This is a devotional study for all new believers

Lesson 4

Understanding God’s Word

The Uniqueness Of The Bible. 1 Tim 3:16-17, 2 Pet 1:20-21

The bible exists because God acted in the lives of various individuals and asked them to record His inspired, error free message to mankind. The bible was written over a space of approximately 1600 years and involved about 40 different authors. In a day and age where there were no phones, faxes or book clubs and most of the writers never knew each other. Yet there is one incredible theme that runs from cover to cover.

The word testament means a covenant or agreement and so the bible is made up of two covenants or agreements. This is the reason the bible is divided into two, the Old Testament where righteousness came by the law, and the New Testament where righteousness comes through faith in Christ.

Old Testament

Moses was the first to be instructed by God to make a written record of the things God had done and said to the people of Israel.  Exodus 34:27

He was followed by Joshua, Samuel and other various kings (like David and Solomon) and prophets (like Isaiah and Ezekiel). By approximately 400 BC Ezra the scribe and those who worked with him had collected and assembled the books of our Old Testament.

Genesis Book of origins. Early history of the chosen family, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Exodus Bondage of Israel in Egypt and deliverance. Moses leads the people in the wilderness.
Leviticus Book of laws of the covenant nation. Teaches access to God through sacrifice.
Numbers Records Israel’s forty years of wandering about in the wilderness.
Deuteronomy Repetition of the laws before Israel entered the land of Canaan.
Joshua The conquest of Canaan. Division of the land between the tribes of Israel.
Judges Israel’s early history.
Ruth A story of God’s mercy to a faithful Gentile woman.
1 Samuel Israel’s history under Samuel, Saul and David.
2 Samuel Israel’s history under Samuel, Saul and David.
I Kings Solomon’s reign and the division of the kingdom. History of the kings of Israel and Judah.
2 Kings The ministry of the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
1 Chronicles Reigns of David, Solomon and Judah’s kings up to the captivity.
2 Chronicles Reigns of David, Solomon and Judah’s kings up to the captivity.
Ezra The return from captivity and the rebuilding of the temple.
Nehemiah Rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. Re-establishment of sacred ordinances.
Esther Queen Esther’s deliverance of the Jews. Origin of the Feast of Purin.
Job Problem of affliction.
Psalms 150 spiritual songs and poems.
Proverbs Moral and Religious wisdom.
Ecclesiastes The emptiness of life without God.
Song of Solomon Poetic love story.
Isaiah Many Messianic prophesies of Christs coming. God’s judgement on various nations.
Jeremiah The unfaithfulness, coming captivity and eventual restoration of Israel.
Lamentations Poetic grief over Israel’s woes.
Ezekiel Prophesies concerning Judah’s destruction and captivity. Oracles against foreign nations.
Daniel History of Daniel and three other young men. Visions of immediate and distance future.
Hosea A prophet of Israel during the time of Isaiah and Micah.. Israel’s spiritual adultery.
Joel A prophet of Judah. The blessings of national repentance.
Amos Herdsman prophet of righteousness.
Obadiah The fall of Edom.
Jonah A book to demonstrate God’s saving mercy through preaching of repentance
Micah The moral darkness of Israel and Judah. Messiah’s coming reign of righteousness.
Nahum The destruction of Nineveh.
Habakkuk God’s dealings with Israel, which are difficult to understand.
Zephaniah Prophecies concerning the “Day of the Lord” Oracles against foreign nations. God’s judgement upon Jerusalem.
Haggai Exhortation to finish re-building the temple.
Zechariah Series of eight visions to encourage Israel that depicts a glorious future.
Malachi Six oracles dealing with God’s love for Israel. Failure of the priests, divorce, and tithing.

New Testament

The books of the New Testament were written between about 50-100 AD the first books were letters of instruction, encouragement and correction, written by the apostles and other writers to young churches or the Christians in various areas. These were read in the local churches to which they were sent (I Thess 5:27) and soon were exchanged and circulated among many churches so as to spread the apostolic instructions and doctrine. Col. 4:16

It’s important to understand that for the first 50 years of the church all they had were the Old Testament Scripture before the New testament was written.

In the early days of the church, the verbal eyewitness accounts of the life and teachings of Christ were sufficient. However, as these eyewitnesses decreased in number, due to natural death or persecution, four men set about providing histories of the life and ministry of Christ. Luke 1:1-4, John 20:30-31

The short history of the early church by Luke in the book of Acts was the logical sequel to the story of Christ’s ministry, death resurrection and ascension.  It describes the early days of the church at Jerusalem and shows how it spread over Asia Minor and Greece.  In particular, it deals with the ministries of the apostle peter and the apostle Paul, ending its account at some time around AD 65.

