April 1 - 7
The Authority of the Bible and the Second Coming
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Deut. 29:29; Ps. 111:10; Isa. 66:2; Jer. 8:9; Matt. 7:24-29; Luke 24:25-27; John 5:39; 1 Cor. 1:20, 21; 2 Tim. 3:15; 2 Pet. 1:19-21.
MEMORY TEXT: "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHTS: God reveals the promise of the Second Coming in His Holy Word. Apart from the Bible, we would be clueless about the future and God's role in it.
THE CERTAINTY ABOUT THE SECOND COMING AND THE CERTAINTY OF GOD'S WORD. How do we know about the future? People desire to know what lies in the future, and they wish to control it so as to secure their own best interest. They attempt to discover the future in many ways. Some seek information from supposed spirits of the dead and from fortunetellers. Others tend to go to science and various human disciplines to try to predict the future. Thus, it is the goal of many in our day to discover the future without seeking any special word from the Lord.
Without the Word of God, our concepts of the future will be just as varied and flawed as the attempts to control it. How can we, then, know the future? God has revealed it to us! We can know that Jesus is coming again only because of what He has revealed to us in His Word, as we shall study this week.
Many people view Scripture as they would any other piece of literature. They see the Bible as arising out of bits and pieces of Hebrew and Christian folklore. They assume that it is simply the result of the merging, collecting, and editing of these early traditions. They suppose that Scripture reflects the cultures of the time. Therefore, biblical predictions about the Second Coming of Christ become for them little more than the collective dream of past generations.
The Bible is unique because it is not of human creation. Although prophets participated in the process, the result is the Word of God. To be sure, God communicated His message to people living in a specific time and place. His message was relayed through the prophets' own language, culture, and thought forms. The result was guided by the Holy Spirit in such a way that the Bible conveys God's trustworthy message. The Bible is the Word of God.
"It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words. . . but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts.... The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the Word of God."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 945, 946.
How does the Bible view its own authority? 2 Pet. 1:19-21.
How much of the Bible is inspired, and what is its function? 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 3:2-16; 1 Cor. 10:11.
Some wish to disregard the authority of the Bible when they develop their concepts of the future and their ways of resolving problems. They wish to make the future conform to their own dreams of the ideal life by any means at their disposal. In many other ways we are tempted to act independently of God in our efforts to control the future. However, we must always allow our all-loving and all-wise God to guide us now and in the future.
|What difference does your view of the Bible make in your understanding of the future? What difference does it make in your life if you do not accept the biblical promise of the resurrection at the Second Coming? (1 Cor. 15:19). Do you feel the need to control the Bible, or are you willing to submit your life and future to its authority?|
How can we know who God is? Deut. 29:29; 1 Sam. 3:21; Matt. 11:27; 1 Cor. 2:6-10.
Why is it that the heathen do not know God? Rom. 1:21, 22; 10:14; 1 Cor. 1:21.
Some religions attempt to gain their knowledge of God by observing the natural world. They study historical events, catastrophes in nature, chance happenings, relationships, and then attempt to develop concepts of God that fit their observations. If they view the world as harsh, then they see God as harsh. If the world is mysterious, then God is mysterious. If their world is erratic, then God is erratic.
How does Isaiah 44:9-19 illustrate fallen humanity's tendency to put God last in life and to create a god who is in harmony with their observations of the natural world?
"Human talents and human conjecture have tried by searching to find out God. Many have trodden this pathway. The highest intellect may tax itself until it is wearied out, in conjectures regarding God, but the effort will be fruitless, and the fact will remain that man by searching cannot find out God. This problem has not been given us to solve. All that man needs to know and can know of God has been revealed in the life and character of His Son, the Great Teacher. As we learn more and more of what man is, of what we ourselves are, in God's sight, we shall fear and tremble before Him."Medical Ministry, p. 95. "No mortal mind can penetrate the secrecy in which the Mighty One dwells and works. . . . Heart and intellect must bow to the great I AM."The Ministry of Healing, p. 438.
What distinguishes Christianity from other religions? God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ and in the Bible. Praise God we can know Him because He has revealed Himself to us. We do not have to walk in darkness, for the light has come (John 1:1-10).
