How do you see the bible?
Here’s a statement that was made to me this past week. “You see the bible as a rule book, instead of a testimony of the life of Jesus.” That’s an interesting comparison; A rule book on the one hand, and a testimony on the other. How do you see the bible? Do you see it as nothing more than a book of rules? Do you see it as nothing more than a testimony of the life of Jesus? What do you see the bible as?
What does the bible claim to be? How does the bible present itself? Let’s consider how the bible presents itself, and let’s start with the old testament. How does the old testament present itself? With the old testament consisting of 39 different book, I’d have to say that the old testament presents itself in several different ways. There’s books of wise sayings called proverbs. And there’s books of poetry and psalms. A psalm is really a song. But it’s a song that’s considered to be a “sacred” song, or a hymn.
And then there’s many books of prophecies, that tell about future events. Some events that would take place shortly, but others that wouldn’t take place for centuries to come. There’s books that itemize, and specify various laws that God gave to His people, namely to the nation of Israel. And there’s one book, the book of Genesis, that’s really just a book of history. First it’s the history of the earth and the universe, and then the history of mankind in general. But after chapter 12, it really follows the history of only one specific family, namely, the family of Abraham, through his descendants, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s twelve sons.
The old testament really doesn’t say anything about itself, as to what type of book it is, I guess because it’s so many different books in one. But if I had to try to sum it up, and choose just one phrase to describe how I see the old testament, I guess I’d have to say that I see it as a book of history. The history of creation, and of mankind, and of the family of Abraham, and of the nation of Israel. A book of approximately 4,000 years of history.
But I really can’t limit it to that degree. I’d have to say that the old testament, is a book of history, intermingled with songs and poetry and prophecy. And all of the long term prophecy, I’d have to say, would be in reference to the Messiah, and His kingdom. So then that’s how I see the old testament.
The new testament actually has a little bit to say about how we SHOULD see the old testament. For example; It says in 1 Corinthians 10, verse 6, referring to some of the history recorded in the old testament; “Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved.” And verse 11 says; “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
So then, we are told by God, in the new testament, that at least some of the old testament, should be seen as an example, of what we should not do. God specifies in 1 Corinthians 10:6 thru 10, that we should not crave evil things. And that we should not be idolaters, nor should we act immorally, nor should we “try” the Lord, nor should we grumble.
God also tells us in the new testament, that we should use parts of the old testament, as guiding principles. Now, it doesn’t sue those exact words, but the new testament quite often quotes the old testament, and many times it says; “As it is written..” So in other words, use this saying, or use this example, to guide you in your life today, and in your faith today.
That phrase was used in one of those verses that I just mentioned, in 1 Corinthians 10:7; “And do not be idolaters, as some of them were, as it is written; The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” That was referring to how the people worshipped, and danced around the golden calf, when Moses was up on Mt Sinai with God.
That phrase was also used by Jesus, three times, when He was being tempted in the wilderness. He said to satan, in Mathew 4, verses 4, 7, and 10, “It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone”, and “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”, and “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” And all those things should guide our lives today, just like it was written in the old testament.
Now here’s what might surprise you; That phrase, “It is written”, is used over 70 times in the new testament. So God is really telling us how we should see the old testament. We’re supposed to see it as an example, and we’re supposed to use the principles stated in the old testament, to guide us in our lives today. That’s how we should see the old testament.
But what about the new testament? How should we see the new testament? Should we see it as a book of rules and regulations? Or should we see it as a testimony of the life of Jesus? Or should we see it in several different ways, just like we see the old testament. After all, the new testament is also made up of a lot of different books, 27 to be exact. And not all the books give us the same type of information.
Here’s a statement made in the book of John, that tells us exactly how we should see that book. John 20:30 & 31 says; “Many other signs therefore, Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book. But these have been written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name.”
That is the reason that the book of John was written, and that is how we should see that book. What about the other three books, that were written in the same fashion, and that also give the history of Jesus Christ, and the things that He said and did? What about Mathew, Mark, and Luke? How should we see those books? All four of those books, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, all tell of the history of Jesus Christ, and of the things that he said, and of the things that He did. And they all testify to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!
Those books are the testimony of the life of Jesus Christ. And that’s exactly how we should see those four books of the new testament. And so the fella who said that we should see the new testament as a testimony of the life of Jesus, was correct in part, because a part of the new testament, is a testimony of the life of Christ.
But that’s a little vague isn’t it? I mean, what does “the life of Christ” refer to? Is it simply a testimony that Jesus actually lived? Is it a testimony that Jesus was in fact the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God? Is it a testimony of only the life of Christ, or is it also a testimony to the death and burial and resurrection of Christ? Well, I’d have to say that the first four books of the bible, are a testimony of all of those things. They testifies to the fact that Jesus lived, and that He is the Christ, and that He was crucified, and that He died and was buried, and that he arose again on the third day, just like it tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3 & 4.
