I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
The Bible: The Most Important Book in History
Moresermonillustrations.com has this interesting true story by an unknown author. It states:
In recent years the thrilling story of Pitcairn Island and the mutiny of the Bounty has been retold and popularized in newspaper articles, books and movies. There is one incident in that story which, indeed, is worth retelling. The mutineers sank their ship and landed with their native women on the lonely island named Pitcairn. There were nine white sailors, six natives, ten women, and a girl of fifteen. One of the sailors discovered a method of distilling alcohol, and the island colony was debauched with drunkenness and vice.
After a time only one of the white sailors who had landed survived, surrounded by native women and bi-racial children. This sailor, Alexander Smith, found in one of the chests that had been taken from the Bounty a copy of the Bible. He began to teach his fellow exiles its principles, with the result that his own life was changed, and finally the life of that island colony.
In 1808 the United States ship Topaz visited the island and found a thriving and prosperous community, without whiskey, without a jail, without crime, and without an insane asylum. The Bible had changed the life of that island community.
So, it has been from age to age: "The entrance of thy words giveth light" (Ps. 119:130).
We are studying the non-negotiables of the Christian faith. By that we mean the essentials which comprise what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. You can call yourself whatever you like, but unless a person believes the truths that were accepted and taught by Jesus and His apostles, (that is, the faith once for all delivered to the saints), it is hard to, in reality, be a Christian.
So far, we have talked about the deity of Jesus Christ, God as Trinity and the universal problem of all mankind of sin and thus our need for a Savior. Today, we are talking about the basic written source of our faith, the Bible, the Word of God. The Bible has been called "our sole authority for faith and practice. Gotquestions.org has this to say about this statement:
"When we say, “The Bible is our only rule for faith and practice,” we mean that we hold the Bible, God’s Holy Word, to be our ultimate guide for what we believe (“faith”) and what we do (“practice”). We mean that the Bible trumps man’s authority, church tradition, and our own opinions. We mean we will allow nothing that opposes God’s Word to dictate our actions or control our thinking. We mean that we agree with the Reformers’ cry of sola scriptura (i.e., scripture alone)."
In the Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments, we have everything necessary for salvation and godly living. The writings of the church fathers may be valuable for many things, but it is the Scriptures alone that are the inspired Word of the eternal God of the universe.
The Bible was written over a span of 1500 years, by 40 writers from different socio-economic, professional and educational backgrounds. It was written in 3 different languages on 3 different continents. Yet it has one major theme, God's saving love for mankind. But also, one major character to whom all of its history points, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Himself said this:
"You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life." (John 5:39,40).
At the time, He was talking about the Old Testament Scriptures because there was no New Testament yet written. However, there is just as much evidence to assume that this also applies to the New Testament as well. God used only eight men to write the entire New Testament. Six of them were chosen apostles of Jesus Christ. Three were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, His transfiguration and ministry—the apostles Peter, James and John.
Also, there is evidence to believe that the New Testament writers understood that God's Word was still being spoken and written in their day and that the apostles had something to do with that. For instance, Peter, in talking about Paul's writings, had this to say:
"Consider also that our Lord’s patience brings salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom God gave him. He writes this way in all his letters, speaking in them about such matters. Some parts of his letters are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." (II Peter 3:16,17).
And Paul said to the Thessalonians in the letter that he wrote to them that:
” For this reason, we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
Further, as we study this amazing book more deeply, we come to find out that, unlike other religious writings, the Bible reads as a factual news account of real events, places, people, and dialogue. Historians and archaeologists alike have repeatedly confirmed its authenticity.
So, if the Bible is what it claims to be, the eternal Word of God, then it is the most important book in the history of the world and deserves to be studied from cover to cover, and its precepts understood and followed.
Let us begin our study of it by seeing some of its lofty claims for itself. And then we will look at some external evidence for believing that the Bible is indeed the Word of God.
I. The Bible's Claims for Itself
As we said, the Bible claims to be the inspired Word of God to man. In the Old Testament, the words “Thus saith the Lord” appear exactly 415 times in 413 verses and 161 chapters. In two verses it’s repeated twice.
And the apostle Paul comes right out and says this about the Scriptures:
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (II Timothy 3:16,17).
The term 'inspiration' is the Greek word 'theopneustos' and literally means 'God-breathed.'
This is the only instance that the Bible is referred to as “God-breathed.”
When we talk about this, we refer to God’s divine breath — the exhale from His mouth. Being God-breathed means that a specific thing or person is directly from God.
In this case, the Bible is said to be from God directly. At the same time, God used human authors to relay His Word to mankind. It is of both human and divine origin, much like Jesus, the Living Word Himself, is both human and divine. We see in II Peter 1:20,21 that Peter tells us:
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
It is safe to say that the apostles had a very high view of the Scriptures. And the Lord Jesus had a very high view of the Old Testament Scriptures that were present in His day as well. In Matthew 5:17,18 He states this about the Old Testament:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
A jot is the tenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the smallest. It was written above the line and looks to us rather like an apostrophe.
A tittle is even smaller than a jot. A tittle is a letter extension, a pen stroke that can differentiate one Hebrew letter from another. Jesus is saying that not even the smallest part of the law will pass away until all is fulfilled. Indeed, the Lord placed great value on the Old Testament Scriptures.
