Thursday, March 16, 2017

How can we know that the Bible is the Word of God?

2 Timothy 3:16-17
Psalm 1:1-3
In this past Sunday’s gospel lesson, we heard Jesus tell Nicodemus: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

What Jesus was saying is that when God’s Holy Spirit is on the loose in people, we can neither control the Spirit nor, usually, see what the Spirit has been up to until after He’s completed His work. Like the wind, we can’t see the Holy Spirit, we can only see the evidence of His activity in people’s lives.

This, I think, is a good place to start when examining our question for tonight, how can we know that the Bible is the Word of God?

Now, this question is a bit different from the ones asked and answered in books like Mere Christianity, The Case for Faith, The Case for Christ, or How We Got the Bible. They answer questions like
  • Who was Jesus?
  • How did He understand Himself?
  • Is the Bible reliable, is faith logical? 
  • Did Christ rise from the dead?
and others. They all demonstrate that the historical evidence and logical cohesion for believing in the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible are overwhelming.

But it’s possible for us to accept the historical truthfulness of Scripture and what it tells us about God and still not believe in Jesus, the Messiah-God to Whom the Bible points as “the way, and the truth, and the life.”

A man I knew once told his sister, “I believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead. So what?”

That man’s belief was no different from that of the devil’s. The devil absolutely believes that God exists. He knows what God has done. And, as his encounter with Jesus in the wilderness shows, he knows the Bible inside out.

But the devil lacks faith. And so did that man.

Faith is what happens when we pull down our shields--shields like self-sufficiency, egotism, fear of losing control over one’s life--to open ourselves to what God wants to give us and do in us, now and in eternity. Faith is about surrender to the God we meet in Jesus.

Second Timothy 3:16 says: “All Scripture is God-breathed…” Now, both the Old and New Testament words for breath--ruach in the Hebrew of the Old Testament and pneuma in the Greek of the New Testament--can also carry the meanings of wind or spirit.

What Paul was telling young Timothy is that while the Scriptures may look like nothing more than words on a page, they’re actually as infused with the life of God as Adam was when God breathed into dust and made the first human being; they’re as filled with the life or Spirit of God as the first Christian disciples were when, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to them on the rush of a mighty wind.

When we are open to it, the Bible is a tornado that we can’t control, that can blow through our lives, tearing down old ways of thinking and living, and empowering us to have, in a phrase that Paul uses in his letter to the Philippian Christians, “the mind of Christ.”

Fine, you may say, the Bible is Spirit-inspired. How do I know that's all true?

We live in a condo. This past week, workers came to the development to clear away the branches that had blown down from the trees and, in at least one case, clear away an entire tree that had fallen, all because of the high winds we’d had a few days before that. Many of you will remember that particularly windy day. But you remember it not because you saw the wind in the same way that you could have seen rain or snow or a bright sun; what you saw was the evidence of the wind from what it was doing.

And this, I think, can point us to how we can know that the Bible is the Word of God: We can see the changed and changing lives of those who are being exposed to the Bible!

The changes wrought in believers by God’s Word in Scripture may happen slowly in some, or come with hurricane force through many aspects of life in others, or in fits and spurts in still others. But when we let the Bible immerse us in the truth God--as we read it on our own, as we receive it in, with, and under the bread and wine, as we hear it proclaimed or taught, as we place ourselves under it as God’s authoritative and life-giving Word for our lives--we see the evidence for the Bible being the Word of God. The Bible is the Word of God first and foremost, because it changes us.

This Word:
  • assures us of God’s forgiving grace, 
  • imparts God’s guidance for the living of each day, 
  • helps us to forgive as we’ve been forgiven, 
  • empowers us to live with hope and peace, and 
  • sets us free to live as people confident of their Father’s love and certain of their Lord’s presence with them in the good and in the bad, all the way to eternity.
How does it do this?

By creating faith in Christ within us. Romans 10:17 tells us: “ comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ…”

The Bible can do this because it’s the instrument of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says: “Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit’s imprint is on every letter of Scripture to present the Word about Jesus so that people immersed in its truth have and are strengthened in their faith relationship with Jesus.

This underscores why we can say confidently that the Bible is the Word of God. We can do this when we consider what the Bible means when it talks about “the Word of God.”

For the Bible, the Word of God, ultimately is a Person and that Person is Jesus. John 1:1 tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…”

The Word of God then, is Jesus. This is the Word let loose by God over chaos in Genesis 1 to say, “Let there be light” and there was light, “Let there be land” and there was land. “Let there be stars and sun, moons and planets, and human beings made in My image” and all those things and more came into being.

We can speak of the Bible as the Word of God because, from Genesis to Revelation, it points us to Jesus the Word of God.

The Word about Jesus that God so loved the world He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not be condemned for their sin, but live with God eternally, can be imparted in many ways: over coffee with a friend, in a locker room at school, during lunch with a co-worker, from a pulpit, in small groups studying God’s Word together.

And we will know when we’ve heard the Word of God when it conforms to all that God reveals about Himself in the Bible’s sixty-six books and when it challenges us or comforts us or stretches us to be remade by God to look more like Jesus Himself.

We know the Word of God is in the Bible when we see the impact it has on us or others, how it challenges us to turn from sin, how it incites us to trust in Jesus Christ, how it empowers us to pray, to witness, to serve, all because this Word from and about Jesus sets us free to live for the Savior Who lived and died for us.

The Word of God we find in the Bible is a mighty wind blowing away the old and dead and breathing life into the new and eternal.

The Bible is the Word of God. When we let it have its way with us, we won’t need evidence to prove that. The evidence will be found in what that Word does in us, to us, and for us.

Let the Word do its work in you. Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This message was presented during the midweek Lenten service on Wednesday night.]

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