Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

What is the Bible all about?

By Dallas M. Roark, Ph.D

The Bible is God’s love letter to humanity The most wonderful experience in the world is to know that you are loved by parents, spouses, friends, and most of all God. One of the most joyous days of my life was to experience the commitment of love by my wife. Love lifts the heart. Love makes people whistle as they walk down the street. Love brings people to want to see the beloved as soon as possible. Love creates a relationship that we do not want to sever.

We have to begin with the first verse in the Bible. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In the history of human thought people have asked the question about the universe. The most compelling question is: why is there something and not nothing?

Some people used to believe that the world was eternal, it has always been here and always will be here. Plato believed that the cosmos was created. However centuries before Plato it was recorded in the Bible that God created the universe. Now in the 20th century astronomers and physicists have come to declare that there was a Big Bang, a real beginning of the universe. It has not been here forever.

We live in the best part of the universe for continuing life. We are away from black holes that capture light, away from exploding supernovas, away from gamma ray bursts, x-rays, and particle radiation. All these things are a threat to life.

There is a universe because God loves. Love gives life. In a sense people imitate God in the experience of having children. Why do you want to have children? Why do you put up with all the trauma of raising children? Why do you take your money and feed, clothe, educate, and put all the time in on children? There is only one reason – you want to love them. Mothers go through the morning sickness, the 9 months of carrying a child, the pain of child birth, because you want to share your love with them. God created us because of his love. He is patient with us because of his love. He puts up with our rebellion, our sins, our mistakes, our failures because He loves us.

In the first part of the Bible we have the stories of God choosing a people through whom he would bless the world. God chose Abraham, the ancestor of the Jewish people through whom the Messiah would come. That theme relates to the life of the people. God sent people described as prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah centuries before it took place.

Not only did God reveal Himself to Abraham, to Moses, and the prophets, but He also revealed himself in his handiwork. We now know the complexity of human life. With the electronic microscope we have been able to learn about the simple cell that has minute machines working in it with a propellor that spins 100.000 rpms and can stop on half a turn. There is so much information needed for the human body that it would require 76000 pages of the New York Times to detail it.

There is vast evidence for a master designer bringing the universe into existence. While all that is awesome, the most awesome thing is that this Master Designer loves you and me.

The second part of the Bible, the New Testament, gives us the most indescribable truth. God visits his creation. The nature of love is to reach out, to reach down, to encounter.

The story of the New Testament is that God in his love becomes a human in the person of Jesus the Christ. The Infinite God becomes a finite man. He is the God-man. What a huge expression of love.

Imagine for a moment that you wanted to communicate with bees. Bees do not understand human speech. There is some communication among bees in doing their work.

The worker bees return to the hive and by doing a complex dance they communicate to the other bees where the pollen is. If you wanted to communicate with the bees you would have to become a bee. You would have to leave behind your humanity and take up the form of a bee, live like a bee, communicate like a bee, and work like a bee.

God has done this in human form. The Infinite God who is unfathomable has come to earth to reveal his love for mankind. This love is expressed in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall perish but have everlasting life." Do you have doubts whether God loves you? Get rid of them. He wants you to know him.

The story of God’s love is more compelling when we read of the rebellion of humans not only in the story in Genesis but in the story of mankind. The story of the first parents, Adam and Eve, is a sad story of two people who disobeyed God. Mankind since then has been doing the same. The story of human history is about wars, murders, greed, rebellion against parents, rebellion against one another, and general wrong-doing. God gave instructions on how to live, but humans have broken the commands of God. In spite of this God calls us to give up our sins, and turn to Him. He loves us in spite of ourselves.

The great story of the New Testament is the story of God’s Son coming to earth, born in Bethlehem of Judea, growing up to begin his mission of teaching the greatest lesson about God..

He declared that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Here we read of Jesus healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, healing lepers, raising the dead, feeding the poor with great miracles, living before the people without sin. He declared that God was his Father and He was the Son. People rejected him, crucified him on a cross, and three days later he came forth from the grave to vindicate his claims, his teaching, and his mission.

