Do you believe that university life is about more than classes, assignments, studying and weekends? Are you interested in finding more meaning and purpose in your life? Do you enjoy listening to and sharing ideas with others? Then, please join our weekly Bible discussion group.

Campus Bible Talk meets every Monday during the school year (except during holidays and during Reading Week Breaks) at Athabasca Hall, Heritage Lounge, at 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

How do we know if a Religious Book is from God?

In our last lesson, we looked at Why the Bible is the book to learn about Christianity. We looked at how the Bible writers were inspired (or moved or driven) by the Holy Spirit as they wrote the pages of the Old and the New Testament. We also saw what the Bible can do for us today, if we learn its teachings and apply them in our lives. We read verses like 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that say that the word of God can fully equip us for every good work. This means that, through the Bible we can have everything we need to do these good works that God is expecting from us.

Q1: But is the inspiration by the book enough? What are other important criteria needed to know that a religious book is from God?

1.         Lack of errors or contradictions

The Bible, in 1 Corinthians 14:33, says that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”

Q2: What does it mean that God is not the author of confusion?

Many people have claimed to have found “errors” in the Bible, but when things are studied at length, then one can explain these supposedly errors. Some have to do with the historical context and how things were understood in ancient times, cultural or historical conventions that are no longer applicable today.

For example, in some verses a person might be called “the son of someone” when technically they were “the grandson” of that person. At the time the Bible was written, that was a normal practice. Other times, people are called by different names. Like a nickname or were known by another name, again, that is something that was common then and even still common today.

In some of the more “difficult” passages, it is important to understand that the ancient writers sometime wrote topically, that is to say that they highlighted certain aspects in a story more than others because they were focusing on that theme or topic. Just like today when people focus on a news story from the view of a Canadian, the poor, or another aspect.  Or, they are presenting the story based on the plan to evoke a feeling of being uplifted, encouraged or to make you feel sad or even angry.

Q3: What would happen if someone found an error in a book that claimed to be from God?

Q4: Why would that be an issue?

What parts do we trust? And how do we make the distinction?

Some of the supposed difficulties with the Bible come when scientists compare what is found in secular sources (or what is missing there) and give these other sources (or the lack thereof) the benefit of the doubt rather than of the Bible. For example, the names of the five cities mentioned in Genesis 14:8-9, were doubted for a very long time, because no one had ever heard or had proof of the nation of the Hittites.  That is until discoveries in the 1960s found the Ebla Tablets.  The Ebla kingdom was at the height of its power in 2300 BC (Abraham was about 2000 BC). The 5 cities mentioned in Gen. 14 are listed in the same order as on one of the Ebla tablets proving that the Bible is and was indeed perfectly accurate. 

So if someone presents a book and states that it is from God.  It should contain no errors of history, geography, etc.  If there are errors proven, than that book would not be from God.

Not only the Bible has no mistakes, but it even has things that were way ahead of time in terms of the scientific knowledge. One of the best-known examples is the elaborate regulations of hygiene described for the people of Israel, shortly after leaving Egypt, where such regulations were not widely used. We won’t go into the detail today as we have mentioned it in other lessons, but the Bible, even scientifically is accurate and proven.

2.        Prophecies

If a book claims to be written by God (who is supernatural), then it is not illogical to expect that book to contain some revelation that would be supernatural, meaning that the author would have no opportunity to learn about the revelation through nature, unless God had informed him in a supernatural way. The Bible term for this is prophecy, that mostly means “to foretell of a future event accurately.”

The Bible is full of prophecies about nations, people, events that happened, etc. that are way into the future, and for which the readers would have no idea about. And this foretelling was accurate, not general or vague, “like a threat is coming from the east.” or “a strong man will rise among you.” The prophecies about Jesus, for example, tell with a hundred percent accuracy the place where He was to be born, Bethlehem, Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:4–6, or that 30 pieces of silver would be paid for him, Zechariah 11:12 and Matthew 26:14-16.

Q5: Has anyone heard of any supposed prophecies today?  Can you give an example?

Q6: How would a prophecy today compare with those found in the Bible? For example, about the new president of the US?

It is important to stress two things when we are talking about prophecies:

1.         They were specific. Today, someone might say that “you will find a new job in a few months,” or “you will have a great opportunity ahead of you in a very short time,” or “something is troubling your spirit right now, but God will help you with that,” but those are not real prophecies. So if a book in the past or people today made such “predictions,” these are not the same as the prophecies that we read in the Bible, because these are easy to be “fulfilled” or misunderstood.  They are vague when compared with exact dates, names and places that the Bible provides in fulfilled prophecy.

