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Why I Believe in the Bible, Part 1

From the series Why I Believe

In this program, Chip asks: Is it intellectually feasible to believe that a collection of sixty-six manuscripts, by forty different authors, written in three languages, over a period of fifteen hundred years could actually be the very words of God? If you’ve ever struggled with questions about the authenticity and integrity of the Bible, what Chip shares will be a great encouragement.

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Message Transcript

What I want to do is I want to ask a handful of questions and give you the reason of what I learned of why I have confidence in the Bible as God’s Word.

The first question is: isn’t the Bible a collection of stories, myths, and legends? The answer to that is: no. And why? Archaeology. The Bible is an historically accurate document. Are you ready for this? There are over twenty-five thousand specific places in the Old Testament alone that are verified in history. Actual cities; actual people.

I can go to the New Testament, there are inscriptions. All the things we have heard about: Pontius Pilate, Bethlehem, Jesus, the census – all those things are historical facts that can be verified.

The New Testament, the Old Testament is not myths, dreams, legends, or stories. It’s people, places, and real events that can be verified.

The second question: don’t all religions have their holy book? What makes the Bible so special? The answer: Revelation. Revelation! The Bible claims to infallibly reveal the very words and the mind of God.

2 Timothy 3:16 says this, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” In other words, all Scripture, the very words of the Bible, are inspired or God-breathed through human instruments and through their personalities, but God superintended it in such a way that what we have is the very Word of God.

Now, you might say to yourself, Well, Chip, that is a little bit of circular reasoning, and I will admit that. But over three thousand times, “Thus says the Lord.” It makes it unique. In other words, it’s authoritative. So, there are lots of holy books, but here’s what I want you to get: the Bible claims to be the infallible, revealed Word of God. That makes it unique. But there’s something else that makes it unique. Its origin, it’s structure, and its unity.

A lot of people have no idea – did some guy just sit down and write the Bible? No! Are you ready for this? There are forty different authors, three different languages, over fifteen hundred years. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, New Testament was primarily Koine Greek, but also Aramaic.

And you have these different authors from all these different timeframes, and are you ready for this? In different geographical places, with one very central theme. From Genesis all the way to Revelation, it’s Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ the coming Savior, Jesus Christ the King, Jesus Christ the One who will fulfill all the prophecies, Jesus Christ now the center of the gospels. And now, Jesus Christ ascended and the Jesus Christ that is coming back again – Genesis to Revelation – the theme of a book written over fifteen hundred years in multiple languages by multiple authors, one central theme: Jesus Christ.

Now, imagine two billion publications of the Bible since 1455 and then there’s one last thing that makes it very unique: its authenticity. Most holy books don’t show any of the weaknesses of the characters. Think about this. Moses: murderer. David: murderer and adulterer. The apostle Paul: a murderer. James and John: anger management issues. If you were trying to convince someone that this is a book from heaven, you certainly wouldn’t be that authentic.

And, yet, that’s what tells me: this is from God because God knows we struggle. He wanted to give us examples of real people in real time to reveal His heart and how He deals with us, not just when we’re doing well, but when we are not doing so well.

The third question I want to answer is it’s obvious that the data is strong, there’s a strong case that the Bible is very unique. But can it really be the very Word of God? Well, the answer is “yes” because of one very famous name: Jesus.

Jesus actually believed the Old Testament to be the very words of God and He predicted the New Testament to be likewise. Not just in concepts, not in generalities, but the actual words Jesus would say were from the Father. They were God’s Word.

Matthew chapter 5, Jesus is preaching on the Sermon on the Mount. He says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the law until it is all accomplished.”
And so, He says to them, “I’m not here to change things; I’m going to fulfill the very Word of God. He actually believed that every word was God-breathed or inspired. In fact, are you ready for this? Jesus actually bases His proof of the resurrection on a tense of the verb, not just one word, but on the tense of a verb.

And the religious leaders are trying to trap Him. And so, what they do is they come with this story, it’s a very familiar one for many of you. And it is about this woman who has multiple husbands and there are no heirs. And so, they say, “When this woman is in heaven, who is going to be her husband, because there are seven men?”

And what they were really trying to say is there is no resurrection. Listen to Jesus’ response in Matthew chapter 22, verse 29. “Jesus replied, ‘You are in error, because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection, people will neither marry or be given in marriage. They will be like the angels in heaven.’” Now, get this, “But about the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what God said to you? I am,” present tense, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.”

Now, of all the places that Jesus could go to support that He believes in the resurrection, there’s a passage in Job that’s really clear. He could have reached into one of the psalms. But He goes to one, little tense of the verb. You know what that says? Jesus actually believes that every word is inspired by God. And I think about that, He’s the expert witness.

