I’ve always been a lover of books and I guess this love was placed into me from a very early age by my parents giving so many to me. One book that I purchased when I was a young man and had wanted to know more about the Christian way of life, was called Enjoy Your Bible; a paperback book written in 1949 by an Anglican minister, G. R. Harding-Wood. I still have a copy of that book in my library, although I notice that the front cover has disappeared but the rest of the book is intact.
In that particular book, Harding-Wood asks the question, “How did Jesus treat His Bible?” It’s a valid question because I class myself as a follower of Jesus, one of His disciples, and if I’m going to follow His example, then surely I must find out how He treated the Word of God, the Bible, because then I will know what should be my attitude to the Bible.
I want to suggest an answer to the question “How did Jesus treat the Bible?”, but I must ask another question first, “Which Bible did Jesus have?” We know He didn’t have the King James Version; that was published in 1611, even though some fundamentalists think that if it was good enough for the apostle Paul then it is good enough for them! The only Bible Jesus had was the Old Testament, from Genesis through to the book of Malachi.
Of course, we are better off because we not only have the Old Testament, God’s picture book, but we have also the New Testament, God’s lesson book. So we have far more of the Bible than Jesus had. When we talk about Jesus’ use of the Bible, naturally we talk about how He used the Old Testament, but there are principles involved that will still be the same for us today.
In the time of Jesus, the Jewish scholars believed that the Old Testament should be divided into three parts: the law, the prophets and the other writings. Those other writings are what we call the poetical books. When Jesus used the Bible He went into each of those parts.
Jesus quoted the Bible
In Luke 4:3-4 it says, “The devil said to him, `If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’ Jesus answered, `It is written: “Man does not live on bread alone.”‘ ” (Luke 4:3-4 (NIV). The verses Jesus quoted is Deuteronomy 8:3. How did Jesus use the Bible? Here He quoted it very effectively.
“The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, `I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered, `It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”‘ The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. `If you are the Son of God,’ he said, `throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”‘ Jesus answered, `It says: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”‘ When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:5-13).
Notice that the devil is good at quoting Bible verses too! However, Jesus was better acquainted with the Word of God. He was brought up as a Jewish boy, and until the age of twelve He had to memorise large parts of the Old Testament. Before He could go through the ceremony at the age of twelve or thirteen when a Jewish boy was declared to be a man (the bar mitzvah), He would have been tested on this tremendous backlog of scripture. It was there, in His memory, available for Him to use whenever a circumstance came up. Jesus had been trained by His local rabbi, and when the occasion came for Him to use the Word of God, He had it stored in His memory and so He was able to effectively quote it. He demonstrated that He had a great understanding and knowledge of the Word of God (the Old Testament).
What a pattern for us to follow! The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart [the mind, the seat of the personal life] that I might not sin against you” (Psalms 119:11). Let’s put some effort into placing God’s Word about us into our minds so that it is available when we need it.
Jesus fulfilled the Bible
Jesus also used the Bible by fulfilling what it said. “`Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them'” (Matthew 5:17). Here is the reason for His existence as the Son of God. Jesus treated the Bible as a book that had to be fulfilled. And He knew that He was going to fulfil it.
Why did Jesus Christ heal the sick? “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: `He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'” (Matthew 8:16-17). Why did Jesus heal the sick? Because He was fulfilling what Isaiah the prophet had said. He demonstrated so clearly that God’s will for me is wellness. He healed people because it fulfilled the Word of God.
In Matthew 13:10, His disciples asked him a question, “The disciples came to him and asked, `Why do you speak to the people in parables?'” (Matthew 13:10). Why use these stories that have to be explained afterwards? And Jesus answered that question in verse 34 when the disciples were alone with Him and the crowds had departed, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: `I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.'” (Matthew 13:34-35). He spoke in parables because it fulfilled the Word of God.
There are many more examples that illustrate how Jesus–by His life, by His teachings and especially by His death and resurrection–fulfilled the Word of God. That’s how Jesus treated His Bible.