2.         The prophets in the Bible were accurate, how many of the times that they spoke?

In Deut. 18:20, we read: But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Q6: Why was such a punishment administered to the prophet at that time?

Q7: How accurate are prophets today?

Q8: What is the concern if a prophet is less than a hundred percent accurate? They cannot be trusted, if they are wrong in one thing, they may be wrong in some or all other things.

If a book or a teaching today, from a man or a woman, foretells something that is not accurate, the Bible tells us that that teaching is not from God.

Did you know there are 300 plus prophecies about Jesus alone that the Bible gives and that all of them were fulfilled perfectly?

3.        Miracles

Again, if a book claims to be from God, there should be signs to prove to the readers that the message of this book is truly from God. In the case of the Bible, both in the Old and the New Testaments, there are many examples of miracles that the authors did, by the power of God working and moving in them.

What we discussed about prophecies is also true about miracles. At the time of the Bible, miracles were supernatural events, like Jesus walking on water or calming a storm or feeding 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus raising people from the dead or healing people completely, wholly, immediately and perfectly.  (As in the case of the man with the shriveled hand).

Q9: What are some of the miracles that we read about being done today?

Today, people say that they perform miracles, but these events are not the same as those of the Bible. The difference is in the quality, as we mentioned before, but also in the purpose.

The purpose for which miracles were done in the Bible, in the New Testament specifically, was to confirm that the people who were doing the miracles were from God. After all, what better way to prove to people that you are from God if not by performing a miracle?

At the time when the New Testament was being written, the apostles and the others who went about teaching, did not have the luxury of having the Scripture, which as we have studied in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 would equip them for every good work. Therefore, it was important for them to use these miracles to accompany them as they went from place to place preaching to confirm that what they spoke was truly from God.

Jude 3 tells us that once the Bible was written, the Word WAS confirmed, “was once for all delivered to the saints.”  Once that was done, the need to have the Word confirmed by miracles was no longer needed.

Today, there is no need for us to use miracles. All the account of what happened with regard to Jesus and the church and standards and principles of how to live a Christian life is written down for us. Remember 2 Timothy 3:16-17 said, it is everything we need to be fully equipped for every good work.

In John 20:31, we readbut these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Q: What was the purpose for the miracles which John wrote down? The purpose is for us to believe in Jesus and to have eternal life because of this belief.

Read 1 Cor 13:8-10: 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

Q: What do these verses say about the ability/need to perform miracles? The miracles were going to come to an end.
Q Why are/were the miracles such as prophecy, tongues, etc no longer necessary?  Because the perfect has come.
Q: What is the perfect in reference too?  The Word of God.

The perfect in this verse refers to the Bible, which is the complete word of God.

One final example, comes from John 4:46-54: 46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”

49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”

50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!”

52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.

Even at the time of Jesus, people could believe without the need of miracles. And we can do so today as well.

Conclusions: The Bible is the Word of God not only because it claims to be so, but also because it has consistency, is orderly, lacks errors or contradictions in its entirety, because it contains numerous prophecies about Jesus and other events that have taken place, and because it records a large number of miracles that are supernatural in nature and would not be possible without the direct involvement of God. This is a high standard.  No other book, teaching, or person has ever come close to level of standard since and according to the Bible – no one ever will or will ever need to because the Bible is complete (2 Tim. 3:16-17), has been confirmed (Jude 3) and is not to be added to (Rev. 20:21, Deut 12:32, Gal 1:6-10). 

*Note: in reading Gal 1:10 we see that Paul is saying we are not required to please men, but God.  If God is satisfied with the complete Word and the need to know longer require miracles, prophecies, etc. then that is enough. If we assume things are still necessary and happening today, recognize that it is not from God but from the devil since as we read the Bible says these things have been accomplished, proven, and are no longer required. According to Paul in Galatians 1, if someone needs “further proof” other than the miracles performed in the Bible they are wanting to be pleased rather than to please. God could have chosen to continue miracles if He so wanted, He could have continued to make men and women from dirt and ribs if He so chose.  It is not that God can’t, but that God chooses what is sufficient.  We have no right or authority to think otherwise nor to think that His will is still not being done today without the need for further miracles, prophecies, etc.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What can the Bible do for us?

