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How do we know that the Bible is God's Word?

How do we know that the Bible is actually the Inspired Word of God?

Is the Bible actually God's message to us? When you think about it, this is one of the most important questions a person can ask. If the Bible is a message from God, we must listen to it and set our lives by it. If it is simply a religious text from antiquity, we might marvel by it, but we certainly won’t submit to it.

So IS the Bible inspired? Many people would say “yes” but not be able to give much support. Others would say “no” and might cite something they learned from a college professor or the DaVinci Code. Others would say “I’m not really sure and I don’t really care.” If you’re in any of these groups, I urge you to read closely what we’re about to cover.

If the Bible was inspired, what would expect from it? Pause right now and think about that. What would you expect from the Bible if it were truly a message from God?

I would imagine that you’d probably expect it to be deeply meaningful, deeply important, deeply inspiring. If you thought longer about it, you’d probably also think that when it spoke of things that were related to fact—such as geography, science, history, etc., it would be true. Lastly, if there were areas that it foretold events to come, you’d expect them to actually come about in the manner that was given to us. Well, let me encourage you that the Bible is all this and more!

Let’s start with some foundation concepts that we need to build upon.

For one thing, the Bible claims to be God’s message to us. Now before you start shouting “circular reasoning!” hear me out—in just a few moments, I’ll attempt to show you how we know the Bible is from God. But we need to know that it really presents itself this way. No one reads the ingredients on a box of Fruit Loops and wonders if it’s a message from God. Why would they? It never claims to be. Likewise, the book The Wizard of Oz doesn't claim to be a message from God so no one spends any time wondering about the truth-claims of its message.

But the Bible is different. In over 3000 separate instances, it claims to be a message from God. Over and over it says, “Thus says the Lord…” Over and over it says, “Grace to you and peace from God…” Over and over it says, “Hear the Word of the Lord…” So with 3000 statements like this, we need to sit down and consider the validity of statements such as these. Has the Lord really said these things? Is the Bible a clear and faithful copy of what God wants us to know?

As we dig deeper into this point, let’s think through some of the ways we’d expect God to show that He has indeed given us His message in the Bible.

For one thing, the Bible ought to be true in areas of history, right? Indeed! The Bible is the most consulted ancient text in existence. It is frequently used to explain the archaeological findings in the Middle East and often countries in those areas will have parks & monuments at places where biblical events took place. Modern archaeologists routinely use the Bible to triangulate their findings. The New Testament book of Luke is considered one of the most reliable sources to understanding the political conditions of ancient Rome.

So these days, the Bible is regularly acknowledged to be historically reliable, even by secular scholars. But this wasn't always the case. A couple centuries ago, scholars used to say that the Bible was filled with factual errors in relation to historical events. They’d cite a few examples of people/places that they assumed never existed. For instance, they use to say that the most famous king of Israel, known as David, never existed. He was just myth. And then they'd tease out the conclusion and say that since David never lived, massive sections of the Bible must be historically inaccurate. This "factoid" (a false fact presented as true) was often cited until the early 1990s. Then in 1993, archaeologists found steles (historical monuments of the ancient world) that referred to King David. Suddenly, one of the key examples of "biblical errors" came to an abrupt end. Wow, David really lived. 

The same is true for ancient people groups such as the Hittites, mentioned in the Bible. For much of modern scholarship, there had yet to be found any trace of the Hittites. The notion of Hittites really living was laughed at by scholars. But over time, not only has archaeology found proof of the Hittites, they now have the capital in along the Turkey/Syria border. Google “Hittite Capital” and you won’t find anyone saying “the Hittites were mythical people.” 

Well, we could go on and on with more examples, but the point has been made, the Bible IS historically accurate and these attempts to discredit it consistently end up being disproven.

How about geography? Did all those places really exist? When we read the book The Wizard of Oz, we hear about the Emerald City and the Yellow Brick Road. In some ancient myths we hear about mythical places like Atlantis. The Book of Mormon talks about a whole subcontinent located below North America called Nephi. Yet no true scientist recognizes that these places have ever existed.

On the other hand, when you look at the Bible, it’s amazingly current. You’ve probably heard of Jerusalem, Jericho, Gaza…these are all real places today and are on the evening news all the time. They are also mentioned throughout the Bible. They are real places. Sure, some cities have changed their names but that’s not a problem—if you look at the history of many towns in America, they often change their names (note Hagerstown, MD). But where the Bible is concerned, there are NO lost continents, no mysterious lands, nothing like that at all. It’s just straight fact—in fact, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Bible is actually used in archaeology to help determine what cities are being discovered when they’re dug up.

Let’s go on to science…

People often say that the Bible is full of scientific inaccuracy. What they’re talking about is really the first few chapters of Genesis, because (let's be honest) these chapters are a pretty jarring read if you’ve never read anything like them before. You’ve got God creating things in the blink of an eye and not in the order we'd expect. To our modern senses, it seems so contrary to what we learn in High School and College. If that's you, I can relate. I didn't grow up reading or believing the Bible. At first, these chapters threw me too. So, I was once there too, I know how it is.


