with Comments Closed
The Bible is the most read, most loved, and most misunderstood book in the long history of man. To some it is the inerrant and inspired word of God. To others it is nothing more than a book of myths and fables. Between these two extremes there are hundreds of interpretations as to its exact teaching. How could a religious world, all claiming to base their faith on the teachings of the same Bible, evolve into hundreds of denominations teaching contradictory things? How is the person honestly seeking to please God to know which of these many teachings is correct?
Jesus answered these questions two thousand years ago when He said, “in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt, 15:9) A very wise man once told me that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so clear that to misunderstand it you must have the help of a preacher or Bible scholar. This is exactly the point made by Jesus, and the problem persists in the religious world today.
I sincerely wish the Bible was a book that could simply be read and easily understood. I wish the teachings were so simple that they could not possibly be misunderstood. I wish that every person could pick up a Bible, give it a casual reading, and come away with a complete understanding of God’s message to man. However, God, in His wisdom, knew what was best. The Bible is a letter from Him to us which tells us how to get to heaven. However, it is not a book that is meant to be just read, but a book that is meant to be studied.
Jesus said, “…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) However, in our fast, hurry up world there are few who actually personally dig for the beautiful concepts and abundant way of life revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Like the diamonds they are, much digging is required to uncover them. Most people had rather let someone else do the studying, then boil it down into simple, feel good, lessons for the rest of us. We pay lip service to Christian concepts, but seldom develop a personal understanding of the Bible or a personal relationship with the Author of our eternal salvation. This work is not meant to be simply read, but requires an open mind and a sincere searching of scripture to see “if these things be so.”
The honest person readily admits that they have unanswered questions regard this thing we refer to as “religion.” Do we sometimes have doubt concerning things we profess to believe? The honest answer is “yes.” We all too often put on our Sunday clothes, our Sunday smile, and our Sunday attitude; then off to worship we go. We look around and see all the “perfect” people and tell ourselves, “If they really knew me, and all my faults, they would’t like me.” For most of us, isn’t there more truth that fiction in that statement?
The apostle John wrote,
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
Even so, the truth of the matter is that we all have unexpressed doubts from time to time. We are afraid to express them because we have been led to believe that having doubts means our faith isn’t strong enough. I have heard this more than once from preachers and Bible teachers. Yet the scriptures paint an entirely different picture. There was a time when even John the Baptist expressed doubt, even though he had much more personal evidence than any of us today. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, was also the one who baptized Jesus. Notice what scripture says about this event.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:13-17)
“Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’” (John 1:35-36)
Could a man like John the Baptist, having seen what he saw and given the testimony he had given, ever have any doubts concerning the Christ? Let scripture answer this question.
“And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his discipleand said to Him, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” (Matthew 11:2-3)
If John the Baptist could have doubts is there any wonder that Christians today sometimes also have doubt? Having doubt does not make a person a second class Christian. It simply means that, as humans, we are often not fully able to get our arms around some of the events which come into our lives. There are times when we all ask ourselves, “Are these things really true.” Other times we are told, “The Bible teaches this,” or “The Bible teaches that,” and we wonder if we can ever measure up. All too often we are told this by people who don’t have a full grasp of scripture themselves, yet they pretend to know more than the rest of us.
The only reliable interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself. Many false religions and false teachings are rooted in reading a single verse without taking into consideration the context or all other verses which address the same subject. There are those who would teach that all one needs to do to be saved is to “believe on Jesus.” Others hold to the necessity of “Christian baptism.” Either one or both of these teachings must be incorrect because they contradict one another. Many other examples of contradictory teachings by men could be put forward but this one is sufficient to prove the point.
The teachings and ideas put forward for consideration in this book did not come from listening to a preacher, teacher, or “Bible scholar.” They are the result of over fifty years of personal Bible study. Even so, there is no room for dogmatism in any intellectual discussion of scripture. While the contents of this book are the result of many years of study, the conclusions are by no means absolute. They represent one man’s understanding and should be taken as such.
This study is concerned with the first century church; its establishment, and its implications for the church today. Anyone desiring an in depth study of the life of Jesus should read two of my previous studies; Star of Jacob and Prelude to Glory. Both are available through this author.
Any time humans attempt to explain the meaning of a particular scripture or Bible concept there is always the possibility of error. This is as true of this writer as any other. The last thing I want the readers of this material to do is to “take my word for it.”
My daughter once called from the Christian college she was attending to tell me what one of her professors had said. She asked if it was true. I told her that while I happened to agree with the professor, that was not the important thing. The important thing was for her to “Get her nose in the book and determine the truth for herself.”
It is my prayer that the readers of this book will do likewise and be like those in Berea of whom Luke said,
“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)
Wayne D. Leeper