Professing to become wise, many become fools. They exchange the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:18-28). By contrast, the gospel reveals the fullness of God, including His righteousness (Rom. 1:16, 17).
|God created us in His image. In what ways are we tempted to "create" Him in our image? What is the remedy?|
The apostolic church accepted Jesus Christ and Scripture as the foundation for their theology and their lifestyle (Eph. 2:20). A century down the highway of history, emphasis on the authority of the Bible as the Word of God began to fade as the church turned to pagan philosophy in order to reach the pagans.
Gradually, the authority of the Bible was supplemented by other sources. It was the Bible and philosophy, the Bible and church authority and tradition, the Bible and church councils, the Bible and nature.
The Reformation responded to this diminished role of the Bible with its restoration as sole authority. The slogan "the Bible alone" did not mean that God could not speak through nature, reason, or ecclesiastical authorities. Rather, it meant that the Bible was the authority for determining how and when God had spoken or would speak elsewhere.
How did Jesus Himself relate to the authority of the Scriptures? What impact does this have on your view of its authority?
Matt. 21:42 ________________________________________________________
Matt. 26:54-56 ___________________________________________________________
Luke 24:25-27 _______________________________________________________
John 5:39 __________________________________________________________
Martin Luther's insistence on the sole authority of the Bible became the rallying cry of the Reformation. "Fearlessly did Luther defend the gospel from the attacks which came from every quarter. The word of God proved itself a weapon mighty in every conflict. With that word he warred against the usurped authority of the pope, and the rationalistic philosophy of the schoolmen, while he stood firm as a rock against the fanaticism that sought to ally itself with the Reformation.
"Each of these opposing elements was in its own way setting aside the Holy Scriptures and exalting human wisdom as the source of religious truth and knowledge. . . . True Christianity receives the word of God as the great treasure house of inspired truth and the test of all inspiration."The Great Controversy, p. 193.
|Is it possible to study the Bible in such a way as to impose the biases of culture and tradition upon it, rather than allowing it to transform the mind and behavior?|
Our age is enamored with science. Science has put people on the moon, performed miracles on the operating table, and revolutionized our world with the computer chip. Science apart from God defines what we should believe and how we should live. Science has been so successful that disciplines such as history, psychology, and even theology would like to model themselves after it. Disciplines such as archaeology, geology, etc. can be helpful in confirming the Bible as long as they do not become the basis of our faith. They should never become the factor that determines whether the Bible is true. If we take such an approach, the Bible would no longer remain our authority, as it was in the apostolic church and in the Reformation. The basis of our faith and the guide to our life must always be Jesus and His Word.
What causes the wise to become ashamed and dismayed? Jer. 8:9; l Tim. 6:20.
How does Jesus' parable in Matthew 7:24-29 affirm your faith in and make you more dependent on God's solid Word?
A house is built upon a foundation, and its design and structure follow a set of plans. It has doors, windows, a kitchen, a dining room, bedrooms, and a roof. Without these, it would not be a house. Without its foundation, it would not long stand. So it is with our lives. They are composed of many elements, social circles, talents, reasoning abilities, emotions, etc. All contribute to making our lives worth living. If, however, we attempt to build upon the foundation of our reason or our emotions instead of the Word of God, our lives would crumble as did the house built upon the sand (Matt. 7:26).
What do the following texts teach you about the Source of truth and understanding?
John 14:6 ___________________________________________________________
Col. 2:3, 4 ___________________________________________________________
Ps. 111:10 ___________________________________________________________
|How can we build our lives upon the solid rock of God's truth instead of upon the shifting sands of human knowledge?|
What warning does Paul give about the way we handle the Word of God? 2 Cor. 4:2. What counsel does he give Timothy in this regard? 2 Tim. 2:15.
How can our minds be blinded to understanding the gospel, and what is the remedy to such blindness? 2 Cor. 4:3-6.
The Reformation emphasis upon the sole authority of the Bible brought with it the need to allow the Bible to be its own interpreter. The Reformers meant not only that one portion of the Bible is useful for interpreting other portions of the Bible but also that the Bible is to provide its own context for interpretation. To start with and focus on philosophy, science, or tradition is to rob the Bible of its authority.
"How shall we search the Scriptures? Shall we drive our stakes of doctrine one after another, and then try to make all Scripture meet our established opinions, or shall we take our ideas and views to the Scriptures, and measure our theories on every side by the Scriptures of truth? . . . Many give the words of Scripture a meaning that suits their own opinions, and they mislead themselves and deceive others by their misinterpretations of God's word. As we take up the study of God's word, we should do so with humble hearts. All selfishness, all love of originality, should be laid aside. . . .
