A Logical Reason: The Claims Of The BibleErwin W. Lutzer | October 12, 1997
Selected highlights from this sermon
Written by numerous authors in many genres over hundreds of years, the Bible claims to be the cohesive, dependable, consistent Word of God—and it is.
Yet many say otherwise. But if the Bible is truly God-breathed, it is completely without error in all it asserts. Most importantly, since the Bible is true, it means that there is a Savior in whom we can believe.
“The Bible is the Word of God because it says it is the Word of God.”
How do you like that logic? When I was a student at the university studying philosophy and logic, our professor used that illustration to give us an example of what he called circular reasoning, where you assume the point that is supposed to be proven. It’s something like asking a person, “Now why did you believe that stranger?” And he says, “Well, I believed him because he told me he was telling the truth.” And that seems to be a little naive, doesn’t it?
Now, of course, it’s true that the statement, “The Bible is the Word of God because it claims to be the Word of God,” just simply as a statement is, of course, circular reasoning. But I want you to know today that there’s more to the story than that. It is very important that we as Christians examine the Bible to see what it has to say about its own origin, and that it is only right, it’s only proper, and it is only fair. For example, let’s suppose that there were someone who was to be washed up and appear on the soil of the United States, and we don’t know where it is that he came from. Now, it might be interesting for us to get some experts to do an analysis of his clothes, of his facial features, and to see the raft that he came on. And maybe if we were to do that we might be able to determine his origin, but there would be nothing wrong with asking him where he came from. After all, he might be telling the truth. As a matter of fact, he might be saying some things to us that we might never know about him unless we were to ask him and he were to give us those details.
In fact, let us also say that in a court of law sometimes a defendant chooses to speak on his behalf. And we can imagine a defendant giving his own version of the story, and we don’t take his words for granted, but it is interesting to hear him. And if his story checks out, if we do some investigation and discover that what he tells us is consistent and makes sense, and has other ways by which it can be verified, why then indeed his personal testimony is very important.
As you may know, I am preaching a series of messages entitled Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, and I preached an introductory message that talked about what we mean by inspiration, that gave some understanding as to the importance of the subject.
But today really we are going to discuss the first reason why I believe the Bible is God’s Word. And I begin with a quote from Time Magazine. Someone wrote a letter to Time after the Heaven’s Gate Cult suicides. This was his response. He says, “Posters tell us that approximately thirty-four percent of Americans believe the Bible to be literally true, word for word. When you reflect that this belief includes walking on water, rising from the dead, angels, ghosts, demons, unclean spirits, and miraculous cures rather for blindness, it is clear that there is an enormous mass of ignorance here. Should we be truly surprised that Heaven’s Gate leaders hoodwinked their followers?”
Now, catch this statement: “The leap from biblical beliefs to the absurdities of this particular cult is a very small one.” Well, is that true? Is there a great difference between Marshall Applewhite and people saying, “Why should I follow you?” and he says, “Well, you should follow me because I say you should follow me,” and the testimony of Scripture?
Well, one of the things that I hope to do in this series of messages is to prove to you that the gap between a Marshall Applewhite and the testimony of Scripture is not only huge, but it is unbridgeable. Certainly there are some similarities in the sense that we also believe in demons and in a spirit world, but that’s where the similarities end. The question is whether somebody like Marshall Applewhite should be believed, or whether the testimony of Scriptures should be believed. And may I say to you that in this series of messages we are going to bring many different people to the witness stand. We are going to bring history to the witness stand, prophecy, science. Jesus Christ will be brought to the witness stand. And we shall see that far from basing our faith on something like Marshall Applewhite—far from that—our faith in the Scripture actually helps us to interpret the stupidities of the Heaven’s Gate Cult. Our interpretation of Scripture will help us to understand the world and our part in it. It will shed light on science and history, and the purposes of God in the world. And so I unashamedly and unapologetically begin today by talking about what the Bible has to say about itself. And we shall talk about what the Bible has to say about itself. We will see whether or not it has a consistent storyline, and then we shall see the implications of what I have just described. Earth shattering, and life changing implications!
