Why Should We Trust the Scriptures?
Last Sunday I had the privelege of preaching at St Thomas’s as part of their ‘Questions’ series. I realise that both sermons (on why we should listen to Scripture and why Jesus is the truth) were a bit packed and intense – so I promised I would put out some of the notes I used. For me both sermons are like a personal manifesto for the work we are trying to do – we proclaim Christ as he is brought to us in the Scriptures. This to me is the whole modus operandi of how we communicate the Good News today.
If you are not a Christian this is for you – I hope you will see why the Bible is worth reading. If you are then I hope it will encourage you not to be ashamed of the Scriptures (or to fall for the devils lie) – these are the words of life…use them. Here is the whole service (the sermon starts at about 35 minutes).
Here is the outline and some of the notes I used. (I don’t use a script – I just have fairly full notes – which I often deviate from!)…
Introduction: We live in strange times – does God not have anything to say? How would we know? Have you seens Tom Hollands interview with Glen Scrivener? I loved when he said – I don’t want bishops giving hygiene advice – I want them to tell me what God says – plagues in history, the NT, the book of Job….
We live in strange times…..Life is surreal but Christ is real.
But how do we know he is real….is he here? Scripture brings us Jesus – we will look at that tonight- Erasmus wrote – “The Bible will give Christ to you, in an intimacy so close that he would be less visible if he stood before your eyes”
Scripture is another term for the Bible. We will learn some principles about the Bible as we go along
We are looking at something that really happened. Paul and his companions went to Thessalonica – a port in Greece. It was on the Via Ignatia – the main motorway. A commercial centre – a free city in 42 BC. He had a habit of going to the synagogues where the OT Scriptures were discussed and he taught from them about Jesus…Perhaps Ps 2, 16, 110, 118, Isaiah 52-3….The Old Testament points forward to Christ. You don’t separate old and New.
By the way note that he went to the synagogue to evangelise to tell them about Jesus. We go to the church today to do the same. Don’t assume that just because people go to church, they are Christians.
He then went on to Berea – about 70 km away again on the Via Ignatia. I guess it’s like going to Port Macquarrie then to Newcastle..on way to Sydney. Wollongong…or Newcastl
There the Bereans were of noble mind. Open minded. They met with Paul daily to discuss.
Scripture is Reasonable.
People struggle with the idea of Scripture being reasonable. I was once interviewed on Koorang radio – so Dave, you don’t believe in a talking snake do you?
Faced with such challenges many Christians join in that attitude. ‘We are just going to tell them to have faith in Jesus. Argument never convinced anyone.’ Trouble is that you are a Christian who says they follow the Bible and this is not what the Bible says. Read through Acts and you will find constant discussions, reasoning etc. Our position is not the George Michael position – you just gotta have faith. Our faith is a reasonable one. Paul taught the Scriptures based on argument and reasoning.
Richard Dawkins in the God Delusion mocks Christians who believe in the resurrection. Yet in an attempt to explain away the fine tuning of the Universe he resorts to multi-verse theory. He states that in one universe you are already dead and in another you have a green moustache. He thinks that is logical – but it is illogical to believe that an Almighty God could raise his Son from the dead! Why? Think about it logically. If you start from the premise that there cannot be an Almighty God then of course you are going to say that. But it is as GK Chesterton says it is the non-believers in miracles who have a doctrine against them. We have evidence.
Proving – to set alongside. Setting the fulfilment alongside the predictions. carefully considered objections – and answered them.
Daily discussions. Receptivity but also critical questioning. It was hard work. They examined. The idea carries that of integrity and free from bias.
Reasoned, explained, proved, proclaimed, persuaded.
Reasoning is dialogue – perhaps Q and A. He would consider world views and weight them against what Scripture says. Notice what he did not do – he did not go the social media touchy/feely route. I feel this is right. Don’t upset my feelings. Don’t go against my culture.
Explaining is to open. Like Christ did with the two disciples on the road to Emmaues – Luke 24:32 – he opened to them all the Scriptures.
“He believed in doctrine but not in indoctrination”. The former is teaching about God. The latter is tyrannical insturction demanding acceptance. In yesterdays paper I read this headline “Ideology strangles courses at Uni” “The study of humanities at top ranked Universities has been overrun by identity politics, sparking accusations that academics pushing ideological projects are fueeling division within the community. Themes of class, race and gender dominate history, literature, politics and social studies courses at the expense of traditional disciplinary content, according to an audit of Bachelor of Arts subjects that 10 unversities offered last year”….Modern secular education has become about indoctrination – not education. Universities have become monoversities.
They received and examined. Because this is all important. There is another important principle – the Scriptures are for everyone. You open them and examine them yourselves. You don’t need a priest, or a guru…no guru, no method, no teacher. Hindu. Of course it is good to be taught. But you can open this book anywhere and God can speak to you through it.
It is so important to think about what the Bible says…..Can you tell me of anything more important than what happens to you when you die? Who you are? Where you are going?
