Why trust the Bible?

Recently I led a sermon series called “Heaven and Hell: What does the Bible teach about what is true (instead of what we want to be true).”

If you’ve ever wondered about what heaven is like, or what hell is like, or what Jesus teaches about these things, then you might want to take a listen. [To check out the podcasts go here.]

The reason for this post isn’t to repeat the entire series. It’s to make a key principle from Part 1 available in written format to review and digest.

Here it is: The Bible is the trustworthy source for God’s truth.

The reason we need to think this through is because, if we’re inquiring about things of eternal significance—like heaven and hell—we need to be sure we’re rooted in a source of information and knowledge we can trust.

But why can we trust the Bible?

To answer that question, and as I discussed in the series, I could talk about the biblical passages that highlight how Scripture is inspired by God—passages like 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed…”

But I won’t.

I could talk about how the manuscripts of our earliest copies of the Bible are very reliable and incredibly preserved, and how there are over 5000 ancient hand-written manuscripts for the New Testament alone.

But I won’t.

I could talk about how many of the New Testament writings from the Bible were written and being circulated while there were still eye witnesses living, meaning they could either confirm or deny events, lending to their credibility and authenticity.

But I won’t.

I could talk about how Jesus is the most well-documented historical figure from human history.

But I won’t.

I could talk about how the Bible has stood the test of time for thousands of years and has stood up to intense criticisms (especially in the past one hundred), and instead of going away, continues to have a massive impact and—year after year—continues to be the world’s #1 bestseller.

But I won’t.

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I could talk about its prominent place in global Christianity (which, although struggling in some contexts in North America, is growing to the tune of 50,000 new adherents a day globally), and how, according to historian Mark Noll in his book From Every Tribe and Nation, the Bible is the authoritative pattern for living and teaching in the lives of Christians as it grows all over the world.

But I won’t.

I could talk about how the Bible—and particularly the life and teachings of Jesus contained within the Bible—have transformed millions of lives through human history.

But I won’t.

I could also talk about the massive and impressive historical and societal impact the Bible has had throughout the world—for example, that because all humans are created in God’s image and therefore have value and dignity, this has driven movements in accessible health care, free education and literacy, human rights advancements, democracy, fair judicial systems, endless care for the poor and hungry, even scientific advancements because of a deep desire to explore the intricate and beautiful world God has clearly made.

But I won’t.

Instead, I will focus on one thing: Jesus himself considered the Scriptures to be authoritative and from God.

 Yes, the Saviour trusted the Scriptures.

christ bible

For example, with respect to the Old Testament:

When Jesus was tempted by Satan three times in the wilderness as recorded in Matthew 4:1-11, each time he appealed to the authority of the Old Testament by quoting from it (from the book of Deuteronomy).

Several other places he appeals to its authority by saying “as it is written,” which is the ancient equivalent of saying “the Bible says…”

Jesus consistently quotes the Old Testament to settle various disputes. For example, in Matthew 19, he quotes Genesis 2 to settle a concern about divorce.

In John 5:39 he even says that the Old Testament points to and testifies about himself. This is confirmed when, in Luke 4:14-21, while in a synagogue, he reads from Isaiah 61 and applies it to himself.

In Mark 7, Jesus quotes the Old Testament teachings through Moses and calls them the “word of God” and “the commands of God.”

In John 10:35 he says that “Scripture cannot be set aside.”

That’s Jesus!

But what about the New Testament? After all, it’s written about Jesus and by and about the early church. With that in mind, let me offer a few thoughts:

In several places, Jesus commissions the apostles to continue his work and teaching throughout the world, the most famous example being Matthew 28:16-20. Many of the New Testament writings are partly a result of that commission from Jesus himself.

In John 14-16, Jesus says that after he physically leaves them, the Holy Spirit will help the apostles, and will “teach you all things and REMIND you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26, emphasis added). He says the Holy Spirit will help them remember his teachings which clearly impacts not only their spoken words but their written ones too. In fact, it is a reasonable assumption that some of the apostles would have felt that they were carrying out Jesus’ instructions under God’s guidance when they recorded his words and continued his teachings in writing.

In 2 Peter 3:1-2, the chief apostle Peter, says that he considers his writing the result of the “command of our Lord and Saviour” (referring to Jesus).

Again, Peter calls some of the Apostle Paul’s writings in the New Testament “scripture” (2 Peter 3:16). And then Paul quotes the gospel of Luke in the New Testament calling it “scripture” (1 Timothy 5:18). To me this is an indication that the writers were aware that they were continuing the tradition of the sacred word.

So why am I saying all of this?

For a very significant reason: We are looking for wisdom (about heaven and hell, or about about any number of other things) from the Bible—things of eternal significance. But why should we trust it? There are many reasons, of course. But the one I’m focusing on is this:

Jesus himself considered the Scriptures to be authoritative and from God. In other words, the Saviour trusted the Scriptures.

And so can we.

At the end of the first sermon in the series I played a video of some Chinese Christians getting their own copies of the Bible for the first time. It was powerful and moving to see the intense thankfulness, the level of reverence, and the joy. [You can watch it on YouTube here.]

May we also consider it a distinct privilege to read and learn from the Scriptures, and do so with careful attention and gratitude.

Let’s live wisely—not based on what we want to be true, but on what actually is.

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