The was a sermon preached at City Church, Tallahassee Florida on July 2nd, 2017.
I’ve got a question for you this morning. Do you trust the Bible? If so, why? In a group this size, on a day like today, I’m sure we have a full spectrum of answers to that question. All the way from, “Yeah, I’m all in. No questions,” and maybe on the other extreme, “I don’t think that’s true at all.” Many of us often fall in that middle ground, that middle category, where, “Yeah, I believe, but I have some doubts.”
We might struggle with doubts at points. Actually, that’s my story. This isn’t just an academic question for me. I grew up in church, I was there pretty much time the doors were opened it seemed. By the time I got to college and through those college years, I had amassed more questions than I thought possibly had answers. I was dead in the water with my faith, so to speak. If you’d have asked me if I thought God existed, and if He did, if He was good, I would have said no.
For that reason, my Christian walk was basically nonexistent, and so college was rough in that way. Now, you might all attribute that to the fact that I went to the University of Florida, and maybe there’s something to that, I don’t know. At a baseline though, my confidence in Scripture had been eroded, and so my faith was nonexistent.
So today, we’re going to talk today about why we should trust the Bible. We’re Bible people around here. We say that almost every week, and we’ve been going through the Gospel of Mark for the better part of this year, but in order for the gospel to be true, the Bible needs to be true. In order for us to have a leg to stand on when we talk about morality from the Bible, well, the Bible needs to be true, so we have to evaluate this question, “why should we believe the Bible?”
We’re going to consider two different ways of looking at this question today. First we’re going to talk about Jesus’ view of Scripture. Second, we’re going to look at five different lines of evidence for the reliability of the New Testament. Let’s talk about Jesus’ view of Scripture.
Jesus’ View of Scripture
You know, it’s interesting to me that there are many people who will trust Jesus for salvation, but kind of look down their nose, so to speak, at his view of Scripture. “Jesus, I believe you when it comes to what it takes to not go to Hell and to go to Heaven and that type of thing, but that whole idea about God creating people and evolution not being true and Jonah being the belly of a fish for three days, I’m not sure I’m with you on that. Some of that miracle stuff, I’m not sure I’m there.”
Well, at a baseline if miracles aren’t true, then Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, so I’m not sure what we’re trusting Jesus for, but more than that, we often end up, whether intentionally or not, holding a different view of Scripture than Jesus even held. I would put forth to you that’s not really a good idea.
Jesus Taught that Scripture Was About Him
Well, the first of our three points on this today is that Jesus taught that Scripture was actually about Him, that in fact all of the Old Testament points to him. We see this in Luke 24. Jesus says to His disciples,
“’How foolish and slow are you to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.”
There’s this trend when Jesus answers questions and responds to people. He almost always says, “Haven’t you read?” “Don’t you know what Scripture said?” He expects the disciples to know that the Old Testament was about Him. He also expects us to know that too, and the New Testament is the same—it’s about Him. Everything before the cross and the resurrection is leading up to the cross, and everything after it is in light of it. It’s the focal point, the center point of Biblical history, but at a foundational level, Jesus teaches us that Scripture is about Him, but He also teaches us that Scripture is the Word of God.
Jesus Taught that Scripture Is the Word of God
It’s interesting. We’ve been seeing this in Mark as we’ve gone through that gospel, but Jesus is constantly getting picked at and poked at and questioned by the religious leaders of the day. They’re trying to find something to trip Him up. All too often, He responds to them with, “Haven’t you read? Don’t you know the Scripture?” He refers them back to that. Well, in Matthew 22, this has happened again. The Sadducees, one of the religious leader groups at the time, asks a question of Jesus about marriage after death. Here’s how He responds in part. He says,
“Haven’t you read what was spoken to you by God?”
He calls them back to the Scriptures, but isn’t that kind of an odd question, actually? Haven’t you read what was spoken? He doesn’t say, “Haven’t you read what was written?” And he doesn’t say, “Haven’t you heard what was spoken?” He says, “Haven’t you read what was spoken?” What’s He getting at here? Well, the idea that Scripture is the Word of God. It’s His speech out to us, and if God has spoken something, it’s most certainly true. God cannot lie, God cannot err, and since God’s Word is the Bible, the Bible doesn’t err. It doesn’t contain mistakes.
