I would like to devote this post to a very important aspect of Christian, and thereby human, life and living. It’s that part of our lives that we sometimes fail to give enough attention, let alone urgent consideration to. We fail to place enough weight as to its crucial necessity in today’s hectic, demanding, and increasingly dangerous and hate-filled world. I am talking about reading and studying our Bibles, and devoting time and effort to this vital activity, not only for our own well-being, but for the interests and benefit of those around us. Yes, it’s an activity that’s an essential part of living the “Triune Life,”* a term I coined and repeatedly espouse on this site, about human life that is lived in the midst of the Tri-Personal Being of God who declares Himself as a God who is every way, shape, and form, LOVE! (1 John 4:8, 16). Living the Triune Life and Love means to live the participatory, communal life associated with the divine Tri-Personal God.
The Gutenberg Bible is the first substantial book printed in the West with movable metal type. Before its printing in 1454 or 1455, books were copied by hand. Owned by the US Library of Congress (Wiki Commons)
As believers and non-believers alike, we know the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. The apostle Peter tells us why it is inerrant and how the Bible came to be in our hands today, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2 Pet.1:20-21, NLT) Then Paul tells us the Bible’s purpose and function, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim.3:16-17). (As far as the accuracy of translations from the original languages, we will leave that for another time and place. Suffice to say that scholars agree the Bible as we have it today has been preserved over the centuries with a remarkable degree of trustworthiness) So, the Bible as a book from God to His human creation is holy, inerrant, and contains the word of life which is capable of producing divine “goodness” to those who are exercised by it. Its positive flow-on effect produces a way of life which brings life-giving benefits to others around the person schooled and trained in it,
I would like to share just one aspect of reading and studying the Bible that is vital to getting the most value from the Word of God. One of the most common mistakes people do in their Bible reading and study is they read their own meaning into the Scriptures rather than God’s meaning and being transformed by the mind of God. We have just read the Scripture which tells us the Bible did not come to us by private interpretations. So, to break the cardinal rule upon which the Bible is founded is tantamount to reducing the Bible to a mere human book like any other. For each time we make private interpretations for our own ends we miss the meaning of God’s intent it becomes a mere human document and ceases to be God’s divine and inerrant guide for us. God has given us freedom as part of His divine nature, and we ought to behave responsibly when it comes to God’s Word. That is what Adam did when, with his wife Eve, they partook of the forbidden fruit. They used their freedom to allow their self-will to determine “good from evil,” without turning to God (Love) for guidance.
I want to share with you a ‘rule of thumb’ if I may call it that. This will help us keep on a straight and narrow path to the divine intentions and will of our heavenly Father for His human children. We will begin at the beginning, as always. God gave Adam and Eve the fruits of the “tree of life” to eat and be sustained spiritually. There were other fruit trees in Eden which sustained them physically, but the “tree of life” was different and special for it sustained them spiritually. (Gen.1:29; 3:6) Also in the garden, God planted the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” which God forbade Adam and Eve from ever touching, much less eat its fruit. This tree represent spiritual death, whereas the “tree of life” depict the God-life.
We preview life in the Pre-Adamic era because it tells us the life God desired in His relationship with humans when humans had not fallen by eating the forbidden fruit. Many believe our first parents fell to the devil’s temptation at their very first encounter in the Garden of Eden. If that were true then it would be reasonable to assume Satan was undoubtedly stronger than God. We would also have to conclude we are today at the mercy of the devil’s wiles and deception. The Genesis account of life in Eden was very brief, and much of human recollection of our first parents was their disobedience rather than their obedience prior to their fall. No, Adam and Eve had for a very, very, long period of time lived faithfully and in vibrant Love-relationship with God as their Father by freely eating the Love fruits from the “tree of life.” It was a testament to the power of God’s Love.
Adam & Eve Eating From the “Tree of Life” Representing God’s Spirit and Love (Wiki Commons)
The Scriptures reveal God is more powerful than His enemies, and the devil and fallen angels “tremble in terror” at the mention of His Name. (Jam.2:19; Luk.4:31-37). Jesus defeated the best Satan could muster against Him in the temptations in the wilderness of Judea so we can live the victorious life through Him. (Matt.4:1-12) The Post-Adamic era after the fall show how God was allowing man to learn from the error of his ways, then making provision for a Redeemer in His Son, and restore the Love-relationship of the Pre-Adamic reality in the Spirit (“tree of life”) to believers. (John 3:16; Act.2:1-4)
Let’s come back to the ‘rule of thumb’ about God’s Word I mentioned earlier. You can say the “tree of life” was to our first parents what the Bible is for us today. The “tree of life” with its fruits represented the work of the Holy Spirit by guiding us through God’s Word. The fruits of the Spirit today is seen as the different tones of God’s Love which Paul catalogs in his letter to the Corinthians. (1 Cor. 13, and other passages) These fruits are not legalistic requirements we obey, but gives us a peek into the way of life of Love the Tri-Personal Being of God have existed and lived by from eternity. And now He calls us, and gives us His Spirit to empower us to live in His presence.
