What is the Bible? Is It Really the Word of God

Title: What is the Bible? Is It Really the Word of God?

Text: 2 Peter 1:21, Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 29:29

Time: August 20th, 2010

One of the biggest objections to the Christian faith is that the Bible is not the Word of God but instead is merely the words of men – and on top of that, ancient and ignorant men. The skeptics then ask the question, “Why should we ever base our lives on a book that was written by ignorant, uneducated men in some obscure location in the Middle East a long time ago?” They further ask, “With so much better knowledge gained since the Bible was written, why should we ever be drawn to follow its advice about anything, anything at all?” My first response to the last question would be something along the lines that the Bible addresses universal human questions, the really big questions of life, that haven’t been sufficiently answered by either philosophy or science. Yes, in many, in most areas of human endeavor, knowledge has increased incredibly in the last two thousand years since the last book of the Bible was written; this knowledge is for the most part valid, but most of it has nothing to do with what is written in the Bible. The Bible deals with ultimate questions, life, death, what becomes of us after death, what happens after death, is there a God, who is God, how can we know God, for example. For all the knowledge gained in the last few thousands years, these kinds of questions have barely been advanced. The Bible doesn’t attempt to teach us the full range of fields of knowledge, but mostly centers on the fields of religion and philosophy; therefore, there is room for expanding knowledge within the biblical worldview. Why should we be drawn to follow the ancient advice of the Bible? Because the questions it addresses are still universally valid and the new knowledge that man has gained in the meantime through science and other kinds of research doesn’t answer them, or doesn’t answer them fully or adequately. As for the charge that the Bible is an ancient book written by ignorant, uneducated (by our standards) men with limited experience and knowledge – so why should we listen to them, let alone follow their advice – that is a question of another kind which I’d like to spend greater time dealing with today. If the Bible is merely a collection of the ancient writings of uneducated and ignorant men, then I don’t think we should be listening and following its advice for our lives today. But the Bible isn’t that; it’s a collection of divinely inspired writings of men (called prophets) who were used of God to give us his revelation, word-for-word, so that we have something to make our way in life beyond the fumbling, bumbling guesses of our own cleverness – with the ultimate goal of providing for us, or anyone who will listen and believe and follow, a path to eternal life. Now I realize that the burden of proof is clearly upon my shoulders to prove that the Bible is more than just the wise (wise for that time), old writings of ancient men. I’m not sure I can prove to everyone’s satisfaction that the Bible is revelation from God, but I’ll at least layout the logic of it and hopefully an open-minded person can think about it, ponder it, and maybe be convinced that it’s possible, and finally, that it’s true. I’m convinced that the Bible is revelation from God and my life has reflected this conviction because I try to read and study from it ever day, and I try to live out its teachings, although I’m the first to admit that I fall short. But let me see if I can layout a case for the Bible as revelation from God.

First, the Bible claims to be revelation from God and not merely the words of men. 2 Peter 1:21, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” This is a description of inspiration, but not merely human inspiration, inspiration from God. “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The English word, “inspiration,” literally means, “in-spirited” or “the spirit within.” So we already have a concept to capture the essence of what the Bible is teaching. When artists say they are inspired to paint or write, they are referring to the process of inspiration. They often claim that a voice or force outside of themselves took control. Some claim that something took control of them and energized them from within to paint or write something special. Well in connection with the inspired writers of the Bible, the claim is that they not only were inspired, they were inspired by none other than God himself through his Spirit. Is that hard to understand? Is that too difficult to believe? Surely that is within the realm of possibilities. The claim by skeptics that the Bible is an ancient book written by ancient men is beside the point. Yes, the Bible is an ancient book written by ancient authors, but couldn’t these men have been inspired when they wrote? Yes, of course, we’ll grant that. And also, couldn’t they have been inspired by God – that the source of their inspiration came from God? Again, yes, that is a possibility. This is what the Bible claims for itself – that its authors were inspired and that they were inspired by none other than God himself. If this is so, it wouldn’t matter that they were ancient in terms of their time period on earth, or that they were uneducated by today’s standards, because if they were inspired by Almighty God to write what they wrote, then the truths are just as valid today as when they were written many thousands of years ago. And it wouldn’t really matter who wrote the books of the Bible, or what their educational level was, or how much they knew in terms of general or specific knowledge about the world; if these authors were inspired by Almighty God to write revelation then the content would be coming from God not from the men themselves. “What can an ignorant, ancient Jew writings in some obscure area of the Middle East teach me anything about life today?” If he’s writing merely out of his own experiences and knowledge, very little; but if God is the source of his inspiration, he can teach you everything – all things essential and important in this life and also pertaining to the life to come after death. So let’s keep an open mind about inspiration, especially God’s ability (why not?) to plop profound ideas into the minds of the biblical writers for the benefit of mankind. That’s exactly what the Bible claims for itself.

