Why We Believe the Bible - Lesson 5

The Power of the Gospel

In this lesson, you will explore the power of the gospel, understanding its definition and components, as well as its historical context. You will learn about the impact of the gospel on individual lives through personal testimonies, witnessing transformation and growth. Additionally, you will see how the gospel has influenced society by inspiring social reforms and ethical principles. Finally, you will delve into defending the gospel through apologetics and addressing skepticism and critiques.

John Piper
Why We Believe the Bible
Lesson 5
Watching Now
The Power of the Gospel

I. Understanding the Gospel

A. Definition and Components

B. Historical Context

II. Impact of the Gospel on Individual Lives

A. Personal Testimonies

B. Transformation and Growth

III. The Gospel's Influence on Society

A. Social Reforms

B. Ethical Principles

IV. Defending the Gospel

A. Apologetics

B. Addressing Skepticism and Critiques

  • 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 Power of the Gospel 
Lesson Transcript

Step # 5 – How can We Justify the Claim that the Bible Makes for Itself

I. The Continued Analysis of the Westminster Catechism

In this session what we want to do is complete our analysis of and application to our own lives of the Westminster Catechism’s answer to “How we can know that the Bible is God’s Word?”  We’ve just dealt really in quite an extended way just because it was so big and my only experience with the statement that the scope of the whole is the glory of God, and why from John 7 and John 5 and Romans 1 and our experience of the natural world, all of that causes us, when we open and immerse ourselves in this book to say this is it, this is the explanation; this coheres with who I am and what I have seen. Now the last words in that answer of Westminster is this:  “…by their light and power [that is, the Word of God, the Scriptures] to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation…” I’m going to pass over some of these because I want to get right to the main ones as I’ve experienced them, so this is the J.P. text.  

2 Corinthians 4:4-6, I think, comes close to – and there’s one other one -- explaining what that means so that it works for me. “In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” So what Satan tries to keep from happening is the seeing of a certain kind of light; it’s the light of the gospel, so it’s not a physical light. This is troubling because we may suddenly feel like, whoa, that’s kind of outside my experience.  It is a light that you can’t see with your physical eyes because it’s not a material, physical kind of light. It’s the light of the gospel, and that gospel is the gospel of the glory, the radiance, the outshining of Christ as the image of God. What that’s saying is that when the gospel is faithfully preached, when you tell the story of Jesus Christ, the perfect man, God-man, dying for sins in your place, rising again from the dead, conquering death, conquering hell, conquering sin, conquering Satan, being exalted to God’s right hand, all according to the Scriptures, testified to by eye-witnesses, when you tell that story faithfully, Paul is saying there’s a light, and it’s the light of a magnificent person that shines out, and the heart sees it, unless Satan is blinding the heart. And if you see it, you know it is true, just like, is that light on up there, shining me right in the face, causing me not to see you so well; is that light on?  I think it’s on!  Somebody puts a gun to my head and says, “How do you know it’s on?” You say, “It’s on!” That’s the way light works, and so there’s an immediacy in the gospel that vindicates itself, according to this text, verse 5, “For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your bond servants for Jesus’ sake. Then verse 6 parallels verse 4, “For God, who said, ‘light shall shine out of darkness [the original bringing into existence of light] is the one who has shown in our hearts [so that’s how this light happens for us fallen blind creatures; this is the new birth happening here, I believe] to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”  

So that’s how you come to credit the gospel. The gospel is preached to you; Billy Graham does it, or somebody does it on the radio, or you read a tract, or you’re reading your Bible or go to church on Sunday, or you go to an apologetics seminar at the university, and God does that. The God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” shines in your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. It’s a self-authenticating kind of glory that you see written across that story that cannot be accounted for any other way, which is why I don’t think it’s irrational.

Jonathan Edwards argues in his sermon, “Divine and Supernatural Light Immediately Imparted to the Soul” -- if you have never read that sermon and you want to know more about what I’m saying here, get Jonathan Edwards’ sermon.  You can find it online; you can just type that into Google, and it’ll come up. He argues it’s rational, meaning there is real reason for believing the gospel; we’re just blind to it, and you can see it, and it is self-evidencing; just like there’s real reason for me to believe that that light’s on up there, there’s real reason to believe that there’s a light on in the gospel, you just have to see it with the eyes of your heart, which are designed by God to see glory, if they just weren’t so blinded by Satan and our own sin.  