Those problems I alluded to back when I was in college, those weren’t problems with the Bible. Those were heart problems with myself and problems I had to work through. It was not an issue with Scripture. I hope what you see here is that while Jesus teaches us that Scripture’s about Him, He also says it’s His word. That’s something Paul picks up in 2 Timothy 3:16. He says,
”All Scripture is inspired,” [or your translation might say “God-breathed] “and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be complete and equipped for every good work.”
Now, this is one of my favorite passages, and there’s so much I’d like to say here, but we just don’t have the time today. I want to focus on the beginning. “All Scripture is inspired by God.” Now, the Bible was not written in English. At least the New Testament was written in Greek, and the word that we translate as “inspired” is actually a word Paul made up. He took the word for “God” and he took the word for “breathed” and put them together. Paul’s saying here that Scripture is God-breathed. Now, that sounds like an odd type of idea, but if you were to put your hand up to your mouth, you’d feel your breath. If you’re close enough to someone to feel their breath, that’s either a very awkward type of encounter or a very intimate type of encounter.
When it comes to Scripture, it’s the latter. God created us in His image, breathed life into us, and then breathed out His word so we could know about Him. The God of the Bible isn’t some distant, cosmic kind of puppet master pulling strings from afar. No. He came to earth in the person of Jesus and revealed Himself that way, but He also reveals Himself through His word, and that’s an intimate type of thing. Now, some people today will say, “Yeah, I believe the Bible’s inspired,” but they don’t mean God-breathed, and so I’m not actually a fan of the word inspired because I don’t think it communicates very well. Sometimes people will use the word inspired and what they mean is, “Well, men were inspired by what they saw, so they wrote things down.”
If Scripture is the Word of God, then it’s not just man’s word. Yes, it’s fully the words of man, but it’s also fully the words of God. There’s a dual authorship to Scripture in that way. Jesus teaches us that the Bible is about Him, that it’s His Word, and He also teaches us that it contains true history.
Jesus Taught that Scripture Contains True History
This, for some people, is where the friction comes in. For instance, when Jesus is telling what’s going to happen with His death and resurrection, He says, “Just as Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days, so too will I be. So too will the Son of Man be in the belly of the earth.” He assumes that they know that Jonah was in a fish for three days, literally.
It’s interesting, in Matthew 19, there’s another passage where Jesus has been questioned by the religious leaders, and let’s look at His response. Well, once again He starts with, “Haven’t you read?” And then He says, “‘That he who created them in the beginning made them male and female,’ and he also said, ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.'” He’s quoting from Genesis here. He’s saying, “Haven’t you read, don’t you know that Adam and Eve were real people?” That’s what His answer is based on. Many people today will say, “Well, evolution is true; life and human life came about from goo through the zoo to you (so to speak),” but Jesus doesn’t really leave that as an option, does He? No, “God created them male and female,” and he created them in His image.
That’s a very, once again, intimate, personal type of situation. He affirms that was how Adam and Eve historically came about. Jesus does this time and time again if you read through the Gospels. I think it’s also noteworthy that the second half of this passage is where Jesus affirms the sexual ethic we find in the Old Testament, that God’s only acceptable sexual expression is one man and one woman together for one lifetime. It’s not a popular idea today, either, but it was Jesus’ view. Once again, the question becomes “are we going to hold different views of Scripture, morality, the world, than Jesus held?” I hope not. Our life and the Christian life is one of trying to bring ourselves, our thoughts, and even our desires in line with who God is and what He wants for us.
There’s so much more we could say about Jesus’ view of Scripture, but I think it’s important to start with that when we talk about why we can trust the Bible. Well, Scripture’s about Jesus. He tells us that. It’s even His word, and it contains history that is true.
5 Different Types of Evidences
Now I want to transition a little and talk about five different lines of evidence for the reliability of the New Testament, and they all start with E. So, they should be easy to remember, hopefully.
