The Signature Of GodErwin W. Lutzer | January 3, 2016
Selected highlights from this sermon
You can believe in the Bible. It bears the mark of both human and divine authorship. It contains the revelation from God Himself. Even though it was written over a period of 1,500 years from different locations by more than forty authors, it has one unified story that hinges on the person of Jesus Christ.
God has spoken, and He has not stuttered. His Word endures even as its competitors rise and fall.
So what do we make of the Bible? Is it the word of man, or is it the Word of God? Objections to the Bible have taken place throughout history - for centuries really. There are those who would tell us, “How can you believe in miracles? Do you mean that Jonah was actually swallowed by a fish, and then was regurgitated and went and preached? Who can believe that?”
Jesus taking a boy’s lunch and feeding 5,000 people? That’s unthinkable. That just does not happen. Furthermore, there are parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand, like God’s command to Joshua to wipe out the Canaanite civilization and kill everybody! Some people have said that that sounds a little bit like radical Islam, a little bit like ISIS perhaps – a big difference, by the way. Judaism was never to be spread with the sword. God was judging those people because they had become incredibly wicked. I will not even describe the debauchery. And God said to Israel, “I’ll do the same thing to you if you live like they do.” It was not a religious matter of trying to convince people that they belonged to the wrong God, though, of course, the Canaanites did.
There are other objections. You know, in the Old Testament you can have more than one wife. It was not prescribed by God, and it was not necessarily approved, but it was tolerated. I mean, look at David. Look at Solomon. I mean, what’s going on there?
Science! We know that God didn’t create anything. Evolution has taught us that. You know, creation happens spontaneously without a designer. I mean, how can you accept such an ancient book, a book of mythology, as one person put it?
Now, what I want to do in the next few moments is to argue that indeed the Bible is the Word of God, but first of all, give an explanation regarding some definitions. Let me ask you a question. We don’t normally do this in church, but I want you to feel free to do this. How many of you believe that the Bible was written by men? Could I see your hands please? Alright! You’re a little hesitant, aren’t you? How many of you believe that the Bible was written by God? Could I see your hands please? More hands! (chuckles) Actually, you should have raised your hand both times. The Bible is a dual authorship. It is written by men, absolutely, with their styles and their personalities and their vocabulary, but it was also superintended by God in such a way that they were preserved from error. Now they, of course, had some options as to how they say something. It wouldn’t have mattered whether or not Matthew or Mark or Luke would have said that Jesus walked to Jerusalem, or Jesus went to Jerusalem, or when He arrived at Jerusalem this happened. All of that was within the boundaries of truth, and they had some choice as to what they wrote down as long as it was true. And you see, in the very same way, some of the Bible was dictated. I’m thinking, for example, of the Ten Commandments, and when the Lord came to Moses and to others, He told them basically what His will was, and that was written down.
The best way to understand dual authorship is to remind ourselves that Jesus was both God and man. He was the God man. On the one hand, there He was, you know: “Before Abraham was I AM!” indicating He is God. And then later on, look at Him there at Jacob’s Well, being wearied with His journey. He was both. That’s true of the Bible. Both are eternal. Both were conceived by the Holy Spirit. Both are authoritative.
The best way to see, you know, this human and divine element is, for example, in 2 Timothy. In chapter 1, verse 9, the Apostle Paul says that we have been saved by God, and loved from all eternity. He’s in some deep theology. But in chapter 4 he says to Timothy, “Timothy, when you come and visit me, be sure to bring my coat, and by the way, don’t forget the parchments. Don’t forget the writings.” Divine element! Human element! Both are there.
Someone has well written, “Deep strike Thy roots, oh heavenly vine, into our earthly sod most human, yet most divine, the flower of man and God.”
All that by way simply of introduction!
Now today as I speak I don’t want you to look at your cell phone. Please – no iPads, no cell phones! I don’t even want you to look at your Bible. You didn’t ever think that you’d hear that from the pulpit at Moody Church, did you? (laughter) But no Bible today! You don’t have to turn to… Don’t worry! This message is going to have lots of Bible, but there would be no way that you could possibly keep up.
