God’s word in the bible
Good day, brothers and sisters in Christ.
First of all, Vox listeners, I want to ask you to listen to this sermon more than once, because there are a lot of new ideas in it, which I want you to think about seriously.
I want to try to sort out a few things based on something Paul said in his first letter to the Thessalonians. So 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5 verse 19. He says there:
“Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good”.
It is about testing what is said in prophecies.
The question is: ‘How do you test what is said?’
And then something Peter said in his second letter, in chapter 1 verse 19.
“And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation”
Well that’s certainly very clear isn’t it?
Do you know what is meant by the expression “the power of suggestion”? You know, when you take a prophecy of Isaiah, for example, and suggest it applies to the natural nation Israel, because that how you see it, that’s your interpretation of the scripture.
Well. Peter says here quite plainly: “no prophecy is a matter of one’s owninterpretation, because, verse 21,
”no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”.
The book you have in your hands, (if you are following the verses we are reading in your own book, that is,) this book we call the Bible, or the Holy Scriptures, or God’s Word, or the Book of books. Okay.
The word ‘Bible’ comes from the word ‘biblia’ which simply means books and documents, things that have been written down.
It is a collective word, a plural, because the Bible is not a book with just one story, but a collection of writings that we now call the Old and New Testament. These names come from a term Paul uses, but personally I am not so fond of the expression. I would rather call them the Old and New Covenant. Because a covenant refers to a relationship, an agreement between people, and that’s what it always comes down to, the relationship between God and man.
Thefirst section of the Bible, concerning the Old Covenant, consists mainly of a collection of Jewish writings. That was all the disciples had. The second section, about the New Covenant that Jesus makes, consists of the Gospels, the epistles and then the remarkable book of Revelation.
The languages in which the first section is written are mainly Hebrew and Aramaic, and the second section about the new covenant is written in the Greek language that was spoken at that time. That was a sort of common language that everyone understood, like the English language today. There are, of course, also an incredible number of varying styles of handwriting, and translations. The greatest problem with translations is that they all vary slightly, because the original text is in itself often difficult to understand. So there are also lots of different versions of the translation.
So, how did we get this Bible as we know it today? Who decided what to put in the book, and what not?
Are you familiar with the term ‘canonical? It comes from the word ‘canon’ meaning reed, or cane. And thiscane used to be used as a measure, to check, for example, if a wall had been built straight, if the angle at which it had been built was true, and when used figuratively it has the same meaning. Is what you say true, is something genuine and authentic.
It has come to mean a standard or norm. But what is normal? By which standards are you guided?
As far as the scriptures in theOld Covenant are concerned, Jesus often refers to the Psalms, and to the things said by the prophets and by Moses. He says: those are the most important. You can read all the stories in Kings and Chronicles if you like, and if you find some special meaning in them, then that’sfine, but most important are the Psalms and what was said byMoses and the prophets, both the greater and the lesser.
And what about the New Testament? Well, that consists mainly of the gospels and the epistles. They were all written a very long time after Christ.
I’m sure that when Paul wrote these pastoral letters to the churches he never dreamt that they would ever be published as a collection, and studied in great detail. Ifyou wrote a letter to someone, or to a church abroad, wouldyou expect it to be included in the collection? And that afterwards lengthy theological commentaries would be written about it?
So, who decided which books were genuine, and which werenot? How can you know something like that? The bible wasn’t put together until hundreds of years after Christ. And by whom? By emperors, popes and councils. THEY decided, and what they chose became the canon, and that’s how we came by the canonical books. And the books that they were not sure about are called the deutero-canonical books. And the books whose contents they thought might not be authentic, were called aprophycal books.
Luthersaid: “Include them too, it won’t hurt to read them too”.
But the Roman Catholic church said: “We will decide what is included and what not”.
Because to start with everyone was catholic.
And at first, when the books were compiled for thefirst time, the second epistle of Peter, for example, from which I’ve just read a passage, that wasn’t included. And the third letter of John wasn’t included either, and certainly not the book of Revelation, - such a wildly fantastic story, like science fiction nowadays, ………or should we say religious fiction! They were added to the collection later on.
And take the Gospel of John. That was made up of documents with many different styles of handwriting. Which one do you choose? Which one is genuine?
And there were also false letters in circulation, with Paul’s name at the end. Someone had forged his signature at the end of the letter, in the hope that what he had written would then be considered important.
And then the third letter to the Corinthians …….. have you ever readthat? It does exist, but it has been lost. Nobody knows where it is. Paul refers to it in one of his letters. And a letter to the church of Laodicea, that’s gone missing too.
Anyway, there are plenty of books written about the origin of the Bible, so you can read all about that for yourselves.
Sometimes your eyes are suddenly opened, and you come to see certain matters in a different light. And then you can’t say any more that the Bible is inspired from beginning to end. Because it’s not true.