The apostle John received the visions recorded in the book of revelation to point to the coming return of Christ and thus the New Testament was complete. Rev. 1:1-2

Matthew The life of Jesus Christ, specially written for a Jewish audience.
Mark Life of Christ, emphasising His power over nature, disease and demons.
Luke The most complete biography of Christ.  Emphasising Him as the Son of Man.
John Jesus as the Son of God.  Particularly written for believers.
Acts Sequel to the gospel of Luke. The origin and growth of the early church during its first thirty years or so.
Romans Letters to the Christians in Rome. The plan of salvation and function of the Church.
1 Corinthians Letter to the church at Corinth. Cleansing of the church and doctrinal instructions.
2 Corinthians The nature and vindication of Paul’s ministry and apostleship.
Galatians Letter to the church in Galatia.  Justification by faith. Warnings against reversion to Judaism.
Ephesians Letter to the church at Ephesus. Christian teaching both theory and practice.
Philippians Letter to the church at Phillippi on Christian joy.
Colossians Letter to the church at Colossae. Against worldly philosophy (Gnosticism)
I Thessalonians Letter to the church at Thessalonica. Special reference to the Second Coming of Christ.
2 Thessalonians Sequel to the above. Teaching on the Second Coming of Christ.
I Timothy Counsel to a young Pastor, regarding his work for the Lord.
2 Timothy More counsel. Paul’s last letter chronologically.
Titus Instructions to a Pastor and a friend of Paul.
Philemon A private letter concerning the return of Onesimus a runaway slave who has become a Christian.
Hebrews Author uncertain. The new covenant’s relationship and superiority over the old covenant.
James Written by the Lord’s brother. Practical Christianity
I Peter A letter of encouragement to Christians in Asia Minor by the Apostle Peter.
2 Peter An exhortation to pursue godliness and a true knowledge of Christ.
I John The apostle John writes to fellow Christians regarding holiness and brotherly love.
II John A letter concerning heresy and false teachers.
III John A personal letter to one, Gaius, encouraging continuance of hospitality to visiting missionaries.
Jude A general letter to all believers warning against apostasy and immorality.
Revelation Written by the Apostle John. Series of prophetic visions depicting the final triumph of God’s Kingdom.

Biblical Languages

The Old Testament was written mainly in Hebrew. Some small portions of the Old Testament are in Aramaic, the language of the ancient near east until around 300 BC

The New Testament was written in common form of Greek. The New Testament also contains some Aramaic and Latin words.

In understanding that the English language is very undescriptive in many ways any un-seemingly contradictions are usually because of the translation not due to an error in the bible

Eg. We love our football, we love our cars, we love our meat pies and we love our husbands or wives. In the Greek they have seven different words for love to describe the type of love. The Hebrew has seven different words for praise describing the different ways we can express our praise, yet in the English we simply read love or praise every time.

Biblical manuscripts

In Biblical times, all manuscripts were copied by hand.  One would think that this would result in a large number of errors in the text of the Bible as it was copied and recopied hundreds of times.  This however, is not the case at all. Because of the very large number of biblical manuscripts available, scholars known as “Textual Critics” with a high degree of accuracy are able to reconstruct reliable texts of both the Old and New Testament books.

Copies of the Old Testament

We have about 1700 Hebrew copies of all or parts of the Old Testament as well as some 350 copies of it in a Greek translation, so the Septuagint.  The discovery in 1948 of the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrated how amazingly accurately the hand written copies of the Old Testament had been passed down to us.

Until 1948, our oldest Old Testament manuscripts dated from 900 A.D. or about 1300 years after the Old Testament was completed.  The Dead Sea Scrolls however dated from about 100 BC and are therefore 1000 years earlier than our oldest Old Testament manuscripts.  When we compare the text of the manuscripts written in 900 A.D. and those written in 100 BC we find only minute differences.  Therefore, we can prove that the Old Testament text was passed on for a thousand years by hand written copies, virtually error free.  God has indeed accurately preserved His Word for us!

Copies of the New Testament

We have about 4000 Greek, 8000 Latin and 1000 other copies of all or part of the New Testament. In addition to these, there are thousands of New Testament quotes from early Christian writers up to the 5th century enough to reproduce most of the New Testament several times over.

The earliest major New Testament manuscripts date from about 300 A.D. There are portions written on papyrus which go back another 100 years and small fragments which go back even earlier than that (eg. one small piece of John’s Gospel dates from 120 A.D. only 30 years after John wrote the book).

Inspiration Of God’s Word

2 Pet 1:20-21 above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

When we say that the bible is inspired, we mean that while it was written by men, it is, nonetheless, God’s message of truth to mankind and is therefore free from error and backed by the authority of God himself.

Other Evidences

The following facts about the bible also increase confidence that it is indeed the inspired Word of God. Down through history, the bible as God’s message to man has demonstrated a dynamic ability to change the lives of individuals as well as produce social reform.

It is logical to assume that if the bible is the Word of God He would protect it from destruction so that future generations could hear its message.  This has indeed been the case. At times in history men have sought to stamp out the bible but have failed.  This fulfils Christ’s promise in Matthew 24:35.

In the personal experience of countless thousands of believers the promises of God’s Word have been fulfilled. People are being saved, delivered, set free, healed, and blessed.

Please complete and submit this part of  lesson, we are looking forward to seeing what God has revealed to you in His Word and through this Study.

As disciples we don't always need more information but we need new revelation from God. Is there a certain part of the teaching that you loved, that stood out for you or you felt God was giving you insight into it?
Discipleship is all about learning God says. What was something new that you learnt in this lesson?
Putting God's word into practice is the greatest thing we can do. Was there a lesson, a principle or a promise that you can put into practice in your life?
The greatest part of discipleship is taking what you have learnt and sharing it with someone else. What part of this lesson could you pass on to others?
If there are any questions or queries about this lesson or regarding the school of ministry please feel free to ask.