Does being a Christian mean reading the Bible? Do you have to believe all of it? Practice all of it? Preach all of it? Is it possible to be a Christian and just practice the “important parts” (in other words, the parts that I want to practice)? We hear such questions often. The answers are not always easy to give, nor are they possible to give in only a few seconds. It is important for us to know what the Bible says about itself and its inerrancy, as well what history can tell us about its preservation.
First, the Bible should always be the standard by which assert every believe. If we, as Christians, cannot pull out a Bible verse to back up our religious doctrines and practices, then perhaps we must reconsider that doctrine. To be a Christian is to follow the Bible in its entirety. After all, God created man, right? And if God created man that He would want to speak to man, right? And if the Bible is what God spoke to man, then perhaps we should read it, right? Right!
What Does The Bible Say About Itself?
The Bible asserts in numerous passages that it is the Word of God, the Gospel, the Truth, and the Way. The following is only a short list of the verses that defend this:
Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
This verse emphasized the fact that God’s words are timeless, withstanding any shifts or variations in popular opinion. There is no way to avoid what God has declared on a subject, no matter what society says in contrast. Peter quotes this verse in 1 Peter 1:23-25, and of it he writes, “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” While many put their stock in the opinions of the world, it is a Christian’s goal to forever abide in that which does not change. How disturbing it must be for the worldly individual who is always unsure of whether or not he is behind the times, constantly concerned the shifting sands of the polls, the conventions, the trends, or the modern day judgments of sin and righteousness. We are exhorted by God to “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). There is no security in anything but the will of God, for it does not bend in the face of any storm.
Isaiah 55:11 “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
God’s judgments do not return to Him empty, which means that there is life and power in the Bible. When God commands something, or His will is pronounced, it cannot be removed, altered, revised, or renounced. Furthermore, the Bible is not a failed book, nor is God’s true religion a flawed system. What God commands works properly and succeeds in its aims. There is, therefore, no reason to add to it or attempt to make it better.
Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.”
Even though the earth and its works will be burned on the last day (2 Peter 3:10), the words of God are unending. Even if the world is decimated by wars, disease, rampant illiteracy, widespread rejection of truth and a love of apostasy – no matter what happens to the world, God’s truth will never lose its power or its life. It will always be there for us, its judgments sound and righteous. Contextually, this verse is being spoken to Jews who would, in their lifetimes, see the destruction of Jerusalem. The temptation, then, would be to panic and lose faith. But Jesus is assuring them that even though the grand city of the Jews would be razed, the Truth would always be there for them.
John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Notice, first of all, the completeness of the statement. It is not a matter of some of the Bible being useful and applicable to the Christian – all of it is. Every word from the Bible is powerful and bountiful, brimming with valuable spiritual and material lessons. The Word of God is profitable for educating us in matters of the family, our marriages, our employment, our attitudes, morality, righteousness, self-control, and every other subject that leads us to maturity and adequacy. If, therefore, the Bible already contains instruction on “every good work” and its exhortations make us adequate in all things, what more does the Bible need?
2 Peter 1:20-21 “But know first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
The Bible is no matter of opinion or improper interpretation. There is an expectation by God that we use it properly and understand clearly that it is not to be tampered with. Everything written in this book is there for a reason, and there are no worthless words, or extraneous comments. Rather, every word, every story, every name, every date, every bit of wisdom comes straight from God through the work of prophets and inspired writers. God gets credit for the marvelous power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16), not the minds of men. It is interesting to consider how history has treated the truths of the Bible. In spite of the fact that it is a book inspired by God, men for ages have believed that it takes councils, conventions, and conferences to interpret it. It is not meant to be interpreted by “majority rule” or “popular opinion”, though. Anything written by the Holy Spirit is good enough by itself, without the appendices of mankind.
Daniel 10:21 “However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the scripture of truth.”
Psalm 119:160 “The sum of Thy word is truth, and every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting.”
What a marvelous affirmation of the completeness of the Bible. We cannot take the Word piecemeal, but must understand that everything together makes up the volume of divine truth. Cursed is the man who tries to practice only one part of the Law without obeying the rest of it (Galatians 3:10). As Christians, we are not allowed to choose certain commandments and neglect others, for everything spoken by God is profitable and necessary for the one who wants to be complete spiritually.