Let me try to explain. Is this one book God’s word? Is it infallible? From start to finish?
For hundreds of years people have argued about this, and many people still don’t know what to think. If the Pope spoke ex-cathedra, then every word was infallible. And that was true all through church history. And that’s how the traditions began.
That’s whytradition is so important to the church.
And then it was said that this is a holy book.
Oh, the other religions say, We’ve got a holy book too. The Muslims have the Koran, the Hindu’s have the Veda. The Mormons have the book Mormon, recently published in a new translation, specially recommended by an angel whose name is Mormon.
Everyone has their holy books. So, as far as our Bible is concerned: Is every letter inspired by God’s Spirit? That is a dangerous thing to say. Because what about the mistakes in the bible. Yes, there are mistakes. They have all been brought to light at one time or other.
And you know whatI think, and this is my honest opinion: If you base your faith on a book, you’ll get war, in the form of discord, quarrelling and arguments.
What was the cause of all the Christian wars? Difference in opinions and interpretations. Just think of all the arguments, all the hundreds of churches that have been split down the middle. In evangelical circles too. When you base your opinion solely on a book then you get lots of different interpretations and opinions, inevitably resulting in rifts and holy wars, and everybody claims to have their own truth. But in the heat of the battle they lose sight of love.
Shall I prove to you that there are some discrepancies in the Bible? Who inspired David to hold a census? In 2 Samuel chapter 24 verse 1 we read that God incited David to go and number Israel and Judah. And in 1 Chronicles chapter 21 verse 1 we read that it was Satan who incited David to number Israel.!!
So, which one was it?
Oh, there are so many of these discrepancies. But that doesn’t always have to be a problem. If you compare the gospels you will see that often the chronological order is not right. But then if you were all to witness a calamity or go to a party, you would all tell a different story, because you describe it as YOU saw it. And that’s how it should be. Just imagine we all told exactly the same story. That would be impossible. Everyone has their own way of describing things and their own interpretation and opinion.
Many people use texts from the Bible to support their argument. “The Bible says……..” but then the Muslim can say: “The Koran says..” and the Hindu can say: “The Veda says” and the ancient Egyptians could say: The book of life and death says……”. There is so much written in these books.
Jesus had come across these discussions too, but he says to the Pharisees ”You don’t know the scriptures”. They certainly didn’t expect to hear that.! They knew the scriptures by heart!
But Jesus implied something quite different when He said they didn’t know them. Let’s put it like this. If you really know the Father through His spirit, then you have found a good basis for a correct interpretation of the scriptures.
Now, you base everything you believe on thingsother people said. We call them Bible texts.
The Jews said to Jesus: “Moses said…”and Jesus looks at them and says” That’s right. He did. ButI say to you…….”So what do you think about that? ”What Moses said was good. He said some wonderful things,all true. And then Jesus says: “But I have something better.”
If you study the book of Hebrews you will see that the word ‘better’ occurs ten times. For example, Jesus the mediator of the better covenant, better possessions, a better fatherland, all better. The former was good, but He came with something better. For example, Moses had said: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. You hit me, I’ll hit you back. That keeps everything in balance. And then Jesus says, “I want to teach you tolove the enemy who hit you”. That is a whole new dimension, because God is good for friend and foe. Read about that in Matthew chapter 5 verse forty five.
How well do you know God?
And then something else important. God’s word is not just a thick book. His Word is a person. At the end of the book of Revelation, chapter 19 verse 13, we read something that I think is a wonderful expression: “He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is the Word of God”. Jesus is the Word of God. So that when God sees Him He can say to His angels, “Look: there is my Word”. A living person. ”Listen to Him”.
This is also true of words like “Truth” and “Light”. They are not just abstract expressions. Jesus says that HE is the truth and the light. These words became flesh in Him. Jesus has manifested all these things in himself, because when He read the Psalms and the Prophets and what Moses said, He realised: “This is all about me”
And how do we interpret what we read?
Read one Peter chapter one verses ten to twelve. It says there that all the old prophets and psalmists prophesied about US. WE are the ones referred to, who partake in the salvation of Christ which the prophets searched for. That’s incredible. What a wonderful thought; to be a part of God’s plan. To think as God thinks.
And that is the Kingdom of God. You think original thoughts, they are your own thoughts, but because you share in God’s plan of salvation they are always in tune with God’s thoughts.
In the original text the word for convert is METANOIA and that means: “to change your way of thinking”. It’s wonderful to learn to do that, and so, together with all the saints, to be able to experience all the dimensions of God’s love as described in Ephesians chapter three, verses 18 and 19’.
When I read announcements of deaths in the newspaper I notice that very often they are headed by texts or quotes or poems, such as “The Lord is my Shepherd”. That is a very well-know text. And a beautiful expression too, but it originated through David and God working together in harmony.
