The Bible, the word of God or man? Read how the authority of the Bible rises from Jesus. Through him one can understand the unique meaning of the Bible
This writing deals with the Bible and understanding it, about our attitude towards the Bible and different approaches you can see in the modern society. Each person studies the Scripture in his or her own way. The following three approaches are very common:
1. The first group rejects the Bible altogether and try to find arguments based on which they can ridicule the Bible. These people question the words altogether and try to find faults in Christianity or reasons why they do not believe and turn to God. Such an attitude – often veiled in a scientific approach, logic and criticism – is common and popular in the current society.
2. Group 2 – This group admires their own intelligence and degrade the Bible to the level of their own human understanding. This group is critical towards anything that does not coincide with their intellect. Miracles are such issues, in particular.
This view of the world is closely related to deism. It means that God is respected in name but His characteristics are undermined. He is a power or an energy beyond our world but not one who could address anything that happens in our world. In this way of thinking, the main source of information is no longer the Bible but your own thoughts.
3. Group 3 – This group's attitude towards the Scripture is respectful. One example of such an attitude is the attitude of the Jews of Berea who sincerely wanted to find out whether or not the Scripture was true. Are you a member of this group?
- (Acts 17:10-12) And the brothers immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night to Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
WHOSE WORDS? It is usually of no use trying to convince a nonbeliever that the Bible is the word of God. The nonbeliever does not take the Bible seriously because he does not have a personal relationship with God. He may consider the Bible a manifestation of the religiousness of people. He only sees the contribution of humans. He does not consider the Bible the manifestation of God to us but the thoughts and ideas of God of several people. Most of them have a deistic or naturalistic view that either denies God's existence and His involvement in historical events or the traditional idea that the Bible is God's word to us. It is clear that such people have very little interest in the message of the Bible.
Even though many cannot see anything special in the Scripture, we can find proof of its importance in the Bible itself. One reason why we should consider the Bible to be the Word of God is the fact that the Bible itself says that it is so. The expressions "Thus speaks the Lord" and "The word of the Lord came to me" – which are used in the Bible hundreds of times – refer to this. These expressions prove that God sent his revelation to the prophets.
Similar expressions include "God's word", the Jews being told "what God said" and God speaking through the prophets. There are plenty of such expressions, which prove that the Bible is important. The importance of the Bible can be justified by these verses. An unbeliever will probably not consider this evidence very convincing, however:
- (Matt 15:6) ... Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
-(Luke 8:11,12) Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then comes the devil, and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
- (Luke11:28) But he said, Yes rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
- (John 10:35) If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken
- (Rom 3:1,2) What advantage then has the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
2 Much every way: chiefly, because that to them were committed the oracles of God.
- (Hebr 1:1-3) God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
2 Has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high
- (Acts 6:2) Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples to them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
- (Acts 13:7) Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
- (Acts 20:32) And now, brothers, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
- (Eph 6:17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
- (Col 1:25) Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God
- (1 Thess 2:13) For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe.
- (1 Peter 1:23) Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and stays for ever.
The other baseline and a key to understanding the Bible is the position of Jesus. Is he what he claimed to be, ergo the Son of God and God descended from heaven, who has announced himself, or was he merely a normal person, as most people think? Are, e.g., the following passages, where Jesus refers to his firstborn status and how he is different from everyone else – e.g. that he is from above and everyone else is from below – true or false? These verses force us to make a statement about his words. Are we going to place them amongst the truth or amongst the lies?
- (John 8:23,24) And he said to them, You are from beneath; I am from above: you are of this world; I am not of this world.
24 I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins.
- (John 8:45,46) And because I tell you the truth, you believe me not.
46 Which of you convinces me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do you not believe me?
- (John 14:1-6) Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.
5 Thomas said to him, Lord, we know not where you go; and how can we know the way?
6 Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
It is interesting, how a stance towards the Bible and a stance towards Jesus often go hand in hand. People whose attitude towards the Bible is negative also have a negative attitude towards Jesus. People who claim that the Bible is just the words of people instead of God's revelation to us often also think that Jesus was just a normal man. These are two things that go hand in hand.
