Thy Word is Truth: 13 Reasons to Trust the Bible

BibleChristianity and the church stand or fall on the reliability of Scripture. As a reformed-ish Southern Baptist, I hold to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. This means when I read, study, teach, or preach the Bible, I believe I am seeing, hearing, speaking, and proclaiming the very word of God. The entirety of my faith and knowledge of God, truly the only way that I know God, flows from the river of the Bible. This grand Book is more than a masterpiece of human literature (though not less). The evangelical view of the Bible is that it is God’s self-revelation, and therefore entirely authoritative for the Christian’s life and the church’s practice.
Along with this view is the clear implication that if the Bible is not true, or if it is manipulated, then the entirety of the Christian faith falls apart. While the existential work of Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection are the rockbed of Christianity, the truth of which would not be diminished if the Bible did not exist, the testimony to this historical reality is absolutely crucial for the work of Christ to benefit us. The only way for us to know God is for God to reveal himself to us. He does so through the person of Christ and the Scriptures.

Without the Scriptures, we would have no ground to stand on, and truly, we would have nothing to say, and our faith would be non-existent. But because we believe God has clearly spoken in the Bible, we cannot keep quiet. The ultimate question for all Christians is this: Can you trust the Bible?

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, reformer John Calvin once wrote, “So far as human reason goes, sufficiently firm proofs are at hand to establish the credibility of Scripture.” He proceeded to give thirteen reasons the Scriptures are worthy of our full trust and devotion. Hopefully this summation of his discussion will help give you greater confidence in the message of the Book you will read and share this week.

1. The Superiority of the Message

Calvin stated, “Scripture is superior to all human wisdom.” According to Calvin, Scripture is uniquely majestic and impressive. Contrary to popular criticisms, the Bible is not contradictory, which makes its unifying message both awe-inspiring and divine. The “heavenly” nature of Scripture is found in the fact that over the course of thousands of years, through various cultures, and from the pens of a great variety of men, the Bible carries a unifying message and theme. This is simply amazing.

Calvin marvels at the fact that though the language of Scripture is plain enough to be understood by all, its majesty is found in the “grandeur of subjects,” not language. In other words, we do not stand in awe of Scripture because it possesses the literary eloquence of a Victorian novel, but because “the force of the truth of Sacred Scripture is manifestly too powerful to need the art of words.”

2. The Decisive Content of Scripture

Calvin admits that great portions of Scripture, especially the prophets, possessed an eloquence of speaking that “yields nothing to secular writers.” But, no matter the style, whether beautiful poetry or rugged prophecy, the “majesty of the Spirit will be evident everywhere.”

3. The Great Antiquity of Scripture

The message of the Bible extends backward of some thousands of years. It is no mere coincidence that the message of Scripture has been passed down so many years. We are well to marvel at such antiquity.

4. The Truthfulness of Scripture (as shown by Moses)

Calvin argues that Moses is a great example of the truthfulness of Scripture due to how personally involved he was in his writings in the Pentateuch. For example, the best way for Moses to leave a personal legacy would be for him to establish the priesthood from his sons. But he doesn’t do this. The priesthood is established through Aaron. Why? Because that was the word of the Lord.

5. & 6. The Strengthening Nature of Miracles

There are numerous miracles recorded in Scripture. We often take them for granted. But for Calvin, they serve as a source to strengthen Scripture’s own claim to inerrancy. Moses and other writers would have a lot of nerve to testify to a miracle that didn’t happen to those who would know whether or not the event was true or not. For people who came out against Moses so often, testifying to a false miracle would have definitely incurred the wrath of Israel.

7. & 8. The Fulfillment of Prophecies

Calvin also argues that it is hard to argue against something that existentially proves itself to be valid and true. This is especially true when the fulfilled prophecy is contrary to what Calvin calls “human expectation.” He asks, “When David was anointed by Samuel, what visible reason was there for the transference of the kingly power?” None of us would naturally assume that lowly David would be not just the next king, but the king from who the ultimate King would come. However, this is the testimony of Scripture, and when such un-expectations are fulfilled, we must marvel at its reliability.

