As I mentioned to you this morning, it has been on my mind and on my heart to address the subject of the Bible as the sole authority. This has been prompted a number of ways. When I was on the Larry King program, Larry said to me in regard to the Bible, “Which Bible?” Which Bible? I said, “The Bible is the truth, it’s the revelation of God.” To which he replied, “Which Bible?” And I just immediately said, “The Holy Bible,” wanting to emphasize its utter separateness from any other religious document.
And then it seems as though lately there has been a lot of discussion about many religions and many holy books and many supposed revelations from God, all having some sort of equal or close to equal merit. It’s incumbent upon us to understand the uniqueness of Scripture, and that’s precisely what I want to address tonight and for the next couple of weeks. And this is very, very foundational for all of us. For many of us, there’s really no question about the fact that we believe the Bible to be the Word of God. If that’s already the case, then we’re going to sort of firm up your foundation. If you have questions about whether the Bible is the Word of God, we’re going to help you to understand that, in fact, it is.
I think the simplest way to say it is that the Bible alone is the true Word of the God of the universe. The Bible alone is the true Word of the God of the universe. God only wrote one book, and it is the Holy Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. That is the only revelation from God. That is the only inspired document from God. All other supposed revelations, whether we’re talking about the Koran or the Bhagavad-Gita or the Book of Mormon or Science and Health and Key to the Scriptures or any of the writings of fake prophets, false teachers, seers, cultists, religious gurus, leaders, frauds - all of them, no matter what they claim are not the Word of God.
God has sworn in His only revelation, the Bible, that it is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It is true. It is all the truth He has revealed, and there is no error in it. And so God has spoken in one book. Now, that simplifies the matter. In order for us to know what God has to say, we go to one book. It’s not a complicated thing to sort out the matter of religious revelations. They are endless. They’re almost innumerable. But only one of them is the Word of the living and true God. Any other book that claims to be from God is a fraud. It is a lie. It is a deception.
God only wrote that one book, made up of two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament, and within those two sections there are 66 specific revelations, 39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New. It took just over forty writers during a period of about fifteen hundred years to write down what God revealed. The Holy Spirit brought it all together in one book that we know as the Bible. It is the sole divine authority on all spiritual and eternal matters. There is no other revelation from God. That is why it is the singular duty and the singular responsibility of all people everywhere to respond obediently to the Bible, and if they do not, then they have not responded to God, for God has not spoken in any other book.
And every person who ever lives has their destiny determined - their eternal destiny determined - by how they respond to what the Bible says. What a person does with the Bible, with biblical truth, determines heaven or hell for each individual. Jesus said in John’s gospel, it’s recorded, chapter 8, verse 47, “He who is of God hears the words of God. You do not hear them because you are not of God.” Can’t be more definitive than that.
If you hear - that is to say, obediently - the Word of God, you are God’s. If you do not, you are not God’s. A person’s attitude, then, toward the Bible, the Scripture, is the key issue. Salvation, a place in God’s eternal kingdom, comes only to those who hear and believe the gospel recorded in the Bible.
Now, having said that, I have to confess this is unpopular today. For me to even speak like this may sound narrow, may sound egotistical, it may sound divisive. It may sound unkind. I’m sorry if it does, it just happens to be the truth. We are in a pluralistic society, celebrating multi-cultures - and by that we mean multi-religions. We are in a time of inclusion, not exclusion. Everyone’s religion seems to be okay. Everybody wants to say that there are lots of good religions. This is not a time to say that the Bible and the Bible alone is the Word of God and anything else that claims to be from God is really from Satan and is a lie, but that’s the truth.
Years ago, old-line Protestant denominations (the historic denominations, the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, even the old-line American Baptists and other denominations, many Lutherans) acquired what was a formidable victory. Almost together, collectively, they eliminated heresy. They did. They eliminated heresy. Quite an achievement. But the strange twist is they eliminated heresy not by overpowering it with the truth, not by crushing it under the weight of the revelation of Scripture; rather, they eliminated heresy by eliminating the idea of heresy.
They eliminated heresy by saying there isn’t any. That’s what the old-line denominations did. They redefined themselves as if heresy didn’t exist, as if anything anybody wanted to believe was okay. And when they got rid of heresy, they also got rid of truth because if there is no heresy, then there is no truth. This has, of course, been the death of those old-line denominations. They eradicated heresy and truth at the same time.
In our day, amazingly and maybe not so amazingly, contemporary evangelicalism is moving down the same path - eliminating heresy by acting as if nothing is heretical in a new kind of inclusivism that threatens to not only eradicate heresy but in order to eradicate heresy you eradicate the truth. There either is truth and anything that’s not that truth is error or there is no such thing as error and, therefore, there can’t be such a thing as truth.