I have been on a lot of juries and you listen to all kind of expert witnesses and as they come in, the better their credentials and the more they know, the more weight you give them. We have learned that Jesus rose from the dead. We have looked at the proof of the resurrection. If the resurrected Christ says, “I believe in the Old Testament and I believe the New Testament, every word is going to be inspired,” I will tell you, for me, that gives me a lot of confidence.

When Jesus talks about Abraham, Noah, Jonah, Adam, Eve – He doesn’t say, “These are nice legends or fairy tales.” They were actual people in actual space/time. He had full confidence and believed that the Bible was the very Word of God.

Now, the next question that I want to ask and answer is: yes, Jesus’ view is a strong argument. But for me, for me, and I think it’s because of what I was going through, the most convincing argument that God spoke to my heart where, when I walked out of that place and felt intimidated by that student and went through some times in my life, this next reason is the one that God used to say, “Chip, you can believe it. You can walk into any arena. This is not anti-intellectual. This is the very Word of God.” And this is prophecy.

Notice, prophecy sets the Bible apart from all other religions. Now, let me give you a little background.

Probably between my third and fourth year in college and I was growing and things were great, I stayed for summer school so I could play in a basketball league. And I had this weird experience. I didn’t know anything about it, I would learn later that theologians and mystics would call it “the dark night of the soul.” And every now and then, sometimes God will allow the emotional connection with Him to sort of fade away and help you learn to trust Him.

And just out of the blue one day, I had this thought. And it was a deep doubt. And it wasn’t like, I wonder if this passage over here is right or wrong, and it wasn’t like, I wonder about that book. It was like, I wonder if any of this is true. And literally, it was satanic. It was just like, I wonder if my salvation is true. I wonder if Jesus is real. I wonder if I can trust the Bible. And it was horrendous.

And my emotional connection with God, it was just like, whoo. It evaporated. And so, I remember deciding: regardless of how I felt, I would get up as was my custom now, and I would read God’s Word. And I read God’s Word every day and I didn’t feel anything. But I realized my faith can’t be built on my experience and on my feelings. It had to be on truth.

And so, I hung in there and I hung in there and I happened to be reading through the Old Testament. And I was reading through Isaiah and I came across this passage that I am going to tell you, it was so encouraging and so blew mind. It’s in Isaiah 46.

It says, “Remember the former things, things of long ago. I am God, there is no other; I am God, there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, and what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”

Now, there is a bigger context and in the context, what he is going to do in chapter 44, 45, and there in 46, it’s a comparison of: who is a true God and who is a false God? And Isaiah, speaking for the Lord, basically says, “Our God can tell the future, beginning to end, and He makes prophecies and they come through a hundred percent of the time.” And then he gives some examples.

And I just began to think, Wait a second. Do I believe this or not? And I could have gone to lots of different places, but I remember someone saying there were over three hundred prophecies alone that Jesus fulfilled in His first coming. And I thought to myself, Okay. I knew a few of them, like, okay, thirty pieces of silver; I remember that. He’ll be born of a virgin. I kind of heard that.

And the I did some research and found out those things were predicted seven hundred years before He was even born. And all of a sudden I began to realize, Wow. And I did a study on prophecy. And what I realized was a God who is sovereign and who is all-knowing and could say, “This is going to happen and it happens a hundred percent of the time,” is mind-boggling. And when He does it specifically about God the Son, all I can tell you is, my faith got infused.

And I thought to myself, You know something? Everybody trusts someone’s word. Think about that. That PhD student, it was like popular culture said, “Oh, the Bible is out.” He trusted someone’s word. We trust someone’s word. Some kids, their mom and dad. Sometimes it’s an authority figure. Sometimes it’s on what we hear on the TV.

Everyone trusts someone’s word. You are going to trust someone’s word about all kind of things in life. What I am telling you is the evidence is overwhelming. We can trust God’s Word. And prophecy is the thing that took me over the edge and helped me to hang on.

In fact, let me give you a few examples, just a very small collection of specific prophecies and you’ll see a little bit later, there is a passage that goes with each one. Things like it was prophesied in Genesis 3: He is going to be born of a woman.

And then later: He would be born of a virgin from Isaiah 7. He would be a descendent of Abraham, of the Tribe of Judah, the house of David. Think of all things predicted. Where? In a little town called Bethlehem. That there would be this John the Baptist, a forerunner that would come before Him and he would be described, very specifically, he would have an anointing of the Holy Spirit and a preaching ministry and a healing ministry.

Specific things like His role as a prophet, His role as a priest. The time that He would appear. That He would be betrayed, an exact amount of money. Imagine this: hundreds of years earlier, thirty silver coins predicted, and that’s how He would be betrayed.

