Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Holy Scriptures are the Word of God

The Holy Scriptures are made up of 66 books (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament) written in three languages (Hebrew, Greek, and a little Aramaic) over a period of more than a than a thousand years by over 40 authors. I contend that the authors were inspired by God Himself and their writings are the Word of God.

It would be wrong to assume that the Scriptures are the Word of God if the Scriptures themselves did not make this claim. However, the Scriptures do make this claim, and it is necessary to examine this claim with all honesty and integrity. If the Scriptures make this claim and are false, then the Scriptures are unreliable and should not be used at all in the church. However, the Scriptures make the claim that they are inspired by God. And if this is true, then we must submit to God’s divine revelation as authoritative in our faith and life.

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16), and calls Scripture “the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). If the Scriptures are breathed out by God then how can they not be God’s Word? And if the Scriptures are the word of truth, then they must be from God, since God is true and not a liar (2 Sam. 7:28; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). The Apostle Peter writes, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). Second Peter 1:20 communicates to us that “prophecy” is referring to Scripture. And the Apostle Peter here indicates that the writers of the Scriptures were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The Apostles Paul and Peter were speaking of the Old Testament Scriptures, which Paul used to prove to Jews and Gentiles that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 17:2; 18:28; 1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 3:8). The Psalms declare that the Scriptures are pure (Hebrew: Tahroath Ps. 12:6), true (Emet, Ps. 119:60), and perfect (Tumiyma, Ps. 19:7).

Jesus Christ saw the Old Testament Scriptures as God’s holy Word and authoritative for faith, life, and prophecy concerning Himself. When Jesus argued with the Jews, He quoted the Holy Scriptures showing that He considered them authoritative (Mt. 21:22; 22:29; Jn. 7:32). Often Jesus would respond to attacks from men and the devil with the phrase, “It is written” (Mt. 4:4, 6, 7, 10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:31; Mk. 7:6; 11:17; 14:27; Lk. 10:26; 20:17; 24:46; Jn. 6:45). After Jesus rose from the dead, He taught about Himself using the Old Testament on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:27, 32). More than that, Jesus knew He was fulfilling Scripture testifying to its divine inspiration (Mt. 26:31; Mk. 9:12; 14:21, 27, 49; Lk. 18:31; 20:17; 22:37; Jn. 7:42; 12:14; 15:25). He told the Jews, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (Jn. 5:39). After Jesus rose from the dead, He told the disciples, “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Lk. 24:44). Jesus saw the Scriptures as the Word of God that spoke the truth which enabled Him to say, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35).

But what about the writings of the New Testament? Should they be considered God’s Word? Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed told the Apostles that after He rose from the dead the Holy Spirit would inspire them in a special way and guide them into all truth (Jn. 14:25-26; 16:12-15). The early church saw this and “devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he claimed divine authority for all the Apostles declaring that the church “was built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (2:20). The Apostle Peter refers to the letters of Paul as “Scripture” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). And Paul declared that the letters he wrote were to be read and obeyed (Col. 4:16; 2 Thess. 3:14). The writings of the Apostles were considered God’s Word by the recipients of their letters.

What about those books in the New Testament that were not written by Apostles? There are some, but none of them were written without apostolic direction. Luke received his information from the Apostle Paul (1 Tim. 4:11) and numerous eyewitnesses (Lk. 1:1-4). Mark received his information from the Apostle Peter (This is attested to by Papias, and Clement of Alexandria). Paul called James an Apostle and pillar (Gal. 1:19; 2:9). Jude was James’ brother, probably Jesus’ half-brother, and closely associated with the Apostles in Jerusalem. Tertullian (De Pudicitia, 20) suggests that the writer of Hebrews was Barnabas, and Martin Luther suggested that the writer was Apollos. Both are very probable candidates for authorship. Either way, both were considered authoritative in the early church. Barnabas was called an Apostle (Acts 4:36) and accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-4). Apollos is mentioned in the same category as the Apostles Peter and Paul, in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth (1:12; 3:4-6, 22). Apollos, Barnabas, Jude, James, Peter, Paul, John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew are the ones through whom the gospel came down to the early church. Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons in the late second century wrote, “We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith” (Against Heresies, 3:1.1, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p. 414, emphasis added).

Still, many in the Christian church today do not consider the writings of Scripture as the Word of God. Some even believe that the Scriptures are not inspired at all. This has caused church bodies such as the Episcopalian Church USA (ECUSA), the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), the United Church of Christ (UCC), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to reject the passages of Scripture which speak of the role of women in the church. It is curious observing these criticisms arising during the feminist movement in America. It is also unfortunate that these church bodies have not stood boldly upon Scripture, but have allowed themselves to conform to the world. The ECUSA, and the UCC have already ordained practicing homosexuals to the Pastoral office. And the PCUSA and the ECLA are divided whether or not they should follow suit. All of these church bodies deny the inerrancy and authority of the Holy Scriptures.

