Robert Jeffress - How Can I Know The Bible Is True?
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Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Just look at the colors in a summer sunset or a field of spring flowers and you can clearly see the fingerprints of a divine Creator. But how can we be certain that this being is the God of scripture and not the God of some other religion? The answer lies within scripture itself, and today I'm going to explain why the Bible can be trusted. We're answering the question, How Can I know The Bible is True on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
It's one thing to acquiesce to the claim that somewhere out there there is a divine first cause who brought this universe into existence. But it's quite a leap from that divine first cause to the God who came to earth in human form, implanted himself in the womb of a teenager in a remote corner of the earth, who grew up to be a perfect man who lived a perfect life, who died on a cross for the sins of the world, who was buried, who rose again on the third day, who ascended back into heaven and is one day coming to reclaim this earth for himself.
It is in the Bible that we find out who this divine first cause is. In fact, everything practically we know about God is found in the Bible. His attributes, his words, his commands, and most importantly, what he desires from you and from me. Of course, that begs the question, how do we know that the Bible is true? What is it that separates the Bible from other religious books that claim to have been divinely inspired? And so in this session today we're going to talk about one of life's seven most important questions. After how could I know there is a God, the second most important question is, how can I know the Bible is true? And that's what we're going to talk about today.
Now, on your outlines I ask the question, first of all, what do we mean when we say the Bible is true? And there are two key words we need to understand when we're talking about the Bible. The first word is the word INERRANT. We claim that the Bible is inerrant. That means without error. And this word refers to the quality of the final product found in the Bible. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul wrote, "For all scripture", literally, graphe, writing, "All writing is inspired by God". And you know that phrase inspired by God, theopneustos, means it is God-breathed. The Bible is without error.
The second word to understand is the word INSPIRATION. And the word inspiration describes the process by which a perfect God used imperfect men to produce a perfect Bible. Inspiration is how a perfect God used imperfect men to produce a perfect Bible. And that's the question skeptics always had. How can you believe that fallible men produced an infallible Bible? Well, the apostle Peter answered that question in 2 Peter 1:21, he wrote, "For no prophecy of scripture was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God". In other words, Paul didn't wake up one morning and say, "You know what, I think I'll write some scripture today". That's not how it worked. No prophecy of scripture ever originated by man. It originated with God, who used men to produce his message.
Now, Dr. Ryrie gives us the best definition of inspiration that I have ever read. "Inspiration is God's superintending of human authors so that using their own individual personalities they composed and recorded without error in the words of the original manuscripts" or autographs "God's revelation to man". Now, that's a mouthful, isn't it? But each of those phrases is important to understand how our Bible came into being.
First of all, look at the phrase God superintending men. To superintend means to oversee. And what this is saying is God oversaw the entire process of inspiration. It was his guiding hand that protected the authors from making mistakes when they penned the words found in the Bible, God superintended men.
Secondly, using their own individual personalities. This phrase reminds us of the dual authorship from the Bible. For example, God used the angry outbursts of Moses, he used the skepticism of Solomon, he used the systematic reasoning of the apostle Paul, he used the tedious research of Dr. Luke, he used all of those individual personalities to produce his perfect message.
Third, the phrase God superintended men using their personalities to compose and record. Some of the Bible is recorded. It's direct dictation, if you will. For example, in Exodus 20 God said to Moses, "Write this down, here are the great commands", the 10 commandments, those are word for word, a dictation from God. However, other parts of the Bible are composed. For example, in Psalm 51 David cried out, "Be gracious to me, o God, according to thy compassion, according to thy lovingkindness". Be gracious to me, o God. It wasn't dictated, David was crying out, "God, I've sinned greatly, my only hope is to be found in your lovingkindness and compassion". It was an emotional outburst, but God used that emotion to communicate his message to us. So God composed and recorded the scriptures.
And then fourthly, this word or phrase his REVELATION. God superintended men using their own personalities to compose and record God's revelation, God's message to us. Let me ask you a question. Does the Bible contain any lies in it at all? Are there any lies in the Bible? Of course there are, there's one big whopper found in the opening chapters of Genesis. Remember what the serpent said to eve? "Don't worry about what God said about eating from this tree, if you eat from this tree, you shall not surely die". Was that a lie? Of course, it was a lie.
So whenever you talk about the Bible is God's message, you have to have a big enough definition of God's message to include the lies of Satan, emotional outbursts like from Paul and David, the result of research rather than first hand experiences. Your definition of God's revelation has to be big enough to include the words of pagan philosophers, because in Titus 1:12, Paul quoted pagan philosophers. Even non-Christians sometimes get it right every once in a while. So your definition of God's message has to be big enough to include all of those things.
