to His requirements. Only through Christ can people be forgiven and escape the eternal consequences of sin. There’s no pursuit more worthwhile than being a child of God — a Christian.

God has revealed Himself. God is infinitely far above us. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). We can’t know God’s mind unless He reveals it to us (1 Corinthians 2:9-13). And if the eternal, all-powerful, all-wise, all-seeing God has spoken, then we need to hear Him. If our creator, lawgiver, and judge says anything about our purpose, acceptable conduct, and how we can have fellowship with Him, then we must listen.

The Bible is God’s revelation to us. Specifically, He speaks to us today in the gospel of Christ — the New Testament (Hebrews 1:1-2). Its message is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). It is complete; God has revealed everything we need to know (2 Peter 1:3). The Scriptures describe mankind’s purpose, God’s standard of right and wrong conduct, and how we can have a relationship with Him. The consequences of ignoring that revelation are grave (Hebrews 2:1-4).

God created us. He has a will for us. And He has revealed it to us in Scripture. It’s the worst kind of foolishness, then, not to devote ourselves to knowing Him and living in harmony with His word. In fact, that’s our whole purpose in life (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Do you believe in God? If so, what have you done about it?

Why do we believe there is a God? By Bill Blue

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Why do we believe there is a God?

Have you ever been asked why you believe in God? How did you respond? If you do not believe in God, why not?

We live in a universe where “laws of nature” exist. The existence of these laws suggests that an intelligent creator made the universe. The Bible argues this very point.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalms 19:1)

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse….” (Romans 1:18-20)

Someone once said, “Something is, something cannot come from nothing; therefore, something eternally was.” This saying is true; something cannot come from nothing. Atheists and evolutionists cannot explain where matter for the “Big Bang,” this planet, or even man came, though we can all agree that it had to come from somewhere.

The characteristics of the universe argue for an intelligent creator (Psalms 19:1; Romans 1:18-23). Consider the universe’s design, the laws of nature (e.g., gravity and physics), the existence of life, its delicate balance, and the design of the human body and whole ecosystems. Consider also the nature of man, how he has a sense of morality, has always sought to worship a creator, has always created laws, has always appreciated beauty, and has always possessed the ability to reason rationally about what is good or evil. Do not these characteristics and designs suggest a designer? Which is the more reasonable belief, that all of this occurred by accident, or through the intelligent purpose of some greater being?

Did you know that the Bible describes scientific facts about some of these designs that man could not prove on his own until thousands of years after the Bible was written? In Isaiah 40:22, the Bible speaks about the “circle” of the earth even though most people in Western culture believed the world was flat as late as the 15th Century. Other such facts include: Space (“He [God] hangs the earth on nothing,” Job 26:7); the cycle of water from rain to rivers to oceans and back to the clouds through evaporation (Ecclesiastes 1:7 and Job 36:27); and the existence of ocean currents (Psalm 8:6-8). Again, Western culture did not discover these facts until the 15th Century.

If this Creator or Designer does exist, then two possibilities also exist: The Creator has either spoken to us or He has left us to our own devices. If He has spoken to us, then we must seek out His message because if He has the power to create us, we must assume that He also has the power to punish us.

Fortunately, we have the Bible. The Bible claims to be the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21) and it describes God as our Creator (Genesis 1:1, 26-27; 2:7; Psalms 33:6-9; John 1:1-3; Hebrews 11:3), who is eternal (1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 22:13; Exodus 3:13-14; John 8:58). Thus, He was here before the creation of the universe.

The Bible also describes God in many other ways that we will study in the weeks ahead in future articles. If we want to learn more about God and please Him, we must read and obey His word.

Of course, an atheist will always argue that the existence of God cannot be proven by scientific means. Perhaps this is true, but my faith will suffice for me.

As the writer of Hebrews says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). I have not seen God with my own eyes; therefore, by definition my belief in Him is faith. However, considering the wonders of the universe, and the perfection of the Bible, let me ask you this:

What takes greater faith, belief in God, or believing that everything that is created happened merely by chance and without the intelligent design of a creator?