Well, it's New's Years Day 2017, Happy New Year! You know what a new year means don't you? It's that time when people make resolutions. They resolve to give up this or start doing that. At this time of year people are resolving to do all kinds of things. If you want to make a resolution that will really help you, I suggest that you resolve to read through the Bible this year. If you really want to change your life for the better, there is only one sure way to do it, and that is by spending time in the Word of God, which in effect is spending time with Yahweh.
You would think that when you went to church you would be taught the Word of God. But sadly, today many churches are moving away from the Bible and are being driven by fads. The dictionary defines a fad as: "a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal." This could just as well be a description of congregational life of many Christian churches today. There is a new book, a new program, or a new emphasis every year or so.
To name just a few of the church fads I have seen: "Spiritual Gift inventories, Spiritual Warfare, Promise Keepers, Weigh Down Workshop, The Prayer of Jabez, the Left Behind Series, Becoming a Contagious Christian," a long succession of evangelism and stewardship programs, and also, "The Purpose-Driven Life and 40 Days of Purpose." There are many Christians for whom this list is Christianity.
For decades the church-growth experts have told us that if we are to attract the unchurched, we must change the way we "do church." We must offer them new "settings and experiences." We must meet their perceived felt-needs. We must do away with Biblical exposition and focus on stories. We must eliminate dogma and become relevant.
While the evangelical church has been chasing the ever changing fads and whims of our society, she has jettisoned her unique message. The Christian community has something to offer that no one else has: the truth of redemption in Yeshua the Christ found only in the Scriptures. Rather than running about trying to keep up with the world, we need to return to the one thing that grounds and strengthens the church, the Word of God. Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures are the:
I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15 NASB
Now notice what Paul calls the Church: "the pillar and support of the truth." In Ephesus, to those the letters were written, the word "pillar" would have a special significance. The greatest glory of Ephesus was the temple of Diana or Artemis. The temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the world. One of its features was its pillars. It had 127 pillars, every one of them the gift of a king. They were all made of marble, and some were studded with jewels and overlaid with gold.
It may be that the idea of the word "pillar" here is not so much support—that's the idea of "ground"—but of "display." The idea is that the Church's mission is to hold up the truth of God for all men to see. The Church is to support and display the truth of God. We are not the source of truth, the Bible is, but we are to support and display it. The Bible is God's Word, and the Church is to support and display that truth. I don't believe that the Church's mission has changed, we are to be the pillar and support of the truth. This is done through faithfully expounding the truth of God's Word.
In his book, "Amusing Ourselves to Death", Neil Postman writes:
"Toward the end of the nineteenth century… the Age of Exposition began to pass, and the early signs of its replacement could be discerned. Its replacement was to be the Age of Show Business."
Postman is right on with his assessment. In this Age of Show Business, truth is irrelevant; what really matters is whether we are entertained. Substance counts for little; style is everything. What is really sad about this is that that kind of thinking is true in the church as surely as it is in the world. I'm afraid that the church is forsaking its calling; it is no longer the pillar and ground of the truth, but has become a source of entertainment.
Now evangelicals everywhere are frantically seeking new techniques and new forms of entertainment to attract people. Whether a method is Biblical or not scarcely matters to the average Church leader today. Does it work? That is the new test of legitimacy. And so raw pragmatism has become the driving philosophy in much of the Church.
Pragmatism is the notion that ideas may be judged by their practical consequences. A pragmatist concludes that a course of action or concept is right if it brings good results; wrong if it doesn't seem to work.
When pragmatism becomes a guiding philosophy of life or ministry, it inevitably clashes with Scripture. Spiritual and Biblical truth cannot be determined by what works and what doesn't.
So why are so many Churches departing from the teaching of the Word of God?
A major problem is that most within churcheanity do not take the Bible literally. They see the Bible as something that was assembled over many centuries by divided and confused men without the infallible guidance of a Creator. Bottom line, I believe that the Church has departed from the teaching of the Word of God because they do not see the Bible as a supernatural book.
Today, I want to look at some of the evidence that demonstrates that the Bible is a supernatural book. My goal is that by the time we are done today you'll know just a few of the reasons why it makes sense to believe the Bible is a supernatural book.
So, let's take a look at this book. I want to give you four validating characteristics of the Bible that demonstrate it's supernatural content.
