Why Should We Go to Church?

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. – (Acts 20:28, NASB)

In this modern day and age, there are so many different types of churches and denominations that the actual Word of God can get lost very quickly. We are in a day where churches do everything to interest newcomers: some have espresso carts in the lobby, some have full musical performances for their “worship” services, and others just try to entice you with friendly faces and special programs.

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Hopefully your church doesn’t look like this. (Photo by Thibault Trillet on Pexels.com)

Isn’t Church Just a Big Hangout Spot?

When I first started this blog, I didn’t actually go to church. My family attended church when I was much younger, and I attended private school for kindergarten into 1st grade but, not long after that, we stopped everything. I do recall attending church (or at least, sunday school and AWANA) with my neighbor when they babysat me, and I didn’t like it  at all. When I got older, I knew that the Bible said that I should go to church, but I held a great distrust of many churches for the type of material that they teach. My favorite “church” was really just a conference of speakers, elderly men, that was almost antiquated in its simplicity.

Why would that have been my favorite? I trusted what they were preaching. I don’t like churches that do not proclaim the Word of God. I don’t like churches who partially portray the Word of God. I don’t like churches who sugar coat what they are saying to make it pleasing to the ears.

So, perhaps it is out of a general distrust, perhaps it is secretly underwritten by a dose of pride, and perhaps it is just out of a lack of availability that I hadn’t found a church that I actually wanted to attend. But more so, apart from the actual biblical command to go to church, I didn’t see a reason for it. One of the churches I briefly attended prayed before the offering, as most do, and the whole prayer sounded like a plea for donations. Right or wrong, this led me to think, “If you truly trust God to provide, why are you begging your congregation for money?

This brings me to a few days ago, when I was sitting in church during the graduation service. Not the graduation where diplomas are handed out, but a special service congratulating the high school and college graduates and giving a special prayer for their lives going forward.

At that moment, it dawned on me that I finally understood what church is for.

Now, anyone should immediately know that church is for coming together, honoring God, worshipping Him, and fellowshipping with other believers. That part never alluded me.

Then, what more is there? – You may be asking.

Understanding Church

I had an entirely wrong attitude about church, as I think many other Christians or would-be Christians (let alone, atheists and agnostics) have. Many people, myself included, viewed church almost as this place where you go and put on a front for other believers.

It’s the place for people who call themselves Christian to go hang out and gossip with and about other people who call themselves Christian (or not). They pass around the offering plate, maybe they do some social programs, a few youth group activities, and perhaps the pastor lives in a nice house.

architecture bricks buildings bushes
And if you’re Joel Osteen, you live in a really nice “house”. (Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com)

All the while, I was missing the fact that this is not what church is all about. Not even close. And it definitely isn’t about “becoming the best you”, “diversity” or “tolerance”. Before you shake your fist at me or write an angry comment, it’s not to say that none of those things have a place within any given church, but that’s simply not what the church is for

My dad and I went to an organ restoration concert at a church we’d never gone to before that is part of a denomination whose churches we never attend, but we didn’t really know a whole lot about either. Needless to say, I don’t feel inclined to know any more than what I learned that day.

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Amidst the beautiful organ music, played by accomplished organist Dan Miller, they sang a few hymns. One or two of them were well known, classic hymns such as Holy Holy Holy, and I was fine with that. Towards the end though, the songs started becoming about diversity, acceptance, and even singing multiple times about the organ itself. There’s nothing inherently wrong with true diversity, true acceptance, true tolerance, or the instrument that all this music was being played on. But apart from the fact that this was not about true diversity, acceptance, love, or tolerance, we were supposed to be singing worship songs! Why on earth would we want to worship any of these social issues, regardless what you believe about them?

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The True Purpose of Church

A while back, I was listening to the radio and there was a woman’s program on, and she was talking about a woman who had brought concerns to her about not having time to minister. Basically, the woman’s predicament was this –

I have to be a wife to my husband and a mother to my children, I just don’t have the time to go out and minister to people and be a good witness as I’m called to be. What do I do?

The woman hosting the show gently advised that the woman was already being a witness for God, through being a good wife and mother. Remember, as we’ve talked about before, everything not done in faith, is sin. Doing something in faith doesn’t automatically make it good, but doing something not in faith automatically makes it sinful. Hence, why we need Christ in the first place!

