Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What Can I Believe About the Bible?

What Can I Believe Sermon Series? #2, 4.6.08
What Can I Believe About the Bible? ╬ Dr. Kevin Shrum
The IBC Pulpit ╬ 2 Timothy 3:10-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21

Introduction: We now come to the subject of the Bible. Last week we began this series with a message about the very person of God. The question comes, ‘Where can we get the most reliable information about God?’ The answer to this very important question is we get our information from God’s Word, the Bible. Our great God, among His many attributes, is a communicating God. He is a God of words. Though there is a record of God speaking through dreams and visions, God uses words to communicate with His people. The culmination of God’s speaking is what we call the Bible: 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.

The Bible is not just a book like other books. Some would agree that the Bible has a special quality, but that it is no different than the inspiration we see in a Shakespeare or in a renown poet. In fact, some critics of the Bible would say that the Bible is the highest and most noble product of man, but it is nothing more than a humanly produced book.

The Bible is not just a religious book among many religious books. All world religions have their own scriptures. Some would argue that the Bible is simply the religious book of the Judeo-Christian faith, but has no more authority than other religious books. This false notion is untrue, as we shall see, first and foremost because the Bible speaks of the one true God, while other religious books speak of false gods or of a heretical view of the one true God.

The Bible is not an unimportant book. A number of people would go so far as to say that the Bible is an unimportant, antiquated book that should be ignored, discarded and banished. And yet each new generation brings with it a faithful remnant of believers who affirm the truths of God’s Word. In other words, no matter how much the critics attempt to banish, burn or belittle the Bible it keeps rising to the occasion. As Psalm 119:89 states it well, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” That is, the Bible is rooted and grounded in the very nature of God. The Bible will not fail because God cannot fail.

There are many passages that speak to the inspiration, infallibility and authority of God’s Word! Let’s observe a few of them.

(2 Timothy 3:10-17) “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

(2 Peter 1:16-21) “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

(Luke 1:1-4) “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

The Bible is not just a book like any other book nor is it just one religion book among many religious books. Instead, it is the book of all books – God’s very Word in written form. Let me make four statements that substantiate the claim that the Bible is the Word of God.

Because of how it was written!
The Bible was written through human instrumentation by 40 different authors over a 1500 year time period yet with the same themes and story lines that could not have been produced apart from divine intervention. The writers were divinely inspired by God to record the sayings and events that God desired for us to receive in the future. They were not mechanical robots, but were “…carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21) God used human writers, their personal backgrounds and individual interests, to produce exactly what He wanted produced in the way He wanted it produced. They were not mind-numbed robots, but thinking and feeling writers who were supernaturally moved by God to correctly write as they did. David, the Psalmist, said as much in 2 Samuel 23:2 when he wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; His word is on my tongue.” This is the meaning of ‘inspiration’ (2 Timothy 3:16) This is also what Dr. Luke was getting at in the introduction to his gospel when he wrote, “…having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you…” Luke followed the events of Jesus and put together an orderly account that was inspired by God Himself. The Bible, then, is a book that was inspired by God and that is time-bound in that it records the events, places and people of specific eras and epochs, but whose words, truths, principles and precepts are timeless, applying to all people everywhere in all ages.

Because of what it says!
The Bible is not only the book of all books because it was inspired by God through human instrumentation, but it is also the book of all books because of what it says – it is the Word of God to us. It says what God says. The Bible says what God says because it is God’s Word. The Bible does not contain the Word of Go that we must subsequently discover on our own. Rather, the Bible is the very Word of God. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” The term scripture refers to the writings of the prophets and the apostles.

Because of Who it’s about!
The Bible is the book of all books not only because it is inspired and is God’s Word, but it has as its subject God Himself. The Bible is an immensely practical book. Yet, the main subject of the Bible is God Himself. It is the record of God’s redemptive activity in time and space. As Psalm 119:89 notes: “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.”

Because of what it does!
The Bible is also a book above all books because of what it does. It is through God’s Word that we are saved. 1 Peter 1:22-25 describes the power of God’s Word o save sinners in this way: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” God’s Word accomplishes God’s purposes as Isaiah 55:10-11 states, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” The Bible does what it does because it is the inspired, God-saturated, life-changing, powerful Word of the Lord.

Unpacking One Text – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Scope of the Bible
“All scripture…”
This refers to all the writings of the Bible, the prophets, the gospels, the wisdom books and the pastoral epistles. Inspiration applies to all of God’s Word, not some parts or the parts we like, but to all parts.

The Inspiration of the Bible
“…is breathed out by God…”
The Greek term is ‘theopneustos’ and literally means the breath of God. This is a reference to the work of God in the writers as they recorded the events and sayings that are in Scripture.

The Authority of the Bible
“…and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” To be profitable means to be helpful, advantageous, the supreme guide. Teaching is that thing that refers to the substance of a subject. And reproof is the correcting, chastising nature of Scripture, while correction is to set a thing right, correct to restore. So, the Bible is filled with authoritative and advantageous instruction on the substance and subject of God; it is confrontational in that it has the ability to square up with our sin and it is correcting in that it positively sets right the things that have been crooked.

The Sufficiency of the Bible
“…that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
This means that it is only through the Word of God that we are made mature in Christ. The Bible is sufficient to order our lives by. To say that the Bible is inspired and authoritative is one thing, but to actually order our lives competently by God’s Word is another thing. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where we must ask ourselves questions like, ‘Is our marriage ordered according to God’s Word?’ ‘Are we raising our children according to God’s Word?’ ‘Are we managing our finances according to the Bible?’ ‘Have we set our plans for life according to God’s Word?’ Every good work is a reference to a life ordered and structured by God’s Word.

This is why we are to study the Word of God on our own, and it is why we need teachers/pastors. Ephesians 4:11-16: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”