How many of you have read through the entire Bible this year? Look around. What does that say about our commitment to the Bible? You've got two days left this year, so you better get busy. Should we have a commitment to the Bible? Is it truly worthy of our time and effort?
"Is the Bible God's inspired Word?" I'm not asking this question because I think you need to be convinced that the Bible is God's inspired Word. I ask this question because I believe you need to be reminded and encouraged that the Bible is God's inspired Word.
We live in a world that is at war with God's Word. There are those who despise it and are against everything it stands for. There are those who distort it and twist it to their own destruction. There are those who disregard it and claim that it's false and unreliable. For instance, in the summer of 2000 ABC aired a prime time special called "The Search for Jesus" - hosted and produced by Peter Jennings. At the outset of the program Jennings promised to be respectful and fair. But the next two hours was a one sided presentation against the reliability and truthfulness of the Bible. Jennings interviewed a panel of 7 "Bible scholars" who had one thing in common. They are associated with the so called "Jesus Seminar." The Jesus Seminar was organized in 1985 by Robert Funk, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Montana. He met with 30 Professors from several major universities and said, in effect, "We don't believe the Bible, we don't believe in the Biblical Jesus, and we don't believe in miracles. We need to organize our efforts in order to debunk the reliability of the Bible and promote our belief that the historical Jesus is far different than the Biblical Jesus." And so the Jesus Seminar was born, and today it's web-site claims that it is made up of 74 "Scholars." But most of them are not "Bible Scholars" in any sense of the word. Take Paul Verhoeven as an example. He's on the "Jesus Seminar" and what contributions has he made to the world? Mostly B-movies and R-rated flicks that are filled with violence, language, and sex.
This is who Jennings turns to when he wants to talk about the reliability and truthfulness of the Bible. Asking the Jesus Seminar to talk about the reliability and truthfulness of the Bible is like asking the director of Planned Parenthood to talk about the logic behind the right to life movement, or asking Al Gore to talk about the credentials and qualifications of George W. Bush to be our president. You're going to get a biased and negative answer. Jennings did not interview a single conservative Christian scholar.
I want to share with you this morning 4 facts which verify the fact that the Bible is God's inspired Word.
1. The Authorship of the Bible.
You have three options when it comes to the authorship of the Bible. Either the Bible was written by good men, bad men, or God Himself. Let's consider each option.
Was the Bible written by merely good men? No, because the Old Testament alone claims over 2,600 times to be written by God. It's inconceivable that good men would lie about the same subject 2,600 times.
Was the Bible written by bad men? No, because it's inconceivable that bad men would write a book that continually lifts men and women to the highest plain of morality and purity, that demands the most exacting standards of righteousness, and pronounces doom upon all sinners.
The only logical alternative is the Bible was written by God.
2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
What does it mean to say that the words of the Bible are inspired? Literally, it means "God-breathed." God moved ordinary people to write this extraordinary book. There are implications for every single human being if this is true.
The Implications Of Inspiration: The Bible is both inerrant and authoritative.
Look at what Peter has to say:
2 Peter 1:20-21 (NKJV) knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is not a collection of human wisdom or cleverly devised stories. It is God's truth for us written down by human messengers. If we buy into inspiration, then we must conclude that the inerrancy and authority of the Bible are both true. Now what exactly does this mean?
Inerrancy: The Bible is true is all it affirms. This means that the Bible is free from errors. Not necessarily copying errors from over the years, but any kind of falsehood. The Bible is true in all it affirms.
If inspiration is true, then inerrancy must also be true. Why? There are two main reasons. First, a perfect God would not inspire something that was imperfect. His revelation of himself would have to reflect his character which is free of error.
A second reason for subscribing to a view of inerrancy is that as Christ's followers, we are to follow his example. We're even called to view life from his perspective. Jesus considered the Scriptures to be inerrant.
Matthew 22:43 (NKJV) He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call Him 'Lord,' saying:
Jesus is here referring to Psalm 110, written by King David who he said was "speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit " Jesus quoted Scripture when he faced temptation. He told the people of his day that the Law and the Prophets, the entire Old Testament, pointed to him as the Messiah. If the Bible is inerrant, then it is also authoritative. What does this mean?
Authority: The Bible is the final word concerning right and wrong. That's hard to swallow in an age where everything is relative and one person's truth is just as valid as another's. But if the Bible, as it asserts about itself, is inspired, then it is true in all it affirms and reveals absolute truth.
And since the Bible was written by God, it is reliable and true because its author - God Himself - is reliable and true.
2. The Authenticity of the Bible:
Most folks don't realize that we have an abundant collection of ancient Bible manuscripts, and these ancient Bible manuscripts verify that the content of the Bible HAS NOT been changed down through the centuries.
Let me put it another way. In universities, it's not uncommon to be asked to read Homer's Iliad (800 B.C.) or Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars (50 B.C.). Homer's Iliad is the most famous book of ancient Greece, and nobody denies its authenticity, because we have over 640 ancient copies - the oldest was copied 2,200 years after the original. And nobody doubts the authenticity of Caesar's Gallic Wars because we have at least 10 ancient copies - the oldest was copied about 1,000 years after the original. 640 copies of the Iliad and 10 copies of the Gallic Wars.
What about the New Testament? There are over 5,500 existing ancient manuscripts of the New Testament. These ancient hand-copies have been studied and examined over and over again with "a fine tooth comb", and they verify that the books of the New Testament are authentic documents - they have not changed down through the years. Ancient New Testament manuscripts have been found in Palestine, Syria, and Egypt, and their content is virtually identical, no matter where they were found.
What about the Old Testament? I'm sure you've heard about the Dead Sea Scrolls, which refer to over 800 ancient scrolls discovered in 11 different caves near the Dead Sea from 1947 to 1956. The Dead Sea Scrolls date back to at least 100 B.C. and they contain fragments from every book of the Old Testament except Esther. Scholars have examined those fragments and found them to be virtually identical with our standard Hebrew Bible.
Believers, there is more evidence for the authenticity of the 66 books of the Bible than there is for any other book from the ancient world.
Somebody is bound to ask, "What about all the errors and contradictions in the Bible?" Let's talk about that.
3. The Accuracy of the Bible.
A lot of folks claim the Bible is filled with errors and contradictions. But what amazes me is that a majority of people who make that claim know very little about the Bible. A Pastor was visiting a family, and the father was very skeptical of the Christian faith. He told the pastor that the Bible was filled with errors and contradictions. The pastor asked him, "Can you show me ONE error or contradiction in the Bible." He replied, "I don't know where it is chapter and verse, but it's the one that says the EARTH IS FLAT."
A majority of people who claim the Bible is filled with errors and contradictions know very little about the Bible. The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of folks who have studied the Bible in-depth are amazed at it's accuracy. Consider:
A. The Scientific Accuracy of the Bible.
The Bible is not a science book, but whatever observations it makes about the world of nature is true. Skeptics argue that the Bible is full of scientific errors, but that isn't the case at all. Every now and then the theories of science disagree with the teachings of the Bible, but usually the theories of science just need some time to catch up. For instance, men use to believe that the earth was flat.
Job 26:7 (NKJV) He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing.
Isaiah 40:22 (NKJV) It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
There is no conflict between science and the Bible. It's just that sometimes the theories of science need time to catch up.
B. The Historical Accuracy of the Bible.
The Bible is not a history book, but the history it records is reliable and accurate. Archaeology is one of the historian's basic tools, and it has confirmed the historicity of the Bible time and time again.
William Ramsey was not convinced of the historicity of Luke's writings in the Book of Acts - especially as they pertained to the missionary journeys of Paul. So Ramsey spent years of investigation into the matter. His work was so scholarly and commendable that the Queen of England knighted him for his work. Sr. William Ramsey, instead of finding Luke in error, discovered that he was completely accurate. Ramsey described Acts as the most perfect historical document of all time.