The first is that there’s early testimony for the Bible. The things that were written down were written down very early on, very shortly after the events they describe.
The second is that this testimony was written by eye witnesses. They were there. They saw the things they claimed to see. Then we’ll also look at the fact that there’s evidence from outside the Bible, extra-Biblical evidence. That’s our third E. Oftentimes, the evidence that’s in the Bible is embarrassing. I don’t know if you’ve thought about that, but we’ll look through that. Lastly, the evidence was often excruciating for the disciples to tell and other people. It costs them something. Social standing, friends, religious connections, and ultimately, even their lives. Those are the five Es we’re going to look at today.
We’re going to start with early testimony. There 5,800 or so full and partial copies of the Greek New Testament, and just to refresh you, the Bible was not written in English, it was written in Greek. An original was written, and then it would be sent off somewhere and then someone would copy it and send a copy off, and those copies would be copied, and this is how the documents spread around and ultimately were compiled with a binding, but these things were written down very early. In fact, we have parts of Mark, Acts, Romans, 1 Timothy, 2 Peter, and James, which date to AD 50 to AD 70. That’s within 20 to 40 years of Jesus’ life; we have things written down.
Now, that might sound like a long time, but consider this. For the person who wants to say that the New Testament is just a cleverly made up story, well, would people know today if someone was making up a lie about something that happened in the ‘90s that was as big of a deal as a resurrection? Yeah. These were things written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. Let’s look at a graph that shows something called the copy time gap.
That’s simply the number of years between an original was written, and the earliest copy we have. For some parts of the New Testament, that’s 25 years. Let’s compare that to other ancient works.
Homer is the next closet at the bottom there with 500. It was 500 years between when Homer was written to the earliest copy we have, and it just goes up from there. When you look at Caesar and Plato, 1,000, 1,200 years. A lot can change in that time, but the New Testament documents that we have today, some of them date to within 20 to 40 years, and that’s during the lifetime of people who were alive. So, this whole idea that somehow corruption came in and the documents have been changed over thousands of years is not true.
I was watching a clip of The View this week, and they tossed out a line that went something like, “The Bible’s been translated and translated and translated over 65 times, so we can’t trust it.” No, we always go back to the original manuscripts, and some of them are remarkably early. So, there’s early evidence.
More than that, there’s a lot of evidence. Our next graph we’re going to see is the number of manuscripts from the New Testament compared with some of those same ancient works.
What you’re going to see is that Homer has about 1,800. Just with the second place, it’s no contest with the amount of evidence we have in the New Testament at about 5,800 manuscripts and partial manuscripts. This idea that the Bible’s a puzzle that’s missing pieces just doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. It only goes down from there when we look at Caesar and Plato. 210 copies that remember are over 1,000 years after their original penning. No contest, once again.
Now, that’s 5,800 Greek manuscripts. It we include Latin and Coptic and Syriac, the number goes to 20,000 and even 30,000. That’s a lot of evidence that’s early, but it’s also written by eyewitnesses, and that’s our second E.
Luke says in Luke one of his gospel,
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word.”
Luke understood that when he set out to write an orderly account, he needed to talk with the people who were there.
That’s often our question when we hear that something happened. “Well, were you there? Did you see it?” Luke understood the need to talk to eyewitnesses. In Acts, another book that Luke wrote, he records Peter saying this.
“God has raised Jesus to life, and we were all witnesses of this fact.”
Peter ultimately goes on to die for his conviction, something we’ll talk about soon, but he was there. He saw what he claimed to see. Then in 2 Peter, Peter writes,
“We didn’t follow cleverly invented stories…”
Kind of guessing at what people would say today, it seems like.
”We didn’t follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye witnesses of His majesty.”
“We were there. I didn’t get this secondhand. I saw it. I lived it. I walked with Him. I ran away after He died, in fact, and I came back because I saw Him resurrected.”
