Where did the Bible come from??

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Where did the Bible come from??
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
Matt. 24:35
Have you ever wondered where the Bible came from? How did we get the actual book that we hold in our hands? Did some guy say, “Hey, Martha. Hold my calls. I’m going up to my bedroom to write me some of that there Bible stuff”? Did God get a bunch of people together and do a group project, like a “Create the Bible Weekend”? Most people have no idea how each Bible portion was written and gathered into the whole. Here
are a few more questions I’ve heard people ask: Did the people who were writing the Bible know that they were writing Scripture? Did they have any awareness that God was writing through them? Did they say to themselves, “People are going to be reading this for thousands of years”? Did some people try to write the Bible and fail? Or did they get it right the first time? Were they on a direct feed from almighty God? Or were they
like, “Hey, God, I’m not getting this part-can we go over it again?”
The answers to these questions are extremely important. By studying the history of what did happen, we can greatly amplify our confidence in God’ s Word. Amazingly, the Bible was written over 1,500years by forty different authors on three different continents: Asia,
Europe, and Africa. The classic New Testament passage on the Bible’s origin is found in 2 Timothy 3:15, which says, “From childhood you have known the sacred writings
which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
I like that phrase at the end of the verse that says essentially, “Timothy, ever since you were a kid, you’ve known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation.” A lot of times people wonder, “How does a person come to be saved? How does a person come to know the Lord in a way that gets beyond religion to a genuine relationship?” Here we learn that the key is the Word of God. It is Scripture that penetrates people’s hearts and allows them to comprehend the “wisdom that leads to salvation.”
Let me ask you that same question: “Are you wise to the ways of salvation?” Either way, that kind of wisdom, salvation wisdom, can only come from God’s Word, the book that our Creator has written. Now maybe you’re thinking, Hold on. Do you really-believe that God sat at a desk and took a pen in His hand? Well, not exactly like that. Back to 2 Timothy 3:15. The phrase “sacred writings” in verse 15 is comoposed of two Greek words, which refer to the Old Testament Scriptures. Then in verse 16, “all Scripture” was the term used in the early church to describe God’s new writings.
Notice what Paul said in verse 16: “All Scripture is inspired by God.” All of it-the old and the new are both inspired, not just the part of the Bible that speaks to you. Not just the part that agrees with human wisdom. Not only the parts that bring you comfort. All Scripture-all of it-is given by inspiration of God. All sixty-six books. All 1,189 chapters. All 41,173verses. All 3,566,480 letters. All of it! The reason this is so important is that there are some parts of God’s Word that we don’t necessarily like or agree with. True or false? Some parts make us very uncomfortable because they convict us about our behavior and contradict views that we have thought to be correct. For that reason it is essential that we understand and accept the Bible’s own assertion that all of it-the parts that bless me and the parts that stretch me–all of it is God’s Word. Notice the word inspired in 2 Timothy 3:16.Some versions say inspiration. The word inspiration translates a compound word in the original. It’s a two-part word that means God-breathed. Once you understand the concept that all Scripture is inspired or God-breathed, you will never look at the Bible the same way again.
The best illustration I’ve heard to explain the concept of God-breathed is that of a sailboat. If you’ve ever been sailing, you know how incredible it is when the wind
blows down, catches the sail, and carries the boat across the lake. The boat can’t go where the wind won’t take it. In the same sense, God breathed the words of Scripture into the human authors. Yes, there were men who wrote it down. But the words that were written
were the very words of God. God breathed or blew His words into the hearts and minds of the human sails. The end result is that what we have recorded in the Bible are
the very words of God.
You say, “Can you be more specific?” Yes, I can. Not only did God write a book, but the Holy Spirit communicated the words. With so many people attacking and denying
the true authorship of Scripture, you have to be very specific about what you mean when you say that the Bible is God’s Word. Charles Ryrie, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, illustrates how times have changed: … “Not many years ago, a1l you had to say to affirm your belief in the inspiration of the Bible was that you believed the Bible was the Word of God. That was it. But as people have sliced and diced and criticized and
hacked the Bible to bits [or tried to-obviously they’ve failed, it became necessary to add that you believed the Bible was the inspired Word of God. Later you had to include the verbally inspired Word of God. Then to mean the same thing, you had to say the plenary, verbally inspired Word of God. Today one has to say the plenary, verbally inspired, infallible Word of God. So many people have tried to undermine God’s Word that you have to be really clear about what you mean.”
Let me touch on a couple of those things. We believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture. We believe God wrote the whole thing from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation
22:21. We believe that God wrote it all and not just certain parts.
Secondly, we believe in the verbal inspiration of Scripture-not just that God chose the concepts, but that He chose the specific words. It wasn’t like God was a coach as the apostles were writing down the New Testament-where He would say, “Hey, now write something about the feeding of the 5,000.” God wasn’t looking over the writer’s shoulder and saying, “Good, yeah, that’s ,really good. Now” write something about how much I love them. Yeah, yeah, that’s fantastic! No, it wasn’t like that-at all. The Holy Spirit communicated the specific words-not just the paragraph headings.
