A popular speaker recently gained attention for making some interesting comments on the nature of Scripture and Christianity.
- “If the Bible is the foundation of our faith then it is all or nothing.”
- “Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards when we discover that perhaps the walls of Jericho did not come tumbling down, or when we learn there is no evidence of the Exodus from Egypt.”
- “What happens when we learn that if the entire Bible isn’t true? Then the Bible isn’t true.”
- “We love the song ‘Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so’ but what happens when we learn that the Bible isn’t true?”
- “If we can’t defend everything in the Bible, then everything in it goes away”
He goes on to say the Christianity is far more durable than the doctrine of inspiration. But is it really? Is there really something wrong with the statement, “if the Bible says it, that settles it.” Another popular apologist claims we can still have Christianity without accepting things such as the creation narrative, the global flood of Noah, or even the virgin birth of Jesus.
“More than 3,800 times in the Old Testament the claim is made that the Scriptures are the word (or words) of God” (Jackson, Wayne The Bible on Trial, 106). I don’t know of many questions which carry more weight than the question of inspiration. If the Bible is the inspired inerrant Word of God, we must follow it. If the Bible is not inspired and inerrant, how then can we confidently know anything about God, salvation, the church, the purpose and meaning of life, or the judgment to come?
How did Jesus Understand and Apply the Inspired Word?
If we would understand how best to understand and apply the inspired inerrant Word today, perhaps we should examine how Jesus used the Scriptures. First, we see that Jesus had complete confidence in the reliability of Scripture. He said, “not one jot or tittle would pass away from the Law until all things were accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18). Jesus believed inspiration guaranteed the letters of the words which together make the Word of God. Jesus actually spoke of parts of letters that composed Hebrew words. No one could say Jesus did not believe God was responsible for the words of Scripture.
Jesus confidence in the inspiration of Scripture was also extended to the tense of verbs used.
In Matthew 22:31-32 records: “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” Jesus’ entire argument is based on the tense of the verb “I am.” Jesus did not say that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, because of the immortality of the soul and the eternality of God, the Bible says, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
Later in the same chapter, Jesus declared his own deity based upon the words of Scripture.
“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (Mt 22:41–46).
The very words (and even parts of words) of Scripture were no small matter for Jesus.
We have Christianity because of inspiration.
Paul thanked God that the Thessalonians because they understood the nature of God’s Word. “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). In the previous chapter, Paul described their conversion and noted the necessity of the Word in that experience.
- “You received the word” (1:6).
- “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you” (1:8).
In more general terms the message is described as “the gospel. “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power” (1:4). The message of the apostles is the message recorded in the New Testament. We should receive the words of the New Testament, not as the words of men, but as the very words of God. The Thessalonians were able to become Christians because of the Word.
The importance of understanding inspiration cannot be overestimated. In order to illustrate that truth, notice that it is impossible to become a Christian without the inspired Word. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The “word of Christ” is the “message of the Gospel” but how are we to know what the message is if not for the written word? Let us extend that further.
Let us extend that further. If we are relying simply on the memory of men, or the thoughts and philosophies of mankind, how can we be sure? Without a proper understanding of inspiration, we fall into the endless drift of relativism.
Can we have Christianity without the inspired Word?
In the first century, there were eye witnesses and inspired prophets. However, we have neither of those things today. Instead, we have the inspired Word. In preparation for the time in which the miraculous would cease, the New Testament was miraculously completed. The authors recognized they were recording the revealed words of God so that the faith might be believed till the end of the age.
This expressly is why John wrote his gospel. John wrote, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Luke wrote his Gospel “that you may have certainty concerning the things that you have been taught” (Luke 1:4).
We have the inspired word so that “your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). Paul goes on to say that Christianity is based on a previously hidden wisdom–“we impart a secret wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages of our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7).
Paul goes on to use Old Testament Scripture to defend New Testament Scripture in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10:
“But as it is written, ‘what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’–these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”
In fact, Christianity has always been a “the Bible tells me so” religion. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul defends the crucifixion and the resurrection because both events were “according to the Scriptures.” We have inspired Word:
- to build faith (Romans 10:17),
- confirm faith (1 Corinthians 15:3 “in accordance with the Scriptures”),
- to bring salvation by faith (Romans 6:17-18)
- and comfort us through faith (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
Without inspiration, we can have no confidence in any of these essential elements of Christianity.
But thankfully, like Jesus, we may have confidence in the inspired Word.
Let us turn back to confidence in the Word and application of the Word. David was a man after God’s own heart. He is also a man who loved the Scriptures. David recognized Scripture’s orgin and Scripture’s value and Scripture’s authority over his life even as the King. Note the emphasis on the inspired written word in Psalm 119.
Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
8 I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
17 Deal bountifully with your servant,
that I may live and keep your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
19 I am a sojourner on the earth;
hide not your commandments from me!
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your rules at all times.
21 You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones,
who wander from your commandments.
22 Take away from me scorn and contempt,
for I have kept your testimonies.
23 Even though princes sit plotting against me,
your servant will meditate on your statutes.
24 Your testimonies are my delight;
they are my counselors.
25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life!