9. The Transmission of the Law

Similar to his argument from antiquity, Calvin finds tremendous support for the reliability of Scripture in the fact that it was continuously passed down. We must never neglect texts that survive thousands of years. And when texts have been preserved thousands of years and continuously held as authoritative and divine, we would do well to take notice and find reason for reliability.

10. The Preservation of the Law and Prophets

Piggy-backing on his point on transmission, Calvin shows why these texts have survived for millennia. The Scriptures have survived numerous attempts to stomp out Christianity and its sacred writings. This is not an accident, as it is evidence for God’s hand in the preservation of his word. The Scriptures have survived ungodly monarchies, invasions, exiles, dictators, and various persecutions. With Calvin, we should “ponder here how much care the Lord has taken to preserve his Word.”

11. The Character of the New Testament

Calvin says that the New Testament is both simple and heavenly in its character. Calvin claps a thunderbolt of argumentation down on critics of the Scriptures. He essentially says that you cannot honestly come away from the New Testament, particularly John, Paul, and Peter, and deny its heavenly nature. He strongly declares with maybe not-so-convictional-kindness, “Let these dogs deny that the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles; or even let them discredit history. Yet the truth cries out openly that these men who, previously contemptible among common folk, suddenly began to discourse so gloriously of the heavenly mysteries must have been instructed by the Spirit.

12. The Unvarying Testimony of the Church

While the consensus testimony of a body like the Church should not be the primary defense for the reliability for a doctrine, it should definitely not be ignored. Calvin writes, “Since the publication of Scripture, age after age agreed to obey it steadfastly and harmoniously. By countless wondrous means Satan with the whole world has tried either to oppress it or overturn it, to obscure and obliterate it utterly from the memory of men–yet, like the palm, it has risen ever higher and has remained unassailable.”

A bombardment of human arguments against the reliability of Scripture has hit the church, yet it stands firm in its 2,000 year submission to the Bible. The church has remained uninhibited. The church stretches across both time and cultures, but all hold to the supremacy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture. In the words of Calvin, “Such agreement of minds, so disparate and otherwise disagreeing in everything among themselves, ought to move us greatly, since it is clear that this agreement is brought about by nothing else than the divine will.”

13. The Testimony of the Martyrs’ Blood

Calvin’s final reason for the reliability of Scripture is that it is soaked with the blood of martyrs. He writes, “It is no moderate approbation of Scripture that it has been sealed by the blood of so many witnesses, especially when we reflect that they died to render testimony to the faith; not with fanatic excess, but with a firm and constant, yet sober, zeal toward God.” Pascal’s words are apropos: “I believe the witnesses that get their throats cut.” It is one thing to claim to believe a text is inerrant and inspired by God. It is quite another to die for said belief. Countless men and women throughout the history of the church have given and lost their lives for the Scriptures. Though not the primary reason for the Bible’s reliability, it is worth recognizing that people do not intentionally lose their lives for falsehoods. People have been losing their lives for the Bible since the beginning of the church.

Even with these reasons and many more that could accompany them for the reliability of Scripture, I cannot emphasize enough that these facts will not grant you a saving knowledge of God. In the words of Calvin, “yet of themselves these are not strong enough to provide a firm faith, until our Heavenly Father, revealing his majesty there, lifts reverence for Scripture beyond the realm of controversy.” So, if you struggle to trust the Bible or have friends who hesitate to embrace Christ because of doubts over Scripture, you can reason for Scripture’s reliability, but ultimately we must rely on God’s grace to grant true saving faith and confidence in the Bible.

Take courage in your evangelism and defense of Scripture, because as Calvin reminds us, “But those who wish to prove to unbelievers that Scripture is the Word of God are acting foolishly, for only by faith can this be known.”


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

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The Connection Between Biblical Inerrancy and Expository Preaching

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One thing I have committed myself to during my time at Boyce College is to learn the practice of expository preaching. There is hardly avoiding the fact that all young preachers preach bad sermons, especially early on. As Tim Keller once said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, your first 200 sermons will be terrible.” All preachers can only truly learn how to preach through practice. However, filling one’s mind and heart with biblically and historically faithful way of preaching prepares the student to preach bad sermons in the right way.