You say, “Weil, okay. But weren’t the apostles writing many years after Christ lived? How can I be sure that the words they wrote down were actually the exact words that Jesus spoke? I can’t remember what my mom said on the phone yesterday. How could they remember what Jesus said twenty, maybe even thirty years earlier?” First of all, I’m sure some of the disciples must have been saying, “Hey, is anybody getting this down? Lord, hang mon for a second. Somebody grab a pencil. We’ve gotta get some of this stuff down.”
But beyond that, Jesus promised the disciples help in remembering what He said. In John 14:26- Jesus promised, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Isn’t that a great pledge? So Jesus was like, “Hey. Don’t worry about trying to remember every single thing I say. When it comes time to write the Gospels, when it comes time to .write down the record of My life, I will have sent the Holy Spirit to indwell you, and He will bring to your mind all the words that I am speaking now.” Wow! That is so great! Look at Jolui.16:12. Not only would the Holy Spirit bring to mind the things the disciples might tend to forget, but Jesus said, “There’s a whole bunch of stuff I want to tell you guys, but you can’t handle it right now!”
John 16:12-13 says, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth: for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak.” So some of what the apostles wrote down in the New Testament were things that Jesus had never even spoken. The Holy Spirit was adding things under the direction of God the Father. Notice that the disciples were promised additional insight from the Holy Spirit, who would be directly involved in the inspiration and recording of Scripture.
As these truths begin to dawn upon our understanding, we can see that almighty God is very deeply invested in this book called the Bible. He could have communicated with us in a lot of different ways. He could have written His message in the sky. He could have sent us all heavenly telegrams. He could have appeared in person annually to make His will known. There are many approaches God could have used to get His information
to us. What God chose to do was to write a book. That was His plan, and that is His plan. He chose to make Himself and His will for us known in a book.
“For this reason we need to be very sure that we do not allow the words of the Bible to be diluted or compromised. They are not to be added to, subtracted from, or edited in any way. The words are not to be updated, amplified, or adjusted, not even once. In Rev. 22:19, almost the last verse in the Bible, it says, “If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city.”
Notice it says that if anyone takes away from the words of this book-not the concepts, not the thoughts, but the words. God doesn’t want people messing with His book. He doesn’t want people changing it. He doesn’t want people arrogantly thinking they can upgrade it or make it more accessible or less offensive or whatever. But there are some very troubling trends in the world today related to people taking God’s Word seriously.
First, I am concerned about the emphasis on study notes over the sacred text. It really bothers me to turn through the pages of a Bible and see the study notes written in the same font right alongside God’s Word. Some people spend more time reading the notes than what God actually wrote. There is danger in giving the words of men an authority parallel to the words of God. When you pick up the Bible, make sure you’re learning the Bible, and not just a single person’s thoughts about this book.
People have been understanding God’s Word without notes for thousands of years. Surely the most educated group of people who ever lived don’t need someone to interpret every single word.
Here’s a second trend that concerns me: marketing the Bible by creating a special version for every demographic segment of society-the High School Bible, the College Bible, the Worship Bible, the Seeker Bible, the Revival Bible, the Seniors’ Bible, the Little Kids’ Bible. It’s out of control! Where did this idea come from? From people who want to get God’s life-changing truth into the hands of everyone, or from those who want to profit from the Word of God through marketing techniques?
Next we’re going to have the Farmer’s Bible, but we’ll need a Crop Farmer’s Bible because his needs are a lot different from those of a livestock farmer! The livestock farmer will have to have his own Bible. Ridiculous! The third and most dangerous trend in our day is a dramatic shift in the actual philosophy of translation itself. For 2,000 years people translated the New Testament with one primary agenda: accuracy. They tolerated translations that were awkward or even unclear at times because they believed that the Holy Spirit gave the precise words that God the Father wanted, and their greatest passion was to know exactly what God said. But nowadays people say, “Just make it readable. People will never understand that; smooth it over, fill in the gaps, and make sure no one is left pondering what it means.” Many of today’s translators have forgotten that God’s
Word cannot be known apart from the work of the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 2:14). If the Spirit of God is opening the heart of a person, he or she will understand God’s Word. If the Spirit of God is not guiding them into truth (cf. John 16:13), no amount of” dumbing down” the Bible and injuring its accuracy will help. Good modern translations that present the greatest possible word-for-word accuracy would be the New American Standard Bible and the English Standard Version.
If we accept the biblical truth that God chose the words, then clearly we should not be tampering with those words in any way. But if the exact words don’t matter, maybe I should release the “Gen-X Bible” I have been working on. Here’s a sample from Luke 15:14, the story of the Prodigal Son. The English Standard Version says, “And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.” That’s an accurate translation. Now here’s my Gen-X version- “So the dude looks in his bag for a bit more green, and it’s like bone-dry. To make it worse, there’s like no food anywhere-not even a can of bean dip or something. And you know how bad you can get the munchies if you’ve been partying. So this guy is completely bent over with a hunger problem, and his formerly full pockets are way empty.’?
