The Bible is truly the Book of all Books. No other compendium of writings is its equal. It possesses global recognition. The story of how we obtained the Bible in its present form is rich but complex. Yet the Bible’s history, despite the many challenges it has faced in remaining relevant in the world, clearly points to the guiding Spirit of the Eternal ensuring that His testimony–contained in the pages of the Bible– remain heard through the end of the time of man’s (actually Satan’s) dominance on this planet.
Today, the Bible has the grand reputation of being the bestselling book of all times with global influence. To date it has been translated into some 518 languages. Being in the public domain, the Bible is freely available to virtually anyone who wishes to possess a copy for themselves. Additionally, a multi-million dollar industry has emerged around a public domain book (i.e., free of charge to the public) with the express purpose of capitalizing on the Bible’s iconic stature. So the printing presses continue to run and pump out countless copies of the Bible for global consumption, in ever increasing imaginative formats and content.
What Seems to be the Problem Mr. or Mrs. Saint in Training?
Despite its almost excessive accessibility, the Bible has become “…the most revered book never read,” a quote from author Timothy Beal. Half of Americans are Biblically illiterate despite three-quarters of Americans affirming belief that the Bible is the Word of God. The reasons for this tragedy are varied and many. But one can guess that the primary reason for the Bible’s loss of influence in many peoples’ lives has to do with a lack of understanding. Church leaders and teachers are failing miserably to educate their members and followers in the truths that are contained within the Bible. This failure has conversely resulted in many believers’ failure to see relevance in the Bible as it relates to their busy secular 21st century lives.
It is not until we gain a full understanding of what the Bible is to mankind and especially followers of Messiah, then we can fully enjoy the life abundant that Yahoshua spoke of in John 10:10. Satan is working overtime to make the Bible irrelevant to this world through his spreading of lies, confusion, doubt, misinformation, secularism, humanism, globalism, fear, and the list goes on (Rev. 12:9). Ultra-sensitivity to cultures, lifestyles, and religions have further dampened the message that the Bible was designed to proclaim.
The Bible is read and studied less today than at any time in the last 100-years. Thus, I sense there is a crisis afloat among most Believers of Messiah–and that crisis has to do with Biblical Illiteracy or better yet Biblical Ignorance. One cannot truly know how to perceive the dusty Bibles that line one’s bookshelves if one does not truly understand what is written therein. And because of the nature of the Bible–i.e., written over the period of some 1600-years, 40+ authors from various walks of life, documentation of events occurring in various places, times, and modes, written in 3-languages, and under the umbrella of a central Hebraic culture–unless one possesses the understanding of these elements, one cannot begin to understand the Bible. Secondly, without a teacher, one cannot begin to glean the true message of the Bible. Thirdly, the work of the Holy Spirit is critical to a full and accurate understanding of the Bible.
How Can I Understand Unless Someone Guides Me?
What do I mean by teacher? I strongly believe that every Believer of Messiah must find a teacher or teachers who understand the Bible in all of the elements I’ve outlined in the previous paragraphs in order to gain a full understanding and appreciation for the Bible. These teachers cannot be influenced by denominational doctrines and beliefs, otherwise that teacher will only teach the tenets of the denomination from which he or she is tied. Truth is not the possession of any one or set of denominations (reference 2 Peter 1:20, 21). In fact, I would submit to you that truth is anti-denominational! Denominations are run by men who interpret the Bible according to traditions and papal fiat that has trickled down to us over the centuries.
Turn with me to Acts 8:26-40. This passage will clearly illustrate my point:
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Act 8:26-40 ESV)
Now here’s an Ethiopian Official who appears to be a convert to Judaism–as verse 27 suggests…specifically “…as he was going to Jerusalem to worship.” Worship during this time centered exclusively around the Temple cult in Jerusalem. Temple worship was stipulated by Yahoveh in the Torah (i.e., the first five books of the Bible–sometimes referred to as the Laws of Moses) and the Prophetic writings of the Tanakh.
Despite this Ethiopian’s obedience to worshipping Yahoveh in Jerusalem–likely he was returning from one of the appointed Feasts of the Lord Yahoveh–he was ignorant of much of the Scriptures, especially the prophetic writings; in this particular case it was a passage in the Book of Isaiah.
Here is where the rubber meets the road: the Holy Spirit speaks to Philip and directs him to approach this Official. In doing so it appears that Philip overhears the Ethiopian reading from a passage in the Book of Isaiah–vv. 29, 30. Upon hearing the Official reading this passage, Philip boldly interrupts him and asks him if he understood what he was reading–v. 30. The Official’s transparent and heartfelt reply was: 31 … “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
It is here that Philip serves as a teacher to the truth seeking Official–apparently not just interpreting that passage of Isaiah which seemed to stump him at the time, but going deep into the whole of the Scriptures–the Law and the Prophetic writings as suggested in verse 35– and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
Bottomline: the Ethiopian Official seemingly understood just enough of the Hebraic foundations of the Faith as evidenced in him going up to Jerusalem to worship and referencing and studying the Scriptures. He seemingly possessed enough information upon which to build a fuller understanding of the Scriptures which Philip and the Holy Spirit handily provided. Without Philip and the Holy Spirit moving Philip to approach the Official, and ultimately the Holy Spirit opening the Official’s understanding to Philip’s teaching, then that Official’s perceptions about the Scriptures would have likely stalled and possibly left him ignorant of the True Faith once delivered.