So, to keep their Love-relationship with God glowing and responsive, Adam and Eve had to engage the Spirit (fruits of Love) to guide them in God’s way of Love and life. Though the “tree of life” may be symbolical, it was real and represented true substance of spiritual value and life to them. We understand our first parents were created full adults without the benefit of hindsight of growing from babies to adults as we do. So, the fruits were symbolically knowledge ‘capsules’ the Spirit infused into our parents to help them understand and live the divine way of life (Love).
The Fruits of the “Tree of Life” Representing the Love of God (1Cor.13) (Pic. by Tomwsulcer Wiki Commons)
Let me share some information from the ancient texts of patristic writing you may find interesting. It was hypothesized that Adam and Eve existed in a state of ‘human immortality’ in Eden. It was the essential and normal order of their state of being In God’s immortal presence, sharing His immortal likeness, “Let us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness (Gen.1:26-27). The context is implicit the source of their ‘human immortality’ and way of life came from their daily sustenance from the fruits of the “tree of life.” The tree represented the Holy Spirit whose power raised up Jesus from the dead, and will raise humans to immortality in future. (Rom.8:11) So, when God told our first parents of the consequences of their rebellion, “You shall surely die,” if they ate the forbidden fruit, for them it was a literal death sentence not only in the spiritual sense, but also in the physical sense because up until then they had never experienced any form of bodily deterioration. Physical death was not part of man’s original lot, but God foretold he would die in whatever day he ate the forbidden fruit. (Gen.2:17, KJV)
The moment Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and sin entered their lives, their ‘human immortality’ disappeared suddenly, and they assumed nothing more than their temporary human existence and mortality. The metamorphosis from immortality to mortality happened in a flash because light and darkness cannot co-exist. So, immortality is not a totally distant proposition for mankind, man had lived it before. Immortality was man’s lot for he was made in God’s eternal likeness. Our predicament is, only Adam and Eve experienced what it was like. So, there were no other firsthand witnesses beside them.
Having been reduced to a mere temporary human existence, another ancient text states Adam was consumed with inconsolable grief for what they had done and all they had lost. But there was no turning back for a mighty cherubim stood guard prevented them from reentering Eden. (Gen.3:21-24) When God said, “He (Adam) must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the ‘tree of life’ and eat and live forever,” (V.22) attests to the ‘human immortality’ they possessed and lost due to their rebellion. Of course our original parents were totally devastated, they has just lost Paradise for a bite of the forbidden fruit. God had forgiven them but divine justice calls for a ransom to save mankind from the spirit of rebellion and sin.
Paul speaks eloquently of the reversal of the consequences of Adam’s rebellion through Christ, the second Adam, at a future time, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep (death), but we will be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must be clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality…Then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor.15:51-55). So, we see how immortality will be given back to humanity in exactly the same way it was taken – “in a flash, in a twinkling of an eye.” The first Adam was responsible for taking it away, and the second Adam, Jesus, is the One who will bring eternal life back to mankind. The Bible calls Jesus the “firstborn (human made immortal) among many brothers and sisters” (Rom.8:29).
Man’s Destiny – Human Made Immortal Like Jesus (Fountain of Eternal Life in Downtown Cleveland, Ohio, USA – Wiki Commons)
So, the first point to remember about the Bible is the Holy Spirit is the One who leads us to understand the meaning of God’s will and our ultimate purpose of immortality. The Spirit’s work is the ‘rule of thumb’ in the reading and study of God’s Word. (2 Pet.1:20-21) Why is the Holy Spirit the all-important equation in understanding the genuine will of God for our lives? Because we are fallen beings, and as such we will always see things through the human “solitary life” under the sway of Satan and his worldly influence. The Spirit brings the “Triune Life” and Jesus’ new life and the inspiration of His Kingdom into the life of the believer.
So, Paul tells us the only way out, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal.2:20a). Yes, this false self who lives the “solitary life” must be put to death, and the new life in the Spirit enters the human heart to energize the life of Christ. Jesus makes this plain when He said, “You must be born again of the Spirit” (John 3:7-8). Yes, we undergo a rebirth where Jesus comes and walks in us in the Spirit’s power. Then we can walk in our true self reflecting Jesus and the Love of God. Jesus also said we are to “take up our cross daily and follow Him” (Luk.9:23). It means this death of the false self becomes a daily exercise in repentance and forgiveness symbolized by the cross of Jesus we carry. The false self does not just ride away in the sunset, never to be seen again, no, he has to be exorcized daily. Paul said, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered” (Rom.8:36).
I believe the secret key to understanding the Bible is revealed by Jesus in the Gospel of John. Jesus said this about God’s will for each us and the role of the Spirit in it, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you” (John 16:13-15). We read this passage with an obvious detached manner and miss its substance and meaning. But let us take a closer look. It is clear the Spirit cannot act independently but interdependently as He is essentially and intrinsically part of the Triune Godhead with the Father and the Son.