Is that where we want to go with the Bible? Many people are headed in that direction. We need those who will stand up for verbal inspiration. Some people say, “But, Lord, we’re helping people understand Your Word.” God’s like, “Whew! I couldn’t have done it without you.” Remember: God wrote a book! The Holy Spirit communicated the words, and the words matter! God can handle the obvious limitations of language equivalency
if we do our best to render word-far-word accuracy in our translations.
That’s God’s part. Now let’s consider the human role in the writing of Scripture. The apostles wrote the words down. This is where alot of people begin to struggle, saying, “I don’t have a problem with God’s book. As long as it’s in God’s hands, I feel really confident about it. It’s when some guy is actually writing it down-that’s what troubles me. It’s like, what if they got distracted or forgot a part or something? I forget stuff all the time. How can I be sure that they didn’t mess up the Bible somehow?” The other key New Testament passage on where the Bible came from is 2 Peter 1:20-21: “But know this first
of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
Notice first of all the phrase, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will.” While it was not man’s will creating the Scriptures, God did work through the authors’ individual personalities. God did not simply dictate the Bible. It wasn’t like John said, “Okay, now let’s do chapter 3, verse 16. ‘For’-Okay, got it. What’s next?-‘God’ -Got it. Next?-‘ so’-Got it.-‘loved’ Got it.-‘the’-Next?-‘world’-Great!/I The apostles and other authors of Scripture had more than a secretarial function. We believe that God supernaturally flowed His word-for-word truth through the personality and mind of the author. If you look at the life of Peter, for example, he was excitable, enthusiastic, and very verbal.
When you read his writings, they are the same way. He is talking about this, and then he’s talking about that, and next he’s changing the subject a third time. He’s allover the place, and you can see Peter’s personality in the way he writes. Or you might say, in the way God writes through him.
Now take the apostle Paul. He was like a lawyer: Point one, point two, point three. Perfect logic. Flawless argumentation. That’s how Paul writes. John was the one who leaned on Jesus’ bosom at the Last Supper. John was tenderhearted and loving. You can see his personality in the Gospel and Epistles God wrote through him. John constantly brings up God’s love and the way we must love each other. Do you see how God worked through the individuality of the human authors to bring the truth He wanted to communicate? It was God’s content delivered through human personality. But not just any old human personality. I don’t think many of us would have been qualified to write the Bible.
I know I wouldn’t have been. God chose the most righteous, godly people who have ever lived as the instruments to write His book. They were apostles and prophets-pure vessels, clear channels. They were men with the capacity to hear God very directly and perfectly.
These were men who had a lifetime of experience in downloading God’s heart to people.
Now we’re trying to answer the question: Where did the Bible come from? And hopefully you get the God part and the human part. Next let’s consider the book part. Maybe you think to yourself, A period of 1,500 years, forty different authors, sixty-six books. I can’t find a book that I read last year. How did sixty-six little books written over 1.5 millennia
get together in one big book?
To state it simply, the early church pulled it all together. Very early, within a very few years, the leaders of the church put these sixty-six books together, concluding, “These are the books God has written.” Again, while most people have little or no knowledge of how this happened, a clear understanding of the historical record can do a lot to bolster faith in God’s Word. The process they used involved two main steps: 1) eliminating the inferior writings; and 2) identifying the inspired writings.
The writing of the Scripture was complete by A.D. 95. Hundreds of manuscripts were copied and recopied so that everyone could hear the messages God had given. But there were also many writings that were not inspired by the Holy Spirit. So it wasn’t as if these sixty-six books were off in a pile all by themselves. Around and among the writings that would eventually be recognized as God’s Word were others that were of mere human origin. Canonization is the word that is used to describe how the individual books of Scripture were set apart and recognized.
The word canon actually means “measuring rod.” So the canon of Scripture is the collection of books that measured up. Norman Geisler and William Nix have written A General Introduction to the Bible,3inwhich they explain the process of canonization.
There were four categories into which the available religious writings were placed, and the first category was called the homolegomena, which means” one word” or “agreement.” These books were accepted by everyone and recognized quickly.
Then there was the second group called the antilegomena. These were books that were initially spoken against. People said, “We’re not sure about this one.
Should it really be in the Bible?” There were five Old Testament antilegomena books. People weren’t sure about the Song of Solomon at first because they thought it was too sensual. Ecclesiastes was also doubted initially because people thought it was too cynical. The book of Esther was questioned because it never mentions the name of God, though as people studied Esther, they carne to see the thread of God’s sovereignty woven beautifully through its story. The other two doubtful books were Proverbs and Ezekiel.
The New Testament books initially included in the antilegomena were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. Most of these were initially doubted on the grounds of authorship. For example, until the early church fathers were convinced that John really wrote 2 and 3 John, they weren’t willing to say that it was God’s Word. All of these were initially questioned but were eventually recognized as sacred Scripture.
A third category of writings you’ve probably heard of is the apocryphal books. The word apocrypha means “hidden” or “hard to understand.” These were also in the pile of books that were examined and measured against the standard of God’s authorship. There were fourteen to fifteen apocryphal books. A battle continues over these books in that the Roman Catholic church did not fully recognize them until the middle of the second millennium.
