From God To Us Lesson 1
I think almost all of us at some time or other in our lives begin to ask some serious questions. Questions like who am I? People are spending a great deal of money today just to establish their identity. They're going to professional to try to find out who they really are. Not only who am I, but where did I come from? Almost every child recognizes that some point in his life that he wasn't here forever. I mean, he hasn't always been alive. There was a point when he came into being, and wants to know where did I come from? How did I come to be? And then as we grow, we want to know what meaning, what purpose there is in life. We want to know why we're here, whether life has any meaning or not. So many people have come to the conclusion it hasn't any meaning and they've taken their lives. Does it have any meaning? If so, what?
Then there's the important issue of death? The great unknown. We want to know whether there's any life after death, where we go, when we die, where am I going? What lies beyond? Are there any ultimate answers to these basic questions of life? Every philosophical worldview offers some kind of answers, whether it be atheist, agnostic, materialist, secularist, relativist, or anyone else, they all have some kind of answers. Some of those answers are very unsatisfactory. Some are saying, we simply can never know whether there are any answers. We just don't know. Others are saying, we're the product of blind chance and we make our own meaning to life. And if we don't make it, there won't be any. Others are saying just flat out, "There is no meaning to life. Life is just one grandiose cosmic joke and suicide is the ultimate. Those answers are not satisfying. They're not gonna provide any meaning to life. What hopelessness and despair. And they all ignore one obvious fact, at least it's very obvious to the Church, and that is the existence of a personal all powerful God. There is no way to adequately explain the magnificence of the universe in which we live apart from a personal, powerful, God. Scientists has some suggestions, but it is easier to believe that a personal being brought it all into existence then that it all just happened out of 'whatever' one day in the far distant past.And the intricate perfection designed in our universe should convince us that there is an intelligent designer behind it all. It takes more faith to deny God's existence than it does to affirm it. And I'm not going to try to prove that God exists.
I'm going to take as a given that there's a God. He exists. But why did he create? Why did he have to make this universe in the first place? Why couldn't he have just left well enough alone and gone on and existed through all the eternal ages to come as well as the eternity passed in his three persons, enjoying each other in their fellowship and forgot about creating? Well, we read in Psalm 19 that the heavens declare the glory of God. And the firmament shows his handiwork. He created to express his glory. That is his attributes. To show us who he is just as a sculptor will produce a statue as an expression of himself or a painter will reveal something about his own personality in the painting, or an architect exposes something about himself in the buildings. He designs. People create things to express themselves and the material creation expresses God. It reveals a good bit of what He is and who He is. It reveals that he's all powerful. You've got to be all powerful to make a universe. The extent of this one is, in which we live... He has to be all wise. None of us could dream it up or put it together or hold it together. He has to be everywhere in order to make it operate perfectly, and precisely. We know that about God just from looking at the universe. He's all powerful. He's omnicent and he's omni-present. But God also created people. Why did he do that? Well, he did it because fellowship with other intelligent creatures was the only way he could display other parts of his glory. We know his non moral attributes to creation by the things we've talked about.
But how about what we call his moral attributes, his holiness and righteousness and justice, his love and mercy and goodness and grace and truth and wisdom.
How are we going to know or how will God express those attributes? There is only one way he has to express them through interrelationships with other intelligent creatures, very much like himself.There isn't any other way he could show love, for instance, then to express it toward another intelligent being. We were brought into being to reflect God's glory, to glorify him, to demonstrate who he is. That's why God made you, whoever you are, doesn't make any difference, who you are, God made you to reflect his glory.
In Isaiah 43:7, it says, "Everyone who is called by my name, whom I have created for my glory. Whom I have formed, even whom I have made." Now in the context that was spoken about the people of Israel, but the principle reaches beyond them.
God created human beings to display his glory. To exhibit who he is in his relationship with Him. There's no other reasonable explanation for God's creative activity. But now we exist. Here's this human race. And the very existence of the human race brings us to what we wanna talk about today.
The need for revelation.
Now think for a moment. If the purpose of our existence is to display God's glory, how are we going to find out how to display God's glory? How are we gonna find out how we're supposed to do it? Where am I going to look to discover what I need to do in order to fulfill the purpose for my creation and exhibit God's handy work? There's only one way I can know. And that's, if God tells me, he must reveal himself to me, he's got to make himself known to me. We call that the doctrine of revelation. And revelation is absolutely essential.
