This year commenmorates a great event. One hundred and fifty years ago the American Bible Society came into being. And what a tremendous work has been accomplished by this Spirit-inspired organization. Throughout the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church the Word of God has had a primary place in our thoughts and our planning. It is fitting that we who have been known as a "people of the Book" should pay tribute to the America Bible Society and in doing so take a new look at our relationship to God's Word.
Our Christian experience is bound up with our relationship to the Word of God. D. L. Moody inscribed in a friend's Bible, "This book will keep you from your sins, or your sins will keep you from this Book." How true! But how is it true?
Selden, Confucius, and Job
"In the beginning was the Word . . ." (John 1:1). Without words—written, spoken, or thought—there is no communication, no law, no system of orderly life for the human race. Words are the means by which personal beings express or reveal themselves. Science, art, and industry would be helpless without words. One must know words to even interpret the meaning and beauty of a painting. Little wonder John Selden wrote, "Syllables govern the world." Confucius said, "Withcsut knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men." Job 6:25 declares, "How forcible are right words!" What do you read, think or say? Words!
One Out of Twelve Proves Sickness
Words reveal the heart of man. Several years ago mind scientists kept accurate records of the words of mentally ill individuals. The findings revealed that self-centered words such as "I," "me," "my," and "mine" were used one time out of every twelve words. Normal individuals used the same words only one time out of every thirty-six words. Christ, knowing the direct relationship between a man's character and his words, emphatically stated, "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matt. 12:37). Compare this fact with John 1:1—"In the beginning was the Word, . . ."
To literally see God this very moment would be a glorious cataclysmic experience if we could stand it. His visible presence would awe us into submission. His outward form and beauty would compel us to bow down in adoration. But God's exquisite, radiant form of splendid beauty is not what makes God God! God's features, form and raiment are not of primary importance now or necessarily ever! God's glory is not found in His looks. A careful study of Isaiah 53 indicates that Christ veiled Himself in common humanity in order to elevate the truth that the revelation of God's character and will is of supreme moment.
Mind Made Visible
The world's nadir point of time came when God's spoken and written Word was hopelessly misconstrued and twisted. At that moment, "God sent forth his Son" (Gal. 4:4) and the "Word was made flesh" (John 1:14). Here was God's thought made audible. God's mind made visible. God's character made tangible. God's heart made real. Here was God the Word walking, living, talking, thinking, acting among men. But the impact was made, not by His looks, but by His character revealed in act and word. Those who were the most profoundly affected by the life of Christ were those who believed and acted upon His Words. Follow Him through the narrow streets of town and village. Listen to Him say "walk," "rise," "sin no more," "have faith," "thy sins are forgiven," "live." Ordinary words—yes, but by an extraordinary Person. Ordinary words—but words of power, life, and light to those who believed. "The people which sat in darkness saw great light" (Matt. 4:16). When doubt barriers were broken, blind men saw, dumb men spoke, dead men awakened!
God's Nerve Center
Where is our God? To know God without God is impossible. Our God is revealed in His written Word. By Satanic instinct, the battle against God's church is directed against its citadel—the Bible. It is the only tangible, visible, touchable, divine monument in the world! You can never label religious buildings or organizations as divine. They can be far off the track of truth. But the Bible itself is the nerve center of God's program in the earth. The fate of the Bible is the fate of the Christian. Our attitude toward it is our attitude toward God. Criticize it, question it, forget it, avoid it, reject it, misuse it—these actions are simply in harmony with Satan's attempt to undermine men's faith in God's Word. Satan's first temptation focused on the Word of God. With clever refinement he said to Eve "hath God said . . . ?" (Gen. 3:1). Destroy it and you destroy God from your life. Love it, use it, study it, believe it, obey it —then the words of John become a living reality in our lives. "He that eateth me, even he shall live by me" (John 6:57). "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (verse 63). His Word becomes flesh and blood through us.
"Likeness of Sinful Flesh"
The phenomenon of the Sacred Scriptures is definitely a part of the mystery of Godliness. Just as Christ came in the "likeness of sinful flesh," so His written Word is clothed in human language. It is perfection dressed in the clothes of imperfection —human language. Strange paradox! Yet this strangeness enables the human mind to avoid the slime pits of doubt caused by some seemingly contradictory scriptural statement or some hard to understand passage. Those who attempt to fathom every point and detail of the divinity of Christ cannot but fall prey to the hawk of heresy. The same is true of those who attempt to understand every single facet of His humanity. It is an inscrutable mystery and ever will be. Faith and faith alone is the only complete answer to the Incarnation. The same is true with the Scriptures. The inspiration of the Word of God is not an academic question. It is a question of faith. Christ's words to Peter, "Flesh and blood have not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" is a foundation principle for those who seek to know God through His Word. Revelation is the basis of our faith. The sooner we stop concerning ourselves with the philosophies and speculations of finite man about God's Word and begin to hear and obey what the infinite God has to say to us through that Word, the stronger we will be spiritually and mentally. We will find the secret of its power for us.
