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HALLEY'S BIBLE HANDBOOK WITH THE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
By Henry Hampton Halley
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2000 Halley's Bible Handbook, Inc.
All right reserved.
The Heart of the Bible
This book is built on two central convictions:
1. The Bible is God's Word.
2. Christ is the heart and center of the Bible.
I. The Bible Is God's Word
Apart from any theory of inspiration, or any theory of how the Bible books came to their present form, or how much the text may have suffered in transmission at the hands of editors and copyists; apart from the question of how much is to be interpreted literally and how much figuratively, or what is historical and what may be poetical-if we simply assume that the Bible is just what it appears to be and study its 66 books to know their contents, we will find a unity of thought that indicates that one Mind inspired the writing and compilation of the whole collection of books. We will find that it bears the stamp of its Author and that it is in a unique and distinctive sense the Word of God.
Many people hold the view that the Bible is a collection of ancient stories about people's efforts to find God, a record of human experiences in their reaching for God that led to a gradually improving idea of God by building on the experiences of preceding generations. This means, of course, that the many, many passages in the Bible in which it is said that God spoke are merelyusing a figure of speech and that God did not really speak. Rather, people put their ideas into religious language that claimed to be the language of God, and in reality it was only what they themselves imagined God might say. This viewpoint reduces the Bible to the level of other books. It is made into a human book pretending to be divine, rather than a divine book.
We reject this view utterly, and with abhorrence! We believe that the Bible is not an account of human efforts to find God, but rather an account of God's effort to reveal Himself to humanity. It is God's own record of His dealings with people in His unfolding revelation of Himself to the human race. The Bible is the revealed will of the Creator of all of humanity, given to His creatures by the Creator Himself, for instruction and guidance along life's paths.
There can be no question that the books of the Bible were composed by human authors; we don't even know who some of these authors were. Nor do we know just how God directed these authors to write. But we believe and know that God did direct them and that these books therefore must be exactly what God wanted them to be.
There is a difference between the Bible and all other books. Authors may pray for God's help and guidance, and God does help and guide them. There are many good books in the world that leave the unmistakable impression that God helped the authors to write them. But even the most saintly authors would hardly presume to claim for their books that God wrote them.
Yet that is what the Bible claims for itself and what the people of God through the millennia have learned and understood and claimed. God Himself superintended and directed the writing of the Bible books in such a way that what was written was the writing of God. The Bible is God's Word in a sense in which no other book in the world is God's Word.
Many statements in the Bible are expressed in ancient thought forms and ancient language forms. Today we would express these same ideas in a different form and in modern language rather than in the language of ancient times. But even so, the Bible contains precisely the things God wants mankind to know, in exactly the form in which He wants us to know them. And to the end of time, the "dear old Book" will remain the one and only answer to humanity's quest for God.
· Everyone should love the Bible.
· Everyone should be a regular reader of the Bible.
· Everyone should strive to live by the Bible's teachings.
· The Bible should have the central place in the life and work of every church and every pulpit.
· The pulpit's one business is the simple teaching of God's Word, expressing in the language of today the truths that are expressed in ancient thought and language forms in the Bible.
2. Christ Is the Center and Heart of the Bible
The Bible consists of two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament.
· The Old Testament is an account of a nation: Israel.
· The New Testament is an account of a man: Jesus, God's Son.
The nation was founded and nurtured by God to bring the Man into the world. In Jesus, God Himself became a man to provide the means for the redemption of mankind. Jesus also gives humanity a concrete, definite, tangible idea of what kind of person to think of when we think of God: God is like Jesus. Jesus was God incarnate, God in human form.
His appearance on the earth is the central event of all history: the Old Testament sets the stage for it; the New Testament describes it.
