My youngest son received a wonderful parcel in the mail this morning – four copies of Making the most of the Bible sent by its author, John Chapman. One for him, another for his sister, one for Fiona and I, and another to give away. Thanks so much Chappo!
This is a great little primer for getting the most out of reading the Scriptures. It’s warm and engaging without wasting words. It’s more about attitude to the Bible than any special approach to reading. It’s only 66 pages short, I read it between breakfast and morning tea, and it’s the first book I’ve been able to read all year without glasses (nice large print)!
Chappo begins with the importance of faith. Reading the Bible should be more than an academic pursuit. We read it to discover the joy of trusting God with our lives. The Gospels reveal Jesus to be someone who can be completely trusted. He is reliable and always keeps his promises. As we read the Bible we have two choices: (1) either we approach it with hard hearts, only accepting what fits with our own desires and dismissing what doesn’t, or (2) we open our minds to discovering who God is, what he’s like, with a willingness grow in trusting him. Our attitude will make all the difference.
Making the most of the Bible focuses upon Jesus understanding and use of the Scriptures. This is an excellent approach, because anyone claiming to follow Jesus will surely want to see how Jesus treated the Bible. If we’re going to follow him with our lives, then we’ll also want to follow his lead with the Bible.
What was Jesus’ attitude to the Old Testament, what do we make of Jesus’ own words, and what was Jesus’ view of the New Testament?
The first thing we discover is that Jesus treated the Old Testament as having authority because he believed it to be God’s own words. He submitted to these words and called others to do the same. Jesus resisted the ancient temptation to doubt God’s truth and goodness, instead placing his full confidence in God’s promises. Jesus also claimed a special relationship to these words. He declared that the whole Old Testament points to him, and finds its fulfilment in him. These are bold claims, and they offer us the key to understanding the whole message of the Bible. After his resurrection, Jesus explained his life and ministry to his followers in these words:
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45)
It’s common for people to grab hold of some of Jesus’ teaching, without any intention of following him personally. Chappo reminds us that Jesus’ person, works and words are all tied together. Jesus’ life and teaching reveal who he is and his words calls us to follow him. Jesus claims to reveal God to us and backs this up with all he says and does. We might not appreciate this today, but at the time the religious authorities recognised the magnitude of his claim and they killed him for it. As Jesus reminded one of his followers at the last supper:
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:9-10)
Jesus also explained why the New Testament should be accepted as God’s word. The apostles are the key. Jesus had spent time teaching them before and after his resurrection. It was his plan that they would pass on his message, and do it with an inspired accuracy. He promised the apostles that God’s Spirit would oversee this happening:
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:12-15)
Chappo takes us to the heart of the Bible’s message, drawing us to God’s awesome offer of forgiveness and life with him for eternity. These promises are rooted in the Old Testament and find their full expression in Jesus. My heart was warmed as I was reminded of some of the wonderful promises contained in the Bible:
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; (Psalm 103:11-13)
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
What an awesome God! What wonderful promises he makes! What a beautiful hope he offers all who will take him at his word and put their trust in the Lord Jesus.
The final sections of this little book, highlight how to respect the Bible as literature and read it with understanding. They address commonly held concerns over the reliability of the Bible, confidence in the transmission of the manuscripts, and evidence for Jesus’ divinity.
Making the most of the Bible is an excellent introduction for people who want to understand what the Bible is about, why it matters and how we should approach it. I recommend it. Read it and think about who you can pass a copy to. Christmas is coming! I’d give this book to my two teenagers… but Chappo has beaten me to it!