I’m going to refer to this one just because it’s right off the front burner of my preaching right now, and I’m going to do it again tonight and carry this forward into John 1. First Peter 1, talking about the new birth, “You have been born again, not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God … this is the word which was preached to you.” The good news that was preached to you is the gospel. That word ‘preached’ is euangelizō, which means it’s the gospel. So what that is saying is, when the story, the Gospel, is told in the power of the Holy Spirit, new birth happens for people. New birth means that a miracle takes place, and one of the marks of the miracle is that light dawns, and you see things as irresistibly true and attractive that you didn’t see before, and you embrace the gospel. So what Westminster is saying when it argues that by the Scriptures’, “light and power to convince and convert sinners,” we know that it’s the word of God. That’s what I am arguing now from 1 Peter 1:23 and 2 Corinthians 4:4, that this light and power to convert means there is a miracle that happens when the Gospel is faithfully preached, and we are enabled to see authentic self-vindicating light and glory in the person of Jesus Christ. 

Frankly, that may sound kind of weird as a foundation of your faith in the Bible, but it isn’t.  If somebody asks you, you should have a long answer and a short answer ready. If somebody asks you, “Why are you one of those ‘born again’ types?  Why do you believe this stuff?” one short answer would be something like this (I hope this is real for you):  “When I read the story of Jesus in the gospels, of how he lived and what he said and what he did and how he died and how he rose, when I read that, I can’t reject him, he wins my trust.” I think the person talking to you will not despise that answer, because if they do, you could come back to them and say, “How do you come to trust somebody? How did you get to trust your wife, or how did you get to trust …?” And there’s no mathematical answer to that; there’s no historical argument; there’s just, well I watched her, I dated her, I looked at her from a lot of angles, and that’s the way I feel about the apostle Paul.  I have spent so many hundreds of hours talking to this guy, maybe listening, but I talk back a lot! But I can’t regard Paul as a buffoon.  That’s what I feel about Jesus.  No man created what’s here.  I know it’s nice to develop arguments for the validity and reliability of the Synoptic Gospels and Johannine writings, and so on, but in the end, the story as it reads in the Bible wins me over.  I think that’s what they’re getting at there.

II. John Calvin and the Westminster Catechism

Let me go to the last part of the Westminster answer. This is the big “but,” remember?  All those are reasons for why you should believe the Bible is true, but this one: “…but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God.” What does that mean? I am going to go to Calvin here and unpack his doctrine because I think they were influenced by him, and I think that’s okay; I think he’s right when he says, “the Spirit of God bearing witness,” and this is what is called the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, “brings us to believe that the Bible is the very word of God.”  

So here’s my little section on John Calvin’s doctrine of the internal testimony. Here’s what he says, the problem relying on the church, “A most pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church.”  So in his day, he regarded that as a pernicious error. I would guess that that error is still abroad today. “As if the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended upon the decision of men. Yet, if this is so, what will happen to miserable consciences seeking firm assurance of eternal life if all promises of it consist in and depend upon the judgment of men?” That’s his dilemma. If you don’t base it on the judgment of the church, what will you base it on? That’s what he is trying to answer here. How shall we know? His answer is the internal testimony of the Spirit.  

This is what he means. “The testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason.  For as God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word, the Word will not find acceptance in men’s hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit. The same Spirit, therefore, who has spoken through the mouths of the prophets must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that they faithfully proclaimed what had been divinely commanded. Because until he illumines their minds, they ever waver among many doubts.”  

Now, the crucial question here is, how does he do this?  How does the Holy Spirit persuade us of the truth of Scriptures? So he keeps going:  “Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated.” Now, be sure you get this.  The testimony of the Holy Spirit, he is going to argue, is not added information about the Bible. If I say, ‘Seek the full experience of the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the truth of the Word of God,’ that doesn’t mean go into the woods, leave your Bible at home, and ask the Holy Spirit to tell you that the Bible is true. That is exactly not what the testimony of the Holy Spirit is; it is not a second revelation, like, here I’ve got the revelation from the Bible, and here I’ve got words coming from the Holy Spirit, like words of prophecy, words of wisdom, or words of knowledge, and they are coming and saying, ‘The Bible’s true; pick it up and read it.’  That’s not the case; that’s really pulling rank on the Holy Spirit in the word. That’s not what Calvin means.  That’s not what I would mean. He’s saying that when the Holy Spirit testifies to you, it does so by illumining the word as self-authenticating; that’s why he uses this word here. “…Hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. [even though he has a whole section on the secondary values of argument and historical reasoning; it’s not subject finally to that] And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty; it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit. Therefore, illumined by this power [illumined to see what is really there] we believe neither by our own [this is amazing!] or anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God.”  

