In 1997, I taught some classes in our Bible School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The College was in its infancy, and the written resources were limited. I had carried with me from Canada a 'Jack Hayford Study Bible.' During my time there, one of the students had given his personal Bible to someone he had led to Jesus. He had no access to another one. He asked me if I might have one to give him. I presented the Hayford Study Bible to him in class the following day. The other 26 students gathered around him and, one by one, asked if they might touch and examine it. They treated it like gold, with extreme care and utmost reverence. I have never forgotten how precious the Word of God was to that group.
I never want to count as "common" the Word or the privilege to stand before the pulpit or podium to share its eternal truth.
We live in a day when the veracity and authority of the Bible are under great attack, particularly from within the Church itself. In a sincere attempt to enhance methodologies for delivering the message of the Bible, we have somehow compromised and diluted the Word itself. We have lost something of Scripture's grandeur and our reverence for it in the process. Wanting to be relevant to our culture, we have attempted to forge a marriage between the counter-cultural message of the Bible and the culture itself.
The assault on the Bible is nothing new, and there have been times when its message has almost been eradicated. At the onset of the reign of Josiah, the boy King of Judah (640-609 BC), the written Word of God had been lost for decades. He ordered that a search take place to recover it. Among the accoutrements in the Temple, a copy was found and read to the assembled people. It was a turning point for the Nation.
Under the reign of Diocletian (284-305 AD), an exceedingly wicked man, to own a Bible was as good as a signature on your death warrant. Yet in 329 AD, only 24 years later, when Constantine proclaimed that the Bible would be the official 'Magna Carta' of the Roman Empire and called for Bibles to be openly displayed, 50 treasured copies emerged from the catacombs.
During the Dark Ages (476-1000 AD), the Bible again came near extinction. Monks in caves in Ireland protected and copied the few remaining tomes. When the world emerged from this cultural malaise, the Catholic Church declared that only priests should have access to the Bible and possess the sole authority to interpret it. In 1199 AD, Pope Innocent 111 decreed that any private interpretation of Scripture by individuals or small groups was 'occultic.' As a result, the common man had no access to it—the Spanish Inquisition in the 1400s ordered all Hebrew literature and all vernacular Bibles to be destroyed. Once more, the Word of God was on the ropes. But by 1455, Gutenberg's presses had begun to turn out multiple copies, and the public eagerly embraced them.
Voltaire, the noted French infidel, who died in 1778, made a valiant and fierce attempt to discredit the Bible. He boldly predicted that, within 100 years of his death, the Bible and Christianity would have been swept away into oblivion. But the prophecy came to naught. Within 100 years, the very printing press on which Voltaire had published his atheistic literature now printed copious copies of the Bible he had spurned. The actual house in Paris where Voltaire had lived was stacked 'floor to ceiling' with Bibles prepared for public distribution by the Geneva Bible Society.
In 1949, Chairman Mao Ze Dong proclaimed that his first priority as a totalitarian ruler would be to stamp out Christianity in China at any cost. Severe persecution followed, many Believers perished, and the Bible was officially banned. When Mao ascended to power, there were approximately 4 million believers in the Nation. When the Bamboo curtain lifted in the late 1980s, the Western world had a fresh glimpse into China. It was estimated that 44 million people now followed the teaching of the Word of God. Today Amity Publishing in Nanjing, China, is the world's largest printer of the Bible.
In 1991, I travelled to Romania, a poverty-stricken Nation just freshly liberated from the diabolical rule of Nicolae Causecu. Under his rule, owning or distributing Bibles was punishable by death. Yet, as I visited the rural Churches, I was amazed to see handprinted copies of the Word of God, some of them eight inches thick. They had been laboriously compiled from pages smuggled into the country from free Europe.
You cannot destroy the Word of God!
There is an Old Hymn called The Bible Stands. These words have been proven true.
The Bible stands like a rock, undaunted 'Mid the raging storms of time; Its pages burn with the truth eternal, And they glow with a light sublime. Refrain: The Bible stands though the hills may tumble, It will firmly stand when the earth shall crumble; I will plant my feet on its firm foundation, For the Bible stands. The Bible stands like a mountain tow'ring Far above the works of men; Its truth by none ever was refuted, And destroy it they never can. The Bible stands, and it will forever, When the world has passed away; By inspiration, it has been given, All its precepts I will obey. The Bible stands every test we give it, For its Author is divine; By grace alone, I expect to live it, And to prove and to make it mine. Haldor Lillenas, 1917
This Book is indestructible! It will survive every attempt to destroy it, modify it, nullify it, weaken, or ban it. Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away, but His Word would never disappear (Luke 21:33). The Psalmist declared that God's Word was 'forever settled in heaven' (Psalm 119:89). It is important that we preach the Word, not just our own opinions on the Word, not just the commentary others have made about the Word, not the latest critique of the Word, or the present popular flavour of the Word. We must preach the Word itself. It is powerful and effective and well-able to defend itself. We must stick to the fundamental doctrines of salvation and sanctification through the atoning work of Christ. We must avoid useless controversies on secondary issues that engender discord and cause watching unbelievers scoff at the Church.
As preachers and teachers of the Word, we have an added measure of accountability to God. One day we will give evidence as to how we have handled Scripture and how well we have lived by its precepts.