Christ and the Bible (1)
By Titus Chu
Four Divine Gifts
God has given us four precious divine gifts. The first is Christ. The second is the Bible. The third is the church with the church life. The fourth is His governmental arrangement. If we believe in the Lord Jesus and by His mercy have begun to love Him, He will never let us escape these four most precious things the rest of our lives.
The first and second of these divine gifts, Christ and the Bible, are so closely related that they are in many ways the same. The Bible is the Word, the Scripture, which God has given us. The Bible tells us that Christ came as the incarnated Word (John 1:14), and that today He is the speaking of God (Heb. 1:2). When we have Christ, we have the Word. When we have the Word, we have Christ.
Third we have the church life. No Christian should ever be satisfied just attending church meetings. God wants us to have a living that is blended with other Christians. In the church life, we all bear the name of Jesus Christ together.
Finally, we should treasure the Lord’s government, for He arranges everything for us. Sometimes our environment is so pleasant we must pray, “Thank you, Lord. I’m so filled with blessing that I don’t even know how to handle it.” At other times, our environment is so drastically challenging that we will say, “Lord, I don’t know how to pray. I don’t even want to pray.” We may even say, “Lord, please forgive me for saying this, but I hate You.” It seems the Lord doesn’t really mind such statements. We can say, “Lord, I love You,” or, “Lord, I hate you,” but the Lord is eternally unchanging in his love toward us. He knows we may easily change our feelings toward Him based on our environment, so He is not bothered by what we tell Him. Whether we say we hate Him or love Him at any particular moment, He will keep arranging our environment to be what is best for us and for our growth.
All four of these gifts are precious and necessary, but in this message we will only cover the first and second.
The first thing God has given us is Christ. This is amazing. Only genuine regenerated Christians can make such a claim. Nothing is better than Christ. No one else is more profound, rich, high, lovely, or precious. God has given Christ to us as our Savior, lover, inner content, and everything. Isn’t that marvelous? We can only praise the Lord.
For us to know Christ, God gave us the Bible, the church life, and His government. In other words, not all of God’s gifts are equal. Christ is the unique center. God gave us the other three just that we would know Him.
To see how marvelous Christ really is, we need the Bible. The Bible talks about nothing but Christ, testifies of no one other than Christ, and declares only the economy, the purpose, the inner heart of Christ.
This is also why God gave us the church life. Some Christians only play church, because they need some kind of social life and their conscience tells them it should be with other believers. Such a thing is still better than saying that they don’t want to be with Christians at all. But the Lord desires us to live our lives together, to have a church life in the name of Christ wherever we are. In the church life, I am your strength, you are my blessing, I am your supply, you are my feeding, I stand with you when you have difficulties, you stand with me when I’m joyful. Through it all, we are together to bear the testimony of the Lord. Whether we would naturally be together or not, we have been put together by God to live a church life. Together we can pursue Christ, read the Bible, sing hymns, stand with one another, support one another, and protect one another. If we want to have a healthy Christian life, we should live such a church life.
In the church life, the Lord can work on us in a special way according to His governmental arrangement in our environment. I am about 80 years old, so I don’t know how many years I have left for the Lord to work on me. But a 25 year old can declare, “I’m only 25, so I still have at least 70 years for the Lord to work on me.” When we hear such a statement, we suddenly realize how valuable it is to be a Christian. We don’t simply go to church. We have a living God who walks with us, works on us, nurtures us, feeds us, and also disciplines us.
We should give Jesus permission to work on us, telling Him, “Lord Jesus, I love You, and I give You the freedom to work on me for the next 70 years!” This is what makes the Christian life so worthwhile. The alternative is a routine, boring life of repeatedly going to church, hearing the same thing, going home, and staying the same. None of us should be satisfied to live such a life. We must declare, “I want to live a life that is really for God’s desire and plan!” All of a sudden, we will realize how meaningful our lives are. The Lord has made us the center, the focus, of what He is doing.
The Word is God
To know and enjoy Christ, God has given us the Bible. The Bible is a very interesting book. I sometimes hear people say they read three or four chapters a day in the Old Testament, and one a day in the New Testament. In this way they read the Bible through once every year. I always appreciate such an effort, but I have never been overly excited about it. Our thought is very simple—once we are saved and become a Christian, we should read the Bible. But do we realize what the Bible is? The Bible is not a text book; it is a living book that brings us to a living Christ.