Another objection – you don’t believe in a 4,000 year old book written by illiterate desert shepherds! How would you answer that? I think this is chronological snobbery…my place is the best, my race is the best, my culture is the best…my time is the best. Could an illiterate desert shepherd write John 1?
One more aspect of the reasonable. Scripture coming from God and being without error? Can you not say something is without error? 2+2=4? Sydney is the capital of NSW? Murder is wrong? If you can say things without error then why not almighty God?
Scripture is Radical
Look at v. 6. Men who have caused trouble all over the world.
Its so radical we get banned from Twitter or other social media. It upsets people.
Why? Because it challenges their world view, challenges their lives and upsets the social order – which is harder to take if you are at the top of that social order. Look at v. 6 again – the world turned upside down. Radical social and political upheaval. Women for a start. Slaves. Family. Sex. Economics. Health.
Those who are ‘conservative’ Christians – this is not referring to politics but those who believe the Bible and don’t just make it mean whatever we or our culture want it to mean – are the real radicals.
Paul was being charged with high treason. There was enough truth in that charge to make it a very dangerous one. Disturbing the peace. Emperor Claudius had banned all predictions suggesting a change of ruler. Paul preached about the Second Coming (look at his letters to the Thessalonians – it was strong stuff!) In Acts 21:38 the same word is used of the terrorist who led 4,000 into the wilderness.. The same slanders are used today…because we believe the Bible we are called names. This week alone I have been called – Far Right. Extremists. False Shepherd. Hate monger.
Had they understood what he was saying – do they understand what we are saying? Would we ever be charged with disturbing the peace? I want to disturb the peace – the peace of the graveyard.
Even after Berea they had to get him out of town. Sent him 300 miles away.
There is another aspect of the radicalism. Those who teach it are radicals. They say we are extremists. We are but not in the way they think. We don’t plant bombs..we don’t kill, torture and abuse for Jesus. We are good citizens and neighbours. We don’t kill for Jesus – we die for Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 says that Paul worked day and night. With his hands. Why was that radical? Because religious teachers and philosophers did not do that.
Another aspect of this radicalness is because it is teaching Christ, not Paul, not a philosophy, not politics, not religion but Christ. Why is that radical? All Scripture is Christ. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
Scripture re is Real – relational – romantic.
He proclaimed – “to pass announcement down to others’. This was not just an academic exercise.
Or let me put it another way – this is a marriage proposal. You don’t get to ignore that.
This is not just some academic exercise. This is not just a take it or leave it approach. This is not just a philosophy lecture. This is Jordan Peterson on steroids with much better news! It is God speaking to us.
And it is for all kinds of people. Here it was Jews, Greeks, God-fearers and women.
In Thessalonica – Paul and his companions went to a hotel. The owner Jason became a believer. Or perhaps it was that he was converted and then invited him to his home? The point is that Christianity is relational and is spread relationally. You can’t talk to people about Jesus unless you are talking to people. Dawkins described us as a virus – he was right – and there is no inoculation against us.
It’s relational in this way. What Jesus did he did for us – to bring us into a living and saving relationship with him.
We may not know
We cannot tell
What pains he had to bear
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
Scripture engages the mind, the will and the emotions
It makes sense to look at Scripture. I remember when the University of Dundee had an external teach yourself Buddhism’ course. I asked why there was not a ‘teach yourself Christianity course’? Oo they agreed that I could teach one. The advert for it went something like this – “are you interested in history, politics, art, music, literature, science, family, ethics, humanity, nature, the universe, education, health, mental well being, religion, love, peace, joy, justice, economics, etc then you need to understand Christian theology’. This matters. Don’t just shut your mind.
The Bereans were of more noble character – they were more open minded.
I love the fact that there were daily discussions. Calvin had daily sermons in Geneva. What about St Thomas’s? People should be coming in here every day to discuss Christianity.
Scripture brings us Jesus – we will look at that tonight- Remember the Erasmus quote – “The Bible will give Christ to you, in an intimacy so close that he would be less visible if he stood before your eyes”
Let me put this another way. Sometimes you say I would believe in God, or I would do what God says, if only he spoke to me. He does. “ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Jesus says – my sheep hear my voice. Christians – are you listening?
Cranmer – the BCP – Second Sunday of Advent. “ Blessed Lord who has caused all holy Scripture to be written for our learning; grant us that we may hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them in such a way; that by patience and comfort of your holy word, we may embrace, and forever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
There should be an expectancy when we open the Scriptures and when we come to hear them. Like going to a sports event. The buzz heading into the SCG should be the same buzz heading into church.
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.(Ps 119:97)
Do you not think that there is an ignorance of Scripture in the church today?
Here in Berea there was an enthusiasm for the message not the messenger. Unlike Corinth. That does not excuse bad preaching. Preachers how dare we make them dull! This is God speaking to us.
Non Christians…. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17) Come back tonight and hear the message of Christ.
I heard the voice of Jesus say – come unto me and rest. Pray – preachers pray, and those who read pray – open my eyes that I may wonderful things in your law.