That right there is a most remarkable statement.  We do make judgments, but he is arguing that the witness of the Spirit, that is, the effect that the Spirit has in making us able to see what is really there -- this is what I am talking about in 2 Corinthians 4:4, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ -- to see what is really there, that is so immediate that he says it’s not by virtue of any long train of arguments formed by our judgment. “…but above human judgment, we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself)…” Looking at the light. That light is on; I am not reasoning about that light being on. I’m not concluding there’s a little bit of a pain on the retina of my eye; I think that’s only caused when lights are on, ergo that light is on.  I’m not doing that.  I’m just saying it’s on. And he says that’s the way the heart sees the glory of God in the Bible, in the gospel. “…that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men.  We seek no proofs, no marks of genuineness upon which our judgment may lean [even though he gives lots of those; that is not the immediate final decisive work of the Spirit]; but we subject our judgment and wit to it as to a thing far beyond any guesswork! This we do, not as persons accustomed to seize upon some unknown thing, which, under closer scrutiny, displeases them, but fully conscious that we hold the unassailable truth!”  

One last paragraph on that, and we’ll continue.  This is all in the “Institutes,” book one, chapter seven here, so if you want to follow up on this, you can read chapter seven as the key section in the “Institutes.”  “Nor do we do this as those miserable men who habitually bind over their minds to the thralldom of superstition, but we feel that the undoubted power of his divine majesty lives and breathes there [there in the Bible – we see it there]. By this power, we are drawn and inflamed, knowingly and willingly, to obey him, yet also more vitally and more effectively than by mere human willing or knowing…the immediate sight of God’s reality in the word [This is still Calvin; I’m just switching the order around]. “How can we be assured that this has sprung from God unless we have recourse to the decree of the church? It is as if someone asked, ‘Whence will we learn to distinguish the light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter?’ Indeed, Scripture exhibits fully, as clear evidence of its own truth, as white and black things do of their color, or sweet and bitter things do of their taste.” 

Now, I’m going to give you J. I. Packer’s restatement of all that view, and then we’re going to go to a text in the Bible that I think teaches just what we’ve seen, so you don’t think, well, this is just Calvin’s speculations.  Here’s Packer’s interpretation of the inner witness of Calvin, Calvin’s view on it.  “Calvin affirms Scripture to be self-authenticating [so he’s picked up on that phrase that we saw], through the inner witness of the Spirit.” So don’t let Calvin, Packer, or Piper be interpreted as saying the witness of the Spirit, to your reality or the Bible’s reality, yours in Romans 8 or in the Bible’s, we’re going to see in 1 John, as being an extra message sent to you about the Bible. Like you’ve got two ways of being conscious: one, I read my Bible, and the other, I listen to the Spirit, and when the Spirit says believe the Bible, then I go back with confidence. If you go about it that way, you will be disillusioned big time, and you’ll probably become a heretic, because you will be open to all kinds of messages coming from outside the Bible, and you’ll be distorting the Bible because that little message can tell you about what it means over and over again, and the people who see it is not in the Bible are going to tell you it’s not in the Bible, and you won’t listen to them because you’ve got this other message going.  That’s where all sects and heresies come from. So, Packer’s onto that, and I think that’s right. “Self-authenticating through something the Spirit does to enable you to see what’s really there. What is this inner witness? Not a special quality of experience, nor a new private revelation, nor an existential decision, but a work of enlightenment whereby through the medium of verbal testimony, the blind eyes of the spirit are opened [my spirit, little s] and divine realities come to be recognized and embraced for what they are. This recognition, Calvin says, is as immediate and un-analyzable as the perceiving of a color or a taste by physical sense, an event about which no more can be said than when appropriate stimuli were present, it happened, and when it happened, we know it happened.” 