But I gave the Bible an honest look. If God COULD do anything, He certainly could do everything Genesis 1-11 contains. Likewise, if the Bible is truly from God, than either it really happened as it is described (which I personally believe) or at least it’s something God wants us to understand because the theology of the first eleven chapters of Genesis is amazing. If you are interested in this topic, there are many books that seek to prove the reality of Genesis through REAL science. Don’t let the skeptics drown out the voices of these up and coming scientific discoveries. Increasingly, our ability to examine nature is proving (rather than disproving) these things. Studies in String Theory, Time-Dilation, DNA, and astronomy continue to verify rather than discredit the Bible. Likewise, Creationist theories such as Irreducible Complexity and Apparent Age answer many (perhaps even most) questions from skeptics. And while I don’t have the time or resources to go into this exciting branch of science, look into these links and consider for yourself if perhaps the Bible is saying things that are true after all.

Another important point to understand is that the Bible is a book written to all mankind from God. Not everyone in history had 145 IQs. Not everyone in history understood cause and effect, scientific theory, etc. Yet the Bible is written FOR the professor of Harvard just as much as for the Motilone Indian in Columbia--both need to be able to read it and understand it. The wording had to be accurate, but meaningful. Therefore, the wording God uses accurately explains His truths in a manner that actually makes sense to all people groups throughout history. When you consider this point, it's quite astounding that a Berkeley Professors and a NFL football player and a CEOs can all find out that indeed, God's Word is true.

So we need to understand, when the Bible talks about science, it’s accurate--it might not use the same terms as we do, and it might not be as precise as our modern science, but when it speaks to matters of life and nature, it is accurate. For instance, the Bible says that the Earth is round (Is 40:22) –that wasn't even the prevailing belief in science until a few centuries ago. Likewise, it describes a limitless expanse of the universe (Is 55:9). Likewise, it talks about the stars being innumerable (Jer 33:22) and while we have tried to map and count every star, thanks to Hubble we've found out that some “stars” we’re looking at are actually whole galaxies--definitely not numerable! Sometimes you'll hear people talk about the dimensions of a giant round bowl in 1 Kings 7--it's 30 cubits around and 10 cubits across. The quick math says that pi would have to be "3" rather than 3.14. This is one of the few "Bible inaccuracies" that some people throw out. But there's a backstory that they are missing. For one thing, 3 and 3.14 aren't so far off, when you think about it and not bad for people who didn't have modern mathematics. But more importantly, the full description of the text in 1 Kings 7 explains that the disk is shaped like a flower where the lip flairs outward so that the dimensions of the lip are different than the inner dimensions of the bowl. Thus the questions of "pi" are resolved when we understand the irregular shape of the sides of the bowl. So all this is to underscore, that while I'm not saying that the Bible is a science text book, I am saying that when it refers to things that can be examined scientifically, it is accurate.

So far we’ve talked about how the Bible is amazingly frank and candid when it discusses matters of history, geography, science, etc. But these don’t fully convince or satisfy us—a telephone book better be pretty accurate, but we don’t put our eternal soul in its hands. So let’s move on…

The Bible is more than just an accurate ancient book, indeed it has a voice and tone that sets it apart from all other literature. When you read scripture, there is a powerful message that is being bull-dozed into your soul. It’s a message of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. It’s a message of God’s goodness and man’s rebellion. It’s a message of the measures God has done to reconcile us to Him, and it’s a message of the horrific reality that awaits those who refuse Him. This message is so complete, and so unified, we take it for granted. I doubt anyone reading what I just wrote blinked an eye because this is simply the message of scripture through and through. The fact that scripture has this message is something of a miracle in itself.

You see, the Bible is an old book. And not only was it old, it was written across a spectrum of cultures and regions. Some of it is a record of oral tradition that is so exact that it baffles modern scholars. Some of it is a force of unity that it amazes its students.

Here’s what I mean. The Bible was written by about 40 authors over 2000 years. Think about that for a minute. Have you ever heard JFK’s speeches? While they are beautiful, they clearly represent a perspective on life that is different from most of ours today. And yet, that was only 40-50 years ago! Look at the changes in America in the last century—from technology, to morality, to politics, to the family. Our nation has changed. And yet the Bible has an amazingly unchanging message from cover to cover.

And it wasn't just because they were all drinking the same Kool-Aid. Back then, generally is was just the rich who had access to education. Generally just the rich had access to the writing implements to record information. Generally just the rich had access to other copies of literature. Yet the Bible was written by the rich and the poor. It was written by kings and peasants; doctors and fisherman. It was written from Israel, Babylon and even a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. If Americans, can't agree with Americans from 40-50 years ago, how could the Bible be so unified when written over such a span of time and by such a spectrum of people?

