G PS GOD’S PLAN for SALVATION
ALL AN CHAPPLE
Published December 2013 Copyright © Allan Chapple 2012 This book is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism and review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part of this book may be reproduced by any process without the express permission of the publisher. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of Biblica US, Inc. Aquila Press PO Box A287 Sydney South NSW 1235 AUSTRALIA Ph: +61 2 8268 3333 Fax: +61 2 8268 3357 www.cepstore.com.au National Library of Australia ISBN 978-1-922000-96-5 Project manager: Derek Nelson Managing editor: Natasha Percy Theological editor: Guangyao Un
CONTENTS Acknowledgements 5 Introduction 7 1. Taking the Bible to pieces
2. Tell me the old, old story
3. Can we have that one again?
4. Getting to the End: Step 1
5. Getting to the End: Step 2
6. Getting to the End: Step 3
7. Getting to the End: Step 4
8. Here at last!
9. Preparing for Jesus: Part 1
10. Preparing for Jesus: Part 2
11. What sort of End is this?
12. What happens at the End?
13. Such a great salvation
14. Salvation now and then
15. What now?
Reading the Bible in a year
GPS: God's Plan for Salvation
INTRODUCTION If you’ve just picked up this book, you’ll be wondering what it’s about. I think you’re entitled to receive an answer to three obvious questions about the book—so let me ask and answer them for you.
What is this book trying to achieve? Perhaps I should tell you first what it doesn’t do. It isn’t a book-by-book survey of the Bible, because there’s a very good book that does just that. Written by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, it’s called How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour (2002, Zondervan, Grand Rapids). Instead, together we’re going to produce a guidebook that will help you to find your way around in the Bible. Here are three ways of thinking about what this means. You can think of what we’ll be doing as making a map of the Bible. What I have in mind is not the street directory you keep in your car, but a map of your state or county. We’re going to work out what the Bible as a whole is all about, and how it fits together. We are not going to get down to individual streets, as your street directory does. We’ll be concentrating instead on the big picture. Like your map, ours
GPS: God's Plan for Salvation
will focus on the Bible’s overall shape—the main landmarks and contours in the territory it covers. It will also focus on the major roads—the main themes that connect all the parts of the Bible with each other. If maps hold no fascination for you, here’s a second way of thinking about what we’re going to do. Only a day or two after we’d arrived in town, one of the farmers in the church we had just come to serve took my wife and me for a flight in his small plane. He flew us over the whole district that was now ‘my territory’, pointing out landmarks, showing us where church members’ farms were and so on. In this book, I’ll be doing for you what he did for me. I’ll take you on a flight over the Bible so that you get to see it as a whole. This will make it much easier for you to find your way around in the Bible and much harder for you to get lost. One more analogy for people who don’t like reading maps or flying in small aircraft! You can think of this book as giving you an X-ray of the Bible, so that you can see the skeleton that gives it its shape and holds it together. So the focus isn’t what you see on the surface of your Bible (66 books belonging to several different categories, two Testaments, and so on), but what’s just below the surface. There you have it: a map of the Bible, a flight over the Bible, an X-ray of the Bible—this is the what of this book. Why do we need a book like this? Don’t we have more than enough Christian books already? There are two main reasons why I’ve written this book. The first is practical—and the second is much more important than that. (Yes, I know it sounds almost heretical to suggest that being practical is not the most important thing of all! I’ll explain what I mean in just a moment.) The practical reason for the book is this: if we don’t know what the Bible is all about—if we’ve got no grasp of the Bible as a whole, what it’s telling us and where it’s pointing us—then trying to live as a Christian won’t be much better than being lost on a mystery journey in the middle of a fog without a light or a compass. We won’t know where we are. We won’t know where we should be heading. All we can do is to stumble onwards, hoping not to get caught in