If you want me to know you, something about you, what are you going to do? You're not going to run away and hide and never talk to me. If you want me to know something about you, you're going to reveal yourself. You're going to talk to me. You're going to tell me about yourself. You're going to let me watch you do whatever it is you do. And by watching you do it, I'm going to learn something about you.
You see, you're going to make yourself known and through that self-disclosure, I'm going to get to know you. It isn't any different with God. In order to reflect his glory, I've go to know him. I've got to know something about him. I've got to know what he does. The only way I can be sure that I know the truth about him, is if he tells me the truth, otherwise I'll get erroneous ideas. I've got to listen to him. He has to reveal himself. In order for me to demonstrate God's glory, there's going to be some things I need to do. What do I need to do? Well, he has to tell me what to do. I don't have any other way to find out what I need to do to reflect his glory. Except he tells me. He's got to reveal himself to me. And to refuse to tell me, would be like a human father who expects a certain standard of behavior from his child, and holds him responsible for that standard of behavior, but refuses to tell him what the standard is. He punishes him if he doesn't keep it, but he doesn't tell him what it is. That would be rather ridiculous. What would you call a father like that? Well, you'd call him unreasonable. You would probably call him cruel.
God, who created people in His own image, if He made us, He's going to talk to us, He's going to reveal himself to us. A God who would not do that would lack the most essential attribute to being God. And that is love. If there's a God, and there most certainly is, then He's going to reveal himself to his creatures. He's going to provide answers to the ultimate questions of life. He's going to tell us about Himself and about what we need to do to glorify Him. Because that's why He made us. If He made us for that reason, He's going to tell us how to do it. But the question is, how is he going to tell us? How is God going to reveal himself? We need to face that question.
Theologians divide God's revelation into two categories. God's natural revelation and God's supernatural revelation.
Natural revelation refers to God’s self-disclosure in creation, through the things that have been made. In addition to the revelation of God available in nature, God has also communicated directly with mankind through out history, which may be called supernatural revelation.
Supernatural revelation communicates to humanity truths that which transcend human reason although are not opposed to it.
Where are we going to look then for God to reveal himself? We're going to look, first of all, at his natural revelation, God's creation is part of his natural revelation. Let us look at Romans 1:18-20, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice: Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable." There's some things we can know about God just by looking at creation, the things that he made. I mean any open minded person who honestly looks at the universe around him, has to come to the conclusion that behind it, there is a power, a power vastly superior to his own power. An all powerful God. He can come to that conclusion just by looking at the universe. But there's a whole lot about God. The creation does not tell us like his love his grace and his mercy, his truth. How are we going to find out those things? Creation obviously cannot tell us why we're here and what God expects of us. Where else can we look for God's natural revelation? We look secondly in conscience.
Look over at Romans 2:14-15. "For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves: Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another"
Their conscience bearing witness. Through the prohibitions and urges of our own consciences, we sense that there is a law of right and wrong, and a supreme law giver behind that law. Of course we all know that standards of right and wrong, differ from culture to culture. You can't do much traveling in the world without coming to that conclusion. We also know most of us by bitter experience that the consciences of men can be seared and can be hardened. We've all met people who are probably in that category.
So we look for something more than natural revelation. God must speak to us more directly than just that way. If we are to know him and glorify him, we look for God's Supernatural revelation.
God reveals himself through both deeds and words in the course of human history. Deeds, such as the liberation of the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage, and words, such as the communication of God’s will through Moses and the other prophets. As the creed confesses, “He has spoken through the prophets.” Both the revelatory deeds and the words of God in history are mutually supportive in communicating the truth about God. The words of the prophets explain the meaning of God’s deeds; the deeds in turn confirm the truth of the prophetic word. Without the words, God’s deeds would be ambiguous; without the deeds, God’s words would be empty. For example, with respect to the Exodus, the words of Moses explain that the plagues and other wonders are the acts of the LORD, the God of Israel, and not a meaningless, random series of natural disasters. On the other hand, the plagues and wonders confirm Moses’ prophecies and attest him as a true spokesman for God, not merely a political revolutionary or deluded visionary.
The culmination of God’s self-revelation in history is the incarnation of his Son, who is the definitive Word of God made flesh:
Hebrews 1:1 “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
For this reason Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself: through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but especially through His death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth.
The entire life and ministry of Jesus Christ is revelatory: his birth, childhood, silent years of work, his baptism, preaching, miracles and ministry of healing, but especially, his Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. For the Catholic faith, the primary referent of the “Word of God” is always Jesus Christ, God the Son: the doctrine of revelation must have a Christological focus.