They were eyewitnesses. Now, you may ask, “Well, why should we believe them?” Right? I mean, the Bible says it, but why should I believe they’re eyewitnesses? Well, I would return you to Jesus’ view of Scripture, that it contains true history, that it’s about Him and that it’s His word, but we can also say more than that.
The New Testament writers give the earmarks of actually being eyewitnesses, so they correctly cite locations and dialects and who the emperor was and who the governor was and who the mayor was and all of these types of rulers at different places. They get roads right and how they connect. They get obscure and remote customs correct when they talk about them.
You’re only going to get those things right if you’re where you claim to be, when you claim to be there. So, they prove themselves as eyewitnesses based on the truthfulness of how they relate what they said to the broader context of history. F.F. Bruce, who’s a noted biblical scholar says this:
“A writer who thus relates his story to the wider context of world history is courting for trouble if he isn’t careful; he affords his critical readers so many opportunities for testing his accuracy. Luke takes this risk and stands the test admirably,”
Bruce is effectively saying that people don’t make up lies that are specific because you’ll get them wrong, and yet the claims in Scripture are very specific, and they’re right.
Let’s make a parallel example for this. Let’s say you’re a parent, and your son wants to go out to movies on a Friday night. You say, “Yeah, sure. Be home by 11. Just go to the movies and then come home.” Your son goes off. He leaves about 8:00, and you and your wife look at each other and you say, “What should we do tonight? I guess we’ll go to the movies too.”
Now, you’re not intending to check up on your son, and you’re expecting to just have a quiet night, just watching a movie, relaxing, just the two of you. But you find that some of the theaters have been flooded. I mean, it has rained a lot here. Okay, so that’s not great, but the popcorn machine is broken, so no popcorn. (You can’t go to the movies and not get popcorn, right?)
You go home, and you go to bed early. The next morning at breakfast, you’re talking with your son and you say, “How was the movie?” He says, “Oh, it was great.” You’re a little suspicious. You say, “Okay, do they have any water damage?” Your son looks at your like you’re crazy. “No.” “Did you get popcorn and a drink?” “Yeah, of course. Who goes to the movies and doesn’t get popcorn?” At this point you know something is wrong, right? He couldn’t have not seen the water damage. The theaters were closed. He couldn’t have gotten popcorn. The machine was broken. Your son was not at the movies, but how do you know that? Because he included details that he would have gotten right if he were there, but which he got wrong.
Like I said, when we tell a lie, which we shouldn’t do, people often keep them generic, not specific. Just for example, there’s a German scholar named Collin Hemer who has gone through Acts and in just the last 16 chapters has confirmed 84 facts. People, places, roads, customs, languages, those types of things. That’s remarkable accuracy you only get from being where you claim to be when you claimed to be there.
There is early testimony and there is also eyewitness testimony for the Bible, but there’s also evidence and testimony from outside of Scripture.
Now, do we need this? Do we need something outside of Scripture to verify Scripture? No, we don’t, honestly. There’s this view today where we can’t trust what the Bible has to say, and you may ask a person who says that,
“Well, why not?”
“Because it’s written by Christians, and they’re biased.”
“Okay, well why are they biased?”
“They believe Jesus was God. They think Christianity was true. You can’t trust what they say.”
We have to ask ourselves, can we apply that same argument to the non Christian? Can I say,
“You can’t trust what non-Christians write about the Bible?”
“Well, why not?”
“They’re biased. They don’t think Christianity’s true. They don’t think God rose from the dead.”
It sounds a little more silly when you say it like that, doesn’t it?
Really, you can even take it a step farther and say, “What such a person is saying is that you can’t trust what people write if they believe what they write is true.” That’s just not a standard any of us should hold. The New Testament documents should be given the same benefit of the doubt that we give any other ancient work. It doesn’t need to be corroborated with something else to be considered true on its own merits.
However, I do think it’s important and helped to look at the other documents that were written about Jesus at the time of His life. Let’s look at one. It’s written by Flavius Josephus, who was a Jewish historian who lived from about the years AD 37 to 100, and he wrote several works chronicling the history of the Jews.
One of them we’re going to read from says this.