In essence, as long as the woman with the dilemma was being the best wife and mother she could be, by the grace of God, depending on Him, and raising up her children to know and love God, she was being a witness for Him.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters – (Colossians 3:23, NIV)

OK, but what does that have to do with church?

Do you remember how Jesus said, “the Sabbath is for man”? Well, church is for man too, to the glory of God the Father.

Are you still with me?

A Community of Believers Worshipping Jesus

I realized, while sitting there at the graduation service, that the church body wasn’t just a group of people from the same city as me who liked taking time out of their Sunday to sing some songs and hear a guy speak.

That isn’t to say that no one who attends church is attending for those simple reasons, but it’s not the true, core meaning.

Church is about a community of believers, worshipping Christ together, and supporting one another in faith and in life. It was when it hit me that we were sitting here, having a separate graduation service from the one their school held for them, to congratulate all these kids and pray for their future.

  • Someone had taken the time out to write up interview questions for each of these kids.
  • Someone had taken the time out to make record each of these kids walking around and partaking in their favorite activities.
  • Someone had taken the time out to edit each of those videos to make them professional-looking.
  • Someone had taken time out to make a separate flyer to hand out with the bulletin.
  • Someone had taken the time and money to purchase books to give as gifts to each of the graduates.
  • Someone had taken the time out to compose a prayer for these graduates and write up a few words to say to each of them personally.
  • And lastly, the whole congregation was together as a church family to watch the videos, hear the words, pray the prayers, and congratulate each of these kids.

A whole separate graduation program for the church body to show their support for these kids!

It wasn’t necessary – they already had or would have a graduation ceremony from their school. They were the kids of one of the parents, but they weren’t my kids, or the pastor’s kids, or the kids of the other deacons, or the kids of the music director. . . Really, outside of church I didn’t know any of them. The majority of the church was not technically related in any way.

Yet, we were all sitting together, in support of them.

Although, biologically, I have no relation whatsoever, they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are children of brothers and sisters in Christ. The whole church body is related through Christ.

Working Together for God’s Glory

As a church family, as a church body, as a church congregation, we are like our own separate community. We are a community of believers, working together to support other believers. We are working as the hands and feet of Christ. We are loving each other in Christ. As the body of believers, we make up the bride of Christ.

In an almost twisted way, it’s kind of like what people envision “real” communism or socialism to be. We are supposed to pay in (tithe) because it’s all God’s money anyways, and the church uses it to redistribute the wealth to those in need and pay the pastoral staff for their services.

It’s not communism or socialism because, first and foremost, no one is forced to give up their wealth or possessions. Biblical tithing can only be done as a willful act of faith based on the promise that God will provide for your needs.  Biblical tithing is also a minimum of 10% whereas communism or socialism would forcibly take whatever percentage they chose up to 100% with the promise that the government would then provide for your needs, which generally results in poverty for all.

The Real Reason for Church

Church is where all the believers commune together to benefit and support each other as a community, to the glory of God the Father. We learn about Christ together, we worship Him together, and we support and love (including holding accountable) each other because of faith in Him. God is glorified when we do that.

If you are skeptical towards attending church, or have attended church before and were turned off by the experience, I would urge you to pray and try again. Seek out a church that puts Jesus Christ first and foremost. Pray for guidance in finding that church. God didn’t give us the gift of the church body so we could get free coffee. God didn’t give us the gift of the church body so that we could listen to fun music, or learn new skills in church that we didn’t have an opportunity to learn elsewhere. We have the gift of the church body so that we can work synonomously together as the bride of Christ to ultimately become one with Him.

God’s Dictionary vs. Man’s

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. – (John 14:27, NASB)

Do you ever notice that the things of God don’t mean quite the same as the things of man? Christ spoke about what He had to offer, and specifically, as in the verse above, how it wasn’t like what the world had to offer. For example, worldly peace and worldly joy is based almost entirely on circumstances and events. The peace and joy that Christ gives we can have in all times and in all situations.

