by Pastor Skip Heitzig
-The All Time Best-Seller-
According to the Guinness Book, the Bible is the best-selling, most widely distributed book in human history. Since the year 1815, 2.5 billion copies of the Scriptures have been sold. The Bible has been translated into 2,233 languages and dialects across the world. So, that in and of itself, makes it very unique.
It’s estimated that most households in America own at least one Bible. 92% of all the homes in America, including the homes of atheists and unbelievers have a Bible. In the typical household that would own a Bible, the count is three Bibles per household. In homes like yours, there may be more. You, personally, may own more than three Bibles.
What about reading that Book? Well, 75 million Americans say it’s important to read. I guess my question is, “How many that say it’s important to read it actually read the Book?” You know, we might be like that gal who had the pastor in her small town come and make a visit. When she saw him coming up to the door, she yelled out to her daughter in the back of the house, “Honey, quickly! Bring me the book that Mommy loves so much!” So the little girl came back with the Sears Catalogue and handed it to Mommy.
We love to quote the Bible: it’s in greeting cards, it’s in plaques, it’s on posters. Sometimes it’s well-meaning. Other times, frankly, it’s out-of-context. I heard of a church nursery that had the sign over the baby cribs quoting 1 Corinthians 15 that says: “Behold! We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed.” Somebody gave me this little list of seven top signs you may not be reading your Bible enough: 1) the preacher announces the sermon is from Galatians and you have to check the Table of Contents, 2) You think Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have had a few hit songs during the ‘60’s – that’s Peter, Paul, and Mary, 3) You open to the gospel of Luke and a World War II savings bond falls out, 4) Your favorite Old Testament patriarch is Hercules, 5) You’re frustrated because Charlton Heston isn’t listed in either the concordance or the Table of Contents, 6) You catch your kids reading the Song of Solomon and you demand, Who gave you that stuff? And 7) You think the Minor Prophets worked in the quarries.
Who Wrote the Bible?
The cover of U.S. News and World Report sometime back asked, “Who wrote the Bible?” Which is a good question. Did a bunch of men write the Bible, or can we say the Bible comes to us from the mind of God? If we say, a bunch of men wrote it, we have a problem. The problem is, what do we do with the uniqueness of the document itself? Its ability to predict the future hundreds of years before events happened? The unity of 40 authors who wrote a document over a 1500 year span on three different continents in three different languages, etc? And, if we say, God wrote it, we may have a bigger problem. Because, if we say God wrote it, the question is, why don’t we treat it like God wrote it? And believe it and love it and study it and carry it and memorize it, if indeed this is the Word of God?
God’s Self Disclosure
The Bible is God’s Self-disclosure. The Bible is sort of like a picture frame that was given to me as a gift, and I carry when I travel, that has two pictures, one of my wife and one of my son. If I’m in a hotel for a few days, I prop this thing up and it’s on my nightstand. And when I look at the picture, I’m warmed by what I see. I don’t have a relationship with the picture frame. I don’t talk to the picture frame and kiss it and caress it. But, I’m warmed by it because these two images speak to me of two people I love very much. The Bible speaks to me of the God that I love; it is His portrait, His disclosure to me.
The Bible is God’s picture of Himself, what He chose to reveal to humanity about His character and attributes.
God’s Special Revelation
The Bible is also God’s special revelation to humanity. General revelation is God revealing Himself through his creation and moral attributes. Special revelation is God revealing Himself through His word, the Bible. When we said that the Bible is part of God’s special revelation to mankind, we mean that it reveals the mind of God. If I stand before you today silent, you won’t know what I’m thinking, unless I reveal it to you. And we wouldn’t know the mind of God unless He told us what He is thinking and what He is wanting, hence God gives us His thoughts, actions, and decrees in His word; He reveals Himself to us through His word.
Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” I like that. This is the writing, the graph, of God. How does He do that? By inspiration. The scripture text in Peter states, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Another translations puts it, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” And that’s very literal. Theos (God) pneuma (breath or air). So all Scripture is a result of God’s breathing His will through human beings.
What does that mean exactly? Let me tell you what it doesn’t mean. When we say all Scripture is inspired, we’re not referring to natural inspiration – when you see a Picasso and go, “he was so inspired!” Some people lower the Bible to the level of a Picasso – as an inspiring work of art written by a bunch of smart men. Listen, smart men don’t write a book that condemns them. And points to the only way of salvation outside of humanity. They don’t do that.
