Written in late 1st century A.D. by the last survivor of Jesus' twelve disciples, John is the one closest to Jesus during His three-year teaching stint on earth. The paranoid Pharisees are becoming uncomfortably aware of Jesus' growing fame. To avoid a rumble, Jesus hits the road for home up north. Opting not to take the five-day-long, desert detour around Samaria, He goes through this land that’s off-limits to Jews. Samaria had long been a center of idolatry. In 721 B.C. King Sargon II of Assyria captured 27,000 of its citizens, terminating the northern kingdom. Assyria replaced Samaria's exiles with its own people, fusing religions.
A serious study of Jesus Christ's life on earth, as chronicled by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John generally finds a seeker arriving at one of three conclusions: Jesus is a liar, a lunatic or the Messiah, the Son of God. What He is not is simply “a good teacher." Jesus claimed to be God, to have control over creation, to have authority to forgive sins. He predicted He'd die and three days later live again! He said He was Truth and is the only door to have eternal life! He even encouraged people to worship Him!
Many believe all spiritual roads lead to the same place. However, Christianity claims not to be an optional route to God; its Founder claims it is the Truth! The late Chuck Colson argued that every worldview must answer this question: "How does it explain Creation, the Fall and Redemption?" Creation deals with origins. Are we evolutionary accidents? The Fall tackles evil and suffering. Redemption is about the remedy for evil, suffering and sin.
We're examining the most-read, most-quoted part of the Bible, written by John in A.D. 85-95. To validate His claim that Jesus is God's Son, John's book is a positive “tell all” about three unforgettable years when he was a 24/7 companion of God-in-the-flesh! Let's read ch. 20: 30-31. John describes Jesus as "the Word," God's medium of expressing Himself to planet Earth. When this Carpenter from Nazareth walked among us 2,000 years ago, He was actually telling us God's own thoughts! Imagine that!! God's mind is revealed by what's in the Bible.
Perhaps you've wondered, "God, what are You like? Are You there? Do You know that I exist? Do You care?" You can make pilgrimages to Tibet or Tupelo. Only one resource reliably answers life's biggest questions -- it's God's love letter to us, the Bible. John was born into a comfortable life as the son of Zebedee the fisherman. Zeb's wife was Salome, a sincere follower of Christ who, may have been a sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother. We know she was present at Christ's crucifixion. John’s brother was James, also one of Christ's twelve disciples and a fellow member of Jesus' inner circle.
John is one of Christ’s disciples who followed Him along the dusty trails of Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Many doubted that John wrote this book whose plainly-stated theme is that Jesus is God. The discovery in Egypt of the Rylands Papyrus 52 contained portions of John's 18th chapter, dated circa A.D. 135. Scholars peg John as written by A.D. 90. John's other books (I, II and III John and Revelation) were written after his gospel. Before A.D. 70 Matthew sees Jesus as King; Mark has Him as Servant; Luke as the Son of Man; John has Jesus as God.
The Bible has one paramount message, pointing to one Person -- the all-God-yet-all-human, only Son of God, Jesus Christ. No other collection of books compares since it can only have come from one transcendent Author. As Paul writes, “There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another -- showing us Truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we’re put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (II Timothy 3:15-17)
Pluralism contends, says American Heritage Dictionary, "that no single explanatory system or view of reality can account for all the phenomena of life.” Rationalism maintains "that reason is the prime source of knowledge and of spiritual truth.” Existentialism “regards human existence as unexplainable...” Søren Kierkegaard, an existential icon, said, “Where am I? What is this thing called the world? Who has lured me into the thing and now leaves me here? How did I come into the world?” Left to just reason and experience, life is an unsolvable puzzle.
Charles Darwin said to think that the human eye could be produced by natural selection made even him ill. After all, if it had evolved over eons, it would’ve been useless until fully formed. In the OT book of Psalms (139:14) we read, “I praise you (God) because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” What are the odds that a baby’s stomach, brain, heart, lungs, arteries, veins, kidneys, eyes, ears and teeth would develop in concert in the womb, then begin functioning perfectly on the surgeon’s downbeat?
As we dive into this amazing Book, let’s see what a few of history’s leading figures have had to say about it. Abraham Lincoln: “I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this book.” George Washington: “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
The New Testament’s 29 books, formally assembled in mid-2nd century, was at that time placed alongside the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), creating a Christian Bible. About 200 A.D. a priest named Tertullian coined the phrase Novum Testamentum. The O.T. was written primarily in Hebrew -- the N.T. in Greek, the language of the first century Graeco-Roman world. Together, these two testaments comprise the book that’s unique among the sacred literature of all religions
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “If I were called upon to identify the principal trait of the entire 20th century, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than this: Men have forgotten God.” King Solomon says, “The fear of (or profound respect for) the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7) Giving God His rightful, first place in our lives is Knowledge Job #1, says reputedly the wisest man who ever lived. Wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective, knowing Him on a personal level, trusting Him with your life. His is the only truly reliable counsel, and it’s only found in the Bible. Which is why we’re here today.