Dissect or Let Direct?
The Bible was never given to us to dissect, but to direct! You can't put the Bible in a test tube any more than you can put God in a test tube. The Bible has man in the test tube instead. We are judged and tested by the Word! Today we live in a whirlwind of philosophies that have only one thing in common. They elevate man's opinions above God's Word of authority. Subjective experience is made paramount above a plain thus saith the Lord. For any of these cyclonic winds of false doctrines to get inside the church leaves no alternative except a path of destruction and death. Certainly religion is an intimate, personal affair, but to know and understand God one must find Him within the framework of His written revelation. Some claim we must know the Scriptures, but above all else we must know the Person, Jesus Christ. But we ask, how can we know Jesus Christ without knowing the Scriptures? How can we know anything about Martin Luther unless we read those records left by and about Luther? To attempt to know and have an experience with God outside the structure of His Word is essentially spiritualism. This is going according to our senses which ultimately is senseless.
"Turn the Mains Off"
The Bible is not a book it is the Book. The difference between the Bible and all other books claiming spiritual authority can, in a certain sense, be compared to God's attitude toward the gods of wood, stone, and metal. "I am God, and there is none else."
"The word of God should be thoroughly studied. All other reading is inferior to this. A careful study of the Bible will not necessarily exclude all other reading of a religious nature; but if the word of God is studied prayerfully, all reading which will have a tendency to divert the mind from it will be excluded."—Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 337, 338. Results in the spiritual life will be seen if with true faith we respond to the Scriptures by accepting and acting upon its commands and promises as if the very Person of God is there visibly standing and audibly commanding. Emanating from our God through His Word is the same creative power which fashioned the universe. The very life of the Infinite One is channeled through our being as we grasp the written mind of God. There is an electrifying, transforming power that brings life and vitality to our deadened natures.
J. B. Phillips, known for his interesting version of the New Testament, was overwhelmed by the vitality and power of the Word. "Again and again" he said "as I carried out my translation, I felt like an electrician who was rewiring an ancient house without being able to turn the mains off."
Ten Commandments for Making the Bible More Meaningful in Your Life
To grasp and appropriate this ever-available power, to elevate the Scriptures to their rightful place in our hearts, we submit the following suggestions for consideration:
- Pray for the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit before attempting to study the Bible. "No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:11, R.S.V.).
- Search the Scriptures for the purpose of finding God's will for your own life. Avoid searching for textual evidence to support some pet theory which can so easily lead one into error.
- As you study, pray earnestly that the principles of truth may be incorporated in your own life. On occasions, kneel before God with the Scriptures before you and earnestly plead that His commands and promises will become a reality in your experience.
- Use the Bible during worship periods. Do not let religious books, regardless of their aims and value take the place of the Bible. Let the children become familiar with holding, handling, and reading the Word of God.
- Encourage your children to make their Sabbath school and church school Bible lessons supreme in their study. "Their Scripture lessons should be learned more perfectly than their lessons in the common schools. If parents and children see no necessity for this interest, then the children might better remain at home; for the Sabbath school will fail to prove a blessing to them." —Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 189.
- Let each member of the family have his or her own Bible. Parents and older children should have good Bibles. An element of pride resulting from possession of an excellent quality Bible tends to increase appreciation for the Word of the Lord.
- Set a goal of every member in the family carrying his or her own Bible to all religious services. Even the tiny tots can be trained to follow this practice. The younger the better, for this act will build in the character a precious habit.
- Secure a pocket-size Bible, New Testament, or the small individual books of the Bible and carry them with you always. While riding to work or waiting for an appointment spend those precious seconds in assimilating the Word. Every opportunity improved to gain some precious thought from the treasure temple of truth will give strength and power to the individual.
- Set up a program for systematic study of the Word besides the regular study of the Sabbath school lesson. Study the books of the Bible separately, finding out everything possible about the author of the book, who he was writing to, what he was trying to say, and what application it has for your own personal life. Another method is to study the great central themes of our faith such as the Atonement, Second Corning, Incarnation, and law of God. Above all, seek for passages that give power over sin and victory over temptation. The use of a complete concordance, Spirit of Prophecy books, and Bible commentaries is invaluable in this endeavor.
- Memorize portions of the Scripture. Place important texts on small cards and carry them with you. Refer to them as opportunity permits. Keep the mind centered on God's promises. This is the only way we can be shielded from the constant barrage of evil which is continually attempting to enter our eyes and ears.
A Man of One Book
John Wesley said, "I am a creature of a day. I want to know one thing: the way to heaven. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. He has written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price give me the book of God! Let me be a man of one book." Truly we can agree with the words of David, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105).
People of the Book are people of power.