John 1:1-14, Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 119:16
Today, we are beginning a new series called “The Holy Bible.” Throughout this study, we’re going to examine the greatest Book ever written. It’s the best-selling book of all time. Although it would be impossible to know the exact total, research conducted in 2021 suggests that the total number of Bibles printed likely lies between 5 and 7 billion copies, most of them coming of course after the invention of the printing press. Take a look at how big those numbers are. 5,000,000,000 – 7,000,000,000
How many have one of those copies in your home? How many have more than one? Two? Three? Four? Five? I counted how many I have just on my desk at home (8), and that didn’t count the internet, that I had up and was using. Then I counted how many I know for sure I have in my church office, plus the one on our end table. I came up with 16. Ok, I think I might be an addict (being addicted to the Bible certainly isn’t a bad thing).
Scripture tells us that the Bible is true, full of God’s Truth and nothing less. Scripture tells us the Bible is alive and powerful. It’s not just words on a page. Instead, it’s transforming, life-changing and dynamic as it works in us.
12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
Like a clear and direct cut of a surgeon’s knife, God’s Word reveals who we really are and what we are really not. It penetrates the core of our moral and spiritual life. It discerns what is within us, both good and evil. The demands of God’s Word require decisions. We must not only listen to the Word, but let it shape our lives.
It’s active in every single way, and yet even though it is alive, so many people neglect it. For example, I want you to be real honest right now (and don’t worry, God already knows so you might as well just put your hand up) how many of you read your Bible this week every single day? What happened? We have God’s Word so readily accessible to us, yet so many of us neglect it.
“I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.”
The word neglect here comes from the Hebrew word, shakach (shaw-hay’-akh). It means to lay aside, to forget, to take for granted, or to neglect. The Psalmist is saying, “I will delight in your decrees (your rulings, law). I will not lay aside your Word. I will not forget your Word. I will not take your Word for granted. I will not neglect your word.”
But sadly, so many people today neglect God’s Word, take it for granted, and simply forget all about it. Why?
Scripture says that in the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Now who is the Word? Jesus. Like God is Jesus in human flesh, this is God in Word. That’s why it’s alive and breathing.
If we want to know God, to serve Him, to follow Him, then we must feed on His Word, His Truth, learn who He is, study His ways. I believe so many of us neglect the Bible because we simply just don’t understand it for what it really is, let alone what it took for us to hold God’s Word in our hands.
Today, we are going to study the history of the Bible, and I don’t expect you to remember much of what I’m about to say. In fact, I thought of not going down this route, but God said to do it. So when God says to do it, you’d better just do it. What I hope you see in the end, God’s purpose, determination, and hard work of getting the Bible to us today, and how it is still alive.
Let’s start by talking about how God brought His Word to us. It started thousands and thousands of years ago, somewhere between 1400-1500 B.C. (Before Christ), when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on the top of Mount Sinai. At that point, God began speaking His Word to us, when He, Himself, wrote the Ten Commandments on stone.
Years later and for thousands of years, the very first scriptures known as the Pentateuch (Pent-a-tuke), which in Greek means five scrolls, were written on fine animal skins called scrolls. The Pentateuch are now the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Those first five books are also known as the Torah which in Hebrew means law. A scribe might use the animal skin of a deer, a cow, or a sheep, but never the skin of a pig as that would have been unclean, and totally inappropriate for God’s Word.
What’s interesting is that if the entire Pentateuch, the five scrolls, were completely unraveled and laid in lengthwise together, they would stretch out over 150 feet in distance. The five scrolls were so long that it would often take a large herd of sheep just to make one Pentateuch.
By approximately 500 B.C. (Before Christ), the thirty-nine books that we know today as the Old Testament were completed and continued to be preserved in Hebrew on scrolls.
By the end of the first century A.D. (Anno Dom-i-ni, Latin for “in the year of the Lord”), the New Testament was completed, and it was preserved in the Greek language on pa-py-rus, a thin paper-like material made from crushed and flattened stalks of a reed-like plant.
In the year 367 A.D., the Bishop of Alexandria, a guy by the name of Athenasius (a·thuh·nay·shus), wrote his Easter letter and in it, he listed all of the books that you read today in the New Testament. Then in the year 393 A.D., the African senate of Hippo approved all of the books that you find listed as your New Testament today.