And so, if you have your Bibles, let’s begin today by turning to 2 Timothy 3:16. We read these very familiar words: “All Scripture is breathed out (inspired) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The phrase I want us to look at is, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” Now, when Paul wrote this he was thinking primarily of the Old Testament. Sometimes when we use that word inspired we might misunderstand what the Bible is actually saying. You might get the impression that God enabled men to write the Scriptures, and then after they wrote what they did, He came along and He inspired them, and somehow gave these Scriptures life. That’s the way we sometimes use the word inspire. But in Greek (and the New Testament was written in Greek, and when we speak about the inspiration of the Bible, we are talking about the original Greek manuscripts) the word is theopneustos, which means God-breathed. It means that God did not just inspire, but God exhaled. He breathed out and the result was the Scriptures.
Now you think about this a little bit. The same God who created the universe, and spoke the Word and the worlds were created, is the same God who spoke, and the Bible (the books of the Bible) came into being. “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made and the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” (Psalm 33:6) There is the Hebrew expression in the Old Testament found here in the text in Greek. God breathed out. He spoke, and we have the Scriptures.
Now, of course, the Bible was written by men. We know that. In the last message… It’s very important that you get it, if you were not here, to see it in context. We talked about vocabulary, the limitations of languages, the human aspects of the Bible. But because He inspired men, and holy men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit, we can say that the Scriptures originated with God. They are His breath. They are the words of His mouth. “For man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
Now, what I want you to do is to keep your finger in the Scriptures in 2 Timothy 3:16 while you listen to me take a tour of some Old Testament texts, because what I would like to do is to show you how often the Bible claims to be the Word of God, and the implications will become clear in a moment.
Listen to these words from Exodus: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I made you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother, Aaron, shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you.’” Now listen to these words from the book of Deuteronomy. These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness: “And it came about in the fortieth year on the first day of the eleventh month that Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had commanded him to give them.”
Notice in Deuteronomy again we read: “He humbled you and let you be hungry and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you to understand that man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of God,” a verse that I quoted just a moment ago.
Listen to Isaiah the prophet: “Listen, oh heavens, and hear, oh earth, for the Lord speaks.” Verse 10 of the first chapter: “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom. Give ear to the instruction of our God you people of Gomorrah.” And then one of my favorite Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah! Notice what he says in chapter 1. Just listen carefully. “These are the words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah, the son of Ammon, king of Judah, in the thirtieth year of his reign.” Verse 4: “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying…” Verse 9: “Then the Lord stretched out his hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold I have put my words in your mouth.’” Verse 11:
“And the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’” Verse 13: “The word of the Lord came to me a second time saying, ‘What do you see?’” Verse 14: “Then the Lord said to me out of the north, ‘Evil will break forth,’” But it is the Lord who said it six times.
In Jeremiah chapter 1 alone, he says, “These are the words of the Lord.” And I don’t know how many times he keeps repeating that throughout the many chapters of his book.
Read some of the minor prophets, minor not because they are off-key (chuckles). You know, it is true that many people don’t know the Scriptures very well so some may think that minor prophets are those that you don’t like to have in a choir. The minor prophets are minor because they are shorter.
The Word of the Lord came to Amos, saying… And the Word of the Lord came to Hosea, saying… Over and over again! And what about in the New Testament? Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: “And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the Word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is—the Word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”
Now I know I’ve been going through a lot of passages of Scripture but I want us to just pause for a moment and just let this sink in. The Apostle Paul would be mad… He would be insane to write something like this unless, of course, he was writing the very words of God. And what shall we say of Peter, who says this in his book? “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently loving one another from the heart. For you have been born again, not of seed which is perishable but through the living and abiding word of God. All flesh is like the grass, and its glory is like the flower of the grass. The grass withers and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord abides forever, and this is the word which was preached to you.” Could that be any clearer?
