Sermon: Understanding Your Bible - 1 Corinthians 15

We will explore a foundational concept that can help us be confident of our understanding of Scripture.

Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15

This message will provide help in understanding the Bible. Because it is a lengthy book, spanning several centuries, and varied life situations, we often wonder if we understand it correctly. We will explore a foundational concept that can help us be confident of our understanding of Scripture.

Introduction

No book has been of greater value than the Bible, but no book has been more abused and misquoted than the Bible. Shootings of abortion providers, slavery and segregation, religious violence, and even immorality have all been "justified" by people who cite biblical authority. We know these things cannot be right, but we are not confident in our own understanding of Scripture. There is a single concept that can help you more fully understand your Bible. It is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.Just as Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee offers a stunning view of several surrounding states, so Calvary gives you a clear view of the Bible.

Outline

I. The cross reveals the central figure (3)

The cross puts the spotlight on Jesus.He is the central figure of the Bible.As important as Moses, David, Joshua, Peter, Paul and all others are, Jesus is the "star" in the Bible.

Those who read the Bible come to the cross like those who "rubberneck" a tragic auto accident. We think, "poor wretch" what did He do to deserve this?" And then we hear Him pray for those who are killing Him, and promise paradise to a dying thief, and proclaim, "it is finished!" Our mouths drop in horror: this is God! And we know that all that has gone before and all that will come after is about Him.

II.The cross solves the supreme problem (3)

Sin is the central problem of the Bible. It appears in the opening pages and its examples and impact are constant theme. The plot of the Bible is how to solve the problem of sin. The cross is God's solution to the problem of sin.

The impact of sin is obvious in our lives. Solving its problem becomes a matter of critical importance to our daily affairs. This is the reason the Bible is so valuable to us: it tells us how to solve the sin problem. When we come to the cross we find, at last, something that can help us. Jesus forgives and breaks the power of sin over us at the cross.

III. The cross demonstrates the supernatural nature (3)

Christ died on the cross according to what the Bible had promised.It is important to realize that the cross was not "plan B", nor was it something merely forced upon Jesus that He could not avoid. Thousands of years prior to His crucifixion the Bible foretold its occurrence.

Critics question the supernatural nature of the Bible.It may happen in school, at work, or even in the quietness of our reflections on the Bible's moral demands. "Why give credence to the expectations in the Bible?" Countless prophecies fulfilled remind us: this is not an ordinary book.It is God's Word.

IV. The cross provides for a spiritual understanding (1-2)

In the first 2 verses in this chapter, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they had been saved by the preaching of the cross. This made them "spiritual" people with "spiritual" understanding.Some of them had grown up hearing the Old Testament read and taught; others had never heard a verse of Scripture prior to hearing the gospel. But because of the cross, they could now understand their Bibles in the way God meant them to be understood.

The Bible will be at best, good advice until the cross has impacted your life. At worst, the Bible will be gibberish until you have received Christ as your Savior. At that point you establish a relationship with the author of the Bible and begin to understand it as you understand Him.

Conclusion

Many of you have multiple Bibles in your homes. Some of you have bought Bibles because you hoped this or that one would be more easily understood than another. And rightly so.However, to understand the Bible you must begin at the cross of Jesus Christ. There you will see Him as the central figure of Scripture. You will receive the help you need with your own sins, and you will realize that this truly is a supernatural book.

Illustrations

Galileo's vision

In 1610, Galileo, using his newly invented telescope, observed that Venus was in orbit around the sun, indicating that the prevalent "earth-centered" view of the universe was in error. Our telescope for correctly understanding the Bible and the universe is the cross.

(Virginia Stem Owens, "Galileo and the Powers Above," Christian History, Issue 76, Fall 2002, Vol. XXI, No. 10, Page 10. Available on the Internet: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/2002/004/1.10.html.)

The central problem of the first half of the 20th century

In 1936 Hitler crossed the Rhine, violating the Treaty of Versailles. Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Deladier met with Hitler and attempted to solve the threat of Nazism. Their famous conclusion was that they had achieved "peace in our time." To solve the problem of Nazism, millions of innocent people were required to die. The problem of sin was solved by only one death - that of Jesus Christ.

(Munich Pact, Encyclopedia.com [online]. Cited 14 January 2003. Available on the Internet: http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/M/MunichP1a.asp.)

The rosetta stone of salvation

For years scholars were baffled by the inscriptions in the Egyptian pyramids. Then in 1799, a soldier in Napoleon's army found the Rosetta Stone. The stone was marked with inscriptions in Greek and in two Egyptian languages. It became the key to understanding the inscriptions in the pyramids. The cross is the key that unlocks the Bible for us. Until we understand it, we cannot fully understand Scripture.

(The Rosetta Stone, The British Museum [online]. Cited 14 January 2003. Available on the Internet: http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/egyptian/ea/gall/rosetta.html.)

Lists of fulfilled prophecies

To communicate the supernatural nature of the Bible, it is sometimes helpful to list and briefly comment on the fulfilled prophecies it contains. One of the best sources for this is Chapter 9 of Josh McDowell's book titled Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Additional sermon starters

Learning to use your Bible (Psalm 119: 25-32)

Consider preaching a sermon on the mechanics of Bible study. Using this passage as a foundation, present some basic concepts for effective personal Bible study. Some of these might include: the use of an understandable translation, taking sufficient time to study, prayer to seek God's help in Bible study, and the use of a notebook to enhance study.

Avoiding religious mistakes (Matthew 22:23-33)

Understanding the Bible protects us from error in thinking and living. The error of the Sadducees came in part, from their lack of understanding of the Bible. A good introduction to the New Testament will provide background on the belief system of the Sadducees and parallels could be drawn to those who question the validity of Scripture today.

Creative worship ideas

Bible drill

Begin the message with a brief Bible Drill. This will demonstrate the importance of this element of the church's ministry and provide an excellent transition to the sermon. If you lack the resources to do this, the state convention offices in your state will be glad to provide materials and training to do this, given sufficient lead time.

Q&A preaching

Train and plant some "volunteers" in your congregation. Begin the message by telling the congregation that today's message will be a question and answer session. Be clear that you will not be able to answer everyone's questions about the Bible, but will recognize people one at the time, then answer their questions. Each question is linked to a main point in the sermon.

Have a "volunteer" ask, "How can I keep track of all the different characters in the Bible? How do I know who is important and who is not?" This leads into your first point about Jesus being the central character of the Bible.

When you finish this point, take another "volunteer's" question: With all the plots and subplots in the Bible, how can I be sure I'm getting what is important from it?" This leads into your second point about the problem of sin in the Bible.

When you are ready for you're third point, have a volunteer ask, "How can I know that the Bible is trustworthy?" This leads to the supernatural nature of Scripture.

Emil Turner serves as executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. He and his wife, Mary, have two sons and two grandsons. Turner enjoys fishing and hunting in his spare time.