It becomes clear from these verses that God intended for His word, both the New Testament and the Old Testament, to last forever and to be there for us when we need wisdom. Although the Old Testament is not applicable or binding today as law, God still claims to have preserved it for our benefit. Paul writes, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). He also wrote in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through the perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
What Does History Say About The Bible?
Unfortunately, some have asserted that the Bible is unreliable and full of errors. Because of this, it can no longer be trusted, an idea that led to the eventual writing of the Book of Mormon, the modern-day revelation of Jesus Christ.
But the evidence stands that proves the Bible has and always will be accurate. First of all, we must all realize that the same God who claims to have created the Earth and all the universe also claims to have inspired the Bible. Tell me one thing; if God can create existence in six days, and if God can part the Red Sea, and if God can bring hail and fire upon His enemies, and if God can raise His Son from the grave, and if God can stop the sun from setting or rising, and if God can withhold rain from the skies for years at a time, and if God can do this and so much more every day, then why is it that God cannot ensure that His Word will remain accurate and free from error? Is that such a difficult task for the Mighty Father of all the creation?
Besides, history has shown the Bible is one of the most accurate and widespread pieces of literature ever. For example, more Bible have been produced than any other book in the world. It has been accurately translated to almost every known language and is prevalent on every continent except Antarctica. There are more ancient transcripts and copies of the Bible in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic than there are original transcripts of any produced William Shakespeare play. Yet no historian doubts that those Shakespeare plays have been kept pure from mistranslation or change!
The Bible was originally written by its inspired writers covering a span of history that started with day one of the world. No other book has covered such a time frame.
The Old Testament in its complete form comes from a set of Hebrew writings that were preserved diligently by the priestly sects in Jerusalem. Copies were dispersed in limited forms throughout Judea to Jewish synagogues. We know that Christ read from such Scriptures in Luke 4:17, specifically from the prophet Isaiah. The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 was also reading from his own copy of Isaiah. Surely, Jews in Berea had access to their own set of the Old Testament Scriptures in Acts 17:11 because the text says that they studied them daily. From these accounts, we find that texts of the Old Testament were copied and owned by numerous individuals in and around Judea.
New Testament writings were preserved and copied diligently by the church in the First Century. We know that Paul ordered a copy of his letter to the Colossians be sent to the brethren in Laodicea, and that a copy of their letter be read among them in Colossians 4:16.
After the second-century, the New Testament was essentially in complete form and distributed across a broad area of the Roman Empire. No original manuscripts survived because the quality of parchment was not high. “The autographs of the New Testament writers perished in all probability at an early day. Unless they were written on the best parchment or vellum, or were kept with special reference to long-continued preservation, their destruction was inevitable” (Evidences of Christianity, McGarvey, 25). Although no originals made it, their manuscripts can still be seen today. As the Apostasy began, New Testament writings were maintained in pristine condition in Rome, the center of the Catholic Church. In fact, in 1448 in the Vatican Palace, such documents occupied a 2,100 foot-long library. Also, manuscripts of the New Testament have been found in similar libraries in southern Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries.
Most of these writings were preserved, untouched and unadulterated, for one main reason; neglect. Most complete copies of the New Testament were ignored after the Western Roman Empire declined in the fourth century. “After being used for a comparatively short time, they were laid away in libraries, because their owners had ceased to read them, and their existence in many cases passed out of human knowledge” (McGarvey, 28).
Did Early Christians Consider The New Testament Writings As Scriptural?
First Century Christians treated the writings of the Apostles as both inspired and profitable. Consider what Peter says of Paul’s epistles in 2 Peter 3:16. He put Paul’s writings in the same category as “the rest of the Scriptures” meaning that those epistles were part of the accepted Word of God.
Also see what Paul says of Luke’s writing in 1 Timothy 5:18. He refers to one Scripture from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 25:4) and also as Scripture he quotes a phrase used by Christ in Luke 10:7. So Luke’s writings fit in the category of “Scripture”!