Can We Trust the Bible?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.                                                – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Bible is the most attacked book in the world. Why?  Because if it is true then that means we must believe and do what it says. That means God is real, Jesus is the Son of God; He has standards and we are obligated to submit to those standards (Psalm 14:1; John 3:16; 12:48). That means that we are all lost sinners who need the gift of salvation (Romans 3:23; 6:23). That means that heaven and hell are real and we will live in eternity in one of those places (John 14:1-6; Mark 9:43-50).

There are many people who refuse to believe that the Bible is the word of God. Some question the reliability of the scriptures. In many cases, people do not have good arguments to back up their claims (they are mainly just repeating what they heard someone else tell them). But one of the main arguments used to attack the Bible is that many people say, “How can we trust the Bible if we don’t have any of the original documents? How can we trust that people have not tampered with and changed the message of the Bible as it was translated through the years?”

It is true that we do not have any of the original writings of the Bible. What we do have is far more valuable. We have thousands and thousands of copies of what is referred to as “manuscripts”. Consider a few important facts that we need to know as it pertains to the manuscripts of the New Testament:

  1. First, manuscripts are copies of an original. The original is called the “autograph.” All literature from the ancient world is constructed to its original form by comparing the number of copies that survived. Having a large number of copies of the original will ensure that we have a more trustworthy document of what the author intended us to have.
  2. Second, there are about 5,700 Greek handwritten manuscripts. In fact, we have more New Testament manuscripts than the ten best pieces of classical literature combined. That is staggering!
  3. Third, there are about 25,000 manuscripts in a variety of languages like Latin, Coptic, Syriac, and Arabic. Some are complete Bibles, others are books or pages, and some are fragments. This is important to know because it shows that these documents were circulated and written in other languages as the centuries progressed. Therefore, we can go back and compare the Greek manuscripts to ensure we have what God intended.
  4. Fourth, the New Testament manuscripts were written early after the originals. Consider the example of the John Ryland’s fragment. It is called this because it is housed in the John Ryland Library in Manchester, England. On this fragment is John 18:31-33 and John 18:37-38. Some have dated this fragment to be written between 117-138 AD (some even date it as early as 100 A.D!). It was found in Egypt while the original was probably written in Asia Minor. This is extraordinary because it shows us that the gospel of John was being copied and circulated soon after the original was made (many scholars consider the gospel of John to have been written sometime towards the end of the first century).
  5. But someone says, “What about all the errors found when comparing the copies?” A better word to use is “variations.” That is the word the experts use. It is true that there are several “variations” within all the manuscripts (some suggest there may be about 200,000), but that shouldn’t cause us to worry. Scholars have determined that the majority of variations in the manuscripts have to do with spelling and punctuation. None of them affect any doctrine pertaining to the Christian faith.

What is the point? What we have today is exactly what God intended us to have. We can be confident that what we have in the Bible is indeed the very word of God! We have assurance that if we believe and follow the Bible, we can be saved and go to heaven.

But it is not enough just to believe that the Bible is indeed the inspired word of God. We also have to read and do what it says (James 1:22-25). And so the challenge for the week is this: set aside at least 30 minutes each day to read your Bible (that is no longer that the average TV sitcom). In that time you could read three or four chapters from Proverbs and get wisdom, a few Psalms and receive encouragement, a couple of chapters from the gospels and learn more about your Savior, or the entire book of Philippians and learn about the joy that comes with being a Christian.

While you read, keep a highlighter or pencil in your hand and underline all of the things that stand out to you and really help you in your faith. Pray about those things. Meditate and really let them soak in your heart. Doing these things will only help you draw closer to God and allow His word to become the true blessing He intended it to be in your life. Do you love God’s word enough to take on this challenge?

– Shawn Jeffries

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Are You Running On The Wrong Fuel?

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Have you seen the commercial where a young lady is at a gas station trying to put diesel fuel into her new car? People all around the service station notice and try to stop her. Events begin to happen in slow motion. As she lifts the nozzle and opens her fuel-cap, the townspeople are running and yelling and waving their arms to gain her attention. But no one can stop her!

The commercial returns to real time as the neighbors arrive at the pump, only to find that her sporty little car actually has a diesel engine under the hood. The people look relieved and the young lady looks confused – she knew she had selected the right fuel all along.