Not only that, but when He gave His interpretation of some of the ten commandments, they were quite different from what we typically have in mind. In fact, He proclaimed that getting into heaven was basically impossible – without God. Evidently, His interpretation was also quite different from that of the Jews of His day.

Now, I can’t say I know His whole dictionary or anything, but I would say that a huge part of coming to understanding the Bible, etc is to understand God’s definitions in contrast to our human definitions.

I personally speculate that some of the biggest misunderstandings with unbelievers starts merely at the definitions. It seems so basic, and yet if we miss it, it can change our entire perspective. This would be merely a problem in getting people to believe, if it weren’t that some who claim to be Christian also have these same problems! I think this is partly where a lot of cultic beliefs and false religions come from. I would definitely say that some come from intentional malevolence (desire for power, money, etc), but some could also come from misunderstandings. Even those that don’t originate from misunderstandings seem to be well fueled by them. A person may be confused about a particular issue, and if a group has an appealing solution, the confused person might be very drawn to join that particular group.

Even if someone doesn’t fully join a cult group, I think many people develop a similar way of thinking but minus a specific doctrine. For example, someone may decide that they believe in annihilationism, but not become a Jehovah’s Witness or Seventh Day Adventist or any other group that adheres to that belief. I disagree with annihilationism, but we’ll discuss that another time.

So, what is the difference God’s dictionary and man’s? Well, let’s first understand that man only knows what man knows! It may seem that I’m stating the obvious, but pride makes it very easy to overlook that. When we give thought to things that we are well aware we know nothing about, it’s easy to admit. For example, I could not even begin to tell you how to build a car. I know it. I only have vague knowledge of the parts that are even in a car, let alone how they all go together. I am not ignorant enough to try and tell anyone how to put a car together as though I have any knowledge or understanding myself. That’s no problem.

It’s a whole different story, however, if it comes to something that I do know, such as how to drive a car. I can’t drag race or drift around corners, but if someone starts telling me how I should drive, or implying that I can’t – we might exchange some words! (And if we did, that would be my pride showing its ugly face.)

I personally think that the same thing comes up with the definitions of God. We know how to love, we know how to trust, we know peace, and joy, and faith. Right? We know all these things. “Been there, done that.” I suspect that was roughly also the attitude of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Yes, they wanted to hold their power over the people, but Christ was also treading on their teachings themselves. He wasn’t just saying they were hypocrites, He was saying they weren’t good teachers, either. Now, that’s not all He said that was inflammatory, but even if He didn’t also claim He was God, His statements would have still been offensive to them.

So let’s get on with it, shall we? Let’s take a look at a few words that don’t quite mean to God what they mean to us.

Pride

Webster’s Definition:
: a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people
: a feeling that you are more important or better than other people
: a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.

Man’s Definition:
Pride is something good, as long as it doesn’t lead to narcissism or someone too cocky. We typically say things like, “You should be proud of what you’ve done.” And we say, “Take pride in your work,” and, “Be proud of who you are.” Generally speaking, we value pride in ourselves and others, as long as it doesn’t go too far. We feel we deserve respect and we like to feel important. We know we are better at certain things than other people, and we enjoy showing things off and receiving the admiration that results. Many people don’t think they are prideful, except maybe when they’ve done something particularly great. Independence and self-sufficiency are sought after and valued amongst all.

God’s Definition:

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV)

Pride is sin. This isn’t true every possible application of the word (as shown above), but the vast majority. Pride is at the heart of pretty much every sin, and it’s what tells man that he doesn’t need Christ. He doesn’t need God at all. He can do everything himself, why does he need God? Pride says that man doesn’t need salvation, he is a good person, so God should accept him as-is. Pride tells man that he worked for this, he obtained this, he did all the work and should take all the glory. Pride doesn’t acknowledge God having any part in anything. Pride is not thankful to God for anything because pride completely removes God from the picture. Pride tells man he can do all things – but doesn’t include, “through Christ who strengthens me”. Pride says that if you need God, you must be weak, but “I don’t need God.” Pride drives people towards independence and self-sufficiency and keeps them from God. Pride robs God of glory that only He deserves by proclaiming that we did everything ourselves. God hates pridefulness in man.

