At the end of June, I attended the North American Christian Convention in Cincinnati with my family. The theme for the week was “We Speak,” and many of the speakers focused on or began at Acts 4:19, 20 where Peter and John replied to the Jewish religious leaders who threatened them to keep them from preaching about Jesus, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Ultimately, Peter and John – and I would imagine the rest of the apostles – spoke about Jesus because they just couldn’t help it. They lived with Jesus; they heard Jesus speak; they saw Jesus perform miracles. They saw Jesus raised from the dead. They spoke because they knew the truth; they witnessed the truth.
But what are we supposed to do? We have not witnessed Jesus face to face. We have not lived with him; we have not heard him teach. We call ourselves Christians because we want to be Christlike in our words and actions, but we have not seen nor heard Jesus. All we have to go by is the Bible.
For those of us who grew up in the church learning “The BIBLE – Yes, that’s the Book for me! I stand alone on the Word of God, the BIBLE,” it seems wrong to think that the Bible is “all” we have to go by, as if there ought to be more to it than that. And the world seems to be expecting more from us.
As the world becomes bolder in opposing and defying not just the idea of God’s existence but also any religion, worldview, or lifestyle that would suggest any kind of recognition, allegiance, or service to God, the world also opposes the Bible. The world points to alleged contradictions throughout the Bible’s text. It questions the reliability of the documents and their transmission throughout history. It openly mocks and derides not only the commandments of God but the historical narratives in which God speaks to people and acts among them. In its attempts to undermine theism in general and Christianity in particular, the world has amassed weapons from history, literature, science, and other academic disciplines and social arenas. Their assault seems overwhelming; so much so that even we start to wonder, “Why trust the Bible?”
First of all, we must grasp the reality that this is a matter of faith, that trusting the Bible is founded upon our trust in God, which is a common point between the apostles and ourselves. This is why Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:18-21, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Even though the apostles were blessed to see Jesus face to face, they trusted the Scriptures and encouraged believers to trust them also. And so our faith in God and trust in the Bible leads us to believe what Paul wrote in in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Second, we must become confident that our trust in the Bible is founded upon truth and not fantasy, just as 2 Peter 1:16 says: “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” We must become confident that the Bible is a reliable transmission through history of eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. The world is quick to dismiss the Bible because of its amazing stories – not to mention its expectations for life change among those who will trust it – and in order to do that, many people will attempt to undermine the many thousands of documents and other pieces of evidence of the Bible’s historical foundations and value. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have that kind of confidence; so we need to develop it by reading and studying not only the Bible but also the historical evidence. We need to become better trained in apologetics – you’re going to hear that more and more frequently – which is an area of study to help us defend our faith.
Last, we need to trust the Bible because, as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:15 that the Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Our faith in the Bible is not just a matter of choosing a worldview, a checklist by which we can evaluate our words, actions, and politics; it is a matter of salvation, of eternal life. For this reason, it’s not enough for us to say, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” It’s not enough because the world doesn’t believe it, and if they don’t believe what the Bible says, they will not be saved. It’s not enough, if we believe the Bible, because the Bible tells us to make disciples and to teach the world everything Jesus taught until he returns (Matthew 28:18-20).
Why trust the Bible? We can’t help it. It’s our job. It’s the truth. It’s a matter of salvation.