So does that mean that there were no advantages to being a Jew in Paul’s day? There were several blessings and advantages to being members of God’s chosen nation. And the first of them all was their possession of the oracles of God. Perhaps among the Greeks, the word “oracle” might have had superstitious importance, but as Paul was using the word, it didn’t. The only thing that he was saying was that to Israel was given the revelation of God – the Word of God.
And in his day that made Israel very, very special. But today that significance has dissolved away to a great degree. There is not a person in North America who doesn’t have the opportunity to own more of the Word of God than the Jews had in Paul’s day. That doesn’t mean that the same privilege is to be found universally around the world, but here there is no advantage at all to being a Jew in this regard. In many Muslim, Hindu and atheistic countries the Bible is rare, but not so in this country.
And what a blessing it is to own a copy of the Word of the Lord. What a blessing is deliberately neglected and avoided by so many of our neighbors because they have turned their backs on the revelation that God has so graciously given. What a terrible criminal act has been committed against us by those who have corrupted the Word of God with their various perversions. What treason it is for churches to neglect the systematic teaching of the Bible to their people.
I would like to take Paul’s thought here and use it to publically praise God for his Word. Baptists are sometimes said be guilty of “Bibliolatry” – that we worship the Bible. The accusation is laid at our feet because we love the Word of the Lord. But it’s an unjust accusation. We are like Paul here – we are simply acknowledging that the oracle of God is among the chiefest of God’s blessings to us. The Bible is a joy and rejoicing to our hearts because the Lord of Hosts has been gracious toward us. We love the Word of the God because we love the Lord. We love the voice of the God who loves us.
I would just like to simply lift my voice in thanksgiving and praise this evening. And I’d like you to join me in that praise. Over the years I been given hundreds of books, and I’ve tired to express my genuine thanks for them all. But the book which has been of the greatest value to me has undoubtedly been the Bible. So I praise the Lord for His great gift.
Permit me to point out five characteristics that are truly praiseworthy about this Book. But I’d like to turn them all backwards and inside out, as I think that you’ll see.
The Bible is a book without a name; IT IS NAMELESS.
Oh, I know that on the cover of most Bibles you read the words “Holy Bible.” And I certainly have no quarrel with that, and wouldn’t change a syllable. But what does word “Bible” mean? It’s like “oracles of God” – “logion” (log’-ee-on) is a term which means simply – “word” – “the word of God.” The word “Bible” was kidnaped from the Greek language and simply means “book.” “Biblos” is the first word of the Greek New Testament – “The Book of the Generation of Jesus Christ.” Jerome called the Bible: “Bibliotheca Divina” – “The Divine Library.” This book is “THE Book.”
But why doesn’t this book have a name like other books have? I don’t have the definitive answer, but I think it because it doesn’t need one. It doesn’t need to be distinguished from other books by some special name. It is distinguished by its contents, its Author, its purpose and it’s accomplishments.
When I was first working at the Mall, there was a huge three-ring binder on the filing cabinet in the office. And there was another just like it in the Maintenance office and another in the Manager’s office. One day when I was in the Maintenance office after we had hired a new supervisor. There was a note on that three-ringed binder that read: “Clancy, this is your Bible.” The word “Bible” always catches attention, especially in a foreign context like that, so I looked at the first page. The actual title of that massive publication was: “Operations Manual, Silver Lake Mall.” That may be THE book on Mall procedure and management, but it’s not the Bible.
Years ago when I still owned a rifle, I bought a copy of large paperback book called: “The Hunter’s Bible.” I’ve seen copies of Bibles for dozens of other special interest groups. And they’ve all had qualifying words added to their titles: “The Hunter’s Bible or The Fisherman’s Bible.” But this Bible, the TRUE Bible, needs no adjective to explain whose Bible and what Bible it is. Rarely will you hear me call this book “The HOLY Bible.” For me that is a given, a foregone conclusion.
God’s Word is “THE” Book, the only one that any soul ever needs.
And I say “any soul,” because this is a Book without a Country; IT IS COUNTRY-LESS.
It has appeal to Americans, Canadians, Latin Americans, Philippinos, Chinese, Russians, and Africans. And this is true, because it is divinely used to dig deeper than any surface skin. It is piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit – right down where all men are alike.
When missionaries were translating and printing the Book of Luke for Tahitians, the native printers kept stopping the presses in order to read the pages. After long delays and the printing was completed, the natives demanded the Word before it could be bound. Reluctantly the missionaries gave in, thinking that their work might do some good. Then people themselves used the skins of animals to preserve and protect God’s Word. The Word of God reached the hearts of the Tahitians.
Jacob Chamberlain, was a missionary in India. At one new mission point he began to teach Romans chapter 1 with a view to making a study similar to the one that we are making. The most intelligent man in his first class, a Brahman, said to the missionary. “That book was written by a Hindu. It describes us exactly.” The Bible is a book without a country.
