Trustworthiness of the Scriptures
In Part One, Won’t You Join Me at The Table?, women were beckoned to hear, read, and study scripture.
Rightly practicing the disciplines requires our consideration of the doctrine of the Word of God, as to understanding properly our reading of the Scriptures and applying appropriately our hearing and studies.In this post, we will take a mere glance at the church’s trusting attitudes toward the Bible over time. Read the following:
- Ephesians 4:14
- 1 Timothy 1:9-10
- 1 Timothy 3:16
- 1 Timothy 4:6
- 1 Timothy 6:3
- Why is the doctrine of Scripture so foundational for the Christian faith?
- How does good theology characterize maturing Christians and churches?
- Why is Scripture’s trustworthiness vital to the Church?
For 2,000 years the Bible has taken hold of people’s lives, revealing our sin and God’s grace through faith. Single verses have convicted and converted important men of the faith: Romans 13:13 for Augustine, Romans 1:17 for Martin Luther, and 1 Timothy 1:17 for Jonathan Edwards, for example. It is important for Christians today to understand that through the Holy Spirit, the Bible has been drawing people to Christ and is still doing so through the working of the Scriptures. An existential society would have us to believe otherwise.
In our tendency to be relativists, nothing can be absolutely true in the sense of the word. Society would have us believe the Bible is no more than an old book left behind. However, in view of science, archaeology, and a vast amount of textual criticism, Scripture has in reality withstood the test. To be authoritative, the Bible must be trustworthy, that is, without error. Biblical inerrancy means without err – containing no mistakes or errors in the original autographs. The Bible bears witness to its own inerrancy, with the most powerful witness to the trustworthiness of Scripture to be Jesus Christ himself. Jesus emphasized that the actual written words of Scripture can be trusted, not just the ideas they contain. Read the following:
- Matthew 4:1-11
- Matthew 5:17-18
- Why is it important that Christians must view the Scriptures today as having the same trustworthiness as when they were originally penned?
- If a Christian believes one passage of Scripture or one book of the Bible to be trustworthy but not another, how could one discern the difference?
- How would rejection of the Bible’s trustworthiness lead to a denial of God himself?
Beyond the Matthew passages, Jesus referred to portions of Scripture (throughout the gospels). His view of the Scriptures emphasized the actual written words can be trusted, not just the ideas, and he extends the reliability all the way to letters and even parts of the letters. Jesus gives no indication that he regarded them as less than reliable. Paul makes his view of sufficiency of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-17) and Peter’s view is 2 Peter 1:16-21. It is clear that Peter is affirming here that the prophecies of the Old Testament were not of human origin. Read the following:
- Luke 17: 29 & 32
- Luke 11:51
- Mark 12:26
- John 6:31-51
- Mark 7:13
- Matthew 22:31-32
- Galatians 3:16
- 2 Timothy 3:15-17
- 2 Peter 1:16-21
- Paraphrase 2 Peter 1:16-21. Although the two are related, which of Peter’s accounts are we to pay most attention? Why might this be important to discern?
- What importance do you see that the word myths was used in 2 Peter 1:16-21?
- How would you identify myths in today’s world?
- Are there consequences of myths? In contrast, what hope does Christianity offer?
Charles Spurgeon penned, “If we doubt God’s Word about one thing, we shall have small confidence in it upon another thing. Sincere faith in God must treat all God’s Word alike; for the faith which accepts one word of God and rejects another is evidently not faith in God, but faith in our own judgment, faith in our own taste.” Not only as His church but also as a believer, can I trust the Bible today?
- Define trustworthiness. Could you explain to a nonbeliever the Bible’s trustworthiness?
- If Christianity’s faith and practice is tied to the Word of God, is the church’s history (both recent and ancient) important to fully grasp the Bible’s reliability?
The issue of the Bible’s reliability is crucial. It is by way of the Scriptures that the church has historically claimed to understand all matters of faith and practice. If the Bible is unreliable in what it teaches about these things, we as the church are left to pure speculation of truth, and Christianity has nothing of value to speak to the world. In the 1970’s, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy was formed for the purpose of affirming the historic Protestant position on the Scriptures. The result was the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This statement takes a stand in the face of arguments against the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible, declaring the Bible remains trustworthy. I encourage you to read it in its entirety here.