Several apocryphal books were added to the Bible during the time of the Protestant Reformation when certain Christians were questioning specific doctrines of the Catholic church and objecting to the lack of biblical support for such teaching. These apocryphal books, which do not agree with the originally canonized books, are used to substantiate Catholic teachings such as purgatory and prayers for the dead. These later books have always been noticeably inferior, and by virtue of their contradictions of teachings of the books originally recognized, apocryphal books should not be considered books that
God wrote.
The last category of writings considered during the process of canonization was the pseudepigrapha. This grouping, though it includes possibly 300 or more writings, focused in on 18 specific ones that, while high in quality, were unanimously recognized as clearly not God’s Word. These books were filled with fanciful, magical kinds of things such as stories about Jesus when He was a little boy and how He would do tricks for His friends. Everyone agreed that these were the creations of people’s imagination rather than messages given supernaturally by God.
I remember when I studied these matters for the first time, I had one burning question. You may be asking that question even now: “What specific standards did they actually use to establish the canon?” In reality there were five tests the writings had to pass in order to be considered God’s Word. We can call them “five proofs of inspiration.”
1. Authority. The book under consideration had to have authority. If you have ever studied God’s Word with an open heart, you know firsthand that it is unlike anything else you have ever read. The Bible has an almost measurable aura of authority. This authority was also present in the teaching of Jesus and was readily apparent to His audience. “They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority” (Mark1:22). Although we live in a day that repudiates authority, the early church understood that anything truly written by God would need to have an obvious ring of authority.
If you were to read through the whole Bible and circle every time it says, “And God said,” and “Thus says the Lord,” and “The word of the Lord came to,” you would discover that more than 4,000 times the writers of Scripture say without embarrassment or apology that
what they are saying and writing is the very Word of God. For this reason the early church knew that if the specific writing under consideration was in fact God’s Word, then all would agree that it communicated a sense of divine authority.
2.Authorship. Was it written by a man of God? It may have been that some were claiming that certain books were written by apostles when in fact they were not. Others were doubting truly apostolic writings simply because the subject matter or the circumstances of writing caused the apostle to write in a way that seemed different from other things he had written. Before a book could be accepted as from God, the early church wanted to be sure who the author was and that he had the credentials of one through whom God would choose to give His Word. As I mentioned above, this is why some books were initially disputed. When the authorship issue was settled, the matter was settled, and the books were included in the Scripture
3. Authenticity. Does the book tell the truth about God and man? Does the book tell the truth about salvation? Is it consistent with the rest of what we know to be God’s Word? This cross-checking is why there are no contradictions in the Bible, by the way. We like to think that we’re the smartest people who ever lived, but in reality we do not have a greater intelligence-not by a long shot. In fact, I’d like to suggest to you that the people who were living on the earth during the canonization of Scripture were extremely intelligent. Instead of wasting their lives watching television, they spent many, many years poring over the text-every word, every line, every verse, every chapter, comparing with other Scriptures back and forth, back and forth, and then confirming, “This is God’s Word because it agrees one hundred percent with everything else we know.” They would take a particular verse and compare it to the Pentateuch written by Moses. Then they would compare it to the books of each of the prophets. Then they would line the writing up with Psalms and other Old Testament books of poetry. They demanded that the message be consistent in every detail, or else it was not authentic. This is why the Apocrypha never passed the early test and was never accepted.
4.Alive. Hebrews 4:12 says that lithe word of God is living and active.” It’s powerful. It changes people’s lives. As these books were circulated, one of the things that people wanted to know was, “Is this powerful? Is this life-changing truth? Does this impact our lives?” Surely a message given by God Himself will have powerful results in the lives of those who read it. If it does, then that book was more likely to be confirmed as the Word of God.
5.Acceptance. This was the most important test of all. Did the other churches receive it as God’s Word? You can imagine as the letter to the Romans was written, it was passed around to this church and then circulated to a second church, then a third, and a fourth, and so on. As the people of God in each community read it, did they confirm and recognize that it was in fact the very Word of God, or was it simply a human communication? Were the churches unanimous in their perception of the book? First Thessalonians 2:13 records an actual occurrence of this process happening in an informal way when Paul reports: “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” The strongest test of the writings was their rejection or acceptance as God’s Word by the individual churches and their elders. So that’s where the Bible came from. God wrote a book. The Holy Spirit communicated the words. Men wrote them down. The early church pulled the writings together. This process was complete by A.D. 125, but it
was not one hundred percent confirmed worldwide until about A.D. 300.
Do you believe that God wrote a book? Because if you do, then that book should be getting a lot of attention from you, shouldn’t it If God really did write a book, we ought to be reading it, studying it, memorizing it, and letting it guide our lives. Go to the next page and learn exactly what the Bible can do for you and your family.
God wrote a Book
James MacDonald