Being the Word of God, the Bible also makes claims that it is true. Theologians use the words inerrant and infallible to explain the different shades of meaning of this understanding of God's Word, however, it all boils down to the fact that it claims to be true and thus reliable. There are various passages that affirm the truth of Scripture. One is found in the Psalms which tells us:
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous (Psalm 19:7-9).
And Jesus proclaimed in His high priestly prayer to the Father:
"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17).
Besides being true, the Bible authors claimed it to be authoritative as well. Further, to disobey the Word of God is to disobey God Himself. Paul could say in I Corinthians 14:37 that:
“If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.”
And in II Thessalonians 3:14 he told the believers:
“If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.”
There are certainly other claims that the Bible has for itself. But these are sufficient to see that the Bible teaches that it is no ordinary book. It is God's Word to mankind, that is powerful and can change the lives of those who take it seriously.
Now let us move to the external or secondary evidence for the Bible being the Word of God. By that we mean that which is outside of its pages or not directly used by the Bible to claim authority.
II. External Evidence for the Bible
Now, in looking at the external evidence for the Bible's claims, we have already brought up a very important one. The fact that the Bible was written by so many people over so long a time, yet there is a unity to it, so much so that it has one major theme and one major character to whom it is pointing. It reads like one book for it is God's book. It is His love letter written to us.
A second piece of external evidence for the Bible being what it claims to be is that there are over 300 precise prophecies about Jesus Christ that are spoken about centuries before they were fulfilled in the New Testament. Of course, the Bible itself places a lot of stock on fulfilled prophecy as being an indicator of something being the Word of God. However, these prophecies can also be verified by archaeology and history. This makes it external evidence.
In his book, Science Speaks, Peter Stoner applies the modern science of probability to just eight prophecies regarding Christ. He says, “The chance that any man might have ...fulfilled all eight prophecies is one in 10 to the 17th. That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.” (One hundred quadrillion). In other words, there is practically no chance of it happening. Only if the Word of God is what it claims to be, and Jesus is who He says He is, does all of this make any sense.
Thirdly, the Bible is acclaimed for its historical accuracy. There are several historical accounts that were doubted by earlier historians, because of lack of evidence for it having happened, that have since, by archaeological study, proven to be true. One of those was the story of Belshazzar and the handwriting on the wall in Daniel 5. Many historians have said that this story of Belshazzar was wrong because he couldn't have been king during this time. That is because, from Babylonian records, a man named Nabonidas was the last King of Babylon. Here is what pastor Adrian Rogers said of this incident
"There wasn’t a record of a king named Belshazzar. Well, the spades of archeologists continued to do their work. In 1853, an inscription was found on a cornerstone of a temple built by Nabonidas, to the god Ur, which read: “May I, Nabonidas, king of Babylon, not sin against thee. And may reverence for thee dwell in the heart of Belshazzar, my first-born favorite son.” From other inscriptions, it was learned that Belshazzar and Nabonidas were co-regents. Nabonidas traveled while Belshazzar stayed home to run the kingdom."
Over and over again, the Bible has been proven to be historically accurate. But it is has also, amazingly, been shown to be scientifically accurate as well. One example of this is found in the book of Job. Job said this of God:
"He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing." (Job 26:7).
This verse tells us the fact that the earth is hung in space, way before the age of space travel and modern astronomy. Also, in Isaiah 40:22 it says that:
"It is (God) that sits on the circle of the earth."
The word 'circle' here means 'a globe or sphere.' Only by God's inspiration would Isaiah know that the earth is a sphere. No one else knew it at the time.
Added to all of the other external evidence is the indestructible nature of the Scriptures. I Peter 1:25 tells us that the "Word of God endures forever." No other book has gone through what the Bible has and has still endured. No book has ever had as much opposition. Once again, Adrian Rogers tells us:
"Men have laughed at it, scorned it, burned it, ridiculed it, and made laws against it. But the Word of God has survived. And it is applicable today as much as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow."
We can end this message similarly to the way that we started. Probably, one of the greastest pieces of evidence of the Bible being the Word of God is all of the changed lives of those who take it seriously. Literally, millions have been transformed by it over the course of human history.
In a sermon entitled 'Keeping the Faith' by Timothy Pang, I read this:
"Research consistently shows what a person believes translates into behavior. A major survey of more than 3,700 teens involved in evangelical churches reveals that, compared to teens who possess a solid, biblical belief system, young people who lack such basic biblical beliefs are:
- 225 percent more likely to be angry with life; 216 percent more likely to be resentful.
- 210 percent more likely to lack purpose in life; and 200 percent more likely to be disappointed in life.
This is why research has shown teens -- otherwise good teenagers from good families -- who do not possess a biblical belief system are:
- 36 percent more likely to lie to a friend; 48 percent more likely to cheat on an exam.
- 200 percent more likely to steal; 200 percent more likely to physically hurt someone.
- 300 percent more likely to use illegal drugs; and 600 percent more likely to attempt suicide."
Is it any wonder that the writer of Hebrews tells us this about Scripture:
"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."
The Bible changes lives!!
There is no book in recorded history that can match the power, and the perstige of the Bible, God's Word to sinful mankind. Over and over again it has proved itself to those willing to listen to it and to obey it.
May we never be accused of neglecting the Scriptures. But let us study God's Word and allow its powerful precepts to change our hearts, our lives, our families, our nation and ultimately, our world.
© 2022 Jeff Shirley