The first is that the Bible is Unique. In fact, people read and study the Bible because it is unique:
A) It is Unique in Composition:
Unlike the average natural book, the Bible was written over 1600 years, on three continents—Asia, Africa, and Europe—and in three languages—Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. It was written by 40 different authors—all from radically different backgrounds: fishermen, philosophers, peasants, kings, scholars, tax collectors, poets, and statesmen. It's divided into 66 smaller books. Yet there is a continuity and consistency of one common theme woven through its pages. That is not natural!
B) The Bible is also unique in Circulation:
The Bible has been copied and circulated more extensively than any other book in human history. In total, 428.2 million Scriptures were distributed by Bible Societies in 2014, including full Bibles, Testaments, Gospels and other smaller Scripture items — representing a 7% and a 17% increase over 2013 and 2010 respectively. It's been on the best seller list since the day records were kept.
Those statistics are even more impressive when you consider the fact that of all the new books that are written and published every year, less than one percent are still being produced just seven years later.
C) And it is unique in Availability:
The Bible is the single most translated book in history. It is written in over 1,700 different languages. No other book comes close to the Bible's availability.
D) It is unique with regard to its Durability:
It has survived bans, burnings, ridicule, and criticism. Kings, princes, and rulers have all tried to eradicate the Bible and have been unsuccessful. The Bible has been subjected to more abuse, perversion, destructive criticism, and pure hate than any other book. Yet, it continues to stand the test of time while its critics are refuted and forgotten.
E) But most of all, The Bible is Unique:
Unique with respect to the effect people claim it has had on their lives personally. People read lots of books, usually finishing and then going on to the next one. Not the Bible! People read it over and over. They memorize it, and write songs using its words. People carry it with them. They even own multiple copies.
Thanh Nguyen, a dedicated officer in Vietnam, saw a woman reading a Bible. "Give us your Bible immediately, and renounce its teachings!" he ordered. The woman rose to make eye contact with Thanh, clutched the Bible to her breast, and offered no reply. Thanh decided to use force. Upon his order, his soldiers began to stab the woman with their riffles, bloodying her face. Still she refused to surrender. They slapped her again and again, and smashed their fists into her head and stomach. Finally the Bible fell from her limp, bloody hands, but only after she had died. Thanh picked up the Bible, wiping the dust and blood from its tattered cover. He could not understand why anyone would die for a book. As the officer in charge of the incident, Thanh kept the Bible, and he began to read it. He learned of the sacrifice of Christ from verses like:
and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:23-24 NASB
Through reading about the suffering Christ, Thanh began to understand why the woman would endure such a terrible beating. He prayed. "Jesus, now I know that you died for me! Please forgive me for hurting your people. From now on I will love and protect them." Thanh now teaches his fellow believers in Vietnam how to stand firm in the face of persecution. (Wycliffe Bible Translators)
In the most intimate of moments, the Bible is the book we turn to for comfort, healing, and hope because; we believe its words are alive. No other book has that kind of effect on us because no other book is supernatural.
The Bible is not just unique. When you dig deeper into the evidence, you encounter a second discovery: Not only do people open the Bible because it is unique, but critics respect the Bible because it is authentic.
Based on the evidence, critical thinkers have concluded that the Bible is an accurate and credible ancient document; so accurate that it has earned their respect. In determining the authenticity of an ancient document, there are several tests that historians apply. The first is how many copies of the manuscript are still around and how similar are they to one another? The higher the number and the greater the similarity, the more likely that the copies are true to the original writing. In the case of the New Testament, the vast number of ancient manuscripts is overwhelming evidence of its authenticity. In fact, there are more ancient copies of the New Testament than any other document in all of literature.
Did you know that the New Testament weighs in with an astounding 24,300 copies from the first few centuries? And did you know that as textual experts have studied these manuscripts from all over the Middle East, they have discovered only minor variations, none of which change the meaning of the passage in which they are found?
Another evidence of the authenticity of the New Testament is the relatively short interval between manuscript dates and authorship dates. The shorter the span between the date of the oldest copy still in existence and the date of the original writing, the less likely that the copy has deviated from the original.
What about the New Testament? It was completed by A.D. 70 and the oldest fragment still in existence is of John 18. It's dated at A.D. 125, an interval of only 55 yrs from the original writing. That's the shortest time span of any ancient work. That's why one scholar has concluded:
"If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt." (F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? p. 15.)
You can be sure that the text from which your Bible was translated into English is virtually identical to those written by Matthew, Paul, and the other New Testament writers.