Therefore, the most important question is, "What do you think about Jesus?" instead of "What do you think about the Bible?" The attitude of a person who has found Jesus Christ will change towards the Bible when the person understands that the Bible is God's revelation. This is no surprise because Jesus Himself is called the Word of God:
- (John 1:1,14) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
- (1 John 1:1,2) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked on, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show to you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us;
- (Rev 19:11-13) And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a clothing dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
What if we actually assume that Jesus is the Son of God and God descended from heaven, who has announced Himself to us? What if we hold true to His words and believe Him to be, what He said He was? How would that affect us?
The answer is that it will probably lead us to appreciate the Bible in a new way. Prestige of the Bible will amplify specifically through Jesus. It concerns the Old Testament, as well as the four Gospels of the New Testament and also the texts written by the Apostles. This is because of three reasons:
• Jesus quoted the Old Testament when speaking and considered the events mentioned historical.
• The four Gospels of the New Testament consist of mainly His words.
• The prestige of the books of the New Testament is based on the fact that the Apostles were selected by Jesus.
Jesus quoted the Scripture. One proof that the Old Testament is important is that Jesus used to often quote the Old Testament when speaking. He did not question the Flood or the historicalness of Sodom and Gomorra (Luke 17:26-32), or the Creation (Mark 13:19): He considered these to be historical facts. In addition, he said several times “for it is written” and reproached the Pharisees about thwarting the word of God because of their traditional rules.
What does this mean, then? At least it means that if Jesus acknowledges the Old Testament and the events to be true, surely we are not wrong to do the same. If He is the Son of God and was with His Father, God, before coming to earth (John 1:3, Col 1:16), we should respect His opinion also in this matter. He has said the following, for example:
- (Matt 21:12,13) And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
13 And said to them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.
- (Matt 21:42,43) Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?
43 Therefore say I to you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
- (Luke 11:27,28) And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said to him, Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts which you have sucked.
28 But he said, Yes rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
- (John 17:17) Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.
- (Matt 22: 29-33) Jesus answered and said to them, You do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying,
32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.
- (Matt 15:5-8) But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me;
6 And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
7 You hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
- (Luke 24:25-27,32,44,45) Then he said to them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
44 And he said to them, These are the words which I spoke to 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.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
The Gospel and Jesus’ own words. What about the four gospels of the New Testament? What kind of proof do we have that these writings are God’s message to us instead of people’s opinions about God? How can we discern these two?
The answer is – yet again – Jesus, the main character in the New Testament. If He is the Son of God and was with His Father, God, before coming to earth, he cannot be disregarded. These writings would not even have been made without Him and His influence on earth.
So, one piece of evidence about the significance of the New Testament and the significance and authority of the Gospels in particular are the words of Jesus in them. Since the Gospels are largely His words, they are a clear indication that these writings are very important. They show that they are not just regular chatting of people but words of eternal life, God’s words to us. We reach this conclusion if we consider Jesus’ words to be true.
Let’s look at some verses where this can be seen and some of His claims about Himself. We must consider the following either truths or lies:
- (Matt 5:21,22) You have heard that it was said of them of old time, You shall not kill; and whoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 But I say to you, That whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
- (Matt 5:27,28) You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery:
28 But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
- (Luke 6:46-48) And why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
47 Whoever comes to me, and hears my sayings, and does them, I will show you to whom he is like:
48 He is like a man which built an house, and dig deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently on that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded on a rock.
- (Matt 24:35) Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
- (John 7:45,46) Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said to them, Why have you not brought him?
46 The officers answered, Never man spoke like this man.
- (John 12:48-50) He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatever I speak therefore, even as the Father said to me, so I speak.
- (John 14:23,24) Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our stay with him.
24 He that loves me not keeps not my sayings: and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.
- (John 6:63, 68,69) It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life.
69 And we believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Letters of the New Testament. The chapters above show how the Old Testament and the events in it are confirmed through the authority of Jesus, and how most of the texts in the Gospels are His words.