And lest you think I’m talking about the obvious stuff—like “God is loving” I’m not. I wouldn’t be very impressed if the only unified thing the Bible could say about God is that He is loving. But there is so much more! There are subtle “rivers” of truth that flow throughout scripture that would be missed if it were not for the complete revelation. For instance, you may not know this but the classic phrase from Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” is nestled into a subtle statement of the doctrine of the Trinity. Genesis 1:2 talks about “God” (the Father). Genesis 1:2 talks about the Spirit. Genesis 1:3 talks about the “Word”—which is another term for Jesus. A few verses later, when God talks about creating people, He says in Genesis 1:26 “Let us make man in our image”—wow, it sounds like God is plural there. However, in the very next verse it says, “God created man in his own image”–now it’s back to singular. Even in these verses we can see the germinal idea of the plurality of the godhead united in one person (sorry for the fancy theological terms there). That’s an amazing and subtle message that is carried through the whole Bible.

I could go on and talk about the unified message the nature of sin and the need for faith instead of works, the coming Messiah, the nature of God’s wrath, the nature of prophecy, etc. These, and countless other themes, are quite astounding in their unity. They present God in a complex array of facets, each complementing and further highlighting the person and nature of God. When you really take the time to look at these, and consider them in light of how the Bible has 40 authors over 2000 years, it’s beyond possible.

No other religious work can say this. The Book of Morman claims to be from God along with the Bible, but its contradictions with the Bible are dizzying. The Quran has so many contradictions, they have a whole system of how to handle them. They solve the problem by saying that whatever was spoken last overrides whatever was said earlier! Wow! [Now, just in case you’re thinking Christians do that with the Old and New Testaments, there is a huge difference. For one thing, the Old Testament has large sections that are about ceremonial law of sacrifices. But the ceremonial law was fulfilled (and therefore finished) in Christ so now we don’t need to follow that specific code anymore. It was legitimately fulfilled and therefore its purpose and presence is complete.] Going on, let's pause to consider Hindu writings. Hinduism has so many "gods" that no one even tries to assemble Hindu teachings into a single source. Their teachings cover so many “gods” that their contradictions end up being something akin to brand loyalties--you choose a god much like choosing Pepsi over Snapple. You like the taste of this god over that one. Again, the Bible is nothing like this.

As we look at the Bible, we begin to develop the clear impression that this book is like none other. Sure lots of books claim to be from God, but none have the precision, form, power, and message of scripture. Indeed, the very theme of the Bible is unlike anything else: God is holy and pure. He created man without sin. Man rebelled against God and has been cast from His presence. God loved man despite this rebellion. God made the way for man to be reconciled to Him: He sent His perfect Son who would give His life as a ransom for their sins. Then God would even give people the faith necessary to believe this message. Finally, God would place His Holy Spirit into His people so that they could then live and walk with Him. It’s an amazing message without parallel in the rest of the world.

And this brings us to our final “proof” that the Bible is the Word of God—it truly changes people’s lives. I once heard a proverb from Winston Churchill that "the world is run by tired men." I don’t know if he really said it, but it makes sense that he would because he was known to function on just four hours of sleep during World War II. The thing is, if we were to take Winston’s words and apply them to every person’s life in every situation, we’d really bungle the whole world. Everyone would be exhausted and things would start falling apart. What was “wise” for one dude, doesn't apply to all men everywhere.

But the Bible is not like that. The Bible (when interpreted and applied correctly) is relevant for every person in every culture in every epoch of humanity. It’s power works in kings and aboriginals. It’s transforming nature cleanses movie stars and skid row bums. As a pastor, I have a front row seat in watching God change people’s lives all the time; it's what keeps me excited about the ministry. I’ve seen first-hand how the clear, simple message can being about the total new birth in a prostitute so that after she followed it’s teachings, she was transformed and was nothing like the person she once was. I knew her before and after and her life is a miracle of the handiwork of God. The Bible changes lives. If you set out to obey each line of scripture, you WILL be different. And that difference won’t come as the result of your own “boot strap” will power, it comes by the power of God, through His Spirit, working in you and through you. It’s truly amazing!

So having said all of this, now we’ve got to make a decision. What are we going to do with all of this? Can we simply walk away? Do we have that luxury? Is that even an option anymore? Indeed it is not. You must decide what you are going to do. At this point, you can either harden your heart to God, or you can surrender your heart to Him and commit—like the psalmist in Psalm 119:4—to obey God’s word diligently.

Lastly, keep in mind that the message of the Bible is clear: We need a savior to reconcile us to God. I've written another blog post article about how we can be saved by God when we surrender to Him.

Also, if you have time, here's my personal story about how God transformed my life. If you come to Him, He will work in your life too.

If you need help, drop me a line. I’d love to help you walk with God through the study of His word.

Thanks and God Bless!

Russ

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Saturday, 15 June 2013 09:24
Russ Brewer

Russ Brewer

Rescued from the domain of darkness, transferred to the kingdom of the Son. Undershepherd of Grace. Husband of Corinne. Father of three. Chew-toy to Zeke...

Website: www.thegracetabernacle.org