And then next notice the phrase without error. That simply means when God revealed his message to the writers of scripture they wrote it down without making any mistakes whatsoever. And then finally the phrase in the words of the original manuscripts, or autographs. Now, this is key. When we claim that the Bible is without error, we're talking about the original texts that Paul wrote and Peter wrote. We're not talking about the copies or the translations that have been produced thousands of years since that time. When we talk about the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture we're talking about the words of the original manuscripts.
Now, how do I know that the Bible is inspired by God and is without error? I wanna share with you, I could have shared many things with you, but I wanna share with you what I believe are the four most powerful arguments for the trustworthiness of the Bible. First of all, consider the Bible's claims about itself. Now, I will admit this is the weakest of all of the arguments taken by itself, to say the Bible is true because it claims to be true. But it's important to understand that when we say the Bible is inerrant and inspired, we're not claiming more for the Bible than the Bible claims about itself.
For example, consider the inspiration of the Old Testament, the inspiration of the Old Testament. It's claimed in the Old Testament itself, hundreds of times in the Old Testament books you find these phrases, the word of the Lord came saying or God said or something similar. One of the best illustrations of that is found in Psalm 95 about the inspiration of the Old Testament. We don't know who wrote Psalm 95, but 900 years before the birth of Christ the Psalmist said this, "Today, if you would hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness".
Now, a thousand years later, after that Psalm was composed, a writer composed the book of Hebrews that we have in our New Testament. And I want you to notice how he quotes that Psalm a thousand years earlier in Hebrews 3:7. The writer says, "Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, today, if you hear his voice". Notice the writer of Hebrew didn't say, "Just as the Psalmist says", or "Just as that unnamed man in the Old Testament said", the writer of Hebrews says it was the Holy Spirit who composed that Psalm. The inspiration of scripture is also claimed by the apostles themselves. We saw in second Timothy three verse 16 Paul said, "All scripture is inspired by God". That word scripture refers primarily but not exclusively to the Old Testament. Or second Peter 1:21, "For no prophecy of scripture was made by an act of human will". As we'll see in a moment, that refers primarily, but again not exclusively, to the Old Testament.
Now, thirdly, the Old Testament's inspiration was claimed by Jesus Christ himself. If you want to know how we oughta view our Bible, just look at how Jesus viewed the Bible, especially the Old Testament. He went out of his way to demonstrate his confidence in the trustworthiness of the Old Testament. For example, Jesus regularly placed his stamp of approval on those stories from the Old Testament that liberal scholars loved to try to discredit. For example, evolutionists think it's ridiculous to claim that all the human race can be traced back to one male and one female, an Adam and an Eve. And yet look at what Jesus did in Matthew 19, verses four and five, to give credit to that belief that all the human race can be traced back to a single man and woman.
"And Jesus answered and said to the pharisees, have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, for this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh"? There were two people God put in the garden, and they were male and female. It wasn't two females, it wasn't two males. And it wasn't plural, there was one man and one woman. That is God's plan for the marriage relationship.
Now, Jesus believed in the inspiration, stay with me on this, it began with the stories, but it didn't end with the stories. Jesus actually believed that the very words of the Old Testament were inspired by God and without error. A great illustration of that is in Matthew 22:31-32 Jesus was talking to the Sadducees, who didn't believe in the resurrection from the dead. So Jesus uses the Old Testament to prove the resurrection. And he uses not just a story, he uses the tense of a single verb to argue for the resurrection. In Matthew 22:31-32, Jesus said, "But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living".
Now remember, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been dead for hundreds of years by this point. And Jesus' point was this, if Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who had died, were just now nothing, had floated out to nothing existence, if they ceased to exist at their death, then God should have said, "I was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", but he didn't say that. He said, "I am, I am their God. They continue to worship me", meaning they are still alive hundreds of years after they've died. The point is Jesus bases his whole argument of the resurrection on the tense of a single verb in the Old Testament.
Jesus believed in the stories of the Old Testament. He believed in the words that make up the stories of the Old Testament, but it doesn't stop there. Jesus actually believed that every letter and every stroke of every letter that forms every word is inspired by God. That's the extent of Jesus' belief in the inspiration and the inerrancy of the scripture. You say, "Well, that's good, but what about this New Testament, how can we trust the New Testament? Does it have the same level of authority as the Old Testament"? I want you to notice that also the Bible says the New Testament has been inspired by God. The inspiration of the New Testament is first of all claimed by the apostle Paul himself.
Look at 1 Timothy 5:18. "For the scripture says, you shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing, and, the laborer is worthy of his wages". Paul is using two quotations from scripture to make his argument. Now, the first quotation, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing", that's from Deuteronomy 25:4 many of you recognize that verse. And Paul took that truth in the Old Testament about how you treat the oxen and applied it to pastors. Now, he gave a second quotation and he said the laborer is worthy of his wages.