In preparing to become a faithful expositor, I have benefited mostly from reading books on the nature and practice of expository preaching. Rediscovering Expository Preaching: Balancing the Science and Art of Biblical Exposition is one of the most significant books in print on expository preaching. If you have no clue what expository preaching is; if you are a preacher considering preaching expositionally; or even if you already preach expositionally, Rediscovering Expository Preaching is a great resource.

John MacArthur and other faculty members of The Master’s Seminary combined to produce an invaluable resource for preachers in the early 1990’s and is still benefiting preachers today.

There is one chapter in Rediscovering Expository Preaching that I want to briefly discuss to give you both a feel for the book and some points for reflection on a crucial aspect of expository preaching.

The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy

John MacArthur wrote the second chapter, which is entitled, The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy.

In this chapter, MacArthur examines expository preaching in light of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Essentially, MacArthur’s main point is that expository preaching is the practical overflow of biblical inerrancy. Or, as he puts it, biblical inerrancy “demands” expository preaching. MacArthur shows that the spiritual health of Christians and churches is dependent upon biblical inerrancy expressed in expository preaching. MacArthur states his thesis early on:

The only logical response to inerrant Scripture, then, is to preach it expositionally. By expositionally, I mean preaching in such a way that the meaning of the Bible passage is presented entirely and exactly as it was intended by God (23-24).

It is through this definition of expository preaching that MacArthur shows a direct connection to the inerrancy of Scripture.

MacArthur argues that for inerrantists, there really is no other way to preach outside of expository preaching. On the other hand, if one believes the Bible is errant, then it would be foolish to preach the Bible expositionally. MacArthur ends up going further by arguing that preaching the Bible at all is meaningless if Scripture is not inerrant. Because of this intrinsic connection between biblical inerrancy and expository preaching, MacArthur goes through various points to show how the preacher can present the Bible “entirely and exactly as it was intended by God.”

From here, MacArthur breaks down the manner in which expository preaching can practically be carried out—exegesis. He defines exegesis as,

[T]he skillful application of sound hermeneutical principles to be the biblical text in the original language with a view to understanding and declaring the author’s intended meaning both to the immediate and subsequent audiences (29).

In order to preach expositionally, the preacher will need to make use of the hermeneutical principle of exegesis. The doctrine of inerrancy and the commitment to preach expositionally necessitates the use of exegesis. Finally, MacArthur gives a brief look at opposition to expositional preaching, which is found in theological liberalism’s denial of inerrancy.

This chapter is a necessary foundational look at expository preaching and its place in evangelical churches. I was personally challenged by this chapter to view expository preaching not as an option among many, but rather as the only appropriate way to preach. In fact, the only way to truly preach the word of God is to preach expositionally. MacArthur’s passion for inerrancy and preaching shines through in this chapter. He makes a strong claim that pierces the hearts of many pastors, but for those who believe in biblical inerrancy, there is no arguing against his arguments.

The mandate of the pastor is to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:1-2). In order to preach the divinely inspired word of God, the pastor must preach entirely and exactly what God has intended. MacArthur is clear in his definition and explanation of expository preaching. Exegesis requires diligent work, but all efforts will prove fruitful, because at the end of the day the pastor will be able to leave the pulpit knowing he preached a message from the Lord.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

The Nature of Scripture: All Scripture is Supreme

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As I established in my previous post, both the Old and New Testament are at play in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, when Paul wrote to Timothy:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

In light of this, we need to make some observations about “all Scripture.” All Scripture is supreme in the life of the church and in the lives of every believer. This truth is summed up in one phrase. All Scripture is breathed out by God.