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, what if we were to go through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and look at all the passages that claim that the Bible is the Word of God?” Well, I want you to know that we could do that sometime, but I would like you to bring your lunch and a sleeping bag and plan for a long, long time, because those who have done it tell us that there are about 1,500 references in the Bible that claim that it is the Word of God either directly or indirectly, claiming that these writings are the Word from God.
Now, the implications, as I mentioned, are going to become clear in a few moments, but before we get to them let me simply say, “What about the Bible? What about its story line? Is it consistent?” You know, in a court of law consistency is always important. There are other tests for truth other than consistency, but one thing is sure. You cannot have the truth if it is inconsistent. That is impossible. Logic demands consistency. Not even God can make two plus two equal to five. Consistency is the law of logic.
“And in the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.” The logic of God is Jesus Christ. There can be no inconsistencies. If you become a Christian nobody will ever ask you to believe a contradiction because that is absurdity. It has never been done by sane people.
Does the Bible have a coherent story as its witness to itself? The answer, of course, is yes. The unity of the Bible is incredible when you stop to think of it. Do you realize that it evolved over a period of fifteen centuries? It was written in three different languages. You’ll notice that during those fifteen centuries empires fell and other empires arose. You have during those centuries the rise of philosophies, such as among the Greeks you have Plato and Aristotle. You have other Greek philosophers, and then after the time of Jesus Christ, of course, you have what is known as Neoplatonism, which was around during the New Testament era.
All of these changes are going on in the world, and the books are being written and the books are being collected. The Bible was written by 40 different authors with a variety of occupations: kings, fishermen, tax collectors, prophets and even a physician. When you hold a Bible in your hands you know, of course, that you are not only holding a book. You are holding a library of 66 different books, and these books were written under different circumstances in different parts of the world. Some were written in Asia, Africa, Europe, Moses on Mount Sinai. Daniel was written in Babylon. And of course, there’s no way to even enumerate all the different cities from which the New Testament books, for example, were written.
Despite all of these differences, you have in the Scriptures an incredible interweaving of truth, so that from beginning to end you have a consistent storyline, and that storyline basically begins in Genesis where man fell. In chapter 3, verse 15, God says, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed.” It is there that Jesus Christ is predicted, and all the way through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua you begin to see how God is choosing a nation and preparing the coming of Jesus Christ.
And in the New Testament Jesus Christ appears. And the Old Testament is quoted in the New Testament 181 times primarily to show the fulfillment of prophesy. That does not refer to all of the other times that there are references to the Old Testament characters.
Someone has said that the New is in the Old concealed. The New is there. It’s there when you have the Passover Lamb. It is there when you find that Moses is saying that “God is going to raise up a prophet like unto me but he’s going to be greater than I am.” It is there. The New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed. Old Testament plants seeds that germinate and bear fruit in the New Testament.
Now just think about this for a moment. The styles of the writers and the kind of literature that is in the Bible is very diverse. We have history, law, poetry, parables, allegories. There are also biographies. All of this is found in the Bible, and yet the unity of Jesus Christ from Genesis 3:15 to the book of Revelation at the end where it says, “Even so come, Lord Jesus,” is all tied in a single theme with a single consistent purpose and teaching.
Imagine trying to get ten men together, and you ask these ten men to write about topics as diverse as God and His nature, God’s relationship to the world, angels, demons, the afterlife, such as heaven and hell, the true nature of God’s purposes, and you expect all of these ten men to somehow agree. What we have in the Bible is 40 such men over a period of 1,500 years, all agreeing, but not just writing essays on various topics, but inter-relating the Scriptures in a way that makes the fair-minded reader astounded. Imagine writing on all those topics and agreeing.
