Who Wrote the Bible?

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God…”

1 Thessalonians 2:13

Whether we will admit it or not, we come to the Bible with presuppositions. We come with a certain disposition, a state of mind, a perspective. Fundamentally, we come to the Scriptures either with or without faith–and this makes all the difference: “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Hebrews 4:2).

The gift of faith changes the way we receive “the message.” This is why Paul thanked God without ceasing. When the Thessalonians enthusiastically received his gospel, they didn’t think they were receiving some new philosophy or some new manmade religion or some new spiritual fad. They believed they were receiving the very Word of God. Paul is celebrating the clear evidence of faith.

Believers receive the Scriptures with faith. With Paul, we believe the words contained in the Bible are not merely the words of men but the Word of God. This believe shapes how we understand the Word’s origin and its authority.

The Word’s Origin.

Let’s talk about the Bible’s origin. Did the words of the Bible originate in the mind of men or in the mind of God? Are they first and foremost the words of God or the words of men? If you will only admit that they are the words of men—it does not matter whether you think they are the words of enlightened men, spiritual men, very wise men—if you believe they are merely the words of men, then they are utterly powerless.

We live in a post-postmodern society engaged in a war of the words of men. Every man and woman uses his words to try to exercise power over others. The person, party, or movement with the most persuasive and aggressive and loudest words wins.

Friends, if the Christian Scriptures are just the words of men, then we are no different from anyone else. Our religious book is just an attempt to exercise political or social or cultural power over others through human words.

Sadly, many professing Christians live as though this were true. They act as though the Bible needs help evolving for the 21st century. The Bible embarrasses itself at times and needs someone to fix its makeup, so to speak. So they alter or explain away parts of the Bible to try to make it more competitive for today’s market.

It’s a matter of origin. Is the Bible just a library of outdated religious thoughts–the best intentions of people who lived long ago, or is it the product of the mind of the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresence Lord of the universe? Because if this book really is God-breathed (as it claims to be–2 Timothy 3:16), it doesn’t need our help. It doesn’t need our assistance. It doesn’t need us to doll it up so that it can keep up with the times. The God who spoke these words can do just fine on his own to make sure that he has the last word.

The Word’s Authority.

However, the faith of a new believer also acknowledges the Word’s authority. Let’s say my kids are coloring, and my son wants a certain marker that his sister is keeping to herself. First, he tries, “Give me that marker.” She refuses. What’s the next thing he does? He runs and finds dad and says, “She won’t give me the marker. She’s keeping it all to herself.” Then depending on the mood, I say, “Tell your sister to give you the marker.” Then, he goes back and says the exact same thing, but one thing is different: “Daddy says, give me that marker.” What has changed? The level of authority. The second time, the command isn’t coming from her brother; it’s coming from her father.

It’s the same way with the Word of God. If 1 Thessalonians or Leviticus or Romans are merely the words of men, we are dealing with equals–men just like us. However, if they are commands given through men from God, we are dealing with a superior–the Almighty God himself.

The issue of authority crops up in interesting places. Take red-letter editions of the Bible, for instance. If you haven’t seen one, a red-letter edition of the Bible is one where the quotes in the Gospels attributed to Jesus are in red letters and all of the rest are in black.

Here’s the possible danger with red-letter editions. You may be tempted to think the words in red are more important, more authoritative, than the ones in black. But what color are all of the words in 1 Thessalonians? Black. Here’s the thing: Every letter in 1 Thessalonians is as red as any jot or tittle uttered by the mouth of Jesus when he walked this earth.

If you want to make a distinction, Paul says, it’s this: While every book on every shelf in every library and on every Kindle and in every newsfeed is written in black, the Word of God alone is written in red. From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, every single letter is soaked through and through with the authority of King Jesus who has sealed its words with his own blood.

The Word of God is the only book in all the world that carried with it the authority to forgive sins against the Lord of the Universe, the power to grant salvation to all who believe, the good news that the King has died and been raised and grants eternal life to all who repent. And so, whether we are reading Law of Moses from Leviticus or Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew or the instructions of Paul in 1 Thessalonians, there is not a varying level of authority. All of these words are the Word of God.

There are men and women who style themselves preachers of the Gospel who will discredit commands that don’t jibe with today’s culture–for instance in 1 Timothy regarding gender roles in the church or in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 regarding homosexual practice–because they are the words of Paul not the words of Jesus. But Paul reminds us that true believers don’t make any distinction. The words of Jesus, the words of Moses, the words of Isaiah, the words of Paul—they are all the Word of God. They all carry equal authority.

