THE BEST SELLER OF ALL TIME
Today, we’re going to get back to basics. We’re going to talk about the Bible, what it is and why we can trust it. This goes right back to the very roots of our faith. Articles of II in the Basis of Union of the United Church of Canada say this about the Bible: “We receive the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, given by inspiration of God, as containing the only infallible rule of faith and life, a faithful record of God’s gracious revelations, and as the sure witness to Christ.” But what does that mean? Today, we’re going to talk about that.
The Bible is an interesting and important book. It is also the most influential book in human history. If I was to ask how many of you have at least one Bible in your home, most of your hands would go up. In fact, if you don’t have a Bible, you are part of a small minority of the population. The research tells us that 92% of American household own at least one Bible. The average household, in fact, owns three. I expect that Canadians are similar. I tried to do a count of the number of Bibles in our house and it wasn’t as easy as you might think. Yesterday we had Bibles in the study, in the den, in the kitchen, the dining room and most of the bedrooms. There is also an assortment of Bibles in my office here in the church. So let me estimate that we have about 25 Bibles plus another fifteen or so copies of the New Testament of some other portion of the Bible. That’s a lot of Bibles. And while we may be a bit excessive in our family, we’re not alone in stockpiling the Good News.
The Bible is the all time best selling book in the world with over six billion copies published. The Quran comes in at a distant second with 800 million of each of those published. That means that for every Quran that is published, 7.5 Bibles go into circulation. Annual Bible sales are still increasing. Just to put this into perspective, to get on the New York Times Best Seller list, a book must sell around 9,000 copies in any given week. More Bibles than that are produced every single day. This is all despite that fact that no one is required to own a Bible – not even Christians. It’s all completely voluntary and yet people still buy them in droves.
Currently, the Bible is translated into more than 2,800 languages covering 90% of the world’s population. The hope is that someday every person will be able to read the Bible in their own language. The impact and importance of this book simply cannot be overstated.
But why is the Bible so important? It’s important because as Christians we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God that guides our beliefs and actions. That’s an important statement because it tells us that as Christians we are not free to follow the ebbs and flows of society and culture. The values and beliefs of this world will change over time. Sometimes they get better and sometimes they get worse but they always change. What was acceptable just twenty years ago is not acceptable now and what was not acceptable twenty years ago is totally okay today. And make no mistake about it, the values and beliefs that are prevalent in the world today are going to change. We sometimes forget that. A generation from now, our children and grandchildren will look back at some of the things that we are doing in 2018 and wonder what we could possibly have been thinking.
The Bible, however, is not like culture. It is consistent. It is constant. It is unchanging and it is grounded in thousands of years of human experience. It is an anchor that holds us fast in the changing seas of time. When everything else seems to blow in the wind, the Bible is the solid rock foundation upon which we can stand. There are three things that I want to point out about the Bible. They are that it is inspired, it is accurate and it is authoritative. Let’s look at each of those.
THE BIBLE IS INSPIRED
The Bible, first of all, is inspired. Inspired by who? You already know the answer to that question. It is inspired by God. Over the span of 2,500 years, God inspired people to write things down. Those writing were penned by forty or fifty different authors depending upon how you count them, living on three continents who wrote in at least three different languages. These writing are contained in the sixty-six books of the Bible. Thirty-nine of them are in the Old Testament and twenty-seven of them are in the New Testament. Even though they were written by so many different people from so many different places over such a vast period of time, there is an incredible consistency to the Bible from front to back. That consistency is there because of God’s inspiration. The message has remained consistent and true from day one because God’s message hasn’t changed and it never will.
2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) says something interesting about the Bible. It says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The Bible is God-breathed. It’s the same word that the Bible uses when it says in Genesis 2:7 that God breathed life into Adam’s nostrils. Just as God breathed life into Adam and Eve, so too God breathes life into the Bible. And because God breathes life into it, it breathes life into us. That’s why we can say that the Bible can guide our beliefs and actions. The Bible is God’s inspired Word to us in our day and generation. It is just as true today as it was when it was first written.
THE BIBLE IS ACCURATE
The Bible is inspired. It is also accurate. One of the most common misconceptions that we hear from skeptics is that the Bible is not really reliable. That’s because there is a myth out there that over the years the Bible was changed. As scribes made more and more copies of it they changed the text, took some things out and added in others. It has even been suggested that the Bible we have now is significantly different than what was originally written.