But what about the Tanakh, that part of the Bible people call the Old Testament, which was written long before the time of Christ? How do we know it hasn't changed? The authenticity of the Tanakh is confirmed by the consistency of manuscripts over an incredibly long time span. Let me explain what I mean.
In the 1948 printing of his book, Our Bible and Ancient Manuscripts, the great scholar, Sir Frederick Kenyon, wrote that he doubted scholars would ever find manuscript copies of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament that were older than the Massoretic text.
The Masoretic Text of the Tanakh was produced in A.D. 900 by a group of Hebrew scribes known as the "Masoretes" (that's why it's called the Masoretic text!). When Kenyon wrote his book in 1947, it was the oldest ancient manuscript of the entire Tanakh. But at virtually the same time his book was rolling off the presses, thousands of miles away, a young Arab boy was walking along the shore of the Dead Sea. For fun, he picked up a stone and randomly threw it into one of the hundreds of caves in the cliffs that surround it. To his surprise, he heard something shatter. When he crawled in to investigate, he found a broken pottery jar and some old manuscripts, the first of the collection that came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Soon archeologists were excavating caves throughout the area. They were amazed to find fragments of every book of the Tanakh and several complete copies.
Investigation revealed that the scrolls had been produced at Qumran, a Jewish settlement, which existed between 125 BC and AD 68. That means that the newly found manuscripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls version of the Tanakh, had to have been produced around 100 B.C., which is almost 1,000 years prior to the Masoretic text.
If errors and changes had crept into the Tanakh over time, it would surely be discovered when the Masoretic text was compared to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Guess what? The only variations over 1,000 years amounted to what could be categorized as minor spelling errors!
I can't even sign my name the same way twice! Yet Jewish scribes had been accurately transcribing the Scripture for a millennium. That amazing consistency has led most scholars to conclude that the text of the Tanakh has been preserved from the time of the originals, and that the Bible we read today contains the authentic writings of Moses and David and the prophets. That's supernatural!
When you dig deeper into the evidence, you encounter a third discovery: Not only do people open the Bible because it is unique and authentic, but we also find that it is accurate.
How do we know that what the Bible says happened, really did happen? How do we know for sure that there really was a man named Yeshua who claimed to be God, or that some guy named Abraham really did become the father of many nations?
The greatest evidence of the Bible's accuracy is the continuing archaeological confirmation of disputed historical details. Jewish archaeological expert, Nelson Bloch, states: "It may be categorically stated that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Even when there have seemed to be contradictions with the most up-to-date discoveries, the eventual evidence maintained the accuracy and integrity of the Bible."
Let me give you an example. In Daniel 5, the Bible references a man named Belshazzar as the King of Babylon. But the historical records held that another man was King of Babylon. This was a clear-cut contradiction. However, in 1956, archaeologists unearthed three stones that contained the inscribed information that solved the problem. It seems that the man who was King decided to lead his armies into battle and so he temporarily installed Belshazzar as King. Once again, it was the Bible that had the more precise account.
An important recent discovery is evidence for the existence of King David. The Bible says the young David slew the Philistine giant, Goliath, and went on to found Jerusalem. David's story is an exciting tale of murder, adultery, deceit, and extraordinary faith and courage. The story is so fantastic, many Biblical scholars have long thought, that even David must have been made up.
Then came what Seymour Gitin of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in East Jerusalem calls "one of the greatest finds of the 20th century.'' In 1993, Israeli archaeologists, digging in the Golan Heights unearthed a piece of stone from an ancient monument. Inscribed upon it, in ancient Aramaic, were the words "King of Israel" and "House of David."
The story so shook some scholars that they insisted the find was phony or the inscription incorrectly translated. A year later, however, archaeologists found more fragments of the monument with additional inscriptions referring to the ancient king. Today the new scholarly consensus is that David was real. "Not because the Bible says so," says Ronny Reich of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, "but because archaeology has found it."
Recent expeditions at Shechem, where the Bible says Abraham built an altar to God, prove an organized community existed there during Abraham's time nearly 4,000 years ago.
Archaeologists sifting through a 2,000-year-old garbage dump at Masada in Southern Israel unearthed a wine jug inscribed with the name of King Herod. It was the first object ever found bearing the name of the great Judean king mentioned in the Gospels.
The bottom line is that when it comes to the issue of reliability, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the Bible is an authentic and accurate portrayal of real people and real events.