Archeology verifies the accuracy of Bible accounts. The Biblical account of the fall of Jericho is confirmed by archeology. The British archeologist, Kathleen Kenyon, dug up Jericho and found that the city fell during a short attack. Vast amounts of grain were found, which shows there was not a long siege. And the walls had fallen outward, as if in a sudden collapse. But Kenyon also concluded Jericho fell 150 years before Joshua and the Jews arrived.
Time Magazine (March, 1990) in its "Science" section, now says Kenyon may have been wrong and the Bible correct. It quotes archeologist, Bryant Wood, who says the city's walls came tumbling down at just the right time, based on pottery evidence.
People, every subject addressed by the Bible and every statement made by the Bible is accurate. Now, somebody might say, "Even if the Bible is accurate, it's still old and outdated." Let's talk about that. Let's talk about:
4. The Ability of the Bible to Transform Lives.
Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) 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.
That is, the Bible is alive and it has the power to address the deepest needs of your soul and change your life for the better. It has the power to save the sinner, sanctify the saint, soothe the sufferer, and satisfy the scholar.
It has the ability to transform lives. A transformed life is one of the most effective arguments for the reliability and truthfulness of the Bible.
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
According to Hebrews 11 what is it that pleases God? Faith! And where does faith come from? It comes from hearing the Word of God! This implies that the Bible will transform your life by strengthening your faith. I encourage you to read, study, meditate, and practice the Bible on a daily basis. Believer, this is God's inspired Word, and therefore, demands our attention. As Christians, we must spend time reading this book.
Jerry Vines said, "An unread Bible is like food uneaten, a love letter never read, a buried sword, a road map unstudied, gold never mined" (A Practical Guide to Sermon Preparation, p.69).
Richard Moulton said, "We have done almost everything that is possible with these Hebrew and Greek writings. We have overlaid them, clause by clause, with exhaustive commentaries; we have translated them, revised the translations, and quarreled over the revisions...There is yet one thing left to do with the Bible: simply read it" (Cited by Vines, p.69).
According to a 1996 Barna survey, 42% of Americans say they believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. Yet almost half of Americans believe that the Bible is too hard for them to understand, so very few people actually read the book they claim to embrace as God's literal word. Clearly, there's a discrepancy between what we say we believe and our actions.
Now as modern Americans, we're Bible rich. We have over 30 different English translations of the Bible available to us. I use the New King James Version of the Bible, though there's also the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, and so on.
Twenty-four percent of Americans own at least five Bibles. So why is it that we spend so little time in it? Think about this, In the average week, how much time do you spend reading the Word of God? Let me ask you this, "Would you like your life to be filled with grace and peace?"
2 Peter 1:2 (NKJV) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
Listen believer, grace and peace are multiplied to us "...in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." In other words, the more you progress in the knowledge of God, the more every kind of blessing increases.
I don't think that I need to tell any of you that life can be very difficult at times. The events of 9/11 are still fresh in our minds. The world in which we live is full of uncertainties and problems.
As Christians, we are not immune from the difficult circumstances of life. We struggle with sick and dying loved ones, unemployment, problems in the home, and financial struggles. We know how difficult life can be.
I want you to understand that In the midst of our adversity, we have a promise from God that will give us great comfort if we will believe it. God said:
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) And He said to me, "MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
God gave this promise to the apostle Paul, and I believe to all who will trust Him. If there was ever a man who understood the sufficiency of God's grace, it was Paul. He had experienced a few difficulties in his life. In the midst of life's most difficult circumstances, God said to Paul; "My grace is sufficient for you...."
Normally, when we think of "grace" we define it as: "Free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment." We think of "grace" in terms of salvation, deliverance from judgment. This is very true, but what we must understand is that "grace" is also used in the Bible to mean: "God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances."
