THE ETERNAL WORD
By Glenn Pease
Did you know that the Mary Magdalene was the mother of Jesus? And that the New Testament book that records Paul's conversion is Psalms? And that the last book of the Bible is evolution? And that the first murderer in the Bible was Pilate? And that Isaiah was the son of Solomon? These are some of the answers given to a Bible knowledge test which was given to 357 incoming freshman at a Christian college. Out of 25 fairly easy questions the average number correct was 8. 75 who had been Sunday School teachers got 11 right. All but 22 were members of a church, and they had been in Sunday School since childhood, and yet they hardly knew anything about the Bible.
Apparently we are becoming a nation of Bible dusters rather than Bible diggers. The American people buy Bibles like hotcakes, but apparently they read them like they read hotcakes also, which is not at all. We can hardly blame the Supreme Court for the fact that the Bible is taken out of our schools, for even one atheist woman with enough conviction to fight as more influence than millions of Bible dusters who don't know Paul from Adam. Masses of professing Christians know more about Paul Bunyan, Bugs Bunny, Lassie, and Yoggie Bear than they know about the Word of God. With such a weak possession on the value and power of the Bible it is no wonder that the forces of unbelief can gain such ground.
When the Bible is no longer our ultimate authority then only weakness can follow. The strength of the past came from Bible educated people. Theodore Roosevelt said, "Almost every man who has by his life-work added to the sum of human achievement of which the race is proud, of which our people are proud; almost every such man has based his life-work largely upon the teachings of the Bible." William Gladstone, the great statesman and intellectual giant of England said, "I have known ninety-five great men of the world in my time, and of these eighty-seven were followers of the Bible." Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "Nearly all of the great men of our country have been well versed in the teachings of the Bible."
Why then are men so foolish to neglect it and reject it? It is because of the devil's deception that says men do not need God. Men are deceived into thinking that the Bible is old fashion. People in earlier times of ignorance needed the Bible, but modern man has grown beyond that need. God challenges this folly, and He says through Peter that we are not to look to man's glory, for it is gone in no time and withers away like a flower, but His Word endures forever. The Bible is still our absolute authority for two reasons that Peter gives us in verse 23. It is because the Word is-
I. A LIVING WORD.
It takes life to give life, and the Bible is a living and life giving power, for as Peter says, they were born again by this Word. All through history men have been discovering new life through the Bible. Robert Ingersoll, the skeptic, urged General Lew Wallace to write a book exposing the falsehood of Christianity. General Wallace began to study the Bible in order to write such a book, but he discovered that the Bible did not just lay there, for it was alive, and it got a hold of his heart and changed his life. He wrote, instead of his book of criticism, the classic about the beauty and the divinity of the life of Christ called Ben Hur.
History is filled with amazing examples of the power of the Bible on the lives of people. A colporteur distributing Bibles in Sicily was travelling at night when he was held up. The bandit ordered him to build a fire and burn all his Bibles. He asked if he could read a part of each one before he threw them in, and his request was granted. From the first he read the 23rd Psalm, and the bandit said, "That is a good book, we will save it." The second he read the parable of the Good Samaritan; the third from the Sermon on the Mount; the fourth I Cor. 13, and in each case the bandit said, "Save that one." It turned out that none were burned, and he took them with him, and the transforming power of the Word worked in the life of this bandit, and he became a minister of the Gospel.
John said, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent." It is through the Bible that we come to know Christ, and through Him to know the Father, and so it is the book of eternal life. It is no good that 85 million people go to church in America if only a handful of them ever read the life giving Word of God. If the Bible is not read, the church will be dead no matter how many activities they have. The Bible is a Living Word, not only because it gives life, but also because it sustains life. One of the best proofs of the inspiration of the Bible is the way it will inspire you if you read it.
Watts Dunton tells the tale of an Italian girl reading the Bible. A skeptic said, "Don't waste your time reading that." She said, "But it is inspired." He laughed and said, "How do you know that?" She responded, "How do you know that the sun is in the sky?" He said, "I can see it and feel it." She replied, "So when I read the Bible I see the wisdom of God and feel the warmth of His radiant and redeeming love." To know the Bible is to have a life-giving, and life-sustaining power within that will give victory over the trials and temptations of life. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, and faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
One night during World War I General Edward Allenby sat in his tent studying a map of Palestine. He was making plans on how to capture a village that was in the hands of the enemy, the Turks. He had to find a weak point, but nothing would come to him. The name of the town was Mickmash, and he thought he had heard of that name before, but he didn't know where. He laid on his cot until after midnight. Suddenly it came to him that he had read it in the Bible. He quickly got up, found his Bible, and began to search. He found it in I Sam. 13-14. He got his map out and worked all night, and in the morning he unfolded his plan to his officers. He read the description of the land to them from the Bible. They said it would be a miracle if it worked, but in less than 12 hours it had worked, and the allied troops had taken the village. That description in the Bible over 3000 years old gave guidance into victory. So it is in every realm of life, which is a form of warfare, if you know the Bible you can be victorious.
Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears,
Yet more precious than gold
Is this book worn and old,
That can shatter and scatter my fears.
This old Book is my guide,
'Tis a friend by my side.
It will lighten and brighten my way;
And each promise I find
Soothes and gladdens the mind,
As I read it and heed it each day.
To this book I will cling,
Of its worth I will sing,
Though great loses and crosses be mine;
For I cannot despair,
Though surrounded by care,
While possessing this blessing divine.
II. A LASTING WORD.
Peter says it abides forever. In Luke 21:23 we read, "Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away." Many passages express what Isa. 40:8 says, "The Word of our God shall stand forever." To know the Bible is to have knowledge that eternal. The Bible, like Jesus, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. To know it is to be educated for eternity as well as time. But you might ask, why are there so many different translations? It is because language is constantly changing. The Hebrew and Greek that the Bible was written in do not change, but our language, and the languages of the world, are changing all the time. We need to keep bringing the Word of God into the language of the day, and so there are constantly new translations.
God has always wanted His Word in the language of the people. John Wycliff was so hated for giving the people the Bible in their language that he was dug up 30 years after he was buried, and his bones were burned, and his ashes thrown into the River Avon. John Hus was burned at the stake for making a translation of the Bible in Bohemian. William Tyndale was also burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. Many have died in getting the Bible to the people, and many enemies have fought against it happening, but nothing has been able to stop the Word of God getting to the masses.
In 1951, at a meeting of the United Bible Societies, Mr. Gilbert Darling of the American Bible Society told of how measures had been taken to preserve various translations of the Bible in case of atomic war. Copies of all important editions have been deposited in specially made vaults in Colorado and New Hampshire, and one is New York City. If every book in the world were destroyed the Word of God would be preserved. With or without man's efforts, God's Word will never pass away. But what good is the Eternal Word if we do not read and study it now for our absolute guide. May God help us to become students of this Living and Lasting Word.