6.1 The Bible’s Message for Buddhists
The Bible is divided into two main sections – the New Testament and the Old Testament. To follow this booklet you will need a full Bible with both sections.
Please open your New Testament at its first book, the Gospel of Matthew. Gospel means ‘good news’. Matthew was a government official who became a disciple of Jesus and followed him in his travels. The first chapter and the first verse is Matthew 1:1 (when you see pairs of numbers like this the first number tells the chapter, the second number the verse). This is the beginning of Matthew's explanation of the Gospel. We read “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham”. It's not quite what we would expect. Matthew says Jesus is the descendant of David and Abraham. David lived 3000 years ago and was a famous king of Israel. Abraham lived 4000 years ago and was the ancestor of both the Jewish people and the Arab people. Matthew tells us that the fact is that Jesus is descended from both David and Abraham.
Paul was another disciple of Jesus. He originally was an enemy of the Christian church and persecuted the believers, but Jesus appeared to him in a vision and converted him to become a Christian. He saw the Gospel the same way as Matthew. Please see Galatians 3:8: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed’.” The Gospel is what was promised to Abraham. So, if we can understand what God promised to Abraham, we can understand what the Gospel is. We need to go back to the Old Testament, and see what God told Abraham. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, 17:8 “Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession and I will be their God.” God promised Abraham that he and his children would live forever on this earth. Eternal life is an important idea that comes up in the Old Testament. Note this- because the essential message of the Bible is the same all the way through. How could Abraham live forever? Please see Genesis 22:17,18 “in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blesses, because you have obeyed My voice.” God promised Abraham that he was going to have a son who would be the source of blessing for the whole world. The way to understand the Bible is to see how the Bible interprets itself. These words we have just read are quoted in the New Testament- in Acts 3:25,26. Let's go there and find the interpretation “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendant all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” So, who is the descendant of Abraham? The descendant mentioned in Acts 3:25 is Jesus. And what are the blessings he would bring for men and women of the whole world? The blessings of forgiveness of sins and salvation. Let's go further. To Galatians 3:16 “Now to Abraham and his descendant were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to descendants,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your descendant,’ who is Christ.” So, the descendant of Abraham was one man, singular, Jesus. But how could that one man become so many, as many as the stars in the sky? Let's read Galatians 3:27-29 “For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” So, Paul is saying in Galatians 3:29 that only those who have been baptised into Christ have a part in these promises which God made to Abraham. To be baptised is to take part in a ceremony in which someone who believes in Jesus goes under the surface of the water in a river, bath, or swimming pool to act out the burial of Christ. By performing this ceremony the believer is showing that he wants to be like Christ, and when he comes out of the water he has now become a Christian. Only if we are baptised will we be one of those descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky who will receive what God promised - eternal life here on earth. This is why we must be baptised if we are going to be saved. Paul said that his hope was " the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20). As he faced death, this was his hope- the hope of Israel.
What is baptism, then? It isn't sprinkling. The New Testament is written in Greek, and the word translated 'baptism' means really to dip. It was used about a ship sinking, being submerged, or a piece of cloth being dyed from one colour to another by immersing it. Have a look at Matthew 3:13-16 “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John to be baptised by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptised by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him. Then Jesus, when He had been baptised, came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him.” Jesus went down into" the water and came " up out of it" . He was baptised as an adult, not as a baby; by dipping, not sprinkling. That's why it was done in a river. And if He was baptised, so should we be. This dipping and rising up signifies the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that we have decided to make His death and resurrection our own. This is why it has to be by immersion, not by sprinkling. Have a look at Romans 6:3-5 “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” This is why we appeal to you to be baptised- make it your aim in life, to accept Jesus Christ!
By being baptised into Jesus, we become part of Him, and therefore the
promises apply to us. Therefore when He returns, we will be resurrected,
judged and then, if we have lived faithfully according to God's word, we
will be given the eternal life which He now has. Then we will live for ever
in God's Kingdom here on earth. If you believe this, then life has a new
meaning. Whatever material problems we have, we will realise that they are
only temporary, and when Christ returns He will give us a new and eternal
life. This is why in the Bible and in Christ there is real HOPE. The hope
ahead is so great that our present problems do not seem so great.