Second, Jesus Christ himself believed the Bible was revelation from God. Matthew 4:4, “Jesus answered, ‘It is written, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’” The context for this quotation comes in the wilderness where Jesus is being tempted by the Devil (Yes, there is one, a Devil, because Jesus here is being tempted by it). After each of the three temptations of the Devil, Jesus quotes scripture, “It is written . . .” Now why would the Son of God quote from the Old Testament writings and begin each reply with the phrase, “It is written,” unless he really did believe that the Old Testament writings were revelation from God? He wouldn’t, it doesn’t make any sense to think so. Jesus here and in all places in the New Testament, treats the prophetic writings of the Old Testament – the Bible of that day – as revelation from God, utterly reliable and trustworthy. As for the New Testament, that was considered “scripture” too, in the same sense as the Old Testament writings were considered scriptures by the early church. Even most modern skeptical biblical scholars concede that Jesus probably did believe that the Old Testament writings were inspired revelation from God, although they would question Jesus’ credibility on this point. They wouldn’t follow Jesus in his belief in divine inspiration of the Bible, but that doesn’t or shouldn’t stop a true follower of Christ, a real Christian, from following Jesus on this point. As a true believer I do follow Jesus in his belief in divine revelation of the Old Testament; I believe with him that God inspired the prophets of old to write exactly what was necessary to be communicated to mankind. I believe these writings were preserved by the scribes with great care in order to give to us today the original and authentic words from God, revelation from God for our benefit. The same process applies to the New Testament writings – the same process of inspiration occurred with these books. But each one of us must decide whether or not to follow Jesus in life – that is the great gospel decision we each must make. By reading the accounts of the life of Jesus, we find that he trusted the process of divine revelation; in fact, he was involved in that process himself in respect to the New Testament writings and so were his apostles. I believe in divine revelation because Jesus believed in it. Without God revealing himself to us through revelation, we are left with only ourselves to come up with answers to the biggest questions of life. We are left with only the confused philosophies and religions of the world, that is, if the Bible is not inspired by God. Or worse, we are left with the limited, narrow and mostly useless answers that science gives us about the really big questions of life. The truth is, we need revelation, and thank God it has been provided for us.

Third, revelation from God doesn’t rule out the pursuit of knowledge. Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” There are plenty of secret things or mysteries left to learn because God has not revealed all things to us. We can pursue the secrets and mysteries of the world, although there is no guarantee that we’ll discover them or that we’ll understand what we find. It was never God’s intention to give us universal knowledge of himself and the world, although he could have done so. His revelation consists of mostly issues that pertain to areas of knowledge that we couldn’t figure out on our own but which we need to know in order to find our way to him. For example, we are given in the form of revelation from the Book of Genesis the knowledge that earth and humanity were made good in the beginning, but that a fall into sin occurred among our first parents that plunged the whole human race into sin. A break in our relationship with God occurred along with guilt for sin. Not only are we lost, but we are ignorant of the cause of our lost-ness apart from divine revelation. We not only need salvation but we need to have God explain the whole problem, the context, and actually that we are lost, or else in our own ignorance we wouldn’t know how we are lost – although we would know that something is wrong, we wouldn’t have a clue as to what or why. And we certainly couldn’t figure out how to save ourselves apart from Christ. Today, as society moves further and further away from God in sinful rebellion, the revelation of God is being rejected more and more. As a result, man’s new understanding of himself and his world is changing rapidly. Today, more and more people disbelieve that they are lost, or that they even need saved from anything. Instead, they see themselves as simply highly evolved animals with lower and higher impulses within them. As for life and death, they see life as ultimately meaningless and purposeless except what we make of it (making the best of things) during our short lifetime. And death, they simply see it as final. Without divine revelation there is no sure hope for an after life, let alone an eternal life of happiness with God. Our society is running from God and his divine revelation in the Bible, but it’s running into a dark, black hole of despair and meaningless. Why do we see school shooting on the rise? Did you know that one of the Columbine killers was an atheistic Darwinist who wore a shirt with the motto, “Natural Selection?” His murderous attack makes perfect sense from that philosophy. But God’s revelation in the Bible gives us a totally different worldview, one in which there is a Kingdom of God, God’s will. There is meaning and purpose in life because God has revealed it to us in the Bible. The advancement of knowledge has happened at a phenomenal rate and we’ve all benefited from its progress. But let’s not let our accomplishments go to our heads. We are still in need of God’s divine revelation; not only to tell us what we could never have discovered on our own, but also to correct what we think we know that is wrong. Revelation is given because we need it. We need to humble ourselves and accept it and appreciate it as the blessing it really is.

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