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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Why Is the Bible So Special?

Don Stewart :: How Do We Know the Bible Is the Word of God?

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How Do We Know the Bible Is the Word of God?

Why the Bible Is So Special – Question 14

In both testaments, the Bible claims to be God’s communication to humanity; the only divine revelation from the one true God. But is this claim true? How do we know the Bible is what it claims to be—the Word of God?

There Are Two Basic Approaches to This Question

There are two different approaches that are taken when it comes to arguing for the Bible being the Word of God. First, there are those who believe that the Scripture is self-authenticating. The Bible is true because it says it is true, and the Holy Spirit bears witness to this truth. No other argument is necessary.

A second approach believes that the claims of Scripture have sufficient evidence to back them up. Those who hold this view believe there is overwhelming evidence to convince anyone that the Bible is what it claims to be—the Word of God. People, therefore, need to check out the evidence; not merely blindly believe the claims of Scripture.

We can summarize the two approaches as follows:

Approach 1: the Bible Is Self-Authenticating

To many people, the issue of the Bible’s authority is something that should not be debated. The authority of the Bible must be believed because the Scripture says so. This is usually argued in the following ways:

1. The Bible Claims to Be God’s Word: No Other Testimony Is Necessary

The Bible should be allowed to speak for itself. It clearly claims to be God’s Word. It doesn’t need defending. If we attempt to defend the Bible, then we are placing some other standard as the ultimate judge. Whether it is scientific or historical accuracy, human reasoning or some other standard, what we are doing is placing Scripture under that standard. What Scripture says should be our ultimate standard and everything should be judged by its claims; it should be judged by no one.

There is something else. The problem with providing evidence for the Bible is that human beings are both sinful and finite. They must still evaluate any evidence offered for the truthfulness of the Christian faith. Again, it places some sort of human standard as the final authority. Evidence gathered from other sources may be useful, but it has nothing convincing to say about the truth of Christianity.

2. The Bible Should Be Able to Testify on Its Own Behalf

In a court of law, people have a right to testify on their own behalf. Since the Bible is the Word of God, the Author, God, should be allowed to testify to what sort of Book the Bible is. This is particularly true because the Bible says that God cannot lie. His testimony should be received as final.

3. The Witness of the Holy Spirit Demonstrates the Truthfulness of Scripture

However, the Bible does more than merely claim to be God’s Word. The witness of the Spirit shows the reader that the Bible is the Word of God. When the truths of the Bible are personally applied, the credibility of the Bible is demonstrated. Paul wrote:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. (2 Corinthians 3:2 NRSV)

Paul said that people would see the truths of the Word of God at work in the lives of God’s people. This was its testimony. When the truths are lived out in one’s life, we find that they work.

As people read the Bible, they find the Holy Spirit giving confirmation that what they are reading is God’s Word. Therefore, we not only have the claim of Scripture, we also have the witness of the Holy Spirit that the things written in Scripture are true.

Objection: This Is Arguing in a Circle: Assuming What You Should Be Proving

Those who criticize this approach say that it is circular reasoning—it is assuming what it should be proving. Quoting the Bible to prove the Bible does not prove anything. Why should the claims of the Bible be believed? There are many religious books that claim to convey truth. In addition, adherents can be found who will testify as to the power of the truths in these books to change their lives. How can anyone know which claims, if any of them, are right and which claims are wrong? Religious experience alone is not a valid test. Something else is needed.

Approach 2: Examine the Evidence That God Has Given

A second approach to the truth of the Bible’s claims is to examine the evidence about the truthfulness of Christianity. The Bible’s claim to authority is not in and of itself proof of its divine authority. Arguing that the claims of the Bible are more persuasive than the claims of all other religious writings does not always work in real life. There will be those who are not convinced of the Bible’s claims. What should we do with these people? Should they be ignored?

There Are Three Lines of Evidence for the Truth of Jesus’ Claims: Miracles, Fulfilled Prophecy and His Resurrection

The Bible never argues for the existence of God ? it takes this for granted. But the New Testament does argue about the truth of the claims of Jesus through three lines of evidence. The evidence consists of miracles, fulfilled prophecy and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. When the evidence is considered, the verdict becomes clear that Jesus is whom He claimed to be.

We Should Do What Jesus’ Followers Did: Emphasize These Three Areas of Evidence

There is another important point to make. Because the claims of Scripture, on their own, do not constitute any type of convincing proof, we should argue the same way in which Jesus’ disciples argued. They presented compelling proof to the people that Jesus was the Christ.

For example, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter stated the following evidence to the large crowd that had gathered:

You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know—this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Acts 2:22-28 NRSV)

In this one passage, we find Peter appealing to these three different lines of evidence. First, he spoke of the miracles of Jesus Christ; it was something that all the crowd was aware of. He also testified to the fact that Jesus came back from the dead; something to which Peter and the other disciples were witnesses. Finally, Peter said that Jesus’ resurrection was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Therefore, he appealed to miracles, Jesus’ resurrection and fulfilled prophecy.

We also find that the Apostle Paul reasoned with unbelievers from the Scriptures. In the Book of Acts, we read the following:

Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2-3 NKJV)

Since this is the way that the New Testament believers reasoned with unbelievers about the claims of Christ, we should do the same when it comes to the authority of the Bible. Therefore, we should not limit ourselves to merely citing the Bible to prove the Bible.

Ultimately, We Must Taste and See for Ourselves

A person can know the Bible is God’s Word by first examining the claims of Scripture, considering the evidence for those claims and then personally accepting the challenge of Scripture to “taste and see” if these things are true. The psalmist gave the following challenge:

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8 NKJV)

The New Revised Standard Version says:

O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8 NRSV)

Ultimately, a person must individually experience the truth of God’s Word for themselves. This occurs by coming to God in faith and then believing in His promises.

Summary – Question 14
How Do We Know the Bible Is the Word of God?

While the Bible claims to be the authoritative Word of God, there have been two basic approaches as to how anyone can know these claims are true. One approach believes that the Bible should be taken at its Word and not defended. The Holy Spirit will show the truth of its claim to anyone who is interested in knowing. Nothing else is necessary. This way the Bible is not made subject to any other type of authority.

On the other hand, there are those who point to evidences that God has provided to argue for the truth of Scripture. These include miracles, fulfilled prophecy and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Taken together, they constitute overwhelming evidence for the truth of God’s Word. Christians employ both methods in defending and proclaiming Scripture.

However, merely knowing intellectually that the Bible is God’s Word is not enough. The Bible says that we need to personally experience the God of the Bible by believing in His promises and submitting to His commands.

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