So here we go in the name of inclusivism, in the name of love, in the name of acceptance, here we go even under the banner of evangelicalism eliminating heresy by eliminating the very idea of heresy - and with it, away goes the truth. But all of this sinful rebellion against the Scripture doesn’t change what the Scripture is.
Whether it’s attacked by rationalism, which gave birth to old-line Protestantism, whether it’s attacked by liberalism, whether it’s attacked by pluralism, whether it’s attacked by mysticism, whether it’s attacked by inclusivism, whether it’s attacked by tolerance or any other enemy - doesn’t really matter how it’s attacked, the Bible never changes. Never changes. The Bible is still the truth of God, the only truth, and nothing but the truth.
Now, I know some of you are beginning to ask in your mind, “How do you know that - how do you know that?” And my answer is: “Because that’s what the Bible claims. That’s precisely what the Bible claims. It claims that it is the Word of God.” And that’s where we have to start. I’m not going to ask you, in your rational mind, to tell me that you have decided the Bible is the Word of God. That would make you the judge and the Scripture, the defendant. That would elevate you above the Scripture, and that would elevate you above God. I’m not asking you to render a verdict on Scripture. I wouldn’t ask anybody to do that. An unregenerate person, as we will see, has no ability to do that.
To understand what the Bible is, to understand the singularity of the Bible, we need to hear the testimony of the Bible itself. It claims, God speaking in Scripture, that, first of all, it is infallible. You’ve heard that word, right? The infallible Scripture. It has no fallacy in it. And that looks at it in general terms. That looks at it as the whole truth. God has so inspired His revelation that it is the sure, safe, reliable, and eternally true rule and guide in all matters in total.
It is the sum of all the truth that God wanted to speak. It is without error in all that it affirms. It is without error in all that it states. Infallibility looks at the totality, the whole truth, and says it is all the truth that God wanted revealed. That’s why Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect.” Perfect - comprehensive, the word means - complete. In Psalm 18 and verse 30, “As for God, His way is blameless. The Word of the Lord is tested.” It is tried. It is proven.
Psalm 119 says, “Thy Word is very pure, thy law is truth. All thy commandments are truth. The sum of thy Word is truth. Every one of thy righteous ordinances endures forever, for all thy commandments are righteous.” Psalm 111:7 says, “All His precepts are sure.” Paul says, in Romans 7:12, “The law of God is holy, just, and good.”
So Scripture claims for itself to be absolutely true, true in all that it affirms. That’s why Deuteronomy 4:2 says, “You shall not add to the Word which I am commanding you nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you.” You can’t add to it, you can’t take away from it, it’s all that God revealed, all that He wanted revealed, nothing added, nothing diminished. The end of Revelation says the same thing, “Don’t add anything to this book, don’t take anything away from it, or shall be added to you the plagues that are written in it.” Infallibility looks at the Bible in its totality and says it is all true and it is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Then, secondly, another word you need to consider is “inerrant.” That’s a word that is a very, very important word. It’s a word that’s been much embattled by people who have attacked the Scripture. Inerrant looks at the individual parts. Infallible looks at the whole; inerrant looks at the parts - that is to say, every single word is true and free from error, free from falsehood, free from mistake, free from inaccuracy, and thus, God has safeguarded the truth in total by safeguarding the truth in particular.
If every word is safeguarded, if every word is true, free from error, falsehood, mistake, and inaccuracy in the original autographs of the Scripture, then what you have is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s why Proverbs 30, verses 5 and 6, are important testimony because we want to know that the Word of God is true in parts or it can’t be true in the whole. It’d be one thing to say it’s infallible in totality, but if you say that, then you have to say it’s inerrant in the parts because the total is the sum of the parts.
In Proverbs 30, verses 5 and 6, “Every word of God is tested. He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words lest He reprove you and you be proved a liar.” The Word of God is pure, every word of God is tested. Some translations say “Every word of God is pure; every word of God has been purified.” That’s why Jesus, in Matthew chapter 5, verses 17 to 19 - and we’re just laying down some of these Scriptures for you to start - says, “Truly, I say to you,” verse 18, “until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke” - a jot or a tittle, little breathing points in the Hebrew - “shall pass away from the law until all is accomplished.”
Not one tiny little stroke will ever pass from this law. Every part is true. Psalm 12:6, “The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tested in a furnace, refined seven times.” And that wonderful, wonderful Psalm 19 that we’re going to get to, in verse 8, “The precepts of the Lord are right. The commandment of the Lord is clear” - or pure - and this is the Scripture’s testimony over and over and over. Psalm 119:140, “Thy Word is pure.” In fact, you can talk about the Bible in general as being free from error; you can talk about the Bible in the smallest particular as being free from error.