Bestseller and More: Why I Believe in the Bible

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Bestseller and More: Why I Believe in the Bible

We begin with the simple observation that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time. More copies have been printed in more languages and read by more people than any other book in history. It is so far out in front of every other book ever written that it stands in a category all by itself. It is not only the best-selling religious book, it is the best-selling book of any and every category.

The Bible is number one. The all-time best-seller. The undisputed champion.

On this Sunday it is read, studied, quoted and memorized in every nation on every continent. The Bible has now been translated into every major language of the world and work goes on around the clock to translate it in the remaining tribal languages that do not have it.

So if we had no other reason to study the Bible, it’s unparalleled popularity must cause us to stop and consider it carefully. But the title of this message is “Bestseller and More.” The question might be put this way: Why is the Bible still the all-time bestselling book in world history? What is it about this ancient book that still draws the attention of this generation? Why are we still attracted to these ancient stories? Is it just our religious background? Do we turn to the Bible because it makes us feel good in times of trouble? Or is there something more?

Every Word and All the Words

Indeed there is, and it is the burden of this message to explain the “something more” about the Bible. For 2000 years Christians have used a particular phrase to describe what they believe about the Bible. We call it “the Word of God.” That alone sets the Bible apart from every other book. When we use the phrase “the Word of God” we mean that the Bible comes from God and represents his word to us. That is, when we read the Bible, we are reading the very words of God. There is another term we use to describe this truth. It is the word “inspiration.” 2Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” Applied to the Bible, that means that God breathed out the very words of Bible and the human authors wrote them down. Note please, three implications of this truth:

1. Inspiration extends to every part of the Bible.
2. Inspiration extends to the very words of the Bible.
3. Inspiration guarantees the absolute truthfulness of the Bible.
–The Bible is infallible (teaching only the truth)
–The Bible is inerrant (incapable of teaching error)

Now that in a nutshell is what we believe about the Bible. It is what we mean when we use the phrase “the Word of God.”

But saying it is so doesn’t make it so. Why do we believe the Bible is the Word of God and thus absolutely truthful? How can we be so sure that the Bible stands above every other book ever written? In order to answer those questions, I’m going to put the Bible to the test this morning.

Let’s suppose that someone comes up to you and offers you a soft drink you’ve never had before. No doubt you’ll ask a few questions before you take a sip. You want to know its claims (what’s on the label), its credibility (what’s behind it), its consistency (what’s in it), and its certainty (what comes out of it). Let’s apply those four tests to the Bible and see what we get.

I. Its Claims

In the first place the Bible clearly claims to be the Word of God. 2 Peter 1:21 says, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” It’s not as if Jeremiah dreamed up his visions or David his psalms or Paul his letters. These men “spoke from God” as the Holy Spirit carried them along. The Greek word for “carried along” pictures a ship being moved through the waters by the power of the wind in the sails. The Holy Spirit is the real power behind the writing of the Bible. He is the divine author, men like David, Daniel and John were human authors. That’s why the Bible repeatedly uses phrases like “the Lord says” and “the Word of the Lord came” and “the Lord spoke.” Jeremiah 1:9 puts it very plainly: “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.’” This is a claim to direct, divine inspiration by God. In Galatians 1:11-12 Paul says that his message did not come from man but by direct revelation from God. Over 3800 times the Bible uses the phrase “Thus saith the Lord”!

The writers of the Bible did not decide to sit down one day and write the Bible. The didn’t “get inspired” or “on a roll” like Shakespeare writing his plays or Frank Peretti writing his novels! They were working in the power of the Holy Spirit who superintended the whole process to ensure the accuracy of everything they wrote. Paul Little offers this helpful clarification:

It is important to realize too that the writers of the Scripture were not mere writing machines. God did not punch them like keys on a typewriter to produce His message. He did not dictate the words, as the biblical view of inspiration has so often been unfairly caricatured. It is quite clear that each writer has a style of his own. Jeremiah does not write like Isaiah, and John does not write like Paul. God worked through the instrumentality of human personality, but so guided and controlled men that what they wrote is what He wanted written.

