The unfolding of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
Light is such a wonderful description of the effect of the Bible on the human heart. I know, because on the evening I read and discussed Romans 5, I became a Christian. Through His Word, God led me out of darkness into light. No other word depicts so well the work God did through the Bible that summer evening as I sat on the grass outside a college dorm. Through the light of His Word, I met Jesus, the Light of the World.
Have you ever considered what Jesus taught about God’s Word? Do you understand why Christians believe the Bible is God’s Word? Years ago as I thought through how to explain why I believe the Bible is God’s Word, I decided the starting point was the truth that the New Testament is an accurate historical document attesting to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I want to walk you through my sequence of thought.
I’m not unique, and others who are far more learned than I am have described and expounded this sequence of thinking in greater detail. In a chapter he wrote for God’s Inerrant Word, a book edited by John Warwick Montgomery, R. C. Sproul titled it, “The Classical Defense of Scripture.” John Montgomery Boice discusses it in Does Inerrancy Matter? and you will find it in other works. Online you can read The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, or go to John Montgomery Boice’s The Preacher and God’s Word, and scroll down to page 135, for a quick summary.
I believe the Bible is God’s Word because I confess Jesus as Lord.
1. The New Testament is a set of accurate historical documents attesting to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I recommend John Warwick Montgomery’s History, Law and Christianity, a small book which can be read in just a few hours, or F. F. Bruce’s The New Testament Documents Are They Reliable? Bruce writes:
The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.1
Bruce goes on to set forth the scholarship that attests to the authenticity of the New Testament and concludes at the end of the book:
Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth’, but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories.’
The earliest propagators of Christianity welcomed the fullest examination of the credentials of their message. The events which they proclaimed were, as Paul said to King Agrippa, not done in a corner, and were well able to bear all the light that could be thrown on them. The spirit of these early Christians ought to animate their modern descendants. For by an acquaintance with the relevant evidence they will not only be able to give to everyone who asks them a reason for the hope that is in them, but they themselves, like Theophilus, will thus know more accurately how secure is the basis of the faith which they have been taught.2
So Luke wrote:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
Christianity is grounded in the history of the person and work of Jesus Christ. The eyewitnesses of the New Testament attested to what they had seen and known about Jesus Christ. They wanted those who read their witness to know and to be confident of the truth regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ, because without Jesus Christ there is no Christian faith.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (ESV)
2. From the New Testament documents it is possible to observe what Jesus did and said, to understand the claims He made about Himself, and to make a decision about who He is.
A person can therefore read the Gospels as history, but then an unavoidable question arises—what does the reader think about Jesus Christ? There is no middle ground, Jesus said, He who is not with Me, is against Me.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
C. S. Lewis writes in his essay, “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?”, from his book God In The Dock.
This problem is to reconcile two things. One the one hand you have got the almost generally admitted depth and sanity of His moral teaching, which is not very seriously questioned, even by those who are opposed to Christianity…
The other phenomenon is the quite appalling nature of this Man’s theological remarks. You all know what I mean, and I want rather to stress the point that the appalling claim which this Man seems to be making is not merely made at one moment of His career…
On the one side clear, definite moral teaching. On the other, claims which, if not true, are those of a megalomaniac…There is no half-way house and there is no parallel in other religions…
The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion that undermines the whole mind of man… [I believe Lewis develops the choices as Liar, Lunatic or Lord in Mere Christianity].
We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects-Hatred-Terror-Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval…3
3. Those who confess Jesus as Lord (see My Witness for my story of how I became a Christian) are inexorably drawn to examine, believe and obey His teaching in all matters. Not to do so is a denial of confessing Him as Lord.
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”
4. As you read the Gospels, you will find that Jesus regarded the Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament, as the authoritative and inerrant verbal revelation of God to His people.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
As in the passage I quoted from John 5, Jesus continually used the Old Testament to define and validate His teaching regarding God and man, and His own person and ministry. Eyewitnesses described their conversation with Him on the road to Emmaus after His Resurrection.
And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.
And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?”
And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”
And He said to them, “What things?”
And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”
And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
J. I. Packer writes:
Here is a major issue for decision….There is no disputing that Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate Son, viewed these Scriptures as his Father’s Word…Nor is there really any disputing (despite skeptical poses struck by some scholars) that “God raised him from the dead” (Acts 13:30), thereby vindicating all he had said and done as right—including the way he had understood, taught and obeyed the Scriptures.4
Jesus clearly taught the Bible is the true, inerrant revelation of God to us. Packer goes on to say:
So, too, it is clear that the apostles, like their Lord, saw the Scriptures as the God-given verbal embodiment of teaching from the Holy Spirit…and that they claimed, nor merely that particular predictions were fulfilled in Christ (compare Acts 3:22–24), but that all the Jewish Scriptures were written for Christians (compare Rom 15:4; 16:26; 1 Cor 10:11; 2 Cor 3:6–16; 1 Pet 1:10–12; 2 Pet 3:16); and that they took over the Old Testament (Septuagint version) for liturgical and homiletical use in the churches alongside their own teaching.5
5. Jesus claimed God’s authority for His own words.
And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”
6. Not only did Jesus claim God’s authority for His own words, but He told His Apostles that the Holy Spirit would come to further teach them, thereby establishing God’s revelation of His Word in what we now call the New Testament.
“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
Packer summarizes the understanding of the Apostles:
They also saw their own teaching and writing as inspired in just the same sense in which the Old Testament was inspired (compare 1 Cor 2:12; 14:37; 1 Jn 4:6; and so on), so that the later cojoining of their official writing with the Old Testament to form the two-part Christian Bible was a natural and necessary step. None of this is open to serious doubt.6
7. We can therefore conclude that Jesus taught that the Bible is the truthful and authoritative—verbal, plenary, infallible, inerrant, unlimited, inspired—Word of God.
From the words of Jesus Christ, Christians gain our doctrine of the nature and authority of Scripture. My former pastor, Mike Braun, wrote:
The Old and New Testaments, in their entirety, are the Word of God written and are therefore inerrant in their original hand. All Scripture was given by inspiration [of God] and is fully authoritative for the Christian in all its teaching. Whatever is taught by Scripture is to be accepted, believed in, and affirmed by all who bear the name ‘Christian.’
Your growth in faith, hope and love is through hearing and heeding the preaching and the teaching of the Bible, and through your own reading and study of God’s Word.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
Visualizing the Bible® Chris Harrison. Used by permission. Click the image to enlarge.
This image was named one of the best science images of 2008 in National Geographic News. A poster of the image can be bought at HistoryShots.
“The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc – the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.”
ESV: English Standard Version
1, 2F. F. Bruce, New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
3C. S. Lewis, “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” God In The Dock.
4, 5, 6J. I. Packer, Truth & Power: The Place of the Scripture in the Christan Life (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1996), 102–103, 103, 103.
Original content: Copyright ©2012 Iwana Carpenter