In the original autographs, when God inspired the text, it was without error. And it has been remarkably and amazingly and miraculously and supernaturally preserved by the Holy Spirit down into our language, and it reflects that same infallibility and inerrancy. Now, those two words sum up a simple truth: the truthfulness of the Bible. To say it is infallible is to say it is truthful; to say it is inerrant is to say it is truthful. Infallibility and inerrancy combine, then, to speak of the Bible’s truthfulness in the parts and in the whole.
This shouldn’t surprise us because it is the Word of God, and God cannot lie. That is repeated in Scripture on a number of occasions. God cannot lie. In Isaiah 65:16, the Lord calls Himself the God of truth. In Jeremiah 10:10, the prophet writes, “The Lord is the true God.” John 3:33, “God is truthful.” John 17:3, Jesus said, “That they may know you, the only true God.” First John 5:20, “He is the true God” - that is to say, everything about Him is true - it is true.
The Bible, as infallible and inerrant - and, therefore, truthful - must then be the reflection of the truthfulness of the nature of God. It is the true Word because God cannot speak anything other than a true Word. That’s why you have in the Old Testament literally thousands of claims by Old Testament writers to be writing the very words of God. Phrases like “the Spirit of the Lord has spoken to me,” “the Word of God came unto me,” et cetera, or Isaiah 1:2, “Hear, O heavens, listen, O earth, for the Lord has spoken.” And when God speaks everybody should listen.
The New Testament says the same thing as Jesus reiterates not to remove one small stroke until all of God’s law is preserved and fulfilled. In James 2:10, we read this: “Whoever keeps the whole law yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking it all.” And that takes us to another level. If this is an infallible (in total), inerrant (in part) expression of the true God, in absolute truth, then any violation of it is a violation of divine authority. The Bible, then, is infallible, it is inerrant, and it is authoritative, and if you disobey any part of it, any small part of it, you have violated divine authority. The true God has spoken with authority.
The writers in the Old Testament refer to their writing as the very words of God about 3,800 times. Three thousand, eight hundred times, Old Testament writers refer to their writing as the very words of God. In the New Testament, the writers of the New Testament quote the Old Testament as the Word of God, quote it 320 times and make reference to it around a thousand times. Clearly, the Old Testament writers understood that they were writing the Word of God; clearly, the New Testament writers understood that the Old Testament was the Word of God. And the New Testament writers also claim that what they wrote is the Word of God.
There are a number of ways to see this. Let me show you just a couple. Galatians chapter 1 and verse 11, Paul says, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man, for I neither received it from man nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Down in verse 15, “When He had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, He was pleased to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles. I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood. I didn’t go to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. I went away to Arabia and returned once more after that to Damascus.”
So Paul says, “I wasn’t dependent on any human source for the Word that came to me, it came directly from God.” Paul is claiming to be inspired by God, and, of course, Paul wrote 13 books in the New Testament.
Turn for just a moment to 1 Timothy 3:18. Let me show you an interesting statement. First Timothy 5:18, I’m sorry. First Timothy 5:18. This is quite interesting. Everybody knows what the word “Scripture” means. Every New Testament writer knew that the Scripture was the inspired Word of God. And here, the apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’” Paul says that’s what the Scripture says.
What’s interesting about that is he has two quotes here. The first quote, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he’s threshing,” is from Deuteronomy chapter 25, verse 4, so Paul quotes Deuteronomy as Scripture. Interestingly, the second quote, “The laborer is worthy of his wages,” is from Luke’s gospel chapter 10, verse 7. Paul calls not only the Old Testament Moses (the writer of Deuteronomy) a writer of Scripture but Paul says Luke (a gospel writer) was writing Scripture.
So the Old Testament writers said they were writing the Word of God. The New Testament writers affirmed that the Old Testament writers were, indeed, writing the Word of God. And then the New Testament writers began to affirm that they themselves were writing the Word of God. Paul said he was writing what was revealed to him through Christ, and he was saying, referring back to Luke, that what Luke wrote was Scripture.
Turn to 2 Peter chapter 3. This, too, is an interesting statement, 2 Peter 3:15. Here, Peter, another of the apostles, a New Testament writer, talks about Paul. In verse 15, he talks about “Our beloved brother, Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you.” So Peter’s referring to Paul’s letters. Verse 16, “As also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things in which are some things hard to understand” - which are the - “which the untaught and unstable distort” - now follow this - “as they do also the rest of the” - what? - “Scriptures.” Paul, Peter says, is writing Scripture.
Peter says Paul, in all his letters, wrote things hard to understand, and some people distorted Paul just like they distort the rest of the Scriptures. Paul says he received revelation from God. Paul says Luke wrote Scripture. Peter says Paul wrote Scripture. So they are giving affirmation and testimony to the New Testament writers as the writers of Scripture.