Jesus told his disciples repeatedly that he was going to be crucified. On the night that he was betrayed, he told them the meaning of his death. In that event he established the New Covenant. The Gospel of Matthew records, "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Mt. 26:26-29) Forgiveness of sins is the fruit of the New Covenant.

Before he was crucified, He gathered 12 men to be his disciples, and he told them that he would establish his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. What is the church? It is not a building. It is not a social club. It is not a business. It is not a fraternal organization such as the lions club. The church is a group of people who are living in relation to Jesus.

This group of people have given their lives to Jesus. They have accepted Him as Savior and Lord. They are held together by obedience to Jesus. They live in union with Him.

As an example, I live in union with my wife. There are things that I cannot do because I love my wife I am not free to date other women because I am in union with my wife.

I am not free to spend our money without regard to her because we are in union, we are one.

My union with her is based on love between us. She wants to please me and I want to please her. We talk about decisions together. I do not want to do anything that will harm her and she does not want to do anything that will harm me. We work together because we are honoring one another. We work together cleaning the house. She is not my slave, or servant. She is a wife to be honored, helped, and respected.

To live in union with Jesus is like that. We want to honor Him, We do not want to do things that displease Him. He is Lord of our lives. He has done for us something that we could not do for ourselves. He has brought us the good news that God loves us specifically and God wants to have a relationship with us.

The church is like a family. "We are telling you what we have seen and heard, so that you may share in this life with us. And we share in it with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3) The family is the most important unit in society. The family was created by God. The union of the family community is a faint reflection of the Trinity.

Children cannot survive without a family. Young people may think that they can be equal to their parents, but most family members only become independent when they are in their 20s. A new baby is helpless and would die without a family to care for it. Speech, understanding, learning, growing, good health, and much more is related to the family. Teaching children how to live, reason, and work is part of the family.

The church family is important for spiritual growth. The church family is a place to learn more about God. The church family is a place for prayer dealing with the daily problems people face. The church family is a place for encouragement. The church family is the place where we learn to speak the language of faith just as a child learns the language of the culture in the home.

The church family is an instrument of sharing the good news story of Jesus. I once had a friend call me up on a very cold night and ask me if I like finding bargains. I replied that I did. He told me of a store that a great sale on kitchen knives. I went and bought some. He wanted to share the good news of a sale. In a similar situation, we have found that Jesus Christ is the Savior, he offers to us everlasting life, the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of his presence here and now. We want to share that good news. The church family has the commission to share the news also.

God’s love requires a response. When I told my girl friend that I loved her I was looking for a response that she loved me. We did not arrive at the moment of love at the same time. I loved her before she came to love me. This is true with reference to God. God loved us long before we admitted love to Him. There came a time when I asked Elaine to be my life companion. She had two responses possible: yes and no. I am blessed that she said yes to being my life companion.

We do know the situation about God and ourselves. If we reject God’s love there is no other companion that can give us life. If we reject His love we can only live in darkness, not light, we will be in hell apart from God and apart from all companions. If we reject God’s love there is no other help. It is not what God will do to us, it is what we do to ourselves. God’s love has been abundantly demonstrated.

Not only is there a beginning response, but there is a life-long conversation we are to carry on with God. This comes in the form of prayer. We praise God for his love, his gift of life, for daily provisions, for forgiveness. We talk to God about our problems, seek his wisdom, and his help in solving problems. Companions talk with one another and God is our great Companion.

One last item in this story of the Bible is that Jesus who rose from the dead after his crucifixion will return again. Jesus said that no one would know the time except the Father.

His coming will be the end of history and the beginning of everlasting life. It will be a new beginning of all things. We will be given new bodies and the spiritual transformation that began at our coming to Jesus will be complete. The Bible says that we shall know Him and we shall be like Him. God’s love involves complete renewal, a new heaven and a new earth. So we shall be with the Lord forever and ever.

God’s love began it all. God’s love will bring about life that never ends in His presence.

Have you responded to his love? Will you respond to His love? Will you invite Him into your life and have Him as a companion beginning now and lasting forever?