This is my second post in a series regarding the authority of Scripture. My first post was in context of Christmas and the prophecies surrounding the birth of Christ, and this post builds on that.
According to Pew research studies, 89% of Americans believe in God, and 73% believe in Jesus’ virgin birth. But what are these beliefs based on? I think many people would say these foundational religious beliefs are built upon what’s recorded in the Bible. And that leads to some larger questions, like, why does anyone believe the Bible anyway? Or, was the Bible simply written by ancient man for their own personal gain, or to instill cultural morality, or to explain our existence? Or is the Bible really the Word of God?
Oddly enough, I think one of the significant arguments for the authority of Scripture comes from Scripture itself. The Bible tells us that it’s not a human invention, but is revelation from God. In other words, God actually communicated with many different people in order to revel himself and his will. Thus, the Bible is referred to as God’s word; it’s his testimony to us, and that’s what I want to focus on in this post.
A good portion of the book of Psalms were written by King David, and Psalm 12:6 says, “the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.” If it’s true that God’s word if flawless, then I think it’s important to believe what it says.
Psalm 119:114 tells us, “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” If David puts his hope in God’s word, then we can also find hope there as well. David goes on to say, “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.” (Psalm 119:160).
Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Now a skeptic might question why anyone would blindly accept these author’s writings, as if they were from God; surely their personal testimony doesn’t have any credibility in and of itself. Well, I believe there are good explanations as to why we should accept the author’s testimony as reliable. Firstly, these writers have fulfilled prophesies to bolster their credibility. Isaiah, for example, prophesied about the birth of Christ and the fall of Israel to Assyria (Isaiah 7:13-17). David prophesied about Jesus’ death (Psalm 16:9-10). Jeremiah declared that Babylon would rule Judah for 70 years, and after the 70 years, then Babylon would fall (Jeremiah 25). This prophecy was written nearly 50 years before it was fulfilled. These are just a few of several thousand Biblical prophesies written well before their fulfillment.
Secondly, it’s clear that New Testament writers believed the Old Testament was God’s word. In the book of Romans, for example, Paul repeatedly used the phrase, “It is written”, declaring the Old Testament to be authoritative. In Romans 15:12 Paul quotes the fulfillment of Isaiah, who wrote that “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him”. Jesus fulfilled this as a descendent of Jesse; Christians believe Jesus rules over all nations, and people from every nation put their hope in him.
Thirdly, Jesus himself affirmed the Old Testament prophets, quoting them as if they had written the very words of God. Jesus would begin his statements with phrases like, “You have heard that it was said,” or “It is written”, or “Haven’t you read.” When Jesus proclaimed his message, he would consistently refer his audience to Scripture, quoting from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, David, Hosea, Micah, Malachi and other prophets. In Matthew 12:3 Jesus asked, “Haven’t you read what David did?” And in Matthew 15:7 Jesus said, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you.” In Matthew 16:4 Jesus refused to give a sign to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “except the sign of Jonah”. In Matthew 22:29 Jesus criticizes the Sadducees, saying to them, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Jesus gives David credibility in the Psalms when he says, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord”?” And finally, in Luke 4:17-21, Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah, and as he concludes, says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
I think the important point is that the fulfillment of prophecy establishes the credibility and reliability of Scripture as revelation from God, for it’s impossible for finite humans to accurately predict the future (Nostradamas, for example, had numerous failed prophesies). Therefore, if God is directing and orchestrating his plan and reveals his will to those he’s chosen, then we can expect Scripture to be authoritative. Next, we have Jesus, the one in whom many of those prophecies foretold, not only fulfilling every Messianic prophecy, but declaring the writing of these very prophets to be the word of God. But more than that, Jesus performed many miracles, wonders and signs as evidence for his divinity, declaring himself to be God, and many of his miracles were witnessed by hundreds and thousands of people, including the political elite.
One final point is that the New Testament is in harmony with the Old Testament; they both advance one central theme. The Old Testament prophets foretold of the coming Messiah, and then Jesus, the Messiah, affirmed their prophecies about himself with power. Both the Old and New testaments are completely complimentary.
Based on all this, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the Bible really is God’s word- not merely an old book written by men, as if God doesn’t exist or isn’t capable of communicating his will to us. I think skeptics, if they wish to argue this case, must demonstrate that none of the prophecies or miracles described in the Bible are genuine, and that Jesus was nothing more than an ordinary man.
In my next post on this I hope to look at some archaeological evidence for some of the Bible’s claims.