The divine authority of the Scriptures
There are several lines of reasoning that could be taken in showing forth the divine authority of the Scriptures. True, men penned the Scriptures: we have most of their names and know some biographical details about them. Their style, their learning and erudition, their idiosyncrasies show through. But the church has always maintained that though written by men, the ultimate influence and inspiration of the Scriptures came from God (2 Peter 1:20). This we can prove by internal and external evidence, as follows:
A. Who could have written the Bible? One or more of the elect angels? Impossible, for good angels don't lie, and the Bible repeatedly says, "Thus says the Lord...".
Evil spirits? No, for demons and Satan do not like to be exposed for what they are and they don't command men to "Worship the Lord thy God and him ONLY shalt thou serve." Evil spirits don't want men to repent, as the Bible commands.
Was it then evil men? But evil men certainly would not write such scathing denunciations of sin as we regularly find in the Scriptures.
Was it then good men? No, for good men, by themselves, cannot write about such sublime things, which eye hath not seen nor ear heard. Besides, good men don't lie; they won't write such things as this, "All scripture is theopneustos...", if it were not the truth.
Was it God who gave it, then? This is the only alternative left, and the one the Bible itself claims. As a pastor, I find it necessary to remind the congregation about the origin and consequently the authority of the Scriptures: "You received the word of truth, not as the word of men but as the Word of God which worketh in you who believe."
B. The content of the Bible must be impressive to all unprejudiced readers. (The prejudice and bigotry against the Bible, however, can only be taken away by the Holy Spirit). This spells the difference between the attitude of one who formerly read the Bible to find fault with it, to the attitude of one who reads it to be instructed by it in the way of righteousness. Mere man cannot have written the Bible and "invented" such doctrines as the Trinity, eternal punishment of the wicked, a substitutionary atonement, the incarnation, and such truths that have to be revealed in order to be known.
The pastor must instill in the minds of his hearers this truth, as Jesus the Lord expressed it, "The words that I speak unto you are not mine but the Father's who sent me." Biblical revelation is given from above. In hearing sermons, the people must know and be persuaded that the preacher is delivering to them the words of God, which are "spirit and life."
C. A unique mark of the Bible is the strong element of prophecy it contains. Most of the Old Testament prophetic utterances have already been fulfilled in the coming of the Son of God, tabernacling among us. This confirms our faith that we have a message that originated with God and came from God, for nobody but God can know the future and tell us with accuracy what is going to happen centuries hence.
The prophecy of Scripture is not mere prognostication such as it offered by statisticians; neither is it so vague and malleable that it could be fitted in any event happening later, such as is the character of Nostradamus' Centuries.
Pastorally speaking, this element of prophecy (together with typology) can be very edifying to the Christian if handled not for the sake of satisfying one's curiosity but as a motivation for a holy and blameless life.
D. The miracles recorded in the Bible confirm both its authenticity and its origin. Miracles are the works of God, special, supernatural works that draw our attention to his message. Thus we find prophets, apostles and our Lord himself performing signs and wonders and mighty works, "that ye may know that I am in the Father and the Father in me." A Christian is a Christian because he believes in miracles, among which are the incarnation and the resurrection of Christ. He has to believe in miracles. Miracles are interpreted to be God's special intervention for the redemption of his people. So what is helpful for the believer is a stumblingblock for the cynic and sceptic and infidel. We do not marvel why David Hume attacked the concept of miracles in such a systematic way. He knew their value.
In today's world which espouses a naturalistic world-view, the pastor should not be ashamed to preach on the importance of miracles and their apologetic value. The Christian faith is unique because it's God coming down to man, to save him and magnify himself though him.
E. The utter sincerity and impartiality of the biblical penmen is another argument in favour of its divine authority. No man likes to expose his own shortcomings. Any autobiography you might read will be found to present the better part of its author, and if he presents some of his faults and mistakes he puts them in the most favourable light. Not so the authors of the Bible: they mercilessly recorded their own failures: Jeremiah spoke about his own despair and depressions, Moses about his unbelief in striking the rock twice. Thus it is evident that the authors wrote not what they wanted to write but what the Holy Spirit directed and moved them to write.
Teachers of the Word will do well to draw the attention of their hearers to the integrity of the Scriptures.
A. Scripture is the oldest written document extant. With all the progress and change that continually takes place around it, we might normally expect the Bible to becomes outdated and irrelevant for people on the eve of the 3rd millenium. Not so! For God's people the Bible continues to be fresh, challenging and "a light unto my path, and a lamp unto my feet." Time does not deface God's will, and God's will is recorded black on white. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."
