Foundations of Faith 2. The Bible - Bestseller and More
Psalm 119: 97 - 105
The Bible is the bestselling book of all time. More copies have been printed in more languages and read by more people than any other book in history. It is so far out in front of every other book ever written that it stands in a category all by itself. Over 6 billion copies have been printed, sold, or distributed in over 2200 languages. It is not only the best selling religious book, it is the bestselling book of any and every category. The Bible is number one. The all-time best seller. The undisputed champion. Every Sunday it is read, studied, quoted and memorized in every nation on every continent. The Bible has now been translated into every major language of the world and work goes on around the clock to translate it into the remaining tribal languages that do not have it. So if we had no other reason to study the Bible, its unparalleled popularity must cause us to stop and consider it carefully. But the title of this message is “Best Seller and More.” Why is the Bible still the all-time best-selling book in world history? What is it about this ancient book that still draws the attention of this generation? Why are we still attracted to these ancient stories? Is it just our religious background? Do we turn to the Bible because it makes us feel good in times of trouble? Or is there something more?
Every Word and All the Words
Indeed there is, and it is the burden of this message to explain the “something more” about the Bible. For 2000 years Christians have used a particular phrase to describe what they believe about the Bible. We call it “the Word of God.” That alone sets the Bible apart from every other book. When we use the phrase “the Word of God” we mean that the Bible comes from God and records his message to us. When we read the Bible, we are reading the very words of God. Sometimes Christians use the word “inspiration” to describe this truth. 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed.” Applied to the Bible, that means that God breathed out the very words of the Bible and the human authors wrote them down. 3 implications of this truth:
a. Inspiration extends to every part of the Bible. b. Inspiration extends to the very words of the Bible. c. Inspiration guarantees the absolute truthfulness of the Bible.
-The Bible is infallible (teaching only the truth). -The Bible is inerrant (incapable of teaching error)
That in a nutshell is what we believe about the Bible - “the Word of God.” But saying it is so doesn’t make it so. Why do we believe the Bible is the Word of God and so absolutely truthful? How can we be so sure that the Bible stands above every other book ever written? In this message we’re going to attempt to answer those questions. 1. Its Claims 2 Peter 1: 21
It’s not as if Jeremiah dreamed up his visions or David his psalms or Paul his letters. These men “spoke from God” as the Holy Spirit carried them along. The Greek word for “carried along” pictures a ship being moved through the waters by the power of the wind in the sails. The Holy Spirit is the real power behind the writing of the Bible. He is the divine author. Men like David, Daniel and John were human authors. That’s why the Bible repeatedly uses phrases like “the Lord says” and “the Word of the Lord came” and “the Lord spoke.” Jeremiah 1: 9 puts it very plainly: “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now, I have put my words in your mouth.’ This is a claim to direct, divine inspiration by God. In Galatians 1: 11, 12, Paul says that his message did not come from man but by direct revelation from God. The writers of the Bible did not decide to sit down one day and write the Bible. Paul and Paul and Moses didn’t get inspired or “on a roll” like Shakespeare writing his plays or John Grisham writing his novels! They were working in the power of the Holy Spirit who superintended the whole process to ensure the accuracy of everything they wrote. Paul Little: “It is important to realize too that the writers of the Scripture were not mere writing machines. God did not punch them like keys on a typewriter to produce His message. He did not dictate the words, as the biblical view of inspiration has so often been unfairly caricatured. It is quite clear that each writer has a style of his own. Jeremiah does not write like Isaiah, and John does not write like Paul. God worked through the instrumentality of human personality, but so guided and controlled men that what they wrote is what he wanted written.” Whatever else we may say about the Bible, let’s begin with what it says about itself. The Bible claims to be the very Word of God. It never pretends to be “just another book.” “So what if the Bible claims to be inspired by God? That doesn’t make it so.” True! I could claim to be Tiger Woods but that doesn’t mean I could make a putt over 2m. It’s not just the claim, but what backs up the claim. That brings us to the question of the Bible’s credibility.
2. Its Credibility
Let’s consider credibility under 2 headings.
A. Accuracy of transmission.
Everyone understands that the Bible was written between 2000-3500 years ago. And everyone agrees that we don’t possess any of the original manuscripts of the Bible. How do we know that what we are reading is an accurate transmission of what the human authors originally wrote? The answer for the OT is that the Jews were almost fanatical in their insistence on accuracy. When they copied a manuscript by hand, they counted the total number of letters and worked out the middle letter of the entire book. Once a scribe finished copying that book, if his middle letter of the copy was different, the entire book was presumed to be incorrectly copied and was destroyed. The scribes even counted the various letters and compared manuscripts not just word for word but letter for letter. That’s why the existing manuscripts of the OT are virtually identical. If you count full and partial manuscripts together, we have 14,000 manuscripts of the OT and over 24,000 manuscripts of the NT in various languages. The Bible is by far the best-attested ancient book in the world. There are more copies, earlier, and more accurately recorded, than for any other book from ancient history. B. Accuracy of history.