He would be abandoned by His disciples, silent before His accusers, beaten and spat upon, mocked, His hands and feet pierced. Think of that. How in the world did the psalmist know? Crucifixion was not even invented yet and it’s described in Psalm 22.

All I want to tell you is prophecy was one of the most powerful things that helped me hold onto my faith when I had my doubts. And I want to tell you something, I don’t think it’s bad and I don’t think it’s wrong to doubt. I think there are times where you struggle or someone challenges your faith. I’m glad that PhD student said what he said. I’m glad that I realized I didn’t have confidence.

What I want to ask you, is do you have confidence in God’s Word? Are you unashamed of the gospel? Are you unashamed that – can you say, “You know what? I believe the Bible is the Word of God and I am going to stand on that. I believe that it’s true.”
But in order to do that, you have to have some facts and you need to know that it really is trustworthy.

The next question that came to my mind is: if everything I have said so far is true, and I’m telling you it is and you can verify it, what about this one really big question: what if all that is true about the Bible that Jesus was talking about, but we had this small, little problem of two thousand years?

And we have all played the game – right? as little kids, telephone? This person speaks it to this person who speaks it to this person who speaks it to this person. And twenty people later, whatever they said in the beginning is completely different.

What about the transmission of the Scripture?

Now, here’s what I have to tell you, and this is scholars, both religious scholars who are liberal and conservative. The amazement that they have is the most well-preserved book in all antiquity is the Bible.

Are you ready for this? The transmission of the Scripture is nothing less than miraculous. The Bible’s purity and perseverance throughout the centuries is nothing less, literally, it’s almost a miracle up there with the resurrection. The meticulous copy of the scribes and the rabbis.

It was copied in such a way where they would count over so many letters, count down so many letters, and every time they would check it when they got done with the page, and if they were one letter off, they destroyed it and started over.

The proximity of manuscripts though, when you’re looking at an ancient document, here’s what scholars look at. They say, “Okay, when was it actually written? Okay, got that. So, when is our first copy of it? And then, how many copies do we have?” Right? That makes sense.

So, when did this guy, say Homer, when did he write this? And when is our first copy that we have of it? And how many copies? Well, they do that with all, whether it’s Shakespeare, whether it’s Homer, whether it’s Plato, whether it’s Socrates. Let me show you a little chart that should blow your mind and give you unbelievable confidence that, here’s the deal, the book that I hold in my hand is accurate and the same Word of two thousand years ago.

You say, “Well, Chip, how do you know that?” Look at this transmission. Plato lived in 427 to 347. The earliest copy we have of his writing is 900 A.D. So, from the time he wrote it to the time we get the first copy, are you ready? Twelve hundred years. And how many copies do we have? We only have seven. That’s mind-boggling and, yet, no one questions: did Plato write that?

You have the same thing here with Aristotle. You look at the first copy, A.D. 1100, fourteen hundred years from when he wrote it and how many copies? Forty-nine.

People talk about Homer and The Iliad and the important book. And, wow, 900 B.C. is when he lived. Our first copy, 400 B.C. and you hear scholars talk about, “It has only been five hundred years.” And look at how many copies. Over six hundred.

Now, look at the New Testament. A.D. 40 to 100 is when it was written. Our first copies: A.D. 125. Twenty-five years. We have twenty-four thousand six hundred and forty-three, either full New Testaments or fragments. It is the best preserved document in all of antiquity.

Here’s what I know. What I hold in my hands is the Word of God. And, in fact, there’s one other thing that if you think the transmission blows your mind, there was a little shepherd boy, a Bedouin. And he has got his sheep, it’s about 1947. And you know kids. He takes rocks and throws them up in the cave and throws them up in the cave and he hears a crash.

Well, they discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. There were jar after jar after jar of these clay pots filled with hundreds and hundreds of scrolls. And here’s what it did.

We ended up having, okay, here’ a copy of Old Testament and some New Testament documents. And here’s another copy, but it’s a thousand years earlier. And you say to yourself, Wow, they copied, they copied, they copied. I bet the telephone game; they’re really different.

When they took them and put them together, are you ready? Less than five percent difference. Literally, that which was written a thousand years earlier. The only difference is there are a couple different letters, the word “light” is spelled a little bit differently in Isaiah 53. But here’s what I want you to know: when you look at prophecy, when you look at transmission, when you look at how God has preserved His Word, you never have to be ashamed.

In fact, His promises are true. And as you take His Word into your life, it’s living, it’s active, it’s sharper than a two-edged sword. It brings life. It changes attitudes. It breaks addictions. It gives direction. It convicts of sin. It gives life and encouragement.