People in the western world wouldn’t use the example of “your rod and your staff” as He did. That is an expression typical of the eastern countries. So what examples would you use, if you were working in close harmony with God’s Spirit? Create your own examples. Because texts are expressions, fruits of other people’s fellowship with God. It’s good to develop the fruits yourself. For example, in fellowship with God, in harmony with God’s spirit, you could create your own expression to head a death announcement. Do you understand what I mean?
Peter says somewhere: “if you speak, let it be words as of God”. Let them be the sort of words you would expect from God. But they are still YOUR words. That’s what I think is so wonderful. God leaves the choice of words completely up to you.
Take the prophets Isaiah and Amos, for example. Isaiah was an educated man and had a good command of the language. Amos says: I am but a shepherd”. And that can be seen in his choice of words. But they both say the same thing, they just use different words. That’s so wonderful. If Isaiah and Amos ever meet in heaven, then I’m sure they will shake each other by the hand, because they both worked towards the same purpose. Wonderful isn’t it? And that’s what it’s all about.
Do you recognise a brother or sister among the people you meet?
The God of the Old covenant was not, and is still not, any different to the God of the New Covenant. Many books have been written about the God of the Old Covenant portraying Him as much more cruel, as a God who had also created evil, and got the devil to carry out the evil works. Look at the writer of the Bible book Job. HIS way of thinking had not been renewed. That book needs a lot of explaining, because God is NOT as this writer thinks He is, but we’ll talk about that another time. That would be a very strange sort of Father to have. God hasnot changed, but the interpretation was so different then. Many of the characteristics of the devil were applied to God. There were so many gods they blurred their vision of what God was really like. Even Moses was confused by them. Read some of the cruel psalms of revenge, of curses, and of bloody wars that were waged in God’s Name.
Yes, just as cruel as the recent war in Iraq.
And Samuel, he had people beheaded in God’s name…. and they cut off the thumbs of the kings they conquered. Gory stories. And they thought that God had a part in all this?!!
Could you love a God like that? No, you’d only worship a God like that out of fear. You would make all sorts of sacrifices. You’d ask him every day: “How do you want me to live?” Because you’d be afraid that if you didn’t do it right, then you might be punished, or become ill as a result, and you could even think that maybe God had let it happen for some special reason. With this in mind it is good to read Jeremiah chapter seven verses twenty one to twenty eight. “listen to my voice ” He says in verse twenty three. But how many of us are able do this? There are so many voices!?
Well, if there is any trace of violence, physical or verbal, in any form whatsoever, it isnot from God our Father. The Flood at the time of Noah, that wasn’t God’s idea. Do you want proof? Read Luke chapter nine verses fifty one to fifty six. John and James say: “Shall we call for fire from heaven like Elijah did?”
And Jesus looks at them and says: “You don’t understand anything”. He even rebukes them for what they suggest. “You don’t know from which spirit these thoughts come, because your ideas of what God is like are still all wrong.”
There was still a veil over the minds of John and James. And in Christ this veil disappears. And so what does it say in Luke chapter twenty four verse forty five?
“He opened their minds to understand the scriptures”. That is when you begin to understand what is meant in the Psalms and Prophets and the books of Moses, and only then.
If you have a disobedient son, Moses says in his laws, then you may stone him. It’s in Deuteronomy chapter twenty one verse eighteen. And who ‘s going to do that then? And if you swore you would also be stoned. I mean to say, it’s just by way of an example!! To illustrate my point. Your mind has to be opened to understand what is written. And Jesus teaches us about love and about a new way of thinking.
People often threatened to stone Jesus too. And how did He react? He went away and hid among the people. Some hero! That always moves me deeply. His reaction, his attitude.
Paul also had stones thrown at him. Stephen was even killed that way.
And that’s why Jesus encountered so much opposition, because the way He spoke and acted came from a completely different image of God. And that image of God, that loving God, was not accepted. That’s why people discarded him as the corner stone. What was so special about a man from Nazareth! A cornerstone? They rejected him. And if you become like your Father in heaven, then that’s how you’ll be treated. Something for you to think about!
There are also a lot of strange ideas about the Holy spirit. Receiving the holy spirit is like conception. You receive life in its smallest form, life from God. That is the beginning of divine life in you. It’s the fruit of a conception. And you haven’t received that life in order to realise your own ideals but to realise God’s ideals. And the Spirit is very modest and keeps a low profile.
So use the expressions of God in the bible as a reference. THAT’s how you test things. And that’s how you get interaction. That’s why conversations are so important. And then you can judge prophecies and visions, as to whether or not they are true, and whether they are important. Because there is a lot of confusion about this. Study Jeremiah chapter twenty three verses twenty five to thirty two. And even the prophecies of Isaiah. They are so wonderful, oh yes, but there are also some very strange things there too. For example, thatGod created the destroyer to destroy. Chapter fifty five verse sixteen. So am I doubting the Word of God? No, I’m just questioning the way Isaiah sometimes interprets it.
