This morning, we will look at Biblical authority as the third foundation characteristic. This week, I received an email from a Christian lady with whom I worked in the biotechnology field. The email contained signs found in church parking lots:
1. Free Trip to Heaven. Details Inside!
2. How will you spend eternity - Smoking or Non-Smoking.
3. It is unlikely there’ll be a reduction in the wages of sin.
4. If you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns.
5. If you don’t like the way you were born, try being born again.
6. If you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep. Talk to the Shepherd.
And the two signs that are relevant to today’s characteristic are:
"Dusty Bibles lead to Dirty Lives. "
"Fight truth decay. Study the Bible daily."
Why do Christians study the Bible and work to pattern our beliefs and lives according to this one book? After all there are many self-help books out there. There are also many religious books out there. Why give the Bible so much authority in our lives? Or for others, why should you give the Bible any more authority in your lives than you do other books?
Let’s try to answer some of these questions. Our starting point this morning will come from Paul’s second letter to his protégé, Timothy, chapter 3, verses 16 and 17: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
Because these 30-minute messages do not allow enough time to address many questions about the Bible, I will at least introduce some answers to possible questions you might have. We will look at "What is the Bible?" "Why we believe the Bible is authoritative." And we will close with "What difference does the credibility of the Bible make in our lives." The first two points are somewhat dry, but they provide the information foundation on which we can build some very exciting life-changes. Let’s begin.
What is the Bible? The Bible is not one book. The Bible is a compilation of 66 different books written by 40 different authors from 3 different continents in 3 different languages and written over a period of 1500 years. Yet, within each of the 66 books, we read an incredible unity of themes from Genesis through Revelation, progressively revealing God’s plan to restore His creation.
The 66 books of the Bible, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, contain different literary forms or genres, such as historical writings, poetic writings, prophetic writings, gospel biographical writings and the letters. So in studying the Bible, we need to understand and take into consideration these variables, languages, cultures, time periods and genres, in order to correctly interpret and apply the truths in the Bible.
Why do Christians believe the Bible is authoritative? Christians believe in the authority of the Bible because of its origin and credibility. In other words, we believe and live according to the Bible because the Bible is from God, and we believe and live according to the Bible because the Bible is true and stands the test of time and real life.
First, the Bible is authoritative because the Bible’s origin is from God. The various authors of the 66 books credits God, not religious and philosophical thinkers, for the writings in the Bible. The Apostle Paul affirmed, "All Scripture is God-breathe," inspired by God, not by human beings. During Paul’s period of writing, his use of the word "Scripture" would at least include all of the Old Testament.
The Apostle Peter said, "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." During Peter’s writing, some of what we now have as New Testament would be included as Scripture.
Second, the Bible is authoritative not only because the Bible’s origin is from God, but because what the Bible contains is true and has stood the test of time. Obviously, not every book is reprinted and sold consistently over the centuries. Many books go out of print because the contents are proven wrong or their demand ceases to exist. Yet, despite intentional burning and destruction of the Holy Bible by the early Roman Emperors before Constantine, and by the Communist government as well as anti-Christian persecutors, the Bible remains in print and in demand.
Voltaire, who was considered the most influential of the French Enlightenment period, made the promise, "Fifty years from now the world will hear no more of the Bible." Instead, fifty years after Voltaire’s death, the Geneva Bible Society used Voltaire’s house as a print shop to produce more Bibles. Not only has the Bible supernaturally stood the test of time physically, the Bible has stood the test of time historically, archeologically and geographically. You would expect this from God.
The Bible is historically, archeologically and geographically accurate when it records sites and locations such as Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, and the ruins of Jericho. In fact, the Bible has been used as an archeological map in digs and findings. On the other hand, many sacred writings are not historically, archeologically and geographically accurate.
For instance, the Book of Mormons claims to record the testimony of Jesus Christ’s ministry in North and South America in recent times. Yet, sites and locations recorded in the Book of Mormons do not exist. I’ve been told you can write to the Department of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, and they will send you a 3-page statement on why the Book of Mormon is a historical, archeological and geographical fraud.
Not only has the Bible stood the test of time physically, historically, archeologically and geographically, but the Bible has stood the test of time prophetically. Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled accurately. Jesus Christ, alone, fulfilled 300 of the Old Testament prophesies for the Messiah. Let me give you one example of a less familiar fulfilled prophecy, the destruction of Tyre.
