Do me a favor. Take out your copy of God’s Word, and hold it in your hand. If you’ve done what I just asked, you are now holding in your hands something extraordinary. You are holding a book that’s more than 3000 years old.
You are holding a book that is illegal in several countries of the world. Just to possess this book can land you in jail in some parts of the world. It was not too long ago, the government of Malaysia confiscated 10,000 Bibles that were on their way into the country.
Possessing a copy of this book just a few centuries ago in Europe could have gotten you killed. Even today, you could be subject to arrest and beatings, at the very least, in some parts of the world. This book is feared in many places. Yet people still take risks in order to have a copy or to even read it.
It is by far the best-selling book worldwide. In all its versions it is estimated between 2.5 and 6 billion copies have been sold. At least parts of this book are available in 2,400 languages.
You are also holding a miracle. Perhaps the second most extraordinary miracle since creation, second only to the incarnation of God’s Son. You are holding words from the Creator of the Universe. You can open it anytime, anywhere, and hear God’s voice.
You are holding something extraordinary.
Why the Bible is special and unique:
Have you ever thought about WHY the Bible is unique? The Bible is actually sixty-six different books. They include books of law, history, poetry, prophecy, biographies and epistles (formal letters) written to churches and people.
The Authors: About 40 different human authors contributed to the Bible, which was written over a period of about 1500 years. The authors were kings, fishermen, priests, government officials, farmers, shepherds, and a doctor. From all this diversity comes an incredible unity, with common themes that are woven throughout the Bible.
The Bible’s unity is due to the fact that, ultimately, it has one Author—God Himself. The Bible is “God-breathed” (according to 2 Timothy 3:16). The human authors wrote what God wanted them to write, and the result was this book we call the Word of God (Psalm 12:6; 2 Peter 1:21).
The Divisions: The Bible is divided into two main parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. In short, the Old Testament is the story of a Nation, and the New Testament is the story of a Man. The Nation was God’s way of bringing the Man—Jesus Christ—into the world.
The Old Testament describes the founding and preserving of the nation of Israel. God promised to use Israel to bless the whole world (Genesis 12:2-3), and once Israel was established as a nation, God raised up a family within that nation through whom that blessing would come: it was the family of David (Psalm 89:3-4). From the line of David was promised the one Man who would bring the promised blessing (Isaiah 11:1-10) and salvation to the world.
The New Testament tells us the coming of that promised Man, Jesus the Messiah, and He fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament as He lived a perfect life, he died to be the perfect sacrifice for sin, and rose from the dead to set us free.
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The Central Character: Obviously, Jesus is the central character in the Bible—the whole book is really about Him. The Old Testament predicts His coming and sets the stage for His entrance into the world. The New Testament describes His coming and His work to bring salvation to our sinful world.
Jesus is more than a historical figure; in fact, He is more than a man. He is God in the flesh, and His coming was the most important event in the history of the world. God Himself became a man in order to give us a clear, understandable picture of who God is.
As Baptists, it may be good to understand what we believe about the Bible. According to the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message:
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of Gods revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.
Baptists are “people of the Book.” The Bible is our only source for faith and practice. It is a remarkable book that gives us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and will stand forever (1 Peter 1:24).
The Bible Rediscovered:
Perhaps you have heard about the massive religious reformation that t took place across Europe in the 16th century. Perhaps you’ve heard names of Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, William Tyndale and John Wycliffe. The key great driving force behind the reformation can be seen as the rediscovery of the Bible:
- The translation of the Bible into everyday language: no longer would people gather at church with no clue as to what was being read from the book, they could have it in their own language.
- The wider availability of the Bible due to the newly invented printing press.
- A commitment to expository preaching, (explaining what the text means); and
- The taking of the Bible out of the hands of a corrupt ecclesiastical elite and putting it into the hands of ordinary people.
This huge upheaval fundamentally changed the social, political, religious, intellectual, and even scientific landscape of Europe, and profoundly influenced the development of America. Rediscovering the Bible literally changed the world.
For the text of this message, I actually want to go back much further, to a much earlier rediscovery of the Bible and a time of reformation. I want to have a look at the passage that was read earlier, from 2 Kings 23:1-3.