The Scriptures show themselves to be divinely inspired since in them we see hundreds of prophecies extending hundreds – and sometimes thousands of years in the future. Many liberal church bodies often want to reduce the Bible to the friendly Jesus (the gospel) and do not to heed the words of the wrathful God of the Old Testament. However, the Old Testament testifies to Christ and prophecies concerning Him. The Scriptures prophecy that Jesus would be born of a woman (Gen. 3:15; Mt. 1:20; Gal. 4:4), descend from Abraham (Gen. 22:18; Mt. 1:1; Gal. 3:16), be born of a virgin (Is. 7:14; Mt. 1:18), be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7), be rejected by His own people (Is. 53; John 1), be presented as a king riding on a donkey (Zech. 9:9; Luke 19:35-37), be betrayed by a friend (Ps. 41:9; Mt. 26:50), be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12; Mt. 26:15), have blood money thrown on temple floor and used to buy a potters field (Zech. 11:13; Mt. 27:5-7), be crucified (Ps. 22:16; Lk. 23:33), be crucified with thieves (This was prophesied prior to crucifixion being a mode of execution; Is. 53:12; Mt. 27:38), have lots cast for his clothing (Ps. 22:18; John 19:23), be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Is. 53:9; Mt. 27:57), be resurrected and exalted (Ps. 16:10; Is. 52:13; 53:10-12; Acts 2:25-32) and ascend into heaven (Ps. 68:18; Acts 1:8; Eph. 4:8). This is what the these divinely inspired Old Testament writings say about Jesus Christ. And the same Jesus Christ inspired the New Testament writers authoritatively (Jn. 14:25-26; 16:12-15; Eph. 2:20). It is absurd to think that God would abandon His people and leave them with no rule, norm, or guide for faith and life. The Psalms declare that God “will guide us forever” (48:14), and Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mk. 13:31).

The Scriptures show themselves to be a book of history promising historical events that come to pass exactly as promised. These promises show the divine inspiration of Scripture and show that God is active in human history bringing events to pass just as He ordains them. We can therefore trust the internal consistency of the Bible as being a faithful witness.

What about a non-believer who declares that the Bible cannot be trusted? Why should they accept the Scriptures as the Word of God, and not other religions’ writings? First, neither Islam, any other world religion, or cult can present any specific prophecies concerning the coming of their prophets. This testifies to the divine inspiration of the Bible. Above, I have showed the prophetic testimony concerning the coming of Jesus Christ. These are the Scriptures which speak of Christ the incarnate God, and firstborn from the dead, who promises to save us from our sins by His grace alone and not by our works. No other religion takes care of the problem of sin, has an incarnate God, or presents evidence for the resurrection or salvation by grace alone. Second, the historicity of the Old and New Testament accounts have been well established by early Ancient Near East, Roman, Greek, and Jewish sources. When the Old and New Testament speaks of rulers, nations, people groups, political events, and the existence of Jesus, non-Christian historical sources confirm the accuracy of these Old and New Testament accounts. Further, archaeological sites and artifacts have been found confirming the accuracy of the Scriptures. A few examples include Herod’s temple in Jerusalem, Israel (Lk. 1:9), the Derbe inscription in Kerti Huyuk, Asia Minor (Acts 14:20), the Erastus inscription in Corinth, Greece (Rom. 16:23), and the tomb of Augustus in Rome, Italy (Lk. 2:1). This testifies to the historical accuracy of the Bible. And finally, many non-believers are willing to accept the authority of ancient writings such as Homer (ca. 850 BC), Plato (ca. 380 BC), and Aristotle (ca. 350 BC), but are unwilling to accept the writings of the New Testament (ca. 60 AD). We only have 643 copies of Homer’s writings, and do not know when the earliest copy comes from. We have seven copies of Plato’s writings and the earliest copy we have does not come until 1300 years after Plato’s time. We have five copies of Aristotle’s writings and the earliest copy does not come until 1400 years after his time. We have over 14,000 copies of the New Testament and have a scrap of papyrus containing parts of the gospel of John dating no more than 40 years after John’s gospel was likely written. A non-Christian scholar, Carsten Peter Thiede, claims he has dated a fragment of Matthew to about 60 AD. Of the 14,000 manuscripts there are variants, but 97-99% of the New Testament can be reconstructed beyond any reasonable doubt, and no Christian doctrine is dependent upon textually disputed passages. And if the New Testament is accurate, its testimony concerning the Old Testament must be accepted as well.

In conclusion, for both the critical Christian and the skeptical non-Christian, the bibliographical, prophetic, and historical evidence are strong and hopefully will remove stumbling blocks in the way of accepting the Scriptures as God’s Word. However, for both, it is not these arguments that are going to change hearts and minds, but it is the Holy Spirit working through the proclamation of the gospel.

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