In the Chicago Statement’s Articles of Affirmation and Denial, Article IX reads: “We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write. We deny that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, but necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word.”
Taking God at his Word requires trust and submission to his truth. God’s people instinctually believe the inspired Word and trust the author. Those who are truly regenerate come to the scriptures with the exact opposite of doubt. We work from belief the Bible is true, rather than the nonbelievers who work from doubt. Read the following:
- John 10:35
- John 17:17
- Do you take God at his Word? To clarify, do you not only trust, but also submit to the Bible as truth? Why are both important?
- List ways you see our society as a whole discounting the Bible’s trustworthiness?
- Statements, creeds, and confessions are helpful. How could they be useful and important in defense of the Bible?
The battle for the Bible continues to be forefront in our society. Therefore, it is more crucial than ever that believers understand what the Bible is and why they can trust it. Southern Baptists signed on to both the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy and Hermeneutics (*). Much the same is revealed in the scriptures referenced in this excerpt of The Scriptures section from the Baptist Faith and Message. You can read the Baptist Faith & Message in its entirety here.
I. The Scriptures
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
Read the following:
- Deuteronomy 4:1-2
- Joshua 8:34
- Psalm 19:7-10; 105; 119:11, 89, 140
- Isaiah 34:16; 40:8
- Jeremiah 15:16; 36
- Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29
- Luke 21:33; 24:44-46
- John 5:39; 16:12-15; 17:17
- Acts 2:16; 17:11
- Romans 15:4; 16:25-26
- 2 Timothy 3:15-17
- Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12
- 1 Peter 1:25
- 2 Peter 1:19-21
When we ask if the New Testament is really the word of God, did the apostles and their close associates experience divine inspiration as they wrote? The Christian church has always believed so. The earliest references to the latter portion of the Christian Scriptures as New Testament are in Greek-Clement of Alexandria (150-215)and in Latin-Tertullian of Carthage (160-220).
In Latin, the Greek term for covenant can be translated with either instrumentum (legal document) or testamentum (a will or testament). Tertullian, an early theologian and author, used both to refer to the Christian Scriptures and probably preferred the first of the two terms although the latter was more commonly used in his day. The terms indicate that Matthew through Revelation reveals the new covenant promised by Moses and the Prophets. Read the following:
- Isaiah 8:11
- Jeremiah 30:4
- Colossians 4:16
- 2 Peter 3:15
- Revelation 1:3
One among many unique features of the Bible is prophecy or prediction concerning future events. For a prediction to be fulfilled in the way and in the time foretold by the prophets is proof that God spoke through those prophets. The Bible’s claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit is the only possible answer to the mystery of the foretelling of the future in accurate detail. And in the New Testament fulfillment of Jesus Christ, we can trust the Scriptures to be true.
Paul referred to Gospel tradition as Scripture. Peter referred to Paul’s letters as Scripture. The apostolic church treated the New Testament documents as Scripture by reading them in corporate worship. This high regard for the writings associated with the apostles continued among the apostolic fathers, leaders of the church in 2nd and 3rd generation Christianity.
In addition, the early church fathers regarded the New Testament as Scripture. Papias (early 2nd) mentions Matthew and Mark by name and writes a five volume commentary on the teachings of Jesus preserved in the Gospels. Clement of Rome (AD 96) quotes the Sermon on the Mount and ascribes divine inspiration to it. 2 Clement (AD 100-150) quotes Matthew repeatedly as “Scripture.” Epistle of Barnabas (early 2nd century) introduces quotes from Matthew with “as it is written.” Polycarp quotes Ephesians as “Scripture.” Basilides, an early gnostic leader contemporary with Polycarp, quotes Paul’s letters as “Scripture” and introduces quotes from Paul with “as it is written.” Hegesippus of Palestine (AD 165-75) reports that the Gospels (and probably other apostolic writings) were preached alongside the Old Testament in the churches everywhere. Justin Martyr (AD 150) ascribes inspiration to the writings of the Apostles, says they were read publicly in church, and uses “it is written” with New Testament quotations.
