Holy Bible…God’s Word? Part 2
By Benjamin ‘Raven’ Pressley
Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” I have heard it said all my life that the Bible is your sword. But I have news for you. It isn’t. Let me explain. It is no more than words on a page if you don’t approach it right. It is no more than words on a page if you don’t let it get deep down inside of you and let it speak to you in your innermost being. The devil isn’t scared of you carrying around a Bible. You can carry around the biggest family sized Bible you can get and he still isn’t scared. What scares him is when you start reading it and studying it and believing it. Then it becomes a powerful two-edged sword. David said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalms 119:11). It wasn’t until he ‘hid’ it in his heart that it had an effect. So, the written Bible in itself is not a sword. It is more like a storehouse for the swords. The swords are in there. They are sharp and powerful. But you have to draw them out. So, how do you do that?
I am no Greek scholar but there are two very important Greek words that you need to understand before we continue. They are Rhema and Logos. Logos is the written word. Rhema is the God breathed, God revealed word. The understanding derived from ‘reading between the lines’ so-to-speak. Rhema is when you are reading the Bible and it just sort of jumps out at you. It speaks directly to you in your spirit. Rhema is when it becomes a sword!
So, how do we get this Rhema? How do we really approach the Word of God? Well, first some basics. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek. The most well known English translation was written in the 16th century, known as the King James version (For a comparison of versions see Reference Library at end of this book.). It is written in the common language of the day of that time. The English language falls short in many ways. For example, we say we ‘love’ God, we ‘love’ our mother and we ‘love’ ice cream. All the same word, but expressing totally different expressions of love. In the Greek language the word for the God kind of love is Agape. Love for a friend is Phileo. Physical love is Eros. Storge means natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. Thelema means the desire to do something, to be occupied, to be in prominence. My point being, you are going to have to learn to dig a little deeper than just reading Bible like any other book if you truly want to grow and understand it. You are probably thinking I am saying you have to understand Greek. Not necessarily. In this modern day and time there are some good resources that are easy to use. One book in particular that is well worth the money is Strong’s Concordance. You can look up any word in English and it will reference you to the Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek literal meaning of the word and will give you some deeper insights into the meaning of the passage you are reading. It is also available on line for free at http://www.eliyah.com/lexicon.html.
Another important thing to know about the Bible is that it is 66 books in one. Therefore it doesn’t necessarily have to be read from front to back like other books. In fact, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be read that way. It is fine if you want to read the Bible through in a year but make that extra reading to when you really read the Bible, otherwise you are going to miss something. I tell people you are better off reading 3 or 4 verses and understanding them than to read 10 chapters and not even know what you read. So many people start in Genesis and get bogged down in the begats and levitical law and don’t go any farther. Don’t get me wrong. Every book of the Bible is important but you have to learn to walk before you can run. The main thing to keep in mind is the Bible is all about Jesus. The Old Testament points to Jesus coming to earth. And the New Testament fulfills Him coming to earth. The Bible tells us what that means to humankind and how to apply it to our lives and what our purpose here on earth is.
Let’s break it down beginning with the Old Testament. In the Old Testament there are books of law. These books have also been called the Pentateuch. These are the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They contain the laws that God first gave to man to live by, such as the Ten Commandments. He also gave them instruction in sacrifice of animals to atone for their sin, as a symbol that one day He would send His only son, Jesus to shed his blood that we might be saved. Jesus has been called the Lamb of God symbolizing that there is no longer a need to sacrifice animals, such as lambs, for all of these were but a foreshadow of the sacrifice He made of His own life and as He gave His literal, physical life we should live our lives as a sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1-2) laying aside the importance of earthly things for those things that are eternal. These books also contain an account of the creation of man and his first struggles with sin.
There are books on History, mainly focusing on the history of Israel. These are the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. Why the history of Israel? You may ask. Israel’s history is the history of the first people of God, the first people living in a sinful world that choose to serve the one and only true and living God since the fall of man. Therefore reading about their struggles, failures and victories can be very valuable to the modern day people of God, that is you and me, who have accepted Jesus Christ as savior, Lord and teacher. Israel is also the people that God sent his son, Jesus to be born through upon this earth.