In fact, the final reason that I believe in the Bible is the impact that it has, the power that it has to transform lives is overwhelming.

As a young Christian like many men and probably many more now with the Internet going the way it is, I struggled with one particular sin that no matter how hard I tried, I just could not get over it, to the point that I was ready to give up the Christian life.

There were four girls for every guy where I went to college and I did not grow up as a believer, so my thinking about women and lust and all the rest was pretty well ingrained. And so, I come to know Christ, I began reading the Bible, I make great progress except in this one area.

My behavior began to straighten out but my thought life was just, or when I saw different girls, my eyes did not go to their eyes. It went everywhere else and then my mind started, I felt so guilty and so bad.

And I tried and tried and tried and tried and no matter what I did, I just could never break free of lust. And then I had a roommate who was on his way to a Christian training program and he had to memorize sixty verses as sort of the preparation.

And I was a basketball player and he was on the wrestling team and we had this banter and good competition. So, he leaves the room one day. I take all of his verses, I write them on cards, and he is going to do two every week. And I’m thinking, Wrestlers, two a week? I’m a basketball player. I am going to memorize one every day, review it, and get these perfect and then I am just going to show up in about three or four weeks and just say, “Oh, by the way Bob, how you coming?” And I’m going to do all sixty of them and nail them.

Now, my motivation was terrible. But God’s Word is powerful. I can still remember day twenty-one. I had memorized twenty-one verses. I was reviewing them. Literally, running to baseball practice with cards, sitting in psychology while he would drone on, I’m reviewing cards.

Day twenty-one, I’m outside the library and a very beautiful co-ed who is a very committed Christian who I really liked and actually had a little feelings for, and I felt always guilty when I lusted for her. And I remember having a conversation with her and we got done and I walked away and I realized my eyes only met her eyes and then I went to my room and I thought, What has happened? I don’t get it.

And then I made the connection. I didn’t know Romans 12:2 then. I didn’t know, “Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” How does that happen? God’s Word. I didn’t know the Word of God had power to break addictions. I didn’t know that when you were tempted, if you had God’s Word in your heart, He would protect you. “How can a young man keep his way pure by guarding it according to His Word? Your Word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.”

And then you know what? I just went nuts. I just realized: this is power! There is power in God’s Word! So, I memorized those sixty verses and then I memorized a bunch more. I started taking: where are all the problems in my life? And I would find a verse or a promise and I would write the problem, then I would memorize the verse.

All I can tell you, God transformed my thinking, transformed my life. The Word of God is powerful. Jeremiah would say, “Your Word was found and I ate it and it became for me a delight and the joy of my heart.”

And so, as we wrap things up, here’s what I want to tell you. God’s Word is reliable. God’s Word is credible. What you hold in your hand is the Bible that Jesus used. What you hold in your hand can stand up to scrutiny anywhere at any time. And here’s the question. It’s one thing to believe it’s true. Right? “Okay, Chip, I agree with you. That’s wonderful evidence. That is actually pretty amazing. I have a lot more confidence.”

Here’s my last question. That book, with all that power that is that credible, sitting on your shelf and not getting into your mind and to your heart does absolutely nothing.

I have done a fair bit of counseling over the years and I will tell you, there is an amazing correlation between people that have really big problems and really big struggles in relationships and finances and addictions and almost no time at all in God’s Word.

And when I meet Christians that spend time in God’s Word, over time, and don’t always feel like it, but develop the habit of studying and reading and memorizing the Scripture, I will tell you, what happens is God gives them grace.

See, we all believe God has power. Can I tell you something? He takes the written Word and He makes it the living Word. And as you memorize it and digest it, and this isn’t reading little devotionals. I’m glad for all the little devotionals. You and I need to be in the actual Word of God ourselves and take it in and learn to study it and then apply it.

And I will tell you what, the Spirit of the living God will take the living Word and He will transform your life.

Father, I pray, I pray as America, like never before and Christians all around the world, as we struggle to be Christians who live like Christians, God, would You give us a hunger and thirst for Your Word? Would You help us please to set aside media and Facebook and surfing and TV and hobbies to make first and foremost time with You and time in Your Word and then enjoy all those other things as time allows?

And, Lord, might we read it, might we study it, might we memorize it, might we believe it, and might Your life be reproduced inside of us that our thoughts, our words, our actions would literally be the love of Christ exhibited out of our hands, our feet, our words, and our life, for Your glory and for our good and for the testimony of light and salt in all the world. God, we know You want to answer that. I pray for my brothers and sisters, You will make them men, women, and students of the living and abiding Word of God. In Jesus’ name, amen.