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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: 10 Reasons to Trust the Bible

Don Stewart :: The Bible’s Unique Teachings

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Reason 8

The Bible’s Unique Teachings

One aspect of the Bible that separates it from other religious books is its unique teachings. The teachings of Scripture cannot be explained as a product of the religious environment of its authors, since many of its teachings were contrary to the religious beliefs at that time. When the teachings of Scripture are compared to other ancient religions, they are found to be one of a kind, having no like or equal.

The Bible Has Many Unique Teachings

The Bible contains a number of unique teachings. We will examine three of the many special teachings of Scripture that were contrary to the beliefs of all of the nations surrounding Israel: the belief in one God; the teaching that the one God is a loving Father and a realistic hope of life beyond the grave.

  1. There Is Only One God Who Exists

    Against a world that accepted the existence of many gods, the Bible consistently, from beginning to end, proclaims the existence of only one God. The nation Israel was surrounded by cultures that were polytheists (they believed in and worshiped more than one God). Yet, the Old Testament is filled with warnings against idolatry and with condemnation of idolaters.

    Isaiah the prophet emphasized that there is only one God. He wrote:

    “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:10-11)

    These claims are in contrast to all of the nations around them which worshiped and served many gods.

    The New Testament continues in the proclamation that only one God exists. Paul emphasizes this in his letter to the Corinthians:

    So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)

    The unified message of Scripture is that there is only one God that exists, all others are only pretenders. This claim is in contrast to all the countries around Israel. Thus, their claim that only one God exists is unique.

    Idol Worship Was Forbidden

    There is something else that sets the God of the Bible apart from all others. Though idolatry was common in the ancient world, in contrast to the other nations, the Lord, the God of Israel, did not allow the making of images for the purpose of worship. We read in the Ten Commandments:

    You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. (Exodus 20:4-5)

    The God of Israel would not permit anyone to make a likeness of Him or anything else to worship.

    To sum up, Israel, in contrast to all of its neighbors, worshiped only one God. In fact, they denied the existence of all other gods. Furthermore, the God of Israel would not allow idols to be made of Him, or any other thing, for the purpose of worship. This was a unique belief and practice in that part of the world.

  2. The One God Is a Personal and Loving Father

    Not only does the Bible emphasize that only one God exists, the attributes of the God of the Bible are also different from the concept of God, or gods, in other cultures with whom Israel had contact. The Bible reveals a living God who is a personal God; He is One who cares for human beings as a loving Father. We can make the following observations:

    • He Is the Living God

      A person can be defined as someone who is rational and conscious of his own being. This is how the Bible portrays God. He is a person, not an impersonal force. The Bible speaks of Him as the living God. Jeremiah the prophet wrote:

      But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath. (Jeremiah 10:10)

      The God of Scripture is alive! He is not like the idols that the other nations served.

    • He Is a Loving God

      The Scriptures attribute characteristics to God that can be only those of a person. The Bible speaks of God having the capacity to love. Jeremiah recorded the following claim of the Lord:

      The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

      The gods of the other nations did not have this attribute. Indeed, they were to be feared, not loved.

      The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans about the love of God. He said:

      But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

      God the Father has shown His love toward humanity by sending God the Son, Jesus Christ, to the world. This love that God has for the human race is in contrast to the gods of other nations. Nowhere do we find these gods having this same characteristic.

    • He Is a God of Mercy

      The Scriptures teach that God has the ability to show mercy to humans. An example of this is found in the Book of Jonah. The Bible says:

      When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:10)

      When the people of Nineveh repented of their sin, God had mercy on them and did not bring about the promised destruction. Though these people deserved the judgment of God, their repentance led to God extending His mercy to them. This attribute was unique to the God of the Bible. The other so-called gods were not merciful.

    • The God of the Bible Is Different from Idols

      The Bible also contrasts the personal living God to non-existent idols. These idols can neither hear nor can they speak. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, he brought out the distinction between the living God and non-living idols. He said:

      The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. (1 Thessalonians 1:8-9)

      Hence the Bible contrasts the living God who hears, sees, thinks, feels and acts like a person with idols which are things, and not personal beings.