Let me use an illustration. If I were to ask a young husband who his new wife is, he might start with something very shallow, “She is a girl.” But he could also keep adding to such a statement. She’s not just an ordinary girl, but she’s a beautiful girl, a bright girl, a tender girl, a hard working girl, and so on. Finally, he could say, “Who is she? She is my wife!” A young man doesn’t just walk down the street and decide to marry the first girl he sees. First, a girl must catch his eye so that he sees she is beautiful. Then as he spends time with her, he gradually begins see more and more of who she is. It may take him a long time to finally realize, “That’s the girl for me! She has to be my wife!”
To know the Lord is the same. We can say He is our teacher, our Savior, our Lord, and our lover. I believe when we can say the Lord is our lover, He is so excited. Very few Christians can testify about Christ in such a sweet way. We can also say that Jesus is our life, our living, our future, and our everything. When we see Him, we don’t see anyone or anything else. He is our education, our job, our career, and our future—without Him, nothing has meaning. We can boldly declare we know the Lord in such a way only because we have the Bible. The Bible is not just something to read. It tells us everything Christ is to us.
The Bible tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Word of God and God are equal. When God speaks to us, He gives Himself to us and dispenses Himself into us. When we come to the Bible, we not only come to know the Bible, but we also come to know God. When we have the Word, we have God, and when we have God, we have the Word. Because the Word is living and operative (Heb. 4:12), God is able to live and operate in us.
The Word is God-Breathed
“All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). The phrase “inspired by God” can also be translated, “God-breathed.” Let me give an illustration to show the importance of this phrase.
Once when I was very tired, someone suggested I take a little tonic made of white vinegar and garlic. I took half a tablespoon, twice a day. Not only did it really taste good, it also energized me. However, wherever I went I became very worried that people would smell garlic on my breath. This is because our breathing always reveals what is going on inside us.
The Bible is the very breath of God. Therefore, it tells us who God is, what He is doing, and what His plan is. The Bible tells us all of God’s attributes, such as light, love, righteousness, holiness, and endurance. It even portrays the human nature of this very God in Christ. It does not tell us these things objectively, but very subjectively. This is why I used the word “breathe.” Breathing is extremely subjective. God has brought us into a divine realm in which He is breathing out all the time. He is breathing out the rich breath of Himself, which has the flavor, the fragrance, of this very God. This is why we begin to feel very different after we read the Bible for 30 minutes,.
Those who have never had this experience have to learn how to read the Bible. When we are troubled, we don’t have to pray, “Lord, save me from such a big headache.” We just have to open the Bible for half an hour. For some reason, after this, all our headaches and problems seem to have disappeared. This is because while we were reading, God was breathing Himself into us so we could partake of all that He is.
Nothing is easier than breathing. To eat food, we must make the effort to chew. To drink milk, we still have to make the effort to drink. But we never have to make an effort to breathe. No one has ever had to say, “I’m going to breathe in now, and then I’m going to exhale. 1-2-3-go!” We just breathe. Divine breathing is the same. When we open the Bible, a lot of the divine element just automatically comes out, and as we enjoy it, God breathes Himself into us.
The Word is Spirit and Life
The Lord Jesus told His disciples, “the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63). Today the Lord desires to speak to us. When He speaks to us out of the Bible, it becomes spirit and life.
The Bible uses the Greek word rhema in this verse for “the words that I speak.” This is different from the Greek word logos, which is also translated “word.” Logos is the constant, unchanging word, while rhema is the inspirational word. It is only rhema that is spirit and life.
When the word inspires us, it becomes spirit and life. For example, we may be reading Galatians and come to the verse: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (2:20)”. The Lord may speak to us and show us how possessed we are by the world. But through this verse He encourages us with His love and delivers us from the world’s attraction. This is the action of the rhema in us.
The Bible can be doctrinal, but it can also be inspirational. When the Bible is inspirational, it is rhema. The more rhema we have, the richer our Christian life is. We call this rhema the instant speaking. It is God speaking to us at this moment, and this word becomes spirit and life to save, encourage, and nourish us.
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