hidden traps. Sadly, I think that too many of us struggle through life like this because nobody ever gave us a Bible-map. This is true even of Christians who have been reading their Bible every day for many years. So you may have found that trying to understand the Bible is as hard as doing a jigsaw puzzle when the lid of the box is missing. You’ve got all the bits of the puzzle but you don’t know what the picture is supposed to be. You can make some of the bits fit together—but it’s very hard to finish the puzzle if you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like. Much the same is true with the Bible: if we don’t know what the ‘big picture’ is, then lots of the Bible will be hard to work out. We’ll be bound to struggle as servants of the Lord Jesus. Well, that’s the practical reason for this book—so now to the much more important reason. But what could be more important than being practical? If you think about it for a moment, practical reasons are usually ‘me’ reasons: they are about how I handle life and its issues. This isn’t necessarily wrong. After all, anything that will help me to live with less confusion and with more confidence as a Christian must be good (as I hope this book will be!). As a Christian I know that this isn’t by any means the most important thing of all. What matters most is not that I am less confused but that God is more glorified. My chief ambition should be to live my life in a way that really counts for God. Our highest calling as human beings is to honour God—and we can’t possibly do that if we don’t know what honours him. And we can’t know that unless we know what matters to him—and we can’t know that unless he tells us. In other words, we can’t live truly God-centred, God-serving lives if we don’t know what the Bible is all about. Unless I know what God is like, what he’s doing, and where he’s heading, I can’t live my life in line with his purposes. This means that with the best will in the world, with all the eagerness and zeal I can muster, I might end up living at cross-purposes with God. What a tragedy that would be. What a waste of a life! So, what’s the reason for this book? First of all, by giving you a Bible-map to guide you, it aims to make sure that you don’t easily get lost or confused, but
GPS: God's Plan for Salvation
can stay on track as a Christian. Secondly, and most importantly, its aim is to help you to live in line with God’s great purposes, in a way that truly honours him. That’s why I’ve written it. How will the book do this? First and foremost, by looking carefully at what the Bible says. This means that you’ll need a Bible as you’re reading this book. So if you plan to keep reading, and you don’t have a Bible with you, now’s the time to go and get one. All of the quotations in this book come from the New International Version (2011). You don’t need to go and buy a copy of this translation if you don’t already have one. Any of the mainstream translations will do: the New Revised Standard Version, the English Standard Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible—to name just a few. Secondly, as we look at different parts of the Bible, we’ll be looking for basic patterns in the way God works, or for basic themes that keep re-appearing. Thirdly, by noting and explaining these themes and patterns, the book will give you a framework—a map that you can use to navigate your way through the Bible, and thus also through your life as a Christian. Or (one last bonus analogy!) it will give you a set of handles that will enable you to take a firm grip on what the Bible teaches. So there you have an answer to the What? Why? and How? of this book. Now I need to give you four explanations about what is in the rest of the book. The first is about this heading: GET IT? GOT IT! You’ll find this at the end of each chapter, and in these sections you’ll usually find two things. There will be questions that help you to recall the main things the chapter was aiming to teach you. There will also be suggestions about ways you can build on what you learned from the chapter. For example, there might be lists of Bible passages relating to the main points in the chapter. This will help you to see where these points come from; it will also enable you to check whether this book has got it right. (God’s Book is always right—and it’s the only one that is.) The second explanation is about the passages that look like this. The reason they are fenced off from the rest of the book isn’t that they
are dangerous! They look different so that you can leave them out if you want to. In some cases this is because what they say isn’t on the same track as what comes before and after them. If you want to think of it this way, these are the moments on a bushwalk when you leave the main path to have a quick look at something interesting. Then you return to the path and start the next section of the walk. In other cases these sections stay with the subject we’ve just been dealing with, but look at it more deeply. You may already be feeling that you’re in danger of information overload when you get to one of these—in which case, you can leave them and come back to them later.