There are also books of Poetry. These are the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and The Song of Solomon. These books contain the thoughts and aspirations of men as they served a Holy God. They contain teaching and advice for all who would live holy. They tell of many things these men learned the hard way, so we won’t have to, if we listen to the advice given. So, you see that these books are not light verse, or just pretty phrases. Much wisdom can be drawn from the pages of these books.
Continuing our journey we see that there are many books of Prophecy. These are the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obediah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. These books also contain events in the history of Israel. At the time these books were written God called special men called prophets that told the future of Israel as God gave it to them for the purpose of warning them to turn from their wicked ways. Very often they were used to warn the people or a king of impending judgment from God if they did not turn from their evil. They were also advisors to kings and the common man. God spoke through these men to others. By reading the books of law and prophecy we can better understand what a Holy God we serve and as we continue to read, what a merciful God we serve. So we see that prophecy is not only foretelling, but forth telling. Central to the prophecies given we hear the promise of a Savior, a messiah, a deliverer, God to reveal Himself to us in the flesh fulfilled when Jesus Christ was born. Again, within every book of the Bible, if you look, you will see Jesus Christ spoken of. He is the central focus of all of God’s word.
As we continue our study we see there are 400 years between the Old Testament
and the New Testament. Those who would please God had to hold fast upon the teachings, practices and warnings of our forefathers in hope of the savior soon to come that would reveal God’s truth to man and provide the means whereby we might all be saved, for the Old Testament is a testament presenting living proof that living by the law, living by rules only without a change of heart can only fail. Then from out the darkness of these silent years the light of the world at last is revealed to man and we read of Him in the Gospels. These are the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Here we read the precious story of Jesus as He came into our world. Perhaps John says it best: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life and the light was the life of men. And the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-5,14), Jesus is central to the entire Bible and to the Christian life. Jesus died to save us from our sins and He rose again so we, too may be imparted eternal life by Him. He came in the flesh and returned to His eternal glory and then sent to us the Holy Ghost to be with us all who would follow Him, to speak of Him and to help us comprehend more truth.
It is the Book of Acts that tells the story of the early church, how God’s truth marched on, how the Holy Ghost empowered those early believers to continue the work of Jesus upon this Earth just as you and I must carry on in the power of the Holy Ghost. How are we to do it? The Epistles are the teaching of the church, the teaching of the believer on every issue and question raised during that time. An epistle was a letter written to various established churches of that time and each answer and teaching given is still pertinent to how we followers of Jesus Christ should live as modern day believers and followers of Jesus Christ. These books are Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Phillipians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, 1,2&3 John, and Jude.
This journey along this river of inspiration does not end here for Jesus went on to reveal how the end times would be in the book of Revelation. It tells of times that will befall the unbeliever and rewards to those who are faithful to Him. As He gave glimpses of these times to Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel and others in the Old Testament, He revealed many more details of the great tribulation that would befall the earth under final judgment to John as he was exiled on an island called Patmos, persecuted for his beliefs. But, ah, He also revealed what glory awaits those who stay faithful to Him till the end. You are one of those who will behold Him one day if you will “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus…” and “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:1,3).
If you are new to the Bible or just want to approach it fresh and new, I recommend reading the book of John first. Here is a book written about Christ by someone that was there and was so in love with Jesus that he clinged to his side, laid his head on His chest (John 13:25) as the Bible puts it, clinging to His every word. Jesus must have thought highly of John for John often refers to himself as the disciple Jesus loved (John 13:26; 19:26; 20:2). The Gospel of John represents Jesus as an incarnation of the eternal Word (John 1:1-5).