Turn to Jude, next-to-the-last book. Peter calls Paul’s writing Scripture. Paul calls the gospel writers Scripture. Let’s see what Jude says. Jude 17, “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time, there shall be mockers following after their own ungodly lusts.’” Guess what? Jude is quoting Peter - he is quoting Peter right out of Peter’s epistle, 2 Peter. He says you ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, then he goes on to quote Peter.
Jude is affirming Peter as a writer of Scripture. Peter affirms Paul as a writer of Scripture. Paul affirms Luke, a gospel writer, as a writer of Scripture. And so it goes, I could take you through a similar journey through the Old Testament and show you how the writers of the Old Testament built upon each other as well. So you have all this internal testimony to the fact that everybody understands that they are writing the Word of God, they are writing the holy Scripture. They know it. The Old Testament writers knew it, the New Testament writers knew it about the Old Testament, and they knew it about themselves.
Beyond that, beyond that internal testimony of the writers, there is the very unique testimony of Jesus Himself. What was Jesus’ view of the Bible? That’s very important. How did Jesus feel about Scripture? Well, we already had some indication of that. In Matthew 5:17, He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy but to fulfill.” And then He went on to say, “Not one small jot or tittle” - not one little tiny marking - “shall be in any way removed from this until it’s all fulfilled.”
So we can conclude from that that Jesus understood that the Scripture was the Word of God, even down to the finest little part of a letter. And when Jesus went through His life, He connected the events that were happening to Him to Scripture. In Matthew 26:24, He looked at His cross as He anticipated it and said, “The Son of man goes as it has been written of Him.” (“I’m going to the cross because that’s what was written by God.”) That’s the purpose of God, the prophecy given in the Old Testament.
He told Peter He didn’t need the protection of Peter’s sword. He said, “How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled?” Matthew 26:54. “Put that away.” The Scripture - the Old Testament - the Scripture, not one jot or tittle ever to be removed. Jesus affirmed the Old Testament as the Scripture, as the Word of God. In fact, in John 10:35, Jesus said, “Scripture can’t be broken.” In other words, it’s total. You take the whole Scripture, you can’t break it at any point, it is a series of 66 links, ultimately, all connected together, none of which can be broken.
In fact, in Luke 16:17, Jesus said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than one tittle of the law to fail.” In Luke 18:31, He said, “All things written by the prophets shall be accomplished.” He understood that the Scripture was the reflection of the Word of God, which would come to pass. Jesus believed in every word of the Old Testament. He corroborated the great truths of the Old Testament. He confirmed the creation of Adam and Eve, in effect, stating what the Old Testament said about them was true.
He said, “Have you not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall be one flesh,’” Matthew 19:4 and 5. He believed in a real creation, a real Adam, a real Eve, believed in the marriage that God had designed at that point. In Mark 12:24, Jesus referred to those people who erred because they didn’t know the Scripture.
There’s an interesting statistic of the use of the Old Testament by the Lord. There are about eighteen hundred verses of quotations of Jesus in the New Testament, about eighteen hundred. One tenth of them, about 180, come from the Old Testament. Jesus is God. And if Jesus is God, Jesus is true and speaks only truth. He who is truth, He who is the incarnate Word of God, knew the Old Testament, believed the Old Testament, and submitted to the Old Testament as the very Word of God. Indeed, He came to fulfill everything that had been written about Him in the Old Testament.
At this point, you have to choose, then, to sum up the testimony of Jesus with regard to Scripture. You have one of three possibilities. The first is that the Old Testament is the Word of God, it is the Scripture, there are no errors in it, not one jot or tittle in the original manuscripts had an error, just as Jesus taught. Or there are errors but Jesus didn’t know about them - that’s a problem because He knew everything as God. Or there are errors, Jesus knew about them and covered them up.
If the second is true, that the Scripture contains errors of which Jesus was unaware, then Jesus isn’t God, and you can dismiss the whole thing. If the third is true, Jesus knew about the errors but covered them up, then Jesus is the devil, a liar. Belief in the deity of Jesus Christ, then, demands a belief in the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. The Bible is true, that’s what it claims to be. And we believe it’s true because that’s what it claims. We don’t have to prove it somehow externally. The Bible gives its own testimony to being true.
Now, as we think about the truthfulness of the Bible - and we’re just going to think on this particular theme tonight, I have some more things we want to say coming up. As we think about the truthfulness of the Scripture, how are we to understand it? How are we to understand its truthfulness? Essentially, this way, that God inspired it without error in the original autographs, and then the Holy Spirit over the years preserved that (through the process of translation, transmission, copying) so that what we have today is substantially and essentially the same as the original.
I don’t need to get into all kinds of details. Suffice it to say the Bible has been preserved by the Spirit of God so that we have a true and accurate representation of Scripture. And where there are some areas where we can’t be certain exactly which, say, of two manuscripts would be the true one, they bear no heavy weight on any doctrine or any matter that would cause our faith to be in any sense weakened.
