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Peace with God, Chapter 2: The Indestructible Bible

By Billy Graham

      Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. --Matthew 24:35

      TIME is running out. The seconds are ticking away toward midnight. The human race is about to take the fatal plunge. Have we just been placed here by some unknown creator or force without any clue as to where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going? Which way shall we turn? Is there any authority left? Is there a path we can follow? Is there any light penetrating the inky darkness? Can we find a codebook that will give us the key to our dilemmas? Is there any source of authority to which we can turn?

      The answer to the first question is, No.   The answer to all the rest   is, Yes. We do have a codebook. We do have a key. We do have authoritative source material. It is found in the ancient and historic Book we call the Bible. This Book has come down to us through the ages. It has passed through so many hands, appeared in so many forms -- and survived attacks of every kind. Neither barbaric vandalism nor civilized scholarship has touched it. Neither the burning of fire nor the laughter of skepticism has accomplished its annihilation. Through the many dark ages of man, its glorious promises have survived unchanged. It is interesting to note that while Bible reading has been outlawed in our public schools it is required reading in the Catholic schools of communist Poland.

      The British and Foreign Bible Society was on Jerusalem Street, one of the main streets of Old Warsaw in World War II. When the Germans began bombing the city, the wife of the director went to the storeroom and carried some 2,000 Bibles down to the basement. She was trapped by the bombing and later captured by the Germans and put in a prison camp. She managed to escape, and after the war was over was able to get to those 2,000 Bibles and distribute them to the people in need. Warsaw was flattened but on Jerusalem Street one wall of the old British and Foreign Bible Society remained standing. On it were these words, painted in large letters: "HEAVEN AND EARTH SHALL PASS AWAY, BUT MY WORDS SHALL NOT PASS AWAY."

      Now, as we approach what appears to be another decisive hour in world history, let us re-examine this indestructible Book of wisdom and prophecy; let us find out why this particular volume has endured and been man's unfailing source of faith and spiritual strength.

      The Bible Is More Than Just Great Literature

      There are those who regard the Bible principally as the history of Israel. Others admit that it sets forth the soundest ethics ever enunciated. But these things, important as they are, are only incidental to the real theme of the Bible, which is the story of God's redemption as it exists in Jesus Christ. In an editorial which appeared 30 June 1983 the International Herald Tribune recommended that the Bible should be read as literature because it is "The English language at its best". Those who read the Scriptures as magnificent literature, breath-taking poetry or history, and overlook the story of salvation, miss the Bible's real meaning and message.

      God caused the Bible to be written for the express purpose of revealing to man God's plan for his redemption. God caused this Book to be written that He might make His everlasting laws clear to His children, and that they might have His great wisdom to guide them and His great love to comfort them as they make their way through life. For without the Bible, this world would indeed be a dark and frightening place, without signpost or beacon.

      The Bible easily qualifies as the only Book in which is God's revelation. There are many bibles of different religions; there is the Muslim Koran, the Buddhist Canon of Sacred Scripture, the Zoroastrian Zend-Avesta, and the Brahman Vedas. All of these have been made accessible to us by reliable translations. Anyone can read them, comparing them with the Bible, and judge for themselves. It is soon discovered that all these non-Christian bibles have parts of truth in them, but they are all developments ultimately in the wrong direction. They all begin with some flashes of true light, and end in utter darkness. Even the most casual observer soon discovers that the Bible is radically different. It is the only Book that offers man a redemption and points the way out of his dilemmas. It is our one sure guide in an unsure world.

      Sixteen hundred years were needed to complete the writing of the Bible. It is the work of more than thirty authors, each of whom acted as a scribe of God. Those men, many of whom lived generations apart, did not set down merely what they thought or hoped. They acted as channels for God's revelation; they wrote as He directed them; and under His divine inspiration they were able to see the great and enduring truths, and to record them that other men might see and know them too.

      During these sixteen hundred years, the sixty-six books of the Bible were written by men of different languages, living in different times, and in different countries; but the message they wrote was one. God spoke to each man in his own language, in his own time, but His message basically in each case was the same. When the great scholars gathered together the many ancient manuscripts written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and translated them into a single modern tongue, they found that God's promises remain unchanged, His great message to man had not varied. As we read these ageless words today, we find that the rules of conduct set forth by the ancient scribes are as fresh and meaningful to this generation as they were to the people of Jesus' time. John Ruskin said: "The Bible is the one Book to which any thoughtful man may go with any honest question of   life or destiny and find the answer of God by honest searching."

      The World's Best Seller!

      It is small wonder, then, that the Bible has always been the world's best seller! No other book can touch its profound wisdom, its poetic beauty, or the accuracy of its history and prophecy.

      Its critics, who claimed it to be filled with forgery, fiction, and unfilled promises, are finding that the difficulties lie with themselves, and not the Bible. Greater and more careful scholarship has shown that apparent contradictions were caused by incorrect translations rather than divine inconsistencies. It was man and not the Bible who needed correcting. Someone has said, "The Bible does not have to be rewritten, but reread."