By the year 500 A.D., the Bible had been translated into over 500 different languages. People all over were so thankful because they could finally read God’s Word in their own language. But then, something very unusual happened. In just the next century, by the year 600 A.D., the Bible was only allowed in one language, Latin. Why? Well, the Catholic Church of Rome at the time, was the only recognized church in the land, and they issued a decree that no Bible in any other language was allowed. If anyone found a Bible in any language besides Latin, that person holding that Bible could be executed on the spot.
Unfortunately, at that time the Catholic Church was very, very corrupt. The priests were the only ones educated in the Latin language so that the common person could never, ever read God’s Word. That gave the priests ultimate power. They could teach what parts of the Bible they wanted to, and they could even throw in some things that weren’t in the Bible. That became pretty common. In fact, it started as confessing your sin, then wanting to show God your sincerity, you would give money to the fund for the poor. But it later just turned into just paying for your forgiveness. If you sinned, you’d pay a certain amount of money and the priest would say, “Well, because you’ve paid that, now you are forgiven.”
The Catholic Church also started teaching about a place called purgatory, a word that’s not found in scripture. They said if your relative dies not being right with God, they’ll go to purgatory, a holding place, a place that you really don’t want to be, but for a certain amount of money you can purchase the freedom for your relative from purgatory. So basically, you paid for your family’s sin, and they might not have even known it.
In today’s world, it would kind of be like this: If your grandma dies, for $9,995 you can buy grandma a ticket out of purgatory. The priests used this forced ignorance, and between the years 400 A.D. and 1400 A.D., for 1,000 years which became known as the Dark Ages, the priests deceived the people.
You may be wondering how did the church break free from this long season of dark and horrible corruption? Well, the answer is simple. Once the Bible, the truth of God’s Word, got in the hands of enough people and the right people, God used His truth through people to bring about the very necessary reformation of the church. Here’s brief summary of how it happened.
In the year 563 A.D., during the 1,000 years of the Dark Ages, there was a guy named Columba, who started a secret Bible society where they would faithfully teach God’s Word. This group of people became the remnant on earth where God’s Word was taught faithfully century after century after century. The students were known as the Culdees which was a term that means certain stranger. They were strangers of this world, but for 700 years, the Culdees would disciple one another and faithfully study God’s Word.
In fact, it was out of this group that God raised up the right people to bring about the reformation and improve the Church. In the late 1300’s, one of these people was a man named of John Wycliffe (Wi-cliff) that God used to do tremendous things like translate the Bible into the English language. When he did so, all of a sudden, all these people who before couldn’t read scripture were now able to do so.
At this time in history, it would take about ten months to translate one single Bible. Wycliffe was faithful in spreading God’s word, but unfortunately, he was called a heretic, and the pope was so disgusted by this guy that forty-four years after his death, the pope ordered Wycliffe’s bones to be dug up, destroyed, and then to be spread across the river. Some people say that Wycliffe was the Morning Star of the Protestant Reformation. He was the one that God used to start the ball rolling in the very necessary reformation of the Church.
Now Wycliffe had a student named was John Hus. Hus was equally passionate about getting God’s word into as many hands of people as possible. But unfortunately, Hus too, was called a heretic and was actually burned at the stake. And just take a guess to what they used to start the fire and keep it burning? They used his teacher, Wycliffe’s, Bibles. But as he burned at the stake, it was Hus’ final words that became known as a prophecy that helped direct the future of the Church. He said, “In the next one hundred years, God will raise up a man who’s call for reform cannot be suppressed.” And that’s exactly what God did.
In the year 1517, God raised up the man named Martin Luther, who was so fed up with all of the corruption in the church that he believed that God was calling him to help reform the Church. Martin Luther became known for his ninety-five theses (thee·seez), a document with ninety-five claims of heresy, that he nailed it to the door of the Wittenburg church.
People now describe that event as the knock that was heard around the world. God used those accusations of heresy against the church to spark what’s become known as the Reformation of the Protestant Church. God also used Martin Luther to take the Bible and to translate it into the German language. He then took the recent invention called the printing press, the invention of Gutenberg, to now get the Bible into the hands of the people. Of course, Luther was called a heretic. People wanted to kill him, and he had to spend much of his life on the run. But God used him to spark major changes in the church and to get the Word of God into the hands of people.
About that same time, there was another guy, an Oxford professor. His name was John Coley, and he translated the Bible into English for his Oxford students. He also taught the Bible in the English language at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. And believe it or not, over 20,000 people would pack themselves into this cathedral simply to hear the Word of God in a language that they could understand. Not only were 20,000 people in the building, but it said that as many people would be outside the building waiting for their turn to get in. Why? Because they were hungry, desperate. They would do anything to simply hear the Word of God.
