The Christian Bible (ie. The King James’ Version) is complete in itself. The only book that a Christian is mandated to follow. But there are two major divisions of the Old Testament and the New Testament, and the total number of books are 66. So where do we place the emphasis of our Beliefs and how do we personally resolve the apparent contradictions, that arise in our minds?
The Bible is the WORD OF GOD. It is the word that was spoken thru Prophets, seers and priests to a particular generation, who found themselves in a particular social setting, and recorded for the future generations for edification, warning and promises.
So the Bible has the facts that were true to the setting of the past times but capable of being made relevant to the PRESENT, thru interpretation of the WORD.
The Old Testament was the identification of the Chosen people. They were not chosen because of their greatness or their skills or diligence but thru the Eternal GRACE of the Almighty. He knows why HE chose them. None can question the choice or His reasons, if at all any, for the choice of ABRAHAM and his seed forever. That was a prerogative and it cannot be questioned but we – as humble, time-bound mortals -will have to accept and move on. The alternative is to tilt at the wind-mills of the past, which would, without doubt, leave us tired and exhausted.
So the Choice of Abraham and his seed is a fait- accompli and leaves us in no uncertain position about God’s choice. Thru Moses, God revives His promise and He gives the basic tenets in the form of the TEN COMMANDMENTS, thereby defining the limits of human action without guilt. But man cannot, by his very nature be sinless, so he propitiates thru the priests for his sins and seeks reconciliation with God on a continual basis.
But man loses the spirit and gets stuck with the form. God knew that man was apt to get stuck with the form and abandon the spirit and therefore sends HIS OWN SON to be a PROPITIATION for our sins. JESUS, who was with God ( before Abraham was I AM), is sent in the human form and as a RESURRECTED JESUS stays in the human hearts as the WORD (cf. Gospel of JOHN) which had taken the form of flesh.
THE WORD that is put in the human heart, finds the expression in the human form in the Gospels and the Human understanding of THE WORD in the books subsequent to the Gospels. But let us make no mistake that the BIBLE has not been figured out, and human understanding is subject to human discoveries. For example The Epistle to the HEBREWS, according to the KJV was authored by St.Paul, till the subsequent discoveries have ruled out St.Paul’s authorship. Now most of the Newer versions have dropped the tag of St.Paul to The Hebrews. So that had left a few generations with a wrong belief of a fact that had turned out to be non-factual. But that hardly matters. There was a position held by the CHURCH that the Earth was the centre of the universe. Therefore the facts , as understood by humans, from the reading of the Bible has no certainty. So errors are likely to creep in if one were to read the Bible as a mere HISTORICAL DOCUMENT OR AS SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS.
So despite all these pitfalls in the interpretation of the Bible, where do we start?
Let me cite an anecdote before proceeding any further. Dr. Billy Graham in one of his sermons said, ” If the king Hezekiah had accepted God’s intimation of Hezekiah’s impending death, his son Mannaseh would not have been born to Hezekiah and Israel(Judah) would not have had the WICKEDEST king.”
The above is speculative and, similar lines of thought is against LIFE and for whatever REASON should be avoided. GOD gives LIFE and it cannot be denied. One could speculate, on similar lines, that if King David had killed Absalom upon him killing his half brother Amnon- who raped Tamar, Absalom’s sister- David would not have had to fight the battle with Absalom subsequently. These are speculative on the facts available in The Bible and is contrary to LIFE. LIFE comes from God and therefore LIFE, as we know it, has to be supported on the facts made available in THE BIBLE.
So the interpretation has to be firstly LIFE ORIENTED. Life in this world as well as in the next. JESUS says, “If u don’t love you brother , whom u have seen, how can u love the God whom u have not seen?” Therefore the LIFE that one is given has to be respected, as it is from GOD. The life hereafter is a HOPE built on FAITH in the WORD. But the LIFE of this LIFE, when in contradiction with the LIFE hereafter, this LIFE shall be sacrificed, if it has to be. But that is not to be taken lightly.
The only Apostle disciple of Jesus who had a natural Death was St. John. It was his belief that made him LIVE. Please confer the last few verses of the gospel of St. John, where Jesus is stated to have told Peter with reference to John that IF I WILL THAT HE TARRY TILL I COME, WHAT IS THAT TO THEE? Therefore if man ASKS GOD, he shall be granted. God is eager to answer the prayers of those who seek diligently.
LIFE is the most important gift of God. The same life is to be used for HIS GREATER GLORY. That is the purpose of man. But, never to CHOOSE THIS LIFE OVER THE NEXT. But even if one did it, there is still salvation and Hope. Otherwise, how can anyone explain the reconciliation of Manasseh, the king and the assurance of the thief/ robber who asked for Jesus’ grace while on the cross and obtained it?
THE IDEA IS THAT MAN SHUD BE RELIEVED OF HIS GUILT EVEN IN THE LAST MINUTE. But waiting for the last minute may not be wise, as one may not have the consciousness in the last minute. So man shud race towards his salvation, he may not obtain it immediately, but God in His due time shall grant it.
But CHRISTIANS have become negative and are under a mistaken belief that God wants man to suffer for HIM. God gives LIFE and gives it ABUNDANTLY. He doesn’t want man’s life. Man cannot make it his purpose to die for Christ- a kind of return favour!! God in the form of Jesus has died for us and He wants to give man life here and provide a MANSION there. A benign God cannot be portrayed a God who seeks your blood (Please do read Psalm 30, where the Psalmist asks God, verse no.9 What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?). There are instances when Jesus hid and slunk away when the mob tried to lynch him. But when the TIME had come for HIM to lay down his life, he submitted to the will of God the Father. His mission, had DEATH as one of the components as HE had to overcome it thru DEATH itself and thereby secure for man the INNOCENCE LOST in the garden of EDEN. So that MAN CAN LIVE.
SO to CHOOSE LIFE IS MAN’S PRIMARY JOB.
The second challenge, is to decide which side to stand for?
Abraham Lincoln once said, “We trust, sir, that God is on our side. It is more important to know that we are on God’s side.”
The beauty of this line is the contrast drawn unobtrusively to the words TRUST and KNOW.
TRUST is the Faith reposed, whereas KNOWLEDGE is the awareness of the existing reality and the interpretation thereof. Since it involves INTERPRETATION, the tools used have to bear the Christian mark and the PURPOSE has to be Christian too.
The ways are given in the Gospel itself. In the story of THE RICH MAN & LAZARUS. the Rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus from the dead and enlighten the rich man’s brothers who, according to him, were still committing sins. Abraham says, THEY HAVE THEIR MOSES AND PROPHETS AND IF THEY DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM, EVEN IF ONE WERE TO GO FROM THE DEAD THEY WOULDN’T LISTEN.
So as a Christian, one has an option to STUDY the Bible and follow it according to the revelation he receives from ABOVE, or to follow the spiritual leader to whom God has led him in His Grace. Both are good options, but to make an effort to study THE BIBLE and follow it, would be preferable as it gives a certainty that is coupled with HUMILITY. After all it is desirable to be a HUMBLE & KNOWLEDGEABLE CHRISTIAN than to be a SHEEP OF SOMEBODY’S PASTURE.