Whatever else we may say about the Bible, let’s begin with what it says about itself. The Bible claims to be the very Word of God. It never pretends to be “just another book.”

“So what if the Bible claims to be inspired by God? That doesn’t make it so!” True! I could stand up here and claim to be Jack Nicklaus but that doesn’t mean I could make a putt over two feet. It’s not just the claim, but what backs up the claim. Which brings us the question of the Bible’s credibility.

II. Its Credibility

Let’s consider credibility under two headings. First of all, accuracy of transmission. After all, everyone understands that the Bible was written between 2000-3500 years ago. And everyone agrees that we don’t possess any of the original manuscripts of the Bible. How do we know that what we are reading is an accurate transmission of what the human authors originally wrote? The answer for the Old Testament is that the Jews were almost fanatical in their insistence on accuracy. When they copied a manuscript by hand, they counted the total number of letters and figured out the middle letter of the entire book. Once a scribe finished copying that book, if his middle letter of the copy was different, the entire book was presumed to be incorrectly copied and was destroyed. The scribes even counted the various letters. They knew, for instance, that the Hebrews letter “Aleph” (the equivalent of our English A) occurred 42,377 times in the Old Testament. That’s why all the existing manuscripts of the Old Testament are virtually identical.

We find the same accuracy of transmission in the New Testament. Scholars tell us that there are over 5200 complete manuscripts of the New Testament (and another 8,.000 partial manuscripts). And the oldest manuscripts go back to within a century of the original writings. Make this comparison: We have 5200 manuscripts of the New Testament and no more than 5 for anything Aristotle wrote. And the earliest copy of Caesar’s Gallic Wars dates 1000 years after it was written. The first complete copy of Homer’s Odyssey is dated 2200 years after it was written.
Let me say it plainly: The Bible is by far the best-attested ancient book in the world. There are more copies, earlier, and more accurately recorded, than for any other book from ancient history.

Second, consider the Bible’s amazing historical accuracy. In general, we may see that historical research has tended to confirm every major factual claim in the Bible. For many years, the critics claimed that no one named Pontius Pilate ever existed. But the archaeologists uncovered a stone tablet in Caesarea with his name on it. The Bible also mentioned a tribe of people called the Hittites, which the critics claimed never existed. But today scholars know that the Hittitte empire existed throughout the land we now call Turkey. And the leading Hittite scholar in America is a man named Harry Hoffner who attended this church and works at the Oriental Institute in Chicago. The critics have been wrong about so many things. They claimed there was never a ruler named Belshazzar. They denied there was a king named Sargon. Both claims were proven wrong. Some radical scholars said that the whole story of David was a myth, that there never was a King David at all. They said that because they couldn’t find any contemporaneous proof. But about three years at a place called Tell Dan, archeologists discovered an inscription that mentions the “House of David,” which is the biblical term for David’s kingdom.

On and on we could go, giving you literally hundreds of examples where historical research and archeological discoveries have confirmed the truth of the biblical record. Please understand. I am not arguing that archeology “proves” the Bible, only that if the Bible is true, archeology helps confirm that fact.

Dr. Nelson Glueck, one of the greatest archeologists of this century, summarized the matter this way: No archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.
We have nothing to fear from the closest scrutiny of the Bible. It will stand the test of any fair investigation.

III. Its Consistency

Two important lines of evidence establish the Bible’s internal consistency. First, there is the testimony of fulfilled prophecy. Someone has calculated that fully one-fourth of the Bible was prophecy when it was written. The 66 books of the Bible make hundreds of specific prophecies regarding people, places, kingdoms, wars, and nations. But the greatest predictive prophecy deals with the person of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament contains approximately 500 predictions regarding Christ, including the place of his birth, the manner of his birth, the family into which he would be born, the scope of his ministry, the nature of his death, and the miracle of his resurrection. All of these prophecies were written down between 400-1500 years before his birth. Yet each of them was fulfilled down to the letter. In his book Science Speaks Peter Stoner calculated the odds of anyone fulfilling just eight of those predictions by chance. The odds came out to 1 in 10 to the seventh power. That’s one in 100 quadrillion! If you took that many silver dollars and scattered them across Texas, they would cover the state two feet deep. Now take one of those silver dollars and mark it with a red X and throw in at random into that pile of silver dollar. Then blindfold a volunteer and ask him to find the marked silver dollar on his first try. That’s the same odds that 8 predictions about Christ could be fulfilled by chance. Yet Christ fulfilled over 500 prophecies!