Now, I'm almost embarrassed to admit this to you. Only fairly recently did I understand this is not a quotation from the Old Testament, it's a quotation from the New Testament. It is actually a quotation from Luke 10:7 by the time Paul wrote his letter to Timothy the Gospels had already been composed and they were already being accepted as scripture. Notice Paul says "For the scripture says", and then he quotes from the book of Luke, meaning that Luke, the Gospel, the account of Jesus Christ was already considered as scripture at that point in the church's life.
The inspiration of scripture of the New Testament is claimed by the apostle Paul. It's also claimed by Peter. In 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter says this about the writings of Paul. Remember, Peter and Paul didn't always get along. They had some bitter disagreements. But look at what Peter says about the writings of Paul in 2 Peter 3:15-16. "And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you", underline that word wrote, "As also in all of his letters, speaking in them these things in which some things are hard to understand".
You have trouble understanding Paul? Even Peter did as well. He said, "Paul wrote some letters to you. They're hard to understand. And the untaught and the unstable distort these truths, as they also do the rest of scripture". Do you see Peter is labeling Paul's words as scripture? And he puts them on the same level of authority as all the other scripture as well. Now, when you claim that the Bible is inspired and inerrant, you are not claiming any more from the Bible than what the Bible says about itself. Fortunately, the Bible's claims about itself is not the only piece of evidence for the inspiration of scripture.
The second piece of evidence for the trustworthiness of the Bible is fulfilled prophecy. Do you realize that in the Bible there are hundreds of detailed prophecies made hundreds of years sometimes thousands of years before the fact that have in fact been fulfilled? Now, I wanna give you just two examples of fulfilled prophecy, one from the Old Testament, one in the New Testament. First of all in the Old Testament. Of all the fulfilled prophecies we're gonna consider the prophecy concerning a man named Cyrus, who was the ruler of Persia.
Now, here's the background. In 700 B.C. the prophet Isaiah warned the Southern Kingdom of Israel, called Judah, he warned Judah that, "If you keep disobeying God, God is going to send a pagan nation called Babylon to destroy you and take you captive". He made that prediction 150 years before the fact. In Isaiah 44:28, Isaiah prophesied, "It is I who says of Cyrus, he is my shepherd and he will perform all my desire. And he declares of Jerusalem, she will be built, and of the temple, your foundation will be laid".
Now, understand when Isaiah made this prophecy around 700 B.C. Nobody heard of Cyrus because Cyrus hadn't been born yet. And yet 150 years before the fact Isaiah said, "There is a man who's going to be king of Persia who's going to issue the decree for Israel to go back to the homeland". And all of that happened in 539 B.C. fulfilled prophecy is one of the greatest evidences for the uniqueness and the trustworthiness of the Bible. Now, that's an example from the Old Testament. Let me give you an example from the New Testament, and it all centers around the Lord Jesus Christ. As you know, the Old Testament makes about 61 major prophecies about the life of the Messiah. About 61 major prophecies in the Old Testament about the expected Messiah that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
Now, what are the chances that one man in history could fulfill all 61 of these major prophecies? The mathematical probabilities are so astronomical it can't even be computed. But one mathematician said, okay, let's just take eight prophecies. What are the chances that one man in history could fulfill eight of these specific prophecies? And that mathematician estimated that the probability would be one in 10 to the 17th power. That's a one followed by 17 zeroes. Now, that's the probability that one man could fulfill just eight of these prophecies. You can imagine what the probability is that one man could fulfill all 61. Fulfilled prophecy is one of the strongest arguments for the inspiration of the Bible.
Number three, consider the unity of the Bible. That's another powerful argument for its inspiration, the unity found in the Bible. For example, consider the theme of the Bible. From Genesis to revelation the theme is consistent. It is about the redemption of the world and mankind through Jesus Christ the Messiah. Consider the unity of symbolism in the Bible. It doesn't matter what book you're going to, water and oil represent the Holy Spirit, fire represents God's judgment, blood represents redemption. There's that unity of theme and symbolism even though the Bible was composed by 40 authors, most of whom didn't know one another over a period of 1.500 years in locations 2.000 miles or more apart. How could that happen?
My friend Irwin Lutzer describes how miraculous the unity of the Bible is with this illustration. He says imagine parts of a massive Cathedral, hundreds of thousands of parts of a massive Cathedral arriving at a single location to be assembled. And upon further investigation it's learned that these hundreds of thousands of parts were sculpted by 40 different sculptors who lived miles apart from one another and had no communication with one another and they worked on these pieces over a period of 1.500 years, and yet when these hundreds of thousands of parts all came together they fit together perfectly. Wouldn't you assume that that didn't happen by accident, that there was a super architect who had guided and designed the entire project? And then Irwin says the Bible is that Cathedral. The unity of the theme and symbolism in the Bible is a powerful argument for the trustworthiness of scripture.