Part A | Part B | Part C | Part D
GOD'S PROVISION FOR HIS CHURCH: THE BIBLE
Christian attempts to lead live victoriously in Christ while in a hostile environment could become frightening of we did not believe that God has provided for every trial. The sovereign God of eternity knew every kind of attack the enemy would use before time began, and He has provided the means to obtain victory. In the next three lessons, we will consider the three primary provisions that God has made so that His church will be able to defeat Satan: the Bible, His Holy Spirit, and prayer. The Bible is Gods written revelation of Himself. Man could never have understood our great God, if He had not chosen to reveal Himself. Of course, His greatest revelation of Himself was when He came to live among men in a human body, known as Jesus Christ. But even our knowledge of that revelation depends upon His written Word, the Bible. Satan has conducted a massive propaganda campaign in the last century in an attempt to discredit the Bible. He would love to see Christians lose their faith that it is really the Word of God. In spite of His efforts, however, no one has ever been able to prove that it contains a single error. It remains the only absolute truth known to man. It is our God-given basis for faith, doctrine and practice. Many times Christians have departed from its teachings, and suffered accordingly. But usually when Christians depart from the Word, it is because they do not know or understand it.
The church can only be true to the revealed Word of God when they know what it teaches. Study of God's Word is an essential part of the Christian life. When Christians doubt, ignore, or fail to understand the teachings of Scripture and depart from its principles, they lose their spiritual power. Many human organizations that were originally built on scriptural principles have lost their spiritual impact for this reason. Only a return to the authority of the Word of God and a faithful teaching of its principles can restore the spiritual life that should be present in a true member of the body of Christ. The Bible makes very clear claim to being the revealed Word of God. "All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (II Tim. 3:16-17. See also II Peter 1:21). Jesus Christ said, "...study the Scriptures...these are the Scriptures that testify about me," (Jn. 5:39). All that we teach in the church must be based on the Bible. You have probably noticed that in these lessons every principle is supported by a reference to the Bible. Look up these passages and be sure that these lessons tell you only what the Bible teaches. Apart from the teaching of Scripture the church cannot hope to survive victoriously.
Suggested Discussion Questions:
l. How many ways has God revealed Himself to man? [the answer should give three types of divine revelation].
2. Give examples of these three types of revelation.
3. Have you heard the Bible criticized? How should a Christian respond to such an attack?
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Sometimes Christians in the free world acknowledge the importance of the Bible, but because they have such easy access to it, they take it for granted. What if it were not available to you? o you have it "hidden...in your heart?" (Ps. 119:11). Do you have such a clear understanding of the basic teachings of Scripture that you could stay true to the Lord if you did not have continued access to a Bible? Jesus is our best example of dependence on the written Word of God. He quoted Scripture repeatedly. When Satan tempted Him in the wilderness, for example, He quoted Scripture in answer to each of Satan's demands (Mt. 4:1-11). Jesus based His teaching on the Old Testament Scriptures and referred to them frequently for historical examples. It can be said that Jesus authenticated almost every book in the Old Testament by quoting from it at least once as divine authority. It is especially interesting to note how Jesus used the Scriptures after His death and resurrection. While walking with some followers on the road to Emmaus He began "with Moses and all the Prophets" explaining "...to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself." (Lk. 24:27).
The central place Scripture held for the early church is evident throughout the book of Acts. Scripture was used to explain the events of Pentecost (2:16-21), to identify Jesus as the Messiah (2:25-28), to determine their reaction to persecution (4:23-26), to state the church's position in the face of persecution (7:1-53), to preach Christ (8:29-35), and to determine how to accept gentile believers (15:13-21). There are literally hundreds of examples of New Testament Christians and the writers of the Epistles using the Old Testament Scriptures to prove their positions. In fact, it is so basic to sound biblical teaching that it is still common in evangelical circles today. The Bible is our source of divine knowledge.
The books of the Old Testament were compiled by the Jewish nation over a period of more than 1,000 years and their authority was accepted by Christ. The books of the New Testament were gradually assembled by the early church and their authority was affirmed by the Holy Spirit. In the first and second centuries following Christ, early church leaders began to use quotes from the writings of Paul, John, Peter and the Gospel accounts to prove their teachings, just as these men and Jesus had referred to the Old Testament Scriptures. Every book in our New Testament gradually gained this kind of authority, while hundreds of other books of the era were set aside. By the third century, there was widespread acceptance by the church of the books that now are called the New Testament. An international church council also confirmed that these particular books were to be the "canon" or official contents of the New Testament, but we feel that the selection was made by the Holy Spirit and only confirmed by men.