Now, that might unsettle you, because you might say, “I’ve never thought about my experience with the Bible that way. I’ve never thought about my experience with the gospel that way.”  Don’t panic! God does this for the simplest of people. It can happen to a six year old. He couldn’t begin to articulate what has happened, and unless he is well taught as he grows up, twelve, eighteen, twenty-eight, he’ll never articulate what happened because he was so badly taught. Now, I don’t know where you are in how you’ve been taught about ‘how did you come to believe,’ but there should come a point, maybe it’s right now, where you will have to say, “I’ve never even analyzed why I came to believe; I just remember believing when I was little, and I’ve always taken the Bible to be so…’ and that is not a bad thing, provided there is reality there. And this is just a way of putting a template on your experience to see, ‘Can you think this through to the bottom?’ I had to do that; I had to think, ‘Now, is that my experience of the Bible?  Is that why I have never from age 6 to 62, having walked through unbelievable challenges to my faith in various schools, experiences in Germany, and people confronting me, and people mocking my view, has my inability to walk away from this simply owing to tradition and stubbornness, or has God opened my eyes to see what I can’t turn away from? Whatever name you put on it, I just can’t walk away from the Jesus I’ve seen in the gospels.’ And I think if you are born again, you will have the same experience if you let yourself just think about what happened to you.

Now, the text, 1 John 5:7-11.  Where does John Calvin get all this stuff? Where should you go to the Bible to argue that what I have just said in the last ten minutes is Biblical? And here is probably the most important text, though there are others; in fact, I think the ones from 1 Peter 1 and 2 Corinthians 4 are very pertinent to this issue, but this one uses the words ‘testimony of the Spirit,’ so let’s go here. 1 John 5:7-11:  “And it is the Spirit who bears witness because the Spirit is the truth.” So, there you have the witness of the Spirit. So what is he talking about? “For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, the water and the blood.” Very perplexing; perhaps this part referring to the Spirit’s coming to Jesus at his baptism and the water being his submission to all righteousness in water baptism, and blood being his crucifixion, perhaps; I’m not sure about the full scope of verse 8; that’s my inclination, what I just said there. “…and these three are in agreement,” so, his life from his call, baptism and death, his whole life is a testimony. ‘If we receive the witness of men [which we do], the witness of God is greater.’ So now we have it again, ‘witness of God.’ “For the witness of God is this, that he has borne witness concerning his Son.”  

So the witness that he has in mind is a witness about Christ, that he is real and he’s true that he’s who he says he is.  “The one who believes in the Son of God [believing now comes in] has the witness in himself.”  I think that means, if you have been brought to faith, and it’s authentic faith in Jesus, the reason is it is because you have the witness of God functioning in your life. The Holy Spirit has done something; the Spirit has borne witness in a way that you have yielded to his authority, to the authority of Jesus in the gospel, and you recognize the Son, and you believed in him; you have the witness in yourself. “The one who does not believe God has made him a liar because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning his Son.”  And this verse is very important, verse 11: “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”  Now just think about that with me for a minute. Does that fit with what Calvin is saying? The witness, what witness?  Well, probably the witness concerning his Son, the witness of the Spirit, the witness of God, all say ‘witness.’  “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and the life is in his Son.”   You have the Son, you have life.  Here’s what I think that means:  You ask me, “What is the witness of the Spirit to be in your life, that the Son of God is who he says he is?” My answer is, “I’m alive.”  This is the witness, that he has given me life, eternal life from the dead.  

The witness is, I see him; I’m alive; I was dead, and in my deadness, I was in rebellion, I was in blindness. He was boring to me, foolish to me, disinterested; I wanted to write websites like I read last night in doing some research – I don’t even want to tell you the name of this website; there are more websites out there than you know that hate the Bible and are bent on destroying the Bible, and I found one and the whole website is to undermine the Bible, contradictions and lies, and so on, that it says the Bible commits. That’s who I was!  That person said, for example, “Here’s a lie in the Bible, ‘Whatever you ask, believe that you have it, and you’ll have it,’” and then he adds, “Try praying that I’ll become a Christian in five minutes, and you’ll see that’s a lie.”  

That’s the kind of anger there is out there toward the Bible and towards Christianity. And that’s who I was, and then something happened, and I saw the Gospel differently; I saw the glory of Christ differently. I saw the crucifixion not as foolishness and a stumbling block but as the wisdom of God. What happened? What was the testimony?  The testimony wasn’t “The gospel is true.  Change your mind!”  That’s not what happened. Life was given, and the heart that was dead and rebellious and hostile and indifferent now was alive to spiritual things, the new birth happened, the call of God happened, the illumination of the Holy Spirit happened. The internal testimony of the Spirit opened my eyes to see what’s really there, and I can’t not believe; I must believe.  

