Why You Can Trust the Bible
2 Peter 1:16-21
May 2, 2015 | Brian Bill
I was up in Madison to speak to some young men who are involved in a ministry called Cru. Being in Madison is good for me because it’s where I got saved 36 years ago. It helps me think about what my life was like before I met Christ. My mind floods with memories of how God used my college roommate to lead me to Jesus and all the things I learned through Cru (called Campus Crusade then) and other campus ministries. God reminded of what I already know so I can remember what we’ve learned.
Preach the gospel to yourself every day
My college friend Jim is now the associate dean in the School of Business and asked me to share my top ten insights for “Making an Impact” with guys who are just about to graduate. I came up with 12. Interestingly, Jim put his own list together and he came up with 12 as well. Here’s the very first thing I wrote down: Preach the gospel to yourself every day – don’t ever forget God’s grace. And on Jim’s discipleship dozen, he made a similar statement: Remember your plight before you found Christ…repent frequently and thank God for Christ’s perfect sacrifice.
I found it fascinating that we both came up with something so similar: “Don’t ever forget God’s grace…Remember your plight before you found Christ and repent frequently.”
That’s exactly what the ordinance of communion is designed to do. Whenever I go to Madison I recount God’s grace in my life and replay the gospel. When we participate in communion we remember the cross, where Christ made the perfect sacrifice. And, we’re called to repent frequently as we replay the gospel.
Jesus knew that our faith would become fickle and we’d be forgetful so he gave us something tangible to see, touch and taste. Communion is designed to jog our memory, to stir us up again spiritually and even to correct us.
We see this in 1 Corinthians 11.
- Look up. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
- Look within. 28 – But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
- Look around. 33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
And so, we evaluate our relationship with God, we do an inventory of our own lives and finally we’re called to consider whether we have any relational ruptures. Up, in and around.
Take some time right now to do that.
After giving some correctives we’re then given some directives in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
Here are some popular Bible beliefs I wrote down…
- I have my own spiritual thing.
- I see it as my own conceptualized feeling.
- I find my spiritual source within myself and from the people around me.
- It’s better to take your religious or spiritual stuff from everyday experiences and put it in more modern terms.
I experienced some of that a week and a half ago when I attended an interfaith dialogue in Rock Island featuring a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Muslim imam. I was surprised when I walked in the room to see that there were well over a hundred people in attendance. The title for the dialogue was this: “Intersections, Bridges and Divided Highways: Meeting Each Other on the Path to God.”
While dialogue is desirable I cringed when I heard statements like this: “We have more that unites than divides us…we’re all journeying toward our Creator. Let’s deepen our appreciation and understand our differences as we discover the truths we share…We are all children of the father who calls us to live in unity and peace…My God is their God and their God is my God… God wants us all to be one. We all have one responsibility and this is to return to the Father. It’s much easier when all the children work together and dialog with respect for one another…Try your best to be a better person and in the end its the decision of God to decide on eternity for each of us…Everyone has the ‘spark of the divine’ within them. We need to help connect these sparks in others.”
During the Q&A time we were invited to jot down questions for a specific panelist. I asked a question about apocalyptic Islam and how that relates to the persecution and beheading of Christians, which wasn’t answered. In fairness, the imam clearly condemned the atrocities committed by ISIS. Another question that was directed to each of them was read but never answered: “How would you describe God?” I wish they had answered it because that is the question.
As I reflected on all this, it hit me that the question of truth never came up either. The Bible was not consulted. Are these three religions simply different paths to God or is there one that is true? How do we know? Is our faith just built on a contextualized feeling? It ultimately comes down to our truth source, the Bible.
One popular question asked to me is,“How do you really know when God is speaking to you?” Here’s part of my response:
I really like your question because it reveals that you want to hear from God. Psalm 115:5 says that idols cannot speak: “They have mouths but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.” Contrary to false gods who are mute, God has revealed himself in three primary ways.