Second, consider the amazing unity of the Bible. We are accustomed to thinking of the Bible as one book, yet it consists of 66 books written by 40 authors over a period of 1600 years. Yet the Bible is one book because it contains an amazing unity of theme from Genesis to Revelation. Here are the words of C. Donald Cole:

What matters is the that in spite of the immense span of time–1600 years–and the variety of authors–more than 40–the Bible is a book. It is not a library; it is a single volume remarkable for its unity… . God himself is the source of the Scriptures; otherwise, they would not be–indeed, could not be–the remarkable unity the Bible exhibits.

How do we explain the unity of the Bible? The Old Testament points to the coming of Christ, the gospels to the appearance of Christ, Acts to the preaching of Christ, the epistles to the body of Christ, and Revelation to the return of Christ. Jesus Christ is the theme of the Bible. This amazing unity amid diversity is one of the great proofs of the Bible’s supernatural origin.

IV. Its Certainty

Having said all that, how can we be sure the Bible is the Word of God? Consider please one more line of evidence. I speak of the evidence of changed lives. History tells us that wherever the Bible goes, lives are changed. Whole cultures are transformed from devil-worship, cannibalism and warfare into societies in which human life is respected and human dignity established. If you doubt it, ask any missionary what happens when the gospel is preached. I have listened to the people of Paraguay praise God in the Guarani language. I have seen with my own eyes young people in Haiti come to Christ and be set free from witchcraft and demonism. I have worshiped in Russian churches with believers who were persecuted for their faith by the communists. Last year I attended a service in Jerusalem with nearly 500 believers, many of them Messianic Jews. Everywhere the Bible is preached, it radically changes hearts, lives, families, cities, cultures, and entire nations.

Ironside and the Agnostic

You may question the Bible if you like, but you cannot deny its power to transform the human heart. Early in his ministry Dr. Harry A. Ironside was living in the San Francisco Bay area, working with the Brethren. One evening as he was walking through the city he came upon a group of Salvation Army workers holding a meeting on the corner of Market and Grant avenues. When they recognized Ironside they asked if he would give his testimony. So he did, telling how God had saved him through faith in the bodily death and literal resurrection of Jesus.

As he was speaking, Ironside noticed that on the edge of the crowd there was a well-dressed man who had taken a card from his pocket and had written something on it. As Ironside finished his talk the man came forward, lifted his hat, and very politely handed Ironside the card. On one side was his name, which Ironside immediately recognized. The man was one of the early socialists who had made a name for himself lecturing not only for socialism but also against Christianity. As Ironside turned the card over he read, “Sir, I challenge you to debate with me the question ’Agnosticism versus Christianity’ in the Academy of Science Hall next Sunday afternoon at four o’clock. I will pay all expenses.”

Ironside reread the card aloud and then replied somewhat like this. “I am very much interested in this challenge. I will be glad to agree to this debate on the following conditions: namely, that in order to prove that this gentleman has something worth debating about, he will promise to bring with him to the lecture hall next Sunday two people, whose qualifications I will give in a moment, as proof that agnosticism is of real value in changing human lives and building true character.

Two Witnesses

“First, he must promise to bring with him one man who was for years what we commonly call a ’down-and-outer.’ I am not particular as to the exact nature of the sins that had wrecked his life and made him an outcast from society – whether a drunkard, or a criminal of some kind, or a victim of his sensual appetite – but a man who for years was under the power of evil habits from which he could not deliver himself. Then on some occasion he entered one of this man’s meetings and heard his glorification of agnosticism and his denunciations of the Bible and Christianity. As he listened to such an address were so deeply stirred that he went away from that meeting saying, ’Henceforth, I too am an agnostic!’ and as a result of imbibing that particular philosophy found that a new power had come into his life. The sins he once loved he now hates, and righteousness and goodness are now the ideals of his life. He is now an entirely new man, a credit to himself, and an asset to society – all because he is an agnostic.

“Secondly, I would like my opponent to promise to bring with him one woman – I think he may have more difficulty in finding the woman than the man – who was once a poor, wrecked, characterless outcast, the slave of evil passions and the victim of man’s corrupt living, perhaps one who had lived for years in some evil resort, utterly lost, ruined and wretched because of her life of sin. But this woman also entered a hall where this man was loudly proclaiming his agnosticism and ridiculing the message of the Holy Scriptures. As she listened, hope was born in her heart, and she said, ’This is just what I need to deliver me from the slavery of sin!’ She followed the teaching and became an intelligent agnostic or infidel. As a result, her whole being revolted against the degradation of the life she had been living. She fled from the den of iniquity where she had been held captive for so long; and today, rehabilitated, she has won her way back to an honored position in society and is living a clean, virtuous, happy life – all because she is an agnostic.