Satan does not question the importance of the Bible. He has attempted to destroy it throughout history. Whether Romans in New Testament times, barbarians of the dark ages, Spanish Inquisitors in the middle ages, French radicals in the eighteenth century, Nazis in World War II, Soviet Communists or Chinese revolutionaries, all have tried to destroy the Bible. It is not unusual throughout history to read of gigantic fires where Bibles were burned. Yet the Bible remains the most widely published and read book of all time. Satan has not only attempted to physically destroy the Bible, he has tried to destroy people's faith in it as well. One generation after another has produced pseudo-intellectual attacks on the Bible. But Satan's most effective attack has been indifference. He is as pleased to see the Bible remain unused on a Christians book shelf, as he is to see it burned by extremists. Even if the Bible is considered a good book, or fine literature, Satan is pleased. His fear is that it will be recognized for what it truly is--Gods Word to lost to men and women!
Suggested Discussion Questions:
1. How do we know the Old Testament Scriptures were considered important by Jesus Christ?
2. Where did the Bible come from?
3. Does Satan recognize the importance of the Bible? How does he show this?
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One of the strongest arguments in support of the Bible is the intense hatred for it displayed by such diverse groups as barbarians, liberal intellectuals, Fascists and Communists. Why are all these groups so afraid of the Bible? Why have so many repressive societies attempted to stop its importation and distribution? Sometime ago two young ladies from Scandinavia were caught trying to give Bibles away in the Soviet Union. They were roughly treated by the police, all their possessions, including their automobile, were confiscated, and they were expelled from the country. In another case an Englishman was sent to prison for the same "crime." Why? Because these oppressive authorities are afraid of the power of the Bible.
We discussed in Lesson II the general pattern that Communist regimes often follow in their attempts to destroy Christianity: infiltration, denunciation of Christianity as a "foreign" religion and gradually increasing persecution. Early in such a period, they usually claim that the teachings of Jesus are "communistic" and try to make young Christians believe that they can be Christians and Communists at the same time. But they also repeatedly claim that the Bible is full of contradictions and no longer valid. They frequently mock as "fairy tales" the stories found in Scripture and demand rational explanations for the teachings that must be based on faith. Very few Christians are prepared for this kind of two-pronged attack. Some Christian students at a major university in China did a wonderful job of confounding such attacks in 1950-1951, but later the Communist abandoned "persuasion" and simply forced submission. When Christians find themselves in this kind of situation, they must turn to serious Bible study. They can be sure that the time they will have to openly study Scripture will be brief. Soon Bibles will disappear from the bookstores and shops. One favorite trick used by the authorities in a number of repressive societies has been to allow Bibles to be displayed for sale, but no one can buy one until they have "permission." This means that if anyone should be so bold as to try to get "permission," the police have a record of who the Christians are that want them. This ruse has great propaganda value. Of course, the Communist controlled printing presses will not normally produce Bibles. One major exception recently was Chinas agreement to allow one million Bibles to be printed there. Aside from the economic value that this huge job was to the country, paid for with foreign currency, it will be interesting to see how many of these Bibles actually end up in the hands of true believers. In point of fact, even if all one million were turned over to house church believers, this would hardly dent the need there is for 10 to 50 million Bibles in that country!
But to return to the outline of the pattern of oppression normally used against Christianity--after the oppressors have gained firm control of an area, they usually declared Christianity to be "counter-revolutionary" and then any remaining Bibles and related literature were destroyed. Mere possession of a Bible became a criminal offense. For example; in China during the Cultural Revolution an old man was caught with a Bible. The Red Guards did not want to use force to take it away from him, as elderly people were still honored in China, but they felt they could not allow him to keep it. So they locked him up and said he could not eat until he gave up his Bible. Several days later, they entered his cell and the Bible was gone. When the asked where it was, he told them he had eaten it. "Better it should be inside of me," he said patting his stomach, "than that you should destroy it."
Suggested Discussion Questions:
1. What is the Communist "two-pronged attack" on the Bible?
2. How can there be a need for Bibles in some countries when they appear to be openly available?
3. Why do some restricted societies "pretend" Bibles are freely available?
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The best way the church can prepare for these kinds of situations is by seriously studying and learning the Word of God. Scripture memorization is also very important. Every Christian should know key verses by heart: John 3:16, John 5:24, Ephesians 2:8-9, for example. Many Christian groups are willing to provide Bible memory guides and plans. A good approach is to memorize at least one key verse each week. One per day is even better. Your fellowship, for example, could begin a plan of memorizing whole chapters. The same chapter is assigned to two or three people. Then at a later date, they can get together and write it out. With a little practice and constant review, even a small fellowship can memorize whole books like I John or Philippians. It is important to begin this kind of activity right away. Memorization of Scripture is well worth the effort, even if you are never denied the use of a Bible. Start now!