- Why are these historic details important to us today?
- What evidence do you see in this history that supports the trustworthiness of the Old Testament and New Testament scriptures as a unit?
“The Christian man requires, and, thank God has, a thoroughly trustworthy Bible to which he can go directly and at once in every time of need.”– Theologian B.B. Warfield
The church’s faithful handling of the Word is the instrument by which the Spirit works. Warfield adamantly assumes and affirms that the Bible is a divine gift, a means of grace to sinful humans. Warfield believed that God’s Word, as his speech, is a personal and intentional communication. Therefore, the Bible is God’s Word to God’s people.
As His people, we come to the Scriptures expecting God to speak truth. Presumption of the truth means God’s people know we are subject to its instruction, while living and looking toward the appearing of our Lord and Savior.
Old Testament Scholar Walter Kaiser aptly writes, “The Church and the Scripture stand or fall together. Either the Church will be nourished and strengthened by the bold proclamation of her Biblical texts or her health will be severely impaired…Should the ministry of the [word] fail, one might just as well conclude that all the supporting ministries of Christian education, counseling, community involvement, yes, even missionary and society outreach, will likewise soon dwindle, if not collapse.”
- How is the Bible uniquely relevant to us today? Make a list from the above paragraph, adding your own thoughts.
- How does the Bible enable us to discover the will of God for our lives? If you are unsure what this means, you can revisit this post for help:
The Bible is the Word of God and therefore it is trustworthy, authoritative, and without error. It is imperative that the Christian place confidence in the Bible as the voice of God. Andy Bannister of Zacharias Trust gives pertinent words:
“…there are very good reasons to trust the Bible. And thus very good reasons to approach it with an open mind, willing to take what it says seriously and weigh its claims seriously. So why read the Bible? Because from a historian’s perspective, we have a good reason to trust it. Why read the Bible? Because only by reading it can you draw your own conclusions, rather than uncritically swallow somebody else’s second-hand skepticism. Why read the Bible? Because through the pages of the four biographies in the New Testament, the gospels, one encounters a historical figure – Jesus of Nazareth – whose powerful personality continues to resonate and impact lives two thousand years on.”
The issue of whether the Bible can be trusted is vital to our understanding of God’s revelation of himself. Because of who God is, and because of what God has done to preserve his Word, we have confidence the events described in Scripture are accurate and historical. This is important because Christianity, unique among world religions, depends on historical events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Ultimately, we find meaning and purpose in the grand narrative of redemptive history. So maybe more than anything, this is why millions of people have concluded the Bible is not only trustworthy but it is sufficiently the means God uses to speak to the church.
- How would you defend the claim that the Bible is God’s word?
- How is neglect of the doctrines of the Bible a denial of theological wisdom?
- What is the relationship between Scripture and tradition?
- In what ways does Christians’ rejection of this doctrine cripple the church?
- What is the relationship between Scripture and reason, experience, and culture?
Comprehension of the doctrine of the Word as trustworthy and reliable solidifies the believer’s posture toward the Bible, necessary for Christ-centered reading and study. As the Scriptures are fully trustworthy, they are also inspired.
Reflect on your trust in the Bible.
- My goals for fully trusting the Bible are…
- As a result of the church’s confidence in the Scriptures, I hope…
- My prayer for living and leaving a legacy of belief in the Bible’s trustworthiness is…
*In future posts, we will continue to reference the Chicago Statement. Also referenced are both the London Baptist Confession of Faith and the Belgic Confession. In our day of confusion (perhaps not like any before) it is important we turn to clear and concise statements, confessions, and creeds, articulating what has historically defined “Christianity.” As a framework for our commitments that mold our biblical posture, Southern Baptists turn to the Baptist Faith and Message but we need not limit articulating beliefs to that document. From its beginning, the church has held the tradition of transmitting its faith (what it believes) which believers in turn live out. This is an important way the church teaches sound doctrine and passes on a legacy of faith.
All sources for this series are listed here: https://debbieswindell.com/2019/05/30/excited-to-share/