      And yet -- in many homes and among so-called educated people -- it has become fashionable to joke about the Bible and to regard it more as a dust catcher than as the living Word of God. When asked by her minister if she knew what was in the Bible, one little girl proudly replied that she knew everything that was in it, and proceeded to list "the picture of her sister's boyfriend, the coupon for mother's favorite hand lotion, a lock of baby brother's hair, and the ticket for Pa's watch!"   That was all she knew about the family Bible. Too many families have used the Bible as a safe storage place for old letters and pressed flowers, and have overlooked entirely the help and assurance that God intended this Book to give them.

      This attitude is changing now, and changing fast! Life is being stripped of its artificialities, its meaningless trimmings. The false promises that man has made to man are standing forth now as the glaring errors they are. As we cast our frightened eyes around for something that is real and true and enduring, we are turning once more to this ancient Book that has given consolation, comfort and salvation to millions in the centuries past. My wife Ruth once said, "If our children have the background of a godly, happy home and this unshakable faith that the Bible is indeed the Word of God, they will have a foundation that the forces of hell cannot shake." I thank God for her godly influence in the lives of our children.

      Yes, people are "discovering" the Bible again! They are dusting off their old copies or buying new ones.   They are finding that the familiar but almost forgotten phrases ring with a current meaning that makes them seem to have been written only yesterday. This is because the Bible embodies all the knowledge man needs to fill the longing of his soul and solve all his problems. It is the blueprint of the Master Architect, and only by following its directions can we build the life we are seeking.

      Here in America we have another great document that we value and respect. It was written some 200 years ago by a number of men who labored long and debated even longer over its many provisions, and finally sent it to the thirteen federated states for ratification. The men who framed our Constitution knew they were writing the basic document for a government of free men; they recognized that men could live as free and independent beings only if each one knew and understood the law. They were to know their rights, their privileges, and their limitations. They were to stand as equals before the court of law and few judges could be unfair; for the judge, too, was bound by the same law and required to try each case accordingly.

      The Truth Shall Set Us Free!

      While the rest of the world watched this great human experiment, men found that if they knew the law and lived according to it, they could in truth, be free! A man could know just where he stood. He had his Constitutional rights and he also had his Constitutional responsibilities. If he neglected one, the other would suffer -- as so many negligent voters who came later were to discover when they found themselves saddled with government restrictions they didn't like!

      Just as America has grown and prospered within the framework of our Constitution, so Christianity has flourished and spread according to the laws set forth in the Bible. Just as the Constitution was intended to apply equally to all men living under it, without special favor or interpretation, so the Bible stands as the supreme Constitution for all mankind, its laws applying equally to all who live under its domain, without exception or special interpretation.

      As the Constitution is the highest law of the land, so the Bible is the highest law of God. For it is in the Bible that God sets forth His spiritual laws. It is in the Bible that God makes His enduring promises. It is in the Bible that God reveals the plan of redemption for the human race.

      In the wonders of nature we see God's law in operation. Who has not looked up at the stars on a cloudless night, and marvelled in silent awe at the glory of God's handiwork? Even our astronauts have lauded the Lord as Creator of the vastness of space and the intricacies of our universe which we are just now beginning to explore. If we could not depend on His laws, we could not make these excursions into space. Who has not felt his heart lifted in the spring of the year, as he sees all the creation bursting with new life and vigor? In the beauty and abundance around us we see the magnitude of God's power and infinite detail of His planning; but nature tells us nothing of God's love or God's grace. We do not find the promise of our personal salvation in nature.

      Conscience tells us in our innermost being of the presence of God and of the moral difference between good and evil; but this is a fragmentary message, in no way as distinct and comprehensive as the lessons of the Bible. It is only in its pages that we find the clear and unmistakable message upon which all true Christianity is based.

      The laws of our land find their genesis in the Ten Commandments. And Sir William Blackstone, the great English jurist, wrote: "The Bible has always been regarded as part of the Common Law of England."

      Christianity finds all its doctrines stated in the Bible, and Christianity denies no part, nor attempts to add anything to the Word of God. While the Constitution of the United States may be amended from time to time, no amendment is ever necessary for the Bible. We truly believe that the men who wrote the Bible were guided by the Holy Spirit, both in the thoughts they expressed and in their choice of words. As Peter said, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21).

      Paul tells us that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

      In setting down their forthright messages, biblical scribes have never attempted to gloss over the realities of life. The sins of the great and small are freely admitted, the weaknesses of human nature are acknowledged, and life in biblical times is recorded as it was lived. The startling thing is that the lives and motivations of these people who lived so long ago have such a modern flavor! As we read, the pages seem like mirrors held up before our own minds, and hearts, reflecting our own prides and prejudices, our own failures and humiliations, our own sins and sorrows.