We should instead be proud of the God whom we serve, and the wonderful things He does. We should be proud of Christ our Savior, and the miraculous works He’s done for us, in providing the sacrifice for our sins.

Love

Webster’s Definition:
: a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person
: attraction that includes sexual desire : the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship
: a person you love in a romantic way

Man’s Definition:
Love takes various forms. There’s love between a man and a woman, love between a parent and child, love between siblings, love between friends, love of pets, etc. There is the loose form of “love” which really means, “like very much”. For example, one might “love” their coworkers or even “love” a particular meal. There is also the misapplication of love, which is actually “lust” or “infatuation” and some even misapply it to mean “obsession”. Generally speaking, we use the word “love” to mean we care very deeply for someone. However, it’s often conditional in the sense that we may love someone we are dating, or a spouse, or even a child/parent, but if they do something to hurt us or hurt us too often, we may stop loving them.

God’s Definition:

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. (Luke 6:23, KJV)

God is love. Many people know “what love is according to God” via 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which states:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… (1 Cor. 13:4-8, NASB)

As Dr. Benjamin says, you can replace “love” with “Jesus Christ” in the above verses and get a better picture of who Christ really is. That said, He died for us while we were sinners. It’s not that we stop sinning and then He starts loving us, He loved us from the beginning and loves us despite all the ways in which we have, do, and will wrong Him. God pours out His love on all people, even those who continually reject Him. As Matthew 5:45 says, He gives rain and sun to both the just and the unjust.

Sin

Webster’s Definition:
: offense against religious or moral law
: an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible
: an often serious shortcoming : fault
: transgression of the law of God
: a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

Man’s Definition:
Sin is basically anything immoral or unethical. Theft, murder, adultery, lying to cover something up – the big stuff. “Little white lies” generally aren’t considered wrong. Eying another man/woman while married often isn’t considered wrong (“look but don’t touch”) depending on the couple, taking pens from work, those generally aren’t considered “sins”. Gambling may or may not be deemed a sin depending on the person, and sometimes people will imply other things as “sinful” behavior. Largely, if someone is talking with a Christian they will refer to the ten commandments as “what is sin”.

God’s Definition:

He [Jesus Christ] went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23, NIV)

We are born into sin. Sin is of separation from God and results in physical dying and spiritual death – that is, separation from God for all eternity. Jesus said that our thoughts alone make us sinful, not merely our outward physical actions. Having evil thoughts but not acting on them is still sin, because it is representative of our overall sinful nature.

Of course, this list of sins does not include the most important commands Jesus gave, which is:”You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.”. According to Jesus, we are to love God with our whole being and love those around us to the same extent we love ourselves. So, if we are not doing that, it’s also sin. Not all sins are against other human beings (even though the majority are), but all sins are against God.

Time

Webster’s Definition:
: the thing that is measured as seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, etc.
: a particular minute or hour shown by a clock
: the time in a particular area or part of the world

Man’s Definition:
Well, there’s “that time of day”, “that time of night”, hours, minutes, and seconds on the clock, or days, months, and years. Time is what ticks by and we have to try to make the most of it before our time runs out. There’s the time in which we do things, and the time in which we rest. A time for work, and a time for play. Time causes us to age and time is “what heals all wounds”.

God’s Definition:

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4, KJV)

God is outside of time, in eternity. We as humans can’t fully comprehend eternity because we have only ever been within the realm of time. God created time in Genesis 1:3-5, so that is all we know. He is not restricted by the time He created for us, and He operates in every instant and moment. That is why a thousand years for God aren’t the same as a thousand years for us. God doesn’t age (except when Christ was in human form on earth and limited by his human nature). He is timeless.

Spirit/Soul

Webster’s Definition:
Spirit
: the force within a person that is believed to give the body life, energy, and power
: the inner quality or nature of a person
: a person
Soul
: the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body and in many religions is believed to live forever
: a person’s deeply felt moral and emotional nature
: the ability of a person to feel kindness and sympathy for others, to appreciate beauty and art, etc.

Man’s Definition:
The spirit or soul is the life within you that makes you You. We use the words in different ways as well such as, “spirit of independence”, “Christmas spirit”, or “soul food”, and often use them to simply characterize the emotions behind a particular action or thing. Many don’t believe that there is a spirit, or soul. Or, they believe that when someone dies, their spirit/soul dies also. Many atheists believe there is nothing besides the material world we live in consisting of atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions.