After the ascension of the Lord, the supernatural revelation of God continued in the preaching of Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and some of this preaching was committed to writing in what now forms the New Testament Scriptures, which together with the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament forms the complete written Word of God. The Word of God, however, continued to be handed down also in unwritten form, by word and example, beginning from the apostles to their immediate successors and continuing from generation to generation within the Church: 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”
This transmission of the Word of God from the apostles in unwritten form constitutes Sacred Tradition. Together with Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition constitutes one sacred deposit of the Word of God, committed to the Church.
To summarize: supernatural revelation has come to humanity in at least the following ways: (1) the deeds of God in history, (2) the words of the prophets, (3) the life and ministry of the Son of God, (4) the preaching of the apostles, (5) Sacred Tradition passed down from the Apostles and perpetuated by the Church, and (6) the written Word of God in the Scriptures. Thus, the Catholic faith is a religion of the Word of God, but not a “religion of the book,” since the Bible represents only one form, albeit a singular one, of God’s Word.
So now we want to focus on the message of this lesson.
We want to focus on the Sacred Scriptures, the Bible, The written Word of God. The Church claims that the Bible is God's supernatural revelation and it backs that claim with some unmistakable evidence of divine authenticity. There is no other book that can begin to compare with it. It's called the Bible and the Bible means book. It's simply the book. It is the the one that claims to be a supernatural revelation from God. The book. And sure enough, it gives answers to the crucial questions of life.
Let's talk about the Bible as divine revelation. It clearly claims to be a word from God. Somebody's counted over 3,800 times in the old Testament alone where the, text makes the claim of originating with God. I mean things like, "and the word of the Lord came to".. whoever. "Thus Saith the Lord,"... and then some revelation from God.
Does the Bible claim to be God's word to men?
It most surely does. Isaiah seems to summed it up best in his prophecy. It's in the first chapter and the second verse of his book. He says, "Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken." And then he goes on to reveal prophecy. Did Isaiah believe he was revealing God's word to men? He most surely did. He believed it was God's revelation. And God himself established the pattern of writing it down. He started it by inscribing the 10 commandments with his own finger on tablets of stone. And then commanding Moses to write down the rest of the law, which God had revealed to him. "I've written these 10 Moses, you write the rest so it can be preserved for every generation." He told others of the apostles and prophets through the centuries to write down the things he told him. He told that to Jeremiah. He told that to John, the apostle. "Write these things down." He said. The Bible claims to be God's written revelation to men. Will it stand up to the test? Is the evidence there? Will it bare close scrutiny? Let's look at some of the evidence and see if it passes the test.
The first evidence we see is its supernatural character.
The Bible is literally a wonder book. It's composed of 73 different books written by more than 40 different authors from all walks of life. There are Kings. There are scholars, there are statesmen. There are rabbis. There are physicians. There are herdsman. There are tax collectors. There are fishermen, all walks of life. And this is the thing that is amazing most of all. They wrote over a period of 1500 years, maybe as much as 1600 years on three different continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe. And they wrote in three different languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. And they used every conceivable kind of literary type, both of pros and of poetry. And with that kind of diversity, we would expect a contradictory nonsensical hodgepodge of information. Wouldn't we? I mean, just think about it. Let me use an example. You go to your community, maybe your block, your neighborhood, and you find 10 people. And these people all speak the same language. Let's assume they all have similar educational backgrounds. They come from the same culture, they live in the same country, even in the same neighborhood. And you ask each to write a paragraph on some controversial issue, like the meaning of life. What are you going to get? Absolute contradiction. There's going to be very little similarity between any of those people. Even one culture, one language, in one neighborhood. And yet here's the Bible with this tremendously diverse origin over 1500 years on three continents by 40 different men in three different languages. And it's one book, one unified whole. Consistent in its purpose and in its theme. It has one doctrinal system, one moral standard, one plan of salvation. One program of the ages. One central person is progressively revealed through its pages. There can be only one explanation for that. There has to be one master designer who revealed it all.
Imagine if you would, a beautiful monument being built in Washington, DC. It's a monument to our nation and it's being built of stones, which are hewned from every state of the union. They're all cut, they're all different sizes and shapes, and they're all cut before shipping. But when they arrive on the scene, they fit perfectly into place, and this beautiful monument emerges.