Now, there’s a process which God used to accomplish this, and I just want to show you a couple of Scriptures that define it. Look at 2 Peter chapter 1. Second Peter chapter 1. These are verses that you’re familiar with, but they are basically foundational to our understanding of Scripture.
Second Peter chapter 1, verse 20, “Know this, first of all” - and certainly this is a good place to start, first of all - “that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” - 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.”
Now, this tells us about a process that God used to get His revelation to us. It’s a process that we call inspiration. Inspiration. And here, it’s defined for us. The key word here is “moved,” down in verse 21, “moved,” carried along like a ship, like a leaf floating down a stream. That’s the idea. There is a power source moving the writer along, and that, of course, is none other than God Himself.
In 1 Corinthians 2:10, it says, “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men know the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him. Even so, the thoughts of God, no one knows except the Spirit of God.” And then in verse 13, he talks about we’ve been taught by the Spirit of God. John in 1 John talks about that as well, the anointing of the Spirit of God which has brought us the truth.
The Spirit of God is the agency, then, as it says right here, “Moved by the Holy Spirit.” There is a moving of the Holy Spirit. And it says here, “Men moved by the Holy Spirit.” This would be the apostles, the other writers of Scripture, all those whom the Lord used, He moved along in the process by the Holy Spirit so that they actually spoke from God. And, of course, what they spoke, they wrote.
So he says, then, back in verse 20, “no prophecy of Scripture.” Now, let me help you understand that phrase, it could be better translated. It really means no part of Scripture. The word “prophecy,” whenever you hear the word “prophecy,” what do you think of immediately? Prediction, right? It’s unfortunate. It’s not what the word means. It means to speak, to give a message.
It could be translated “no message in Scripture, none, no Scripture message, no message proclaimed told forth.” That is to say, no message in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. That, too, is, I think, an unfortunate translation we’ve gotten stuck with. It is epilusis from the verb luo, intensified with the preposition. It means to loose, to release. It almost means inspiration. But the idea of this epilusis is to emphasize the source, okay? The origin of Scripture, not the interpretation of it.
When it says Scripture is not a matter of one’s own interpretation, that leaves the impression that we’re talking about how somebody interprets the Scripture. That’s not the intent here. What we’re saying here is Peter was establishing no message in Scripture, nothing that Scripture tells forth - that’s what the verb means - nothing spoken in Scripture has originated in any individual person. Verse 21, For no prophecy, no message, in Scripture was ever made, generated by, an act of human will.
Nothing in the Bible is humanly authored. Nothing is brought forth, from the word phero, to bear, to carry along, convey. Nothing is produced, conveyed, brought forth, generated by an act of human will. So reading verse 20 like this, “No message of Scripture is of one’s own origin.” He, as a - Peter, as a writer, as an apostle, didn’t originate the message because no message from Scripture ever came by an act of human will.
So what have you got in the Bible? You’ve got, rather, men moved along by the Holy Spirit, speaking a message from God. That’s the idea. Scripture, then, is just that. It is the Word from God, originally spoken, and then, as we know, written down.
Look at 2 Timothy because this is another watershed passage with which I know most of you are familiar, but we can look briefly at it nonetheless. Second Timothy chapter 3, verses 16 and 17, “All Scripture,” here it says it positively, the other one says no Scripture, no Scripture, and approaches it negatively; this, positively. “All Scripture is,” none of it is from private interpretation or private origin, none of it is from the will of man, but all of it here is “inspired by God,” theopneustos, one word, God-breathed; that is, it comes out of God, it originates with God, pasa graphē theopneustos, all Scripture is God-breathed. The writing of Scripture is the very breath of God.
The totality of Scripture is, as Paul calls it in Romans 3:2, oracles from God. God is, then, the source of everything the Bible says. Everything in the Bible comes from God. And as I said, you’ve got nearly four thousand claims like that in the Old Testament and well over a thousand New Testament references to the Old Testament as the Word of God and many references in the New Testament to the New Testament as the Word of God. All Scripture means every Scripture, all Scripture is all-embracing.
All Scripture is God-breathed; that is, all Scripture, Old Testament Scripture and New Testament Scripture. It’s all the breath of God, it all originates with God. And it is profitable for what God desires, teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. God gave these messages and men wrote them down. It was important to write them down. Some truth of God can be passed from generation to generation and protected by the Holy Spirit and no doubt was before it was finally written down.
But it needed to be written down under the careful direction and control of the Holy Spirit to preserve the original. Also, to group all revelation together. Also, to allow it to stand independent from the prophet or the apostle who spoke it. It needed to be written down to become mobile and enduring. The messenger might die but the written Word would live on. It needed to be written down to be spread beyond the voice of any one prophet or apostle or a group of prophets and apostles so that it could spread itself across the face of the earth.