Did Not Our Hearts Burn Within Us?
Now let’s look at another similar passage whereby serious teaching was vital for certain individuals to gain the full understanding of Scripture and ultimately the Faith Yahoshua delivered to the first century saints. Turn to Luke 24:13-32:
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luk 24:13-32 ESV)
Here again we have a similar situation as that of the Ethiopian Official, but now happening to two individuals: the two gentlemen on the road to Emmaus. For all intents and purposes, these two men were not outsiders in the sense that they were ignorant of the Hebraic Law, the prophets, and even of Yahoshua and all that had transpired in the previous day’s involving the Savior’s crucifixion and resurrection. It is highly likely these were followers of Yahoshua, although they were not of the inner circle of twelve. Consider verses 22 to 24 where the two told the resurrected Savior that they were party to those individuals who responded to the tomb after the 3rd day only to find the tomb empty with suggestions that Yahoshua had been resurrected. Regardless, I strongly gather from this most important passage that these two individuals, one named Cleopas, had forsaken their prior personal lives to follow the Master (as had the original 12-disciples) and were now heartbroken men as they journeyed from Jerusalem to Emmaus after the crucifixion (likely Sunday morning after Yahoshua’s resurrection the prior evening and His assent to the Father with the wavesheath offering of the firstfruits). These men likely believed that Yahoshua was the prophesized Messiah who would establish His eternal kingdom in Jerusalem and from there rule the earth and free the Jews from Roman occupation. However, it now appeared to them that their perceptions of Yahoshua were wrong and their hopes for the appearance of the Messianic Kingdom now layed in shambles. To them, it must have been extremely confusing–for clearly the Scriptures taught of the Messiah coming in His glory and establishing His Kingdom under the direction of Yahoveh the Father. Did they misunderstand what they were taught? Was Yahoshua a fraud, like so many other individuals who came about in those days proclaiming to be the Messiah (reference Josephus’ writing and Philip Schaff’s “History of the Christian Church”). Again, they had a basis of knowledge upon which to gain a full understanding of the truth, but it would not be so unless someone sent with Yahoveh’s Holy Spirit were to teach them the Truth from the very Scriptures upon which they were now entirely confused and lost.
Enter the newly resurrected Yahoshua who accompanied the men along their journey to Emmaus and taught them about Himself from the very Scriptures of their youth as evidence in verse 27: 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Even these required a teacher–although they were blessed at this very time to have been taught by the Teacher of all Teachers!
And it is in verse 32 that we see clearly that an opening of the Scriptures is paramount to any true understanding and appreciation of the Bible–and such an opening is to be had only through a competent earthly teacher and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. And when you have this combination in place, the would-be student can proclaim with passion: “Did not our hearts burn within us…while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
One Can Not Gain Full Understanding of the Bible by Simply Reading it as any other Book
It goes without saying: the true follower of Messiah must be willing to sit under the teachings of a well-versed and competent teacher of Messiah. Secondly, the true teacher of Messiah must operate in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, follower of Messiah must have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit–having been baptized and received the Holy Spirit–that will then open his or her mind and the pages of the Bible to them. I am a firm believer that it is a futile endeavor for anyone who does not possess any of these elements to properly perceive the fullness of the Bible. He or she may be highly educated and even have letters from some of the most prestigious divinity and theological schools in the world. But these schools are churning out graduates that are still Biblically illiterate. The Bible is unlike any other book for it was composed by men who were moved by Yahoveh’s Spirit–reference 2 Peter 1:21–and thus no one can expect to correctly perceive the Bible by simply reading it like one would read any other book.
The writer of Hebrews wrote: 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:12-14 ESV)
No truer words have ever been spoken. Thus I would encourage you to seek out for yourselves competent teachers who can teach you the basic principles of the oracles of God. Then seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit that the True Faith once delivered to the first century Saints will be aptly revealed to you.
I would highly recommend Michael Rood (www.aroodawakening.tv and messianic.tv) and Arthur Bailey (www.arthurbaileyministries.com/tv) for starts. These two powerful teachers of Messiah possess a keen understanding of the Hebraic Roots of the Faith once delivered. They both operate under the power of the Holy Spirit and they do not mince words nor do they cater to cultural, religious and societal sensitivities. So the truth seeking believer must be prepared to have his or her feathers ruffled–but know that he or she is receiving the pure milk of the Gospel that churchianity–fundamental christianity–is miserably failing to deliver.