These events took place during the reign of King Josiah in Jerusalem in 622 BC. He was 26 years old and had been king since he was eight. Now, Josiah was one of the most godly kings Israel ever had because, He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. (2 Chronicles 34:2)
Unfortunately, Josiah’s reign followed close behind that of his grandfather Manasseh who was the most evil king that Judah ever had. Manasseh ruled for 55 years, and under him the whole nation turned away from God. He defiled the temple in Jerusalem, and built shrines and altars to idols all over the place. Somewhere during his reign, the Book of the Law, which was the extent of the Bible at that time, was lost. Toward the end of Manasseh’s life, he repented and humbled himself before the Lord (2 Chronicles 33:13, 23).
Josiah’s father, Amon, was also an evil king. I suppose that a lifetime of rebellion against God gets passed down from father to son. Amon was so bad that he lasted as king for only two years, and his own officials assassinated him (2 Chronicles 33:24). The Bible is clear that as bad as Manasseh was, Amon sinned even more (2 Chronicles 33:23).
So, on this Father’s Day, and since no father is perfect, perhaps you are here in spite of the poor legacy that your father passed on to you. Maybe you had a lousy father, maybe he was abusive, or never instilled any spiritual direction in your life. How in the world did Josiah become the godliest king ever in Judah, with a father and grandfather that he had? I believe the answer lies in the fact that when he was 16, during the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David (2 Chronicles 34:3). His heart was tender toward God and knew that he had a much longer heritage than his immediate family. He was determined to end the cycle of dysfunction in his family’s life.
By age 20 Josiah is cleansing Judah and Jerusalem of all the pagan influences in the land (2 Chronicles 34:3-7). Then at age 26, he decides to restore the temple, and in the course of this renovation project, the Book of the Law is rediscovered.
Then in 2 Kings 22:10-11 we read, Shaphan also told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a scroll.” So Shaphan read it to the king. When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair.
Cut to the heart by what he hears, Josiah decides he must rededicate himself and the people to God. And that’s what happens in 2 Kings 23:1-3.
Take a look at these verses. One thing you can see is that the word “all” occurs a few times.
All the people:
First, a radical commitment to the Bible involves all the people.
In 2 Kings 23:1-2, Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the Lord with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets — all the people from the least to the greatest.
All the elders and all the people. The writer wants to make sure we know that all the people, from the least to the greatest were present at the reading of the Book.
This has always been a foundational Baptist teaching: the Bible is for all people. Biblical understanding and interpretation is never limited to an elite or privileged class of Christian. Every single believer has both the privilege and the responsibility of seeking out God’s Word for him or herself.
Of course, some are better equipped than others to do this. Some are theologically trained; some are gifted and called to be teachers. But no one has a monopoly on Bible truth and interpretation, and every single believer has access to the truth for themselves, from the least to the greatest.
A half-hearted commitment to the Bible hands over all the work of Bible study and explanation to others; a radical commitment to the Bible recognizes that every one of us has a stake in understanding the Bible, and hearing God through it.
And people have died to make this possible again for us. Perhaps you know the story of William Tyndale. He was burned at the stake in 1536, although they did him the kindness of strangling him first.
Tyndale’s life’s work was to translate the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into common English that everyone could understand. He had a passion for placing the Word of God into the hands of ordinary people so that, ‘The Church could no longer effectively dictate its interpretation.’
This was a real issue at the time. Soon after Tyndale’s death, Henry the Eighth restricted, by law, Bible reading to only men and women of noble birth. He complained to Parliament that “the Word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung and jangled in every ale-house and tavern.” Well, I say, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this were true today!
In the end, Tyndale’s work was not in vain, because his translation makes up about 80% of the 1611 King James Version, published more than 70 years after his death, and which became widely distributed. His vision was fulfilled.
A radical commitment to the Bible involves all the people.
There are many Christian believers around the world today who have very limited or no access to the Bible at all — up to 50 million in China alone. If we are radically committed to the Bible this should bother us.
Perhaps you support the Bible Society or Gideons, both charities who work to get God’s Word into the hands of people worldwide. But I wonder: is it sometimes easier to support getting the word to people “out there” than it is to be completely committed to the Bible “back here?”
