The Forbidden Book
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (II Timothy 3:16-17)
Each year as we celebrate Bible Sunday, we realize anew what a great treasure we have in the Bible, the Word of God. Down through the generations thoughtful men and women, whether professed Christians or not, have given honor and recognition to the Bible as the source of what is best in the foundations of our nation.
In earlier years the Bible has had a prominent place in the public schools of our land. In many states a passage from God's Word was read, usually without comment, at the beginning of the school day. Can there be any reasonable doubt as to the benefit that came to our land through this wholesome practice?
Some time ago a first-grade teacher in New Jersey gave students the opportunity to "read a story of their own choosing to the class." No restrictions as to the source of the story were given. Notice, now, before we continue the account, the "guidelines on religious expression in the public schools" of the U.S. Department of Education:
Students may express their beliefs about religion in the form of homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments -- free of discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions.
A six-year-old students chose to read a passage from the Beginner's Bible. Taken from Genesis, it was the story of reconciliation between two brothers "who had once quarreled bitterly." Did the teacher allow the student to read the story? No indeed. She said that "It's a public school and the Bible is not allowed." Later the principal said that the story was "prayer," and that "prayer is not allowed in public schools." What about the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Education? Are they not clear and easy to understand? What of the little boy? "Humiliated, the boy went home, his eyes red from crying . . ." Isn't that a shame!
One of the other teachers in the school, one who had taught in that school for twenty-eight years, took a stand for the student's right to read that story of his choice. The president of the local teachers union threatened to purge this teacher from the union if he did not recant and apologize for his stand.
Several years ago a teacher in Colorado was forbidden by a judge to have a Bible on his desk. Supposedly the children might be influenced by the example of the teacher, and might want to have Bibles on their desks! What would be wrong with that?!
Our text assures us that the Bible is divinely inspired. Although the sixty-six books that make up the Bible were written over a period of hundreds of years, and by many different human authors, they are all divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. Isn't that comforting and encouraging?
Some casual or biased critics have thought to cast doubt as to the trustworthiness of God's Word. Jesus gives us the proper attitude toward the Scriptures. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5:17-18) That should not leave any doubt as to the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible.
Some people think that they can ignore the Bible, and yet not be responsible for their ignorance and neglect. In a land where Bibles in all styles and price ranges are readily available, it is not only inexcusable, but perilous to ignore God's Word. Jesus said to His adversaries on one occasion, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." (Matthew 22:29)
When we realize something of the blessing and joy available through reading and obeying the Bible, we may be permitted to wonder why so many casually and wilfully ignore it. Actually, it is a matter of life or death, as Jesus pointed out. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24)
On another occasion Jesus used the figure of the one who avoided the dangerous shifting sands, and built his house on the rock. "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock." When we think of the natural world, and the hundreds and thousands in recent times have built their homes on insecure foundations, we realize again the importance of having our spiritual foundations on the Rock, Christ Jesus.
Saint Paul encountered people of all sorts on his missionary journeys. Some received the Good News of Salvation with open arms, but then failed to follow through carefully with their Bible study. It appears that those of his converts in Thessalonica were in that group. Those in Berea, on the other hand, were more concerned with the truth. "These [the converts of Berea] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11)
Are there not professing Christians today who allow their Bibles to sit on a shelf somewhere, collecting dust, and not studying them, and drawing inspiration and spiritual sustenance from on a daily basis? Is that not a great tragedy?
In the Bible there are passages of great literary beauty and power, and these should be recognized. More important, however, is the saving power to be found by those who seek it. Saul of Tarsus had a head knowledge of the Scriptures, but until his experience with Christ on the road to Damascus, he did not come to saving faith in Christ. Some years later, after he had had that great transformation of heart and life that comes from saving and sanctifying faith, he testifies to the power of the Word. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [Gentile]." (Romans 1:16)
It is a tragedy when someone claims saving faith in Christ, and yet makes no effort to live a pure and holy life. Notice the words of Our Lord to His followers, as recorded in John 15:3: "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." Then, later on, in His "High Priestly Prayer," He says to His Disciples, and to you and me: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17) Could anything be clearer than this?
John Quincy Adams was the only man ever to be both President of the United States, and then a member of the House of Representatives. What did he think of the Bible?
I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once a year. My custom is to read four or five chapters every morning immediately after rising from my bed. It employs about an hour of my time, and seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day. . . . it is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue. What a splendid habit for any Christian.
During the last KPOF Mission Outreach, raising funds for overseas missionary work in Africa, India, the Philippines, and elsewhere, I heard my son Phillip tell something about the missionary trip we had made to Malawi the previous year. He mentioned Dr. David Livingstone and his work there. We had been taken to a tree under which Dr. Livingstone met with a number of chiefs. They were able, we were told, to get rid of the terrible slave trade in that section of Africa. You may remember hearing of the newspaper man, Stanley, who was sent by his editor to "find" Livingstone. Of course the explorer did not consider himself "lost," but welcomed the companionship of Stanley, and influenced him to become a Christian.
Anyone going on a long journey who loved books could be expected to take some books with him. Stanley started with seventy-three books: three packs of them weighing some 180 pounds. That is a lot of books! The porters carrying the books and other luggage, after three hundred miles of trekking through the jungle, were becoming more and more fatigued, as you might imagine. What did Stanley do about it? Little by little he pruned his library, and finally he had only one book left. Do you have any idea what that book was? I imagine you do. It was the Bible. Stanley read it through three times during his journey!
You may have heard of Dr. Elliot's Six-Foot Shelf. It is a collection of what he considered the great books of the world. Dr. Elliot was president of Harvard for forty years, and perhaps had read hundreds of books in his lifetime. Throughout his life he was also "a diligent Bible student." A month before his death, at 76, "he read the Old Testament through in three weeks. His daughter asked him what he was reading." What do you think he replied? It was a single word: "News." Certainly he was right. God's Word was really more up to date than last week's newspaper. It was the Good News! [This link will open in a new window a listing of the Harvard Classics List of Dr. Charles Eliott.]
Some of our Presidents and other great men have had a great love and respect for the Bible. Notice what a few of them have said. "That book, sir, is the rock on which our republic rests." (Andrew Jackson.) "I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this book." (Abraham Lincoln) "Believe me, sir, never a night goes by, be I ever so tired, but I read the Word of God before I go to bed." (Douglas MacArthur) "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." (George Washington)
You and I have the privilege of an open Bible. It is freely available to us in virtually any bookstore. Let us make it, daily, the "man of our counsel," and find in it the words of eternal life that point us to the Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died on Calvary's cross, and shed His precious blood that we might not perish, but have everlasting life.