One of the significant features of the church of Jesus Christ is its attitude toward the Holy Scriptures in terms of the nature of the Bible and the authority inherent in this sacred Book. Informed Christians operate under the conviction that the Scriptures are from God and through them the divine Mind has been revealed.
If God exists—and the evidence for such a belief is very compelling—and if human beings are rational creatures made in the divine image (cf. Genesis 1:26), then it logically stands to reason that the Creator has communicated his will to his offspring.
The truth is, God has spoken (Hebrews 1:1). He has spoken abstractly through the marvelous creation which testifies of his wisdom and power (Psalm 19:1ff); more than that, however, deity has communicated concretely to mankind by means of words (Matthew 4:4; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13). And those words are found in this book called the Bible.
When we consider our belief regarding the Bible, there are two areas that should especially engage our attention. First, is the Bible really from God? If it is not, there is little need for further discussion. Second, if the Bible is from God, is it authoritative? If so, to what extent? To each of these matters we will give brief attention.
The Scriptures—Inspired of God
The Bible engages our attention by its repetitive claim of being the Word of God. More than 3,800 times the Old Testament asserts its divine source. And the New Testament is no less explicit. Paul clearly affirms that the Scriptures are “inspired of God” (2 Timothy 3:16).
But is the biblical claim of inspiration accurate? A mere claim, void of proof, is worthless. The fact is, proofs for the divine origin of the venerable Book are manifold and impressive.
Consider the following lines of evidence:
(1) We believe the Bible because the unity of the Scriptures argues for a divine source. The sixty-six books of the Bible were penned over a span of some sixteen hundred years by approximately forty writers from a variety of cultural backgrounds. And yet these documents fit together like pieces in a puzzle.
They are harmonious in terms of theme (the desired salvation of fallen humanity through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ), historical flow (from Genesis to Revelation), doctrinal propositions (e.g., the nature of God, the identify of Christ, etc.), factual data, etc. They clearly evince divine orchestration.
(2) Christians believe the Bible because of the amazing evidence of predictive prophecy that dominates its thrilling pages. Since no mere human being can predict the future (the claims of modern psychics to the contrary notwithstanding), if it is the case that the Bible contains genuine examples of predictive prophecy, it must have originated with God.
The remarkable fact is there are hundreds of instances of phenomenal prophecies in the biblical narratives. Scholars have estimated that there are some one thousand prophecies in the Bible. Virtually all of these (except those relating to end-time matters) have precise fulfillment.
Consider, for example, the more than three hundred Old Testament prophecies focusing upon the life and ministry of Jesus Christ (see Cyrus the Great in Biblical Prophecy, Principles of Bible Prophecy, Babylon: A Test Case in Prophecy—Part 1, and Babylon: A Test Case in Prophecy—Part 2).
(3) We believe the Bible because the uncanny accuracy of the Scriptures demonstrates a supernatural guidance in their composition. As the biblical writers unfold the divine plan of redemption through their progressive revelation, they touch upon many areas of academic interest, e.g., history, geography, and science. In such passing connections, it is astounding that the inspired writers never “slip” in their information.
Incidental mistakes are common even among the most skilled authors, and yet the biblical narratives remain aloof from such blunders. Such blemlishless accuracy argues for inspiration.
(4) Those who compose the church of Christ believe in the sacred character of the Scriptures because they have survived the test of time. The Bible has been ignored, criticized, destroyed, and outlawed, but it continues to survive and thrive (see The Holy Scriptures—Indestructible).
Surely the Bible’s durability in the face of such hostilities at least shows that it is worthy of careful investigation.
Volumes have been composed containing manifold and convincing evidence which undergirds the scriptural claims of inspiration (see Additional Resources below). We are a Bible-believing people because of the powerful evidence that argues for the heavenly source of the Holy Scriptures.
The Authority of the Bible
But what does Bible inspiration imply? The Scripture’s personal testimony is that such proofs of inspiration indicate that these sacred writings constitute an authoritative instrument designed to reveal the sacred scheme of salvation to humanity and to regulate the course of human conduct.
The testimony of Paul is this:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, KJV).
In view of passages of this nature (and there are many of them), Christians accept the fact that the Bible is a conduct-regulating collection of writings, and that it is unique and exclusive in this regard.
Let us reflect upon a few points relating to this matter:
(1) We believe the Bible because it is the only reasonable explanation of our origin (Genesis 2:7), our purpose upon this planet (Ecclesiastes 12:13), and our ultimate destiny (Matthew 25:46). It thus explains man’s responsibility to his Creator.
(2) We believe the Bible because of its responsible approach to human conduct. When men attempt to formulate a moral code, independent of divine revelation, utter chaos results. The unique approach of the Scriptures, however, has been a boon to civilization for centuries. The Golden Rule towers like a majestic mountain peak above all ethical maxims, before or since, designed to elevate human ethical conduct.
After an exhaustive consideration of this matter, William Barclay noted that the Golden Rule “is something which had never been said before. It is new teaching, and a new view of life and of life’s obligations” (1958, 277).
The parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10 challenges human bigotry at its very foundation. The lofty ethical demands of the New Testament is one of the reasons it is so viciously and persistently assaulted.
(3) Christians accept the Bible because it is the only authoritative record of how sinful man can be reconciled to the God from whom he has become estranged (Isaiah 59:1, 2). We are miserable in our sins and cry out for some explanation as to how we can obtain peace of mind. The journey home is only by means of Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); God has spoken to humanity through his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).
It is only by believing the gospel message and submitting to its requirements that one can receive pardon and enjoy the “newness of life” that is found within the spiritual body of Christ (Romans 1:16; 6:3, 4).
(4) New Testament Christians believe the Bible because it is the only record of the divine establishment and providential growth of the church for which the Lord Jesus shed his cleansing blood. We do not view the church as a trivial after-thought in the heavenly scheme of things. Rather, it is a blood-bought institution (Acts 20:28); indeed, an eternal component in the heavenly arrangement for human salvation (Ephesians 3:10).
(5) Members of Christ’s church believe in the Scriptures because they are the only source of instruction as to how we can satisfy our craving for worship and know that such activity is pleasing to our Maker. We worship only deity, with our whole heart and spirit, according to the dictates of divine truth (John 4:24).
Thus acknowledging the Bible as an authoritative revelation, we respect the voice of the Holy Scriptures (1 Peter 4:11) and we yield to the silence of the sacred record as well (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:6, ASV; 2 John 9). Yes, we are a Bible-believing people, and we invite our contemporaries to examine the venerable volume.