To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to totally surrender to Word of our King. We receive his Word all or nothing. Either Jesus is the King, or I am. The desire to reject parts of Paul’s letters as “words of men” is a desire to reject the authority of Jesus Christ. They are no less the King’s commands because they are sent by a messenger.

This is what we believe. We believe in the divine origin and divine authority of the Word because it is the Word of God.

The Proverbs 31 Woman at CT!

At Christianity Today, I had the pleasure of sharing some new (read “old–very old”) theological reflection on a famous passage: Proverbs 31. There’s a woman out there who needs to hear this chapter the most:

In recent years, many faithful Christian women have internalized the words of Proverbs 31, but I can’t help wondering with 17th-century Bible commentary author Matthew Henry, “This passage is to be applied to individuals, but may it not also be applied to the church of God, which is described as a virtuous spouse?” The answer historically—though not in modern interpretation—has been emphatically yes...

2.3 — Lottie Moon and the Missionary Call

A giant of the faith packed into a 4’3″ frame, Lottie Moon was an incredible force for spreading the Kingdom to the ends of the earth. In this episode, learn all about her call to missions and how she herself trumpeted the clarion call to give, send, and go. Miss Moon shows us what it means to live lives worthy of the calling. She made the most of every opportunity, and many of her skills and talents were put to work in North China.

During her faithful service to the Chinese, she found time to bombarde the home-front with letters and bulletins and pleas to take the Gospel to the nations:

November 11, 1878—“Here is a province of thirty million souls & Southern Baptists can only send one man & three women to tell them the story of redeeming love. Oh! That my words could be as a trumpet call stirring the hearts of my brethren and sisters to pray, to labor, to give themselves to this people.”

This is her story.

Here are some further resources:

2.2 — George Liele and the Church as Global Witness

Born in 1750 in Burke County, VA, George Liele’s life is the remarkable journey from being a slave of men to the true freedom of being a slave of righteousness. Set free by his earthly master Henry Sharp to go preach the gospel to slaves on plantations in Georgia and South Carolina, hardship during the Revolutionary War forced him to leave America.

Rev. E. K. Love writes,

“He was led by the loving hand of a smiling Providence, though he knew it not…Historians, blinded by prejudice, have tried to rob the brother in black of the honor conferred upon Leile…But the planting of the first Baptist church in the West Indies, so far as human agency is concerned, was inaugurated by George Leile, the black apostle of Georgia, who planted the standard of Christianity in the far-off West Indies, and despite opposition, oppression and persecution, he saw the church strengthened, prosperous and flourishing.”

Take a listen to the story of a humble church planter.

Here are some further resources:

2.1 — Introduction to Missionary Heroes

Season 2 is on its way! This season we will learn about Missionary Heroes. Each episode will focus on one missionary and on one aspect of functional theology in his or her life.

Episodes will feature the lives of Jim and Elisabeth Eliot, George Liele, Lottie Moon, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, John G. Paton, Betsy Stockton, Amy Carmichael, and more.

Great for the church history enthusiast, the homeschool mom, the morning commuter, or the Christian seeking to grow a passion to take the Gospel to the nations!

Want Social Justice? Stop Avoiding Jury Duty.

I came back this past week from a fun but exhausting trip to Louisville where I preached four sermons. We got back late on a Monday night, which meant I was already a full day behind, and all of the weekly responsibilities hadn’t hit the pause button simply because I was out of town. Unless the Lord decided to make the sun stand still, Sunday wasn’t going to wait an extra day to let me catch my breath.

And of course, of all weeks, this was the one I was summoned for jury duty.

Do I really want justice?

I didn’t want to do it. Of all weeks, this was the last one where I needed to get paid a meager $11.80 to spent my entire afternoon sitting, waiting, staring at the wall, and being shuffled in an out of a courtroom.

A friend joked that it was easy to get out of jury duty in our county. Probably true. I could have come up with a host of excuses that probably would have freed me from my civic obligation.

But if not me, then who? If I, a local pastor who–let’s be honest–has a pretty open schedule and makes his own hours, am not willing to serve as a juror, who do I expect to do it?

It is very easy to advocate for justice, to speak up for victims, to stand against abuse, to desire to hold government officials and police officers accountable to the law…on social media. But if I’m not willing to inconvenience myself for one solitary afternoon out of the year–even if that afternoon comes at the most inopportune time!–in order to do my part to see justice prevail, can I really call myself dedicated to justice with any sense of honesty?

