Pastor David B. Curtis

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The Word of God

Hebrews 4:12

Delivered 01/01/2006

How many of you make New Year's Resolutions? How many of you usually break them the first week of January? Why is it that at the beginning of a new year people make resolutions? Traditional New Year's resolutions are designed to help you improve your life. People usually resolve to give up destructive habits such as smoking, excessive drinking or overeating. We know that if we get rid of bad habits or sins, our life will be better. If you want to make a resolution that will really help you, resolve to spend more time in God's Word.

If you really want to change your life for the better, there is only one sure way to do it, and that is by the Word of God. Making changes in our lives is not easy, but if we resolve to spend more time with God, it will pay off, even in this life. Our spiritual maturity, or our deliverance from the destructive effects of sin is directly connected to the Word of God and our willingness to respond to it.

The Bible is not just a book - it is the living Word of God:

Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

"Word of God" - this phrase occurs at least 39 times in the New Testament and almost exclusively is the designation for the spoken or written word of God. Scripture is the voice of God.

The word "living" is the Greek word zao. It means: "to live, be alive." The Word of God is alive, actively alive. And it is "active," which comes from the Greek word energes, from which we get our word energy. It means: "active, energizing." Its effectiveness is derived from it source, which is God Himself.

How do we know the Bible is true? How do we know that it is not just another book? There are many books today that claim to be the Word of God. The Koran, the Book of Mormon, and other religious works claim to be divinely inspired. But the Bible can be verified as the Word of God in many different ways. The totality of evidences presents a strong case for the divine inspiration of the Bible.

The strongest argument for the divine inspiration of the Bible is:

The testimony of Jesus.

Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God and confirmed His claims through His sinless, miraculous life and resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus proves that He is God, and as God what He has to say about the Bible is very important.

We have to back up a little - how do we know that Jesus was resurrected? The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is quite strong. What became of His body? On Friday He was dead, He had been beaten, crucified, speared, embalmed, wrapped with a hundred pounds of spices, laid in a tomb that was sealed and guarded by a Roman contingency. Sunday the grave clothes were undisturbed, but He was gone. How do you account for it?

There are many alternative views as to how skeptics believe that the tomb became empty, but only one even remotely make sense:

The stolen body theory - This is the only counter-argument that is even remotely logical. It also has flaws that can't be explained. First, who stole the body? It is undeniable that the body of Jesus was no longer in the grave. The disciples, Jews, and Roman soldiers all concurred that the body was missing. As one historian put it, "History's silence is deafening concerning the body of Jesus. No one has ever claimed to see the body of Jesus after the resurrection." If the Jews or Romans stole it, they would have produced it. All of the efforts to squelch Christianity, and the determination to explain away the resurrection would have ended quickly if someone produced the body. We know that the Roman soldiers did not have it or they would have surely produced it. They were paid for their silence; how much would they have been paid if they produced the body? There would have been no need to think up and rehearse the story of the disciples stealing it if the soldiers had it. We know the Jews didn't have it, because they would have been the first to put it on display. This only leaves the disciples or the resurrection.

Let's look at the possibility that the disciples took Jesus' body. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples scattered like cowards. Peter was the boldest of the 12 and he denied Jesus 3 times. To show how cowardly he was at this point, he was afraid of a servant girl who probably had no say in that culture at all. Yet, when she confronted Peter, he called curses down upon himself to prove he did not follow Jesus. They were too afraid to come forward to take Jesus down and help with the burial. How is it that they would suddenly be bold enough to risk certain death and sneak among the guards, break the seal, move the stone without rousing anyone, and take the body? Also consider that the head cloth was neatly folded and laid beside the burial cloth. Anyone sneaking into the tomb would be hastily retreating after getting the body. They would not take the time to fold the cloth. Most likely, they would not remove the cloth at all. It was also at night in an unlit tomb. This argument also does not hold water. The disciples were too afraid to do anything.

People may be willing to die for what they believe to be true, but who would die for what they knew to be a lie? The eleven disciples saw Jesus die. They gained absolutely no financial gain from this faith. Just the opposite, they lost everything except their joy and the hope of heaven. When Jesus was alive, their hope was their expectation of an earthly kingdom. After the resurrection, they lived for Christ with reckless abandon as they were committed to the hope given to them of eternal life. Only John died of old age; however he was beaten, imprisoned, and banished to the isle of Patmos. This island was where criminals were sent to die from starvation or from the hands of other criminals. According to tradition, each of the other disciples were beaten repeatedly and killed. Look at how church tradition tells us Jesus' disciples died and see if this sounds like men clinging to a lie: Matthew was slain in Ethiopia; Mark dragged through the streets until dead; Peter and Simeon were crucified; Andrew crucified; James beheaded; Philip was crucified; Bartholomew flayed alive; Thomas pierced with lances; James, the less, thrown from the temple and stoned to death; Jude shot to death with arrows; Paul was boiled in hot oil and beheaded.

These men didn't die this way for a known lie! They had seen the resurrected Christ. Jesus continually said He would rise from the dead and He did. Paul tells us that the resurrection proves the fact that Jesus was God:

Romans 1:4 (NASB) who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

Since Jesus is God incarnate, whatever He taught is true, and anything opposed to His teaching is false.

Jesus directly affirmed the authority of the Old Testament and indirectly affirmed the New Testament in:

Luke 11:51 (NASB) from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.'

Jesus identified the prophets and the canon of the Old Testament. He names Abel as the first prophet from Genesis, and Zechariah the last prophet mentioned in 2 Chronicles, the last book in the Jewish Old Testament (which contains the same books we have today although placed in a different order).

In Mark 7:8-9, Jesus refers to the Old Testament as the "commands of God."

Mark 7:6-8 (NASB) And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 7 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' 8 "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."

Throughout His ministry, Jesus made clear His teachings, corrections, and actions were consistent with the Old Testament. He also judged others' teachings and traditions by the Old Testament. He thus demonstrated His affirmation of the Old Testament to be the Word of God.

Jesus even specifically affirmed as historical several disputed stories of the Old Testament. He affirms as true the accounts of Adam and Eve:

Matthew 19:4-5 (NASB) And He answered and said, "Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, 'FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'?

Noah and the flood:

Matthew 24:39 (NASB) and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

Jonah and the whale:

Matthew 12:40 (NASB) for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Sodom and Gomorrah:

Matthew 10:15 (NASB) "Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Jesus confirmed the Old Testament and promised that the Holy Spirit would inspire the apostles in the continuation of His teaching and in the writing of what would become the New Testament (John 14:25-26 and John 16:12-13). The apostles demonstrated that they came with the authority of God through the miracles they performed as Jesus and the prophets did before them. The book of Acts, which records the miracles of the apostles, has also proven to be a historically accurate record written by a first century eyewitness.

Many religious books claim to be divinely inspired, but only the Bible has evidence of supernatural confirmation. We have seen that Jesus, being God incarnate, affirms the inspiration of the Bible. Another evidence of supernatural confirmation is the testimony of:

Prophecy

The biblical authors made hundreds of specific prophecies of future events that have come to pass in the manner they were predicted. No book in history can compare to the Bible when it comes to the fulfillment of prophecy.

There are nearly one hundred prophecies made about Jesus in the Old Testament, prophecies such as His place of birth, how He would die, His rejection by the nation of Israel, and so on. All these prophecies were made hundreds of years before Jesus ever came to earth. Because of the accuracy of the prophecies, many skeptics have believed that they must have been written after A.D. 70 - after the birth and death of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem. They have thereby tried to deny that they are even prophecies.

However, in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. These scrolls contained the book of Isaiah and other prophetic books. When dated, they were found to be written from 120 to 100 B.C., well before Jesus was born. It would have been an incredible accomplishment for Jesus to have fulfilled the numerous prophecies. Some say these prophecies were fulfilled by chance, but the odds against this would be exceptionally large. It would take a greater leap of faith to believe in that chance happening than in the fact that Jesus is God and these prophecies are divinely inspired.

The record of prophecy is thus evidence for the unique and supernatural origin of the Bible. The Bible is the only book with supernatural confirmation to support its claim of divine inspiration. The testimony of Christ and the legacy of prophecy are two proofs for inspiration. A third line of evidence is:

The unity of the Bible.