You know, the Bible has unity of symbolism. Fire always is symbolic of purification and judgment. There is unity of symbolism regarding oil that represents the Holy Spirit. Leaven–evil represents it. And then you see books such as the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, and its prophecies, by the way, are accurate and astounding as we shall see in another message. Here you have the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, and the book of Revelation in the New Testament, and they dovetail like a hand and a glove. And you find out that they are talking about the same time periods, the same kind of kingdoms, the same kind of future, and the book of Revelation is only adding more details to what Daniel has already written, and it has these visions and these difficult symbols which we do not perhaps fully understand, but nonetheless we see its central teaching, and we are astounded at its accuracy and its unity.
How do we describe the Bible? The Bible is really like a cathedral. It has different parts, different lighting, different arrangements, architecture within it, but all unified so that it is a part of a consistent whole. And we see it and we say to ourselves, “Surely men could not have written all of these books. They could not have.”
I’d like to just simply draw some conclusions to what we’ve learned so far today. First of all, the Bible is either entirely true or entirely unreliable and fictitious. It’s one of the two. If there is anything that wearies me it is religious liberals because they say, “The Bible is not the Word of God.” “No, no, these men did not write the Word of God. There is no Word from God,” they say, “but the Bible is nonetheless a wonderful, beautiful book. It’s one from which we preach on Sundays. We love the readings of the Sermon on the Mount. It is a very valuable book.”
I wish I’d have brought some quotes with me. I could have, but I have in my library some who have written things like that. In fact, there’s one author who says, “Once we realize that the Bible did not originate in the mind of God, then its real human beauty comes to us.”
My dear friend, listen to this carefully. If the Bible did not originate with God, we know at the beginning that it’s got at least 1,500 errors. That’s just for starters, because if it’s wrong regarding its origin, it most assuredly cannot be trusted in any other doctrine. That’s for sure.
Could you imagine a biography of Churchill? The author continually refers to Churchill and says, “You know, we had this conversation, and Churchill told me, and the word of Churchill came to me, and he said this.” And then you discover that the man never met Churchill. You discover that there is no evidence that they had any kind of a meeting, that the man was just making it all up. Now, mind you he was a sincere man. That’s what liberals always like to say about the writers of the Bible. “They were wrong, but oh, they were very sincere.” And so we say, “Well, you know this biographer was very sincere. He actually thought that he was in contact with Churchill. Give him some credit.” Would you say now, “Oh, what a wonderful biography this is”? Isn’t this ever a helpful biography? Doesn’t it shed a lot of light as to what was happening in Britain during those days?” Nonsense! It’s unworthy of the fire, but that’s where you throw it.
Now, listen, there are some of you who are on the fence today. Okay? Some of you are convinced that the Bible is the Word of God, but there are some of you who are unbelievers. Or maybe you say you believe, but you can’t quite handle the fact that the Bible is the Word of God. At least have the courage of your convictions. Come out of the closet. Don’t hide. If you do not accept what the writers of Scripture have said about the origin of their words, then at least be very clear that the Bible has no value whatever, except there may be bits and pieces of poetry that are interesting, but as some kind of a revelation or a guidebook, it is a deep, deep bitter deception. Just admit it. Either it is a good book, or it is a perverse book. Either it is a reliable book, or it is indeed a deception. Either it is the Word of God or it is the word of foolish, deceived silly men. And we must make up our minds.
Let me give you a second conclusion. If the claims of the Bible are true, that it is the Word of God, then of course, we must believe that it comes to us without error in the original manuscripts that were written. I mean that only makes sense. If God breathed, and out of that breathing came the Words of God, are you really telling me that along with the truth that He gave us, that He also mixed in with it some mistakes and some errors? Is that what you are telling me?
Are you telling me that God who is truth inspired men of God to write the Holy Scriptures so that He could say that these are the words of God, and then we discover that there are parts of it that are unreliable? People say today, “Well, you know, God was not up on His history, and so He made a few mistakes. The Bible was written before all of the advances of science. God was unaware of what these men were someday going to uncover, so He slipped in some mistakes along the way. He didn’t know better.” (chuckles)
My dear friends, the Bible says this: “The words of the Lord are pure words as silver tried in a fire seven times.” Every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God is accurate and never misleading. Never! We may argue about its interpretation. We may debate as to what God meant. We may not always agree on exactly what the message was in some points. But one thing is sure. If we understood it the way God intended it to be understood, knowing full well the context of human language and all the rest, we would know what God said is reliable and dependable.