But how can it be, that this man Jesus can save us? He was our representative, and this is why we must be baptised into His death and resurrection; because He was just like us. Have a look at Heb. 2:14-18 “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Notice in passing that the devil is not an animal or a dragon. It is used here as a personification for sin. " The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23), but here we read that 'the devil' " has the power of death" . We need to struggle against our own natures, not against an invisible being outside of ourselves. Verse 14 says the same thing several times- He, Himself, likewise, partook, the same nature as us. Yet most 'Christian' groups teach that there are three Gods in a trinity, and one of them was Jesus. But this isn't what the Bible says. And according to Hebrews, it is very important we get our understanding of Jesus right. He was exactly of our nature. The writer stresses it 4 times! He was tempted like us.
And how are we tempted? By our own human nature. Have a look at James
1:13-15 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’, for God
cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is
tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when
desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown,
brings forth death.” This means
that Jesus had our human nature. God can't be tempted, it says, but Jesus was tempted, Hebrews says. So Jesus wasn't God Himself. He was a man, the Son of God by birth, the descendant of David and Abraham through Mary. Likewise, God can't be born; but Jesus was born. God can't die; but Jesus died. We cannot see God; but men saw and handled Jesus. Jesus didn't exist before His birth, either. He was the son of God through Mary. Have a look at Lk. 1:31-35 “’And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’” Notice all those future tenses! He will be the Son of God, Mary will conceive in her womb- this is where Jesus began, although the idea, the logos of Jesus, had always been with God from the beginning. Notice that Mary was just an ordinary woman. Jesus was the descendant of Abraham and David, and this could only have been because his mother was their descendant. If Jesus was God, then Mary is the mother of God, and she wasn't an ordinary woman. If as the Bible teaches Jesus was the Son of God and also " son of man" , the descendant of Abraham and David through Mary, it is evident that Mary was an ordinary woman. So it's all or nothing- a system of true belief, or a system of wrong belief. It is important to believe the right thing, because doctrine affects how we live. Have a look at Heb. 4:15,16 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Because Jesus was of our nature, therefore we can pray with confidence through Him to God. We don't need a human priest, church building or pastor to make our prayers acceptable.
So can I just summarise the things we have written about:
1- There is only one God, not a 'trinity'
2- Jesus is the Son of God, not God Himself; He didn't exist before He was born. He had all our temptations and human experiences, but He never sinned. He gave His life for us in a painful death, but then, because He never sinned, God resurrected Him from the dead.
3- Through baptism into Christ by the dipping in water of an adult, we share His death and resurrection
4- so when Jesus Christ returns we will be resurrected, judged and given eternal life in His Kingdom- which will be based here on this earth. This Kingdom will be like the world was in the garden of Eden, when God first created man- and even better. All the problems which are now on earth- war, famine, sadness, even death itself, will be finally ended- for ever.
5- After death we are unconscious- 'hell' means just 'the grave'.
6- The soul is not immortal; we are made of dust and return to the dust. The spirit is the power of life within us, which God takes back when we die. We don't go on existing in any conscious form after death.
7- 'Satan' is a symbol for the evil human desires inside us, against which we must struggle; it is not the name of a dragon or monster that exists. God is 100% powerful; He doesn't share His power with 'satan'. All our problems come from God, not satan, and therefore there is a positive spiritual purpose to them.
8- By reading the Bible for ourselves we can find the true way to God.
I do appeal to you, to study these things, and give yourself no rest until you have come to surely know the true Gospel. I do so hope you will study our free Bible study course; and set yourself the aim, to be baptised one day, by dipping in water. Then you will surely have the hope of eternal life. OK we can't imagine eternal life. I can only suggest we imagine a long, long line, with no end, stretching on into the distance; and we in this life are just a few millimetres at the start of it. This really is our hope, if we are baptised into Jesus and live in Him. I plead with you, to take all this seriously, and not treat it as mere religion, as just something ordinary.