In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom — in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
- Daniel 9:1-3
That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
- Matthew 22:23-33
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
- Acts 18:24-28
“God could have by-passed the witnesses. He could have dictated to someone in a trance. (In fact he did on rare occasions.) But he chose, in the main, to give his infallible Word through the experiences and words of fallible men and women.
In this way the Bible is doubly personal. It is personal in that it is a personal message from God to each one of us. We must study it if we want more faith. But it is also personal in the sense that it is a message from ﬂesh and blood men and women across the centuries to us. By the Spirit these people gather round us in a cloud as we prepare ourselves for the race of faith.
Therefore you must study Scripture in order to grow in faith. Study the lives of bygone “heroes of faith.” Discover how human they were and how slow to learn. Modern biographies of outstanding Christians might depress you, whereas the scriptural narrative of the life of an Abraham or of a David will enable you to discover how patient God is in training essentially feeble believers to make them giants of faith.”
- John White, The Fight
I could have quoted from Hebrews 11, the Hall of Fame, if you will, of “heroes of faith.” I like the way Hebrews 11 ends in that many believed and walked in faith even though they did not receive the promise in their lifetime. Abraham was promised descendants greater than the sand or the stars. That may not be literal, but it represents a mind-boggling number that Abraham could not fathom. While he had several children by Keturah (Genesis 25) and Ishmael, born of Hagar, the promise was through one child born of Sarah in her old age. Isaac only had two sons, twins, yet he received the same promise.
It is easy to have faith when you hold the certainty of faith in your hands, but is that faith at all?
My wife likes to dig into the Scriptures with the mindset of how these people lived and communicated in their time. In other words, how hard was it on Abraham to move into a foreign land? When she learned that Paul and Barnabas, and then Silas, walked hundreds and hundreds of miles, that made those missionary trips mean something different. We get tired driving a hundred miles down the road in a climate-controlled SUV. Then to have been beaten and stoned, the toll on the body must have been fierce.
Regardless of how we visualize what these people of faith went through, we have their personal testimonies, in a way, displayed in the pages of Holy Scripture. We know what 2 Timothy 3:16 states that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful in instruction.
I have mentioned before that the Bible is a “living” text.
Before I get to my point, I want to share a story about an old boss. He was a dreamer, and I was unfortunately his miracle worker that made the dreams happen, although there were a few others in the group that got the mundane tasks, the tasks that … “made sense.” The boss announced in a meeting that the document being discussed was a “living” document. I had mostly written the document, but he claimed it because he signed it. It was a ‘living’ document in that it would be revised to keep up with the changes in our rapidly growing department. One of the other guys that was sitting beside me took a finger from each hand and slide the document so that a ripple formed in the middle, and then he let go and the paper lay flat again. He repeated this until everyone was silently watching him and the boss quit talking – a rare occurrence – and he asked the guy what he was doing. My friend and co-worker said, “I’m performing CPR, but I think my copy is dead!” The boss left the room before the laughter died down.
But back to why the Bible is indeed a living message from God, and since God never changes, the Bible never needs to change – but God’s Holy Word is alive. The Bible is God-breathed. Once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit resides within us to guide us. Each time we read the Bible, the Holy Spirit reveals up to a point – what He knows that we can handle, based on how we have grown in faith. Then, on another pass through the Scriptures, reading the Bible multiple times, we will gain more knowledge, because we have grown in the faith more. The message is not different in most cases, but deeper. As John White says in the quote above, ”We must study it if we want more faith.”
But then, as we study Scripture even more, we learn more based on that growth in faith. The two go hand in hand. It becomes a bigger and bigger ball of twine. I would say “snowball” but those can melt, and we might have to climb a hill, not rolling downhill all the time. For some of us, it never seems to roll downhill.
And we can see how that ball of twine gets bigger. Daniel took action, having studied Scripture. And Priscilla and Aquilla helped strengthen the faith of Apollos and gave him that inspiration of the Holy Spirit that illumined the Gospel in the eyes of Apollos. He already had a germ of faith. He already knew the Old Testament Scriptures. He only needed someone to connect a few of the dots. That was provided by Priscilla and Aquilla, but they came to faith through the missions of Paul, accompanying Paul for part of one of his mission trips. Everything in their ministry with Apollos came back to the Scriptures.
We learn by the Scriptures, and we teach others by the Scriptures. And as you grow in faith, the Bible becomes very personal.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.