”[At the time of Pilate,] there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die, but those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
If you’ve never read that before, that might be striking. Now, it doesn’t say Jesus was God. It doesn’t say He rose from the dead. It doesn’t say people saw Him after His death, but it does say people believed He rose from the dead, they didn’t recant their testimony, they claimed to see Him after His death, and we have to ask the question what best accounts for that evidence?
As you’re hearing these types of evidence and types of testimony this morning, ask yourself what’s the best explanation? What makes most sense of this evidence? That it’s just simply made up or that it’s actually true? Regardless of my personal feelings on what Scripture says or my sense of autonomy, what’s the best sense and explanation for the evidence?
In addition to Josephus, there are nine other known non-Christian authors who talk about Jesus within 150 years of His life. Now, only nine sources mention Tiberius Caesar, and if you include Christian sources, which you should, there are 43 different documents that talk about Jesus within 150 or so years of His life. Once again, this is no contest compared to any other ancient work or any other ancient figure.
From non-biblical sources, we know a lot. For instance, we know that Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar. So, the idea that lives in YouTube comment sections that Jesus never existed is demonstrably false based on even secular history. We know that Jesus lived a virtuous life, that He was acclaimed to be a wonder worker, that He had a brother named James (we’ll talk about James in a minute), that He was acclaimed to be the Messiah, that He was crucified under Pontius Pilate on the eve of Jewish passover, that darkness and a earthquake occurred when He died. All of these are things we also find in Scripture, and they fit.
We also know that Jesus’ disciples believed He rose from the dead, that they were willing to die for that conviction, and that they even denied the Roman gods, faced persecution, and worshiped Jesus alone. The question becomes, once again, what best accounts for that evidence?
There’s early evidence by eyewitnesses. There’s also extra-biblical evidence, but the evidence in the Bible is often embarrassing.
I’m going to teach you something we all kind of innately know this morning, and that’s something historians call the principal of embarrassment, and it simply says this:
Details most embarrassing to an author are most likely to be true.
In other words, you don’t make up stuff to make yourself look bad or get yourself killed. It’s kind of like rule one of existing almost, right? You might tell a self-deprecating joke, but you’re not going to write history that portrays you in a horrible light. You’re not going to write history and try and convince others of things that actually include very embarrassing details about Jesus, who you’re trying to portray as God. What type of embarrassing details are we talking about, you may ask?
Well, the authors of the Bible write about themselves in Scripture, and for instance, Jesus believes them to be dimwitted at times. They don’t even understand what He’s saying, so God tells you something, you don’t get it repeatedly. He calls you a fool, and you write it down. I don’t think I would write that down. More than that, they’re uncaring. Before Jesus goes to the cross, He’s in the garden of Gethsemane, and He’s basically sweating blood and He tells His disciples, “Pray for me,” and they fall asleep. Twice. They write it down and preserve it for us to know about.
Now, I’ll admit to falling asleep praying on my bed in the morning, trying to do that whole quiet time thing (which was very quiet, far too early), but nonetheless, that’s not Jesus standing in front of me before the cross telling me to pray, and I’m not writing it down. Put yourselves in the shoes of the disciples. Would you write these things down if they weren’t true? No.
Perhaps most noteworthy, Peter’s called Satan by Jesus. Could there be a worse name for God to call you than Satan? We actually looked at this passage last week in Mark. How would this have gone if the gospels are just made up, cleverly invented stories?
Mark and Peter are sitting around a campfire and Mark’s writing this fictitious gospel, and he says, “Hey, Peter. There’s a great plot twist. Now, it doesn’t really matter what comes before it, but here’s what Jesus is going to say to you: Get behind me, Satan.” I imagine Peter’s going to say, “What the heck? Have Him call you Satan! Why am I the one that gets the worst name God could ever call you applied to him in the gospel?” You’re not going to write that unless it even happened, and even then, it’s surprising that they wrote it.
The disciples also record that they’re cowards and doubters. They run away after the crucifixion. They don’t even believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be and taught them repeatedly, but they record that for us to see.
