Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, October 20, 2019
The Authenticity of the Bible
It is so easy to claim anything. Any claim needs to be put to the test to verify its truthfulness. Can it be demonstrated that the Bible is the Word of God as Christians claim?
Christians did not invent the idea of the Bible being the Word of God. No human being possesses the authority to declare the Bible to be the Word of God. No Pope, no bishop, no patriarch, no church council, no synod, absolutely no one has the jurisdiction to make any pronouncement about the Bible being the Word of God or authoritative. The Bible can only be received by the church and recognized for the authority it has, not because some human group of people decided that it is the Word of God.
The Bible itself claims to be the Word of God. This is important because if the book stated categorically that it was not the Word of God, or if it remained completely silent on the matter, then it would be presumptuous of us to appear from the blue and assign to it the title the Word of God. Second Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (ESV). The human authors of the Bible were not writing down or passing on to the people popular folklore of the day, or their own opinions and ideas about things or life in general to produce the Bible. They were cognizant of the fact that what they were writing were messages from God. Some, like Jeremiah, put their lives on the line from the people they were addressing with the Word of God. The people didn’t want to hear what God was saying through Jeremiah because it was not pleasant to their ears. But Jeremiah spoke to them all the same because he was conscious that he was not speaking his own words. He could not not speak. He was constrained by the Spirit of God so that what he produced was not his own words but the words of God. His words originated from God. Throughout the books of the prophets, we see again and again the prophets preambling their messages or ending them with “Thus says the Lord…” They were not speaking their own words but God’s.
What about Israel? The Bible speaks of the nation of Israel and calls it God’s people and that no one will ever extinguish it off the face of the earth. The Bible predicts that the people of Israel would be exiled and that they would roam the world and that wherever they would go they would be treated as a curse and be hated, rejected, and killed because of their breaking the covenant God made with them. But God says in the Bible that he would, in the end, return the Jews to the very place where he first planted them, the land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 28:15 – 68; 30:1 – 8). All these things have happened and are happening right before our eyes. Over the years the nation of Israel has suffered greatly from hatred of other nations. Such accurate predictions cause the Bible to stand out as indeed a book whose author is God who is the sovereign over history. Israel has never been a superpower in the world. Actually, it has been invaded and brought to near zero quite a few times in its long history. It was overrun by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and lastly the Romans under whom the Jews were expelled from the land. It wasn’t until 1948 that a ragtag Jewish army fought and won the war of independence, and then withstood the immediate onslaught of superior national armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. Since then tiny Israel has won wars against its surrounding nations, sometimes fighting on more than one front. It cannot be just military prowess protecting Israel. There must be a supernatural force and that supernatural force is God, the protector of Israel, as the Bible says.
In further elaboration of the truthfulness of the Bible, we should note that sometimes in the New Testament the Scriptures are spoken of as though they were God, and God is spoken of as though he were the Scriptures. Galatians 3:8 says, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, IN THEE SHALL ALL THE NATIONS BE BLESSED. The capitalized words are found in Genesis 12:3, and it is God who said them. So, Scripture and God are one and the same.
The same form of interchange of God and the Scriptures is found in Romans 9:17 which says, “For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, EVEN FOR THIS SAME PURPOSE HAVE I RAISED THEE UP, THAT I MIGHT SHEW MY POWER IN THEE, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE DECLARED THROUGHOUT ALL THE EARTH.” This is a quotation from Exodus 9:16. It is God who spoke those words back then, but Romans 9:17 says it is the Scripture that spoke them. To the author of Romans, God and Scripture are one and the same.
Another reason for accepting the Bible as the Word of God is that Jesus himself believed it to be so. He referred to it as authoritative. He defeated Satan by obeying Scripture or using Scripture to counter Satan’s sinister suggestions to him. When people came to him with questions, he asked them what the Scriptures say about the matter, and from there he would give his response. He refused to be drawn into a departure from the Scriptures and adopt screwed-up modern interpretation introduced by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and others. He respected the Scriptures as the sole authority in matters of belief and conduct. We do well to do the same.
Mention should also be made of the Bible’s life-changing quality. People read the Bible and have their lives changed. People read the Bible and get comfort for their souls in times of trouble. People read the Bible to get direction for their lives. And the words of the Bible don’t grow old. They are new every morning.
This is the Bible, the Word of God. It is the rule by which we are to formulate belief and by which we regulate conduct. In the modern world, however, it has become popular to trash the Bible or at least to doubt it and refuse to believe with absolute conviction that it is the Word of God. When that happens all kinds of theories are manufactured about it and teachings are introduced which contradict it. People do that and feel elitist and above the ordinary for leaving behind what they consider archaic writings which, they say, don’t fit in the “modern” world. That statement is not true. The teachings of the Bible, correctly interpreted, are true for all time. No times will ever be so “modern” as to make the Bible obsolete. I urge you to ensure that in your heart of hearts you embrace the Bible as the authority over your life. Believe the Bible. Love the Bible. Obey the Bible. Teach the Bible.
Prayer: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (Proper 28).