What can we learn from this? The reason why you and I are sons and daughters of God, that we belong to God’s family, is that God wants us to fulfil His word. That is a tremendous truth. He said that “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). God wants us to fulfil that word. He didn’t say, “I am come that I might force on them life to the full”. The responsibility of changing those words–printed in black ink on a white page–into action lies upon my shoulder and your shoulder.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). That’s God’s will for us. God wants us to fulfil that scripture. How? Well you have to read a bit further into the chapter and you will discover that He is talking about giving and receiving. If we apply the principle, the promise is that “my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”. So how do we fulfil that statement? We operate the principle.
Just as Jesus fulfilled the Word of God, the Old Testament in His case, God’s plan, desire and will for us is that we too might fulfil the Word of God. Every time you see a solution to a problem you are fulfilling the Word of God. Every time God blesses you with that little extra that you were not expecting, you are fulfilling the Word of God. Every time there is an expression of love and appreciation between fellow human beings, you are fulfilling the Word of God. We’ must make the Word of God that practical. I’ve spent a good portion of my life teaching people Bible knowledge. But did it make any change in their lives? No, not unless they made the effort to fulfil it. It’s not enough to mouth it, you’ve got to manifest it. You cannot fake it, you must faith it. And God’s Word will work whenever you work it.
Jesus accepted the Bible’s authority
Not only did Jesus fulfil the Word of God, but He also accepted it’s authority and integrity. There are still people around, and some of them wear their collars back to front, who tell us that the Bible is full of myths and stories handed down from one generation to another. We cannot be certain about what it says, as it is just a repository of wonderful thoughts collected over the ages. However, Jesus accepted the absolute authority of the Word of God.
“Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, `We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.’ The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.” (Luke 18:31-34). They just didn’t understand. But notice the way Jesus made the statement. There was no question in His mind about it. He accepted that if the Word of God said He was going to die on the cross for you and for me and then be resurrected, then that was what would happen. He totally accepted the authority of God’s Word. He totally accepted what God’s Word said about Him.
After His resurrection, He was walking on the road to Emmaus and He revealed Himself to some of His disciples as the resurrected Christ. “He said to them, `How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27). He was saying, “Why didn’t you believe? It was there all the time. It was written in the Word of God what was going to happen.” He totally accepted the authority and the integrity of God’s Word.
When He met them down on the beach where He was cooking fish, “He said to them, `This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.'” (Luke 24:44). There is that threefold division of the Old Testament. “While I was with you”, He said, “I told you that all the things had to be fulfilled which were written.” You see, the Old Testament was the Word of God to Jesus. He never questioned what it said about Him or His life. He didn’t say that the Old Testament contained the Word of God but that it was the Word of God–there’s a tremendous difference. The Old Testament stated what God’s will was for Jesus.
Now let’s apply it to ourselves. Do we accept the same authority of the Word of God? I boldly say, “Yes”, and so when the Word of God says, “My God will meet all your needs”, do I believe it? Yes! I totally accept what God says about it. When God says to me that I am “more than a conqueror through Him that loves us”, I totally accept what God says. I give it the TAB treatment, as one preacher has put it. I Totally Accept the Belief that I am more than a conqueror through Him that loves us. I Totally Accept the Belief that I am blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. I Totally Accept the Belief that His will for me is that I may prosper and be in health even as my soul prospers.
How do we treat the Word of God? The same way Jesus did. We must totally accept it’s authority and integrity. When it says something about your life and about my life, then let’s believe it. It’s a lot simpler, smoother road through life to believe what God says about you than to believe what your wife, your husband, your neighbour, your boss, the politicians or any other people say about you. I’m going to believe what God says about me. And God says that His will for my life is health, wealth and happiness.
Let’s stand together and declare that we are people who totally accept the authority and integrity of the Word of God. Many churches have in their statement of faith that they accept the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice, or words to that effect. Jesus accepted the authority and integrity of the Bible. We too must accept that.