You mightn’t need this third explanation just yet—but you will before you finish the book. One problem with tackling the whole Bible in one go, as this book is trying to do, is that you may end up with indigestion. So don’t be surprised if, somewhere along the way, you feel absolutely bloated! When this happens, it’s important that you don’t misunderstand what it means. It’s not your fault, but mine. We’ll be covering a lot of ground fairly quickly, and it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to take it all in at one go. When you need a rest, have one. Only read as much as you can handle—and then read more later, after you’ve had time to digest the first lot. Can I say just a bit more about this? I know this is your book, not mine—but I do have a suggestion about how to use it. You might get more value from it by reading through it very quickly the first time—not trying to take it all in, but just getting a general impression of what it says. Then you can go through it again later, perhaps just one chapter at a time. This will be a much slower read, as you’ll need to stop and look at the Bible passages that are mentioned, and so on. But this will make it much easier for you to understand and absorb what the book’s all about. And do remember that God wants to be involved in the whole process. Each time you read a new section, you could use the prayer at the end of this introduction—or use your own words to ask God to teach you what you need to know, and to make you what you ought to be. The fourth explanation might be the most important one for you. I have assumed that most of the people who read this book will already belong to
GPS: God's Plan for Salvation
the Lord Jesus. So the book speaks as though that’s true of you. But if you haven’t reached that point yet, there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t keep reading. In fact, I think the rest of the book may help you to understand why people do entrust themselves to Jesus and serve him as their Lord. I think it would be marvellous if God used this book to bring you to that point—and you’d think so too, after it had happened. So if you aren’t yet a Christian (or if you’ve only just become a Christian), let me explain one or two things that might otherwise puzzle you when you come across them in the book. I’ve already referred to ‘books’ in the Bible, and I’ll be doing so in the rest of this book. This may seem odd to you, since the Bible is a book. Although it’s printed as one book, the Bible is actually a collection of 66 separate books. These are of various kinds: some are history, some are poetry, some are letters, some are prayers and songs, and so on. When I refer to them, I’ll give these books a particular name. You’ll find a list of these names on one of the pages at the front of your Bible. The list will also tell you the number of the page on which each of the books begins. It might also tell you the common abbreviations that are used to refer to the books—for example, ‘2 Sam’ stands for the second book of ‘Samuel’. Very often I’ll refer to a particular section in one of the Bible’s books. I’ll use the normal system for doing this, but just in case this is new to you, let me explain how it works. Let’s say you find 2 Samuel 7:14 looking at you on a particular page. The diagram on the right shows you how to decode it. In quite a few places in this book, these ‘Bible references’ (as they are called) will have a symbol next to it. For example, 2 Samuel 7:14. This means: ‘Off you go and read this bit. I won’t go on without you; I’ll wait until you come back’. Other Bible passages will be mentioned along the way or listed in the GET IT? GOT IT! sections—but all of these can be read later. Only the passages marked with before them won’t wait, and you should read them whenever you come across one. At the risk of sounding like the preacher who
said, ‘And lastly …’, and then lasted and lasted, I do have one final thing to add—and that’s a prayer you might like to pray each time you read this book.
‘2 Samuel’ is the name of one of the Bible’s books. The ‘2’ shows that there is another book with the same name (‘1 Samuel’), which you will find just before 2 Samuel.
The Bible’s books are divided into numbered sections known as ‘chapters’. So the number 7 here refers to the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel. If you had found ‘2 Samuel 7–8’ instead of 2 Samuel 7:14, this would mean that I was referring to everything in chapters 7 and 8 of that book.
2 Samuel 7:14
The chapters in each book are divided into small numbered units known as ‘verses’. In your Bible, the numbers that begin these verses are usually small and raised above the line, and they are placed just before the sentence(s) they refer to. This tells you to find the number 14 in 2 Samuel 7. If it had said ‘2 Samuel 7:14–20’, that means that I’m referring you to everything contained in those seven verses. Just occasionally, there will be a verse that’s very long. The normal way of referring only to the first half is ‘7:14a’, or to the second half, ‘7:14b’.
GPS: God's Plan for Salvation
There are three very important reasons why this is a good thing to do. The first is that you need to remember that it’s the Bible and not this book that is the entirely true and trustworthy word of God. This means that what this book says needs to be tested by what the Bible says—and not the other way around! Secondly, none of us is very good at working out everything in the Bible on our own; we all need lots of help. Thirdly—and wonderfully—the Author of the Bible is always ready to help us ‘get the message’. So here’s the prayer. Dear Father, as I go through this book I need your Holy Spirit to be my teacher. Please help me to be discerning as I weigh up what I read here. Please give me understanding as I read the Bible, so that I will gain a much bigger, truer picture of what you are like, what you are doing, and what it means to belong to you. Please let your word take root in me, and let it flourish and grow so that it produces in me the fruit of deeper love for you, stronger loyalty to you, and greater likeness to you. Above all, may your Spirit use your word to show me the glory of your Son, so that knowing and serving him may be my greatest treasure and my deepest joy. I ask this in his name, Amen. And now I think it’s high time we got going. Are you ready? Then let’s do it!