But here’s something else that those four books are a testimony of. They’re a testimony of the teachings of Jesus. They’re a testimony of how we should treat our fellow man. For example; Luke 6:31 teaches us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s a teaching of Jesus. Is that a “rule” that we need to follow? Of course it is. It’s a testimony directly from God, of the teachings of Jesus Christ, that God expects us to follow.
How about the second greatest commandment of all? Is that a testimony from God, on how to treat others? Listen; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31. Of course it’s God’s own testimony to us. And it’s teaching us how to treat others, and it’s a rule that God expects us to follow. “Love you neighbor as yourself”, It’s not just a nice thought, it’s how God expects us to conduct ourselves. And if we don’t, we’ll answer to God for it.
The bible is also a testimony from God, teaching us how to treat Him. Like the greatest commandment of all; “You shall love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you strength.” Mark 12, verse 30. That is a rule that you must follow, if you expect to be saved. It’s not an option, it’s a rule, it’s mandatory.
And how about Luke 9:23, where Jesus teaches us this; “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Are you going to be saved without following Jesus? You’re not, are you? You’ve got to follow Jesus. He’s the “way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father, but through Me”, Jesus said, in John 14:6. So then here’s a part of God’s testimony to us, on how to be saved; Deny yourself, and take up your cross daily, and follow Christ. Is that a “rule” from God, for us to obey? Of course it is. It’s a part of the testimony of God, on how to be saved. Love the Lord thy God, with everything that you’ve got. Is these “rules” to govern our lives? Of course they are. God’s word testifies to that fact!
Can you be saved without following those rules? NO! You can NOT be saved without following God’s rules! If you refuse to follow God’s rules, then for you, it won’t matter whether Jesus was sacrificed for your sins, or not. Because you refuse to accept the gift that God has offered to you. God has offered you the forgiveness of your sins, and the promise of eternal life with Him. Are you going to accept His offer by being obedient to His rules, or are you going to refuse His gift, because you don’t believe in rules?
It’s as simple as that. If you don’t believe in rules, then maybe there won’t be any rules in hell. But there are rules in this life. But if you refuse to follow the rules, then you forfeit God’s gift of salvation. I don’t see anything unfair about that, and I don’t see how it can be any plainer than that.
You know, we haven’t even left the first four books of the new testament yet, but we can already easily see, that a part of the new testament is a testimony of the life of Christ, including His death, burial, and resurrection. And another part of the new testament is a testimony of how we need to view God and treat God. And another part is a testimony of how we should how treat one another. It’s all a testimony of something, isn’t it? God’s word is always testifying something to us. That’s why it’s called the new testament. It’s God’s testament to us.
But what do we see when we do go further in the bible, past the first four books? Well, here’s what we see in the book of Acts for instance. We see the testimony that Jesus gave to His apostles, before He ascended back to heaven. The testimony was that they (the apostles) were going to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit, not many days from now.” (Acts 1:5). Then we see the testimony that the apostles gave, on the day of Pentecost. Such as Acts 2:36; “Let all the house of Israel know for certain. that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Strong testimony isn’t it?
And then what do we see in the book of Acts? We see more strong testimony. But this time it’s not testimony of Jesus being the Christ, it’s testimony of how to be saved from your sins. Here’s the testimony, from God, through the mouth of the apostle Peter; Acts 2:38; “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
That’s the testimony from God, of how to be forgiven of your sins. Do we need to adhere to that testimony from God, as if it were a “rule” of how to be forgiven? Of course we do. Why would God give the testimony, if He didn’t expect us to follow what the testimony says?
And what testimony does God give concerning remaining saved? Well, Jesus testifies in Mathew 24:13; “But the one who endure to the end, he shall be saved.” Is that a rule that applies to us? Of course, it applies to everyone. And when we don’t endure, but instead, give in to the temptation to sin, then what? Well, here’s God’s testimony about that situation; God says in 1 John 1:9; “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God has testified, that’s how it’s done. Do we as Christians, need to follow that “rule”, in order to be forgiven of our sins? That’s the testimony of God on the subject, so we better be following it.
If we were to go through the rest of the new testament, we would see that God gives us His testimony, on how to conduct ourselves as Christians, and on how and when to gather ourselves together, and acceptably worship Him, as a congregation. As a matter of fact, God has given us His testimony on “everything that pertains to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3.
And we have God’s personal testimony, on the fact, that in order to become a Christian, we need to follow His rules. We need to hear His word, and believe it! And we need to repent of our sins, and we need to be baptized for the forgiveness of those sins, just like His testimony said, in Acts 2:38. And of course we need to always be willing to confess our faith in God, and in His Son Jesus Christ, just like Jesus testified, in Mathew 10:32 & 33.
How do you see the bible? Is it a testimony of the life of Jesus Christ? Of course it is. Is it a testimony of the rules that God requires us to follow? Of course it is. But what’s of utmost importance to all of us, the bible is a testimony from God, that if we have faith in Him, and obey His word, then He will save us eternally.
Thank God for His love, and for His grace, and for His Son, and for His forgiveness, and for His testimony.