There’s also embarrassing evidence about Jesus. In fact, He’s considered to be out of His mind by His mother and His brothers. The people who know Him best basically want to Baker-Act Him. That’s not a good start to an earthly ministry where you’re presenting yourself as God. He’s also called a drunkard. He has His feet wiped with the hair of a prostitute, in spite of the fact that could have been taken as a sexual advance. All this is recorded for us in the gospels.
Now, this next one doesn’t necessarily resonate with us very well today, but He was hung on a cross and was considered to be under God’s curse by the Jews. They believed anyone hung on a tree was under God’s curse, and so if you’re starting a religion and you’re going to try and market it to Jews, you wouldn’t make up the central point of your religion as something that’s incredibly offensive and foolish to them.
Now, Paul actually does tell us in Galatians three that Jesus did become a curse for us. He took the curse for our sin in His body on the cross to pay for our punishment when we couldn’t, so everyone who trusts in Him will be clothed in His righteousness and will be saved from the punishment of their sin. That’s the gospel, but it does require Jesus actually taking on the curse of sin on the cross, which was a stumbling block to the Jews, which is embarrassing if you’re making it up and it’s not true.
More than that, He’s even buried by a member of the group that sentenced Him to death. His own disciples don’t bury Him, and they write this down for us to see. Another thing that culturally was revolutionary is the fact that Jesus first appears to women. At a time when their social standing was incredibly low, their testimony not admissible in court, He appears to women at the empty tomb and at other points. If you were making this up, you would not have made that part up. You would have had Him appear to men.
Now, that view of women is not God’s view of women. That was an incorrect cultural view at the time, but nonetheless, if you’re going to make up a story and start a religion, you’re not going to have the first people that your religious figure appears to be women. There is a lot more of this type of evidence in Scripture. When you read with eyes to see things that are embarrassing, you’ll be surprised at what you find. Then you’ll have to ask yourself the question. Why would people make that up? If it’s not true, why would they include it? Well, they wouldn’t.
We’ve looked at the fact that the Bible contains embarrassing, early evidence by eyewitnesses and that there’s also extra-biblical evidence, evidence from outside the Bible.
Our last E today is going to be excruciating evidence, that believing these things and saying these things they believed cost them dearly.
For instance, New Testament believers abandoned their long held sacred beliefs and adopted new ones. That probably doesn’t sound revolutionary to us. I could have stopped at any of 15 churches it seems like on my way here this morning. It was not like that in the ancient world. You couldn’t just swap out what you did for an hour and a half on Sunday. If you changed religions, your friends would probably disown you. Your family might too. You may not be able to buy or sell. The government at some point started persecuting and running them out of town, and more than that, they were often much more devout than we are today.
What could cause a Jew to go from “I have to keep the law, I have to keep the Sabbath, I have to be circumcised, I have to sacrifice animals for the forgiveness of sins” to “I don’t need to keep the law of Moses in the same way, I don’t need to worship on Saturday, I don’t need to be circumcised, I don’t need to sacrifice animals for the forgiveness of sins?” What accounts for such a striking religious change except for the resurrection of Jesus? I’m not going to take a gamble on the fate of my soul based on some guy that’s still in the ground. I need to be convinced. Well, they were convinced, and that’s why they changed religions in spite of the fact that it was so costly.
We can say more than that. They don’t even deny their testimony under threat of death. History records and presents to us that all of the disciples and apostles were willing to suffer and die for their convictions. Let’s just consider James.
James is one of the brothers who wanted to put Jesus away, who thought He was crazy. At the other end of His life, James is illegally stoned for His faith in His half-brother, confessing that He’s the Son of God. How do you get from crazy to Son of God? Only seeing the post-resurrected Jesus. I’m not going to die for a brother who says he’s God unless I’m convinced, right? You know your own family better than that.
Well, it’s the same way with James. What accounts, what’s the best explanation for the evidence of James’ conversion? Seeing the post-resurrected Jesus. It’s not just James. Peter and Paul, the same people who said, “We didn’t follow cleverly invented stories,” they go on to die for those factual stories. This is perhaps one of the most persuasive points for many people when it comes to why we should trust the Bible. People would die for their claims.