The commercial is hilarious because everyone knows what happens when you put diesel fuel into a gasoline engine – you wreck the engine! You cannot do it. It does not work.

Likewise, people are designed by God to run on certain “fuel,” but how many of us are trying to run on the wrong fuel? Notice the invitation extended by God’s prophet Isaiah.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,

Come to the waters;

And you who have no money,

Come, buy and eat.

Yes, come, buy wine and milk

Without money and without price.

2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread,

And your wages for what does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,

And let your soul delight itself in abundance.

3 Incline your ear, and come to Me.

Hear, and your soul shall live;

And I will make an everlasting covenant with you —

The sure mercies of David,” Isaiah 55:1-3

Why do we spend all of our money, time, and energies on things that do not satisfy, that is, on the wrong fuel? Greed, materialism, gluttony, and mammon – all these give the appearance of satisfying our souls and bringing purpose to our lives. But they fail. We were made to run on different fuel – the Word of God (Matthew 4:3-4).

Until we stop trying to fill our hearts and lives with poor substitutes for a right relationship with God, we are wrecked engines trying to run on the wrong fuel. Isaiah’s invitation resonates with all who realize that their own attempts at joy, peace, and abundance have only ended in frustrations and yearnings.

It is time for something different, something more. It is time to feed our lives with the right fuel. It is time we trust and obey God’s Word.

by Andrew Roberts

Drawn To Jesus

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Recently I’ve been learning about the religious phenomenon of “Muslim-Background Believers” (MBB). That is, people who live in predominately Muslim lands, or even grew up in Muslim households, are leaving the religion of their youth for the gospel message.  Their conversion stories are gripping, inspiring, and abundant.

Some MBB remain in their homelands and face terrible persecution at the hands of their families, their neighbors, and their governments where apostasy is a capital crime (I Am N, Voice of the Martyrs, 2016). Many must flee their nation to preserve their lives (Islam and Terrorism, Mark A. Gabriel, 2015). I’ve benefited greatly from a number of books written by MBB that share an insider’s perspective on Islam, contrasting it with the Christian Faith (Unveiling Islam, Caner & Caner, 2009; Understand My Muslim People, Abraham Sarker, 2004). These books and many more encourage Christians to understand Muslim backgrounds, offer answers to Islam’s objections to Christianity, and explore ways to help other Muslims leave Islam (Answering Islam, Geisler & Saleeb, 2003; Beyond Opinion, Ravi Zacharias, 2010).

What is drawing Muslims out of Islam? Why are they willing to risk such great personal cost? I’m learning that it’s the same compelling evidence and message that draws all people to Jesus. Listen to some of the reasons:

 

“These converts evidently found something in Christianity that they felt was lacking in Islam. Many are attracted to the figure of Jesus, others find the Christian dogma of forgiveness of sins comforting, and still others are impressed by the charitable behavior of individual Christians around them. But if there is a common thread running through these conversion testimonies, it is that Christianity preaches the love of Christ and God, whereas Islam is forever threatening hellfire for disobeying, and obsessively holds up the wrath of God in front of the believer. In other words, the two religions have two totally different conceptions of God: In the former, God is near, loving, and protective, God the Father, in the latter, God is a remote, angry, tyrannical figure to be obeyed blindly.” – Ibn Warraq, Leaving Islam, p.92

“Muslims are drawn to the love of Christ, and this is a big responsibility as well as a blessing. When I read the New Testament, what amazed and astounded me the most was the teaching on love, not only toward one’s kin and kindred, but even toward one’s enemies. It was so different from my training in Islam that it actually made me angry that someone could suggest something so obviously impossible. But as I continued reading, the reality of it entered my heart and changed my life.” – Sam Soloman, Beyond Opinion, p.78

“After one year of reading the Bible in an honest way, I understand now what happened to me. I found my way to God, the real God, the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope now for all the people I love, my family, my friends, and everyone else to change also and begin to read the Bible in an honest way. I am sure that God will help them find their way.” – Desert Son, a Saudi Arabian Muslim convert to Christianity, Leaving Islam, p.95

“Christianity is life, Islam is death” – an Algerian Muslim convert to Christianity, El Youm (an Algerian Arabic daily, December, 2000)

 

People, any people, can be drawn to Jesus by the Word of God. The Father draws people to Jesus by the teaching of Scripture (John 6:44-45). So when people honestly read the Bible they discover the gospel of Jesus. Jesus’ gospel is the true message of light (John 8:12), life (John 11:25), and love (John 15:10-15)! It is the Word of Truth (1 Peter 1:22-25) and the Power to Salvation (Romans 1:16). Nothing compares to the New Testament because the gospel is true and world religions are false. Faith is founded on the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

People have all sorts of backgrounds – religious and irreligious. People have all sorts of baggage – sin and guilt. And all people have the same appointment to keep – death and judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Will you have the Savior on that day?