What I can tell you with complete integrity is that nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t have any of the original scrolls but we do have thousands of copies of them. We also know with certainty that over the years as the Bible was copied over and over again the scribes were extremely careful to meticulously preserve the original text. Were there some changes over time? Yes there were – no method is perfect – but those changes were all minor in nature and none of them changed the meaning of the text in the slightest way.
As an example of how carefully the scribes copied the texts, take the King James Version of the Bible that was originally translated in the early 17th century. The translators used the oldest manuscripts they had which back then were from about 1,000 AD. Since then, much older manuscripts have been found. In fact, we now have manuscripts that are 800 to 1,000 years older – so from the time of Jesus. The best known examples are the Dead Sea Scrolls which were discovered in 1946. When these older manuscripts were found, scholars compared them to the newer ones for accuracy. What they discovered was that the manuscripts that were used for the King James version were virtually identical to the ones that were 1,000 years older. There were no significant changes. This goes to show how carefully the Bible has been copied over the years. It is authentic and it is accurate.
THE BIBLE IS AUTHORITATIVE
The Bible is inspired. It is accurate. Here’s the third thing; it is authoritative. At this point I want to introduce you to a word because to understand the authority of the Bible you have to know this word. That word is infallible. I believe that the Bible is infallible. In fact, the official position of the United Church of Canada which is found in Article 2 of the Basis of Union says this: “We receive the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, given by inspiration of God, as containing the only infallible rule of faith and life, a faithful record of God’s gracious revelations, and as the sure witness of Christ.”
What does it mean that the Bible is infallible? It means that the Bible will never fail to accomplish its purpose. It will never fail to teach us the right things and to point us in the right direction. Here’s beautiful expression of that infallibility from Isaiah 55:10-11:
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth;
It will not return to me empty,
but it will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
The Bible is infallible. It will never fail to achieve its purpose. That’s why it is authoritative. Authority always does what it says it’s going to do. We know that as parents, don’t we? We know that if we want to maintain a position of authority – and that’s a necessary thing in a healthy family – our children have to know that we’re serious, that we actually mean what we say and say what we mean and that we will do what we say that we’re going to do.
The same thing holds true with the Bible. It has authority because, over the years it has proven that it does it says that it’s going to do. But what does it do? That’s a good question. People come up with all kinds of explanations about the authority of the Bible. But I think that sometimes they paint with too wide of a brush.
When it comes to the biblical authority, I stick with what the Bible says about itself. To find that I want to go back to 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) which says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Where does the Bible claim authority for itself? It’s right there. It claims authority in teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. What that means, in a nutshell, is that the Bible claims authority for itself in two areas. First, of all the Bible is authoritative when it comes to teaching us how to live. The Bible sets the standards by which we are called to live our lives and it trumps everything else. The second place the Bible claims authority for itself is in righteousness which means how we approach God. And that is done through faith in Jesus Christ. So the Bible tells us how to live and it tells us how to be right with God. Those are the two areas where the Bible claims authority for itself – and the only two.
Make no mistake. The Bible contains lots of other things. It talks about history. It talks about science. It contains poetry, drama, songs and geography but it isn’t about any of these things and so does not claim any authority in those areas and neither should we.
The Bible is inspired. It is accurate and it is authoritative. We know it through the Bible which as the Word of God guides our beliefs and actions.
So what if the Bible can guide my actions and beliefs? What difference does that make to my life? I want to point to three areas where the Bible can and should make a difference to your life.
First, the Bible is the lens through which we view the world. What that means is that the Bible shows us that God is involved in everything that happens in this world. I’m not saying that God makes it happen and I’m not saying that God necessarily wants it to happen but God is still there. God is with us in the good times and the bad, the happy and the sad. God is with us in the victories and in the defeats. Let’s look at Romans 8:28 (NIV) which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” God is there in all things. When we use the Bible as the lens through which we see the world, we begin to see the hand of God in all of the events that surrounds us.