The Bible covers hundreds of topics, yet it does not contradict itself. It remains united in its theme. "Well, what's so amazing about that?" you may ask. Consider these facts. First, the Bible was written over a span of fifteen hundred years. Second, it was written by more than forty men from every walk of life. For example, Moses was educated in Egypt, Peter was a fisherman, Solomon was a king, Luke was a doctor, Amos was a shepherd, and Matthew was a tax collector. All the writers were of vastly different occupations and backgrounds.

Third, it was written in many different places. The Bible was written on three different continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. Moses wrote in the desert of Sinai, Paul wrote in a prison in Rome, Daniel wrote in exile in Babylon, and Ezra wrote in the ruined city of Jerusalem.

Fourth, it was written under many different circumstances. David wrote during a time of war, Jeremiah wrote at the sorrowful time of Israel's downfall, Peter wrote while Israel was under Roman domination, and Joshua wrote while invading the land of Canaan.

Fifth, the writers had different purposes for writing. Isaiah wrote to warn Israel of God's coming judgment on their sin; Matthew wrote to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah; Zechariah wrote to encourage a disheartened Israel who had returned from Babylonian exile; and Paul wrote addressing problems in different Asian and European churches.

If we put all these factors together- the Bible was written over fifteen hundred years by forty different authors at different places, under various circumstances, and addressing a multitude of issues - how amazing that with such diversity, the Bible proclaims a unified message! That unity is organized around one theme: God's redemption of man. The writers address numerous controversial subjects yet contradictions never appear. The Bible is an incredible document.

It seems one author guided these writers through the whole process: the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:21 (NASB) for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The unity of the Bible is just one more amazing proof of the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible.

We've looked at the testimony of Jesus, prophecy, and the unity of the Bible as providing supernatural confirmation of the divine inspiration of the Bible. Another line of evidence is:

Archaeology.

Archaeology does not directly prove the Bible's inspiration, but it does prove its historical reliability.

Middle Eastern archaeological investigations have proven the Bible to be true and unerringly accurate in its historical descriptions. Nelson Glueck, a renowned Jewish archaeologist, states, "No archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference." Dr. William Albright, who was probably the foremost authority in Middle East archaeology in his time, said this about the Bible: "There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament."At this time, the number of archaeological discoveries that relate to the Bible number in the hundreds of thousands.

Archaeology has verified numerous ancient sites, civilizations, and biblical characters whose existence was questioned by the academic world and often dismissed as myths. Biblical archaeology has silenced many critics as new discoveries supported the facts of the Bible.

For example, the Bible records that the Hittites were a powerful force in the Middle East from 1750 B.C. until 1200 B.C. (Genesis 15:20, 2 Samuel 11, and 1 Kings 10:29). Prior to the late nineteenth century, nothing was known of the Hittites outside the Bible, and many critics alleged that they were an invention of the biblical authors.

However, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, archaeologists in Turkey discovered a city which proved to be the capital of the Hittite empire. In the city they discovered a massive library of thousands of tablets. These tablets showed that the Hittite language was an early relative of the Indo-European languages.

Another example is the story of Jericho recorded in the book of Joshua. For years skeptics thought the story of the falling walls of Jericho was a myth. However, recent archaeological discoveries have led several prominent scholars to conclude that the biblical description of the fall of Jericho is consistent with the discoveries they have made. One of the leading archaeologists on Jericho presently is Dr. Bryant Wood. His research has shown that the archaeological evidence matches perfectly with the biblical record.

Archaeology has also demonstrated the accuracy of the New Testament. Mark writes of Jesus healing a blind man as He left Jericho (Mark 10:46). Luke, apparently writing of the same event, says it happened while Jesus was approaching Jericho (Luke 18:35).

Excavations in 1907-09 by Ernest Sellin, of the German Oriental Society, showed that there were "twin cities" of Jericho in Jesus' time - an old Jewish city and a Roman city separated by about a mile. Apparently Mark referred to one and Luke referred to the other, and the incident occurred as Jesus traveled between the two.