What about the letters of the New Testament? We should understand that they are also confirmed by the authority of Jesus. These letters are confirmed by the fact that the Apostles were chosen and trained by Jesus, the Son of God. He chose them, and thus we may assume that they did not write what they wanted: they wrote what God wanted them to write. This is the starting point for the authority of these writings. Another internal criterion for the prestige of Paul's letters, for example, is that Peter compared them with the Scripture, the word of God. Let's study some verses about this issue:
- (Luke 6:13-16) And when it was day, he called to him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;
14 Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,
15 Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes,
16 And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.
- (John 15:16) You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
- (2 Peter 3:15,16) And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him has written to you;
16 As also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.
Why do people reject the revelation of the Bible? Even though the importance of the information in the Bible can be understood through Jesus, many people still fail to take the information seriously. They feel that it is impossible that the Bible could describe God's plan and will, and that God could have spoken through written words. Where does this stance come from then? The most important reason for it is, of course, a negative attitude towards Jesus, but there is often also a deistic or a naturalistic worldview on the background. Both worldviews prevent people from taking the books seriously.
Consequently, in the former worldview, Deism, the Universe is considered closed from the influence of God because God is not interested in it. Deists believe that He only started it but has not influenced the events since. This is why miracles cannot occur and the miracles mentioned in the Bible are impossible. Based on this idea, they also deny the opportunity that God could give information in words. They consider the universe to be like a closed box that God cannot influence.
What about naturalism? Naturalistic people go even further. They believe that matter is all there is, and thus there is no God or any revelations or words by Him. They deny the possibility that either could exist; thus, the naturalistic ideology is practically an atheistic ideology. Some naturalistic persons may use Christian vocabulary but with a whole new meaning.
The next example is about this topic. Parts 2 and 3 of the quote clearly describe the deistic and naturalistic way of thinking in relation to the Bible:
Let's think about three possible theological statements: (1) God exists, and he interacts with people. (2) God exists but he does not interact with people. (3) There is no God. It is clear that the first case is the only one where we have the opportunity to have any rich, detailed information about God. The consequences of the two other cases – God existing but being silent or God not existing at all – cannot be distinguished. So, if we want to ponder the possibility that God exists, we must seriously consider the statement that God interacts with us. In any other case, we are practically atheists. (1)
Why couldn’t God then be connected to people and announce Himself also through words? Although, naturalists and deists deny this possibility, there are a few good reasons to believe in this perception. These reasons are as follows:
The love of God. If it holds true that God is love, who wants people to connect with Him, it is natural that He would have told us about it. Through words is an excellent way of doing that, because without it, people’s understanding of the most fundamental questions might be lacking. Other forms of announcing won’t provide people with enough information.
Furthermore, giving a revelation is logical: if God exists, if He is love and people are eternal beings, it is only natural for God to approach people and give information about Him and His plans. People's prejudice is the only thing that prevents them from believing that this is possible.
Many people of our time are convinced that God cannot announce Himself in words even if He did exist. Such people assume that God cannot control the work of human writers so that the revelation would be reliably recorded in writing. Thus, these people do not consider the Bible to be a true revelation of God. There is a closely related question: what kind of criteria can we use to distinguish true revelation of God from untrue?
Many atheists and agnostics absolutely reject the idea that God could communicate with us through written words. Even many Christian theologians have trouble conceding that there is a true revelation from God because they often carry out their research in terms of the atheistic or agnostic view of the world.
The idea of God's revelation is in no way illogical, however. "Improving the knowledge of intelligent beings cannot contradict with the wisdom, goodness or holiness of God" (Alexander 1972: p. 61) (2)
It would go against the goodness of God to leave people ignorant of important truths. Without a verbal revelation, people's idea of groundbreaking questions would be vague because other forms of revelation – despite being clear – do not offer the information required for humans to be saved. (3)
People’s understanding. Another reason is that people were created as intelligent beings, who differ from the other creations. People are the only creations that can pray, have language and the ability to speak, and also the ability to understand written text. If it’s true that we were created after the likeness of God and to have a connection with Him, it is natural to assume that these abilities that we have were meant for communication, not only with other people, but also with God. We can pray and turn to God, but we can also read the written announcement.
- (Gen 1:26,27) And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
”The Bible is an outdated book”. One claim found in society is that the message of the Bible and its contents are outdated, and that it is not current in the present day. It has been posed that it is an ordinary book written by people. It contains people’s thoughts about God, but not God’s announcement, and that it is based on the mythical and conservative worldview, which doesn’t work in our time. We now know more, as the knowledge about people and the Universe has increased. That is why an enlightened person should discard such a thought that God could speak to him through scriptures. Instead, the person can set his own morals and reason, which are to be given greater value than the teachings of Jesus and the disciples from the Bible.