Living Proof

“Now,” he said, addressing the man who had presented him with his card and the challenge, “if you will promise to bring these two people with you as examples of what agnosticism can do, I will promise to meet you at the Academy of Science Hall at four o’clock next Sunday, and I will bring with me at the very least one hundred men and women who for years lived in just such sinful degradation as I have tried to depict, but who have been gloriously saved through believing the gospel which you ridicule. I will have these men and women with me on the platform as witnesses to the miraculous saving power of Jesus Christ and as present-day proof of the truth of the Bible.”

Dr. Ironside then turned to the Salvation Army captain, a girl, and said, “Captain, have you any who could go with me to such a meeting?” She exclaimed with enthusiasm, “We can give you forty at least just from this one corps, and we will give you a brass band to lead the procession!”

“Fine,” Dr. Ironside answered. “Now, sir, I will have no difficulty picking up sixty others from the various missions, gospel halls, and evangelical churches of the city. So if you will promise to bring two such exhibits as I have described, I will come marching in at the head of such a procession, with the band playing ’Onward, Christian Soldiers,’ and I will be ready for the debate.”

Apparently the man who had made the challenge had some sense of humor, for he smiled wryly and waved his hand in a deprecating kind of way as if to say “Nothing doing!” and then edged out of the crowd while the bystanders applauded Ironside and the others.

You Still Have to Make Up Your Mind

Is the Bible the Word of God? I cannot “prove” that to you. You still have to make up your own mind. But if you have doubts, I encourage you to read it for yourself, study its claims, observe its message, check out the facts for yourself. I have done that and I have also read the claims of the skeptics. As for me and my house, we will stand on the Bible as the Word of God.

I submit to you that the Bible will stand the toughest test, the hardest scrutiny because it is indeed the Word of God. That’s why after 2000 years it is still the world’s bestseller. No other book contains the plan of salvation. No other book can tell you how to get to heaven.

The Bible Tells Me So

Last Sunday a young girl pressed some paper into my hand. She said she had written something as a gift to me. When I looked at it later, it turned out to be a little handwritten book called “God really does love us.” The first page is a drawing of a cross with a heart and the sun shining upon it. The caption reads “God loves us!” The second page shows a young girl kneeling before Jesus on the cross. She is telling his she loves him. The final page shows a Jesus on the cross with the words, “God really did die for me!!”

Where did Meghan Keating learn such truth? I think I know the answer. Many years ago most of us learned to sing a little song that goes like this:

Jesus love me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong, they are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me,. Yes Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

Indeed it does. Thank God for the Bible because without it, we would never know about Jesus. And without Jesus, we could never be saved. But the Bible is true and it is the Word of God. If you still have doubts, I encourage you to read it for yourself. When you do, you will discover for yourself the most wonderful truth in the world–Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

 Adapted from a sermon by: Dr. Ray Pritchard  www.keepbelieving.com

40 Days in God’s Word

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How are you doing with 40 days in God’s Word?
We should be about the book of Acts in our reading. How are we doing in understanding what we have read? It’s alarming to see the drop in Biblical literacy among Americans. Growing numbers of people don’t know what the Bible says, even the most basic foundational truths, people, and facts.
Evangelical pollster George Barna says, “Over the past 20 years, we have seen the nation’s theological views slowly become less aligned with the Bible. Americans still revere the Bible and like to think of themselves as Bible-believing people, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Christians have increasingly been adopting spiritual views that come from Islam, Wicca, secular humanism, the eastern religions, and other sources. That’s because we’re not reading and studying the Bible.”  If we don’t know what God says is truth, it makes us vulnerable to believing a lie.
Here are 20 questions to see how you are doing in understanding what you are reading.

1. Who wrote the first four books of the New Testament?

2. What is the Greatest Commandment?

(Matthew 22:37,38)

3. What is the second Greatest Commandment?
(Matthew 22:39)

4. What is the Golden Rule?
(Matthew 7:12)

5. What is the Great Commission?
(Matthew 28:19,20)

6. What is the root of all kinds of evil?
(1 Timothy 6:10)

7. Who delivered the Sermon on the Mount?
(Matthew 5-7)

8. Who was the Roman governor who sentenced Christ to death?
(Matthew 27:26)

9. What happened while the Lord Jesus was in the desert for 40 days?
(Matthew 4:1) Hebrews 4:15

10.What is the book of Acts about?

11. What are epistles?

12. Which angel appeared to Mary?
(Luke 1:26)

13. What happened to the Lord Jesus 40 days after His resurrection?
(Acts 1:9-11)

14. Who taught in parables?
(Matthew 13:3)

15. What are parables?

16. Which two people walked on water?
(Matthew 14:29)

17. What is the Lord’s Prayer?
(Matthew 6:9-13)

18. Who was the first person to see the risen Lord?
(John 20:16)

19. Which prophet and cousin of the Lord was beheaded?
(John 14:10)

20. To what country did the young Jesus and His parents escape when Herod was threatening His life?
(Matthew 2:13-15)