"Those who sincerely desire truth will not be reluctant to lay open their positions for investigation and criticism, and will not be annoyed if their opinions and ideas are crossed. . . .
"As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed.""Search the Scriptures," Ellen G. White Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles (July 26, 1892), vol. 2, p. 585.
In order to reach our culture with the gospel, we sometimes try to impose it upon the Bible. While we need to make the message of the Bible clear and applicable to daily life in different cultures, we must not try to make it fit our mold. The role of the Bible when read under the guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit is to bring about transformation of our thinking and our lives.
Do I sincerely want to know God's will for my life when I study His Word, or do I simply want to defend my own preconceived ideas? Am I willing to submit my mind to the Word of God in order to be transformed by it?
FURTHER STUDY: Exod. 14:18; Josh. 3:10; Ps. 119:98-100, 105, 130; Isa. 1:1; 40:12-28; 54:13; Dan. 11:32; Zeph. 1:1; John 10:35, 36; 14:6-11; Rom. 1:20; 1 John 1:1-3; 2:5.
For more on the role of Scripture in preparation for the Second Coming, read "The Scriptures a Safeguard," in The Great Controversy, pp. 593-602.
The principles of the Bible and grace alone parallel one another. Salvation is the gift of God. Not a shred of human devising adds to its foundation. Also, the Bible is a gift of God to be accepted by faith. Such faith itself is another gift of God. Just as salvation is not founded upon or manipulated by human effort, so the Word of God is not founded upon or manipulated by human wisdom. Just as salvation comes by the grace of God alone, so does God's self-revelation in the Bible come by grace alone. Just as human works have their proper place as the outgrowth of salvation, so also does reason have its proper place when it is founded upon God's Word. When Christianity loses one of these principles, it invariably loses the other. If we lose the principle of the authority of the Bible, we also will lose our understanding of the principle of salvation as the gift of God, for they go hand in hand as God's gifts.
The relation of the authority of the Bible to the certainty of the Second Coming is as follows:
. We would not have knowledge or assurance of the Second Coming without the Bible.
2. The Bible brings knowledge of God and salvation, which prepares us for the Second Coming.
3. The Bible provides the message of the everlasting gospel to be preached at the end of time.
4. The Second Coming is linked to the biblical theme of the great controversy. Those who properly prepare for and proclaim Christ's return are loyal and obedient to the Word of God.
SUMMARY: The certainty of the Bible as God's Word is the foundation of our belief in the Second Coming. Without the Bible we would be without knowledge or hope of being reunited with God at the end of time.
J. H. Zachary
Enemies seemed determined to destroy the village of Laiagam, in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. For several weeks warriors from two neighboring villages had terrorized the community, burning houses, slaughtering animals, and destroying crops. Several people had been killed. Laiagam was located between the two warring tribes. Burning arrows, aimed at the fighting villages, sometimes fell in Laiagam, destroying several homes. The villagers feared for their lives.
A little Adventist church stood amidst the carnage in Laiagam. The little group of believers met at their beloved church to decide what to do. They agreed that it would be best if they left the village until the fighting ended. As they left their little church, they felt that this would be the last time they would see it standing. However, one young member decided to stay in the village and watch over the church.
Shortly after the believers left, Alo, the young man, heard the sounds of an advancing war party. He could see the glow of their lighted torches as they neared the church. He knew that within minutes the church would be burned to the ground.
Alo fell to his knees, praying for God's help. "Lord, help me do what I can to save this church." Quickly he picked up a piece of plastic pipe with a funnel attached to one end. The believers used this homemade trumpet to call worshipers to church. He blew into the trumpet, which made a loud blast, and again asked God for help. By now the mob had advanced to a few meters from the church. Then they stopped.
The sky seemed to darken as a huge cloud of bees swarmed over the warriors and attacked them. The warriors dropped their weapons and fled through the ruins of the village and into the bush, swatting wildly at the stinging bees.
Word of the warring bees that saved the Adventist church spread through the highlands of Papua New Guinea. The believers returned and held a praise service in their beloved church. The believers testify, "We know that God sent bees to fight against our enemies and save our church!"
J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour. He works in cooperation with the Ministerial Association of the General Conference.
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