God’s Definition:

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5:23, KJV)

God is Spirit, and we each have a spirit/soul. Sometimes the words are used interchangeably, and other times they are not. For example, here is a verse referencing our soul:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28, KJV)

And here is a similar verse that instead references spirit:

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Eccl. 12:7, KJV)

The soul, as it pertains to human beings, can refer to the entire person or just his or her actual soul. And spirit, can be used in a way similar to soul, or it can be used to describe how we connect with God. There are also evil spirits, as in demonic forces. But all spirits and generally, souls, are immaterial.

When we are born into our sin nature, we are born “spiritually dead” but when we come to Christ we are made “spiritually alive”. That is, we are born spiritually separated from the Life Giver, and when we come to Christ we are joined to the Life Giver and thus only then do we have life.

Good

Webster’s Definition:
: of high quality
: of somewhat high but not excellent quality
: correct or proper

Man’s Definition:
Good is the opposite of bad. Sometimes we describe things as good to mean “not great”. We say things “taste good” to mean they taste pleasant and appealing. Sometimes we say “good job”, to mean that someone has done well. People say they are “good” to mean that they don’t think they are “bad”.

God’s Definition:

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19, NASB)

God is the source of all goodness. Good is of course the opposite of bad, and that is true of God as well, but to a much higher degree than it means to us in human terms. He is the pure, complete form of all goodness. However, the word translated as “good” in Hebrew also has a sense of purposefulness and functionality. When God created the heavens and the earth and “saw that it was good”, it is to say that He saw it functioned as it was intended. It wasn’t merely unspoiled and pure, it worked as it was designed to. God created us for a purpose so to say that we aren’t good is, in part, to say that we don’t fulfill the purpose for which God designed us. Christ on the other hand is good, being God the Son, and having perfectly fulfilled the purposes of His human presence on earth.

Justice/Fairness

Webster’s Definition:
Justice
: the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals
: a judge in a court of law

Fairness
: agreeing with what is thought to be right or acceptable
: treating people in a way that does not favor some over others
: not too harsh or critical

Man’s Definition:
We perceive that justice should be fair, but sometimes when people are as we perceive to be “monsters” we no longer think about what is or isn’t just and fair. Fair means that everyone gets treated equally. Justice means that everyone gets their “just reward” – the good guys are rewarded, bad guys are punished.

God’s Definition:

Yet the children of your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ But it is their way which is not fair! When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ (Ezekiel 33:14-19, ESV)

God is the source of all justice and fairness. He is the ultimate authority by which all will be judged, but He is 100% fair. However, he’s actually not fair in one way – His incredible mercy and grace. His grace gives us what we do not deserve at all. We all deserve the intense wrath of God for our wrongs, yet God gives us His incredible mercy instead, should we choose to accept it. If we do not choose to accept His salvation by way of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, then we are instead accepting His judgment. However, in His salvation, He is completely fair because Jesus died for all people, that all would choose to accept Him as their Savior. He knows that there are a great many who won’t, but He loves us all with His incredible love and pours out His grace, showering us with His mercy, thereby giving everyone the incredible gift of Himself. For everyone who chooses not to believe in Him, they will be responsible for their lack of response for as the Apostle Paul says:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:20-21, AKJV)

God makes it clear that He has provided ample evidence of Himself through His creation and His moral Law, therefore to not turn to Him requires a willfulness on our part. If we have heard the Gospel and rejected it, it will be on our heads come Judgment Day. If we have not heard the Gospel, but rejected any knowledge of God by His creation, then it will be on our heads according to what we have heard and have known and to what extent we have rejected Him. That said, He will be entirely fair in His dealings and no one will be able to say to Him, “That’s not true!” or, “That isn’t fair!” No one will be able to say, “Why should I be punished?” or “I didn’t know!” because He’s already made it perfectly clear in His Word. And few things will we be able to claim to not know were wrong because we all know His Law:

They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. (Romans 2:15, NLT)

Now, I realize that is a very short “dictionary”, but you get the idea. Our ways of defining things aren’t like the ways that God defines things. It’s not that we are consistently wrong, it’s that we are consistently limited. We only know what we know, we don’t know what we don’t know, and we don’t know how much we don’t actually know! We have limited understanding based on our restricted human nature, and at times even a tainted understanding based on our sinful nature.