The second difference that it makes is that we recognize that we are obligated and motivated to study the Bible to understand God’s will for us. Romans 12:2 (NIV) says this: “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Here’s the reality; you cannot know God’s will for you unless you study his Word. What that means is that everyone here today should be participating in regular Bible study. And yet here’s another reality. On any given week, we have somewhere between ten or twenty people at our Bible studies and small groups. I know that some of you attend other Bible studies and I support that. I know that some of you study on your own. I support that too. But here’s the third reality; in the homes of most Christians those Bibles that we own are getting pretty dusty. Understand this; God loves a well used, doggy-eared Bible filled with notes, underlines and coffee stains. The most beautiful Bible in the world is one that is worn out. You wear it out by studying it.
The third difference is that the principles of the Bible govern our lives, even when we don’t fully understand or like what they teach us. Not everything in the Bible makes sense to us. And much of it runs contrary to what the world wants us to believe. But don’t forget that what the world teaches will change next year and maybe even tomorrow. But what the Bible teaches is eternal. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) says: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” You may not always understand where God wants you to go or what he wants you to do. But God knows because God sees the big picture.
Bible is not a book of suggestions. It is the very Word of God and it invites
you to let it rule and guide every step of your life’s journey if you will let
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, we come before your throne of grace with great thanks. You have blessed us in many ways. We thank you for the warm autumn weather that we are experiencing, the changing of the leaves and the migration of the birds. We thank you for the crops that have been harvested and the ones that are still in the fields. We also ask for more favourable weather to harvest the remaining fields.
Help us, O God, to always remember that we have a place and a part in your plan. We want to understand that it takes everyone doing their part to complete the ministries that you have set before us. Enable us to fulfill the responsibilities that you have given to each of us. We choose to put our trust in you and know that your plans are always for the good of all.
We give thanks for children, the joy of their laughter and the beauty that they bring to our lives. We pray for teenagers who challenge us as they seek to find out who they are as individuals. We pray for young adults, starting out in the world to discover your purpose for their lives. We pray for middle aged people who add stability to the nation and for seniors who bless us with their wisdom. For people of every age, we give thanks for all of us are of your making, put on earth to fulfill your purpose.
We pray for those who are sick and have been in hospital this past week. We raise up in prayer especially Sharon and Lyle. Send your Healing Spirit to bless him and each of us here.
We also lift up in prayer those who mourn and ask your blessing of peace upon the family and friends of Carl Dobson and Florian Cichon who died this past week. We pray especially for Linda and the rest of the Driedger family as they mourn John’s death. May they find, O Gracious God, the peace that only you can give.
We know that when we seek you, we will find you, if I truly want to find you. Help us to always seek you with all of our hearts in all that concerns our lives. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
November 4, 2018 / Proper 26 / All Saints Day
Ruth 1:1-18; Psalm 146; Mark 12:28-34; Hebrews 9:11-14
CALL TO WORSHIP
Let us praise the Living God;
the one who life and love.
Let us praise the Living God;
whose justice reigns forever.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
God of Earth and Altar, we come to you on this day seeking your divine presence in our lives. Your power amazes us. Your awesomeness astounds us. Your love inspires us. We are grateful for the assurance that you will complete what you have begun in us. Help us in our worship to learn more of your ways and walk more confidently in the strength of your love as each new day dawns. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Merciful God, we confess our timidness when it comes to sharing your Good News. We often miss chances to spread your message of hope and life. Help us to be bold in our witness for you regardless of circumstances, and never ashamed or reluctant, remembering that you were not ashamed of us, but love us unconditionally and with great patience. Enable us to exemplify that same love and commitment to others that our witness may be strong and sensitive to their needs and situations. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Hear the Good News! There is no power in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. No sin is too great, no shortcoming too disturbing, no hurt too harmful that it cannot be healed by the grace of God’s love. When we truly and humbly confess our sins God forgives and forgets.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Our gifts we give to you who has given us so much. We have no need to pray for more for we already have all that we need. We need only pray for wisdom to use your resources wisely and for the greater good of all humanity. Be, O God, our guide and our strength as we seek to discern your will. Amen.
God is our refuge and strength. God is our hope and our salvation. The Good News of Jesus is the message of love. May we be bold in sharing. May our actions be consistent with our words. With the help of the Spirit, let us proclaim the Gospel in all that we do, in every moment of our lives.