Are you drawn to Jesus?

Will you help others learn about Him from the Bible?

 

By Andrew Roberts

We Can Endure!

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Have you ever met someone whose perseverance through their own struggles motivated you to do better?

For me, it was Angela, a 33 year old Christian with Down’s syndrome whom I met while preaching in the Birmingham area. Though she only came up to my shoulder she had a personality that was bigger than life. Angela was nearly the first person who shook my hand the morning I arrived at the church building. She marched right up and greeted me with a bright smile, saying, “You must be Andrew Roberts. I am looking forward to your sermons.” Then she quickly returned to her pew. She greeted me every night of that week-long preaching meeting.

There were interactive outlines for my sermons during the week but Angela would not take one. She told the ushers, “No. I don’t want it. I take my own notes.” Then on Friday night, after the last service, she handed me a stack of papers. She said, “Here are your sermons. And I want you to have them.” As I looked down, I realized that she had handwritten nearly everything I’d said in each sermon!

I was overwhelmed at her perseverance because I understood that every aspect of the note-taking process was more difficult for her. She truly endured. From her fine motor skills, to her cognitive ability, to her visual acuity – everything was just a little harder. And I treasure those papers as a testament to her faith and a poignant example of endurance.

The Hebrew writer admonishes: we all need endurance. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). Endurance is necessary to “do the will of God” (Hebrews 10:36), “live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38), and “run the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). We need endurance because doing, living, and running won’t happen accidentally. Furthermore, we need endurance because we don’t know how long we must continue doing, living, and running. Will we serve God faithfully for the next 60 years? Will Jesus return tomorrow?

What exhausts our endurance? The book of Hebrews shows Christians who began running their race amidst great struggles. Hebrews 10:32-34 recounts how, as new converts, they were mocked, imprisoned, lost property, and shared their goods with persecuted saints. Yet, according to Hebrews 10:23-25, those same Christians currently wavered about their confession and rarely assembled with the saints. They used to go to jail for Jesus and now they won’t even go to church!

Without endurance, Christians “draw back to perdition” (Hebrews 10:38-39). Being burdened and ensnared in sin, they cease to run their race (Hebrews 12:1).

So, what encourages endurance?

The Hebrew writer directed Christians to follow good examples of faith and endurance. First, they were reminded that faith fuels endurance through many Old Testament examples (Hebrews 11). Then they were directed to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3)! Jesus is the primary example of perseverance for the prize. Finally, they needed to consider their leaders and spiritual forebears (Hebrews 6:12; 13:7). These all received God’s promises.

The Bible recounts God’s faithfulness in the past and promises for the future. It makes the case for endurance today. Furthermore, we benefit from the good examples of leaders in the church or beloved elderly saints who’ve shaped us and endured in the faith.

Endurance is rewarded in receiving God’s “promise” (Hebrews 10:36) – “the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39). We can endure! What helps is time spent reading Scripture, an intent focus on Jesus, and meeting saints like Angela who, themselves, persevere.

By Andrew Roberts

Islam, Abortion, and Other Hot Topics

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The calendar year has changed but challenges to the gospel remain. By God’s grace we have entered 2016 but it is surely so He may work in us according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). A new year means fresh opportunities to be “instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13), “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14), and examples to others (1 Timothy 4:12). Such biblical mandates compel us to bring biblical truth to bear on the pressing issues of our time.

So many of the WithGodsWord followers live in Middle Tennessee that we tend to think of all of our readers as neighbors. Jackson Heights Church of Christ (Columbia, TN) makes this blog possible and we sure appreciate all who read and comment on the posts. Our desire is to continue to send you a weekly, insightful, encouraging Bible message – free.