- Through the creation of the world. God has put His glory on display through what He has created. Psalm 19:1-2: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”
- Through Jesus. Jesus is the revelation of God as stated in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
- Through the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 establishes the primacy of Scripture: “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 complete, equipped for every good work.” There’s much to be said about this passage but notice the word, “complete.” If you want to know what God has said, read the Bible because it is God’s complete revelation and everything you need to know to make you complete is found within its pages. I am so glad that we serve a God who has spoken and recorded what He wanted said in the Scriptures.
God does not contradict himself.
Let me caution against looking for something “extra” or “in addition” to what God has revealed in the Bible. What God wanted communicated He put in the Bible. Anything He wants us to know will be consistent with what He has already revealed in the Scriptures. God does not contradict himself. The canon of Scripture is now closed.
I get concerned when I hear someone say, “God told me to…” If this is something already revealed in the Bible then we know it’s from Him. For instance, we could say, “God told me to keep my marriage vows.” We know that’s true because that’s what the Bible says.
Be cautious of someone who claims to hear from God directly and speak for God personally. Right after establishing how God moved among men to record His infallible revelation in 2 Peter 1:20-21 (which is part of our passage today), 2 Peter 2:1 says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”
We’re going to see today that our faith is not built on feelings or fables but on facts. Our text is found in 2 Peter 1:16-21: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
And so here’s a question: How can we trust that the Bible is true? This passage gives us three evidences.
1. Power of witnesses.
Peter makes it clear that he was present when Jesus ministered on the earth. Check out verse 16: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Peter and the others did not fabricate fables or skillfully weave stories together in order to deceive people. Being a fisherman, he was no doubt capable of spinning a fishing fable! Instead, Peter spoke of the power and presence of Jesus Christ. Jesus came and He’s coming again with power, a fact that false teachers will deny in chapter 3.
These early followers of Christ were actually “eyewitnesses,” which means they “inspected and observed” Jesus. It was used to refer to someone with first-hand knowledge of an event. 1 John 1:1-3 puts it like this: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you.”
And the defining event for Peter was the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mountain as stated in verses 17-18: “For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” This exact some statement is made after Jesus was baptized in Matthew 3:17: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”
This eyewitness encounter showcased the power, majesty, honor and glory of Jesus Christ. Jesus is revealed as God himself with the Shekinah glory on full display above the mountain, much like the Shekinah above the mercy seat. His clothes were exceedingly white, like snow and when Moses and Elijah appeared, there was no doubt in their minds that Jesus was fully divine. And notice that this was not just Peter’s perspective because he uses the pronoun “we” emphatically, referring to his buddies James and John who were also there.
2. Prophecy of the Word.
Eyewitnesses are strong but we have something even more certain as seen in verse 19: “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” We can trust the Bible because of eyewitness experience and because of the authority of the Old Testament prophets. The word “confirmed” means, “certain or fixed.” One translation captures it well: “The prophetic Word is made more sure.” The Word of God is more authoritative than the experiences or so-called expertise of anyone.
Have you noticed that the Word of God is under attack today? One presidential candidate recently said that, “Deep seated…religious beliefs…have to be changed” regarding “reproductive health care,” which is a euphemism for abortion. And on the topic of marriage a columnist for the New York Times said last month that the Bible should be changed. It sure seems like Amos 8:11 is descriptive of what we see today: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.’”
There has never been a famine of hearing the Word of God at our church and there never will be as we feast on the riches of sure and certain Word. But, friends, let’s face it. If you stand on the certainty of Scripture you will be going against the tidal wave of moral relativism in our society. You will be mocked, ignored and perhaps even persecuted. That’s why I was delighted to see that over 5,000 pastors attended the most recent Shepherd’s Conference led by John MacArthur entitled, “Inerrancy and the Prophetic Word.”
What Ray Pritchard says is certainly true: “What we believe about the Bible is fundamental and foundational to everything else we are trying to do as a church.” That’s why the number one doctrine listed on Edgewood’s doctrinal statement is the Bible. This is what we affirm: “We believe the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 as the verbally inspired and infallible Word of God.” Verbal means “word-for-word.” Another word that is often used to describe the doctrine of inspiration is plenary, which means “to every part.” Every word and every part of the Bible is the Word of God, whether we like it or not, or whether it’s popular or not.