Missionary E.W. Burt was a pioneer Baptist in Shantung province in China. In one particular valley, he expected to find heathenism of the most degrading variety. But instead he found a chapel filled with people ready to hear the Gospel. Three years before, one of their people had been given a Bible, and he had taken it home. The Bible is book for the Chinese.
James Barton gave a Turkish Mohammedan a Bible on the condition that he read it. A year later he saw the man again and asked him if he had read it. “Yes, I have read it four times, and it gets hold of me every time – right here” as he pointed to his heart.
Most religious books are regional. They appeal to a certain people in a certain place. A perfect example is the Book of Mormon, which has little appeal outside of North America. But the true Scripture appeals to people everywhere.
This doesn’t mean that it’s not filled with Palestinian geography. It is helpful to know and to study that geography and history. But what provincial restrictions are there in John 3:16, Psalm 23 or Romans 10:13? God’s word says that any repentant believer, from any country or tribe of people is a citizen of Heaven.
Pick up the Bible and let it pour it’s universal contents into your soul.
The Bible is also a stationless Book, a classless, A CASTELESS BOOK.
There is ready material here for every group of kind of people in the world. It deals with woman’s issues, teens, the highly educated, the lowly educated, the uneducated. It speaks to the poor and downtrodden and lifts them up. It has a word of exhortation to the rich and to powerful for humility and generosity.
What I am saying is that the Bible has a message for you, no matter who you are. For the disgustingly sinful there is a Gospel of forgiveness and hope. For the superb and self-righteous there is a message of condemnation and restoration. For the Christian, who has already started down the narrow path that leadeth into Heaven, the Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
M.M. Henson recounts the testimony of David Raimes, who went AWOL from Marines in 1972. In Boston he began selling drugs, stealing cars and using stolen credit cards. He was a lecherous womanizer; throwing them away like trash when someone else appealed to him. Finally he was convicted of being an accessory to murder. He was sentenced to 20 years in Walpole State Prison in Massachusetts. Then through some infractions of Prison rules was sentenced to 15 days in isolation. The only thing that he could take with him was a Bible, if he wanted one. Just for fun, he took it and began laughingly to read it. But by the end of the first day, it was reading and exposing him. On the 14th day of his solitary confinement, he was trusting Christ as Lord and Saviour. The message of God’s Book reaches Kings, like Agrippa, and Governors, like Sergius Paulus. It smites criminals and Philippian jailors alike.
The Bible cuts across all human lines, and its very nature pleads: “read me, read me.”
And the Oracles of God are TIMELESS as well.
The Bible is timeless as far history is concerned, beginning at the beginning and ending at uncompletable. As best sellers, some books have had their day and then lost them. The Bible is sometimes said to be the very best seller of the best sellers. But in quantity sold the Bible should not be compared to any other book; there is no comparison. Its time is still now and always will be now; it sells and sells and will sell almost forever.
As a miracle of God, the Bible has been preserved timelessly. Popes and princes have periodically done everything in their power to root out this leaven – true leaven. They have burned its pages, its copies, its penmen, and its owners. But for every copy lost, there have been a dozen more produced. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but God’s word shall never pass away.” “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but word of our God shall stand forever.” “The Word of the Lord enduerth for ever.” “For ever O, Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.”
You might as well learn the message of God’s book today and save your life and soul, because you will eventually learn it, although perhaps after the time of possible salvation. “The dead small and great shall stand before God, and the books shall be opened.” There is a very good likelihood that one of the books opened shall be the Word God. The influence of the Bible is timeless; that is – it is eternal.
And one more thing, The Book of God is PRICELESS.
David the Psalmist said, “The Law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” “It is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.” The Bible is priceless because it is the only book ever written by God Himself. I believe that it is the Lord’s entirely, with every word inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. Some people have a “Dalmatian Bible” with the inspiration of God coming out only in spots. I pity those people, for they can never know for sure what is God’s and what man’s. But I know what is the revelation of God to me: It is this entire book. And it is entirely trustworthy because it is entirely inerrant. As helpful as the knowledge of Greek and Hebrew might be in understanding the Bible, God has preserved His Word in the King James Bible and proven that to be true. This is a priceless book.
And it is priceless because the Bible contains a river of blood from the wounded side of Christ. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” “It is the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, which cleanseth us from our sin.” “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Where every social improvement and act of man fails, the blood of Christ prevails.
And where do we find the cup that holds that blood? It is not some silver or golden challis held in priestly hands. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
No one can throw aside God’s word and honestly claim to be a child of that same God. It is only though Christ that we can come unto the Father. And it is only through the Bible that we can know Christ. Without faith it is impossible to please God. But “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
Just as Paul exalts the oracles of God, I lift up the Bible before you. I exhort you to throw down any and all other literature – if it draws your eyes from Him. In the pages of God’s Word we see the Son of that same God – high and lifted up. “Oh, worship the king all glorious above…. In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail: Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end! Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend.”