Unshakeable Truth for Unstable Times

by Doug Smith

Audio of the sermon by the same title

https://vimeo.com/97686503

My first job was as a tour guide in a show cave.  While my primary assignment was taking tourists on an hour-long expedition over paved walkways, through illuminated underground passages, occasionally I was offered the opportunity to venture off the beaten path with my co-workers and the owners of the cave.

One time I began walking just past the underground creek on an area that appeared to be solid.  I soon found out that the rock, which appeared thick and solid, was only about an inch thick.  It cracked under my weight and I found myself sliding through some mud (thankfully it was not very high!).

I’m afraid that many people – especially people who have been exposed to the truth – are standing on shaky ground in regard to their beliefs about God’s revelation to us in the Bible.  2 Timothy 3 warns us that perilous times would come filled with dangerous false teachers.  We are in unstable times, and we need somewhere safe to stand.  The unshakeable truth of God’s holy Book is that place.

WE SHOULD HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THE TRUTH OF THIS BOOK

In verse 15, the Holy Spirit, through the pen of the apostle Paul, reminds us that the Bible is a holy book.  From childhood, Timothy had known the Holy Scriptures, or sacred writings.  These writings are special – different from other writings.  They also testify to Jesus, as they are able to make us wise to salvation in Christ. (And keep in mind, the Scripture Timothy had what Christians today call the Old Testament, which told of Christ.)

Paul goes on to speak of “all Scripture” (verse 16).  Not just portions of it.  Not just certain books.  All Scripture.  We now haveall Scripture in the form of 66 books.  The Old Testament is composed of 39 books originally written in Hebrew (with some in Aramaic) and the New Testament is made up of 27 books originally written in Greek.  We then read that all Scripture is “given by inspiration of God” or, God-breathed.  Second Peter 1:19-21 described Scripture as the result of God’s Spirit moving holy men of God.  To describe it, as popular science personality Bill Nye did, as “a 3,000 year old book translated into American English” is to misunderstand the history and nature of Scripture, which, as Matt Slick at carm.org described it, is “a collection of 66 books written by about 40 authors, in three different languages, on three different continents, over approximately 1600 years” (but which is remarkably unified in its message!).

The source of Scripture is God Himself.  This is where the term “plenary, verbal inspiration” comes from (meaning the full text of all Scripture comes from God).  Since God is the Author of Scripture, the One who breathed it out, and since He is Truth, and since He is the ultimate Authority, this Book has no errors, and this Book has authority – the right to tell us what we should believe and do.

The Scriptures not only come from God, but they are useful for us.  Doctrine (teaching), reproof, correction, instruction (training) in righteousness are the four things listed (2 Timothy 3:16).  We profit from Scripture when we let God teach us, point out wrong in our lives, correct us, and train us to follow Him.  Verse 17 says they are sufficient for the man of God (and those he ministers to) to be equipped for every good work (they help us with the reason God saved us, cf. Ephesians 2:8-10).

WE SHOULD CONTINUE IN THE TRUTH OF THIS BOOK

Timothy had a godly upbringing.  Paul begins the book commending the faith of Timothy, a faith that had dwelt in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. They had taught him well, and he was to continue “in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them,” even “from childhood” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).  Similarly, many Christians have had the blessing of a godly upbringing.  Yet some seek to throw off the things they have been taught as they leave home to pursue a college education or a career or ungodly friendships or pastimes.  This is to leave a firm foundation for shifting sands.  Let us not forsake or despise a godly heritage, but value it and continue in it.

Timothy also had a godly example in the apostle Paul.  He fully knew Paul’s “doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience…what persecutions I endured” and God’s deliverance of him.  While “evil men and seducers” would “wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived,” Timothy was to remember that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” and that he was to continue in what he had learned.  While we may or may not have a godly heritage from our childhood, we can find godly examples today – pastors, evangelists, missionaries, fellow Christian who are committed to the Lord – and we can follow in their footsteps as they follow Christ, as we seek to stand firmly on the unshakeable truth of God’s Word.  As Jesus said “to those Jews which believed on him, ‘If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32).

WE SHOULD COMMUNICATE THE TRUTH OF THIS BOOK

Confidence and continuance in the Bible must also give way to communication of it.  It is not merely for ourselves that God gave us this Book, but so that we might spread its message.  Paul told Timothy, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).  God will hold us accountable for what we do with the Book of which He is the ultimate Author.

Timothy was to communicate the Word through his preaching (verse 2).  He was to do the work of an evangelist, spreading the message, and completing the ministry to which God had called him (verse 5).  Today, we must still proclaim what God has said, whether it’s popular or not.  Paul wrote, “be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine” (verse 2).  We can share personally as well as publicly, and we can support others who are doing so, by listening, encouraging, and giving so the Word of God can continue to spread.

Not everyone will welcome the message of this Book, but we must communicate God’s Word even in the face of opposition.  We have been warned:  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine [healthy teaching]; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (verses 3-4).  This is exactly what is happening today.  Whether it is the fable of having our best life now, or the false teaching that God wants us all to be financially rich, or the myth of present life coming into existence by evolution from lower life forms, many want to have their ears tickled and not be challenged with healthy teaching.  They would rather eat junk food and even poison in place of taking the medicine and healthy food that God’s Word gives.  Nonetheless, we must still speak the truth.

We are in dangerous times and so must “watch” and “endure afflictions.”  Speaking the truth can get us in trouble.  It may result in an “F” on an assignment, or dismissal from a class.  It may cause us to lose a job.  It may make us the objects of ridicule or false accusation, as Elijah was called the troubler of Israel by the wicked king Ahab, who was the real problem by virtue of departing from the true God (1 Kings 18:17-18).  We may be called “intolerant” or “Bibliolators” (accusing us of worshiping a book instead of God).  It may even prompt some to physically attack or kill us.  Regardless of the reaction, our responsibility before the Author of this Book, to Whom we are accountable, is to “preach the Word.”

Christian, do not forsake the unshakeable truth of God’s Word for the shaky ground of philosophies, worldviews, and lifestyles that contradict what the Author of truth has spoken.  Place your confidence in God and the truth He has revealed.  Continue in it.  Communicate it.  Then sleep soundly at night, since you trust the Author and are on a firm foundation.

BookCoverKeepingtheFaithinaChristianCollegeKINDLEThis article originally appeared in the Common Ground Herald.  An adapted version of it appears in my book, Keeping the Faith in a Christian College.

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Christ Defines a “Christian View” of Scripture

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.

BookCoverKeepingtheFaithinaChristianCollegeKINDLEThis article originally appeared in the Common Ground Herald.  An adapted version of it appears in my book, Keeping the Faith in a Christian College.