It's one thing to say that the Bible is supernatural because it is unique, authentic, and accurate. It's quite another to say that it contains pre-written history. Yet, that is exactly what we see in the Bible. Because it is supernatural, we understand that it, in its totality, was inspired by Yahweh. And that is exactly what the Bible claims for itself:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB
What that means is that, through the Holy Spirit, Yahweh revealed Himself and His plans to particular individuals, who wrote down His message for His people. That doesn't mean that they went into a trance, and God moved their hands to write. Using their own minds, talents, language, and style, Yahweh led them to write what needed to be written. The claim of the Bible is that God was in control of its writing.
How do we know that the Bible is the inspired Word of the Living God? The strongest piece of evidence is fulfilled prophecies. No other book in the world contains the kind of specific prophecies found all throughout the pages of the Bible. There is no comparison, for example, between the Oracles of Nostradamus and the prophecies of the Tanakh about Yeshua the Christ. The prophecies of the Tanakh are often so obvious, that many secular scholars have unsuccessfully attempted to assign later dates to some of these prophecies to make it appear that the prophecies were made up after the events. That's how stunning some of this stuff is.
Let me give you an amazing example from the prophet Ezekiel. He made a number of predictions about the destruction of the Tyre. Tyre was a Phoenician stronghold. Tyre was a fairly significant city, a large city on the west coast of Phoenicia, now known as Palestine. And the word of Yahweh came to Ezekiel in verse 2 of chapter 26 telling about the destruction of the place:
"Son of man, because Tyre has said concerning Jerusalem, 'Aha, the gateway of the peoples is broken; it has opened to me. I shall be filled, now that she is laid waste,' Ezekiel 26:2 NASB
In other words, because Tyre mocked Jerusalem:
therefore thus says the Lord GOD, 'Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. 'They will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock. 'She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,' declares the Lord GOD, 'and she will become spoil for the nations. 'Also her daughters who are on the mainland will be slain by the sword, and they will know that I am the LORD.'" For thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, chariots, cavalry and a great army. "He will slay your daughters on the mainland with the sword; and he will make siege walls against you, cast up a ramp against you and raise up a large shield against you. "The blow of his battering rams he will direct against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. "Because of the multitude of his horses, the dust raised by them will cover you; your walls will shake at the noise of cavalry and wagons and chariots when he enters your gates as men enter a city that is breached. "With the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets. He will slay your people with the sword; and your strong pillars will come down to the ground. "Also they will make a spoil of your riches and a prey of your merchandise, break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses, and throw your stones and your timbers and your debris into the water. "So I will silence the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps will be heard no more. "I will make you a bare rock; you will be a place for the spreading of nets. You will be built no more, for I the LORD have spoken," declares the Lord GOD. Ezekiel 26:3-14 NASB
Now that's pretty detailed stuff, folks. I mean, that is not some kind of general prophecy. This is very specific. This is a great Phoenician city. From the seventh century B.C., it controlled Phoenicia. It had strong walls, about 150 feet high and fifteen feet thick. And it was flourishing when Joshua led Israel into Canaan. Hiram the First was its king. He helped David build the palace. And according to 1 Kings 5:10, he helped Solomon build the Temple.
Here's what actually happened as verified by secular historians: In 590 BC, Ezekiel makes his prediction. Four years later, in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar attacks the coastal city of Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar came and laid a 13 year siege on that city. They were walled cities, so all you had to do was, if you couldn't get into the city, you just cut off anything coming into the city, and they eventually starved. It took him 13 years from 585 to 573. Finally, the city surrendered, because they were all dying. And Nebuchadnezzar broke down the walls and the towers, destroyed the city, did every single thing Ezekiel said he would do, and he most likely had never read Ezekiel.
When He got in the city, he didn't find the spoils. He thought he was going to find spoils, but they had used their fleet to take the spoils out. They took all the spoils to an island a half-mile off the coast because, Ezekiel said, that his army would receive no wages from Tyre. And that is exactly that happened. When he got there, they had taken all the valuables off to the island, Nebuchadnezzar had no naval force to go off and get it.
"Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre; every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare. But he and his army had no wages from Tyre for the labor that he had performed against it." Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. And he will carry off her wealth and capture her spoil and seize her plunder; and it will be wages for his army. Ezekiel 29:18-19 NASB
The island then became the new city. And it flourished for 250 years out on that island.