Psalm 19:7: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” BTW, one way we know that the Bible is certain is because over 300 Old Testament prophecies have been precisely fulfilled!
We’re called to “heed” the Word, which means, “to bend our ear to hear it.” One reason people battle against the Bible is because it’s like “a light that shines in a dark place.” Our world is sure dark today, isn’t it? Our job is to bring the light of the Word into dark places in our world. The problem is that people often don’t want the light turned on because it hurts their eyes and exposes deeds done in darkness. That’s exactly what Jesus said in John 3:19-20: “That the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
As I weep and wonder about what’s happening in our world today, this passage has a couple very practical truths that speak right into our news headlines.
- As our world continues to slip into darkness, because we are sure and certain we can stand on the Scriptures. No matter what our culture or the courts declare, God created marriage to be a covenant commitment between one man and one woman for life. We stand on this truth and we can be certain about it because that’s what the Bible teaches.
- As our world gets darker, the Word shines brighter. Peace has been restored in Baltimore in large part because of Bible-believing Christians who are serving as peacemakers. And it’s Christ-followers who are bringing light and life to the darkness and despair felt by the people of Nepal. Samaritans Purse and World Relief are taking the lead in these efforts. If you’d like to help out financially, there’s more information in the bulletin.
- In the midst of hopelessness, we must be a people of hope. I love the last part of verse 19 because it’s filled with hope: “…Until the day dawns and morning star rises in our hearts.” To “dawn” literally means to “shine through,” like the first gleams of sunlight piercing the darkness. Listen to what John 1:5 says: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” Isaiah 60:1 calls us to stand with confidence: “Arise, shine; for your light has come!” The “Morning Star” is a reference to the planet Venus that is so bright that out in the desert it looks like the sun. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus calls himself the “Bright and Morning Star.”
- The Bible satisfies our head and our heart. When Peter says that the morning star rises in our hearts, we can have the same outward certainty about the Scriptures on the inside. Scripture is verifiable objective truth and its also confirmed subjective truth in our hearts. We could say it this way: We can be certain that the Bible is true and we can sense that’s its true. We can know it in our heads and feel it in our hearts. 2 Corinthians 4:6: “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
And so we can be certain because of the power of witnesses and the prophecy of the Word. The third piece of evidence is overwhelming.
3. Proof of writings.
The word “Scripture” means, writings. We see this in verses 20-21: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” When it comes to the Bible Peter takes us to what is most important. That’s what “first” means here – “first of all, before all.” What Peter is going to say next is of primary importance.
- Scripture is not made up by men. No section of Scripture came about based on the prophet’s own ideas or thoughts. The word translated, “interpretation” means “release” or “unloosing” and refers to the origin of Scripture. They’re not just letting their thoughts and ideas come out like false prophets do according to Ezekiel 13:3: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!” Revelation of God “never came by the will of men.” The word “never” means, “absolutely none.”
- Scripture came about as men were moved by the Holy Spirit. The word “moved” was used of ships being driven or borne along by the wind. It’s the idea of being carried along or driven. The writers of Scripture simply raised their sails and the Spirit moved them to write what He wanted written. God himself spoke authoritatively through human instruments as His Spirit carried them along.
Did men write the Bible? Yes. But there’s more. What these men wrote came about because they were moved by the Holy Spirit to write what God wanted written. The human authors were instruments, not originators. The Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture. One pastor puts it like this: “As the writers of Scripture put their words on paper, God so controlled them and the Holy Spirit superintended the process so that what was ultimately written was exactly what God wanted written. No more and no less.”
It’s really a big deal to grasp this because false prophets don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word. Other religions have added to it.
Ultimately the Bible must move from importance to experience to our very existence. Here then are some steps to take in order to be saturated with Scripture.
- Need the Word. Do you need the word? Do you long to know what God says? Donald Whitney writes, “Some of the most important changes in my life occurred when I asked, ‘What does the Bible say about this?’”
- Read the Word. Jesus assumes that believers will know the Bible and be reading it regularly. Matthew 21:16: “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”
Here are some practical practices to help you read the Word on a regular basis.