The Bible consists of 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. The O.T. traces the meanderings of the Hebrew nation that God founded through Abraham for the purpose of bringing to earth the Messiah (His only Son Jesus Christ, the second member of the Trinity -- Father, Son and Holy Ghost). Through Messiah all the world would be blessed; that’s the story of the New Testament. The Old contains the often gory record of human sin. The New holds out the hope of having a personal, guilt-free relationship with God. Little is known of Nahum whose prediction of the fall of Assyria’s capital, Nineveh, came true in 612 B.C when Babylon conquered the cruel Assyrians. He was probably from Galilee in the north of today’s Israel, where seven centuries later Jesus spent much of His brief teaching career.
The 39 books of the Old Testament are recognized by Judaism. Combined with the 27 books of the New Testament, the entire Bible is accepted and used by Christians. Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Islam and other religions have their sacred writings. However, the Bible is unique for at least four reasons: The Bible is the revelation of God. It says so from cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation. And its flawless track record of meticulous accuracy and exquisitely fulfilled prophecies bear witness.
In the last chapter of the Bible, Jesus’ last living disciple, John, writes (Rev. 22: 18-19): “I, John, solemnly warn everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to his punishment the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes anything away from the prophetic words of this book, God will take away from him his share of the fruit of the tree of life and of the Holy City, which are described in this book.” God had to put a lid on what He would reveal to the 40 authors who, over some 1,600 years, drafted the Bible’s 66 books. God doesn’t answer all of humanity’s questions in the Bible (the most influential and widely read book ever), just the biggies like: • Does God exist? • What’s He like?
The Bible tells of God’s desire to create paradise on earth, of man’s decision instead to thumb his nose at God, ushering into our world that 3-letter word which we love to do -- but resent being accused of S-I-N. God, as we read on, loves us too much to let us suffer the eternal consequences of sin (which are separation from Him in a place the Bible calls hell). To erase this not-so-hot outcome, God sends His Son Jesus to pay with His own life the awful price to have our sins forgiven forever.
There are many holy books. Judaism accepts the Torah, the Old Testament. Other religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Islam all have their sacred writings. But we’re operating from the premise here that there is only one Bible. Its purpose is to disclose to people in every culture God’s plans and purposes for time and eternity. The vast scope of the Bible covers man’s arrival on a sin-free planet, the introduction of the fatal sin virus when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and thus, according to the inspired writers, allowed sin and death to enter our world. The rest of the Bible is the story of God’s love for all mankind and of His ultimately successful efforts to pave the way for us to be forgiven and become the people of God that He wants us to be.
We’re taking a bird’s-eye view of this holy Book -- “holy” because it says in its pages that it is “God-breathed.” That is, He hand-picked 40 authors from many walks of life, spanning some 1,600 years, to capture in words what He wants us to know about Himself, the universe, time and eternity, and His master plan for people everywhere. The 39 books of the O.T. were written mostly in Hebrew. They start with creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, on through Noah and the flood, Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt through the Red Sea, past Mt. Sinai where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments (not the 10 Suggestions!), and concluding with the Jews crossing the Jordan River and occupying Canaan, the Promised Land.
The Bible was written over some 1,600 years by 40 authors, ranging from kings and princes, poets and philosophers, prophets and statesmen to unschooled fishermen. The 39 books of the Old Testament were written, before the birth of Jesus Christ, mostly in Hebrew. The 27 books of the New Testament were written in Greek. The focal point of the Old Testament is Mt. Sinai in the Arabian wilderness where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. The focal point of the New Testament is a hill outside old Jerusalem called Golgotha where God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, was crucified but came back to life three days when He was seen by some 500 witnesses.
The Bible contains the Old Testament and the New Testament. The former runs from creation through the early centuries of the nation of Israel up to where B.C. becomes A.D. The latter covers God the Father’s sending to earth God the Son in the form of Jesus Christ, the watershed of history. And it takes us well into the first century, during the early days of Christianity. The most important single statement in the Bible is that CHRIST ROSE FROM THE DEAD! The O.T. sets the stage for it; the N.T. describes it. The Bible was written over 1,500 years or so by some 40 authors.
If the Bible were a golf bag, we’re simply talking about the woods and irons and putters. Rather than actually playing, by the time we finish, you’ll at least know where to find the clubs! The Bible has two main sections. The Old Testament is the story of the nation of Israel. The New Testament is the story of God coming to earth in the form of Jesus Christ. That is the central event in all of history; it’s what divides B.C. from A.D. The most important single statement in the Bible is that CHRIST ROSE FROM THE DEAD! The O.T. sets the stage for it. The N.T. describes it.