Question 28: The Bible is testimony to God’s work; it is only through reading the Bible that believers in the Lord come to recognize that God created the heavens and the earth and all things, and are able to see God’s wondrous deeds, His greatness and almightiness. The Bible contains many of God’s words as well as testimonies of man’s experiences; they can provide sustenance for people’s lives as well as great edification, so what I’d like to seek is, can we actually attain eternal life through reading the Bible? Is it possible that there’s no way of eternal life within the Bible?
Through reading the Bible we come to understand that God is the Creator of the heavens and earth and all things and we begin to recognize His wondrous deeds. This is because the Bible is a testimony to the first two stages of God’s work. It is a record of the words and work of God and the testimony of man during the Age of Law and the Age of Grace. So, the Bible is very important to our faith. Think about it, if not for the Bible, how would we come to understand the Lord’s word and know the Lord? How else would we witness God’s deeds and begin to develop true faith in God? If we do not read the Bible, how else will we witness the real testimony of all the saints throughout the ages obeying God? So, reading the Bible is essential to the practice of faith, and no believer of the Lord should ever go astray from the Bible. You could say, he who goes astray from the Bible could not believe in the Lord. This is verified in the experiences of saints throughout the ages. No one dares deny the value and meaning of reading the Bible in the practice of faith. So, saints throughout the ages and believers all view reading the Bible as a very important matter. Some would even go so far as to say that, reading the Bible and prayer are as essential as our two legs are for walking, without either we fail to move forward. But the Lord Jesus has said, “Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me. And you will not come to Me, that you might have life” (Jhn 5:39–40). Some people are confused. They think: Given that the Bible is a record of God’s word and man’s testimony, reading the Bible should give us eternal life. Then why is it that the Lord Jesus said there is no eternal life in the Bible? Actually, this is not such a difficult idea. As long as we understand the inside story and the substance of God’s words and work during the Age of Law and the Age of Grace as well as the effect achieved through these words and work, then we’ll naturally come to realize why it is that we cannot receive eternal life through the reading of the Bible. During the Age of Law, Jehovah God’s words were chiefly concerned with promulgating laws, the commandments and ordinances for man to follow. His words were mostly a kind of guide for humanity, which was still in their infancy, to live on earth. These words did not involve changing man’s life disposition. So God’s words during the Age of Law were all aimed at making people abide by the laws and the commandments. Though these words were truth, they represent the very rudimentary truth. During the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus’ words and work were focused on the work of redemption. The words He issued addressed the truth of redemption and taught people that they ought to confess their sins and repent and refrain from sinning and evildoing. These words also taught people the proper way to pray to the Lord and demanded that man should love the Lord with all their heart and soul, love their neighbor as themselves, be tolerant and patient, and forgive others seventy times seven times, etc. These are all included in the way of repentance. So, through reading the Bible, we can only understand the work of God during the Age of Law and the Age of Grace. We come to realize that all things are created by God and learn how to live on earth and how to worship God. We understand what sin is, who are blessed by God and who are cursed by God. We come to know how to confess our sins and repent to God. We learn humility, forbearance, and forgiveness, and know that we ought to take up the cross to follow the Lord. We see for ourselves the unlimited mercy and compassion of the Lord Jesus, and realize that only by coming before the Lord Jesus in faith will we enjoy His abundant grace and truth. The words and work of God during the Age of Law and the Age of Grace as recorded in the Bible were the truth spoken by God according to His plan of saving mankind and the needs of mankind at that point in time. These truths were completely incapable of changing our life disposition and allowing us to attain purification, salvation, and perfection. Thus, the words issued by the Lord Jesus during the Age of Grace can only be called the way of repentance, but not the way of eternal life.
So what is the way of eternal life then? The way of eternal life is the way of truth which allows man to live forever, which is to say, it is the way which allows man to cast off the binds and restraints of his sinful nature, change his life disposition, and allows him to gain the truth as life, thoroughly break free of Satan’s influence, and become compatible with Christ. It allows man to know, obey, and revere God so as to never again sin to oppose or betray God. Only that which can achieve this effect may be called the way of eternal life. Man dies as a result of sin. If man attains the truth as life and solves the problem of sin, God will bless him with eternal life. So, only by receiving the salvation of God in the last days can we enjoy the way of eternal life which God grants to humankind. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jhn 11:25–26). This shows that the life and death of man are in God’s hands. This is God’s authority, and no man can change their own fate. Only those who achieve salvation by accepting the work of God in the last days and gaining the truth as their own life can obtain eternal life. This is an absolute certainty. So, after the Lord Jesus completed the work of redemption in the Age of Grace, He promised that He would return, and at that time He said, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come” (Jhn 16:12–13). The truths expressed by the returned Lord Jesus are the only way of eternal life, and this shows that Christ is the truth, the way, and the life. Why doesn’t the Bible contain the way of eternal life? It’s primarily because the Bible records God’s previous two stages of work, but it does not contain all of the truths expressed by God in the last days to purify and save mankind. Therefore, the Bible does not contain the way of eternal life. This does not, however, diminish the Bible as testimony to God or the effect it has on its readers. It is precisely because the testimony of God in the Bible is true, because God’s creation of the heavens, earth and all things is true, and because the testimony of obedience and loyalty to God by generations of saints is true that the position of the Bible in man’s heart has never wavered. One could say that generations of saints grew and matured due to the edification they received from the Bible. Despite the facts that the corrupt disposition of mankind persisted in them, their satanic natures still existed, and they had not been truly purified, nonetheless the saints’ faith in and loyalty to God was unwavering. Many became martyrs for the Lord, and they all created beautiful and resounding testimony to Him. These are the results of God’s work in the Age of Law and the Age of Grace. It is clear to all of us that those with faith in the Lord are countless in number, and even though they have not been purified, their life disposition has not changed, and they lack true understanding of God, nonetheless their faith is true. God has not forsaken these people, but instead waits for the Lord’s return in the last days, when they will be lifted up before Him, purified, and perfected. In this way, all who have true faith in the Lord and who love truth will gain the way of eternal life bestowed by God in the last days. Now we understand the matter of why the Bible cannot grant eternal life, yes?
from Classic Questions and Answers on the Gospel of the Kingdom