In a pastoral situation, it is important for the preacher to bridge the gap between the biblical world and the contemporary world. Obviously, rural Palestine is different from cosmopolitan Tokyo or London. The differences are superficial for men are still the same, they have the same sin nature as the children of Israel in the wilderness, but the preacher must explain that though the outward circumstances change, the vital issues remain the same: the need of salvation, our duty to worship and serve God, and love our neighbour.
B. What about the marvelous preservation of the Scriptures? Those acquainted with the history of the Bible, the way it was copied by hand for centuries, the way it was protected from extinction by the hand of Almighty God, against the ragings of Satan and Antichrist against it, how it was burned and destroyed both by imperial and papal Rome, will surely be impressed by the fact that this is no ordinary book. It has been preserved against all odds, both as a volume and in the purity of its contents. The Massoretic Text (OT) and the Majority Text (or Textus Receptus of the Koine Greek of the NT) today represent the pure and undefiled text as given by the Holy Spirit. The apographs have all been destroyed or lost, but we can be absolutely sure that we have in our hands the uncorrupted Word of God, contrary to the banal criticisms of the Muslims against the Christian church. The extant autographs, which count to about 5,000, afford a strong testimony to God's faithfulness in preserving his Word, which is reflected faithfully in the Authorised Version in the English language.
Pastors should study this hot question seriously and assiduously. If they are shaky and somehow doubt the accuracy of God's Word as preserved throughout the centuries, then the note of assurance and credibility will be lacking in their teaching. To those who are somewhat mature in the faith and are able to handle these matters, the elders should teach them what is involved and how Satan has tried to subvert this doctrine of preservation through the "scholarship" of Westcott and Hort and their allies. I myself was once a victim to their science falsely so called.
C. Finally we must consider the life-transforming power of the Bible. No other book has wrought such far-reaching changes both in civilisations and in the individual soul of man. As a Christian I have experienced this for myself. I know what I'm speaking about. I love literature, but the Bible is not merely literature; it stands on its own, it is incomparable (Psalm 19). If we have to judge by the results then surely the Bible passes the tests with flying colours. In whatever country the Bible has entered its influence has been tremendous. Protestant countries are far more advanced in every respect than Romanist countries.
The pastor can take this cue and challenge the people with such words, "Taste and see for yourself. Tale lege, take up and read: Augustine did this and his life was changed from night to day. Christ said it this way: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17). He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
1. Its antiquity
A possession that dates back to antiquity does not necessarily entail value. But the antiquity of the Scriptures must be counted as one of the many evidences for their divine origination and authority.
God spoke to man before the Fall, and immediately after the Fall. In grace he continued to communicate to man, and very early in the history of the human race he moved men to put to writing whatever he desired to pass to future generations.
No other writings that are extant today reach back even to the time of the Flood, yet alone beyond. But the Holy Scriptures relates details of people, events and histories that pre-date the Flood, and go back to the very origins of the world itself. The Bible contains a cosmology and cosmogony.
Other cosmologies are necessarily speculative and imaginative, for no human being was there when God created the heavens and the earth. Here science is helpless, for science must work from present evidence. So in this regard the book of Genesis, especially the first eleven chapters are priceless and unique in world literature. Some Oriental and Babylonian "sacred" writings relate the history of antiquity, but anyone reading it will be bemused by the sheer fantasy contained therein. In contrast the Book of Genesis is sober narrative, so credible that not one single strand of evidence against its reliability has withstood the test.
Moses tells us that prior to God's election of the patriarchs (ch.12-50 of Genesis) mankind asserted its independence from God by striving to know good and evil apart from God and in defiance of his command (ch.2,3). Humans proved their depravity by token religion, fratricide, and unrestrained vengeance; by tyranny, and thinking evil continually; by erecting an anti-kingdom against God. God's verdict about mankind stand: "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (8:21). How could we know all this except God gave it by revelation? The world refers to the whole period before 2000 B.C. as pre-history. But strictly speaking it is not; for the Bible tells us what we need to know about that period from creation to the call of Abraham.
The antiquity of Scripture books is quite impressive, all the more so since these writings were not corrupted by the passage of time. Given the biblical and extrabiblical evidence linking Genesis and its contents to Moses and his era, we may reasonably conclude that the book dates from the 15th century B.C.