- Develop the habit of “hang time” with God. You must plan this in order for it to happen. It might be in the morning or at night or in the middle of the day.
- Use a Bible Reading Plan and Take 15 in 2015. We still have some available or you can download one from our website.
- Start small. The more you read, the more you’ll want to read.
- Pray this prayer from Psalm 119:18 – “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
The simple act of reading will do a lot to combat the biblical illiteracy that seems rampant today.
- Feed from the Word. First, we must need the Bible. Second, we must read from the Bible. Third, we must feed from it. Be like the Psalmist who prayed in Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” There is we are not content to skim on the surface of Scripture but to dive in deep.
- Heed the Word. It’s not enough to just believe in the inspiration of the Bible, we must also live under its authority. Frist we believe the Bible and then we obey it. Go back to 2 Peter 1:19: “You will do well to heed…” Get in the practice of saying to God, “I will do what your Word says, no matter what it says, no matter how hard it is.” If you’re looking to find your purpose in life, obey the Bible. You will find the will of God in the Word of God.
- Seed the Word. Finally, we’re to seed the Word by sharing it with others. Let’s redouble our efforts to get the gospel to people.
The year was 1949 and a young man started to doubt the truth of the Bible. He wrestled with questions he could not entirely answer. One of his close friends went to a liberal seminary where his faith in the Bible faltered. He came back and told the young man, “You need to give up this fundamentalist view of the Bible. This is the twentieth century. You can’t preach the Bible that way anymore. If you keep preaching the Bible this way, your ministry is going to come to nothing.”
This further cast doubt on the young man’s faith. He then went to a Christian Center where he wrestled with two main questions: “Is the Bible the word of God or is it not? Can I believe it or not?”
Finally he knew he had to make a decision. He skipped the evening meeting to pray by himself. Listen to how he described it in his own words: “I dueled with my doubts, and my soul seemed to be caught in the crossfire. Finally, in desperation, I surrendered my will to the living God revealed in Scripture. I knelt before the open Bible, and said, ‘Lord, many things in this Book I do not understand. But Thou hast said, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ All I have received from Thee, I have taken by faith. Here and now, by faith, I accept the Bible as Thy Word. That which I cannot understand I will reserve judgment on until I receive more light. If this pleases Thee, give me authority as I proclaim Thy Word, and through that authority convict men of sin and turn sinners to the Savior.”
That was the turning point for Billy Graham. Six weeks later the great crusade began in Los Angeles, which would change the course of American history as thousands came to faith in Christ.
By his own admission, everything that has happened in Billy Graham’s life goes back to that night when he put the Bible down and knelt before God and said, “Oh, God, I do not understand it all, but I am willing to believe it and willing to obey it.” He later wrote these words: “During that crusade I discovered the secret that changed my ministry. I stopped trying to prove that the Bible was true. I had settled in my own mind that it was, and this faith was conveyed to the audience. Over and over again I found myself saying, ‘The Bible says.’ I felt as though I were merely a voice through which the Holy Spirit was speaking…I found that the Bible became a flame in my hands. That flame melted away unbelief in the hearts of people and moved them to decide for Christ. The Word became like a hammer breaking up stony hearts and shaping them into the likeness of God…I began to rely more and more upon Scripture itself, and God blessed.” (From “Give Me That Book” by Robert Coleman in The Alliance Witness, January 7, 1987)
All of us stand exactly at that same position right now. We can say we believe the Word of God is true even though we don’t understand every part of it. Or we can follow the way of liberal unbelief and apostasy and ultimately drift away from God. The decision is as sharp as that, and there’s really no middle ground.
Either you believe the Bible is the word of God or you don’t.
I want you to stand and hold your Bible in your hand. This is what Edgewood believes: “We believe the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 as the verbally inspired and infallible Word of God.”
I’m going to ask you some questions and if you agree, shout out these words, “WE DO.”
- Do you believe the Bible is the verbally inspired and infallible Word of God?
- Do you trust the power of witnesses, the prophecy of the Word and the proof of the writings?
- Do you commit to need, read, feed, heed and seed the Word of God?