Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

If You Won't Believe the Bible, ...

On the road to Emmaus the resurrected Jesus walked with a couple of His disciples (Luke 24: 13 - 27). The two disciples were sad, despondent if you will, over the events of that weekend. They told Jesus how He (they didn’t know it was Him at the time) had been arrested, tried, crucified and now, three days later, his body was gone. They were disappointed because they expected Jesus to be the conquering messiah. They didn’t understand that He first had to be the suffering messiah.

Note what is written in verse 27. Jesus was explaining things to them, and scripture says that, "... beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning Himself."

Does it seem a bit odd, like maybe all of a sudden Luke forgot how to construct a sentence? Surely he meant "... beginning with Moses ...," didn’t he? Let’s come back to this point in just a bit.

Jesus told the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16: 19 - 31). In this parable the rich man asks that Lazarus return from the dead to warn his brothers while they still had time to repent. He is then told that his brothers "... have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them" (Luke 16: 29). Again, a mere two verses later, he is again told "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16: 31). Well, what do you know. One indeed rose from the dead, and still there are multitudes who do not believe.

Okay, this is going to seem very disjointed but read on anyway. You will see that these points are indeed germane.

In a sermon I gave recently I asked the congregation to give an answer for why they were Christians (I Peter 3: 15). To answer such a question is no trivial matter, yet for most of us the true answer is that we are whatever our parents told us we are. I’ve asked myself this question. If I had been born in Riyadh would I be a Muslim? If I had been born in New Delhi would I be Hindu? I even ask myself why I belong to the church I do. I and my family are currently members of a Southern Baptist Church, but I was raised in a Bible Church. Bible churches are dogmatically very close to Southern Baptist, so when we moved here, where there is no Bible church, Southern Baptist was a comfortable fit if you will. But what if I had been raised Catholic? Would I still believe as I do? Who’s to say who’s right and wrong? How are we to know? How can anyone ever give a real "...answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you," (I Peter 3: !5; emphasis added).

Well, scriptures tell us "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Luke 11: 9, 10). Sure enough, I asked, and now I have an answer.

The Hebrew scriptures are verbatim our Old Testament. Of course they put the books in a different order, and they don’t split Kings, Chronicles or Samuel into roman numeral parts. Nonetheless, their scriptures are verbatim our Old Testament.

Of course, they don’t call it the Old Testament. The Jews call their Holy Scriptures +**1; (transliterated TeNaK, sometimes spelled Tenach). It is an acronym, the word formed by the initial letters of the names of the three constituent parts, or subdivisions, of their scriptures. Those three parts are %9&; (Torah; the Law), .*!*"1 (Neviim; the Prophets), and .*"&;, (Ketuvim; the Writings).

You are no doubt familiar with the word Torah. It consists of the first five books of the Bible, what we call the Pentateuch. It literally means "the Law." When you read the New Testament, and you read that Jesus said the words "the Law," know that the word, the sound, that actually came out of His mouth was "Torah."

Many times the Jews refer to Torah, as do we, as "the Books of Moses." Of course, frequently they simply say "Moses," leaving the phrase "the Books of" to be understood. It’s the same as when you or I might refer to a line from Hamlet as being "Shakespeare." We don’t mean that the line is actually the man William Shakespeare. Instead we mean that the line is from a play written by Shakespeare. Similarly, Jews refer to the Books of Moses as simply Moses.

The remainder of the Hebrew scriptures are divided between Neviim (the Prophets) and Ketuvim (the Writings). Often you will find the word Ketuvim translated as "scriptures" or "psalms."

The point to remember is that when you read a phrase like "the Law and the prophets" or "Moses and the prophets" or "Moses and the prophets and the scriptures," in your mind’s eye replace the phrase with "the Bible." Though it may have been slightly confused in the translation, that is nonetheless what they were saying.

So when, in Luke 24: 27, we read that, "... beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning Himself," know that it means "He showed them in the Bible the things concerning Himself." No, Luke didn’t suddenly forget how to construct a sentence. He meant "... beginning at Moses ...," not "... beginning with Moses ...." This is made even clearer in verse 44 when Christ said "..., which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me."

Now, in the light of this understanding, consider what Abraham told the rich man in Hell. He told the rich man that his brothers had the Bible, let them believe that. He basically said that if they weren’t willing to believe the Bible, then it was just too bad for them.

Now there is one more truth to add to this subject. The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus is the Word. I do not claim to fully comprehend this fact, but there it is. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with (separate from but in the presence of) God, and the Word was (identical to and one in the same) God," (John 1: 1), and in verse 14 we read that "... the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us ...." Just as the triune Godhead is beyond our comprehension (the Word was with God and the Word was God), so too is the fact that Jesus and the Word are one in the same. Still, it is plainly true, in a deeply spiritual and meaningful way, nonetheless.

Does this mean you need to go to a Bible church? Does this mean that if you go to another denomination of church you aren’t really a Christian? Hardly. This does mean that you need to go to a Bible-believing church. This does mean that if you either do not or will not believe the Bible, too bad for you. This means that if you place more weight on a doctrinal handbook, or on what you were taught as a child, or on what you believe to just make more sense, than on scripture, then in a very real way you are just like the Ephesians of Revelation 2. In a very real way you have left your first love, Jesus.

Finally, as to how one can give that answer that we are all to be ready to give, it must come from scripture. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, every answer He gave was from scripture. Even though anything He would have said would have been the words of God, He demonstrated for us that the Word, which is to say He, is sufficient.

So do you see? In the end  it’s not about whether you or I are right, or who is wrong. The final point to be made here is that God is right, and we are all wrong. And this is how we can know, because (as Jesus explained to the men on the road to Emmaus) hundreds and even thousands of years beforehand, long before He carried out His plan for mankind, He wrote it all down for us. He wrote down what He had done, and what He was going to do, so that when we saw it happen we could know it was His work. So today, even though we are all wrong, by His work we are made righteous. All we need do is learn what God wrote for us, study His Word, and we will be ready to give that answer when it is asked of us.

Luke 24: 13 - 27    And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem [about] threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed [together] and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications [are] these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found [it] even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 16: 19 - 31    There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that [would come] from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

I Peter 3: 15    But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Luke 11: 9, 10    And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

John 1: 1    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1: 14    And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Revelation 2: 1 - 7    Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.