I want you to fasten your seat belts because we’re going to be flying at 35,000 feet. I’m going to be speaking at 120 words per minute with gusts up to 180 (laughter), so I want you to get it. I want you to concentrate. I want you to think with me. Follow me on this very critical message.
The title of the message is The Signature of God – The Bible’s Own Testimony to its Divine Authorship. That’s where we’re going, and you have joined me on this journey.
Let’s begin with the claims of the Bible. One day when I was taking a course in logic at the university, the professor began his class by reading an article written by a Christian that said that, you know, the Bible is the Word of God because it says it is. Second Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. He said, “I’m giving this to you as a classic argument of circular reasoning.” He’s assuming the point he’s supposed to prove. It sounds a little bit like saying, “I’m telling you the truth, and the reason you know that I’m telling you the truth is because I’m telling you that I’m telling you the truth.” There’s something very suspect about that, isn’t it [there] logically?
But let’s back off for just a moment, and think of it this way. If a visitor arrived on a shore in America, and he was dressed differently and even looked very different, and his boat was very different, and so forth, and we know that he came from another country, it would be okay to ask him where he came from, wouldn’t it? Now you might not just take his word for it because you might want to confirm it by the kind of boat that he has, by the kind of accent he has, by the kind of clothes he is wearing. But even in a court of law you have the opportunity of defending yourself.
So let’s take a moment. I think it’s perfectly legitimate for us to ask what the Bible has to say about itself, so let’s begin. Genesis – the opening chapters in Genesis: “And the Lord God said unto Adam,” and then God gives instructions. And there are other examples in the book of Genesis. We get to Exodus: “And the Word of the Lord came to Moses saying….” And God gives him explicit opportunity to understand how the tabernacle is to be built. And on and on, and the Lord said this, and the Lord said that.
We get to the prophets, and I think of Isaiah: “Hear oh heavens, and give ear, oh earth for the Lord has spoken.” And you read (what?) 66 chapters in Isaiah. Always it says, “The Lord said this; the Lord said that.”
I get to Jeremiah, one of my favorite prophets. And the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah and right at the beginning you have the kings who were ruling, and the year in which the Word of the Lord came to him, and the very month. And then the rest of the book is God speaking.
You get to the New Testament. Jesus said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My word shall not pass away.” You ask the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14, and what does he say? He says, “If anyone thinks that they are spiritual or a prophet, let them know that I am giving you the commands of God.” Well that’s interesting.
You get to the end of the book of Revelation, and you have that marvelous, breathtaking passage: “If anyone should add to the prophecy of this book, I will add to him all of the plagues that are in this book, and if anyone should subtract from this book and take away, I will take away his right to the tree of life and the holy city.” Wow! Now that is a reference, of course, to the book of Revelation specifically. It was not a part of the Canon initially. The Canon took a while to develop, but it certainly fits the entire New Testament, doesn’t it?
Let me ask you something. How many times do you think that the Bible teaches, either directly or indirectly, that it is God’s Word? Well, I’m thankful that I didn’t have to do this. Somebody else did the math for us, and the answer is about fifteen hundred times. I remember talking to somebody who went to a church where they didn’t really believe the Bible, though they sort of preached from it occasionally, I guess. He said to me, “I believe that the Bible is a good book because it has elevated civilization. It has given rise to art into beautiful music.” He said, “There’s nothing like the Sermon on the Mount, but I don’t believe it’s God’s Word.” Really!
Alright now! Everybody thinking! Oh, the Bible is a good book, but it has about fifteen hundred lies. But apart from that, it’s a pretty good book. Let me ask you something. What would you say if someone said, “I wrote a biography of Churchill,” and throughout it he kept saying, ‘Now Churchill said to me… You know we met and he said this and that,’” and then you discover that he never met Churchill? Would you say, “Well, you know, it’s a pretty good biography, but all those quotes from Churchill are wrong because he never met Churchill.” Very probably, if you have a wood-burning fireplace, what you really want to do is to use the book to start a fire so that you get some value out of it. (laughter)
Let me tell you that either the Bible is the Word of God or it is the greatest literary fraud that has ever been perpetuated in history. It is one or the other. You can’t have it both ways. And you know, if you can’t trust the Bible regarding its own origin, how can you trust it in anything else? If it’s wrong when it says, “The Word of the Lord came to me,” it can be wrong from cover to cover. So the Bible’s testimony to itself is very important.