The Hebrew Title for Genesis, following the ancient custom of naming books by their first word(s), is bereshith, "in the beginning," an appropriate title since the book is about the origin of history, and for that matter, all that we have about it.
2. The Bible's preservation
Jehovah's covenant, namely, that His sure Word will endure through time and eternity, is being discharged even until now.
The pagan world and the antichristian papal church have both expended their resources to destroy the Scriptures and their influence. Ten major imperial persecutions were perpetrated against the people of God during the first 3 centuries, and in most of them the main idea was to have the churches surrender their holy writings. Then with the rise of the papal autocratic government, with the setting up of various inquisitorial institutions, the church against was the butt of attack. Scriptures were destroyed, burned up, wherever they could be found. Yet they remain to this day.
The enemies of God have testified against the Scripture and predicted their subsidence; but at no time in the world's history has the Bible been more a power for good, nor has it ever been more clearly marked off for an ever increasing influence. Voltaire predicted that in one hundred years time the Christian religion would be dead and buried, such was his hatred and open mockery for the Bible. Oh!!! The preservation of the Scriptures, like the divine care over the writing of them and over the formation of them into the established canon, is not accidental. Nothing happened by incident or smacked of fortuity. It is the fulfilment of the divine promise. What God in faithfulness has wrought, will be continued until His purpose is accomplished.
The ungodly are helpless in this respect. They cannot restrain the Word of God: Christians may be thrown into prison and mistreated, but the Word of God is not bound. Why is this so? "Concerning they testimonies, I have known of old that thou has founded them forever," and, "For ever, O Lord, they word is settled (established) in heaven" (Psalms 119:152,98). What David wrote cannot come to nought. And what Christ declared is just as much true: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). Preservation! It is everywhere sounded: "The word of God liveth and abideth forever" (1 Peter 1:23). It is a noble distinction indeed that that Bible is classed with a very few realities which endure forever. The Bible itself says that a time will come when there will be a removal of all things that can be shaken and the continuation of those things which cannot be shaken. Its reference is specifically to the kingdom of God and contemplates, naturally, all that enters into that kingdom (Hebrews 12:25-29).
Eternal endurance is predicated to the Bible. It is indestructible for it is the Word of the eternal God. It is eternal in its own right. What God has spoken cannot be shaken. The Scriptures are the legal instrument by which God "obligates" himself to execute every detail of his eternal decree, and specifically his eternal covenant, to fulfil every prediction His prophets have made.
Christians may rest assured that the Fountain of Truth will remain. Let us then be all the more appreciative of this divine legacy, deposited in the church, the pillar and ground of the truth. The church exists because the Bible exists. Take away the Bible and the church whittles away. Let the Bible shine, and the kingdom will grow.
3. The content of the Bible
The Old Testament corpus is described elsewhere as the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24), thus indicating a convenient threefold division:
a. The Law. The Pentateuch, as the 5 books of Moses are known (meaning roll of five) is a mixture of history and law. These are not unrelated: the narrative history explains the laws.
Its main interest is God's covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, His deliverance of their descendants from Egypt, and their obligation to keep the laws of God given to them in the Sinai desert.
b. The Psalms. This section is also known as Wisdom Literature. It deals with such age-old questions as why do the righteous suffer (Job), the majesty of God in worship, his people and their experiences (Psalms), unanswered prayer, the brevity of life, and consolation in God; also messianic prophecies.
Proverbs is a book that deals with such themes as work, the use of the tongue, friendship and wealth and poverty.
Ecclesiastes points out that life without God is meaningless; that man needs a divine dimension, and the necessity of accepting what God gives.
The Song of Songs is a celebration of married love, confirming that human sexual love is God's glorious gift to man. This points to the love of Christ towards his bride.
c. The prophets. The prophets who wrote long books are known as the Major Prophets; those who wrote shorter ones are denominated the Minor Prophets.
Their task was to remind the people of God of the covenant and the obligation to obey and by loyal to their Master and Redeemer. Though they predict the future, their mission was more one of exhortation and warning, of declaring God's judgement on disobedience and the consolation that comes from God's forgiveness and restoration.
The New Testament is the fulfillment of the types, prophecies and expectation of the Old.
a. The Four Gospels depict the Person of Jesus of Nazareth and present him as both man and God: The mystery of godliness. Many of his works (signs) and words are recorded, to incite faith in Him, and by faith to have eternal life.
b. The Acts is a structured narrative showing how the gospel came to be preached first in Jerusalem and later on to the uttermost parts of the earth. It gives us the activity of the church in its missionary endeavour.
c. The Epistles follow: glowing theological treatises expounding the doctrine of Christ and his accomplished salvation, all written in the milieu, to actual congregations or individuals who were experiencing problems and difficulties.
d. Finally, as a fitting climax, the Revelation, giving the disciples a panorama of the experiences of the church through the ages, the persecutions against it, and the victory that she gains through the blood of the Lamb, all underlining the sovereignty of God.
