Communication is an interesting process. The transmission of information is a goal that is seldom achieved with the precision that was initially intended. For instance, I imagine most of you have participated in a “chain story” at some point. Being a communications major in college, I feel like I have done this exercise at least eleventy-two times, if not more.
The object is for one person to begin the telling of a story, either verbally or by writing it on a sheet of paper. Each person is responsible for one sentence and then is required to pass the story on to the next participant. Now, you can only imagine what happens as the plot advances. With each person’s twist on the story, the gradual result is a mad conglomeration of ideas. Rarely (if ever) does the storyline make sense by the end of the project, and I have never seen it finish with the original author’s intent staying intact. Usually some goof in the middle throws in a random character like Batman or Michael Jackson and the plot winds up spiraling into anarchy. Needless to say, the idea of telling one coherent story through many authors seems like an exercise in futility.
Yet, I will assert that the greatest story ever penned on paper was written in precisely this manner.
The book we call the Bible is actually a mutli-volume work. While most of us tend to think of our Bible as one single piece of literature (I bet many people reading this have it listed as such in their “Favorite Books” section on Facebook.), it is far from it. In reality, the Bible we carry with us today was handed down to us as 66 different books. Think of it as a book of books. Each of these books was written by a real person at some time over the course of history. Indeed, the Bible has between 30-40 human authors, each telling a different part of one grand story. Each book of the Bible carries the unique stamp of its author’s wording and personality, and these different works comes to us in so many different ways. Some are works or history while others are works of poetry. The Bible exists in narrative form and poetic form. It is lists of kings and laws, but it is also sayings and parables. What is even more surprising is the length of time it took for the completion of these books. Approximately 1500 years passed from the time when Moses started writing Genesis until John put his last period in Revelation.
So many years and so many authors, and yet this grand work of literature has one grand story. From the very first page to the very last paragraph, a great narrative unfolds. It is the story of the universe. It explains where everything came from, and then it tells its reader where everything is going. It knows the past and it tells the future. It is the most acute description of mankind ever drafted. It knows our very nature, what makes us tick. It is without equal in its ability to explain all of history. It shows us not merely what has happened, but more importantly why and how it happened.
Think back with me to my earlier analogy. How is it humanly possible that mankind could construct such a monumental work of literature through so many people over so great a length of time? I assert to you that I do not think it is possible. Most of these authors never met each other, and several had not read the work of another. Some were writing from different places at the same time, and yet, despite its apparent impossibility, this grand story comes together with remarkable clarity. No, it is not humanly possible that such a feat would be accomplished. There is a force at work behind all of history and the unfolding of this grand narrative. This force is not a what but a who. This book we call the Bible is no ordinary book. Many hands may have penned this masterpiece, but it was inspired by the mind of one. God himself. Through his Holy Spirit, God superintended (there is one of those theological words I wanted to avoid) the writing of these 66 books. Each word was given to us with the personality and thoughts of its human authors, but uniquely indwelt with the Spirit of God himself. These words were breathed out by God almighty.
They are perfect, they are without error, and they are completely sufficient. They are God’s gift to man. Furthermore, as one reads this gift with the understanding of what they have in their hands, the story comes to life. Truly, God’s Word tells us it is alive. There is a power found in these words; a power no other book possesses. It is the only book I know that can pierce one man’s heart to the core with conviction while healing the broken heart of another. These truly are the words of life, and they were given to man for exactly this purpose; that we may have life.
Next we will look at how to study God’s Word…
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