Updated: Jan 10, 2019
Lino Chaiña, a Peruvian witch doctor, was determined to buy the biggest book of magic ever published. On his way to purchase it, a man told him of Ferdinand Stahl, a gringo who turned into an animal at night. The idea fascinated Chaiña. If I could turn into an animal, he thought, I could scare people, then charge them to use my magic to keep the animals away.
Stahl, a Seventh-Day Adventist missionary, welcomed him warmly, “What can I do for you hermano?”
“I am on my way to Puno to buy the biggest book of magic ever printed,” Chaiña told him, hoping to learn the white man’s secret.
Pastor Stahl smiled, “You don’t need to go to Puno. I have the best book of magic ever printed right here. Come in, I’ll show it to you.”
Stahl pulled out a large Bible filled with pictures. “This is the best book of magic ever published,” he told him. “It changes people’s lives.”
The illustrations in Daniel and Revelation fascinated Chaiña. Were these the kinds of creatures the gringo became at night?
Stahl never became an animal, but his teaching from the Bible over the next three weeks transformed Chaiña. Instead of returning home with the biggest book of magic, he returned with a Bible. Soon he and his family were baptized.
Sixty years later, another missionary heard of Chaiña and went in search of him. He found the old man reading his Bible and watching his sheep near his mountain home high above Lake Titicaca.
“I thank the Lord that Pastor Stahl taught me to love God and His great ‘book of magic,” Chaiña testified. Chaiña life had been transformed. No longer was he a witch doctor set on scaring people. He was a kind, honest follower of Jesus. The transformation didn’t stop with him. His son became missionary too, teaching the Bible to the people of the Amazon jungle. (Adapted from Muir, Wellsley. Little Indian. Amazing Facts. 2011. pp. 139-144.)
The Preeminent Word of God
What was it about studying the Bible that so transformed Lino Chaiña?
The Bible connects us with Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
In the Bible we find God’s clearest expression of Himself, given in written form, so all humanity can know and follow Him. It is God’s specific revelation of Himself. When we immerse ourselves in the “living and enduring Word of God” 1 Peter 1:23 ** we immerse ourselves in God’s thoughts. We can’t help but be changed.
In Psalm 138:2, David says “You have magnified Your Word above all Your name.”
Think about that for a moment. Why would God exalt His Word like that?
The answer lies here: The Bible is the preeminent expression of God’s character. Without the Bible we could not know what God is like. It is God’s specific revelation of Himself given to the prophets for the benefit of all. It is given in a way that we can understand so that each person has the opportunity to be saved.
Jesus magnified the importance of God’s written Word when he said, “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for a single stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” Luke 16:17 Berean Study Bible
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.” Jesus added, “I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19
God’s Word will last longer than earth or heaven, than history or humanity. These forms of general revelation are transitory, damaged by sin and incomplete. But God’s written Word is enduring, untainted by sin, and a complete revelation of God’s character. That is why He gives such priority to the Bible.
Four Foundational Qualities of Scripture
The Bible highlights four foundational qualities of itself that set it apart from all other books.
- It is the Living Voice of God: God created the world with His words and continues to speak life to us through His written Word. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” Psalm 33:6 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
- It is Authoritative: God’s Word has authority because God has authority. Scripture’s, like God, is based on God’s character. It’s “authority is expressed in absolute demands of obedience (Exodus 20:1-17), in compassionate pleas of love (Isaiah 1:18, Matthew 11:28), in promises of forgiveness and blessing (Matthew 5:3-12; 1 John 1:9), and in earnest warnings of judgment (Jeremiah 6:1-8).” Peter M. van Bremmelen, SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, p. 28.
- It is Absolutely Truthful: The Bible is from the “God of truth.” Isaiah 65:16. Thus, “the entirety of Your Word is truth.” Psalm 119:160. The gospel preached by Jesus and the apostles is the “Word of truth.” Ephesians 1:13. Jesus Himself proclaimed the truth of the Bible when He affirmed, “Your Word is truth.” John 17:17.
- It is Completely Sufficient: the Bible provides guidance in the most important matters in life. God designed Scripture to teach us everything we need for salvation and a godly life. “The Holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
Your Bible and You
Several practical applications for reading God’s Word follow from the four foundational truths of the Bible. These applications have to do with how we read the Bible and what we do with what we read. We should read the Bible with:
- Conviction that God’s Word is addressed to us personally.
- The aim of knowing Jesus better and growing more like Him.
- Assurance that God’s promises are trustworthy.
- Dedication to applying its principles in our daily life.
- Trust in its truthfulness.
But let us remember this: we may believe that the Bible is God’s Living Voice, that it is authoritative, truthful and sufficient. But if we fail to read it, believe it, and apply it to our lives, it will do us no good.
“Oh, you may talk about power; but, if you neglect the one Book that God has given you as the one instrument through which He imparts and exercises His power, you will not have it. You may read many books and go to many conventions and you may have your all-night prayer meetings to pray for the power of the Holy Ghost; but unless you keep in constant and close association with the one Book, the Bible, you will not have power. And if you ever had power, you will not maintain it except by the daily, earnest, intense study of that Book.” R.A. Torrey in Why God Used D.L. Moody
A Bible on the shelf will simply collect dust. Your Bible in your hands and in your heart is transformational.
Getting God’s Word into our hearts and minds comes down to our daily choices: prioritizing a quiet time and space with God, surrendering our hearts to God, believing the Bible is true, praying, pleading for the Holy Spirit, applying our minds to study, implementing the things we learn… These are the things that connect us with God.
“The words and promises of God are the only foundation of our faith. Take the word of God as truth, as a living, speaking voice to you, and obey faithfully every requirement.” Counsels on Sabbath School Work p. 72
Won’t you join me in recommitting to making God’s Word your first priority? Then sixty years down life’s road, we too, like Lino Chaiña, the former witch doctor, will be found reading the Bible and in love with our Lord. It’s a goal worth pursuing, isn’t it?
** All Scriptures taken from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
Note: This article is part of a series on How God Reveals Himself. Articles include:
- Five Ways God Reveals Himself – A quick study on the forms of general and specific revelation God uses.
- God, A Heathen King & You – The story of King Nebuchadnezzar and the role of human experience in revealing God.
- Nature’s Role, God’s Call – The story of Moses at the burning bush and the role of nature in revealing God.
- The Reason for Reason – The story of Job and the role of reason in our relationship with God.
- The Best Book of Magic – The Bible is God’s clearest revelation of Himself in written form.
- Jesus – God’s Perfect Revelation – Jesus was both fully human and fully divine so that He could perfectly reveal God’s character to fallen humanity.