But now let’s take another look and let’s ask ourselves something about the continuation of the Bible, and specifically the unity of the Bible. That’s the word I wanted. It was unity – the unity of the Bible.
The Bible has such an advantage over other religious books. Take, for example, the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon has one author, Joseph Smith, who supposedly received the revelation from an angel. The Quran – one author! Muhammad supposedly received a revelation from Allah.
The Bible is a library of 66 books, and it’s written by 40 different authors, and among the authors you have kings, you have prophets and you have various scribes. You also have a fisherman, and then let’s not forget the sheepherders, the farmers. I like that one because Amos, the prophet, was a sheepherder, and God said, “I’m going to call out and I’m going to make you a prophet.” I love that because remember that I was a farm boy. I mean, there was a time when I milked cows. Do I miss it? No! (laughter)
And not only that, here we have 40 different authors, writing over a period of 1,500 years. And they wrote from different countries. You know, part of the Old Testament was written in Egypt where Moses was receiving those revelations. You think of Daniel. He’s writing from Babylon. Paul is writing from a prison in Rome. And you have all of these different authors over different centuries. Think of how long fifteen centuries is. I mean kingdoms arose and fell during that period of time. You have originally Babylon. You have Assyria. You have the Neo-Babylonian Empires, and Persia, and all of the empires that are revolving during that period of fifteen centuries.
And the Bible is brought together. As the books were written, and there’s a whole process there of accumulation, but the remarkable thing is all of these authors spoke about issues that are very important. You know, they spoke about God and his nature. They spoke about man – our sinfulness, the existence of Satan, the existence of angels. All of these things were spoken about, and they have remarkable agreement. You just scratch your head and you say, “Wow! How could that all have come together?”
The whole history of redemption is found in the Bible. Could you imagine a book on medicine written by forty different authors over a period of fifteen hundred years? Would they basically agree regarding medicine? I don’t think so, and critics of the Bible say, “Well, you know it has contradictions.” And you know, evangelical scholars have known about these supposed contradictions for years, and whole books have been written about them, showing that they can be reconciled. But let me tell you something. If you look at the different references to the resurrection, you’ll find that John is quite different than Luke, you know, supposedly about the time when the women come to the tomb, so skeptics say, “Look at all your contradictions.”
My friends, that actually adds authenticity to the Bible. You see, if one had copied from another - if Mark had written first and then everybody said, “Oh, well, let’s write it down like Mark,” they would have smoothed it all out so that there wouldn’t have been these independent witnesses. But the very fact that they have such independence, and tell the story from different points of view, shows the authenticity of these writings. Nobody was really depending upon what the other person said. They all wrote, and they all wrote God’s Word.
Now let’s just take a look briefly at the unity of structure. Did you know that in the New Testament there are about 180 quotations from the Old? Someone has said this, and I’m going to quote this twice, that the New is in the Old, concealed, and the Old is in the New, revealed. The New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New, revealed. You know you stand and you are astounded at the unity.
In Bible College I had a course called Daniel/ Revelation. Daniel made his predictions; Revelation made it. You know, if it’s together, it’s like a hand in a glove. You have Leviticus – Hebrews where you have all of those offerings in Leviticus we don’t understand very well all completed in Jesus in the book of Hebrews in ways that just take your breath away.
I look at the Bible and I say, “Wow!” The word, Elohim, which is God (In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth) is a plural word! So God says, “Let us… Let us make man in our own image.” What’s the “us” doing there? Well, throughout the Old Testament there are hints toward the Trinity, but as the revelation progresses, you see more and more. And I could mention some instances in the Old Testament where you already see it. But it’s when you get to the New Testament and Jesus says, “Baptize people in the name (singular) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it is then that we begin to see the full flowering of the Trinity. And the whole Bible hangs together. And you just say, “There must have been a divine author supervising all of these books.”
I want you to visualize it this way. Let’s suppose that a cathedral would be built. Parts of it would be built in Egypt. Parts of it would be built in Babylon. Parts of it would be built over in Rome. Parts of it would be built in Greece, and of course, many of the parts in Israel itself. And all over a period of fifteen years these various parts are brought together, and in the process of doing that, they all fit. And you say, “Wait a moment. If all of these different architects weren’t in collusion, there must be a divine architect who put it all together so that it would have unity, and so that it would make sense.