Then read the other gospels. Luke was written by a physician and is very detailed, written with us Gentiles (Gentiles defined simply: anyone not a Jew) in mind as an audience. Mark was written to a Roman audience and is the shortest gospel. Matthew was written by a former tax collector, so it is written from a common man’s perspective, written mostly with the Jews in mind as an audience. Then read the Book of Acts. It tells all about the early church following Christ’s resurrection and how the Holy Spirit came and empowered the church. You can learn a lot about what we as believers have as far as power and authority from the book of Acts. Then read some teaching, some doctrine, as you read Romans through Jude. Especially the Book of Romans. I heard someone call Romans the fifth gospel. I have to agree with them. The Book of Romans explains what the life, death and resurrection of Christ has to do with us like no other book. It explains how it applies to us as believers. Get into that book people! Get a handle on it. Devour it. Understand it. Especially Romans 6-8. Romans 6 spells out who we are in Christ. Romans 7 talks about the struggle we have as believers, and Romans 8 tells us what to do about it. It will set you free! Then read the book of Genesis. It is about creation and mankind’s early days on earth. It chronicles all the messes early humans got into and how God still, in His mercy, still watched out for us. Then read Exodus. It is mainly about Moses and the children of Israel coming out of the bondage of Egypt. You might want to skip Leviticus, just for a while. It gets a lot into how to sacrifice and all the Jewish law, very detailed. It is important stuff but you really need more study before you can really apply it to your life. Enjoy reading the rest of the Old Testament. You will have a great time and learn something from the lives of all those early heroes of the faith. Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are books you could read a little everyday and gain great insight into how to live for God and just live in general.
What about that book of Revelation? Hey, it is the only book in the Bible that says you will be blessed just for reading it (Revelation 1:3)! A great book that confuses many people but it should not be so. It is the vision given to John while in exile on island of Patmos about the last days on Earth as we know it. People want to make it spooky and mystical but consider this. What if you lived in the second century and saw a vision of things in this time? Imagine describing things like jets and helicopters when all you knew were horses and chariots. I think that is why most of the descriptions come out looking like mythical beasts. Now I don’t want to oversimplify the book either there are definitely some meanings of things that are debatable but I believe if you approach it with a sincere heart with a willingness to understand it and allow the Holy Spirit to open up its meaning to you you will understand. To truly understand endtime prophecy, however, one must also cross reference the books of Daniel and Ezekiel. Again, like I said about the book of Leviticus, don’t get too deep into this book too soon. When approaching your undestanding of God’s Word, like building a house, you must lay a good foundation first. That is all I am attempting to do here. The rest will come. Be patient.
There are many ways to study the Bible. I will get into some methods next study. In this part I mainly want to teach you how to approach the Bible; how to get into that place where God can speak to you from His Word. If you don’t have an understanding of that all the study methods in the world won’t do you any good. You may learn a lot on an intellectual level but it is more important as a Christian to have a spiritual understanding (Rhema). This will be much more effective in your battle against the devil and all you will face in this life.
So, how do you approach the Word of God? First, PRAY. Consider what I have said above. Familiarize yourself with some study methods. Then pray for the Holy Spirit to open up the Word to you, to speak to you from His Word. Jesus taught His disciples while on Earth with them. He also told them that when He leaves He would send the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is your helper. He will teach you. Depend on Him. Next, ask Him where you should read. If you do not feel Him leading you to a particular passage then approach your study systematically believing He will guide you as you get into His Word. And, listen for His voice. You may even be lead where to study from a preacher’s sermon or a lesson taught by a teacher. There have been times that I have came home from church and I just ‘had’ to dig a little deeper into a passage preached on and it became Rhema to me. The Word of God is exciting and so dynamic!
Memorizing scriptures is very helpful. If you do memorize scriptures be sure to memorize where it is found also. But I think you will find as you study and read the Bible you will find you will know scriptures you didn’t necessarily memorize. It just has a way of getting into you and becoming part of you and the Holy Spirit will bring them to your memory when you need them (John 14:26). There are some great little packets of memory verses put out by Navigators, topically packaged, that you can find at your local Bible bookstore that are very helpful. The more of the Word of God you get in you the better.
Fall in love with the Word of God. Don’t just read and study it because you have to. The more time you spend in His presence in prayer and in the Word the more you will love Him and more importantly you will realize how much He loves you. You will never understand it all, but, God will give you what you need day by day as you need it. Like David said, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. “ (Psalms 119:105). Have you ever walked down a dark trail with a flashlight or a lantern? Did it light up the whole path? No, but it did light just enough in front of you so you could see the way, didn’t it? That is the way God’s Word is. Don’t get too far ahead of Him. Let him light your path day by day and you will get where you are going. He won’t let you down.