The Bible is unique but this uniqueness is not of itself sufficient evidence to demonstrate Divine inspiration. Its inspiration is seen in the nature of its message, particularly its distinct view of humankind, and its role in becoming an effective influence in changing people’s lives in preparation for eternal life.

We will consider two teachings which, when taken together, are unique to the Bible. The first concerns suffering in its various forms. The second concerns the ongoing rejoicing that can be experienced by those who understand the gospel. These apparently contrary positions combine as evidence that the Bible is inspired because no other book can offer a solution that meets man’s eternal needs. The Bible is the sole origin and source of teaching that interweaves suffering and rejoicing in the way that it does.

Here are some examples of this interweaving:

Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (John 16:19-20)

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me … Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe … Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (Phil 1:29-30; 3:1; 4:4)

Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee. (Deut 28:45-49)

This sample represents a core message of scripture; that there is an important relationship between suffering and ongoing rejoicing.

Suffering is universal, unpleasant, and unwanted. Scripture presents it as normal and expected, which matches our life experience. Everything we see and experience confirms the condition of humankind as taught in the Bible; our short time of life comes with a variety of pain, grief, and suffering, followed by the finality of death. Scripture does not merely confirm the reality of suffering in our infinite lives, it teaches that suffering can transform us, creating in us a humble and contrite spirit. For what purpose? God’s word is clear; our heavenly Father uses suffering to save men and women from the finality of death by drawing their
attention to the invitation of salvation.

What is the relevance of ongoing rejoicing in this life; why is it so frequently given mention in the immediate context of suffering? To understand what the Bible is fundamentally teaching it is important first to recognise the basic nature of human rejoicing. People rejoice in the success of others and themselves. We rejoice and find happiness in a variety of things; a happy marriage, a healthy child, an objective met etc. This rejoicing is short term and passing, however, the human condition ensures that it is finite. In contrast, when the Bible talks about rejoicing it speaks of ongoing rejoicing. Consider the following examples;

For our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:27-28)

Nevertheless we according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth (God’s) righteousness. (2 Pet 3:13)

O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. (Rom 7:24-25 to 8:1)

But I rejoice in the Lord greatly. (Phil 4:10)

Herein lies the difference between the Bible and all other world views. Nearly all agree that finite suffering is a part of the human condition. But where almost all human doctrine and practice seeks to balance finite suffering with finite rejoicing, the Bible uniquely teaches the enduring of finite suffering by ongoing rejoicing. Ongoing rejoicing in this life is surely welcome, pleasant, and desirable. In contrast to suffering, however, it is abnormal, unexpected, and unusual.

To whom can ongoing rejoicing apply? Only the saints. Ongoing rejoicing arises from the promise of eternal deliverance from finite human nature and the finality of death. Ongoing rejoicing is fed by the prospect of eternal life in a condition of godly righteousness and glorification. We first recognise the need to be delivered from our human condition because of suffering. We begin to see the desirability of a righteous character because of what we learn from our suffering. Understanding these things in concert with the gospel message causes an illumination of God’s invitation of salvation, and therefore provides cause for ongoing rejoicing in this life.

It is worth spending time listing passages that cause us in this life to rejoice because they confirm the Bible’s teaching concerning finite suffering and ongoing rejoicing. It is God’s way of enabling us to endure the downside of our inheritance from Adam. What God and Christ have done and what they are yet to do is central to Biblical rejoicing. This kind of rejoicing cannot be shared with others who do not believe the gospel.

Everyone – whether in Christ or not – are subject to suffering. Wars, greed, plane crashes, riots, child abuse, stolen generations, bullying … the list is endless. Humankind has no solution for suffering, it can only agree that suffering happens. The Bible shows that it has a purpose, and that God will ultimately remove it. This demonstrates inspiration because it identifies the cause of suffering and its purpose and provides an eternal solution which only a supreme being like God can provide.

All forms of rejoicing that humankind have taught and practised is finite. The Bible, uniquely, shows how ongoing rejoicing is not merely possible, it is the gift of God given explicitly for our benefit in the time of our instruction.

Let us take the case of our Lord. Before his death, he told his disciples that he was deeply grieved (Matt 26:38). After his death, he showed from the scriptures that he was meant to suffer and rise the third day (Luke 24:45-46). Hebrews shows the connection between his suffering and subsequent rejoicing.

In the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him … let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 5:7-9; 12:1-2)

From his example, and the consistent teaching of God’s word, we learn a unique understanding of suffering:

  1. It teaches us about our nature
  2. It encourages genuine obedience
  3. It produces a humble and contrite spirit that accedes to the word of God
  4. It demonstrates that humankind cannot progress, it will always be restrained by its nature
  5. It makes hope and rejoicing more vivid
  6. It creates a deep appreciation of the Lord’s obedience and sacrifice

The words of the Father to his son; “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17) contain greater power when we consider our Lord’s suffering. Christ was so beloved by his Father because he submitted to his Father’s wisdom, fully accepting the lessons that suffering would teach him. Just as he learned obedience by the things he suffered, so do we. We are invited to the same ongoing rejoicing that our Lord experienced through the promise of eternal salvation.

There is no worldview among humankind that teaches people to endure suffering with a promise of ongoing rejoicing as a component of eternal salvation. Suffering, in the view of humankind, can teach “life” lessons, or is something to be avoided at all costs. Experience shows suffering cannot be avoided, and what “life” lessons matter if (human) life is finite?

The Bible’s message concerning suffering, rejoicing, and eternal salvation is unique. Its uniqueness stands in direct contrast to the world views of humankind, and its message is effective in the lives of believers. Without the Bible message suffering remains unexplained. When the Bible is ignored, all rejoicing is finite and insubstantial.