It’s easy to see how people can get so confused about things of God, but once we understand some of the fundamental meanings of things as God defines them, we can better understand where some ways of thinking have gone astray.

Most importantly, we should look to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the true understanding of God and all things of Him.

All things have been entrusted and delivered to Me by My Father; and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Son except the Father, and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son deliberately wills to make Him known. (Matt. 11:27, AMP)

Why Can’t the Bible be More Clear and Direct?

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:130, NIV)

The other day, I was listening to someone, I believe it was Dr. William Lane Craig, talk about the salvation of children and infants. He said he believed that children and infants were saved automatically, as the Bible alluded to it, though it was not explicitly stated that way. He commented, however, that it was likely that God intentionally left that as an implication and not a direct statement due to the potential consequences if it was confirmed.

As I was listening, I started thinking about how there are many things in the Bible that aren’t explicitly stated. I thought about how many of these indirect statements and allusions the Bible makes and hence there are many divisions amongst believers on exactly what is believed. Although Orthodox Christianity as a whole agrees with the same core set of beliefs, there are so many variations in regards to the non-essential ones. And, there are groups who don’t agree with the same core set beliefs and branch off even further!

Does it mean that we have an arbitrary God who decided to make things more confusing that then leads people astray?

Of course not!

So I started thinking – what if the Bible were completely clear and straight-forward? 

It started as a point of sheer fantasizing – what if the whole Bible were as straight and simple as the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:3-17) are easy, straight-forward, and simple. What if instead of so many pages, it was a condensed booklet. What if it said something like this:

There is a God who is eternally existent and uncreated. He is a Spirit so you cannot see Him but He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God created the universe and all the water, land, plants and animals. God created man and woman. Man sinned and brought death and separation from God. God showed people many miracles and other signs as proof of His power and authority. God blesses and redeems those who believe in Him. God told the Israelites to sacrifice lambs to Him, because they were sinful and this was a foreshadow of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and that is His Son. God brought the birth of His Son through a virgin to show it was a miracle. Jesus did many signs and wonders to prove He was the Son of God and therefore also God Himself. Jesus was hated by many because He claimed to be God and they did not recognize Him as the Jewish Messiah. Jesus suffered and died a horrible death on the cross bearing our sins. Jesus was raised again in a bodily resurrection just as everyone who believes in Him will be one day. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so sacrificing of lambs and animals, feasts, festivals, sabbaths and the rest of the Law will be fulfilled and therefore we are not kept under it. Salvation is achieved by belief and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the 2nd person of the Godhead, or what could be called the “Trinity”. Jesus will one day come back again, this time to ultimately defeat evil and rule the world.

Welp, there’s the Bible in a nutshell, right? So easy and clear, and such a quick read. Now, not everyone who might read this will even agree with all the statements posed above but, that’s a discussion for another time. Anyway, let’s back track and say there was no Bible as we know it today. Let’s say that the Bible as we knew it consisted of the statements above and some others to cover say, the 10 commandments, the 613 laws, etc.

That would make things extremely convenient! It would be almost like Cliff’s Notes for the Bible, right? (I’m sure those exist but I don’t actually know nor am I inclined to find out.) How much simpler would that be?

“Well, I have a question about this…”

“Well, God said this.”

“Oh, yep. Thanks!”

In the midst of my novel thinking, I pondered, “What if that were really the case? What would the harm be?”

For starters, to realize the gravity of the situation, we first must recognize that the Bible is not merely some fictional literature. It is not even a singular book. It is many books, written by many different people, over the course of centuries, compiled together to make one single Book that we know today as the Bible.

What makes the Bible a special book and what gives it the singularity is that it is entirely inspired by and about God. It’s sort of an autobiography, if you will, done in an entirely different way from what we are used to. The entire Bible is to reveal God to man. It’s actually a picture book of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are “pictures” of Jesus throughout the entire Old Testament, and the entire Bible is used to reveal Him. By pictures, I don’t mean that you have to find a copy of the Bible with illustrations! I mean that there are symbolic meanings to be derived out of multiple places in the Old Testament about Jesus, and not strictly in the intentionally prophetical parts (such as the book of Isaiah).