Jesus the Christ (the Messiah) lived the most memorable, beautiful life ever known. He was born of a virgin and led a sinless life. As a man, Jesus was the kindest, tenderest, gentlest, most patient, most sympathetic man who ever lived. He loved people. He hated to see people in trouble. He loved to forgive. He loved to help. He did marvelous miracles to feed hungry people. For relief of the suffering He forgot to take food for Himself. Multitudes, weary, pain-ridden, and heartsick, came to Him and found healing and relief. It is said of Him, and of no other, that if all the deeds of kindness that He did were written down, the world could not contain the books.
That is the kind of man Jesus was.
That is the kind of person God is.
Then Jesus died on the cross to take away the sin of the world, to become the Redeemer and Savior of humanity.
He rose from the dead and is alive now-not merely a historical character but a living Person. This is the most important fact of history and the most vital force in the world today.
The whole Bible is built around this beautiful story of Christ and around His promise of life eternal to those who accept Him. The Bible was written only that people might believe, and understand, and know, and love, and follow Christ.
Christ, the center and heart of the Bible, the center and heart of history, is also the center and heart of our lives. Our eternal destiny is in His hand. Our acceptance or rejection of Him as our Lord and Savior determines for each of us eternal glory or eternal ruin-heaven or hell, one or the other.
The most important decision anyone is ever called on to make is to settle in one's heart, once for all, the matter of one's attitude toward Christ.
On that depends everything.
It is a glorious thing to be a Christian, the most exalted privilege of mankind. The Creator of all things wants to have a personal relationship with each and every one of us! To accept Christ as Savior, Lord, and Master, and to strive sincerely and devotedly to follow in the way of life He taught, is certainly and by far the most reasonable and most satisfactory way to live. It means peace, peace of mind, contentment of heart, forgiveness, happiness, hope, life abundant, life that shall never end.
How can anyone be so blind, or so dumb, as to go through life and face death without the Christian hope? Apart from Christ, what is there, what can there be, either for this world or the next, to make life worthwhile? We all have to die. Why try to laugh it off or try to deny it? It seems as if every human being would want to welcome Christ with open arms and consider it the proudest privilege of his or her life to wear the Christian name.
In the final analysis, the most marvelous thing in life is the consciousness, in the inner depths of our soul, that we live for Christ. And though our efforts be ever so feeble, we toil at our daily tasks in hope of being able to have done something to lay as an offering at His feet, in humble gratitude and adoration, when we meet Him face to face.
The Habit of Bible Reading
Everybody should love the Bible. Everybody should read the Bible.
It is God's Word. It holds the solution of life. It tells about the best Friend humanity ever had, the noblest, kindest, truest Man who ever walked on this earth.
It is the most beautiful story ever told. It is the best guide to human conduct ever known. It gives a meaning, a glow, a joy, a victory, a destiny, and a glory to life elsewhere unknown.
There is nothing in history, or in literature, that in any way compares with the simple record of the Man of Galilee, who spent His days and nights ministering to the suffering, teaching human kindness, dying for human sin, rising to life that shall never end, and promising eternal security and eternal happiness to all who will come to Him.
Most people, in their serious moods, must have some question in their minds as to how things are going to stack up when the end comes. Laugh it off and toss it aside as we may, that day will come. And then what?
Well, it is the Bible that has the answer. And an unmistakable answer it is. There is a God. There is a heaven. There is a hell. There is a Savior. There will be a day of judgment. Happy is the person who in this life makes his or her peace with the Christ of the Bible and gets ready for the final takeoff.
How can any thoughtful person keep his or her heart from warming up to Christ and to the book that tells about Him? Everybody ought to love the Bible. Everybody. Everybody.
Yet the widespread neglect of the Bible by churches and by church people is simply appalling. Oh, we talk about the Bible, and defend the Bible, and praise the Bible, and exalt the Bible. Yes indeed! But many church members seldom ever even look into a Bible-indeed, would be ashamed to be seen reading the Bible. And an alarming percentage of church leadership generally seems to be making no serious effort to get people to be Bible readers.