So God breathed into the original writers the message, moved them along by the Holy Spirit so that they wrote it down. The actual process is miraculous, it is supernatural. It was not a high level of human achievement. It was not like Shakespeare or poets or some brilliant writers who are quote/unquote inspired. It was actually the very Word of God, who selected out of human experience and human vocabulary the words, the phrases, the thoughts, the experiences of the writer and controlled them totally to express exactly what He wanted said perfectly - perfectly - and the biblical writers, I think, understood that.
There is - and this is a hard thing to explain. There is among the Bible writers what I like to call an air of infallibility. If I - if the Lord gave a message to me, if the Lord said, “This is Fourth John, and I’m giving you this Word from me, I’m giving you a revelation, I want you to write it down,” I would have a very, very self-conscious experience trying to convince you that God had done that.
I would say, “Well, I know this is hard for you to believe, I mean I know you know who I am, I know it’s going to be hard for you to swallow this, but God came to me and He told me exactly this, He told me to write it down and to put it in His eternal Scripture.” I would feel like I needed to sort of somehow figure out how I could convince you that that really happened. But there’s an air of infallibility among the Bible writers in which absolutely none of that exists - none of it. None of it.
There’s no self-consciousness about saying, “The Word of the Lord came to me,” there’s none at all. Nobody says, “I know I’m a common guy, you know, I know I’m not an important person, I know I’m just a - you know, a sheepherder over here, a shepherd over here, or you know, a dirty-mouthed prophet over here, or a sinful man over here who was a killer of Christians - I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m just telling you, I’m telling you the truth, this stuff comes from God.” There’s none of that. There’s just this freedom to let God speak, no such statement exists.
They didn’t try to bolster their credibility, even though the writers of Scripture are known by their commonness. They had no extensive education. They were no high-ranking people. They had no earthly prestige or position to do the exalted writing that they did. Take Moses, for example. Moses was basically a nobody. Yet 680 times in the Pentateuch, he claims that God spoke to him and he wrote in response to it. Thirteen hundred times, the prophets do that, and on and on it goes. It’s amazing, and they don’t try to explain it away.
They don’t try to defend themselves. They don’t try to sort of explain away people’s questions about why God would speak through them, it’s just not there. There’s just an air of infallibility, it’s just something they knew they didn’t need to defend. The Word itself is its own defense.
And I will tell you this, people. Through the years, as you teach the Bible and teach the Bible and teach the Bible, you don’t have to defend that it is the Bible. It stands on its own - it’s its own defense because of the monumental power contained in the words. It’s one thing to not know the Bible and stand outside and argue about whether it’s the Word of God. But if you study the Bible, the more you study the Bible, the more it will prove itself internally to be the Word of God. So this is essentially inspiration. We have, then, the Word of God, which claims to be the Word of God, inspired by God.
Now, here’s the point I want to make tonight. As believers, we know this to be true. We know all the internal testimony of the Scripture to being the Word of God. We have come to believe it. We have come to Christ. We’ve come to salvation. Been awakened from the dead, we’ve been given life. So we believe the Bible. We believe it. You know why we believe it? We believe it because God graciously granted us the faith to believe it. Hang onto that. Because on our own, standing outside the kingdom of God, standing apart from God, apart from Christ, nobody can come to an understanding of the revelation of God. We don’t have the ability to do it as fallen, unconverted people.
But all of a sudden, we believe it. Not only do we believe it, but we love it, and we say with David, “O how I love thy law,” and we say with the apostle Paul, “The law is holy, just, and good,” and we delight in the law of God. Why? Why are we so convinced? Because we have come to Christ, and in Christ, Colossians 2:3 says, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Once you come to Christ, then you know the Bible is true. When you come to Christ, you’re given the Holy Spirit and (John writes, 1 John 2:27) “the anointing which you have received from Christ, and you have no need for anyone to teach you.”
Christ gave you the anointing, the Holy Spirit, so you don’t have to have a man to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie, and just as He has taught you, you abide in Him; that is, in Christ. You come to Christ first, you embrace Christ, the Lord quickens your mind, allows you to believe the gospel, you embrace Christ, and God gives you, in that regenerating work, trust in Scripture. In fact, in 1 John 2:21 John said, “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it.”
It goes like this: Once you accept the incarnate truth, Christ, then you will believe the written truth, Scripture. Scripture is only understandable, it’s only believable, it’s only applicable to those who know the living truth, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now listen carefully. The starting point, then, of all true knowledge is not human reason. The starting point of all knowledge is divine regeneration. The search for truth does not begin in the human intellect; it begins with the power of God to awaken the dead sinner. The Bible, God’s Word, is the truth. It is reasonable, but without God’s work in the heart of man, man reasoning at his best can’t comprehend the truth - can’t. He is hopelessly limited by his sinfulness.
