by Doug Smith
What does it mean to have a “Christian” viewpoint about something? Various people and groups who would take the name “Christian” have a variety of views about matters such as baptism and church government, who can serve as pastors, Christian liberty, and what science does or doesn’t prove. Various folks who call themselves “Christians” even differ on the exact identity of Christ!
Many of us who do agree on the person of Christ — that He is eternally God, who became a man, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for sinners, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and is physically returning one day — are willing to acknowledge others as believers even if we disagree on some secondary (but not unimportant) issues. One of the reasons we can agree to disagree is because we share the same authority – the Bible (Old and New Testaments). We just disagree on how to interpret it and apply it when we come to certain key passages and issues. But as those who trust Christ as Savior and Lord, we cannot give any approval to a view that calls itself “Christian” while standing in stark opposition to what Christ Himself actually said and did, anymore than we could pretend that play money was a legitimate form of currency.
The good news of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is central to the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each of these Gospels focuses on the Person and work of our Lord. One fascinating and helpful thing we can learn about Jesus is how He viewed Scripture, demonstrated in his quotation, application, and teaching about God’s written Word. Looking at Jesus’ use of Scripture answers several questions for us and helps us test whether our view of the Bible is truly a “Christ”-ian view.
DID JESUS BELIEVE THE SCRIPTURES WERE HISTORICALLY ACCURATE?
Some who claim a “Christian” view of the Bible have alleged that it is reliable in regard to spiritual matters, but when it comes to history, it has mistakes. What did the Son of God think?
In his article, “Embracing Christ’s View of Scripture,” Terry Mortenson observes: “Jesus acknowledged that Adam and Eve were the first married couple (Matthew 19:3–6; Mark 10:3–9) and Abel was the first prophet and was martyred (Luke 11:50–51). He believed the accounts of Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:37–39), Lot and his wife (Luke 17:28–32), Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15), Moses and the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14), the manna from heaven (John 6:32– 33, 6:49), the miracles of Elijah (Luke 4:25–27), Jonah and the big fish (Matthew 12:40–41)—the list goes on.
“Jesus did not allegorize these accounts but took them as real events that actually happened just as the Old Testament describes. He used these past events to reassure His disciples that the future events of His own death, Resurrection, and Second Coming would likewise certainly happen in time-space reality.”
A truly Christian view of the Bible trusts its complete reliability – even to the point of historical persons and details.
DID JESUS BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURES WERE WITHOUT ERROR?
Some claim a “Christian” view of the Bible, yet they freely confess their belief that this Book that claims to come from God has errors. What did Jesus believe?
Jesus said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18). He also said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
In “The Christian’s View of Scripture,” Kevin DeYoung explains, “The word for ‘broken’ (luo) in verse 35 means to loose, release, dismiss, or dissolve. It carries here the sense of breaking, nullifying, or invalidating. It’s Jesus way of affirming that no word of Scripture can be falsified. No promise or threat can fall short of fulfillment. No statement can be found guilty of error. For Jesus—just as for his Jewish audience—he believed Scripture was the word of God, and as such, it would be gross impiety to think that any word spoken by God, or committed to writing by God, might be an errant word, a wrong word, or a broken word.”
When the Sadducees tried to trick Jesus with a question about the resurrection (a teaching they did not believe), Jesus reprimanded them by saying, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). Jesus proceeded to prove the resurrection from a simple, but key, verb tense: God said I am (not was) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From this minute detail Jesus proved the resurrection and stated that God is not the God of the dead but of the living. If Jesus thought there were errors in the Scripture, how could he know the Scriptures to be one of the things that could have kept the Sadducees from erring?
A truly Christian view of the Bible agrees with Christ, that God gave the Scriptures with no errors.
DID JESUS BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURES WERE AUTHORITATIVE?
Christ’s view of the Scripture not only included belief in its historical reliability and inerrancy, but also its authority.
Jesus openly rebuked religious leaders who elevated human traditions above the commandment of God, recorded in Scripture (Matthew 15:1-9).
When Jesus faced temptation from Satan to turn stones into bread if He was really the Son of God (after being declared the Son of God publicly at His baptism and after fasting in the wilderness forty days), He responded, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” As the Son of God, Jesus subjected Himself to the authority of Scripture, called it necessary for life, and identified it as something that calls for our obedience.
As the Word of God, the Scriptures come from God and carry the divine authority by implication. A truly Christian view of the Bible agrees with Jesus, who taught their divine authority.
DID JESUS BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURES POINTED TO HIMSELF?
Another distinguishing mark of a Christian view of Scripture that follows Christ, is seeing Christ as the fulfillment of numerous Old Testament prophecies.
After His baptism and temptation, Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue (a prophecy of the Messiah/Christ from Isaiah 61). After reading it, He said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:16-32).
Jesus pointed out the irony of those who thought the Scriptures gave them life, telling them that they should search them, because they “testify of Me,” yet they would not come to Him, that they might have life (John 5:39-40). He said Moses himself would indict them for their unbelief, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:46-47)
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus met two confused disciples and “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). He also said, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” and showed them how the written Word of God had told of the sufferings and resurrection of Him, the One in whose name they were to go forth and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:44-47).
A truly Christian view of the Bible sees it as a book that is historically accurate, inerrant, authoritative, and prophetic.
DOES JESUS APPROVE OF YOUR “CHRISTIAN” VIEW?
Jesus once said to Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?” In a similar manner, if we cannot trust the Bible to give us an accurate account of the origin of the universe, the history of mankind, the record of the nation Israel, details about Jesus and the apostles, etc… how can we possibly trust it when it comes to matters of unseen, eternal things? If we don’t believe Genesis, how can we believe the Gospel of John? If we claim to be Christians, how can we justify identifying as Christian a view that opposes what Christ Himself taught?
The last word on the written Word has been spoken by Him Who is the incarnate Word. Let us honor and trust Him by letting Him define what is truly a “Christ”-ian view and taking His word for it.
This article originally appeared in the Common Ground Herald. An adapted version of it appears in my book, Keeping the Faith in a Christian College.