What about the history of the Bible? The Bible has so many advantages. You will never find a book on archeology in the Quran, for example. Why? It’s because the Quran may mention one or two historical sites, but it is not rooted in historical drama and historical relationships like the Bible. You know, the Bible mentions rivers and mountains and oceans and battles and various cities. And archeologists have gone there and they have discovered how accurate it is.
You know, there is a journal which I stopped taking many years ago – BAR (Biblical Archeological Review) where every year you find new archeological things that really do confirm the Bible. Now archeology is not an exact science, so sometimes its findings need to be revised, and I could give you some instances of that. But I remember studying in Israel in 1968, and we had a noted archeologist who came and gave us a lecture. And he said this: “The amazing thing is that wherever the Bible says a place was, we dig there, and there it is.” Some of us who were in Israel remember the Pool of Bethesda having five porches. And they’ve dug down now, and they’ve found the Pool of Bethesda. And you can go there.
See, not all parts of the Bible can be tested. When Jesus said to someone, “Thy sins be forgiven,” you can’t empirically watch the sins disappear. It’s not as if you, with a camera (and everybody has a camera now) can say, “Oh, I saw those sins disappear when He said, ‘You know, your sins are gone.’” You can’t do that, but wherever the Bible can be tested, empirically in the deep soil of history, it has come up with remarkable accuracy, so much so that skeptics have actually come to believe in Christ because of its accuracy. They tried to disprove it, and then they begin to study it, and they say, “Wow! This must be a book from God.”
Now, that’s the history of the Bible. Let me speak also now about the fact of science and the Bible. I mean, imagine this. In the first ten words of the Bible, you have the whole basis of scientific investigation. The whole basis! The first ten words! In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Ten words!
• In the beginning – we’re introduced to time.
• God – we’re introduced to personality.
• created – we’re introduced to energy and force.
• the heavens – we’re introduced to space.
• the earth – we’re introduced to matter.
It’s all there.
Now, oftentimes you find evolution wants to take over. We may quibble about whether creation took place in six actual days, and when it happened, and all of that, but the fact that it was created had overwhelming rational and scientific support.
Can I just mention something? I like the nature channel actually on TV I find that it has more interesting things than some of the news channels that we sometimes listen to. Watch the nature channels. I love to see them discuss bugs and birds and all of that, and I just am overwhelmed.
Let me tell you about the bombardier beetle. The bombardier beetle has a sack (a chamber) in which there are two different chemicals. If those chemicals get together they might create (and would create) an explosion. But they are in the same chamber, and in that chamber there is an inhibitor, which prevents them from exploding. Now when an enemy comes, what happens is there’s another sack on this bombardier beetle that is an anti-inhibitor. So the anti-inhibitor, through a little tube, shoots its chemistry, which then comes the other sack with its tube, and they come off together. And the explosion that takes place in the face of the enemy is 212 degrees – just like boiling point. Now can you imagine that evolving? You know, we don’t quite have the inhibitors all right. And these little beetles are just exploding all over the place (laughter) because they are going off at the wrong time.
Now you can read articles from evolutionists who will tell you, “Oh, there is a way it can be done. You know, if you do this, and if this happened and if that happened, you know….” Oh really? And there’s no designer, no intelligence, and it’s all just happening (yeah!) when we all know that nature left to itself always goes to randomness, not complexity. And even evolutionists, and I’ve read them, have said that this little bombardier beetle is very complex – very complex.
I mean to put even a more bottom line on it. It’s so difficult for me to believe that nothing times nobody equals everything. I just can’t get my mind around that. The Bible is the basis of science - the way in which God prepared the earth for man, and the planets and their juxtaposition to benefit life and the earth.
Now, what about Jesus? What about Jesus who is the center of everything? The Old Testament points toward Him. The New Testament reveals Him. I’m sure that I am speaking to some of you today, and I hope that if you are a skeptic, I want to tell you how glad I am that you are here, because I believe that you should have an opportunity to investigate the Christian faith oftentimes even at your own speed, but I’m glad that you are listening.