Here, Jesus explains the role of the Spirit within and as an integral part of the Tri-Personal Being of God – He hears the Father and Son in Loving discourse and makes it known to the believer. What does the Spirit hears in heaven and makes known to the human believer? The Spirit, in fellowship with the Father and the Son, is hearing their Love discourse about you the believer. It is obvious the Spirit can only communicate matters concerning what the believer can comprehend and understand. Or, how else would you know let alone understand what is being communicated unless it is a personalized message intended for you? The Father and Son is not discussing some future world shaking events of this world which you may be totally oblivious to and with which you are unacquainted. Rather, it is about your personal spiritual well-being which you can totally relate with and understand. It is about your place in their Life as the Triune God.
The Father and Son’s discourse about you is being relayed down the line through the Spirit as He helps you respond to the Father’s wish and will for your life. It is important to understand the Spirit is revealing personal messages concerning “what is yet to come” as it concerns your personal future which is near and dear to the Father and the Son. In all of their discourses about you, your personal freedom is of paramount importance. For Love is exercised with freedom, for without it Love is hardly legitimate. Note that even in our Bible reading and study we are called upon to live the “Triune Life”* where the Father, Son, and Spirit participate in our salvation. In the final analysis, the Bible can be made relevant to each of us only when we see ourselves as part and parcel of its fabric.
And here we read the first step in communication of living the “Triune Life”*. This is a two-way communication that takes place through Bible reading and study under the Spirit’s guidance and power. The second is like it – prayer. We pray to God and He answers through His Son and the work and Love of the Spirit in our lives. Jesus is the Personified Word of God, while the Bible is the literal Word of God, and the Spirit makes Jesus known to us on an individual, personal, and relational level. (John 16:12-15) Then communication is further enhanced through meditation and in the form of art as in songs and praises. Then there is the art of occasional fasting. We will cover each in detail another time.
Jesus, The “Personified” Word of God, Teaching His Followers (By James Tissot – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2007, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/)
“Studying to show yourself approved to God” is not about selective reading and hearing of God’s Word. Because our fallen rebellious nature is not subjected to God’s Love and can’t be, most times His Word stands up to our selfish attitudes, listen, “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” (Heb.4:12; Jer.17:9). But in the midst of what can be described as a seemingly compulsive bumpy human existence, the Spirit’s presence brings deliverance, stability, and peace of mind, listen, “For it is God (the Holy Spirit) who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His (and your) good purpose. Therefore, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation” (Phi.2:12-15, emphasis added).
The believer is given power to live the miraculous life within the “Triune Life,”* for in the final analysis Paul reveals the hidden secret of His Word, “The Kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power” (1 Cor.4:20). For it is not the literal meaning of God’s Word which fundamentally counts, but the Personified Word who is Jesus Christ Himself. The literal Bible exists to point us to the Personified Jesus. The Bible’s literal form cannot be given an autonomous position of authority apart from the Person of Jesus, the Personified Word of God. He is the Personal and undeniable reflection of the literal Word of God we see in print. Ultimately only the resurrected Jesus, not the printed word, who brings God’s power by walking in us as His disciples.
The purpose of reading and studying our Bibles is one, and one only. Likewise, Adam and Eve were sustained by the fruits of the “tree of life” for a singular purpose. It was to feed the divine Love God had deposited in the human heart to reflect the essence of His Own Being in them. (Gen.1:27) In these two equivalent experiences, being sustained by the “tree of life” and drinking in God’s Word through reading and study, both are intended to inspire us to Love God first, and Love Him above all else. To Love God preeminently is to reflect our whole existence in Him and His Love-Being in us, for we were created in His likeness.
To “Love God (the Father) with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind” is plainly not humanly possible to do in our fallen state of being. But there is One who has done it as a human, and has been doing it for eternity – Jesus, the Son of God! We step into His life and He in us and through the Spirit’s Love we can be made to truly Love God as He Loves us. (Luke 10:27; John 17:20-25; Rom.5:5) That is the one sole purpose of His Word, and the reason we read and study the Bible.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or you may email me on bulamanriver.com. Thank you for visiting.
Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessings of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you always. May the Spirit enliven your spirit and make all things concerning you possible as you live the “Triune Life”* as a Bulamanriver.** Be strong in the Lord’s joy.
Kiang, (Your Servant In Christ)
* Triune Life: means a life lived according to the image and likeness of God. (Gen.1:26-27) It means a believer who lives the 3-dimensional life with the Triune God, as opposed to the ‘solitary’ 1-dimensional life in himself. It means God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, lives and walks in you. Man’s union with the Triune God, or “Triune Living,” is made possible by Jesus, who Himself, is one in substance and reality with the Triune God, who took our humanity into the very Being of the Triune Godhead. To live the “Triune Life” is the miraculous expression of the Spirit in us. The miraculous life is the promise of the New Covenant, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My ordinances, and do them” (Ezek.36:27) You can read more at: http://bulamanriver.net/?p=8036
**Bulamanriver: To read the different facets of the life of the Bulamanriver, go to my website, www.bulamanriver.com, where you can order a copy of my book, “Bulamanriver – The Miracle of Triune Living” Or, you may go to the directory banner at top and click “Mission” where you will find more information.
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.
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