Consider these three reasons why jury duty is fundamental to enacting justice in our society.

Humanizing the Abstract.

All debate over proper governance is abstract until we actually enter the courtroom. I was surprised by the way my entire person was stretched to apply the law to specific circumstances with specific people. Participating as a juror forces us to think through the way the laws are written and interpreted. I was struck by the great shortcomings of the law. No amount of legal code can anticipate all of the complexities of our society. Without righteous judges, lawyers, and juries, the law can be twisted and misapplied very easily.

The afternoon re-humanized the legal process for me. All of the sudden things we think about in the abstract, argue passionately about online, or even preach about from the pulpit now have faces and names. They are real people with real families, real hopes, real sorrows, and eternal souls. In a society increasingly distanced from one another through technology, I wonder whether our perspectives would begin to change if we were forced to do a solid week of jury duty each year. How would we grow in compassion? How would we come to see our own near-sightedness and naïvety? How might our perspectives on policies and proper governance shift?

Restraining the Government.

We the people hold law enforcement officers, lawyers, and judges accountable to the law. To enact justice, it takes faithful jurors who are dissatisfied with mere allegations and force prosecutors to present compelling evidence. Police officers should not be able to waltz into court and think that on the basis of a badge they can make assertions about a defendant and expect a conviction. Juries protect against a police state.

If you value a free society, it is your basic duty to participate in that free society as a conscientious juror. It is not enough to feel pretty sure a defendant is guilty. We sit in the courtroom to make sure the prosecution proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Otherwise, we return the verdict not guilty. Not because we think the defendant didn’t commit the alleged crime, but because we hold a high standard for conviction. We put a heavy burden on law enforcement to prove that the law was broken–and broken by the alleged perpetrator.

Faithful juries actually build trust in the government. When jurors are hard-nosed and insistent on clear evidence, this strengthens good faith in the judicial system and the police, not the opposite. We honor the government as we seek to restrain it. What is more, juries that consistently return just verdicts eliminate the need for vigilante justice.

Loving Our Neighbor.

In the United States, the right to a trial by a jury of peers is an application of the Golden Rule. It beckons us as peers to treat the defendants and victims in the courtroom the way we hope they would treat us were we in their position. As Christians, we show love to our neighbor by doing our best to ensure justice is served. We love victims by holding perpetrators accountable to the law. We love the accused by ensuring they are convicted and punished not on the basis of hearsay, intimidation, or public sentiment but on on the basis of concrete evidence.

Sadly, our nation has a marred history of biased juries especially with regards to racial bias. Not long ago, judges and juries in our region miscarried justice by handing down specious convictions against blacks who had no power to serve as jurors or to elect their judges. What if Christians had taken seriously their duty to love their fellow man–especially those of a different color who needed an advocate for justice in the jury box?

The next time your jury summons arrives in the mail, thank the Lord for a chance to serve your neighbors. Ask the Lord for guidance, compassion, and a clear mind. The world needs men and women filled with the Spirit of God and given the compassionate heart of Christ who strive to see the righteousness of God reign in our communities!

(photo credit)

Join Me at Dignity & Delight Marriage Conference (April 26-27)

So many marriage resources seem to focus on how to deal with the sinner we sleep next to every night. What if the purpose of Christian marriage isn’t merely learning how to cope with someone else’s sins? What if we began to reorient our focus–choosing to delight in what God delights in? What if delighting in the gospel transformation taking place in our spouse day by day is the pathway to helping one another rediscover our true dignity in Christ?

Join Me in Louisville!

If you live in the area, I’d love to have you at Immanuel Baptist Church (Louisville, KY) where I’ll be keynoting the marriage conference “Dignity & Delight” on April 26-27. REGISTRATION CLOSES APRIL 21! Yikes. Sorry about the late notice.

I’ll be preaching four messages from 1 Samuel 15, Romans 6, Matthew 21, and Proverbs 31 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I’ll be preaching on listening, submission, sacrifice, and the church. Also, Dr. Don Whitney will be doing a session on family worship.

Single? I’m intentionally crafting each of the sermons to focus on an aspect of Christian life applicable to all Christians–married or single. No one will be left out!

Whether you are able to attend or not, I would appreciate your prayers for my family, my preaching, and the marriages and individuals who will be in attendance.

Here’s a sermon from last year to give you a taste of where we’re headed: