Summary: Getting a grip on the Word as relevant for us today.
1. THE WORD OF GOD: We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, fully and verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. We believe that the Bible in its original manuscripts is free from all falsehood or mistake and so is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions on all matters of natural and theological fact and that it has supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
The above is the No.1 article in our Baptist General Conference’s Affirmation of Faith document. This we can take to the bank - that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, as the Bible says: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
This text tells us that the Bible is document to be taken seriously, for it comes from God. It gives a true and accurate picture of God’s intentions for us and for the world. Since God inspires it, and He is perfect, we know the contents are therefore reliable and free from error. Though we know that humans write the Bible, the truth that it contains is authoritative and represents God’s Word to us. How can we be sure that the Bible is right on the money when it comes to truth? First, let’s take a look at the external evidence. Maps are valuable in guiding us to our destination. We want to arrive at truth. Hank Hanegraff’s clever use of the acronym MAPS help us here.
1. Manuscripts: Though we do not have the original documents of the Bible, how good are the copies then? The manuscript evidence is incredible. According to Hanegraff, of all ancient manuscripts including Homer, Plato or Aristotle, the Bible has the most manuscript evidence and experts would not question their credibility.The experts have verified that the copies have very little alteration over the years, and what’s altered is due to human transimission such as leaving out strokes and scholars have determined through extensive work and removed most copying mistakes and thus, reinforced the copies we have now is as good as the original. To me, this is a good thing, that the originals are gone so we don’t treat it as a scared cow, worshiping the documents rather than the One who is revealed in the documents.
2. Archaeology: Many discoveries in the field of archaeology have confirmed the accuracy of the Bible text. Sir William Ramsay, a trained specialist in this field, became a Christian after trying to proof that Luke-Acts portion of Scripture cannot be backed up. His study and research convinced him of the reliability of the documents.
3. Prophecies: Many prophecies have been fulfilled. Through centuries of different writers, the message of the Bible is remarkably unified, ultimately pointing to Jesus Christ. How could Jesus have engineered all the prophecies of His coming, details of his life and death, and resurrection if he is just a man, a con-artist, unless He is the One who is send by the Father, who is One with Him and is God!
4. Statistical probabilities: Just think of the chances that the documents of the Bible written over 1600 years and by 40 authors who don’t know each other, that they conspired and wrote one unifying story over the centuries just to prove Jesus is the promised Messiah. That’s unthinkable odds! That is the genius of the Bible as compared to other works of religious import that comes from one pen such as the Koran.
Second, let’s take a look at the internal evidence. What does the Bible really say?
1. Authority: The Bible claims to be the Word of God. The Bible in the Old Testament is filled with claims of “Thus says the Lord…” and when Jesus appeared He claims to speak for God and His followers claim as well to speak and write under His authority. 1 Peter 1:25 (MSG) underscores this authority: “God’s Word goes on and on forever”
2. Resurrection: The key to the Bible’s authority is the resurrection of Christ.
“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me--that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said.” 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 (NLT)
The Old Testament speaks of fulfilment of ancient prophecies through one person – Jesus Christ. That He died and was raised from the dead, “just as the Scriptures (i.e. the OT) said” shows the remarkable accuracy and reliability of the Bible. And the Apostle Paul challenges people to really think through the logical outcome… “And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless…” (1 Cor.15:14). If Jesus’ story were a fraud, a made-up fantasy of well-meaning disciples of His, it would all come apart. We would have a “useless” faith. So the onus is on anyone to prove the Resurrection is a clever hoax, or a myth. Paul wrote: “And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ have perished! And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world” (1 Cor.15:17-19, NLT). Indeed, Christians are to be pitied for making up such a crazy story, if it were not true!