This is an Old Testament diagnosis, by the way, and I will show you just a couple of verses that will point this out to you. Some of you spend a lot of time trying to argue non-Christians into believing the Bible. You might as well beat your head against the wall. No matter how good your argument is, they don’t have the capacity to understand it.
In Isaiah 44:24, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the One who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by myself, spreading out the earth all alone, causing the omens of boasters to fail, making fools out of diviners, causing wise men to draw back, and turning their knowledge into foolishness, confirming the Word of His servant and performing the purpose of His messengers.’”
God says, “Look, my messengers understand my purpose. My messengers, my servants, understand my Word. But all the knowledge of wise men is nothing but foolishness. It is nothing but foolishness.” There is a powerful, powerful statement about that in the eighth chapter of Jeremiah, verse 9. This is one you ought to write down. It says this: “The wise men are put to shame;” - this would be the elite intellectuals - “they are dismayed and caught;” - and here it is - “behold, they have rejected the Word of the Lord and what kind of wisdom do they have?”
If you don’t understand the Word of the Lord, if you don’t understand it, you don’t have any wisdom. And if you don’t come to Christ, if you haven’t been awakened by God, you don’t have the capacity to understand.
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians chapter 1 and 2, this is where we need to kind of center our thoughts in understanding the dilemma here. First Corinthians 1:18 - and we’ve read this a number of times through the years, but it says in 1 Corinthians 1, verse 18, “The Word of the cross is, to those who are perishing, foolishness.” Did you hear that? The word of the cross is, to those who are perishing, foolishness. That’s just because they have no capacity to comprehend it.
Verse 19, “It is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the cleverness of the clever, I will set aside. Where is the wise man?” Verse 20, “Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?’” The most elite, the most articulate, the most intellectual, the most highly educated people can only come up with a foolishness in trying to understand divine truth.
Verse 21, “In the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not come to know God.” Can’t get there from here - can’t get there from here. It’s not an intellectual exercise. Through the world’s wisdom, you don’t get there. It’s just folly. The true wisdom cannot be discerned by man’s reason, no matter highly refined and tuned it is. Man cannot make a right judgment or assessment on God’s revelation. You can’t ask an unregenerate person to make a right evaluation of Scripture. The best he can come up with is foolishness. Since he rejects the Lord, what wisdom is there in him?
You see, he has a serious problem - very serious problem. Turn over for a moment to Ephesians 4, and you have the problem delineated here. Ephesians 4, just a couple of verses there toward the middle of the chapter. Verse 17, the word “Gentiles” is used in that verse, and it refers to the outsiders, the unconverted, the pagans. And he says, “I say, therefore, affirm together with the Lord that you walk no longer as the pagans also walk” - listen - the next phrase - “in the futility of their mind.” Futility means emptiness, nothingness, vacuum.
It is characteristic of an unregenerate person to have a non-functioning mind when it comes to the ability to evaluate spiritual truth. You don’t expect them to be able to evaluate it, that’s why you don’t argue. That’s why you proclaim truth.
You see, their mind is empty in verse 17. Look at verse 18, “They’re darkened in their understanding. They’re excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them because of the hardness of their heart, and they, having become callous, have given them over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” This is a definition of an unconverted person. Their mind is void of spiritual truth. Their understanding is a black hole. They are utterly shut off from the life of God, so they cannot interact with Him whatsoever.
They are dead in trespasses and sins, it says, saying the same thing in another way in chapter 2. They are utterly ignorant. Their heart is rock hard. They are callous; that is, impervious to sensibilities toward spiritual reality. They are so totally given over to the sensual for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness, and in this condition, you come to them and expect them to have the capability to discern the truth of Scripture? It’s not going to happen. As I said, you can’t get there from there.
In Romans 1, verses 21 and 22 - says essentially the same thing. They became futile in their speculations. Their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they actually became morons, fools. The truth of God is shut out to them. The truth of Christ is shut out to them. The truth of the Bible is shut out to them.
How do you get there, then? Well, Proverbs says over and over the fear of the Lord is the beginning of what? Wisdom. You have to start with fearing God. You have to start with the awakening power of God in your life. You say, “Well, what do we do in evangelism, then? I mean if we don’t try to argue these people into the reasonableness of the Scripture, if we don’t try to argue them into understanding and believing the Bible...?” What you do is proclaim to them the Scripture - proclaim to them the Scripture.
You can make reasonable presentations of the Scripture. But understand, until the Scripture does its work in them, until God uses the Scripture to awaken them from deadness, they’re not going to be able to respond. That’s why I said in our question-and-answer session the other night that whoever knows the Bible best is the best evangelist. It’s not about a methodology to get a person to make a response or to make a convincing argument so somebody will sign on the dotted line. It’s about being most knowledgeable in Scripture.