I can imagine that there is somebody who is listening who says, “You know, I believe in Jesus, but He’s only one way to God. There are other ways to God.” Well, I want to speak to you as candidly as I am able, and that is to say that if there are other ways to God, Jesus is not one of them. And the reason that Jesus would not be one of them is He would be too big a liar to qualify for a way to God, because He claimed He was the only way. And, of course, as you’ve often heard me say, there are reasons for that. Nobody else has the qualifications to be a Savior.
But that aside, I want to just confront you for a moment about Jesus who is the focus of the Bible. I think, for example, of Hitler who made some of those great claims and almost took upon himself some of the attributes of deity in his own delusional way. But he never had the nerve to say, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”
We think, for example of… Well, whom shall we take? Buddha said that he had enlightenment. But Buddha never had the nerve to say, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” He didn’t say that.
You remember Krishna believing in reincarnation, but he never said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” Wow! Who in the world is saying that if it isn’t Jesus Christ, Lord God?
I think, for example, of Freud. Remember him? He thought that psychotherapy would really help people, and maybe it has. I’m not sure, but he never said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” He never said that. Who would have the nerve to say that?
Oh, well let’s bring in Lenin. Lenin said that when Communism took over that there’d be bread on every table in Russia. He never said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger. He who believes in me shall never thirst.” He never said that.
Jesus said that. And for those of you who are looking for a path to God, let me give you a promise of Jesus. When He says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who does not obey the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides with him,” what Jesus was saying is that your eternal destiny is dependent upon your relationship with Him, and there is nobody else like Jesus. There is nobody else like Jesus. (applause)
Where does this leave us? First of all, God has spoken, and He has not stuttered. He has given us His mind, His revelation, parts of it difficult to understand. We dispute some of it. We understand all that, but we do have from God a sure word.
Ingmar Bergman, over in Europe, looked at a portrait of Christ and said, “Speak to me.” There was silence, and so he made a movie entitled Silence. If Bergman had opened up the Scriptures and looked at the book of the New Testament, though he could have used the Old, he’d have found out that God has spoken. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
There is a sure word that comes to us from heaven.”
Secondly, the Word of God has power. Let me ask you something. Let’s suppose that during the days of the riots in Los Angeles (we’re talking about racial riots and the burning of the city), you were driving down a rather dimly lit street, and suddenly you noticed – bang, bang! – you have two tires that are blown out. And there you sit. You know, you try goose it. You put your foot on the gas pedal, but the car won’t go. Suddenly, out of a house stream 12 or 15 young men, and they surround your car.
Let me ask you this: Would you feel relieved if you discovered that they were on their way home from a Bible study? I think even an atheist would feel better after that. (laughter) I really do!
Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee. The Word of God is quick and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart, because all things are naked and open unto the eyes of whom we have to do. The Word of God rebukes us. The Word of God challenges us.
Peter said we are born again not by corruptible seed, but incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever. All flesh is as grass and the flower of man is the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever.
Many people have thought that the Bible could be buried. They have taken the Bible and they have said, “Let’s have a committal service. Let’s bury the Bible. It’s full of mythology. We know better, etc. etc.” But somehow the corpse never really stays put. It’s always there, challenging hearts, leading hearts, converting hearts, and we see it by its divine power.
In the early 1950s the pastor of The Moody Church was a man by the name of Franklin Logsdon. Logsdon was a wonderful man. I met him only once, and I had him preach here, but he has long since gone to heaven. He began every sermon this way, speaking about the Bible, and though I’d never seen this poem written, I think I can quote it.
Think of it carefully, study it prayerfully.
Deep in thine heart let its oracles dwell.
Ponder its mystery, slight not its history,
None e’er can love it too fondly or well.
Ladies and gentlemen, to all who are watching, to all who are listening here at The Moody Church and around the world, this is God’s Holy Word! (applause)
Father, we pray today that Your Word may sink deeply into our hearts. Even as we remember our Lord’s death, we thank You today that He is the apex of Scripture. He is the reason it was written, that all Scriptures point to Him as Savior, Lord God. We love Him. We serve Him. We worship Him. In His name we pray, Amen.