Scripture is to be studied, believed, obeyed. It's a library of books, the norm of norms, and yet without norm. For the individual and for the church, it is incomparable light.
The Predictions of the Bible
1. Predictions in the Bible attest to its divine origin. Prophecy is the foretelling of future events by virtue of direct communication from God - a foretelling, therefore, which, though not contravening any laws of the human mind, those laws, if fully known, would not, without this agency of God, be sufficient to explain.
2. There are certain criteria by which prophecy must be judged and on which its evidential value must depend. Here one is justified in saying that the Bible prophecy amply fulfils these criteria. These are as follows:
a. Prophecy must concern events which no human sagacity or intelligence could discover. Prophecy is not issued because the prophet studies the past statistics or bases his prediction on probability.
b. It must be publicly known before the event takes place, and its utterance must be distant from the event (cf. Deuteronomy 28; and the prophecies of Isaiah Jeremiah. and Ezekiel concerning the downfall of the great capitals of Nineveh, of Babylon, the desolation of Tyre, and the debasement of mighty Egypt.
Most impressive, though, are the predictions about the Messiah, his birth, his miraculous works, his passion, his resurrection, his ascension into heaven, his sending of the Spirit.
c. It must be sufficiently clear in statement and yet sufficiently minute in detail, to identify its fulfilment beyond the possibility of dispute.
By contrast, many so-called prophecies, such as the Centuries of Nostradamus, fail miserably by this criteria, and indeed by all other criteria.
d. It would add to the evidential value of prophecy did it contain an element of obscurity or mystery which only the fulfilment could explain. E.g. The seed of the woman (Genesis 3).
e. There must be no collusion of fraudulent intention of fulfillment on the part of the human agents concerned.
f. It should be worthy of God in its character and design. Thus, Bible prophecy is characterized by the absence of the sordid or trivial and by the presence of that which gives it a high moral value.
Prophecy, like miracles, does not stand alone as evidence of the divine commission of the Scripture writers and teachers. It is simply a corroborative attestation which unites with all others to prove that the Scripture comes from above (Isaiah 41:21-23). Prophecy has evidential value (John "So that when it happens ye might believe...").
The Miracles of the Bible
1. A miracle is an event in nature, so extraordinary in itself and so coinciding with the prophecy or command of the divinely commissioned teacher or leader, as fully to warrant the conviction, on the part of those who witness it, that God has wrought it with the design of certifying that this teacher or leader has been commissioned by Him.
2. Seeing that God is almighty, and governing the course of all things, the Bible not only speaks about the possibility of miracles, or their probability or even their plausibility, but attests fully to miracles having happened through the instrumentality of prophets, apostles and the Son of God in particular.
3. Miracles are the natural accompaniments and attestations of new communications from God. The great epochs of miracles are coincident with the great epochs of revelation. Miracles serve to draw attention to new truth, and cease when this truth has gained currency and foothold.
4. Miracles generally certify to the truth of doctrine, not directly but indirectly; otherwise a new miracle must needs accompany each new doctrine taught.
a. Miracles, therefore, do not stand alone as evidences of the authority of Scripture. Power alone cannot prove a divine commission. Purity of life and doctrine must go with the miracles to assure us that a teach is come from God.
b. The Christian miracles do not lose their value as evidences in the process of ages.
5. How did Christ himself view miracles?
a. Christ declared that the eternal fate of certain cities resulted from their disregard of his miracles, Matthew 11:21,22.
John the Baptist was to be confirmed in his faith in Him as the Messiah by the record of his miracles, Luke 7:22.
c. Jesus said that the works which he did, and which the Father had given him to finish bore witness of him that the Father had sent him, John 5:36.
d. If men would not believe Him they were asked to believe his works, John 10:25,26,37,38.
e. Jesus emphasized the fact that it was sin on the part of his countrymen not to believe in his miracles. John 15:24.
f. His miracles are recorded for our sake that we may believe that he is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing we might have life in his Name. John 21.
The witness of Christ's miracles to himself, the witness of Christ to the authority of Scripture, and the testimony of Scripture concerning Christ are mutually collaborative.