Scripture has a Divine Origin

What does the phrase “breathed out by God,” or “God-breathed” mean? Concerning the authority of Scripture, Wayne Grudem writes in his Systematic Theology, “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”

There is an intrinsic and special connection between God and Scripture because Paul says that all Scripture is the very word of God. “Breathed out by God” in this context seems to be a metaphor for speaking the words of Scripture. Unlike all other books that have ever been written, the Bible has at its core divine DNA. It comes to us through human agents, but its content is very specifically, the words from God. Notice that Paul writes that it is Scripture that is inspired by God, not the authors. This emphasizes the divine nature of the very words themselves that we find in the Bible. Timothy can be certain that every word that he preaches is from God and not from man (2 Tim. 4:2). Because Scripture is God-breathed, this indicates that it is also completely truthful and holy.

Any book written today must stand the test of peer review and evaluation in light of similar works in that particular field in order to substantiate the claims of that book. This is because authors are flawed, no matter how gifted. However, when it comes to the holy Scripture, its Author is the opposite of flawed. The reason you see “Holy Bible” written on the front or side of your Bible is because it is the direct product of an infinitely holy God. The character of this Word reflects the character of the one who spoke it. And the supremacy of the Bible is self-evident as it attests to the supreme Being who created heaven and earth.

This means that when it comes to Scripture, there is no higher authority for the church and there is no higher authority for our lives as believers. We must submit to every single text of Scripture as it is all from God. To disobey Scripture is to disobey God.

Amazing Grace

Will you just stop with me for a moment to consider and marvel at this thought? The Bible is most certainly a book, but it is not just any book. It is a book in which every single word is God-breathed or uniquely intended by God to be written in a specific time by a specific writer. We should hold this book in the highest esteem and approach it with fear and trembling. It is not a plaything to be tossed around or a worldly work to be treated lightly. These words that we are reading and studying are from the One who created the Milky Way galaxy and the amoeba. May we never be flippant or silly with this Word. And may we always fall before this Word in submission and worship because of its unbelievably God-like nature. What unfathomable love! What amazing grace!

Three Striking Implications

In light of the supremacy of Scripture, there are three striking implications for the church and Christians today.

1. No text of Scripture is insignificant

All Scripture is God-breathed, and therefore contains a divine element that demands attention and submission. It is all-important and all vital for our faith and for the satisfaction of our souls. Man cannot live on bread alone (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).

2. No text of Scripture is more authoritative than any other

For example, if Jesus did not say something, but Paul did, this does not mean that it lacks authority because Jesus didn’t say it. All Scripture is God-breathed.

3. No text of Scripture can be ignored

This impacts our preaching and Bible study. We cannot only preach or study the four Gospels. We cannot only preach or study the New Testament. Instead, recognizing that all Scripture is God-breathed, we must give ourselves to the preaching and reading and studying of both testaments and all 66 writings. If the pastor asks you to turn to Ezra or a Psalm or Leviticus, do not turn him off. If your daily reading is in Deuteronomy or 2 Chronicles or Romans, do not blow it off. Reading two lines out of Leviticus or two pages of genealogies out of Nehemiah will do more for your soul than reading an entire book written by C.S. Lewis or J.K. Rowling because Leviticus and Nehemiah have the special imprint and revelation of God himself.

We are not at liberty to pick and choose to obey only those passages that agree with our finite philosophies or wishes. Scripture is not subject to our will, but rather to the will of the one from whom it is breathed out! All Scripture is from the Spirit of God and because of this it is all holy and good and true. This means that when we come to difficult passages, we do not have the option to disregard it or deny it, for when we do so, we are denying God himself. It is therefore important to learn how to study the Bible. Yes, you want to wield a sword when an enemy attacks you, but if you do not know how to wield it correctly, you are great risk of maiming yourself. In the same way, if we do not know how to properly wield the Sword of Truth, we will only be maiming our souls.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

The Direct Link Between the Inerrancy of Scripture and the Sovereignty of God

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Cornelius Van Til writes of B.B. Warfield’s view of Scripture: “For him the classical doctrine of the infallible inspiration of Scripture was involved in the doctrine of divine sovereignty.” Warfield was professor of theology at the old Princeton. He was one of the last great Presbyterian theologians at Princeton before theological liberalism swept its halls. Warfield was born in Lexington, KY in 1887 and he died in Princeton, NJ in 1921. Warfield is easily one of the greatest Reformed theologians of the 20th century and also one of the most influential Reformed theologians of all time. He is most noted for his defense of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture—a battle that rages on into the 21st century, approaching one hundred years after Warfield’s death.

