The following message was delivered at the Lancaster Bible College Convocation.
We live in a day when voices within and without the Church question and oppose the authority of the Bible.
As Solomon truly spoke in Ecclesiastes 1:9, "There is nothing new under the sun."
God's Word has been under attack ever since the Fall when Satan said, "Did God really say?" And if God didn't really say, why would we read the Bible, much less believe it? Why would we proclaim it, much less obey it?
When opposing Scripture as the Word of God, people are really opposing the authority and truthfulness of God. If God really did say, then we are compelled to obey the voice of God. We are confronted with our sin and utter unrighteousness. We are convinced of our need for a savior. We will have to do what is contrary to our natural desires. The doctrine of Scripture as God's Word has implications in every aspect and corner of our very being and living. It is so important to get this right and settled in our hearts and minds.
The Lancaster Bible College "Statement of Faith" declares our position on the Bible: "We believe the Scriptures of the Old Testament and the New Testament are the Word of God and are verbally inspired of God and inerrant in the original writings.
We believe that this inspiration extends equally and fully to all parts of the Scriptures, and that they are the supreme and final authority in faith and life." (John 17:17; Galatians 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21.)
We do not profess this based on tradition, blind faith, or wishful thinking. No, our belief is based on irrefutable evidence.
In 1832, Jacob Abbott addressed this issue of evidence in a book entitled, "The Young Christian" (New York, American Tract Society, 1832) by telling a story that shows the different ways in which we can be sure this great library of Sacred Books, which we call the Bible, is really the Word of God, His revelation to mankind. Abbott used this story to explain three different kinds of evidence – (1) Historical, (2) Internal, and (3) Experimental.
He tells about a gentleman who sent a boy to the chemist's to get some phosphorus, a crystalline acid that absorbs oxygen rapidly, and when exposed to light, ignites spontaneously at room temperature. The boy brought back a little packet; was it phosphorus? The boy reported that he went to the shop and asked for phosphorus, that the chemist went to his shelves, took some kind of stuff from a jar, put it in the little packet, and gave it to him, and that he had brought it straight back. That was the Historical Evidence that the packet had phosphorus in it. Then the gentleman opened the packet. The substance inside look liked phosphorus and smelled like phosphorus. That was the Internal Evidence. Then he put a light to it — "See how it burns?!" That was the Experimental Evidence (137).
With regard to the Word of God: it SEEMS to be; it CLAIMS to be; and it PROVES to be. The answer is not in any one of these answers taken by itself, but in the three together which constitute irrefutable proof that the Bible is of divine origin, and therefore of sovereign authority; that is — it is the Word of God.
I am not here this morning to present a detailed apologetic on the divine inspiration, authority and infallibility of the Bible; you will get plenty of that in your studies at LBC. Rather I want to encourage you at the start that your commitment to study God's Word is rightly placed, good and reasonable.
The Historical Evidence supporting that the Bible is the Word of God is found in the Bible's origination, its preservation, and its circulation.
In regard to its origination, we turn to the earliest apostles and witnesses to Christ's resurrection who clearly state that all scripture originated in nothing less than the divine inspiration of God:
The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
And Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:20-21, "…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
This sense of inspiration (theopneusto – "breathed out by God") underscores the divine origin and implies the divine authority of Scripture. It is authoritative in all matters of faith and conduct, teaching what is right, rebuking what is not; how to get it right and how to stay right.
The preservation of God's Word, meaning its original meaning has been kept intact, is seen in the amazing similarity of thousands of well-preserved manuscript copies going back 3500 years.
The circulation of the Bible shows it is truly what British Parliament member William E. Gladstone said in his theological book, The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture. Translated, copied, printed and distributed more than any book in human history, the Bible has survived infidelity, outlived criticism, and stands immortal, indestructible, and imperishable.
It makes sense, doesn't it, that since God inspired a book to reveal Himself and all that is necessary for faith and life, He would oversee the preservation and circulation of that book?
Secondly, Internal Evidence abounds in its content, witness to itself, and the witness of Jesus that the Bible is the Word of God.
Scripture's content is human, yet divine as God used fully the humanity of the secondary human authors in the act of writing Scripture.
Scripture's content is manifold, yet one. Sixty-six books of law, history, poetry, prophecy and letters contain a single, unfolding story of God's redemption of sinful man.
Scripture's content is ancient, yet modern. The Bible addresses hundreds of controversial subjects that are still hot topics today. And yet, from Genesis to Revelation, these topics are addressed with an amazing degree of harmony.
More than 2,000 times in various ways, the Bible gives witness to itself to be the inspired Word of God. Over 2000 fulfilled prophecies, some reaching hundreds of years into the future in specific detail, along with the testimony of Jesus's disciples and the early church, strongly uphold the Old Testament as the inspired Word of God.
We also see the Bible's witness to itself in the countless lives transformed by the supernatural power of God's Spirit. This dynamic and transforming power is only possible because it is truly God's Word. I am one of those lives! You are one of those lives!
The Bible's witness to itself is striking as seen in the growth and impact of Christianity. From a handful of disciples in Jerusalem, to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world, to 600 million evangelical Christians today in the world, Christianity has profoundly impacted society by changing lives and leading the charge in establishing an untold number of schools and universities, innumerable hospitals, orphanages, and other centers of charity.