Ezekiel 26:3-6 reads, "Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock. Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD. She will become plunder for the nations, and her settlements on the mainland will be ravaged by the sword. Then they will know that I am the LORD." This prophecy of the destruction of Tyre was written about 800 BC, about 400 years before the actual occurrence.
Until the 4th century BC Tyre was almost impregnable against siege, but Alexander the Great reduced Tyre in 332 BC by building a causeway that joined the island to the mainland. Tyre was reduced to such destruction that the city was never rebuilt to the great trading port it once was but remains the place where fishermen spread their nets, as God’s word prophesied.
Finally, what difference does the credibility of the Bible make in our lives? If the Bible is truly God’s word, and it is, then the Bible can serve as a faithful guide for our lives and our church, as intended by God and as pointed out in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
One of my greatest joys from our Council Planning Retreat recently was that the Council members disagreed with what I was presenting, because I overlooked a truth in the Bible. Now I understand that my credibility as a pastor relies heavily on my correctly teaching and leading God’s people, but I also understand that my success as a pastor does not come from people’s submission to me or my ideas but from people’s submission to the Word of God. We need to recognize that the Bible is our authority and roadmap for life and for ministry. We are not a people or a church steered by perceptions, opinions or trends that show up in our culture, in conferences, in books or in observations, but we believe, live and operate by the Word of God, the Bible.
Let me close by illustrating why we need to believe and live according to the truths of God’s Word, the Bible. What we believe determines to a great extent how we behave, so we better believe in what is true, or we will let every false perception or other people’s opinions determine our belief system and behavior.
For instance, many young girls have a false belief, opinion or observation about how they can secure the love of a boy by going to bed with him. She might gain this belief system from television or the movies or from her friends. Such false belief leads to broken dreams, broken hearts and broken lives. The Bible tells us that the commitment of a man to love a woman as Christ loved the church is the only way to secure the love of a man. No woman can be attractive enough long enough to ever secure the unconditional love of a man unless Christ lives in and through the man. Tell your children and grandchildren this truth from the Bible, and spare them great pain.
Another example of harm caused by false perception or other people’s opinions is found in people who deal crookedly or dishonestly because they have a false belief about success. The Bible tells us that success is not measured in dollars, in power, or in earthly prestige, but in quality of character and in service to Christ. The cliché, "Life is short and then you die," is incomplete. "Life is short; then you die, and then you face God." At that time, unless you hear God say the words, "Well-done, good and faithful servant" you have not succeeded in life.
We live in an age of communication, where information is readily available and is rapidly changing. Most of us are bombarded by philosophies, ideologies and research findings that contradict one another. We don’t know whether to go on a fat diet, a protein diet or a carbohydrate diet, since every diet has it’s own support and supporter. We don’t have time or opportunity to do our own research and draw our own conclusion, so we have to trust somebody, whether our doctor or dietician or neighbor. Or if you’re like me, I believe in having a moderation of each.
Yet, when you face the questions of meaning and purpose in life, the questions of sin and forgiveness, the questions of eternal life in heaven or eternal destruction in hell, you can’t settle for opinions and you can’t go with moderation. We can’t pick a little from Buddhism, a little from Hinduism, a little from New Age and a little from Christianity, and hope that moderation is our answer. God’s Word, the Bible, offers no other solution beside Jesus Christ alone as payment for our sins against a Holy God. The Bible records the words of Jesus Christ, who said, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Without the Way, there is no going to heaven. Without the Truth, there is no knowing about heaven. Without the Life, there is no living for eternity.
A dignitary visiting Africa made an appearance before a large gathering of natives. He launched into a long rambling story that went on for the better part of a half hour. The natives were respectfully silent.
When the dignitary concluded, his interpreter rose and said four words. Everyone then laughed uncontrollably.
The dignitary was stunned. "How could you tell my story so quickly?" he asked.
"Story too long," said the interpreter. "So I say - ’He tell joke. Laugh.’"
Sometimes we look at the Bible and say, "Bible too long" and to our great loss, we settle for the self-help books, the popular philosophies from television, the workplace or our cultural upbringing. To live life guided by any other authority than Biblical authority is to throw out God’s owner’s manual for life.