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Is the Bible Relevant Today?

This is a transcript of  a sermon broadcast by Dr W. E. F. Naismith on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday, January 25th, 1970, from Bethany Church, Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham. Though so long ago, its message is still very relevant to to-day.

NOTE     This message is also available as a Microsoft Word document.  If you would like to use this then click here, and when requested "SAVE ".  This will make it easier for printing.

 

I would like to consider the relevance of the Bible to the age in which we live. The preservation of the Bible down through the centuries is nothing short of a miracle. Many have been the attempts to destroy this Book. Not only has it been the best loved Book but also the most bitterly hated. Man's hostility to it has been persistent and relentless. Imperial edicts have been issued to destroy it. Political and ecclesiastical powers have united in an attempt to obliterate it.  Numerous have been the efforts to undermine faith in its Divine inspiration and veracity. But all efforts have failed. Man's philosophy, wit, satire, science and force have been brought to bear against this Book in vain. The Bible still stands. It is the inspired Word of God. The Apostle Paul wrote "All scripture is given by inspiration of God", while the apostle Peter stated, "Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit". The Bible remains as Mr Gladstone called it, "the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture", and it continues to speak vital truth to each succeeding generation of mankind.

Moreover, the message of the Bible has never grown stale. Although many of the ablest men of the strongest intellectual powers, have given a life-time to its study and exposition, they have never exhausted its contents nor discovered all that was to be gleaned from it.  And it come to us in our day with a message which is living and highly pertinent to our times. It has a message for all ages. That is one reason why it has always been a best seller and continues to be from one generation to another. It has a universal appeal and has been translated into more languages and dialects than any other Book. Its message is vital. It deals with questions and problems common to all nations and generations of people. It is concerned with such subjects as God, the universe, man, life, death and the life after death. It answers important questions such as: is there a God? can He be known? what is the meaning of life? where is it leading to? what lies beyond it and so on.

Nor does its message require to be modernised. Many have sought so to do this, afraid lest science and modern knowledge should discredit the Scriptures. They have nothing to fear. The theories of men change, but God's Word abides. The Psalmist wrote, "For ever oh Lord Thy Word is settled in heaven". Our Lord said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will not pass away". The Word of God lives and abides for ever. There are those who reject the message of the Bible simply in terms of its antiquity. They regard it almost as an insult to be told that man, with all his advanced knowledge in the latter half of the 20th century, needs a message from a book offered to mankind for so long; surely it is argued, anything so ancient must be totally irrelevant today. When we have advanced so much in every other realm, why should we be asked to turn to an ancient book and a centuries old message in the matter of spiritual problems? It has been said that to accept this message is like asking a patient to go to a witch doctor, instead of a modern physician. It is equivalent to committing intellectual suicide. It is totally irrational.

Now it is because of this situation that some have tried to give the Bible a new look to make it more palatable to the human mind. They have endeavoured to modernise the Book in the light of present knowledge and discovery.  

But though the message of the Bible is an old one, it is an up-to-date one. Although its last chapters were written 1900 years ago and its early chapters about 3,500 year ago, the Book is not outdated but is still suited to the varying circumstances of life in our day. Men may repudiate its relevance to the needs of the present time but we believe its message is the one which is still desperately needed in this modern world and that for several reasons.

The first one is that man hasnít changed. Although he has made progress in every realm of science, although he can travel into space, land on the moon, split the atom, perform heart transplants, and so on, yet these are merely changes in his environment and activities. Man himself has not changed morally, and the Bibleís message is to man as man. Man is still the same sinful being that he was in the days of Noah and of Sodom & Gomorrah. The sins he commits today are just the same as were committed then. He may be more clever and civilised but his basic spiritual needs are unaltered.

The second reason is that man has found no new solution to the problem of his sin.  Man has devised many new contrivances for reducing manual labour, but he is unable to provide rest for the soul burdened by sin or for the conscience tormented by guilt. We have new and faster ways of travel and we can go by land, air or sea, or even under the sea, but there is no new way back to God from the dark paths of sin. The only way is by the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ who said, ďI am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by meĒ. The message of the Bible is needed today.

Thirdly, God has not changed.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the Lord, He changes not. All the progress man has made has not affected Godís being and character. His hatred of sin, His just and holy laws, is the standard He requires of His creatures. Man may try and change Godís moral laws. Man brings in what is called a new morality which is nothing but a new label for the old immorality, but Godís laws are abiding, and to transgress His laws is sin for which we are accountable.

Another reason why the Bibleís message is needed today is because Godís answer to the problem of sin has not changed. That answer is contained in the Gospel of which the Apostle Paul said he was not ashamed, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, and he was prepared to preach this Gospel without fear. He did not try to embellish it, or mix it with human philosophy, to make it more acceptable to the intellectual Greeks at Athens and Corinth. He preached it in all its purity and simplicity, even though they criticised him and described his speech as contemptible. And there is no need to modify the Gospel today to make it more palatable to the modern mind.

What then is the message of the Bible for this modern world of ours? First of all we have in it a revelation of manís moral ruin and sinful condition in the sight of God. Man has failed to meet the requirements of Godís law. He has fallen short of the standard God demands. Nor is that merely true of a few of us but of all of us Ė for all have sinned and come short of Godís glory. The whole world is guilty before God. Godís law demanded flawless and continuous obedience to its precepts, in motive as well as in performance, and none of us have succeeded in meeting those just requirements. Morally, man is a failure. Now such a message as this will not be popular. Never has man been so proud of his achievements, his understanding, his progress and advancement. But though the message of the Bible does not flatter man nor pander to his pride, it is nevertheless vital and true.

Far better is it to know the truth about ourselves as God sees us rather than perish under a delusion.

For this message also confronts us with the fact that not only are we sinful beings, but we are also accountable beings who one day must stand before God and give an account of the deeds done in the body. A day of reckoning lies ahead. What we sow we shall reap.

The message of the Bible also declares that our state is such that we must be born anew. ďYou must be born againĒ were the word of our Lord to a religious teacher of old. Our trouble is not superficial but deep-seated. If it were superficial, reformation or turning over a new leaf might be adequate. It is not due to ignorance for which education might be the cure. It is not due to any previous ancestry for which only time is required to shed our former propensities.  The trouble is one for which we are responsible and only a new birth and a new nature are the answer. It is not a new leaf we need but a new life.

But that is not the end of the message, for were we only to be told of our deep need without the means of how it could be met, we might be driven to despair. But this message also includes the doctrines of Godís intervention in grace in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. When manís case was hopeless, when it was clearly demonstrated that man could not be saved by the deeds of the law, or by his own efforts, or works, God in mercy intervened and sent His Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to be the Saviour of the world. He was miraculously born of a Virgin at Bethlehem. He lived a perfect life rendering flawless obedience to the law of God; He died upon a cross at Calvary taking the sinnerís place, bearing the penalty, which was our due. As it has been expressed in the well-known hymn: ďHe died that we might be forgiven. He died to make us good that we might go at last to heaven. Saved by His precious bloodĒ. But that was not the end, for Christianity is not about a dead person but about One who died and Who rose from the dead. If Christ did not rise, then that new tomb in which He was laid is the grave, not only of Christ Himself but of the whole of Christianity and the hopes of all who are trusting Him. But now is Christ risen from the dead. He rose on the third day as He said He would and now He lives. This message is about a living Saviour.

The Bibleís message goes on to say, however, that although Christ came to be the Saviour of the world, it is only through repentance, i.e. turning from our sin to God, and a simple personal faith in the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, that salvation and forgiveness can be obtained. There is salvation in none other, no other Person and no other thing, for there is no other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. The greatest of all blessings, forgiveness of sins, peace with God, membership of His family, eternal security for the future, are alone to be had through personal acceptance and appropriation of the Son of God as our Lord and Saviour. We read in John 1 verse 12 ďTo as many as receive Him, Christ, to the God gives the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe on His NameĒ On the other hand, to reject Christ, to refuse to own Him as Lord and Saviour, is to reject the only way of salvation and is to incur the righteous judgement of God eternally

John 3:36 states ďHe that believeth no the Son hath everlasting life, but He that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on HimĒ.

This then is the message of the Bible for the human race. In a world of strife, it is a message of peace, peace with God through the knowledge of sins forgiven. While people long for peace while they talk about it, the Bible says, ďTherefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ".

In a hopeless world, the message of the Bible is one of hope. While people continually hope for better things, as they face the future and hope for the best, ever waiting for something to turn up, the Bible gives us the only message of hope in the word of truth of the Gospel, hope in life, hope in death and a certain hope after death. Christ is the only hope for the individual and for the world.

Is the Gospel still relevant today? Is its ancient message still adequate for the present situation? The answer is that it alone is adequate. It tells of the only One who can deal with and solve the problems of man, his sin, his soul, his eternal destiny; of One who has promised never to leave nor forsake those who trust Him but to be with them amid all the changing circumstances of life, in joy and sorrow, in prosperity and adversity, in sunshine and storm. That One is Christ. Do you know Him as your Lord and Saviour, your Master and Friend? Are you trusting in Him for your eternal salvation? If not, why not do so now? He alone can meet your need, forgive your sins and give you peace of heart and mind and a sure hope for eternity. He has done this for others, He can do it for You.

This was a sermon broadcast by Dr W. E. F. Naismith on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday, January 25th, 1970, from Bethany Church, Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham.