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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: 10 Reasons to Trust the Bible

Don Stewart :: The Bible’s Honesty

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The Bible’s Honesty

Ten Reasons to Trust the Bible – Reason 7

As one examines the Bible, it becomes apparent that it is different than other ancient religious literature in that it gives an honest portrayal of all its characters. It tells the truth about who they are and what they did.

The Bible Is Honest about the Faults of Its Characters

Scripture honestly deals with the frailties of the people of God, and even with the shortcomings of its own authors. The Bible paints a realistic portrait of its characters, resisting any temptation to mythologize, deify or perfect them. We can give the following examples:

Example 1: Noah Was a Drunkard

The Bible lists Noah as a man of great faith. He believed God’s promise and helped save a small part of humanity from the Great Flood. However, after the Flood, Noah was once found in a drunken stupor. The Bible says:

Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. (Genesis 9:20-23)

Noah was the same man who trusted the Lord to save his family through the ark which, in faith, he built. However, after the Flood, he allowed himself to drink to excess and make a fool of himself. Rather than omitting this episode, Scripture shows that Noah was a person of like passions as you and I; a sinner.

Example 2: Abraham Lied about the Identity of His Wife

Though Abraham was called the “father of the faithful,” he had his lapses of faith. On one occasion he told a king named Abimelech that his wife Sarah was actually his sister. The Bible puts it this way:

Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman”... Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?” (Genesis 20:1-3, 9-10)

While many righteous deeds of Abraham are recorded in Scripture, so are his sins.

Example 3: Moses Disobeyed God

In the history of Israel, Moses was a leader like no other. The Bible says of him:

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

However, the Bible also records the lack of obedience from Moses. On one occasion, Moses disobeyed God and hit a rock instead of speaking to it. The Bible says that this incident kept Moses from entering the Promised Land:

On that same day the LORD told Moses, “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 32:48-52)

This act of disobedience kept Moses from entering the Promised Land. While Moses was probably the greatest leader in the Old Testament period, his shortcomings are not hidden from us.

Example 4: The Nation Israel Was Unfaithful to God

One of the remarkable things we find in the Scripture is the description of the behavior of God’s chosen people—Israel. They were specially called by God to be His witnesses to the world. While the Old Testament was written entirely by people that came from this chosen nation, there is no attempt to portray them as better than the nations around them. To the contrary, Israel is often spoken of as an unfaithful wife.

For example, when Israel won a battle, the credit was given to the Lord ? not their own military genius. On the other hand, when battles were lost it was attributed to disobedience to the Lord.

We also find that Israel traces its history to one of slavery. From this slavery they were delivered to the freedom of the Promised Land. No nation, making up its own history, would depict themselves as slaves. Instead, as we find with other nations, they are descendants of rulers or of the gods.

In fact, the history of Israel reveals their weaknesses, lack of faith, losses in battles, captivity and slavery. This is not the kind of reporting that we would expect from a biased source. It is, however, what we would expect from an honest, truthful report of the history of the nation.

To sum up, the Old Testament reads like a truthful, believable account of the history of a nation that had its victories and its defeats.

Example 5: David Was a Murderer and an Adulterer

The Bible says that King David was a man after God’s own heart. The prophet Samuel, in speaking to King Saul, described David in the following manner:

But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command. (1 Samuel 13:14)

Yet, the Scripture also testifies that David was also a murderer and adulterer. The Bible records the following account:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba... the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.... Then she went back home... The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.” (2 Samuel 11:14-15)

David then compounded his sin by ordering the death of Uriah. We read:

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” (2 Samuel 11:14-15)

David was punished severely for his deeds. His murder and adultery were not whitewashed for the record.

Example 6: John the Baptist Had a Lapse of Faith

John the Baptist was the specially chosen forerunner of Jesus. The Bible said that he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. To John’s father, Zachariah, the angel Gabriel said the following to him before the conception of John:

For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. (Luke 1:15)

Notice that the angel said that John would be “great in the sight of the Lord.” Jesus said of him:

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)

However, John was not perfect. In fact, he had a lapse of faith in Jesus. Specifically, it was concerning the way Jesus was proclaiming the message of the coming Kingdom. Although John publicly acknowledged that Jesus was the Promised Messiah, he began to have some questions about Jesus. The Bible records what happened:

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2-3)

John’s sin was not overlooked.

Example 7: the Rejection of Jesus by His Own People

The Bible records that Jesus came into the world and presented Himself to His people, the Jews, as the promised Messiah. Yet it also tells us that the nation rejected Him. The Bible says:

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:10-11)

His own people, the Jews, did not accept Jesus as the promised Messiah.

Example 8: the Disciples of Jesus Only Thought about Themselves During His Last Hours on Earth

Though the disciples of Jesus Christ helped turn the world upside down by proclaiming the message of the risen Savior, they often fell into sin. The Bible does not overlook their faults. When Jesus was about to die, the Bible says His disciples argued with one another:

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. (Luke 22:24)

At Jesus’ most troubling hour, His disciples were insensitive to the events that were transpiring. They are certainly not portrayed as spiritual giants.

Example 9: When Jesus Was Betrayed, All His Disciples Deserted Him

To make matters worse, when Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot in the Garden of Gethsemane, all of His disciples fled. We read what took place when Jesus was arrested:

Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:56)

Instead of standing by him, they left Him alone.

Peter Denied Knowing Jesus

The Apostle Peter was a leading disciple among the Twelve. He was the first disciple who publicly acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah. Matthew writes:

“But what about you?” he [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16)

Though Peter rightly acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, he denied even knowing Jesus on the night of His betrayal. Scripture says the following occurred on the night Jesus was arrested:

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)

The same man, who was the first disciple to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, was also the first to deny Him after He had been betrayed.

Example 10: The Apostle Paul Parted Company with Barnabas over John Mark

The Apostle Paul, the man who wrote many of the New Testament books, had a huge argument with his traveling companion, Barnabas. We are told they had a sharp disagreement over whether to take John Mark with them. The Bible says:

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus. (Acts 15:36-39)

This disagreement caused them to minister separately. Among other reasons, this account is recorded to illustrate their frail humanity.

These Ten Examples Show the Bible Tells the Truth

The fact that the characters in the Bible fell into sin does not detract from the biblical message. On the contrary, the clear message of Scripture is that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the perfect standard of God. Paul wrote to the Romans:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

The Bible proclaims the holiness of the Lord God, not the perfection of His followers and prophets. The fact that the sins of the believers are recorded shows that the Bible tells it like it is.

Jesus Did Not Have Any Faults

There is one notable exception. The same authors who honestly depicted their own sin testified there was one among them who was sinless—Jesus Christ our Lord. Scripture makes it clear that Jesus was without sin.

1. Jesus Believed He Was Sinless

As we examine the account of the life of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, we observe that He believed Himself to be without sin. When He came to be baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus was momentarily stopped because John realized it was unnecessary. John’s baptism was for the confession of sin, and he realized that this one had no sin. But Jesus insisted upon being baptized. Matthew writes:

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. (Matthew 3:15)

Jesus submitted to the baptism, but did not confess any sin. Immediately after His baptism, He was tempted by Satan. Yet Jesus refused to give in to the temptation and told the devil to leave Him. He said:

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10)

In the great spiritual battle with the devil, Jesus did not succumb to sin.

Throughout His entire ministry, Jesus challenged those with Him to find sin in His life. He asked the following question to His disciples:

Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? (John 8:46)

The response from those surrounding Him was silence. They had never seen Him sin, for He had not sinned.

At the end of His life, while proceeding to the Garden of Gethsemane to be betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father and said:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4)

Knowing of His impending death, His prayer was not one of confession, but rather one of victory. He had finished the mission given to Him by the Father and had finished it without committing a sin. It is clear that Jesus believed Himself to be sinless.

2. The Testimony of His Friends That He Was Sinless

Not only did Jesus recognize that He was sinless, those who knew Him were aware of this fact. The Scripture records the attitude of the disciples toward Jesus. They make it clear that He was sinless. Simon Peter wrote the following:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:21-22)

Peter, a man who was constantly with Jesus for three years, day and night, could testify that he never saw Jesus sin. He claimed Jesus never did anything wrong, never deceived anyone.

The Apostle John, another person who was with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry, also claimed that Jesus was without sin. He wrote the following to the believers:

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5)

John agrees with Peter: Jesus never sinned.

We again emphasize that this testimony is especially significant because it was given by people who were constantly with Jesus. They saw Him when He was tired, they saw Him when He was hungry and when the multitudes pressed around Him. Yet they testified that in all this they had never once seen Him sin. Their testimony, that He was without sin, carries considerable weight because they honestly reported their own faults and shortcomings. Indeed, they had faults, but Jesus did not.

The Apostle Paul agreed with John and Peter. He reported the following about the character of Jesus:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Paul’s claims are consistent with those who personally knew Jesus during His earthly ministry; Jesus was sinless.

3. The Testimony of His Enemies That Jesus Was Without Sin

We have heard the testimony of Jesus Himself along with the testimony of His friends with regard to His sinlessness. Yet there is another factor to be considered—His enemies. Those who did not believe in Him also gave testimony to the fact that He was sinless. As Jesus was casting an evil spirit out of a man, this spirit gave testimony to Him. The Bible says:

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:23-24)

Here we have evil spirits, or demons, testifying to the holiness of Jesus. They knew who He was.

When the traitor Judas Iscariot realized the awful deed which he had done in betraying Jesus, he returned to the chief priests and elders and made the following confession:

“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” (Matthew 27:4)

The man who betrayed Jesus also recognized His sinlessness.

At Jesus’ trial, those intimately involved in the proceedings admitted they could find no fault in Him. Matthew wrote:

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward. (Matthew 26:59-60)

The religious leaders were looking for something specific in which to accuse Jesus, but they could not find anything. Nobody had ever seen Him sin.

Pontius Pilate, upon examining Jesus, also testified he could find no fault with Him. John records the following:

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 18:38)

Though Pilate publicly stated that Jesus was innocent of all charges, he still ordered His crucifixion.

When Jesus died upon the cross, the Roman centurion who was watching the proceedings realized that Jesus was righteous.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:47)

To the very end, those who were acquainted with Jesus recognized His sinless nature.

It is one thing that Jesus’ friends recognized His sinlessness; it is quite another thing that His enemies also acknowledged that He was without sin.

4. The Testimony of God the Father That the Son Was Sinless

The final and by far the most significant testimony that Jesus was sinless came from God the Father; He certainly would have known whether or not Jesus had sinned.

At Jesus’ baptism, the Father voiced His pleasure of the Son. The Bible says:

The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)

The Father testified that he was “well pleased” with the Son before He began His public ministry.

Later in His ministry, at the Transfiguration, the Father again voiced audibly that the Son had pleased Him.

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)

This testimony of God the Father came during the ministry of Jesus. The Father made it clear that the Son was doing those things which pleased the Father.

On another occasion, before the multitude, the Father testified to the ministry of the Son. Jesus said the following:

Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28)

This event occurred during the latter part of Jesus’ ministry. Again, the Father testifies that He is pleased with the actions of the Son.

The final act that demonstrated the testimony of God the Father to the sinlessness of Jesus was the acceptance of His sacrifice on the cross. The fact that He received Jesus into heaven showed that His mission was accomplished as the perfect, sinless sacrifice. The Bible says:

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

If Jesus had sinned in any manner, then He would not have been able to appear in the presence of His Father. The Father’s unqualified acceptance of Jesus was the final testimony to His sinlessness.

Thus, we know that Jesus Himself, His friends, His enemies and God the Father all considered Him to be without sin. This being the case, we conclude that Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life while here on earth.

Bible teacher Wilbur Smith offers a fitting observation on the character of Jesus:

Fifteen million minutes of life on this earth, in the midst of a wicked and corrupt generation—every thought, every deed, every purpose, every work, privately and publicly, from the time He opened His baby eyes until He expired on the cross, were all approved of God. Never once did our Lord have to confess any sin, for He had no sin. (Wilbur Smith, Have You Considered Him? Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1970, p. 8, 9)

The honesty of the Bible is refreshing. The faults of its characters (except for the sinless Son of God who had no faults) are not overlooked or whitewashed. This honesty is another of the wonders which set the Bible apart from all other religious literature. The writers told the truth!

Summary – Reason 7
The Bible’s Honesty

The Bible gives an honest report about the behavior of people. Indeed, there is no attempt to hide the imperfections of the main characters in Scripture. They were not made into superheroes. Like the rest of us, they had their imperfections. We cited ten examples: Noah, Abraham, Moses, the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, David, John the Baptist, the nation’s rejection of Jesus, Jesus’ own disciples, Peter and Paul.

In each of these instances, these people, as well as an entire nation, were portrayed to be normal human beings who have faults such as you and I have. There is no attempt to make them into spiritual giants or people who were faultless. However, in contrast to them, the main character of the Bible, Jesus Christ, had no faults. He never sinned. This is the record of Scripture.

Not only did Jesus claim this for Himself, His testimony was confirmed by His closest friends, His enemies and God the Father. While it is clear that everyone else sinned, it is also a fact that Jesus never sinned. The testimony of Jesus’ sinlessness came from those who intimately knew Him. In other words, they were in a position to make such a claim. This is an honest report of what took place.

The Bible does not lie. Again, we find that Scripture shows itself to be different from any other book; it tells it like it is! We are all sinners, but Jesus Christ was not. This is why He is able to save us from our sins.

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