"Study to show thyself approved unto God" (2 Tim. 2:15). The study of the word of God claims for itself a distinction and importance unknown in any other realm of study. Although there are many books, there is only one which, when studied, learned, and practiced, can make him who does so approved of God. Not only man's origin, but his duty to himself, his fellow man, and to God is revealed in the Bible. It can only be learned by study! The Bible is the only source of information which goes beyond time into eternity. Books written by men cannot do so, for although man may speculate, he can never know eternal things by his own wisdom. But the Bible reveals to man how he can meet with God's approval here, and continue to do so beyond this life into eternity!
Those who wrote the Bible claimed their writing was inspired of God, that the things they wrote were the commandments of God. These claims are presented in a reasonable, sensible manner, many times proved by signs, wonders, or miracles performed. This was a promise Jesus made to his apostles if they obeyed him (Mk. 16:17-18). Verse 20 of the same chapter reveals their obedience and says the signs following confirmed or proved the words they spoke were the will of God. In Hebrews 2:1-4, the writer refers to the same thing: the signs, wonders, and miracles bore witness of God being with them. Peter wrote: "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Here is evidence that the Bible is from God.
Yet many say: "I cannot understand the Bible." Others ask if they should be expected to understand it when so many believe and practice so many contrary things, all supposedly based on the Bible. These questions, and others of like nature, deserve an answer.
Can one understand the Bible? Paul said: "Whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4). Paul says that God had now revealed his plan of salvation through Christ, which had not been fully made known previously. He also said that when we read it we can understand it. This requires some study, on the part of he who would understand. Would God, who so loved the world that He gave His Son to save the world, reveal the information concerning salvation in such a way man could not understand it? Surely not!
The reason so many conflicting doctrines and practices exist today is because men do not learn, or refuse to accept all the will of God, or to recognize the Bible as the standard of authority. This leads to division of belief and practice!
But how should one begin the study of the Bible? First of all, one must learn to distinguish between the Old and the New Testaments. This division is naturally made in most copies of the Bible. It is very important to recognize the difference in the two Testaments. The Old Testament was given through men whom God inspired, and was complete at least 400 years before Christ. Most of the Old Testament has to do with God's dealing with the Israelites or Jews. He gave them a law through Moses at Mt. Sinai. This law was given only to the Jews. No Gentile ever received the law (Ex. 20:1-17). These are the ten commandments, which were only a part of that law. These people were under that law for about 1500 years. Then Christ came in fulfillment of the promises God made for a Messiah or a Savior. He lived under that law, fulfilled it, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. In times past, that is, before Christ, God spoke through Moses and the Prophets, but He speaks to us who live today through His Son (Heb. 1:1-4). This is not denying the inspiration of the Old Testament, or that it is a part of the scriptures. It simply served its purpose, and we now have a better law or covenant based upon a better sacrifice and with greater promises. We should now be prepared to "divide aright" this New Covenant, as required in 2 Tim. 2:15.
The first four books of the New Testament, called the gospels, are records of the life of Christ. They begin with his birth and conclude with his resurrection and personal appearances before his ascension. These men wrote from different points of view, even as four different people would write about the same incident today. But the things they reveal about the life of Christ are to enable us to believe that he is the Christ, the Savior of men. Read John 20:30-31: "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." These books produce faith. If one wants to know what is revealed about Jesus as the Son of God, read and study these books.
The next (fifth) book in the New Testament is "Acts of the Apostles". In this book we find the knowledge one needs in order to become a child of God. This involves the forgiveness of past sins, and becoming a member of the church Jesus promised to build while he taught the disciples (Matt. 16:16-18). All the accounts of conversion (that is, a sinner being saved) in the New Testament are found in this book. The second chapter of Acts gives the account of the establishment of that church, and the Lord adding to it those who were saved. Notice that the saved people did not "join" the church. In this chapter, the apostles, directed by the Holy Spirit, revealed God's plan of salvation for men. Briefly, here is what happened. People in Jerusalem that day heard the apostles preach Christ as the Son of God. They believed what they heard, and asked what they should do about their condition. Peter replied, telling them to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. The commands, then, were to hear (vs. 22); to believe the gospel (vs. 45); to repent of sins (vs. 38); to confess their sins (vs. 37 - they had been told they were guilty of sin, so asked what to do about it); be baptized (vs. 38). When they did these things, they called upon the name of the Lord and were saved (vs. 21). This was the beginning of salvation through Christ. Every conversion recorded in Acts was accomplished in the same way. And so it is with men today. To learn what to do to be saved, study Acts of the Apostles.
Beginning with Romans and continuing through Jude are letters written to groups of Christians (congregations), or to individuals. These books are also inspired by God. The Holy Spirit directed the apostles in the writing of them. They tell the Christian how to live the life God wants, and how to worship. They instruct congregations in their duties to God, to the world and to is own members. In these books, we find inspired writers saying the word they revealed is perfect or complete. Paul wrote that the scriptures furnish the man of God unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:17). James wrote about continuing in the perfect law of liberty, after teaching that one must receive the engrafted word (the gospel) which is able to save your soul (James 1:21-25). Peter wrote that all things which pertain to life and godliness are given to us in our knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 1:3). So after one becomes a child of God, he is instructed by God with every thing necessary to obtain eternal salvation. We neither have nor need any modern day revelations, for not even an angel can change that which the apostles revealed without falling into God's condemnation (Gal. 1:6-9).
The last book in the New Testament is named Revelation. It stands apart from all other books of the New Testament. It is a book of "signs and symbols." It was written primarily about things which were future at the time of writing. It was an encouragement to those who received it, for it pictures the final, complete overthrow of sin and iniquity. It shows that God is more powerful than Satan; that truth and righteousness will prevail.
The purpose of the New Testament is to instruct people how to have a part in the victory over sin and death. This is God's eternal purpose, and He desires man's eternal salvation. He made it possible for us. He revealed the way for us to obtain this forgiveness of sins here in this life, and eternal life in the world to come. God requires the same worship and service of each of us. All the instruction we need or will ever have is revealed in the New Testament. "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).
Are you approved of God???
by R. L. Morrison
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