But today is a little different. We want you to know about something special going on at Jackson Heights Church and invite you to be part of it. At the beginning of each month we are going to have a sermon addressing the Hot Topics of our times. Here are the first three:

  1. January 10, 10:15 AM – “Answering Islam’s Challenges”
  2. February 7, 10:15 AM – Racism
  3. March 6, 10:15 AM – Abortion

Would you consider attending one Sunday morning to worship God and explore what the Bible says regarding the pressing issues of our time? We would love to meet more of our readers and these are great opportunities.

People have genuine questions, anxieties, experiences, and opinions about all of the subjects we wish to address throughout the series. Our goal will be to share Book, Chapter, and Verse from the Bible so you can see God’s Word on these matters for yourself. Whether these kinds of topics stir up anger, shame, sorrow, or fear, we can know that there is grace in the gospel and the power of God to redeem us, transform us, and fill us with hope and peace about tomorrow. With God’s Word we can know what is right and how to live it righteously (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16).

We hope to see you this Sunday.

By Andrew Roberts

The Seasons Change, God’s Word Doesn’t

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As I stepped outside this morning, I was greeted by nature’s gentle breeze.  I looked around and I couldn’t help but see the vegetation changing, leaves falling, squirrels harvesting, and simply the arrival of a beautiful new season; fall is here. The nature and the power of God are yet again on display for all men to see.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time,” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

It’s so awesome to see things change. This is the nature of life. Times change, trends change, people change, and today, we can clearly see that the seasons change.

Friends, I will tell you, one thing that does not change, is the inspired, unadulterated, Word of God. As people of God, we must continue to accept it, proclaim it, and defend it despite the ever-changing trends of this world.

 “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever,” Isaiah 40:8.

I’m reminded of a time in Scripture in Acts 5, when the Sanhedrin Council, Jewish religious leaders, tried to hinder the word of God from being preached.

Christ’s apostles were doing great signs and wonders, prompting great crowds. As a result of this, the Jewish leaders became envious and had Christ’s apostles arrested and thrown into prison.  During the night, however, an angel of the Lord came and released them and the next day the apostles were again found in the temple preaching and teaching Jesus.

The Council was perplexed at this, and once again had them questioned. When asked why they continued to speak of this Jesus, the apostle Peter declared that they must obey God rather than men and that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of the world.

At this statement, the scriptures say the leaders became envious and wanted them killed.

Right at the point of execution, a well-respected Pharisee, named Gamaliel, stood up and told the Sadducees to hold off. He reasoned about men who claimed to be from God, but were eventually killed, their followers were scattered, and their messages came to nothing.

Gamaliel continued to say that if this message Peter and the apostles were preaching is of man, it too will come to nothing, but, if it is indeed from God, it will not be overthrown and those who attempt to silence it may even be found opposing God.

Friends, the fact that we, some two thousand years removed  from this declaration are still preaching, teaching, worshiping, and serving the same Jesus Christ means we can know for certain that this plan and this undertaking of the apostles and the early Christians has certainly not been overthrown and is truly inspired.  For this reason, unlike the seasons, we can know for certain that the word of God will never change.

By Timothy G. Ruffin

A Lifetime of Rest

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Not only is today the last day that it is socially acceptable to wear the color white, but today is Labor Day. This first Monday in September is a National holiday that provides many American citizens a break from the rigors of work and school and allows them to spend this day resting and doing whatever they please.

It’s always nice to have a break, because quite frankly, life is hard; there are bills to pay, kids to raise, jobs to attend, and classes to pass.

Aside from the physical, mundane aspects of life, Christians are engaged in spiritual warfare. The devil is constantly trying to tempt us, discourage us, and keep us off course. Juggling the routine aspects of life while trying to flee from sin can be pretty laborious.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just have a lifetime of rest?  I’m happy to tell you, we can.

I’m reminded of the words of Jesus.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” Matthew 11:28-29.

Our Heavenly Father has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to give us what no one else can give—rest from the burden of sin. In order to obtain this rest, Christ tells His disciples in the above passage to “learn from Him.”

We learn from Jesus by being absorbed in His word.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” 2 Timothy 2:15.

Those who are absorbed in the word of God will learn truths that will comfort, encourage, strengthen, and protect them from both the physical and the spiritual burdens of life.

If we are daily meditating on, consumed in, and are practicing what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise, we will be lavished with God’s peace and love (Philippians 4:8-9). God’s peace is greater than what any National Holiday or employer can provide; this is a peace which brings forth a lifetime of rest and true happiness.

By Timothy G. Ruffin