In our last lesson, we looked at how can we tell if a religious book is inspired. We looked at certain qualities that the Bible has, focusing on the fact that it has no errors or contradictions and is perfect. We saw how the Bible is 100% accurate, regardless of being written by 40 authors and over a 1600-year period of time. No other ancient book meets this criteria.

We also looked at prophecies, what they are, and the examples the Bible contains about Jesus and other events that happened far in the future, but were accurately foretold by the prophets. We saw how the main requirement for the prophecy was that the prophet HAD to be accurate 100%, or otherwise they would be sentenced to death. Again no other book meets this criteria of having every prophecy it made fulfilled perfectly. But the Bible does!

Today, we will look at what the Bible can do for us.

We have already seen that the Bible can fully equip us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). But what else is the Bible good for?

1.         The first thing that the Bible can do for us is give us the standard according to which we will be judged.

In Hebrews 9:27, we read that “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”.

Q: What does this mean?
Q: How many chances do we get after we die before the judgement?
Q: When can we make a difference in our relationship with God and Christ – before or after we die?

In Romans 2:6, 16, we read that “who will render to each one according to his deeds” and “in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”

Q: What does this mean?
Q: Who will repay us for what we have done?  God
Q: Who will God do this through?  Jesus Christ
Q: How will we be judged? According to the Bible.

When someone commits a crime – they are arrested, charged and are brought before the judge.  The judge looks at the actions that caused the alleged crime – the judge does not look at how nice the person became after the crime.  That doesn’t factor into the judgement.  Same with God – He judges us after our life is lived on earth, we cannot change our punishment after death – no amount of money, prayers, or pleading will do that.  It is based on what we did. 

Q: How does the Bible determine our salvation? It determines our salvation based on whether we obeyed it or not through our deeds and actions towards Christ’s gospel.

2.        The second thing that the Bible can do for us is show us what the Word of God (and the will of God is) and how we are saved today.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, we read: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

Q: Why was Paul thankful? Because the Thessalonians received the Word of God as truth and not just as mere words of men.

Q: What is the difference between believing in God’s Word or man’s word?  Men’s words don’t effectively work in us and they are fallible.  God’s Word is welcoming.

In Romans 1:16, we read: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”

Q: What is the gospel of Christ?  The power of God to save all

Q: How do we know where to find the gospel of Christ?  In God’s Word the Bible

3.        The third thing that the Bible can do for us is show us that the Word of God is understandable and that we can obey it.

In 2 Corinthians 1:13, we read that: “For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end.”
Q: What is Paul saying here?  The Bible is understandable
Ephesians 5:17 tells us that: “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Q: How can we be wise?  By understanding what the will of God is.
Q: How do we know the will of God?  Through the Bible
As in the previous example of a judge: in life – the judge determines the rules and whether or not they have been broken.  We are wise when we learn the laws of the land and obey them.  We can’t just know the laws but refuse to follow them.  That won’t exempt us from punishment.  We can’t just know the speed limit is 50 km.  We have to obey the speed limit in order to not get a ticket.
Once someone understands the Bible, they must also obey it.
In 1 Peter 4:17, we read that: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
Peter is telling the church that persecution is upon them and that this is to be expected.
Q: What is Peter implying will happen to those who do not obey the gospel of God?  They will suffer eternal judgment. 
Q: What is necessary to be saved from judgement? Belief and obedience in the Gospel
Q: Can you believe or obey but not do both and be saved from judgement?  No, you need both to be saved.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, we read that: “and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Q: Who will receive Jesus’ vengeance?  Those who don’t know or obey the gospel of Christ
What then are the two requirements to be saved?  Know God and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How do we know and obey the gospel?  Through the Bible
It is not enough just to believe in Jesus, but to obey Him and His gospel as well.  Those who just believe will have vengeance taken on them.
James 2:19-20, says that: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” And in verse 24, we read: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”
What does this say about having faith?
Who has belief in God according to verse 19?  Demons
Does that guarantee salvation for them? No!
Illustration:  Students in University – can you just know the material in your course, or do you have to obey and demonstrate your knowledge by taking the quizzes, labs, and essays? Do you have to follow the professor’s requirements or just say “I know it and believe what you are saying?”  Of course you need to show what you know.  Same with God – believing He exists and believing what He says is not enough – even the demons do that, we have to show our faith through our deeds – not to prove ourselves, but to demonstrate our obedience to God and our love for Him (See Jesus’ example in John 5:30 and Matthew 26:39)

Conclusions: The Bible gives us the standard according to which we will be judged. It also shows us the will of God and how we can be saved. We can understand the Bible, and we are required to obey it.