Only part of the prophecy was fulfilled; the part about Nebuchadnezzar, the part about destroying the walls, smashing it down, slaughtering the people, not getting the spoil, but not all of it was yet complete. The ruins were still on the old sight. The rubble was still there. After 250 years, a 24-year-old guy by the name of "Alexander the Great" showed up. He had 33,000 infantry men, he had 15,000 calvary. He had just defeated the Persians and he was on his way to Egypt. He needed supplies. So he came by the now island city of Tyre and he sent word, "I want you to supply all of my men and all of my horses and all of my army." And they said, "Get lost, you don't have a navy, and we're on an island, we're not going to help you at all."
He didn't like that. And it wasn't good to get Alexander mad. He didn't have a fleet, so he decided he had to get a way to go to that island, so he did what Ezekiel, the prophet, said would be done. He said that the place would be scraped bare as rock and all the rubble would be thrown into the sea. Well, what conqueror in his right mind would ever do that? Why waste your time once you've conquered the place, picking up everything and throwing it in the ocean; all the stone and all the rest of it? But that's exactly what had to happen. So Alexander did it. He took all the debris and built a 2,000-foot long, 200 foot wide causeway all the way to the island with all the debris.
Now the island had fortified itself as well with powerful walls that reached right down to the edge of the sea. And as Alexander got closer, he realized he's going to have to get over those walls. So, in order to pull it off, he built these massive towers, 165 feet high, according to the record, 20 stories high, and they held artillery and they held a drop bridge. They just pushed the towers out the causeway, shot at the people from them, when they got to the wall, dropped the bridges down and walked right in.
In the process, of course, all the way along the people are throwing things and shooting things off the wall, and they invented what were called tortoises, big shells that they held over the workers who were building the causeway. It took him seven months. He went in and murdered 8,000 people, over a period of a few months executed 7,000 more and sold 30,000 into slavery and fulfilled every single detail of the prophecy. And though the city of Jerusalem has been rebuilt 17 times, Tyre has never been rebuilt. And that's exactly what God said. You will be built no more.
Today, the original mainland site of Tyre is as "bare as a rock." And you know what they do there today? They dry fish nets there, just as Ezekiel said. There is a city named Tyre, but it exists only as a small fishing village down the coast from the ancient city. Ezekiel couldn't have guessed that those things would happen. The story of Tyre and others is evidence that God directed the writing of the Bible.
Pre-written history, or Prophecy makes you ask, "How did the Bible know?" The New Testament tells us how it knew:
for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:21 NASB
The men who wrote the Bible did so under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Fulfilled prophecies from the Tanakh concerning Yeshua of Nazareth also point to divine inspiration. The writing of the Tanakh was completed several hundred years before Christ's birth, so there is no way any of these predictions could have been written after Yeshua was born.
There are over 300 prophecies that were literally fulfilled in Yeshua of Nazareth. What are the chances that so many prophecies could all come true in the life of one man? Peter Stoner in his book, Science Speaks, says, "…the probability that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled just eight of the prophecies is 1 in 1017. That's 1 with 17 zeros after it."
In order to comprehend this, imagine taking 1017 silver dollars and laying them on the face of the state of Texas. They will cover the entire state two feet deep. Then mark one of the silver dollars and somehow stir the whole pile thoroughly, all over the state. Put on a blindfold, travel as far as you wish, and on the first try, pick up the marked silver dollar. The chance of that happening is the same as the chance of eight messianic prophecies coming true in any one man.
And remember, that's just for eight of the 300 that have been fulfilled. And that's why one researcher writes, "God designed fulfilled prophecy to be an open demonstration of the divine origin of the scriptures."
Over three thousand times, the Bible says, "Thus says Yahweh." The Bible claims to be God breathed. It never makes the claim that it is just a good book. To disagree with Biblical inspiration is to disagree with the Bible itself.
Believers, it should be clear to all who look into it that the Bible is a supernatural book. It is the very Word of God. And because that is true, we should pay close attention to it's commands and promises.
The Bible teaches that apart from Yeshua the Christ, no one can have a relationship with God:
so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. John 5:23 NASB
The Bible is God's Word, it is authoritative and it states that there is only one way to heaven and that is through Yeshua the Christ. To reject the claims of Scripture is to perish for all eternity.
Believers, since we believe that the Bible is God's Word, since it is a supernatural book, shouldn't we spend more time in it? This book is supernatural, it can change your life, give you comfort in life's darkest hours, and strengthen you through all of life's trials. In this book Yahweh reveals Himself. So if you want to know Yahweh, you need to spend time in the Bible, only in it, does He reveal Himself.