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What We Believe
This morning in our “What We Believe” series, I’d like to talk about the Bible, or God’s word, and how it can be trusted as authority and give directions for our lives.
Whenever I do teachings, my proof and certainty of whatever it is that I’m saying is found within the pages of the Bible. Without this certainty, then whatever we say we believe cannot be trusted, and whatever we say we know about God and His salvation goes right out the window.
And so, whenever I am asked about whether the Bible can be trusted, my response is that I trust the Bible with my life.
But how much of the Bible do we really know? Here are some things children have said about what they’ve learned from the Bible.
• Noah’s wife was called Joan of Arc
• Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day, and a ball of fire by night
• When Mary heard she would be the mother of Jesus when went out and sang the Magna Carta.
• A Republican is a sinner mentioned in the Bible (Democrats don’t get to respond)
• The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple (and man has been taking commandments ever since)
In speaking of the how little the Bible is read, some have remarked that the worst dust storm in history would happen if all those who owned a Bible dusted them off at the same time. And while this is somewhat humorous, I find it incriminating.
Now this stat I found somewhat telling. In 1996, and I believe it has gotten worse since then. This survey found that 42 percent of Americans say they believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, but almost half of them believe that the Bible is too hard to understand, so very few of them actually read the very book they claim as God’s word.
Clearly there is a discrepancy between what we say we believe and what we actually do believe. And when it comes to the Bible, this is why I have this as a chapter in my upcoming book, “Wells of Living Water,” which looks at those doctrines that Satan has or is covering up within the church.
Donald Witney, author of “Spiritual Disciplines” said,
“No spiritual discipline is more important than the intake of God’s word. Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of God’s word.”
The writer of Hebrews provides an analogy revealing just how useful and powerful God’s word is when it comes to keeping us on the straight and narrow path leading to eternal life.
“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 NKJV)
God’s word is living and powerful. Like a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon, it cuts through the philosophies and thoughts of man that are filled with contradictions and lies. It gets to the heart and the spirit of God’s thoughts, will, and ways.
The Bible pierces our hearts and touches our souls to change the direction and course of our lives.
And so we come to that ever-present question when it comes to the Bible, “Can it be trusted?”
A standard statement of faith says, “We believe the Bible is fully inspired by God and is without error in its original manuscript and is therefore the infallible (incapable of being mistaken) rule of a Christian’s faith and practice.”
To Timothy the Apostle Paul said,
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16 NKJV)
Literally what Paul is saying is that the Bible contains God’s answers and directions for life in a world filled with sin. And that’s the key. The Bible is God’s word, not just a religious book with the morals and stories of man. The Bible is God’s word for our lives, and without it our lives would be without meaning and without purpose.
Now, the word, “inspiration,” is literally the word “breathe,” which is why you will see some Bible translations say that the Scriptures were “God-breathed,” that is, God is the source and origin of the Bible.
The Apostle Peter said,
“For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21 NKJV)
So the Bible, while written down by the hand of man was authored by God, the Holy Spirit, or as the Holy Spirit is often referred to as the Breath of God.
The Bible also isn’t just another religious book like the Koran is to Islam, or the Bhagavad-Gita is to Hindus. Nor is it like the Book of Mormon, or the individual writings of Sun Myung Moon (Moonies), Joseph Rutherford or Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah Witnesses), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science), or L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology).
Nor is the Bible just a great work of literature like Homer’s Odyssey, or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, as many people would like to believe.
The Bible is none of those, nor can it be thought of as an old book that is unrelated to our lives in this age of science and technology.
Instead, the Bible is God’s word for our lives, and without it our lives would be without meaning and purpose, especially seeing how it is God’s roadmap to salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the Bible is then profitable, or as some translations say, “useful,” that is, it is beneficial and advantageous for our lives in teaching what is true, reproving what isn’t, along with correcting and instructing us on how to get and stay right with God. What we could say is that the Bible is relevant to our day.
The Psalmist proclaimed, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
What makes the Bible different and how can we trust it for our lives?
The Bible is Unique
The Bible is unique and its uniqueness is in its reliability as it addresses hundreds of controversial subjects, even hot topics of our day like marriage, homosexuality, greed, ecology, and labor relations to name a few.
Yet, even though it speaks to matters of our day, it was written over a 1,500-year time span beginning with Moses. It contains 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), and by a wide diversity of writers including kings and shepherds, soldiers and politicians, fishermen, priests, prophets, an IRS agent, and a physician.
It was written on three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe) and in places like a desert, dungeons, prisons, palaces, in various cities, and on a remote island.
It was also written in a variety of literary styles including historical, legal, wisdom, poetry, parables, proverbs, allegorical, prophetical, and apocalyptic. It was also written in times of joy and in times of despair.
What makes the Bible completely and totally unique? Over all these years, by all these different authors, and in these various locations and conditions, there remains complete and total harmony in all of its topics.
The Bible is God’s unfolding story of His salvation and redemption of the human race. It speaks of humanity’s lost condition, being morally depraved and sinful, but then it reveals God’s plan to save humanity through Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice so that whoever believes in Him will be saved (John 3:16).
Beginning in Genesis there is paradise lost, but at the end, in the book of Revelation, paradise is regained.
No other book contains such harmony of thought or purpose.
People throughout the ages have tried to ban it, burn it, vilify it, and even outlaw it, saying that it would never last, yet it is still the best selling book of all time. And while people continue to scrutinize the Bible trying to find some fault within it, the Bible has stood the test of time. It is an anvil that has worn out critics’ hammers.
Jesus said it best saying, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Mark 13:31)
The Bible is Accurate
Prophecy is the best measure of the accuracy of the Bible.
One evening in Las Vegas a Jewish man came into the church and started a conversation. He didn’t believe the Bible was God’s word. Instead he believed men wrote it, and that it has changed over the years.
After sharing about the Bible’s uniqueness, I realized I had to show him beyond a shadow of a doubt the Bible was indeed God’s word, and so I took him to fulfilled prophecy.
If man wrote the Bible there would be no way that it could accurately predict what would happen hundreds, if not thousands, of years later. These are not vague word pictures, but literal fulfillment.
Fulfilled prophecy reveals that the Bible is God’s word; that it was and is divinely inspired.
It’s important to understand that biblical prophecy about events up to our present day have been fulfilled as outlined in the Bible.
Take for instance the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
• Born in Bethlehem of a virgin (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 7:14 cf. Mathew 2:1; Matthew 1:22-23)
• Descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 17:19, 21:12; Numbers 24:17 cf. Matthew 1:1-2, 22-23;)
• Comes from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10 cf. Luke 3:33)
• Comes from the line of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Isaiah 9:7 cf. Luke 1:32-33; Romans 1:3)
• Came out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1 cf. Matthew 2:14-15)
• Massacre of children in Bethlehem (Jeremiah 31:5 cf. Matthew 2:16-18)
• Called a Nazarene (Isaiah 11:1 cf. Matthew 4:13-16)
• Preceded by a messenger (Isaiah 40:3-5; cf. Luke 3:3-6)
• Riding upon a donkey (Zechariah 9:9 cf. John 12:12-15)
• Betrayed for a price (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12-13 cf. Mathew 26:14-16)
• Falsely accused and silent before His accusers (Psalm 35:11; Isaiah 53:7; cf. Mark 14:57-58; 15:4-5)
• Crucified (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 53:12; cf. John 20:25-27; Matthew 27:38)
• Buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9 cf. Matthew 27:57-60)
• Resurrected from the dead (Psalm 16:10; 49:15 cf. Matthew 28:2-7)
• Ascends into heaven (Psalm 24:7-10 cf. Mark 16:19)
These are just a few of the prophecies Jesus fulfilled.
In his book, “Science Speaks,” Peter Stoner looked at the mathematical probability of one person fulfilling eight specific prophecies concerning the coming the Messiah. These prophecies were the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem, preceded by a messenger; entered Jerusalem on a donkey, betrayed by a friend, sold for 30 pieces of silver along with it being thrown down in God’s house and used as a “Potter’s Field,” silent before accusers, having hands and feet pierced, and crucified with thieves.
Stoner gave the mathematical probability of one man fulfilling these eight prophecies at 1 in 10 to the 17th power.
To illustrate this number, Stoner likened it to silver dollars two feet deep throughout the state of Texas with one of them marked. The probability of one person fulfilling these eight prophecies was the same as a blindfolded man finding that one silver dollar on the first try.
But Jesus didn’t fulfill just eight, He fulfilled over 60 prophecies directly, and there were over 300 prophecies fulfilled at the time of Jesus and the first church.
Prophecy, therefore, is a reliable measure on the Bible’s accuracy. And since only God could know these events in advance, this makes the Bible divinely inspired.
Archaeology can never prove the Bible is God’s inspired word, but it can reveal that the events listed in the Bible are historically accurate.
Nelson Glueck, former president of the Jewish Theological Seminary at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, in his investigation of archaeology and the Bible said that he never found one artifact of antiquity that contradicted God’s word.
There exists overwhelming archeological support for the historical accuracy of both the Old and New Testaments. Archeology has proven the Bible’s historical accuracy, and therefore that Bible gives us the most accurate historical accounting even over other historical accounts written not only by current historians, but those living during the time.
It is said that every time an archaeologist shovel comes up, another critic of the Bible and a biblical discrepancy goes down.
With all the archaeological digs either presently under way or that have already occurred, if the Bible was mistaken then one would think that by now there would have been something dug up or found that would corroborate these accusations. But to date there has been nothing, only more evidence proving the accuracy of the biblical accounts.
Whenever discrepancies occur, the benefit of the doubt must rest with the document and not those who doubt it authenticity or cite apparent contradictions after the fact, and in our case, thousands of years later.
More is required than merely the appearance of an error or contradiction. Unsolved problems are not necessarily errors. By utilizing all available data and thorough research, however, many of the past objections have been resolved.
Has the passage been correctly understood? Do we possess all available knowledge and data concerning the matter? Can further light be shed on the topic from research in areas like literature and archaeology?
The Bible’s trustworthiness has also been bolstered and supported by the Bible itself. Every problem or discrepancy has been dealt with within the biblical text, which is to be expected seeing what the Bible asserts, that it is God’s word.
Most allegations of error or contradictions, however, stem from a failure to recognize the basic principles of interpretation. Let me take a moment and walk through some of these with you.
Just because the Bible doesn’t explain something doesn’t mean it’s unexplainable. Difficulties and problems within the Bible have been answered using other source material including historical documents, archaeological finds, and linguistics differences.
We should never take a biblical passage or quote out of the context of the passage itself. Someone said, “A text taken out of context is a pretext.” You can prove anything from the Bible when a passage is taken out of the context in which it is written.
We also should never build a doctrine on an obscure passage. Some people baptize for the dead using 1 Corinthians 15:29 stating, “What will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?”
While the meaning isn’t exactly clear, what is clear is that it was written in negation form, which means the practice was consider wrong in the first place.
New Testament citations of the Old Testament don’t have to be exact to the Hebrew text because some of the authors were quoting from the Septuagint or the Aramaic.
Differences in interpretations also exist based upon the literary style the author is using. If they are writing allegorically, the interpreter shouldn’t try to fit it into historical or legal genre.
From what we have studied and previewed, the safe and prudent thing to say is that the Bible is divinely inspired, that is, the Lord God Himself inspired it, making it the infallible rule of Christian faith and practice.
The Bible contains God’s answers and directions that are practical, beneficial, and relevant for our lives. It teaches us what is true and reproves what isn’t, and instructs us on how to get and stay right with God.
The Bible is God’s word not only to generations gone by, but also to our generation and generations to come. It is God’s roadmap to salvation through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39 NKJV)
There is no other book that even comes close, and therefore there is no other book that we need to read and understand more than the Bible.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study