So, I think this text does in fact bear witness to what Calvin was trying to explain in the internal testimony of the Spirit, that in the end – so here I’m giving you my bottom line answer to all of you non-historians, non-scholars who’ve got to stake your life on whether the Bible and the gospel at the center is true. It’s going to come down to this:  As you look at the world, know yourself, think about reality, and then expose yourself to the story of the Bible, does the Spirit remove blindness so that you see self-authenticating beauty and truth there, that’s really there? Scholars have to spend their lives trying to unpack it in objective argumentation, and I am thanking God for them because there were key phases in my life where I just had to have some of those answers given for why these two texts weren’t a contradiction, but that solution didn’t make me a believer, because some other smarter guy could have come along with a PhD at the university, and he’s going to bring me another problem, and then my faith is all up for grabs again… I can’t live that way.  I have to have access to God’s truth in a more reliable, firm way than whether the latest PhD is on my side.  It always feels good to have a real good scholar writing a book to defend your point.  But then another book comes out five years later, you know, saying that…  Nathan last night as we were driving home in the car, it is so good to be 62, would maybe be even better to be 82, because you’ve seen so much come and go.  I mean, right now we’re all up in the air with Bart Ehrman about textual criticism and what-not. Guess what.  Fifteen years, they’ll never have heard of him.  

How many of you remember – I doubt that a single hand is going to go up – the ‘Passover Plot?’  One… two… three, ok, good, these older folks… Here I am a junior in college, and this Jewish guy, I forget his name now, wrote “The Passover Plot,” the big exposé about how Jesus did not die on the cross.  It was everywhere on the news, breathless media attention, and I had to write a paper on it in Millard Erickson’s apologetics class at Wheaton College, and everybody was talking about the book.  You’ve never heard of it; it’s just totally gone, and so will everything else.  It’s good to be old.  You just watch it come, watch it go. It’s like pea shooters against the Sherman tank of the Bible – plink! The media says, “Look at that pea.”  The Bible is just there, like the Rock of Gibraltar.  So I hope that you don’t get shaken to the foundations with the latest attack.

Maybe one other comment about that:  Thank God for liberalism. Everett Harrison said, because by its very nature, liberalism is self-correcting, for this reason: Conservatism means people are comfortable with conserving old, true things, and they don’t feel any impulse to be new. If they see something and it’s old and it’s true, let’s conserve it, that’s conservatism. Liberalism means generally you’ve got to have new stuff. Well, what a wonderful thing, because that means they’ll always reject the old, write something new, but then guess what; in twenty years, what’s old?  The new is old. So liberal scholars must always deny what liberal scholars in the previous generation said, otherwise they become conservatives.  They conserve the error of 30 years ago, and they don’t want to become conservatives, and so they find creative ways to say that Bultmann and Brunner and Barth and Käsemann, all the liberals (but Barth wasn’t exactly, neo-orthodox).  ‘We’ve got new ways to deal with this.’  So Dr. Harrison in our course on Paul at Fuller said to just be patient, because even if you don’t have the time to write a book in response to this liberal denial of the Bible, some liberal will deny it eventually, because it’s going to be conservative within twenty or thirty years, and no liberal wants to be conservative.  That was very liberating to me and made me a more patient person. 

That’s all I want to say about step number five, as to why we credit the Bible, and please, let me remind you again:  It isn’t the whole story; there are so many more ways to go about crediting the Bible, but that’s the one that I live with most existentially. 

Now, we have twelve or so minutes left, and I am going to tackle – see if we can do it – some comments about the meaning of the Bible’s inerrancy so that you don’t say the Bible has errors in places where it doesn’t.  I’m just going to draw your attention to a few places, or the kinds of things that I mean.  

What do I mean when I say, or when the Bethlehem Affirmation of Faith says, “We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, fully inspired and without error.”  What does “without error” mean?  Here’s what I’m going to say it means.  It means the Bible is without error in the sense that all that the Biblical authors intended to teach is true and does not conflict with reality or with the will of God. So let me unpack that little phrase for just a few minutes, what I mean by ‘intended.’ A writer should not be accused of error because someone construes his words in a way the writer does not intend. The meaning of a text is not what anyone can construe from the words but what the writer intends for the language to teach. For example, if I say to a friend in Detroit, ‘I’ll be there at 10 a.m.,’ meaning Eastern Standard Time, intending that, and he construes the meaning of my words to be 10 a.m. Central Standard Time, I have not erred if I arrive an hour earlier than expected. I may have been unclear, but I was not wrong. So the meaning of a writer should not be considered false just because the words could be used to express error.  

