The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: B

Previous Index Next

Bible student at work, the

Nearly all of us claim to be Christadelphians, disciples of Christ who hold the Truth of God. In talking to others we often emphasize that we believe the Bible, that we esteem it as the only source of God's revelation to man. Do we diligently study this Bible, and show it the proper reverence due a book which has come to us from the Father in Heaven, through His prophets and His Son?

How serious are we?

A quotation, which we might sometimes take too lightly, states:
"The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light" (Luke 16:8).
That is, they can be much more practical than we are: They set goals and they work with all their might to attain them, even if they are the wrong goals. Our one goal -- the right goal! -- should be to please the Father, and we admit that one of the most helpful ways to attain this goal is study and discussion and meditation upon His word. Do we devote our time to this, or to the hundreds of other activities which lead away from godliness, or at best do us no good?

Even in the area of Bible study, the "children of this world" may far surpass us, the children of God. In colleges and universities many students study the Bible and take examinations, merely to achieve another credit on their records. They very often come from homes and environments where the Bible is never mentioned. Yet in a few short months they learn much about the Bible which we might never bother to discover for ourselves.

It has been said that the typical man never uses more than 10% of his mental capacity. And yet, think of the many thousands of pieces of miscellaneous and unimportant information we carry about in our minds, employing only a small fraction of our capabilities. How much more room there is left in our heads for the wisdom of God, if we would simply take the time and effort to acquire and use it!

How much time do we spend each day thinking or talking about the Creator's Word? How much of our conversation, even before and after ecclesial meetings, is devoted to material things or the peculiarities of other people? Here God's words through the prophet Jeremiah bear the uncomfortable ring of truth:

"Can a maid forget her ornaments? (Not likely today!) or a bride her attire? yet My people have forgotten ME days without number" (Jer 2:32).
A writer commenting upon the examples of the early Christians, has this to say: "If we will stop here, and ask ourselves why we are not as righteous as the primitive Christians were, our own hearts will tell us, that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because we never thoroughly intended to be."

The rewards of Bible reading and study do not come in five minutes, or in five days. Even in five years the effects have scarcely begun, the natural, man being so strong and at the same time so resistant to Spirit truth. But if there is lack of serious and prolonged application to this Book, then expectation of true knowledge and any lasting profit is vain.

And conversely, any Christadelphian who over a lengthy period of time gives more spare time and effort to the mastering of some other skill, or (even worse) to the pursuit of some trivial hobby, stands self-condemned by that very thing. That may sound very harsh, but no amount of excuse-making can evade this naked truth.

If the Bible really is the only book in the world to have come to us from God, then it demands and deserves more, and better, attention than any other -- than ALL others. Is such a view unrealistic? How can it be? Paul wrote that "all Scripture is profitable". And in another place he described it as the "Word of God, which effectually worketh in them that believe". Did he mean what he said? If Paul was right, there is a transforming and guiding POWER in the Bible which we must harness to our lives. We cannot afford NOT to use it!

So we must be hard-working and thorough in the way we go about our Bible reading. It deserves something better than an easy-going 15 or 20 minutes of reading a day. How often do we lounge languidly in our easy chairs, scarcely holding back the creeping mists of slumber as the readings progress -- and then miraculously spring from the "dead" when the third reading is concluded? How often is the agonizing pause after the last verse broken by a "Guess what happened today"? What must the Father think of such lukewarm acknowledgement (for it can scarcely be called service)? "My brethren, such things ought not to be."

Use your imagination

How shall we gain the most benefit from our daily reading? Perhaps one way would be this: Use your imagination. Such a statement may seem highly appropriate in a discussion of acting or the writing of novels, but is it appropriate in a discussion of Bible reading? We believe so. Let us remember that most Bible narratives are tremendously compressed. Put a little imagination, coupled with common sense and ordinary experience, can be a big help in filling out the picture. One example;

We read in Genesis that Abraham and Isaac went up the mountain to sacrifice. God's account says simply: "So they went both of them together." Does He want us to know simply the fact that they went, or would He not be pleased if we tried to visualize how they went? Can we imagine ourselves perhaps as the young men who remained behind with the provisions? There we stand, watching our master Abraham, by now an old and tired man, as he puts his arm around his son Isaac and they begin their climb up the slopes of Moriah. Can we not see the sadness in the father's eye, and the overwhelming love he bears for his son, .the token of God's promise? In their "togetherness" can we not picture young Isaac's faithful and enlightened acceptance of his fate? And does our imagination allow us to catch a glimpse of doubt in Abraham, "but overshadowed by his deep and abiding faith in his God -- a faith which has brought him through many miles of wilderness and many years of wandering, at last to this solemn place?