Now, what conclusion are you gonna come to? You only have one. And that is that there was a master architect behind the monument who planned it all out and sent the specification to each of the Quarrymen in all 50 states. I mean, you can't come to any other conclusion. Anything else would be absurd. It would be just as foolish to deny that one architect planned the Bible. And the only architect who could span the 16 centuries and the three continents and the three languages in all probability, is God himself. Almighty God was the architect of this book. It comes from him. It has a supernatural character.
Second, is its complete accuracy.
If God originates a book, then it's historical geographical chronological and scientific facts must be accurate. If there are errors found in it, then we have reason to doubt whether it really does come from God. But if it's facts are true, then it passes the test. Now I want to give a whole lesson on the truthfulness of the Bible, the doctrine of inerrancy. So I don't want to say a lot. But I will say this. Critics of the Bible have consistently endeavored to prove it wrong. I have newspapers in my file filled with alleged contradictions in the Bible written by agnostics and atheists who wish to disprove it. That's their aim. But yet in spite of all those attacks, the truthfulness of the Bible has been verified and vindicated over and over again. The science of archeology has been an ally of the scriptures. It's a science. It has consistently confirmed the word of God. There's so many illustrations I could share with you. Let me give you just one. Critics of the Bible used to laugh at Daniel's mention of Bellshazzar as the last king of Babylon. They said that was inaccurate. The records showed that Nabonidus was the last king, not Bellshazzar. They said the Bible is wrong, we can't trust it. The later archeological discoveries have shown that in Nabonidus's last years, he was actually an absentee ruler. He spent many months of the year in Arabia and left the kingdom in charge of his son, Bellshazzar as a co- ruler together with him. And once more, the Bible was demonstrated to be true.And that's happened countless hundreds of times through archeology alone, no other ancient book begins to match it for accuracy, not one. Oh, there are still unanswered questions. We still have some problems. In fact, there's another king in Daniel. We don't know who he is yet from archeological records, but we will someday find out who Darius was because the Bible is true. It has been demonstrated to be true over and over again. And not one fact has ever been proven false. Questions? Yes. Proven false? No, not one. It passes the test. We would expect a revelation from God to be completely accurate. The Bible is. So number one, Supernatural character. Number two complete accuracy.
Thirdly fulfilled prophecy.
No other book in human history has predicted so many future events and seen them come true to the letter. There are at least 330 prophecies of the Lord Jesus Christ himself that were perfectly fulfilled. You know many of them. It was predicted that he would be of the descendants of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, of the family of David, born in the city of Bethlehem, to a Virgin. All those things are predicted in the old Testament. It was predicted that he would be rejected by his people, that he would die by crucifixion, that he would rise from the grave, all those things are predicted in the old Testament, and they came true exactly as they were predicted. Somebody's estimated that the law of probabilities indicates there is one chance out of 83 billion that so many predictions could come true in the case of one person. One out of 83 billion.
One of the most interesting fulfilled prophecies in the Bible concerns the destruction of the city of Tyre. That prediction is found in Ezekiel chapter 26. And I'm not gonna turn to it. You can write this down if you would and check it out, it's there. Ezekiel predicted that the city of Tyre would be destroyed. And it was. Just a few years after that prediction, it came true. Nebuchadnezzar, from Babylon, came up, destroyed the city, but the inhabitants of the city moved out to an island, right off shore. And Nebuchadnezzar decided it wasn't worth the effort to destroy them. So he just let them be. But you see, he had said something else in his amazing prophecy in chapter 26. He said that the dust and the timbers from the city of Tyre would be cast into the sea. Strange, strange prophecy. Who in the world would take the time and the trouble to throw the rubble from the city of Tyre in the ocean? Would you believe that that prediction was fulfilled about 250 years after the city was originally destroyed? It came when Alexander the great started marching down the coast of Palestine toward Egypt conquering. As he went forcing people to submit to his sovereignty, he got to the city of Tyre, and saw it in rubble's, and realized that the people were living on the island. So he sent word out to them to surrender, submit or else. Well, they figured that Alexander didn't have a Navy with him. And so therefore they were safe and they just refused to submit. They weren't going to bow to his supremacy. You know what Alexander did? He commanded his armies to take the rubble from the city of Tyre, and throw it into the water and build a causeway from the city out to the island, which is what he did. And if you visit this part of the world today, you will see that topography at the location of the ancient city of Tyre. A peninsula made by man at the command of Alexander the Great.
You may say it's a coincidence. It's no coincidence. God has spoken in his word. The Bible is true. And if it predicts something, it will surely come to pass. It's predicted some things that haven't come to pass. They will. Great prophetic truths that have yet to be fulfilled and will certainly be fulfilled one day. If God can have the rubble from Tyre thrown into the ocean, He can do everything else He said, he's going to do, you can count on it. Fulfilled prophecy.
There's a fourth evidence that the Bible is God's revelation to man. And that is its miraculous preservation.
We would expect a revelation from God to be indestructible. And the Bible meets our expectations. The first book of the Bible was written nearly 3,500 years ago. Think of it. You hold in your hand.A book written 3,500 years ago. That in itself is amazing. The last book of the Bible was written about 1900 years ago. And though it is so ancient, it remains today as the world's all time, best seller, no other book comes close to that record. Consider the circumstances under which it has survived. In 303 AD the Roman emperor, Diocletian, issued an edict that all copies of the Christian scriptures be destroyed, burned. And at one point in his reign, Diocletian thought he had accomplished the task and proclaimed Christianity to be dead. As you know, he was mistaken. His successor. In fact, Constantine commanded that copies of the scripture be produced at the governments expense. Diocletian is dead. The Bible lives on. French infidel Voltaire predicted that in a hundred years from his date, the Bible would be a museum piece. And this is one of the most ironical facts in human history. 50 years after Voltaire died, his own house was used by the Geneva Bible society and his own printing press was used by the Geneva Bible society to print hundreds of Bibles. Voltaire is dead. The Bible stands.
I love the old poem by the man John Clifford. It goes like this:
"I stood one day beside a blacksmith's door and listened to the anvil ring the vespers chimes. And looking in, I saw upon the floor old hammers worn with beating years of time. 'How many anvils have you had', said I, 'to wear and batter all those hammers so?' 'Just one', he said with twinkling eye. 'The anvil wears the hammers out, you know?' So I thought, 'the anvil of God's word for ages skeptics blows have beat upon. Though the noise of falling blows was heard, the anvil is unharmed. The hammers gone." What else can we expect from God's revelation?
It passes the test of endurance.
It has been miraculously preserved, but there's one more, most important of all for you and me. And that is its transforming power. You see the message of this book has changed lives the world over.
For instance, it's changed the lives of uncivilized natives once steeped in superstition and fear now experiencing peace and joy. Alcoholics and drug addicts, and so-called civilized countries like our own have found power to break the chains of sin and live productive lives. Respectable people whose lives were once empty and meaningless have found answers to these most crucial questions of life through the scriptures.
This message of the written Word of God has changed lives because it has power. It has power because it comes from God. And He is a God of power. Are you asking questions about the ultimate issues of life? You will find that the Bible has answers to these ultimate questions, answers that come direct from the God of creation, the God of the universe, the God who made you for himself, you have a word from God written in ink. Now the question is, what have you been doing with it? I mean, if we really believed that, the written word of God would take on more prominence in our lives.
Let me just suppose for a minute that you had in your possession, a document, which told you irrefutably and infallibly, how to earn a million dollars in the next week. Would you have read it this week? Suppose you had a document that contained the sure cure for all your ills or the key to perpetual youth and beauty. Would you have read it this week? You can be sure you would've read it this week. You've got something better than that. You've got a word from God with answers. You have The Word Made Flesh, you have the Spoken Word, and you have the Written Word. The three in union are the only adequate answers to the most crucial questions of life, how can we afford to ignore this spiritual revelation? How can we afford to just go to Mass once a week to hear Gods Word proclaimed and then ignore it or neglect it the rest of the week. A Word from God! If we really believe that, we might pick the Bible up in stead of some of the other things we pick up to read during the course of the week. We might turn on to it rather than turn onto some of the other things we look at during the course of the week. And we would begin to have new meaning and new joy and new purpose in our lives.
This book contains certain information about life after death. It reveals to us the one who came from heaven to tell us what heaven was like and how we can get there. And he spoke even more about hell than he spoke about heaven. He knows about these places. He knows what lies beyond the grave. Are we willing to listen to Him? The Word made flesh , the Lord Jesus Christ, revealed in his written Word, said he came to die for our sins to give his life a ransom for many. That's why he came. He rose from the grave to prove it. He's alive today and offers us his salvation.
Have you acknowledged your sinfulness? Have you put your trust in him? That's the message of the Bible. Christ died for our sins. And it is by God's grace we are saved.