A DOSE OF FAITH
Richard G. Mendoza, MPH, PHD
Pr. Richard Mendoza works at the Central Luzon Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. An educator and promoter of health, he complements his advocacies with spiritual and values-oriented insights.
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Voltaire, the 18th century French atheist who was one of the greatest writers of his time, used a bitter pen against Christianity. He boasted, “In twenty years Christianity will be no more. My single hand shall destroy the edifice it took twelve apostles to rear.” However, Voltaire died in his irreverent pride crying, “I am abandoned by God and man!” Shortly after his death, the very house in which Voltaire wrote was made a depository of the Geneva Bible Society!
The Bible has endured countless attacks throughout history because of its God-designed purpose of revealing Christ. The Bible is God’s “written word” that testifies to Christ, God’s “living Word.” If we fail to recognize this truth, our Bible study will be irreverently useless. In John 5:37-40, Christ describes this futility by contrasting two approaches to searching the Scriptures.
I. A SELF-CENTERED Approach (John 5:38-40)
The Jews were diligent students of the Scriptures. Moses was read in the synagogues every Sabbath. “Rabbi Hillel used to say, ‘More law, more life…He who has gotten himself words of law has gotten himself the life of the world to come’ (Talmud). In their zeal for the Scriptures the Jews had counted every letter of them, expecting to find life in the laws and precepts…”
However, Christ denounced the selfcentered approach of the Jews in studying the Scriptures. He even told them that they did not have God’s word abiding in them despite the fact that God entrusted them with the Holy Scriptures. The Jews memorized passages, even entire books of the Bible, thinking that by doing so, they will have eternal life. A text-driven Bible study will rob it of its saving purpose.
Christ clearly claimed that the purpose of the Scriptures is to testify of Him and reveal Him as the Source of eternal life. By not coming to Him, the Jews forfeited the eternal life they were desperately trying to gain. This resulted from a wrong focus in Bible study. They were more interested in what they can obtain through their studious efforts than knowing the central testimony of God’s Word, Jesus Christ. Their text-driven and self-centered approach to studying the Scriptures caused them to reject Christ and lose eternal life in the process that He alone can give.
To study the Bible apart from Christ is a life-losing exercise. To search the Scriptures for a reason other than knowing Christ is to reject the very reason for which they were given by God.
II. A SAVIOR-CENTERED Approach (John 5:37, 40)
Christ stated that God the Father who sent Him has Himself testified on His behalf. Since Christ also claimed that the Scriptures testify of Him, the Scriptures are then considered God’s Word. He adds that His hearers have never heard God’s voice or seen His form. Thus, Christ came to reveal Him in human form as the Living Word of God to which the Bible, the Written Word of God, testifies. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” The word “believe” in this text is better translated as “trust.” If we study the Bible with a trusting heart, we will be led to a saving knowledge of Christ. The words of the Bible will come alive and endow us with wisdom to avail of God’s saving grace in Christ. A trust-driven approach to Bible study will reveal the amazing grace of God in the saving act of Christ.
Eternal life is the free gift from God which the Jews turned down by refusing to come to Christ. As awesome as the revelation of God in Christ is, He will not force it on anyone. Christ implicitly declared that Bible study must be trust-driven. The Sacred Writings are meant to instruct us for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. If we study the Scriptures to know Christ, God will direct us into accepting and trusting Christ. Consequently, He will give us eternal life. Christ came that we may have life and that we may have it to the fullest.
The life-gaining reward of a Savior-centered approach to Bible study flows from keeping Christ as the Scriptures’ all-embracing Subject.
On the day of His resurrection, Christ taught two of His dejected disciples while they were walking to Emmaus. “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them the things about Himself in all the Scriptures.” He spent the time to show them that he was on every page of the Sacred Writings. He revealed to them what was taught about the need for Him to suffer and to die for the sins of humanity, and that on the third day he would be raised from the grave by the power of his Father. He was the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 but he is now the risen Messiah, the Savior of the world, as well as the righteous prophet, priest, and king over all mankind in the past, present, and future. He desired to have them understand that He was their Savior and Lord as their hearts were burning while they listened to Him. May the same desire burn in our hearts as we open the Bible and seek to know Christ.
It makes a difference what we do with the Book. It is more than just a book to carry to church or to display in our homes! It is more than helpful information or useful advice; it is God speaking to our hearts. It is His love letter to His children on Planet Earth. In it is the secret of survival, everlasting happiness, and peace of mind. The history of the Bible tells the truth about the past, even the distant past. Its prophecies tell the truth about the future.
It tells the truth about God, too. It tells you and me that God made us, because He wanted us! Then, when we human beings sinned and disobeyed God, He loved us so much that He sent His own Son to die in our place so that we could have a chance to live forever and ever someday in a perfect world.
The Bible tells us about a God who knows how weak and trapped in sin we are, how controlled we are by our own selfishness. And in the Bible, God shows us how He wants to change us from the inside out to be unselfish and giving and loving people.
Do you know that one of the most important ways of getting to know God is by reading the Bible He has given us? As we learn in the Bible about the kind of God we have, about His great love that led Him to give His own Son to save us, we will come to trust Him. If we read and study the Bible, we’ll come to know God. And when we know Him, we’ll trust Him. And when we trust Him, we’ll accept the salvation He offers us. So do you see how important it is to trust the Bible?
Yes, it’s not just the Book—it’s the Author of the Book—who makes the difference!
And as we catch a glimpse of that Author, our faith will soar, for to know Him is to love and trust Him.
Indeed, we can still trust God’s Word. And in times like these, we need the Bible!
(References: 1. King James Version, 1611, Unless stated all verses are from KJV of the Bible. 2, Evangelism Materials of SDA, titled: My New Beginning and Christ Above All, 2006.)