Do you see what I’m getting at? Ninety-nine per cent of what Isaiah prophesied is wonderful. And nowadays there are magazines full of prophecies and visions about Europe and Africa and Asia, and about God’s special purposes. Quite scary sometimes. What I mean is, you should always test them. The sermons too. I mean, you’d tell me if I said something that wasn’t right, wouldn’t you? I hope so
Jesustalks mostly about the Psalms, about Moses and about the Prophets.
He says, You’ll find itall in there.
And what are they all about. About Me, He says. It takes courage to say that. It’s aboutChrist and about us.
Yes, but, someone says, I feel in my heart that…… andall I ask is, who put this feeling in their heart. That’s what I want to know.
So test it, always test it. When youhear or read something, you have to know how you read, or how you hear it. You have to be selective. You should be selective all the time, in everything you do. What is edible and what is not, because you get an awful lot put on your plate nowadays.
One of the scribes once asked Jesus what he had to do to receive eternal life. The answer Jesus gives is: “What is written in the law? How do you read?” Luke chapter ten verse twenty six.
HOWdo you read? THE crucial question after every comment. So be selective, be critical, otherwise, says Peter, people will interpret the prophecies to suit their own ideas. Just like all the prophecies that so many people use today to support their belief in a visible, tangible nation of Israel. As if God has a special purpose with that small nation there. God loves the Palestinians just as much as the Israelites. He loves all people of all nations. What do you think of that?
And what is His purpose with us. Because not everything has been fulfilled.
Jesus gives a very comforting comment in John chapter fifteen. He says: “The holy spirit will teach you everything, will testify about me”. So we must listen to each other, so that it is not just one person who is talking all the time. Let’s listen to each other. Listen to what theSpirit has to say to the churches.
Okay, but sometimes I wonder, HOW does He say what the spirit “in” the church has to say. That is what is important. And he who has ears to hear…. Do you have ears to hear? Because, Jesus says, “the spirit will bring to mind everything that I have said to you. I have received everything from my Father. He has given it all to me. He was able to give it to me, and when you have received the Spirit, then the spirit will take it from me and give it to you. That’s how close we are. He will bring it to mind. What will He bring to mind? The thoughts of God, from the very beginning. How far back can you go? What was at the very beginning. What were the first ideas of God, not taking into account time and space? Where do you end up? With the word of God.. Because in the beginning was the Word. If I can connect with that in the spirit, then I won’t have to worry any more about time,or the future, because I am in contact with the very beginning. The eternal one, eternity.
And you know, Jesus says, these aren’t all my own words and ideas. I just say what I heard. And that brings me back to my question. How is our discernment? Can we fully discern the spirits? Can we judge what comes from God’s spirit and what not.
Well, Jesus says. Don’t worry too much about it. My sheephear my voice, they have ears that are tuned in to my spirit. They will hear.
Do you know whoIS good at quoting Bible texts? Satan himself.
But you can hear whether what I am saying is from God, or just my own words and ideas, can’t you.
The word “read” really just means “gather together”. To gather treasures. And behind the letters there is a whole world of meaning. Go and discover that.
The Greek word for “read” is “anaginoskoo” and means “to remember” , “to recognise”.
So you read a passage from Isaiah and you say, ”Yes, I recognise that, now I remember:”
Oh yes, how? That is a wonderful process in the spirit! And then you read some more. And you say ”Oh yes, that is God’s spirit too, it is about the Christ, I recognise it. It feels right. Literally it means, I remember. THAT is what reading means.
Now in the second letter from Timothy chapter three verse sixteen we read:
“All scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for teaching”. Why doesn’t it just say: ‘All scripture is profitable for teaching”. Why the condition. Because not all scripture is inspired by God. In the original text it says: “Every word of scripture breathed by God is profitable for teaching”. So it’s important to be able to recognise if what is said emanates from the breath of God, otherwise you will end up once again with more discussions about themeaning of the scripture.
What is breathed by God is instantly recognisable. You recognise it in prayers too. Youhear it. And what you don’t recognise, just discard it, throw it away on the rubbish dump, because it’s lifeless, lacking God’s spirit. So what I am trying to say in short is: The Bible is a book, written by people about their life with God. There are many words OF God, and you recognise them immediately as being from your heavenly Father. They just feel right. So let’s try to listen properly to what His spirit has to say in the churches, and to discern the words and voices, whether they are of God.
Shall we pray.
Father teach us to discern what is important, and teach us more about your ideas and your way of thinking, about your love, because that’s what you are, all love. Thank you that we may gradually begin to realise that in your Son, in Your Word, we too are Your words, from the very beginning.
For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory.