May 3, 2017
WHAT is the BIBLE?
HOW CAN ANYONE know that the Bible really is the Word of God? Is it a God-given book? And if it is, what is the extent of its authority?
We shall begin with a very important observation. God is. He exists. He always has done. He always will. Therefore, if he is our Maker, and if he has made us able to speak with each other, it is not unreasonable to assume that he is able to speak to us. There is no reason to say that such a possibility cannot or does not exist. And it follows that every person should accept that it is within God’s power to reveal his will to us should he choose to do so.
Now let us consider evidence that supports the claim that God has spoken. I want you to specially note that the evidence is both rational and reasonable. Christians do not indulge fantasies. Theirs is not a world of make believe or pretence. On the contrary, their faith in God is based on actual historical events.
First, consider the claim of the prophets. I think especially of men like Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah and Ezekiel, to name but a few.What do they say? They say that God spoke with and through them. They all assert that they had a word from the Lord. That claim is either true or false. There is no other option.
The evidence is sound. What they prophesied came to pass. Their predictions about Jesus came true. They are all fulfilled in him. We can safely conclude that God gave messages to them. God used them to make known his will to others. Hence the saying, often repeated in the first part of the Bible, Thus says the Lord.
Secondly, consider the claim that God’s Word was given to teach and guide us. A Psalm writer, for example, asserts that God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119.105). If you ask, What word lights up our way? you find that the answer is the commandments, judgments, law, precepts, rules, statutes, and testimonies of the Lord. At least six of those words are used no less than 22 times in Psalm 119. The author was convinced that God had spoken to mankind. And clearly, the author believed that what God has spoken is to be heard and heeded by us.
Thirdly, consider the claim of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not just teach and perform miracles. He also spoke God’s Word. In a dispute with lawyers and teachers about marriage and divorce, he spoke of what God did when he created mankind (see Matthew 19.14-6, 8-9). He referred to the first book of the Bible, the book Genesis. He showed that what it says is true. It is truth for all time. It is authoritative. It is to be heard and heeded.
On another occasion Jesus stated that the Scripture (by which he meant, the written Word of God) cannot be broken (John 10.35). And on another he said that the person who hears his word is like a wise man who builds his house upon a rock (Matthew 7.24-27). Jesus affirmed that the first part of the Bible is the written Word of God. He also said that his teaching came directly from God: “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” (John 8 28)
Fourthly, consider the claim of the apostles. They were sent to teach the Word of God and all that Christ commanded. (Matthew 28.20) They were promised the help of God’s Spirit. He would help them to remember accurately all that Christ said and did. (John 14.26)
They recognised that their writings were special. Peter described the letters of Paul as being Scripture. (2 Peter 3.16) Paul said that all Scripture is from God. It was breathed out by him. (2 Timothy 3.16) He also said that we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. (Colossians 3.16)
And then fifthly, consider the claim of believers. What do they say? What do they say about the Bible? Generations of them have affirmed that it is God’s Word. Why?
There are two reasons:(1) because they have heard what the Bible claims for itself, and what Christ and his apostles say about it. And (2) they gladly testify that the Spirit of God witnesses to their spirit that it is from God.
Some think this second reason verges on mysticism. But it is not. Why not? Because their claim is not unreasonable.
Claims 1, 2, 3 and 4 above show that Christians do not live in a world of make believe. Nor do they suspend their ability to think. There is something else they do not do. They do not rely on their reason. Through faith in Christ they enjoy a dynamic relationship with God. God makes his home within them. God witnesses to their spirits that they are his children. (John 1.12; Acts 2.38 and 15.8-9; Romans 8.16) And God teaches them that the Bible is God’s Word written.
What then are you to do?
First, read Scripture. Hunger and thirst for it. Seek to hear it. Not just to hear it as words written by Moses, David, Jeremiah, Matthew, Paul or John. But to hear Christ speak personally to you by means of it. As Christians read the Bible they encounter God. Spiritually they are nourished. Your priority is to read it regularly – a portion of it each day. And you will want to read it all – preferably over a year or two. There are reading plans to help you. Get one and use it.
Secondly, consult Scripture. It is given to instruct and teach you. (2 Timothy 3.16) The more you know the Bible the more you will know how God wants you to think, speak and act. Familiarity with the Bible does not breed contempt for it. Rather it breeds a longing to be holy as God is holy. Thus seek to discover more fully what it says about what you are to do as you travel onward toward heaven.
Thirdly, ask God to reassure you each day that the Bible is God’s Word. There is only one way to be strong and overcome the devil. It is by the Word of God. The example of Christ in the face of temptation teaches us that.(Matthew 4) As does Paul’s teaching about putting on the armour of God. (Ephesians 6) Those who know that the Bible is God’s Word are those who, like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word. (1 Peter 2.1-3) The more you are sure it is God’s Word the more you will long for it.
Finally, some words of warning. Beware of pride. It is the humble whom God teaches.
Beware of idleness. Instead, search the Scriptures. (John 5.39)
Beware of putting people before Christ. In Corinth some put Paul and others put Peter before Christ. Thank God for his faithful servants but always put Christ and his Word first.
Beware of a wrong desire. Paul warned Timothy of what some do. They itch to hear a wrong message. They do not hunger and thirst for the pure Word of God. (2 Timothy 4.3) The way to avoid that mistake is make sure that you let the Word of God dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3.16)
EPC 9 April 2017