One of the most well attested to New Testament authors is Luke. Scholars have found him to be a very accurate historian, even in many of his details. In the Gospel of Luke and Acts, "Luke names thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands without error." A. N. Sherwin-White states, "For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. . . . Any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted."

There is no other ancient book that has so much archaeological evidence to support its accounts. Since God is a God of truth, we should expect His revelation to present what is historically true. Archaeology presents tangible proof of the historical accuracy of the Bible.

We have given several proofs for the divine inspiration of the Bible. These include the testimony of Jesus, the divine Son of God; prophecy; unity; and archaeology. Accepting the divine inspiration of the Bible leads to the conclusion that any other book that contradicts the Bible cannot be true.

Since we have good reason to believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, any teaching that contradicts the Bible must be false. The Bible makes exclusive claims regarding God, truth, and salvation that would exclude other scriptures. The Bible teaches that any deity other than the God of the Bible is a false deity (Exodus 20). Jesus declared that He is the divine Son of God, the source of truth, and the only way to eternal life (John 1 & 14:6).

A look at a few works from other religions illustrates this point. The Hindu scriptures present views of God that are contrary to the Bible. The Koran, the holy book of Islam, denies the deity of Christ. the triune nature of God, and the atoning work of Christ on the cross (Sura 4:116, 168). These are foundational truths taught in the Bible.

Christianity affirms that Jesus Christ is God, Islam denies it. Like Christians, Muslims believe that Jesus was born miraculously without a father. But unlike Christians, Muslims do not take Him to be God or the Son of God.

Let me give you a quote from the Qur'an. Surah 5 The Table, The Table Spread:

17. In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: "Who then hath the least power against Allah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every - one that is on the earth? For to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For Allah hath power over all things."

The Quran says that it is blasphemy to say that the creator God is Jesus Christ, but this is in fact what the Bible teaches:

Colossians 1:16-18 (NASB) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.

We reject the claim to divine inspiration of any works that contradict biblical teaching. The Bible alone proves to be divinely inspired and its exclusive claims rule out the claims of other books.

To me, another proof of the verification of the Bible is my experience. I know that the Bible is true because I have seen its truths working in my life. As I apply biblical truths to my life I see their truthfulness fleshed out. When my children were young, a man asked me where I learned about how to raise children. I told him, "The book of Proverbs."

The more time I spend in the Bible the more I come to know and love my God.

Romans 10:17 (NASB) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

The reading and study of the Bible produces and increases faith.

The Bible being the Word of God and providing all that we need for life and godliness, shouldn't we be spending time in it? I think many folks have the attitude, "I'm too busy, I don't have time to read my Bible." People take time to do what is important to them. If spending time with God through His Word was important to you, you would make time to read it.

Our study of the Word is not to be for academic purposes, we're not to study to just learn facts and doctrines, but that we may grow to know God and know what He wants in our lives. Studying the Bible should be a way of life. We should always be seeking to learn something new and fresh every single day. We should have the attitude that Job had:

Job 23:12 (NASB) "I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.

I think this is why Job did such a great job dealing with the tremendous trials he faced, he loved God's Word. We don't like to miss a meal, and if we do, we can sure get ornery. We have to have our food. But are we that way when it come to studying the Bible?

World starvation is tragic. Often we hear reports that thousands starve to death daily. Television specials on the trouble and tragedies of the world break our hearts. But as sad as this is, there is an even greater tragedy. We should be weeping for ourselves. The Christian community is a starving, illiterate people. Believers are living lives of frustration and discontent. The only cure is for God's people to take the study and application of His Word seriously. After all God has done for you, is it too much to ask that you spend a time each day reading and studying His Word?

Psalms 119:105 (NASB) Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path.

The word of God directs us in our work and way, and a dark place, indeed, the world would be without it.

How much time do you spend each day getting to know the God whom you claim to love? If you want to live a productive vibrant Christian life, you need to discipline yourself to spending time in God's Word. If you neglect to spend time in God's Word, you do it to your own peril.

If you spend about 15-20 minutes a day in reading, you can read through the whole Bible in a year. Don't you have 20 minutes a day that you can give to God? Is that asking too much? I don' t know of anything that you could do that would be as valuable in time and in eternity than spending time reading God's Word.

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