Should I Believe the Bible?
October is a month that many of us know well. Some readers have birthdays in October. It seems like everything changes in October-- it is a month of change, the deep cold frosts, the peak color of the foliage, the leaves fall and the first snows. Many of us know October as reformation month. We think of it that way because on Oct 31st 1517 a young Augustinian monk named Martian Luther nailed a document debating the practices of the Roman Catholic Church-- namely the practice of papal indulgences. Many questions came to light? What authority does the church have? How does a person obtain eternal life? Can a man forgive your sins? How do we know these things? Tradition? Decree of man? The reformers looked to the Scriptures for their answers and the cry of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) became the bedrock phrase that caused the religious paradigm to shift from the voice of man to the word of God.
So why is the Bible so special? Why did the reformers embrace it rather than the status quo tradition?
This conundrum is answered in part by the claims that the Bible makes for itself. For example:
2 Timothy 3:15-17
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. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
The reformers embraced the three claims that the above passage makes.
I. Scripture is Sacredly Strong (v.15).
and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings…
“The sacred letters” is a literal translation. Sacred (sometimes translated as holy) means “set apart for special use.” The Bible is different from every other book—even books about the Bible—because it has been set apart by God for His special purpose. It is not just literature, it is not just history, it is not just a medicine cabinet for spiritual ills. It is a divine collection of writings that come from God and accomplish His purpose.
...which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The reformers would testify that the Scripture alone tells us about God the creator, man's sinful rebellion, the wrath of God against sinful man, the incarnation and virgin birth of Christ the second Person of the Trinity who would live perfectly yet suffer and take the wrath of God while on the cross satisfying holy justice so that a repentant man could rest in the work of Christ by faith. This message is a joy to all who know that sin, however small, offends a perfect God. This what salvation is all about.
The second reason the Bible trumps tradition is that it come from God.
II. Scripture is Sourced in God (v.16a).
All Scripture is breathed out by God...
God’s words were given through men superintended by the Holy Spirit so that their writings are without error.
"knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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." (2 Peter 1:20-21 ESV)
A good way to understand the God breathed Scripture is with the illustration of a trumpet. A man blows through the brass instrument, and it has a distinct sound. God inspired the human instrument and that man used his own style, vocabulary etc. and yet the message is exactly what God intended.
The Pentateuch (The first five books of the Old Testament) contains at least 680 claims of divine inspiration. Such claims are found 418 times in the historical books, 195 times in the poetic books, and 1,307 times in the prophetic books. The New Testament contains more than 300 direct quotations and at least 1,000 indirect references from the Old Testament, almost all of them declaring or implying that they were God’s own Word. Together, the biblical writers make some 4,000 claims to be writing God’s Word. When a man denies that the entire Bible is holy and inspired he declares himself the judge over God’s Word, acknowledging as authentic and binding only those portions which correspond to his personal predispositions- which are subjective, sin-tainted, and imperfect in knowledge and understanding. Consider this; when the Bible told us about the Hittites society mocked and considered them mythical until Hugo Winkler discovered their cuneiform library in the early twentieth century. The more man discovers the more he learns that the Scripture is sacred and sourced in God.
III. Scripture is Suitable to Supply (vv. 16b-17).
...profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
The Scripture is profitable, which includes the ideas of beneficial, productive, and suitable.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb." (Psalm 19:7-10 ESV)
Religious systems that claim to be Christian and yet treat the Bible as unsuitable or not relevant, for our culture betray themselves as being unchristian.
Mormonism considers The Book of Mormon to be more divinely inspired and authoritative than the Bible. They see it as a pure latter-day, updated revelation from God. Christian Science views Science and Health, With a Key to the Scriptures in the same way. These extra Biblical "revelations" are foolish, untrue, unhealthy and all products of the modern age. Unlike Scripture, The Book of Mormon's tale of an American civilization other than the Native Americans is laughable and Christian Science is not anchored in orthodox Christianity or even scientific. The Bible, however, is suitable and supplies what Christians need.
It is completely foolish, to expect to live a spiritual life without knowing spiritual truth. Untaught believers can be "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). Systematic, thorough study of God’s Word is essential for God's people. Scripture teaches what is right.
John MacArthur wrote, "Scripture is the divine plumb line by which every thought, principle, act, and belief is to be measured." Scripture shows us what is wrong and false. It points out what is not right. It is the flip side of the previous concept. But more so than being a negative slap on the wrist, Scripture aids Christians to do what is right by correction.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life (Proverbs 6:23 ESV).
... for correction...
This word "correction" is used only here in the New Testament. In secular Greek literature it was used of setting upright an object that had fallen down or tipped over like a vase that had toppled. It is used to describe the helping of a person back on his feet after tripping and falling. After pointing out what is wrong Scripture aids fallen belivers by helping them back to the right way.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1 ESV).
...for training in righteousness...
The Bible teaches us what is right, what is wrong, how to make things right and it keeps us going in the right direction. It trains us in righteousness. Every good sport requires understanding and training. Driving a car requires understanding and training to develop skills and good habits. God's word trains--disciplines Christians in the right way equipping them for every good work.
...that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
The reformers saw the claims of Scripture as true and binding. Scripture alone could connect fallen man to a God who loves, saves, changes and equips sinful men as they repent and believe the good news about Jesus Christ. Scripture trumps tradition because it is sacredly strong, sourced in God and suitable to supply everything needed for righteousness.