      The God of Scripture is obeyed and served because we love Him. This is in contrast to the gods of the pagan world who were to be obeyed and served out of fear rather than from loving respect. Jesus Christ reveals an idea of the fatherly attitude of the God of the Bible: He said:

      So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”) (Luke 11:9-13)

      What a contrast between the God of Scripture and the gods of the other religions! The Bible tells believers to obey God out of their love for Him, Jesus said to His disciples:

      If you love me keep my commands. (John 14:15)

      All of this demonstrates the personal nature of the God of the Bible. Again, this teaching is in complete contrast to the depiction of the gods of the ancient world. They were not personal, loving and forgiving gods. Only the God of Scripture has these characteristics. This is another unique feature which sets Him apart from all other so-called gods.

  3. There Is Life Beyond the Grave

    A final example of a unique teaching of the Bible is the evidence it provides for life beyond the grave. All of us have to face the fact that we eventually will die. What happens to a person after death? The writer of Ecclesiastes, like the rest of us, wondered about what happens to people when they die. He wrote:

    Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20)

    Most religions deal with the question of life beyond the grave. To some, this life is all that there is, while other religions teach that there is an afterlife. Is there life after death?

    We find that a study of God’s Word, the Bible, reveals that death is not the end of existence; it is just the beginning of eternity. There is hope of eternal life for those who have died “in Christ.”

There Is a Realistic Hope for the Dead

From an observational point of view, we do not know what happens to a person after they die. We bury their body and it returns to dust:

Someone once observed that, “A person can live forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only about one second without hope.”

The thing that separates the Bible from other religious books is that it provides a realistic hope for those who have died.

Our Hope Is Based upon the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The basis of this promise is the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter, speaking fifty days after Jesus’ death, declared the following to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost:

Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:22-24)

The unanimous testimony of the New Testament is that Jesus rose from the dead, and He appeared to many people after His death. These individuals provide eyewitness testimony to the fact of His resurrection.

The Dead in Christ Have Hope

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica regarding the state of those who had died. He emphasized there is hope for the dead:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

The Apostle Paul says it is proper for people to sorrow for those who have died. But we are not to sorrow as the unbelievers do; for we have a hope beyond the grave.

Believers Will Receive a New Body

The Bible promises a new body for those who have put their faith in Christ. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Corinthians 5:1)

This new body will be ours forever.

In another place, Paul told the Corinthians they would receive an imperishable body.

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:53)

This is a wonderful promise that the Lord gives to His people.

People Are Able to Prepare for Death

Because the Bible promises eternal life in God’s presence for those who trust Christ, there are things people can do to prepare for death. The first step is obvious. Preparation for death and eternal life requires faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

The believer can then prepare for death by realizing that God has a purpose and a plan for his life. The psalmist trusted God to be with him through the experience of life as well as death. In the famous 23rd Psalm, we read David saying the following words:

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

The believer has no ultimate fear of death because the Lord is there for them.

Conclusion: the Teachings of Scripture Are Different from the Teachings of Other Religions

The belief in one God, the idea of God as a personal, loving Father, and a genuine hope beyond the grave are three of many of the unique beliefs found in the Scripture. The Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, contains teachings that are unique and they are wonderful in comparison to the best teachings offered in any other religious or non-religious writings.

How can we explain these teachings? They certainly did not come from the common beliefs at that time. The best explanation is the one Scripture itself gives; the Bible is God’s written Word to the human race.

Thus, these teachings about God set the Bible apart from all other books. The unique teachings of the Bible are indeed a true wonder.

Summary - Reason 8
The Bible’s Unique Teachings

An aspect of the Bible that separates it from other religious books is its unique teachings. The teachings of Scripture cannot be explained as a product of the religious environment of its authors, since many of its teachings were contrary to the religious beliefs at that time. When the teachings of Scripture are compared to other ancient religions, they are found to be one of a kind, having no like or equal.

This includes the teaching that only one God exists; that the one God is personal and loving; and that this personal loving God has provided objective evidence of life after death.

These teachings of the Scripture are not based upon wishful thinking or upon some mythological view of God. Instead, they are based upon the facts. A personal and loving God exists and He has a plan for the human race.

This same God has provided more than sufficient evidence to believe in Him. These unique teachings of Scripture are another feature that makes the Bible distinct from all other religious literature.

The Bible’s Honesty ← Prior Section
The Bible’s Main Character: Jesus Christ Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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