In the year 1526, there was a guy named William Tyndale, who befriended Martin Luther, and God used William Tyndale to print the very first English Bible. That’s the good news. The bad news is, anyone who was caught with this illegal Bible would be executed immediately. But for people who were so hungry, they would do almost anything to get God’s Word into their hands.
These people, they were incredibly creative and would often smuggle Bibles into England, using all sorts of different means. Occasionally, they put Bibles in bales of cotton to smuggle them in, or other times they’d put Bibles into bags full of flour. Ironically, the biggest buyers of Tyndale’s Bibles were actually the king’s men. The king’s men would buy up as many English Bibles as they could, not because they wanted to read them, but instead because they wanted to burn and destroy all of Tyndale’s Bibles. Well, Tyndale, he was a good businessman, and he would simply take the profits of all of these Bibles the king’s men would buy up, and he would use the money to print even more Bibles to get the Word of God out. Unfortunately, because what he was doing was considered illegal, Tyndale was on the run for eleven years of his life.
Imagine waking up every single morning, knowing that people were hunting you down, wanting to kill you simply because you wanted to help other people experience the Word of God. That’s what Tyndale experienced. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, he was on the run, running for his life because people wanted to execute him.
Sadly, they eventually caught up to him and incarcerated him for about five hundred days before they finally decided in the year 1536 to burn him at the stake. His last words, though, were a prayer to God, which people will remember forever. He prayed, “Oh, Lord, open the eyes of the King of England,” and three years later in 1539, God answered that prayer. Not only did the King of England allow the printing of the Bible in the English language, but he actually helped to fund it, setting the Word of God free.
Think about this. All the people who died, gave their lives fighting with everything in them to help God’s living and active Word be available to people and passed all the way down to us today, is astonishing. But sadly, so many people today, they neglect, take for granted, they just put aside God’s living Word.
Psalm 119:16 says, “I delight in your decrees, and I will not neglect Your word.”
Here’s the key. Don’t neglect God’s Word. He uses it to speak to you. It’s the number one way God speaks to us.
Some of you may say, “You know, I really don’t get much out of reading the Bible.” Well, let me give you a few insights. Over the next several weeks, we’re going to talk about how the Bible is reliable, and then we’re going to spend two weeks just on how to study the Bible, how to find one that is easy for you to read, understand, and learn from, and literally how to study it. So first off, come back.
You can also join the Wednesday Bible study where we’ll work in a small group setting to learn and understand the Old Testament. It’ll be a place where you can ask questions and learn from others.
And lastly, let me tell you what scripture says. This might be your problem. I’m not judging anyone’s heart in this room or whom might be listening, only sharing what the Scripture says.
2 Corinthians 4:4
4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.
Your mind may have been blinded to the truth of God. Maybe you’ve never been spiritually born anew. Maybe you’ve read God’s word and it doesn’t make sense to you, or you tried to pray to God and it seems like there’s a ceiling. Maybe there is. Scripture says that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Scripture says that our sin nature separates us from a holy God and that God is so holy that He cannot even look upon sin.
But scripture also says because of this (John 3:16), For God so loved the world, He so loved you, that He sent His only Son, Jesus the Word made flesh, His Son without sin, to die the perfect death on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. On the third day, He arose again from the dead. And scripture says anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Have you said, “Yes” to Jesus yet? Have you prayed and asked for His forgiveness and for Him to be the Lord of your life? Have you given your life over to Him yet? Because if you haven’t, scripture says you’re not going to understand His Word.
If you have said “Yes” to Jesus and you’re struggling to get into the Word, reading on a daily basis, you’re not alone.
Let’s pray together.
Father, thank you for what the thousands and thousands of leaders throughout history have done in order for us to hold your living Word in our hands. Today, we stop and recognize that we have neglected your Word, the very Word that you want to make an active part of our daily lives. Forgive us we pray for ignoring and neglecting your Word. Father, I pray that everyone that you’ve been convicting today will have a new passion to seek you daily. Not out of some ritualistic religious thing like, “I got to do this to be a good Christian,” instead out of a deep hunger to know you, your truth, your glory, your passion, and your power.
(If you want to make scripture a daily part of your life, would you lift your hands? Lift them high letting the Father know you’re ready.)
Father, we commit, as your family of believers, to seek you daily, to hunger and desire your Word, to read your Word, to get into with others. And we thank you in advance for how you’ll transform us and for all the lives that are going to be changed because we are learning to know you, follow you, and do your will through your living Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Next week, bring your Bibles to church.