A radical commitment to the Bible involves all the people. That means you, doesn’t it?
Over the centuries, God led dozens of his greatest saints through terrible persecution and agonizing deaths so that you and I might have the privilege of hearing and understanding His voice. How dare we neglect his word!
What are you doing to get more of God’s Word into your life and out to the world?
All the words:
Second, a radical commitment to the Bible is to all its words.
Look halfway through 2 Kings 23:2, He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord.
The Bible that Josiah had found was quite a bit shorter than the Bibles we have today. It may have been the first five books of the Old Testament, or it may have been only the book of Deuteronomy. But the writer is intentional for us to know that Josiah read to the people all the words in it.
Now, not only is the book of Deuteronomy a bit heavy going at times, but there’s also a whole bunch of curses and other unpleasant verses in there. Frankly, wouldn’t it have been better for Josiah just to give them some edited highlights, a quick executive summary, or some bullet points on a PowerPoint slide?
But Josiah knows that a radical commitment to the Bible is a commitment to all its words, because they are all God’s words. Our Bible reading is deficient if we are content with memorizing a few well-known Bible verses and stories and never strive to explore the whole book.
A radical commitment to the Bible is to all its words.
John Piper once said. “If all you want is a pile of leaves, then you just need to scrape the surface. But if you want to find gold, you need to dig down deep.”
We don’t skip parts of the Bible because they seem dull, or difficult, or irrelevant to our lives today, or they teach doctrines that we don’t like. We need to wrestle with all the words to hear what God has to say to us.
It’s all God’s word to us: not just John 3:16, Romans 8:28 and Psalm 23. He has so much more to say to us! Let’s be more radical in our Bible reading. If it doesn’t make sense, why not get into a small group to discuss the meaning of the Bible, and help you grow in your faith?
All the heart and all the soul:
Third, a radical commitment to the Bible is with all the heart and all the soul.
Look at 2 Kings 23:3, The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord — to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul.
This is about application; it’s about how far we let God’s Word into our lives. A radical commitment to the Bible means that we seek ways to apply what it says in all our lives. Not just letting God’s living Word into our head, but into all our heart and all our soul. A radical commitment to the Bible is life-changing.
Perhaps Josiah only had the book of Deuteronomy, which is widely regarded, along with Leviticus, as being one of the least exciting parts of the Bible. Yet as he read it, it caused him to tear his clothes and weep in anguish. It turned his life upside down.
How much more should the complete Bible that we have today speaks to our hearts and souls? We have in our hands the whole story of God’s plan to save us: not just a glimpse, but the whole thing, culminating in Jesus, his own son who died for us.
If our Bible reading is not causing us to weep and rejoice, to break out in gratitude and anguish, in joy and sorrow, then, frankly, we’re not doing it right. If our Bible reading is not life-changing, then we’re not doing it right. We’re not engaging our hearts and souls.
A radical commitment to the Bible engages all our heart, all our soul. No part of our life is out of scope for God’s word.
The same goes for our life together as a church. The Bible informs and guides every aspect of our lives together. Therefore, if we are radically committed to the Bible as a church, those who are connected here should be people who commit themselves to hearing, understanding and obeying the Bible with all their hearts and all their souls.
This should be one of the key factors that guide us in ministry and relationships: is this person someone who paddles in the shallow end of God’s word, or someone who has jumped into the deep end? Has this person been gripped by God’s Word?
A radical commitment to the Bible is with all our heart and all our soul.
On this Father’s Day, has this message penetrated your soul? Are we attempting to raise the next generation with a strong foundation; a foundation that is built upon the Word of God? Are we attempting to make a difference in the world, and in particular, in our families? How can we do anything without a radical commitment to the Word of God?
Do we want to be a church that truly hears God’s words and does his work in this world — a radical church — then let’s be like Josiah and like the reformers.
- Let’s commit ourselves, every one of us, to hearing God’s word: all of the people.
- Let’s commit ourselves to exploring the whole of what he has to say to us: all of the words.
- And let’s commit ourselves to applying and obeying what he tells us in our lives: all our heart and all our soul.
This is a radical commitment to the Bible.