      Truth is timeless. Truth does not differ from one age to another, from one people to another, from one geographical location to another. Men's ideas may differ, men's customs may change, men's moral code may vary, but the great all-prevailing Truth stands for time and eternity.

      The message of Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the story of the Bible -- it is the story of salvation. Profound students of the Bible have traced the story of Jesus Christ from the beginning of the Old Testament, for He is the true theme of the old as well as the New Testament.

      The fact of Jesus Christ is the eternal message of the Bible. It is the story of life, peace, eternity, and heaven. The Bible has no hidden purpose. It has no need for special interpretation. It has a single, clear, bold message for every living being -- the message of Christ and His offer of peace with God.

      One day upon a mountain near Capernaum Jesus sat with His disciples. They gathered before Him -- perhaps Peter on one side and John on the other. Jesus may have looked quietly and tenderly at each of these devoted disciples, looked at them the way a loving parent looks at the members of his family -- loving each child separately, loving each one for a special reason, loving them in such a way that each child feels singled out and individually embraced. That is how Jesus must have loved His disciples.

      The little group must have become very reverent under His serene and loving gaze. They must have become very still within themselves with the feeling that something momentous was about to be said, something they must remember, something they must be able to transmit to others all over the world who were not privileged, as they were, to hear these words from the Master's own lips.

      For there, on the mountain, standing perhaps under the silvery gray-green leaves of an olive tree, Jesus preached the greatest sermon that human ears have ever heard.   He explained the essence of Christian living. When He was through and a holy hush had settled on His wide-eyed listeners, they "were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matthew 7:28, 29).

      Indeed He did teach with authority, the authority of God himself; and the rules He set forth were God's own rules, the ones which every Christian with the hope of salvation in his heart must follow.

      You and the Bible

      If you do not have a Bible in your home, go out and get one now -- get the one that suits you best, get the size that is more comfortable for you to handle, get the kind of type that is most pleasant for you to read, and then settle down and find out for yourself why this one Book has endured. Don't be afraid to invest in the best Bible you can afford -- for that is what you are making: an investment. We spend our money for expensive clothing which perishes but hesitate to buy the best in Bibles which is an investment in eternity. Find out for yourself why it answers every human need, why it supplies the faith and strength that keeps humanity marching forward.

      If you and the Bible have had a long absence from each other, it might be well for you to renew your acquaintance by reading again the Gospel of John. While this is considered one of the most profound books in the Bible, it is also the clearest and most readily understood. It was written for the very purpose of showing the how and the why of man's salvation, so that the question of the mind as well as the gropings of the heart might be satisfied.

      After reading the Book of John, you might acquaint yourself with the Gospel as taught by Mark, Luke and Matthew, noting how these men of widely different personalities and writing styles set forth the eternal story of redemption through Jesus. You will become aware of the powerful, universal truth that underlies all gospel teaching and be impressed anew with what the biblical writer meant when he said, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

      When you have read each of the Gospels individually, start in at the beginning of the New Testament and read straight through all the books in order. When you have done that, you will have developed such a taste for Bible reading, you will have found it such a fountain of inspiration, such a practical counselor and guide, such a treasure chest of sound advice, that you will make Bible reading a part of your daily life.

      A knowledge of the Bible is essential to a rich and meaningful life. For the words of this Book have a way of filling in the missing pieces, of bridging the gaps, of turning the tarnished colors of our life to jewel-like brilliance. Learn to take your every problem to the Bible. Within its pages you will find the correct answer.

      But most of all, the Bible is a revelation of the nature of God. The philosophers of the centuries have struggled with the problem of a Supreme Being. Who is He? What is He? Where is He? If there is such a Person, is He interested in me? If so, how can I know Him? These and a thousand other questions about God are revealed in this Holy Book we call the Bible.

      A Christian once asked, "Do you know a book that you are willing to put under your head for a pillow when you are dying?   Very well," Joseph Cook went on, "that is the Book you want to study when you are living. There is only one such Book in the world!"

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See Also:
   Chapter 1: The Great Quest
   Chapter 2: The Indestructible Bible
   Chapter 3: What is God Like?
   Chapter 4: The Terrible Fact of Sin
   Chapter 5: Dealing With the Devil
   Chapter 6: The Despair of Loneliness
   Chapter 7: After Death -- What?
   Chapter 8: Why Jesus Came
   Chapter 9: How and Where to Begin
   Chapter 10: What Is Repentance?
   Chapter 11: What Is Faith?
   Chapter 12: The Old and the New
   Chapter 13: How to Be Sure
   Chapter 14: Enemies of the Christian
   Chapter 15: Guidelines for Christian Living
   Chapter 16: The Christian and the Church
   Chapter 17: Am I My Brothers Keeper?
   Chapter 18: Hope for the Future
   Chapter 19: Peace at Last
   Chapter 20: The Day After


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