The one who knows the Bible best, who knows theology best is the best evangel because the power is not in any argument to human reason, the power is in a reasoned proclamation of biblical truth, which the Holy Spirit can use to quicken the heart. And so we can say it this way: Evangelism is nothing more than telling people what the Bible means. It’s nothing more than proclaiming the Scripture. That’s what we’ve done here year in, year out, year in, year out. We don’t defend the Bible; it defends itself - right? We proclaim it. I am interested in stating what the Scripture means.
The power of the church’s evangelism is not in clever methods, it’s not an appeal to reason. The power of the church’s evangelism is in the clearest, deepest, broadest, highest presentation of Scripture and theology. And the duty of all of us is to know the Bible so well that we can faithfully, accurately proclaim it and see God empower it.
People said to me after the Larry King program, “Were you disappointed that you didn’t get more time to defend the Scripture?” And I said, “You know, I don’t need time to defend the Scripture, it’ll defend itself. All I need is time to proclaim it.” The Word of God does not ignore reason, it does not disdain reason, but reason only becomes useful when the heart is awakened from its deadness by a gracious act of the Holy Spirit under the proclamation of the truth.
So we proclaim the truth so that people can hear the truth and believe. And as Augustine said, “I believe; therefore, I understand.” And when the Holy Spirit, by means of the Scripture, has awakened the heart and they believe the gospel, then God grants them understanding of the Scripture.
Cornelius Van Til, the great apologist, wrote, “Men often speak as though the only thing that the sinner needs is information. This is not the case. Man needs true interpretation, but he also needs to be made a new creature. Sin is not only misinformation, it is also a power of perversion in the soul,” end quote. Good to remember that. You’re not just dealing with somebody who doesn’t have good information, you’re dealing with someone who has a perverse soul, and the best they can do is foolishness.
The sinner’s opposition, then, to God’s Word is not intellectual, it doesn’t arise from legitimate intellectual issues with the truth, it arises from the rebellions of an irrational (because sensual and wicked) mind. Unconverted people can’t interpret anything right - anything. Their worldview is hopelessly skewed. Van Til also wrote, “The Christian knows that he would interpret nature wrongly, due to the sin that is within him, unless he be enlightened by Scripture and guided by the Holy Spirit.” We know that and we have to remember that that’s how it is with all who are unconverted.
Man is not the final court of appeal, his reason cannot decide what is true, he is incapable of doing that. All men do their thinking on the basis of a position. Some people take the position that they, in their reason, are the final determiner of what is true, and they cannot come to the truth of God that way. Others submit their reason to the Word of God, and by grace of God, the work of the Spirit, they are granted the faith to trust the Bible as true, and then they apply their now-sanctified reason to an understanding of the divine revelation.
To know truth, to understand the Bible, the sinner must repent, believe the gospel, be transformed, be given a new mind, and all of a sudden, the Word of God will open up to him like a flower to the morning sun.
If you are a sinner and you’re wondering how you can get to this place, what I would tell you to do is to pray and ask God to be gracious to awaken your dead heart, give you faith to trust the Savior, and then an opening of your mind so that (as Ephesians 1 puts it, we read it on Wednesday) you might have lavished on you in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will. That’s what happens when you come to Christ, the whole of your heart is turned toward Scripture, which is the Word of God.
Father, we thank you tonight. Again, we’re always thanking you, but else can we do? There’s no end to the things for which we are thankful. But we thank you tonight for your truth, and we thank you for your Spirit, for even your truth in the hands of a fool cannot be understood.
We thank you that you not only gave us your Word, but you awakened us from our deadness, and you regenerated us, and you gave us life, and you granted us the Holy Spirit, and you gave us the gift of trust in your Word and love for your truth. You even gave us a longing in our hearts to obey it, and we are those true disciples who continue in your Word, who call you Lord and do what you say, who love your law, who delight in it day and night, who meditate on it and find in it our joy made full.
Help us, Lord, to always be thankful to you for opening your truth to us, who otherwise - apart from your salvation - would never understand it. And help us, Lord, to realize that the rest of the world around us can’t understand it until their hearts are awakened. So may we be more eager to proclaim the gospel, to proclaim the Scripture, than somehow to defend it as if foolish sinners were a judge and the Scripture were on trial.
May we be given over to the proclamation of your Word and thereby releasing its power so that those who hear can have their hearts opened by your Spirit and be brought to salvation. And having believed, they can then begin to understand.
Oh, what a treasure we have. All that is true in Scripture is hidden in Christ, and when we come to Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, then the Scripture is opened to us. Use us as instruments to bring that about in the lives of others. We’ll thank you. In Christ’s name. Amen.
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