Historical research has tended to confirm every major factual claim in the Bible. For many years, the critics claimed that no one named Pontius Pilate ever existed. But the archaeologists uncovered a stone tablet in Caesarea with his name on it. The Bible also mentions a tribe of people called the Hittites, which the critics claimed never existed. But today scholars know that the Hittite empire existed throughout the land we now call Turkey. The critics have been wrong about so many things. They claimed there was never a ruler named Belshazzar. They denied there was a king named Sargon. Both claims were proven wrong.
Chuck Colson summarizes the evidence this way: “Before the end of the 1950s, no less than 25,000 biblical sites had been substantiated by archaeological discoveries; there has been no discovery proving the Bible to be false. No other religious document now or in history has ever been found that accurate.” On and on we could go, giving hundreds of examples where historical research and archaeological discoveries have confirmed the truth of the biblical record. We have nothing to fear from the closest scrutiny of the Bible. It will stand the test of any fair investigation.
3. Its Consistency
2 important lines of evidence establish the Bible’s internal consistency.
A. Testimony of fulfilled prophecy.
The 66 books of the Bible make hundreds of specific prophecies regarding people, places, kingdoms, wars, and nations. But the greatest predictive prophecy deals with the person of Jesus Christ. The OT contains over 100 predictions regarding Christ, including the place of his birth, the manner of his birth, the family into which he would be born, the scope of his ministry, the nature of his death, and the miracle of his resurrection. All of these prophecies were written down between 400-1500 years before his birth. Yet each of them was fulfilled down to the letter. Calculations of the odds of anyone fulfilling just 8 of those predictions by chance - odds came out to 1 in 10 to the 17th power. Yet Christ fulfilled over 100 prophecies!
B. Testimony of amazing unity.
We are accustomed to thinking of the Bible as one book, but it actually consists of 66 books written by 40 authors in 3 different languages over a period of 1500 years. Yet the Bible is one book because it contains an amazing unity of theme from Genesis to Revelation. How do we explain the unity of the Bible?
The OT points to the coming of Christ
The gospels to the appearance of Christ
Acts to the preaching of Christ
The epistles to the body of Christ
Revelation to the return of Christ.
Jesus Christ is the theme of the Bible. This amazing unity amid diversity is one of the great proofs of the Bible’s supernatural origin.
4. Its Certainty
Having said all that, how can we be sure the Bible is the Word of God? Consider one more line of evidence: the evidence of changed lives. History tells us that wherever the Bible goes, men and women are changed forever. Whole cultures are transformed from devil-worship, cannibalism and warfare into societies in which human life is respected and human dignity established. If you doubt it, ask any missionary what happens when the gospel is preached. Everywhere the Bible is preached, it radically changes hearts, lives, families, cities, cultures, and entire nations.
You may question the Bible if you like, but you cannot deny its power to transform the human heart.
You Still Have to Make Up Your Mind
There have always been those who believe and those who choose not to believe that the Bible is true. Yet the Bible remains the bestselling book of all time. “The Bible has, amazingly-no doubt with supernatural grace-survived its critics. 30 to 60 million copies are produced annually. The harder tyrants try to eliminate it and sceptics dismiss it, the better read it becomes. Voltaire, for example, who passionately sought to erase the Christian influence during the French Revolution, predicted that within 100 years no one would read the Bible. When his home was later auctioned off after his death, it was purchased by the French Bible Society. As one pastor said, the Bible survives its pallbearers.” Is the Bible the Word of God? I cannot “prove” that to you. You still have to make up your own mind. But if you have doubts, I encourage you to read it, study its claims, observe its message, and check out the facts for yourself. I have done that and I have also read the claims of the sceptics. I submit to you that the Bible will stand the toughest test and the hardest scrutiny because it is indeed the Word of God. That’s why after 2000 years it is still the best-selling book in the world. No other book contains the plan of salvation. No other book can tell you how to get to heaven.
Jesus love me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me Yes Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
Indeed it does. Thank God for the Bible because without it, we would never know about Jesus. And without Jesus, we could never be saved. But the Bible is true and it is the Word of God. If you still have doubts, I encourage you to read it for yourself. When you do, you will discover for yourself the most wonderful truth in the world–Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
Questions to Consider 1. What does it mean to call the Bible “the Word of God?” 2. How would you explain the concept of inerrancy to someone else? 3. Which “proof” of the Bible seems most important to you? 4. Can you think of any ways in which the message of the Bible has changed your life? Why are some people not changed at all by the message of the Bible? 5. What does it mean to say that the Bible is “inspired” by God? Why is that concept crucial to our understanding? 6. What does fulfilled prophecy teach us about a. the Bible and b. Jesus Christ?
Scriptures to Ponder Psalm 19: 7 - 14 2 Timothy 3: 16 Revelation 22: 18, 19