A certain young Christian lived in the northern part of Vietnam that fell to Communist control in 1945. When he realized how repressive life under Communism was he vowed that if he ever again had the opportunity to live in a free area he would learn Bible teachings thoroughly. In 1954, his area was taken by the South Vietnamese forces and he set out to keep his vow. He memorized Scripture earnestly, also learning to understand basic Bible theology. A few years later, his area again came under Communist control, but this time he was prepared. His testimony, following his recent escape to the west, was that the Scripture was his comfort and strength. He and a few fellow believers were able to worship together and strengthen each other through the use of memorized Scripture.
Of course, merely memorizing some verses is just the beginning. Christians need an overview of the whole Bible. It is distressing to realize that less than half of the professing born again Christians in North America have ever read through the Old Testament! Christians need to have a basic knowledge of the Bible, and an unshakable faith that the Bible is the Word of God. If we truly believe that, we will know that it is definitely worth the effort it takes to study it. We must not only seek to understand it, but to live by its teachings. Believers have found that the effort involved in trying to memorize passages and later to write them out is also a great aid in helping a person to understand their meaning. If you think hard about one word after another in an effort to memorize, the related meanings of the words will begin to become clear. And once a passage has been committed to memory the Holy Spirit can recall it to your conscious mind when you face a situation in your everyday life to which it applies. Children should be made an important part of any groups memorization plan. They are frequently able to memorize better than adults, and the Scripture they learn can be passed on to the next generation. Passages that have been memorized should be reviewed at least once a month. When a lengthy passage has been memorized by the church, each person should write out the portion they have learned, and the whole Bible segment compiled. This will show your group how it could be done if the need to produce the passage from memory ever arose. In an actual case, the varieties of handwriting and the different kinds of paper that would be used would help to conceal the importance of the copy. One disadvantage of typed or computer printed copies is that they look too "important" to a searching official. In China, one elderly lady that makes frequent visits from Hongkong spends all her spare time during her visits writing out the passages of Scriptures she has memorized. Her friends there eagerly collect the passages and guard them like treasure. The church must recognize the true value of Scripture if it is going to survive victoriously. In some areas, there are church members who cannot read and write. These people can still play an important part in the Scripture memory program. Those who are illiterate can have a passage read repeatedly to them until they have it committed to memory. Then they can pass it on in the same way that oral traditions and customs have been passed on for thousands of years.
In addition to a memorization program, your fellowship can start now to protect and preserve printed copies of Scripture. Do not assume that copies will always be readily available. Each believer should have at least one copy and determine to read in it daily. While living in a free society you can openly carry a Bible as a witness of your faith in Christ. If the time comes when you are forced to live in a hostile environment your Bible may be confiscated, if it is seen and recognized. Would you know how keep it from falling into the hands of the authorities? Some believers have found that simply covering it with brown paper is sufficient. Others have cut the binding and divided it into several small books. Very few non-Christians will recognize such isolated portions as part of a Bible. Each Christian family should commit itself to carefully preserving a copy of the Bible. Although many may be discovered and lost, if only one copy remains available to each fellowship, the purity of teaching can be maintained. Remember, both memorization and attempts to preserve printed copies of the Bible are important to Christians in a hostile environment. If you and your fellowship will begin now to work on both programs you will find that it will strengthen the spiritual bonds of your group, it will sharpen your sense of urgency, and give you all a deeper sense of commitment to the Word of God.
When and if the Bible becomes a restricted item, you must face the responsibility of distributing the knowledge of God's Word you have preserved. When you learn of other Christians who have no access to a Bible, you will want to help meet that need. Here are some tips on "underground" distribution of Bibles learned by many Christians the hard way!
The reproduction and distribution of Scripture in a restricted society has risks involved. But as in the case of memorization, it also has spiritual rewards. The Lord will bless your commitment to spread His Word. Even today, as you live in a free society, you can be involved in getting the Scriptures to Christians inside restrictive societies. You will discover that a high regard for the teaching and spreading of the Word of God can be a key to surviving victoriously!
Suggested Discussion Questions:
1. What are some good reasons for memorizing Scripture?
2. Most Scripture memory plans suggest key verses to memorize. Why is it important to learn whole chapters as well?
3. How would you preserve a copy of the Bible if you found yourself in a society where the Scriptures were suddenly banned by the authorities?
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