Jesus spoke the words of the Bible
Jesus not only fulfilled the words of the Bible and He not only accepted it’s authority and integrity, but I find as I read the gospels that Jesus spoke the words of the Bible constantly. When “The tempter came to him and said, `If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, `It is written…'” (Matthew 4:3-4a). He countered Satan with the spoken Word of God. And when Satan comes to us and says, “You’re not feeling too good this morning. Why don’t you stay in bed a little longer”, meet him with scripture and say, “With His stripes I am healed.” God said His will for me was health. When those bills come in and you wonder how on earth you’re going to pay for this stuff, meet it with scripture and say, “My God says that He will meet all my needs according to His glorious riches.” Jesus spoke the Word of God because it was relevant to His everyday life.
Jesus often met people, enquirers who had problems they wanted solved. “Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, `Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ `Haven’t you read,’ he replied, `that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.'” (Matthew 19:3-6). How did Jesus answer the question? He answered it with the Word of God.
That is what we should do when people ask us questions. The Bible has the answer to all of life’s situations and the best advice that you can give people is not psychology nor psychiatry nor what grandma said. The best answer you can give people is what God’s Word says about a situation. Say to them, “Why don’t you look at it this way. God said…” Jesus met enquirers by speaking the Word of God.
“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. `It is written,’ he said to them, `”My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it a “den of robbers.”‘” (Matthew 21:12-13). How did he handle the situation where there was corruption all around Him? He quoted the Word of God, “It is written…”
“… The Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. `Teacher,’ they said, `Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’ Jesus replied, `You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead–have you not read what God said to you,–“I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.'” (Matthew 22:23-32). So He answered His critics with the Word of God.
After Peter had cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s servants with a sword and Jesus told him to put it away, He said, “`But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’ At that time Jesus said to the crowd, `Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:56). They couldn’t handle it when this man was so willing to go through suffering on behalf of them. How did He meet His sufferings? He met them with the Word of God. Even on the cross He met the suffering by quoting the Word of God. Jesus constantly spoke the Word of God.
Put the Bible into your speech. Don’t say what the world says, what the television says; say what God’s Word says about you. You can stake your life on what God has said is about to take place, if you will believe it. Put the Word of God on your lips. Say what God says about the situation. Don’t even say what you think about it, that’s not important. It’s what God says about it that’s going to make all the difference in your life. Jesus constantly quoted the Word of God and spoke it with conviction, “It is written…” So should we.
Four ways to approach the Bible
In closing, I will quote these thoughts from Enjoy Your Bible. There are four ways to approach the Bible. First, we should approach it as a love letter. How do you read a love letter? You read it completely; you don’t miss a word. You are not satisfied until you get to the end and see all that row of “X’s” across the bottom. So you should read the Bible like a love letter. Read it completely, read every word.
The second point is that you should read the Bible like you read a road map. Read it constantly. If we’re going some place where we’ve never been before, we will get the road map out as we go along and look at it constantly. The Bible is really our road map of success through life.
You should also read the Bible as a lesson book. If you were going to take an examination, then you would it read the lesson book carefully. The Old Testament is God’s picture book; the New Testament is God’s lesson book, especially that section addressed to you–the letters to the seven churches.
Finally, read and obey it conscientiously like a soldier would obey his orders. The first thing that is drilled into new recruits is to obey without question all orders given to them. If we would only do what God asks, life would be so much more fulfilling!
Jesus Christ treated the Word of God in a certain way and since we are His followers we too should treat the Word of God in the same way. Let’s make the Word of God come to pass; that is fulfil it as Jesus fulfilled the Word. Let’s accept its authority and rest upon it’s integrity. And let’s speak it forth constantly.
It reads great on paper, but if we only use the Bible from 11 to 12 on Sunday mornings we might as well shut the doors for good, because it’s how you and I use it every day of the week that really counts. The Bible is not a book that gathers dust on a shelf, it is a book to use that is relevant to every day of our life.
Copyright © 1997 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/
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