"We will go yonder and worship, and return." Did Abraham say this matter-of-factly, without feeling, as we can so easily read if? Did he say it as we would say, "We will go to meeting this morning, and then come home for dinner"? With HOW MUCH MORE feeling he must have said it; More than we can possibly imagine! But we must try.

One story in the Bible pleads for the exercise of imagination, but we instinctively shrink away from it. Let us, in a quiet, secluded place, read the last few chapters of Matthew, or Mark... Let us think about these things, and try to make more real every detail of those events: the quiet, heart-rending prayers beforehand; the sleep of the disciples; the coning of the rowdy mob; the hasty kiss of a pretended friend; the haughtiness of the priests; the cries of the people -- "Crucify him!"; the calmness of Jesus in the midst of turmoil; the crown of thorns; the taunts and jeers; the merciless scourging; the painful march to the hill; the cold and cruel spikes tearing the flesh; the callous laughter of the Roman soldiers... all this really happened. How much more real can it all become, before our very eyes! "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?"

* * *

Continuing along this same line, we must learn the Bible treatment of typical prophecies. We will never taste the sweetest and most invigorating water of God's wells until we begin to watch for types, for buried treasure in the hidden meanings.

Much of the Bible tells of a single nation of people who lived many years ago, yet the Bible is unique -- the significance of the stories is not confined to any one time or place. Whatever part of the Bible your reading takes you to, one of your foremost preoccupations must be a constant "look-out" for two persons -- JESUS CHRIST, and YOURSELF. First of all, let us talk about Jesus, and how we can see him in all of the Bible.

Christ in all the Bible

There can be no doubt at all that the work of Jesus, in one of its many aspects, is to be read all through the Old Testament -by direct prophecy, by indirect prophecy with secondary applications to him, in moral principles of the law, in the symbolism of the tabernacle and the temple.

Very few will argue that some prophecies of the Old Testament apply definitely to Christ: ie, Isaiah 9 ("A child is born") or Isaiah 53 (the suffering savior) or Genesis 3:15 ("the seed of the woman"). But come will try to stop here, as much as to say that all else must be taken literally, and literally only! This cannot "be our attitude. It was not the attitude of the disciples of Christ... because they were continuously, in their writings, applying the incidents of Old Testament times to the work of Christ. It is only reasonable to expect that God's purpose in Christ will appear in all aspects of the divine program -- in the forms of nature, in the history of Israel as a nation, and in the life stories of the characters of the Scriptures.

All the Bible points to one glorious idea: the redemption of men through Christ, and the glory of God in him. We should be disappointed if we cannot, in our readings, find many allusions to this idea. The Bible contains many threads of thought, which may need to be considered individually but all the threads are interwoven and connected, and they all ultimately return to Christ our Saviour.

Let us briefly consider the book of Genesis, for nearly every chapter bears reference to Christ, both directly and by shadow:

  1. Gen 1 -- 3: Adam -- the new creation in Christ, the "second Adam"; his bride drawn out of his side while he "sleeps"; dominion over the earth (Rom 5:14; 1Co 15:45).
  2. Gen 3:15: The Seed of the woman to bruise serpent's head.
  3. Gen 4: Abel and Cain -- acceptable sacrifice; familial envy and murder (Heb 11:4; 12:24).
  4. Gen 6: Noah -- the only faithful man, who testified against the world, and was saved by water (baptism: 1Pe 3:21!). The rainbow covenant.
  5. Gen 12: Abraham: the promised of the seed (Gal 3; 16).
  6. Gen 14: Melchizedek -- unchanging, everlasting priesthood; the offering from Abraham; reigning in Salem (Psa 110; Heb 7).
  7. Gen 16: Hagar and Sarah -- Bond versus free, a type that the average "literalist" would scoff at, were it not for Gal 4.
  8. Gen 22: The offering of Isaac -- The only son, the seed of promise, figuratively slain, but brought back to life. Compare v 6 with John 15:17.
  9. Gen 24: Marriage of Isaac -- The Bride of the promised seed comes from the Gentiles, after listening to the messenger, and volunteering to go. A very special chapter!
  10. Gen 28: Jacob at Bethel -- Christ is everywhere! John 1:51 is only the beginning!
  11. Gen 31: Jacob's return to the land, with his "bride" and great wealth, for which he served faithfully. His name is changed to "Prince with God", and he makes peace with his brethren and the Gentiles.
  12. Gen 39 -- 45: Joseph -- One of the greatest types of Christ, and yet some close their eyes and profess to see nothing but history; Joseph, the favorite of his father, but hated by his brethren, a dreamer of dreams, cast into the "pit", later exalted to highest position, from which he blesses his brethren (who fail to recognize him at first). Marvelous!
  13. Gen 43: Joseph's two sons -- the younger is favored above the elder. One of the greatest continuing themes of the Scriptures.
  14. Gen 49: Jacob's prophecy -- the whole chapter, but especially "Shiloh".
These are only the most obvious parallels to Christ. Much more can be seen if some effort is applied. The more we look at the Bible in this way, all pointing to one wonderful plan, the more we will realize mat the Bible is definitely unique among all the books of the world. It can only be the work of God!

"Lord, Is it I"

In such an article as this, we can only hope to touch the surface. But perhaps we have pointed out a few interesting and instructing avenues of Bible study. Remember that what YOU get from the Bible is in direct proportion to what YOU put into it.

There is one more tiling to say here concerning effective Bible study. We must learn to see Christ in all the Bible, but we must learn to see ourselves there too. We should be as the disciples who sat with Jesus at that last supper. There he told them that one who sat at with him at the table would betray him. And their first reaction was the question "Lord, is it I?"

This is what we should ask ourselves as we read the stories of the Bible. This is what we should ask God in our prayers. Each character which claims our attention in the Bible should be thoroughly examined: If he is a righteous person, we should ask ourselves if our traits and Our actions match up to his. If he is a wicked person, we should examine ourselves again, just as carefully, and we should very severely scrutinize our actions -- not covering up the faults we find, but bringing them out in the open. The Bible is the only book whose pages are "mirrors" (James 1:23)! With our natural eye we look outward; with our spiritual eye we look inward. "LORD, IS IT I?"

How often we read of the Jews in the wilderness and we shake our heads sadly (perhaps with a measure of self-righteousness) that they could have sunk so deeply into iniquity, "They could not follow God even when they saw miracles before their eyes every day." But we should never read of others and feel superior because of their failures. We -- who think we stand -- should take heed lest we fall. They had a fire by night and a cloud by day, but we have a moon by night and a sun by day -- greater miracles! They saw God's hand working daily in the provision of manna and water. "What a great privilege," we think to ourselves, forgetting that we see God's hand working daily in the Middle East and throughout the earth. Who really is the most favored? Who has the least excuse to fail?

As we read the Bible let us look for reasons behind each act, as well as for facts. We will find the characters to be surprisingly human, and prone to the same faults as we are. But we will also find that they were able to "move mountains" with their faith in God. So why cannot we do the same? Their examples of faith are for our encouragement, and the failures of some (including some of the righteous) are for our warning.

The purpose of Bible study

The professional theologian comes to the Bible with a cool, detached, critical mind. He juggles and. clarifies each jot and tittle like an accountant, putting each fact in a column of his own choosing. He scoffs and sneers and finds reasons to doubt, and goes his way unchanged. Our approach must be completely different. We must come to the Bible with humility and reverence, with love, with a child-like willingness to learn. We must never come to think that we know all we need to know, or all there is to know, or to feel proud that we can remember facts or recite quotations. Such things as these mean nothing unless we use them to improve ourselves, and to help others. God has given us this book not merely to supply information, but to mold and fashion our lives to the glory of His name. Let us remember the great difference between knowing the Truth and living the Truth.

We are the people of the Book. Let us give evidence of this fact by Our tireless study and application of it. Certainly every reader of these words has a Bible -- probably several Bibles. But let it not simply be A Bible. Let it be YOUR BIBLE!

"What can a book do?" asks the skeptic. This book can change our lives, if we use it with love and prayer and understanding. In this book, today, God speaks to us:

"Here is the way, walk ye in it. And ye shall be My children, and I will be your Father."
Previous Index Next