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away. My word shall not pass away.” He said that not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law until everything is fulfilled, and He also said that the Scripture cannot be broken. It is an accurate word from God.
Now you say, “Well, aren’t there a whole lot of contradictions in the Bible?” Let me simply say this. Throughout the centuries books have been written about the contradictions in the Bible, and scholars have pursued these so-called contradictions. And they’ve discovered that in virtually almost every case, the contradiction can be resolved, that it isn’t a contradiction at all, that it is possible to believe everything that is in the Bible without fear of having to believe that two plus two is equal to five, because nobody would ever require you to put your head in the sand to become a believer in the Bible.
There are some contradictions which perhaps have not yet quite been resolved where perhaps we don’t know the context or exactly the meaning that was intended, but those are very minor and very few. And in light of the fact that so many things that the liberals said about the Bible for years were wrong have not been disproven, that is to say, the theories have been disproven, and the Bible has proven to be right, we have every reason to believe that as we have more information and more knowledge that we will eventually conclude that there is no contradiction in the Bible. God cannot contradict Himself. He cannot contradict Himself.
If the Bible is the Word of God… And you say, “Well, how do you know we have the right books?” Well, all that you need to do, in addition to doing some studying, is to make sure that you come to all of these messages, because we’re going to be dealing with issues like that, but the books that have been given to us, claiming to be God’s Word, if they are, we have in our hands a reliable love letter from Almighty God.
And there’s a third conclusion, and that is this: The good news is if the Bible is true, we have a Savior. The Scripture says that Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was crucified and buried and was raised again, according to the Scriptures. And so what we have in our hands is a message from God. It’s a message from God. And what we have is the assurance that we have a Christ who is actually able to save us, to forgive our sins and to take us to God.
Yesterday somebody was telling me that when they were in Geneva, Switzerland (and you know Geneva is a very beautiful city situated in the mountains) they came across a house with its shutters closed toward the mountains. Well, I don’t know who is living there, but I do know that because of my wife’s love of mountains and my own appreciation for the grandeur of mountains, if we lived there, we’d keep those shutters open, it seems to me. But you know, there are people who have their shutters closed in the presence of the mountain.
The Bible says that the entrance of thy Word gives light. It gives understanding to the simple. And if you are here today and you have your doubts, and you’ve dismissed the Bible long ago as a bunch of fairy tales, if that’s who you are, I have a challenge for you. Why don’t you open the shutters, have the courage to (Most people don’t.), and begin to say, “I am going to begin reading the New Testament, reading about Christ with an honest heart and an honest mind, and I will not quit until I have read every word of the New Testament. And even if I don’t believe in God, praying to God and saying, ‘God, I don’t think you’re there, but if You are, show me that this is the truth.’” That’s a challenge for you. Open the shutter. Let some light in. And you will discover that the Bible contains within it an awesome power to authenticate even itself. And you, I believe, will come to the conclusion that we do not have a book full of lies and 1,500 mistakes regarding its origin. But we have in our hands the very Word of the living God.
Friends, this book is the Word of God, and not the words of men. And if you’ve never trusted Christ as your Savior, I mentioned a moment ago we have a Savior. Why don’t you just acknowledge your need as a sinner and believe on a Christ who died that you might be reconciled to God forever? Give up all of your attempts to please Him yourself. It’s hopeless anyway. Give up all faith in your own rituals, and come to Christ in humility and say, “Lord, save me.” And He will.
Let us pray.
Our Father, we thank You today that Your word is true. We thank You, Father, for the fact that the Word of God comes to us today through the Scriptures, and that we can say,
Beyond the sacred page I see Thee, Lord.
My spirit pants for Thee, oh living Word.
Help us to develop confidence, we pray, in Your book. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.