Why We Believe the Bible - Lesson 3

The Claims of the Bible for Itself

In this lesson, you will explore the claims of the Bible for itself, including its nature, authority, unity, and consistency. You will also examine the impact of the Bible on individuals and societies throughout history. As you delve deeper into the lesson, you will gain an understanding of the Old and New Testament claims, the coherence of biblical teachings, and the harmony of the Bible's message. By the end of the lesson, you will have a stronger foundation for why we believe the Bible and its significance in our lives and the world around us.


John Piper
Why We Believe the Bible
Lesson 3
Watching Now
The Claims of the Bible for Itself

I. Introduction

A. Importance of Biblical Claims

B. Goals of the Lesson

II. The Bible's Self-Claims

A. The Nature of Scripture

B. The Authority of Scripture

1. Old Testament Claims

2. New Testament Claims

III. The Bible's Unity and Consistency

A. The Coherence of Biblical Teachings

B. The Harmony of the Bible's Message

IV. The Impact of the Bible on Lives and Societies

A. Personal Transformations

B. Societal Change

  • This lesson provides insights on the Bible's authority, offering evidence for its reliability and exploring its impact on society, while addressing common criticisms and questions.
  • This lesson provides an in-depth analysis of the Bible's content and structure, exploring the different categories of books and highlighting the unity and diversity of its message within the historical and cultural context.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the Bible's self-claims, its unity and consistency, and its transformative impact on individuals and societies, reinforcing your understanding of its authority and importance.
  • In this lesson, you explore the Bible's unified message, structure, and themes, deepening your understanding of its role in believers' lives and its impact on society.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the gospel's transformative power on individuals and society, while also learning to defend it against skepticism and critiques.

The Bible is the infallible word of God, the supreme rule for faith and practice. The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament came from the very mouth of God and are without error in the originals. Scripture is therefore the unique and supreme guide for all it affirms, including both belief and behavior.

The Bible claims that it's God's Word, it makes sense, and the Holy Spirit provides inner confirmation to us. Canonicity depended on authorship, content and tone consistent with other canonical writings, and consistent usage in worship and practice.

For notes and outlines that accompany these lectures, please go to desiringgod.org by clicking here.

We are thankful for John Piper's willingness to share these lectures with us. Copyright 2014 by Desiring God Ministries. Used with Permission. For more information, please visit www.DesiringGod.org.

Dr. John Piper 
Why We Trust the Bible 
The Claims of the Bible for Itself 
Lesson Transcript

Step 4 – The Claims of the Bible

I. Introduction

We were praying before the session and one of the texts that prayed over was this one: “’All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to me,’ Jesus said. (All authority is mine.) ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and look [hope], I am with you to the end of the age.’” That phrase, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” is part of the commission that we receive from the Lord, and it is valid as long as long as this age lasts, and this age is still lasting and, therefore, the command to the church still exists to teach them “everything that I have commanded you.” That has been heavy on my heart for about two years. It is what drove me when I was on sabbatical to prepare the book, What Jesus Demands from the World. That book is my effort to obey Jesus in that command. If he stands me in front of him on the last day and quotes me his command, “teach them everything I commanded,” I’m just going to say, “I tried” in what Jesus demands from the world. “I tried to give a summary of what you commanded to the whole world in that book. That was my best shot. If I blew it, spank me, but I tried.” 

Now here’s the implication for this issue. There is no access to what Jesus commanded except through the Bible, none. Therefore, if that commandment is to be obeyed, then we have to have a large measure of confidence in this book, and I do want to obey that. “All authority has been given to me.  Go teach them to observe everything that I commanded, and I will be with you.” So even though we are talking about foundations in this seminar, the goal is obedience to everything that he commanded, because if you don’t have confidence that what is written here is what he commanded, then you won’t obey that command. There will be no way for you to do it.  Let’s pray.

Father, I ask for your help now in this session that you would grant to not go down any trails that would be unhelpful. There are so many ways to waste time in this seminar that is so short. Grant me to hit upon those things that would be most fruitful and helpful to talk about. Draw near.  Guard us from the evil one.  Guard us from distraction.  Guard us from any kind of breakdown in our thought processes or the mechanics of this seminar. Grant attentiveness for those who are here, I pray, and may we engage by the Spirit in the truth for the glory of your Son. In his name we pray. Amen.

So you see, in step 1 we did “Why are we concerned about the Bible?” Step 2, “Which books make up the Bible and why?”  Step 3, “Do we have the very words written by the Biblical authors?”  -- all of that in previous sessions – 

II. The Claims of Jesus

And now we move to step 4, “What does the Bible claim for itself?” and I wrote in the margin here, “Jesus’ view,” because I have stacks of overheads like this that I’m not going to use that would be the apostles’ claims and the prophets’ claims and the laws’ claims. There are so many hundreds of texts on the self claims, so I’m just going to take Jesus, because I think he is in this regard the most significant testifier to the authority and truth of the Bible. So let’s listen to what Jesus says about the Old Testament. I know a rigorous thinker at this point would say, “This is kind of circular here; you’re using Jesus, and you haven’t proved yet that what he said is true,” and I know that that’s what I’m doing, and I’m doing it partly because of time and partly because the most liberal scholars that I dealt with, like Bultmann, say, in my early years of study all agree that what I’m about to tell you about Jesus’ attitude towards the Old Testament is in fact what his attitude was. What I am about to show you right now is not generally up for grabs.  What the historical Jesus thought about the Bible is not generally controverted. Whether Jesus is God and whether Jesus is a true spokesman, that, there are all kinds of disagreement about, but as far as what he thought about the Old Testament, there is not. So that’s why I’m jumping right in here with these comments.  I’ve got a whole bunch of comments about what Jesus thought and will try to move through them relatively quickly because in the end, the main substance of this seminar is ‘Why do we believe it?’ not ‘Did Jesus say it?’ and so we’ll get there, Lord willing.

Jesus believed the psalmist spoke by the Holy Spirit. We are just going to pick sample statements that Jesus had about his view of the Old Testament. Mark 12:35:  “Jesus answering began to say, as he taught in the temple, ‘How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?  David himself said in the Holy Spirit, [or by the Holy Spirit] “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I put thine enemies beneath thy feet.”’” (quoting Psalm 110) So there’s that little phrase that Jesus said; this is the way David spoke these words, and he is commenting on the authority that David had when he spoke. So he believed that David was speaking in the power, in the truth, in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Jesus believed that what Moses wrote in the Law, God himself said – this one is very interesting -- (Matthew 19:3-6) “Some Pharisees came to him testing him and saying, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?’ And he answered and said, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning [Now that’s God, right? He who created them from the beginning.] made them male and female [quoting Genesis 1:27] and said [Now there’s the key, he said] ‘Do you not know that that one who created them said, [and then he quotes Genesis 2:24] for this cause the man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” In the Old Testament (quoted right there, Genesis 2:23) it isn’t God who’s talking, it’s Moses, the writer.  This is the narration by the writer, Moses: “The man said, ‘This now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man.’  For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother [That is what Jesus is quoting] and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And Jesus says God said it.  

III. The Significance of Those Claims

That’s amazing! These are little subtle ways that are just opening us to the mind of Christ as to how he viewed the Old Testament. You get a sentence like that written by Moses, not quoting God, and Jesus says God said it, very, very significant in Jesus’ view of the authority and inspiration of the Old Testament.  

Jesus put the authority of Scripture above Satan and above his own human preferences. I’ll pass over this one quickly.  This is Matthew 4:3, 7 and 10 about how he quotes the Scripture every time the devil tempts him -- is it not written, is it not written, is it not written -- showing that he is going to live his whole life and fight the devil by the Scriptures which are authoritative over the devil. Jesus believed that all Scripture would be fulfilled.  Matthew 5:17:  “Do not think that I come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.” That’s how confident he was of everything that was prophesied in the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus saw Moses and the prophets as speaking a compelling truth on how to avoid hell. Luke 16:28: “…I have five brothers… that he may warn them lest they also come to this place.” This is the rich man in Luke 16 who was cast into hell while the poor man was taken into the bosom of Abraham, and now the rich man is talking to Abraham, Christ in heaven.  “But Abraham said…” so, speaking from heaven. “‘…They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’  But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  And he said to them, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’” So this is Jesus saying what Abraham in heaven would say to a man in hell who is saying give them something besides the Word of God. Give them a sign and a wonder, give them a resurrection, and Abraham says that this Word is such that if you reject it, nothing will work. That is a remarkable view of the Old Testament.

Jesus believed that the small affirmations of Scripture cannot be broken.  So John 10:33, referring to Psalm 82:6, “The Jews answered him, ‘For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God.’  Jesus answered them, ‘Has it not been written in your law, “I said, you are gods”?  If he called them gods, to whom the Word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, you are blaspheming because I said I am the Son of God?’” For that little insertion, and it is hard to know whether Jesus spoke that or whether John spoke that, but in either case, the testimony here from Jesus or John can’t be broken. Little phrases, little side comments can’t be broken.  

Jesus put the authority of Moses above the distortions of the Scribes. Matthew 23: “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, saying, ‘The Scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore, all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds.’” This is an amazing thing to say about Pharisees. He didn’t like the Pharisees; they were hypocrites, but he said when they sit in the chair of Moses and they speak the words of the Old Testament, do what they say; but when they get out and behave, don’t make them an authority. That’s an amazing distinction that Jesus is making because of his high esteem of the Word they were supposed to handle faithfully.  

Jesus taught that Moses’ writing are to be believed. John 5:39: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is these that bear witness of me.” So that’s the view that he has of their function; they are a faithful testimony to him.  

Jesus contrasted the traditions of men with the Word of God in the Old Testament.  Mark 7:9-13:  “He was saying to them, ‘You nicely set aside the command of God in order to keep your tradition. Moses said, “Honor your father and mother,” “He who speaks evil of father and mother, let him be put to death.”  But you say, if a man says to his father and his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is 'corban' (that is to say, given to God), you no long permit him to do anything for his father or his mother, thus invalidating the Word of God by your tradition which you have handed down, and you do many such things as that.’”

IV. The Pharisees and Their Traditions

See what he’s doing? He’s saying okay, I see all of this Pharisaic tradition that has grown up, one of them being a tradition called Corban, which means if you say of something, it belongs to God, you don’t have to support your poor parents with it, because you’ve now made it religious. Jesus got really bent out of shape about that, and he said the Bible says, honor your father and mother.  To hell with your traditions. Now we therefore should, I think, be like Jesus and say let’s be very careful that all of our ecclesiastical traditions and all of our family traditions, and for you young people who say oh I don’t have any traditions yet, bologna you don’t; you go to movies every weekend. And what are you watching? Habits are traditions.  We should measure everything we do by this book, just like Jesus did. These are strong words from the Lord concerning this Old Testament that we have here that he so prized and so believed in.  

Jesus believed that knowing the Scriptures would keep you from doctrinal error. Mark 12:19-24: “‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves behind a wife, leaves no child, his brother should take the wife and raise up offspring to his brother. Now, there were seven brothers [They are trying to trick Jesus, they are trapping him.] The first took the wife, died, leaving no offspring; the second took her, died, leaving no offspring behind, the third likewise…’” [and so on; all seven left no offspring] Last of all, the woman died.” And then with a smirk on their face -- they don’t believe in the resurrection; they’re trying to make the resurrection look ludicrous – “In the resurrection [when they rise again] which one’s wife will she be, for all seven had her as a wife?” ‘Gotcha!’ – polygamy in heaven – that’s the idea.  This is really a relevant idea because my dad had two wives, my mother for 36 years, she died, then Lamond for twenty-five years, then she died, and last March my dad died and is now in heaven.  Is it Ruth or Lamond?  This is not old fashioned stuff; this makes a difference in how you think about things today. And his answer is this.  Jesus says, verse 24, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, [or you err] you don’t know (your Bible)?” Who’s he talking to?  Scribes, Pharisees, people who specialize in the Bible. “You don’t know your Scriptures,” implying, if you knew your Scriptures, you wouldn’t be making this mistake – you see the way it’s functioning – You don’t know the Scriptures; you don’t know the power of God. And then he goes on to answer, “When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you never read...” and so on.  

The only point I’m making there is that when he criticizes their snide use of this Old Testament principle of the marriage of a brother to a widow, he says you wouldn’t make a mistake about the resurrection if you understood the Scriptures better.  

V. It is Written in the Scriptures

He does that in other places as well when he says things like, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” that little phrase.  He says you wouldn’t be accusing my disciples of Sabbath breaking as they eat the grain walking from one place to the other if you knew the meaning of the sentence, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”  

So Jesus believed that the whole of the Old Testament, understood in its redemptive historical context, would keep us from doctrinal error. Jesus devoted his life to fulfilling the Scriptures about the Messiah. He set his face toward Jerusalem.  Luke 18:31:  “And he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.’” I was just talking to one of you about the role of fulfilled prophecy in coming to faith in Christ and coming to confidence. I have a whole packet of overheads on fulfilled prophesy that I’m not even going to show you because there’s not time, but we will see it here.  

Jesus believed that everything that he did and that John the Baptist did, his whole life was laid out for him in the Old Testament, which is how he tried to bring his life into conformity with it. Everything written about me in the prophets is going to be accomplished, why? Because God wrote it; God said it and it is going to happen. The ministry of Jesus and John the Baptist are being played out according to Scriptures. Mark 9:11: “And they asked him saying, ‘Why is it that the Scribes say, “Elijah must come first”?’ And he said to them, ‘Elijah does come first and restore all things.  Yet how is it written of the Son of Man, that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt. But, I say to you, Elijah has indeed come and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.’” So here you have the “It is written of him” concerning John the Baptist, and you have, “Yet how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer?” So both the Son of Man and this Elijah figure, who is John the Baptist, have their script written out for them in the Bible. Jesus is saying that’s what is happening; what’s happening before your eyes is what God said would happen.  

Jesus saw his betrayal as the fulfillment of Scripture. “The Son of Man is to go just as it is written of him, but woe to the man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” So, even the betrayal is written. You get the impression as you go along here, wow!  Right down to the details of his betrayal, the script is written hundreds of years earlier. That’s not a human possibility; that’s only possible if God is doing it.

Jesus saw the disciples’ abandonment as fulfillment of Scripture. “Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because it is written, “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered.”’” This creates very significant theological challenges. This is sin, right? To fall away from Jesus, to abandon Jesus in his hour of trial is sinful. The reason it is happening is because it was written that it would happen. Jesus saw his arrest as criminal as a fulfillment of Scripture. Luke 22:37: “’I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, “And he was numbered with the transgressors” for that which refers to me has its fulfillment.’” So, his arrest, like a criminal, had to happen because it was written, for “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve thousand legions of angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled?” In other words, if I escape from this moment by appealing for divine help and don’t walk into the jaws of this lion, the Scriptures wouldn’t be fulfilled. I am calculating my entire life to nail down the absolute authority of the Bible – that’s what he’s saying. I’m not going to do anything that would undo what is written of me as I go towards the cross. Jesus taught that we should not be slow to believe all that the Old Testament prophets have spoken. Luke 24:25: “And he said to them, ‘Oh foolish men and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!’”

I was praying this morning from my own heart. I read Psalm 38. It is a wonderful Psalm if you have ever done horrible sins and been broken and wondered if you can ever be restored to God. I know a man who needs this right now. I need it from time to time, and I was just enjoying it this morning and just walking through it and confessing my own insecurities, my own sins, my own doubts, and to use the words here, my own slowness of heart. Isn’t that an interesting phrase?  Slowness of heart to believe.  What is wrong with our hearts? We are all plagued with this.  Sometimes our heart feels just immediately ready; show me anything, tell me anything, I’m all there for you! And other times, we are just so disengaged, so slow, and dragging our feet, and our emotions are pulling us another way, and there's the reason why the Bible feels so distant from us and why it’s so easy for us to fall for arguments against it, when it’s really a heart issue; and he was just so perplexed as to “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”  

So I just ask you to join me in those early morning prayers, ask the Lord, Father, I don’t want to be slow to believe what I see in the Bible. I want to be quick to believe.  I want to be so inclined to believe that everywhere I have light and understanding I’m embracing. Because you know, the readiness will make more light.  One of the reasons more light doesn’t shine on the Bible for us is because there is a slowness and a resistance. I am not saying everything becomes perfectly clear when your heart is perfectly right. There are hard things.  Peter thought so. Peter thought there were hard things in the Bible that we’ve got to have help with. We need to read those books on Bible difficulties and go to seminars and get books and commentaries and read and study. But the biggest issue is am I slow of heart to believe everything that is there? Jesus thought all that the prophets had spoken should be believed because they wrote truth. They wrote from God.  

Step 5 - How can we justify the claim that the Bible makes for itself?

I. The Bible is God’s Word

So that’s the end of section four, what does the Bible claim for itself?  I’m going to move to Step 5 because it’s the biggest one and the most important one, and the one that takes the greatest amount of reflection, I think, “how can we justify the claim that the Bible is God’s Word?” Now there are so many different approaches you can take at this point. Different philosophies of apologetics go in different directions, and I’m just going to take one. Don’t assume it’s the only one. If you are led by the Lord to give extended mental effort to study apologetics and to provide more foundation, get good, solid books (I have a list of some somewhere that I can show you later) on apologetics or defense of the Bible, and go after it, because mine is not the sum total of how the Bible can be argued for; it’s just a way that is very influenced by what I said in one of the previous sessions, namely, there are very few life-long scholars in this room who are going to devote their entire professional life to studying the historical reasons for the Bible’s truthfulness. Most of you have jobs and families, and you cannot and are not expected by God to live your life that way. And yet, you are expected by God to believe the Bible to the degree that you will lay your life down for what it says, which means that there must be – I’m hugely influenced by this -- a way to confidence, that is, rationally legitimate, not stupid and leap into the void with no warrant; there must be a way that a layman can follow, who doesn’t have time or proclivity to be a scholar. That’s what’s influencing what I choose here.  

You know, I just said something that perhaps I should argue for, namely, that you shouldn’t leap into the dark.  In other words, here’s the Quran, here’s the Bible, I don’t know, let’s just leap with the Bible; flip a coin, Bible.  The reason that’s not a good idea, even if you choose rightly, is because the Bible isn’t honored when you do that. If a man comes up to you on the street with ten thousand dollars in a bag, in a catch, and he says to you, “Hi.  Would you please go deposit this for me in northwest account.  My name is so-and-so, and my account number is so-and-so.  Please go deposit it.”  And you say to him, “You’ve got ten thousand dollars in cash?  I don’t know you from Adam.”  He says, “I know.”  “Well, why are you trusting me?” “I don’t have any reason at all.  Just please go do it.”  Now, do you feel honored at that moment?  Well if you do, you’re stupid.  Why would you feel honored?  There’s absolutely zero reason for why he is trusting you.  This guy’s crazy; that’s all that you can conclude.  He comes up to a total stranger, gives him a bag with ten thousand dollars, tells him his name and his account and tells him to go deposit the money.  That trust is stupid and, therefore, the person trusted isn’t honored.  However, if he comes up to you, or somebody else comes up to you, bag of ten thousand dollars, gives it to you, tells you his name, gives his account number, says, “Please go deposit this at Wells Fargo,” and you say, “Well, wait a minute, I don’t know you.  Why are you trusting me?”  And he looks at you in great seriousness and says, “Well, you haven’t seen me, but we work in the same place, we have for about a year, and I’ve been watching you every day.  You’re an honest man; I can tell by the way you talk to people, by the way you keep the time clock, by the way you fill out your reports, by the way you – I’ve got five good reasons for why you’re an honest man.”  “You do?”  Now how do you feel?  You feel that the trust that he has in you is honoring to you. That’s the way God is.  If you say, “I’m trusting you, God.” And he says, “Why?”  And you say, “No reason; I’m just leaping in the dark because I’m afraid of hell, and it’s hotter in Christianity than in any religion I can find, and so I’m just going for it.”  He’s just not honored by that.  But if he says, “Why do you trust me?” and you give him several reasons for why you trust him, then he’s glorified and he’s honored.  So when I say it’s not a good idea to just leap into the dark when it comes to Christianity, that’s the basic reason why; I just don’t think the Bible points us there because the Bible is very much concerned with the glory of God.  He wants to be honored.  He needs to be glorified.  So how can we justify the claim that the Bible is the Word of God and do it in a way that all of you, with the help of the Holy Spirit, could have profound confidence in the Scriptures, even if you’re not a professional historian or a Biblical scholar? That’s where we’re going and why.  

II. The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechism

I’m just going to choose the Westminster Confession of Faith as an example of how in one tradition of the church this question has been answered.  We’ll read paragraph one point five from the Westminster Confession so that you can see, and then we’re going to take the Westminster Catechism, where this is turned into a question and break it down into pieces and build basically this whole unit around those pieces.  

“We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to a high and reverend esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent [that means agreement] of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes [full exposure that it makes] of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God… [up till now they’re just listing all the ways that you can be brought to have confidence in the Bible, including the testimony of the church and all these pieces here]. Yet, not withstanding [all that], our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”  

So, this is an effort to give credit to these indications of the Bible’s truthfulness and yet to admit that in and of and by themselves, the full persuasion and assurance of infallible truth won’t come without something else happening. So, most of our time today is going to be spent unpacking that.

The Catechism: Same thing, just put in a question and answer form. “How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the Word of God?” So this is a catechism that was taught to those who grew up under the Westminster Confession and Catechism, and the answer to that question is… Answer: The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God...” We’re going to make much of that, manifest themselves; in other words, out of the Bible itself are coming evidences and indications and manifestations that it is the Word of God, and our job is to spot those, to see those and be persuaded by them. “…to be the Word of God by their majesty and purity…” I put these numbers in here because we’re going to take them one at a time “…by the consent of all the parts [three], and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God [four]; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation…” so, their power to convince or convict and convert sinners, that’s number five “…but…” That’s the yet from the previous confession. “…the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man is alone able to fully persuade it that they are the very word of God.” (number six)  So we’re going to walk through those six steps of how this confession believes – and I’m agreeing with it – we can be brought to be confident in the Word of God.

“The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God,” it says, “by their majesty.”  Now, how does that work?  How does their majesty lead us to confidence in them? These texts are ones that they give; “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing,” the implication being here that the greatness of the things that were written should disincline one to consider them strange and reject them.  1 Corinthians 2:6-9: “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world...” This is Paul giving a testimony to his own authority. “…nor of the princes of this world that come to naught, but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery.” That’s true that the wisdom of God, the wisdom of an infinite creator is being expressed in Paul’s language.  You would think there would be majestic marks about it that would testify to our conscience, this is not of man; this is of God. “…even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory, which none of the princes of this world knew. For if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory, but as it is written, “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.”  

This is the wisdom of God in the mystery that is being revealed to us. No human eye has seen such things, no ear has heard such things, and they have never entered into the heart of man. That means there is something unique that is being revealed in the Bible in the apostolic teaching that hasn’t come up into the heart of man. It is so outside our experience that it comes and brings a message to bear that is not explainable by human imagination. Many people have been converted this way. And I am arguing that it’s a valid conversion. As they read the Gospels and then they read the epistles, they may not even be able to put it into exact words that they are seeing a message and a wisdom and a way of God in the world that authenticates itself by saying no man ever came up with this. This isn’t what human beings come up with as a way of teaching about their own sinfulness and the glory of God’s grace and the death of the Messiah.  This whole thing clicks with me, and you know, this is one of the reasons why our faith can sometimes be so assaulted, because we were brought to faith in a kind of macro vision of the ways of God and the character of God, the ways of Christ and the character of Christ, such that we couldn’t put it into a nice little list for somebody, tell me five reasons why you submitted to the Bible, because it all came to bear on us with such a force of its own authenticity, its own unique divinity, that we could not resist it. And yet, when somebody pins you, saying, “Tell me!” you kind of grope around, and you just want say, “Just read it, take a look!” And if you had time, if you sat down with a piece of paper, and you started going through the Bible and making comments about the kinds of things it was that gripped you, you would come up with a pretty impressive list. What I’m pointing out here is that the majesty of the Bible means there is wisdom here, there are inscrutable ways here that are higher than our ways, and if God is removing the slowness of our heart, we see this is not what men come up with. That’s number one.  

There are other texts that I should point you to.  “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” What I just described to you might land on some of you saying, “I don’t have any clue what you’re talking about.  That’s never happened to me at all.” If that is the case, you need to pray this prayer.  I pray it all the time because our sight, once it happens, is not always as clear as it was.  The night when you were brought to faith you repented and renounced your sins and you saw him as true and beautiful and inescapable, then the next night, Satan may be hammering you so hard, bringing so many blinding things across your eyes, you start to fear, did I see anything, which is why Bible authors pray like this.  Why else would you pray like this if you didn’t have those kinds of battles, right? Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things.”  You‘ve been in seasons in your life where you opened this book morning after morning and nothing looked wonderful. Those are scary seasons; don’t be content with those seasons. Fight in those seasons with prayers like this till you get to the point when you can say, “Thy testimonies are wonderful.” There is a majesty about them, a wonder about them that just can’t be explained by the sin that I see in the world and the kind of human beings that are all around me.  So that’s number one.

Then it says in the Westminster Catechism answer that we are brought to faith in the Word by its purity. “The words of the Lord are pure words as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”  So there’s the statement of it. The words of the Lord are like words that have been put through a furnace seven times to burn away all the dross.  There is a purity to the words, and here’s a group of statements.  I quoted them last night.  I think everybody should memorize them.  “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”  We’ll go back to that one, converting the soul.   “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.  The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.  The command of the Lord is pure, [We’re picking up on that one.]  enlightening the eyes.”  It’s interesting to look upon these correspondences, perfect goes to converting, sure goes to wisdom, right goes to joy, and pure goes to illumination and light.  Clean is almost the same as pure.  The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.  So there is a purity to the Word of God.  Another thing to say about this answer of the Westminster Catechism is that it’s the coming together of all of these that gives them their cumulative effect, and at any given time, one might be rising to the surface, then another might be rising to the surface, but it’s the cumulative effect which you can hardly quantify when you’re giving yourself to read the Bible.  It happens like this.  I was in Germany, I remember, and on one Easter Sunday, a testimony time was open for the baptism; they had a baptism every Easter Sunday morning at this Baptist church we were attending in Munich, and a woman gave this testimony.  She said, “I have been in the Jehovah’s Witnesses most of my life and was so despairing last year at this time [I think it was last year, don’t know the time exactly] that I was going to commit suicide because there was no way I could know whether I had stood on the corner and held up the ‘Watchtower’ long enough or knocked on enough doors to get in the 144,000; I just couldn’t tell,” and she said, “I gave myself to reading Luke one more time, and God met me on Good Friday and vindicated himself with the purity of his life in Christ,” and converted her; why not all that time before?  There it was.