John Calvin, in his commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:9, said, "Here the word grace does not mean as elsewhere God's favor but is used by metonymy for the help of the Holy Spirit which comes to us from God's undeserved favor."
The word "grace" is often used in the Bible to mean:"God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances." We use the word grace in this sense in modern speech. Have you ever heard anyone say, "By God's grace I was able to remain calm"? When we use the word grace this way, we are referring to: "God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances." In other words, apart form the enabling power of God, I would never have been able to do this or that.
So, the word grace as used in the New Testament, expresses two related meanings. First, it is "Free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment." Second, it is "God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances." The second meaning is encompassed in the first because God's enabling power is part of His unmerited favor. So, part of God's unmerited favor is the enabling power He gives us. There is a distinction, but they are related.
God said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." The Greek word used here for "sufficient" is arkeo. It is used 8 times in the New Testament. It is translated once as: "enough" (Matt. 25:9), three times as: "sufficient" (John 6:7, 14:8; 2 Cor. 12:9) and four times as: "content" (Lk. 3:14;1 Tim. 6:8; Heb. 13:5; 3 John 1:10). Looking at all of its usages helps us understand what "sufficient" means. God's grace is "enough" to meet our needs and make us "content." So, God's grace always meets our basic needs, and quite often goes way beyond them.
How do we grow in His grace? Peter tells us:
2 Peter 1:2 (NKJV) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
How do we grow in our knowledge of God? Through the Bible! Do you want grace and peace? Read the Bible, learn about your God. The Bible is a means of appropriating God's grace-- His enabling power:
Acts 20:32 (NKJV) "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
The reference here is to the ongoing use of Scripture in our daily lives to build us up in the Christian faith. Paul calls it, "the word of His grace," the word through which we come to understand and appropriate God's grace in our daily lives.
The close connection between God and the word of His grace is illustrated in:
Romans 15:4-5 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,
Verse 4 tells us that we receive patience and comfort from the Scripture. Yet verse 5 says God gives patience and consolation. Patience and consolation are provisions of God's grace to help in time of need. He usually provides these provisions through His word.
If we are to appropriate the grace of God, then, we must regularly expose ourselves directly to the word of God. We don't earn God's blessing by reading His word. But a regular intake of God's word is necessary to sustain a healthy spiritual life and to appropriate His grace.
The Bible reveals God's character. God has revealed himself in the pages of the Bible. In his dealing with humanity, we come to know certain things about his identity. He's loving and merciful. But he's also the righteous judge of all creation. He is the God who is near - close enough to touch and heal the eyes of a blind man. He is the God who is holy - distinct and separate from humanity.
The invisible God chose to reveal himself to humanity, because he wants to restore the relationship with us that he originally had. In revealing who he is, the Bible tells us how he accomplished that through the sacrifice, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.
The Bible goes further. The Creator of all things knows how life works. He reveals to us what it's all about. The Bible teaches us how to live successfully. Through the Bible we learn our purpose. We find the meaning of ultimate issues like life and death. God reveals where humanity came from and where we're going.
Believer, please listen, Bible reading is an act of worship. The Bible is the grand story of salvation in Jesus, promised and fulfilled. When we, as Christians, ignore the Word of Christ, we dishonor Christ.
John 5:39 (NKJV) "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.
Colossians 3:16 (NKJV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Notice that it doesn't say, "Know Scripture." It says, "Let Scripture dwell in you...." The word "dwell" is from the Greek word enoikeo, which means: "to inhabit one and influence him." Scripture is to be the dominate influence on your thinking. When we, as Christians, ignore the Word of Christ, we dishonor Christ.
I can give you a million good reasons to read the Bible. Can you give me one good reason not to? Then why don't you? I promise you, it will change your life. Why not make a commitment to read through God's Word in 2002? You'll be glad you did.