The story of Jonah in the belly of the whale is probably the easiest. He was in the whale for 3 days, Jesus was dead for 3 days. Joseph, Isaac, Ruth/Boaz, David, etc – all have symbolic meaning and parallels, as “pictures” of Jesus. This (along with all other prophesies and everything else) isn’t just for poetic purposes, these “pictures” are revelations so that the Jews who met Jesus, having read the Scriptures, would recognize their Messiah. This is also for us in this day, to solidify the claims of Jesus as the Son of God as well as learning all about the Lord Jesus Christ. We can recognize that if people centuries before His birth were writing about Him, and things they prophesied and wrote were coming to fruition not just in what He said, but also what happened to Him, we can recognize the truth in the previous sayings and the overall meaning and importance!

Without the detailed accounts of the Old Testament or the New Testament, we also don’t get to see the evidence that God is who He says. We don’t get to see why certain things happen the way they happened. We don’t get to see His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His patience, His trustworthiness. In short, it’d be similar to saying “I love you” but never showing it.

Without the detailed accounts, we would have no reason to know that God is who He says He is. So, even if it were somehow possible even to pass along all this through the generations, what reason would anyone have to believe any of what was said? If some man just walked up to you and said,”I’m the Son of God, which also means that I am God Himself but being constrained right now within a human body. You need to trust in Me. I love you,” would you believe it? Would you have any reason to? Now let’s say that you had that information and then the same man performed miracles in front of you. Would you then believe it? Exodus tells us that some of Pharoah’s wizards could do a few of the same things that Moses was doing. Who’s to say that he wouldn’t simply be that? Why would we even know to believe in God at all?

Let’s say that somehow He managed to prove Himself as Son of God back in His time. And then here we are now, a couple milleniums later. Why would we believe those accounts from then? What reason would we have if that was all the information we were given? That truly would be blind faith!

I think there are other reasons at play here. If God made it abundantly clear and straightforward, we would be even more accountable to not listen, yet we would not necessarily have much justification for doing so! If God made things abundantly clear, would we turn to Him for anything? Many people pray for wisdom, guidance, and understanding. What we miss is that it brings us to a dependency on Him, which is what He calls us to – complete dependency on and submission to Him! Well, if it was all spelled out for us, then we would all easily be self-righteous. For example, the ten commandments tell us not to lie, steal, murder, etc. Right? So we would all be even more inclined, I speculate, to say, “OK, well, I don’t do those things, so I guess I’m all set!” That’s not what God wants of us at all.

We can also take a look at the history of the Bible. As mentioned, what we know as The Bible is actually a compilation of books throughout centuries. We have to look at it and treat it as a book of history, as well as the Word of God. The point being, if it didn’t have any history to it, it would have likely been done away with long before now and/or there would be no reason for us to follow it now. Some of the statements made within the text are used to date the Scriptures and help confirm their validity to unbelievers. If a historian studies the claims of Scripture and finds that they are true historical documents, then he or she might come to believe in Christ as a result. If a historian has nothing to go by in Scripture, then that person would have no reason to believe a word of it and would rightfully chalk it up as historical fiction. Since it has been shown even in our present day as a historical compilation of books, as well as one where different books within it also validate other books within it, we can trust that this truly is the Word of God and not merely Aesop’s Fables.

In summary, my exercise in imagination actually just revealed to me more about how incredible God is. As Dr. Jerry Benjamin says, “Scripture explains Scripture.” Meaning that in large part, the things that might not be clear while you’re reading them here often become more clear while you’re reading something else about them later on. If we read on and pray for guidance, we can gain deeper understanding. But we have to keep reading the Word. If it was all laid out before us, we would probably shove it into a drawer – or worse, a trash can – and forget all about it. But it is ultimately the Lord who reveals Himself to us in the Word – which would not be nearly as profound, significant, or meaningful if we had the Bible merely as an instruction book with bulleted points and numbered lists.