We are intelligent about everything else in the world. Why not be intelligent about our religion? We read newspapers, magazines, novels, and all kinds of books, and listen to the radio and watch television by the hour. Yet most of us do not even know the names of the Bible books. Shame on us! Worse still, the pulpit, which could easily remedy the situation, seems often not to care and generally does not emphasize personal Bible reading.
Individual, direct contact with God's Word is the principal means of Christian growth. All the leaders in Christian history who displayed any kind of spiritual power have been devoted readers of the Bible.
The Bible is the book we live by. Bible reading is the means by which we learn, and keep fresh in our minds, the ideas that mold our lives. Our lives are the product of our thoughts. To live right, we need to think right. We must read the Bible frequently and regularly so that God's thoughts may be frequently and regularly in our minds; so that His thoughts may become our thoughts; so that our ideas may become conformed to God's ideas; so that we may be transformed into God's own image and be made fit for eternal companionship with our Creator.
We may, indeed, absorb Christian truth, in some measure, by attending religious services, listening to sermons, Bible lessons, and testimonies, and by reading Christian literature.
But however good and helpful these things may be, they give us God's truth secondhand, diluted through human channels and, to quite an extent, obscured by human ideas and traditions.
Such things cannot possibly take the place of reading for ourselves the Bible itself, and grounding our faith and hope and life directly in God's Word, rather than in what people say about God's Word.
God's Word is the weapon of the Spirit of God for the redemption and perfection of the human soul. It is not enough to listen to others talk and teach and preach about the Bible. We need to keep ourselves, every one of us, in direct touch with God's Word. It is the power of God in our hearts.
* * *
Bible reading is a basic Christian habit.
We do not mean that we should worship the Bible as a fetish. But we do worship the God and the Savior the Bible tells us about. And because we love our God and our Savior, we love deafly and devotedly the book that is from Him and about Him.
Nor do we mean that the habit of Bible reading is in itself a virtue, for it is possible to read the Bible without applying its teachings to one's own life. And there are those who read the Bible and yet are mean and crooked and un-Christian. But they are the exception.
As a rule, Bible reading, if done in the right spirit, is a habit out of which all Christian virtues grow-the most effective character-forming power known to mankind.
* * *
Bible reading is an act of religious devotion. Our attitude toward the Bible is a pretty sure indication of our attitude toward Christ. If we love a person, we love to read about him or her, do we not? If we could only bring ourselves to think of our Bible reading as an act of devotion to Christ, we might be inclined to treat the matter less lightly.
It is a glorious thing to be a Christian. The most exalted privilege any mortal can have is to walk through life hand in hand with Christ as Savior and Guide. Or, to put it more correctly, to toddle along at His side and, though always stumbling, never letting go of His hand.
This personal relationship of each of us with Christ is one of the intimate things of life, and we do not talk much about it, probably because we often believe that we are so pitifully unworthy to wear His name. Why would the Creator of all things care about me? But deep down in our hearts, in our serious moods, we know that because of our weakness, our worldliness, our frivolity, our selfishness, and our sins, we need Him more than we love anything else in this world. He is our Father. And in our saner moments we know that we should not willingly offend or hurt Him for anything. Why would we intentionally hurt the One who loves us and whom we love? We are thoughtless.
The Bible is the book that tells about Christ and His immeasurable love for us. Is it possible to love Christ and at the same time be complacently indifferent to His Word? Is it possible? Each one of us has to make daily choices-to serve Him and not the world. The Bible teaches us how!
The Bible is also the best devotional book. Booklets and books of daily devotions, now published in such abundance, may have their place. But they are no substitute for the Bible. The Bible is God's own word, and no other book can take its place. Every Christian, young and old, should be a faithful reader of the Bible.
George Mueller, who, in his orphanages in Bristol, England, did by prayer and trust one of the most remarkable things in Christian history, attributed his success, on the human side, to his love for the Bible.
Excerpted from HALLEY'S BIBLE HANDBOOK WITH THE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION by Henry Hampton Halley Copyright © 2000 by Halley's Bible Handbook, Inc.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.