Now, often when I make this point, some people will either think or say, “Yeah, but there are religious extremists today who kill themselves for their claims or who will kill other people.” Look at the Middle East. Isn’t that what ISIS is doing? Aren’t they so convinced they’re willing to kill themselves and kill other people? Yes, that’s true.
I do think it’s important to point out that this is not all Muslims. Not all Muslims believe the same way in the same way that not all Christians believe the same way, but there’s also a key difference. The apostles were willing to die for their claims. Religious extremists today often are willing to kill for their’. That’s a noteworthy difference, but the crucial difference, the reason it’s not even a fair comparison is that today’s religious extremist is not in the position to know if his claims are true. Was he there in the 600s AD when Allah supposedly spoke through the angel Gabriel to Muhammad and revealed the Qur’an. He wasn’t there. He didn’t see the early life of Muhammad or insert your other religious figure here, but the gospel writers, even according to biblical and history secular were where they claimed to be, when they claimed to be there. They were there for Jesus’ death, and they would have been there for His resurrection. They were in the position to know with complete certainty.
This leads us to a very helpful conclusion here:
Many people will die for something they believe to be the truth, but no one dies for something they know is a lie.
There are people today dying, believing that they’re dying for the truth, but the disciples, contrary to them, were in a position to know with complete certainty. They didn’t follow cleverly invented stories. They walked with Him. They ran after His death and they came back and were converted to a strong faith because of seeing Jesus after His resurrection. That’s the best explanation for the evidence. Many people will die for something they believe to be true, but no one dies for something they know to be a lie.
Now, we’ve looked at a lot today, and I don’t expect you all to remember this. I even have notes, right? Here’s my prayer for today as I was preparing for this, that the person who thinks the Bible is just totally false would have something to consider, that you’ve been confronted with a hopefully compelling case of why you should trust Scripture. Maybe I’ve given you something to think about in that way. Don’t just slough it off. Press into that. I think you have an intellectual responsibility if you think the Bible’s not true and you’ve been confronted with evidence, to pursue that. You might not like where it takes you, but be intellectually honest enough to investigate that.
For the person who is on the other end of our spectrum who said, “Yep, I don’t have any doubts,” well, that’s good. I think that’s something to praise God for, but we can’t just sit back and not equip other people. You might share the Gospel with someone and they’re going to say, “Well, I don’t think that’s true.” Well, why not? “Well, I don’t think the Bible is true.” Now we need to talk about needing to be able to show others why they should trust Scripture. Being able to defend the reliability of the New Testament and the Bible in general is a crucial part of evangelism. In order for the gospel to be true, the Bible has to be true. They’re linked.
Now, like I said, most of us are probably in that middle category, not “I don’t think it’s true at all” and not “I have no doubts.” I hope your faith has been strengthened today. Like I mentioned, I had to work through these things personally in order to have a trust in Christ and the gospel. I had to repair my view of Scripture.
You may need to do the same. I don’t expect this to answer everyone’s questions. I do hope it’s a doorway to increasing your trust in the Bible. We’ve looked at Jesus’ view of Scripture, that it’s about Him, and that’s really why this is important at all. If it’s just history, I’m not going to talk about that. I’m not going to share that with other people. I’m not going to fret about it, but the Bible is about Jesus—from His own mouth.
It’s also His very word, that intimate encounter where He revealed Himself to us, and it contains history that is true. We should strive to have a view of Scripture that’s the same as Jesus.
Then we’ve looked at the fact that the Bible itself contains embarrassing testimony that cost people their lives oftentimes, or at the very least, their social standing, physical comfort, material possessions, and social structures. It’s also written by eyewitnesses, and it was written very early on. It’s no contest when we compare it to any other ancient work.
I hope your faith has been strengthened this morning. I Hope you’re a little more equipped to talk about the reliability of the Bible, and if you’re not a Christian, I encourage you to investigate these claims. Push interest that. Don’t just ignore it.