According to Warfield, God’s very character and nature is at stake in the battle for the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. This has proved true over the centuries. Those camps that have denied the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture typically have a small view of God’s sovereignty. Theological liberals have a limited understanding of God’s sovereignty and they do not believe God’s Word is perfect and without error. In fact, it would be strange to hold a high view of God’s sovereignty and a low view of God’s self-revelation. Van Til continues, “God could not be sovereign in his disposition of rational human beings if he were not also sovereign in his revelation of himself to them.” What Van Til is observing in Warfield’s theology of the Bible is that if we abandon God’s sovereignty in perfectly revealing himself to man, we must also abandon God’s sovereignty in all things. Either God is sovereign or he is not. There is no middle ground here.

If he is an all-sovereign being, then he is sovereign in all realms. I had a conversation with a fellow member of my local church recently where we both marveled at the grand sovereignty of God in salvation. We were astonished as we shared stories of God saving five year-olds, fifty-five year-olds, and ninety-five year-olds. There have been times when I have taught the gospel like a man on fire with no response. However, there have been times when I have struggled to make sense of what I was teaching, yet a child trusted Jesus or found deep encouragement in my words. My words were jumbled, I stammered, and even gave a poor illustration, but God worked in, through, and despite them to draw sinners to himself. None of us question God’s sovereignty in these cases.

We should equally cherish God’s sovereignty with regard to his knowledge and revelation. When was the last time you sat in total amazement that God chose to reveal himself to unworthy sinners? Have you ever marveled at the fact that when you read your Bible you hold in your hands a book that was inspired by God? I asked these same questions to a small group of K-3rd graders. One kindergartner responded, “Well, that is all very interesting, but I can’t read!” Even the little boy in the group still learning to read was somewhat amazed that God has spoken. He just has to settle for having the Bible read to him right now!

The point is that when we contend that God has chosen to reveal himself in a redemptive way, it is an attack on God’s being and character when we also say that such revelation is flawed, no matter how we sugar coat our accusations of the Bible. This realization led Van Til to write, “As one deeply interested in the progress of the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace, Warfield put all his erudition to work for the vindication of an infallible Bible.” Warfield’s arduous work to defend the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, which has since been surpassed by none, is the product of his commitment to the sovereignty of God.

If you are like me and find incomparable joy in God’s sovereignty over all things, then firm up your commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture. Cultural attacks on traditional Christian values dealing with the family, marriage, gender, sex, sexuality, the origin of the universe, the dignity of man, and morality in general are either directly or indirectly attacks on the Word of God. And if Warfield and Van Til are correct, which I believe they are, then these cultural attacks from political and theological liberals, are attacks on the nature and being of God more than they are attacks on conservative, evangelical Christians. If you are going to survive as a Christian in the ever-changing landscape of American society, you must have confidence in the self-revelation of the God who saves and reigns as rightful Lord over his creation.

Like Warfield and Van Til, let us marvel at the sovereignty of God by upholding the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. I pray that my generation would continue in the Reformed tradition of a high view of God and a high view of the Bible and that we would boldly affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and see this affirmation as a celebration of the sovereignty of God.

In the end, the goal of both God’s self-revelation in Scripture and the defense of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture is truthful, spiritual, and passionate worship of the God who saves. In the words of B.B. Warfield,

The religion of the Bible thus announces itself, not as the product of men’s search after God, if haply they may feel after Him and find Him, but as the creation in men of the gracious God, forming a people for Himself, that they may show forth His praise.

What is important to recognize is that the Scriptures themselves represent the Scriptures as not merely containing here and there the record of revelations—“words of God,”—given by God, but as themselves, in all their extent, a revelation, an authoritative body of gracious instructions from God; or, since the alone, of all the revelations which God may have given, are extant—rather as the Revelation, the only “Word of God” accessible to men, in all their parts “law,” that is, authoritative instruction from God.[1]

 

 

[1] Quotes taken from Warfield’s “The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible”


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.