Number two, it doesn’t refer to concept inspiration. Some people say inspiration means that God didn’t really give the writers the words, He gave them the concepts. So, for instance, God inspired Paul with the concept of love and so he sat down, inspired by that, and wrote 1 Corinthians 13. Well, that’s not what Paul said. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2, “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught us by the Spirit expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” That’s why the Bible says concerning Jeremiah, “Behold! I have put My words in your mouth.” Not, ‘I’m going to inspire you with some thoughts, some impressions in your mind.’ But actual words. And the argument is closed if we just look at what Jesus Himself said. If we say we love Jesus and we follow Him, listen to what He said about the Bible: “Not one jot, not one tittle, will pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” You know that a jot is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet – it’s like an apostrophe. A tittle is even smaller, it’s an exclamation mark or pronunciation mark that distinguishes letters from other letters. None of those will pass away till all is fulfilled.
This is, as some theologians call it, “the verbal plenary inspiration of the Scripture”. Meaning, the words themselves are inspired by God, and the inspiration extends to all the words of the Scripture. Nor is this mechanical inspiration. Some people think that God was dictating up in heaven. ‘Sit down, Paul, write this: Galatians… I, Paul” Now, God could have done that if He wanted to. But rather, He used the personalities and the writing styles of the authors themselves. We know that Luke had a different style than Paul, etcetera.
How Did God Inspire?
How did God do this? 2 Peter 2: 19b, reads, “…that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” You see that little phrase ‘as they were moved by the Holy Spirit’? It’s from a maritime, a boating term, that speaks of a ship being carried at the mercy of the winds – carried along by the winds. So that, these authors (the prophets, the apostles) raise their sails, so to speak – they were themselves flawed men – but the Holy Spirit drove that boat to the destination He wanted. So, they had their own personality, their own writing style. Within the boat, you have all the freedom you want, to move around anywhere you want, anytime you want. But the destination is determined by the wind, as the destination of the Scripture were the very words God wanted to say, even though the personalities were individual. It was carried along to the destination determined by God.
The Final Question: Do We Read It?
If that’s true, if every word in this book is, indeed, inspired by God, every word of it, why don’t we read it? Why is it so tough? Oh, we’ll affirm, ‘Oh, yes, I believe the Bible, it’s the Word of God, Hallelujah!’ OK, cool. Read the thing – find out what God has to say. Oh, but it takes so long to read that book! You know what? It’ll take you 12 minutes a day, 365 you’ll have finished it.
If you read the Bible at ‘pulpit-speed’ it’ll take you 72 hours, 52 in the Old, 20 in the New. That’s 12 minutes a day, 365 days a year – you can handle it. Do we want to? Is there anything else competing for our time? I’m not saying never watch television or never read anything else or never have fun in other ways, because you know we don’t believe in that. But, let’s have a little perspective here, shall we? On the table, side by side, a Holy Bible and the TV Guide, One is well-worn but cherished with pride, not the Bible but the TV Guide. One is used to daily to help folks decide, no, it isn’t the Bible – it’s the TV Guide. As pages are turned, what shall they see? Oh, it doesn’t matter turn on the TV. So they open the book, in which they confide, no, it’s not the Bible, it’s the TV Guide. The Word of God is seldom read, maybe a verse before they fall into bed, exhausted and sleepy and tired as can be, not from reading the Bible but watching TV. So then, back to the table, side by side, is the Holy Bible and the TV Guide. No time for prayer, no time for the Word, the plan for salvation is seldom heard. But forgiveness of sin, so full and so free, is found in the Bible – not on TV.
The stuff that really will count, is found in the graph that God has written – the Bible. If we’re really saying God wrote the Bible, if we really believe that, let’s not kid ourselves. If we really believe that, won’t it become important to us? Let’s commit that we will read and apply the Bible to our lives.
Skip Heitzig is senior pastor at Calvary of Albuquerque. In 1982, Skip began a home Bible study which eventually grew into Calvary of Albuquerque. In 2008 Calvary of Albuquerque was considered the 20th largest church in America according to Outreach magazine. Today, Calvary of Albuquerque ministers to over 13,500 adults and their children every weekend and has spun off over 40 churches internationally. Skip lives in Albuquerque with his wife, Lenya, and their son, Nathan.