The previous thoughts can be questioned, however. You see, there are good reasons to believe in the timeliness of the Bible. We present two such reasons:
• Truth doesn’t age
• Changed lives
The truth doesn’t age. When the claim about the outdatedness of the Bible’s content is posed, the most important question is often forgotten: What if the teachings of this book, especially the teachings of Jesus and his chosen disciples, are true? When we know that almost every event from the Bible can be confirmed either by looking at the nature (the Flood), archeology or other historical sources, then who is to say that its message is outdated? If the matters in question, historical events, and Jesus’ teachings about himself, about heaven and hell, are true, shouldn’t we take them seriously?
True facts should to be thought about, because truth is a fact that never ages. It doesn’t have “a best before” date, but it is always as topical and it can never change. Although people might try to argue against it, it will stay topical and up-to-date. It has meaning throughout all times and something like that cannot be bypassed. It is foolish if we don’t take it seriously.
We are going to look at some passages that relate to this subject. They repeatedly talk about the truth, bringing it forth, abandoning it and also it talks about lies. If Jesus and the disciples are right, then all those, who question their teachings, are wrong. Only one of these groups is right and their message is topical. These days we must ponder who is right. Our eternal faith could depend on it.
- (John 19:35) And he that saw it bore record, and his record is true: and he knows that he said true, that you might believe.
- (John 21:24) This is the disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
- (1 John 2:27) But the anointing which you have received of him stays in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him.
- (2 Peter 1:16) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
- (John 5:33,34) You sent to John, and he bore witness to the truth.
34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that you might be saved.
- (Matt 22:16) And they sent out to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God in truth, neither care you for any man: for you regard not the person of men.
- (John 1:14,17) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
- (John 8:31,32) Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed;
32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
- (John 8:44-46) You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
45 And because I tell you the truth, you believe me not.
46 Which of you convinces me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do you not believe me?
- (John 14:6) Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
- (John 18:36-38) Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
37 Pilate therefore said to him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.
38 Pilate said to him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, I find in him no fault at all.
- (Gal 5:7,8) You did run well; who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?
8 This persuasion comes not of him that calls you.
- (1 Tim 2:3,4) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Changed lives. The fact that the Bible is topical is also proven by the fact that many people's lives have changed and are changing when they hear or read the Word. A drug addict can be freed from drugs, an alcoholic can stop drinking or people can change in other ways when they accept the Gospel. The Gospel about Jesus Christ can still change anyone, regardless of whether they are callous sinners or people who do not sin much.
We will look at a citation of a distinguished person, whose inner life might be unknown to many. She is Kim Phuc, who is known, due to a picture of her during the Vietnam War. This photograph depicts Kim running naked because her clothes were burned by napalm bombs during an attack. Kim fell unconscious soon after the photograph was taken. She was hospitalised for 14 months, undergoing 17 operations. However, after many phases she met Jesus by reading the Bible. She took Jesus as her savior. In the same way, each one of us can meet the Savior, when we read about Him from the Bible pages. God’s virtue and love is offered to everyone, but we must want it. Say yes to His calling!
Although I suffered from pain, itching and headache all the time, a long time spent in the hospital made me dream about becoming a doctor. But the government quickly ended my studies. They wanted to use me as a symbol for the nation. I could no longer study. The rage inside me was the size of a mountain. I hated my life. I hated all the normal people, because I wasn’t normal. Many times I truly wished that I would die. I spent my days in the library reading many religious books, in order to find a meaning for my life. One of the books that I read was the Holy Bible. In 1982 during Christmas, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. (4)
1. J. Suppe: Thoughts on Epistemology of Christianity in Light of Science, The news: Newsletter of the Society of Christian Geologists, p. 8, spring 1992
2. Archibald Alexander: Evidences of the Authenticity, Inspiration and Canonical Authority of the Holy Scriptures. New York: Arno, 1972, p. 61
3. Tapio Puolimatka’s article in Jumalan sana, inspiroitu ja erehtymätön (edited by Petri Mäkilä & Pasi Turunen)
4. Kim Phuc: The Long Road To Forgiveness (2008). http://www.npr.org/_templates/_story/_story.php?storyId=91964687
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!