To me, this is basic common sense; if you write a letter to somebody, a love letter or a contract letter, or whatever, and they take you to mean what you didn’t mean, and then they use some hermeneutical mumbo-jumbo to say ‘language is open ended; I can make it mean whatever I want; that’s why I read poetry; that’s why I read your letter,’ you will feel offended.  You will feel like they didn’t treat you the way you would like to be treated, because if I said, ‘I wouldn’t,’ and you said, ‘Wouldn’t here means would,’ I’d say, ‘You can’t do that!’  And a person might feel, ‘I can too!’  So I’m just saying common sense says, “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you,” means when I write, try to figure out what I meant.  Don’t say, ‘Well, he could mean…’ Think, ‘What did it mean?’  Give me the break! Try to get at my intention; that’s the honorable, kind, loving thing to do, and I’m just saying do that with the Bible as well.  

Why do I say teach ‘inerrant?’ Things are inerrant in that this intention to teach is not in error. The word ‘teach’ reinforces this point by implying that a writer might say things which he is not teaching. For example, I may say to my son, ‘Pick your mother up at the town square.” My teaching is that he should get his mother at the place known as the town square. I am not teaching that he should lift her off the ground in his arms, even though I said, “Pick your mother up.” Nor am I teaching that the town square is the same length on all four sides, even though I said “square.’ If the town square is a hundred feet by a hundred and five, I haven’t erred, and if my son never touches his mother but brings her home from there, he has not disobeyed. Both the word ‘intended’ and the word ‘teach’ are meant to protect a writer from accusation of error when there is none. That’s the way language works.

Some implications for reading Scripture: Accurate descriptions of natural events as what one simply sees are not scientific errors. ‘The sun rises in the east’ is not a scientific error; it’s a matter of observation. Joshua 10:13: “So the sun stood still and the moon stopped until the nations avenged themselves of their enemies.” The point there is not to teach a pre-Copernican worldview that has the earth static and the sun doing this [drawing circles in the air]. That is not the point! The point is all of them were watching, and it stopped; that’s what the point was. It would be so contrary to the Bible’s intentions when you say, ‘Aha!  Not scientifically accurate; the sun doesn’t stop; the earth stops rotating, even if you believe in the miracle.’ Or Revelation 6:13: “The stars of the sky fell to the earth as a fig tree cast its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.”  You can see a scientist saying, ‘ha-ha, do you know how big one star is?  A billion times bigger than the earth.  They don’t fall to the earth like grapes.’ So is this a big mistake? No, because the word ‘star’ is a picture for heavenly bodies that are up there, and when they start falling, a meteor shower… they fall.  No really honest person would want to come to texts like this and say that God, foreseeing some astonishing falling to the ground of heavenly bodies, and these writers did not know what we know scientifically, and they are just using the word ‘stars’ to describe all the things out there that you see, whether they are a planet or a star or meteors – they don’t know what a meteor is – boom!  Then they come. I am arguing that what you see can be described and doesn’t have to be described in scientific language that accords with what we know today.

A second one would be that idiomatic exaggerations are not errors, ‘scared me to death’ one of ours.  “I will greatly bless you and will greatly multiple your seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore.” Are there that many Jews? No.  There aren’t that many Jews, fourteen million Jews. There are way more than fourteen million grains of sand on the seashore, way more than fourteen million stars.  The point is not one for one; the point is one is innumerable and the other is innumerable as far as their ability to innumerate them. Here’s the interpretation in Jeremiah: “The host of heaven cannot be counted and the sand of the sea cannot be measured; so I will multiple the descendants of David.” You won’t be able to count them.  

I think I’m probably going to pass on the rest of these, seeing how much time we have left and conclude with my single sheet of step seven.  I‘m just pointing you in a direction with the nature of inerrancy to say, let language function the way it normally functions, so that you don’t find errors where there aren’t any; that was the point of that unit.

This is our conclusion, and I’m going to just tick these off in the last few minutes.  If all this is true, and the Bible is God’s word, how then should we handle the Bible?

1. Handle the Bible with reverence, as Holy; it is the unique, precious written word of God. Don’t make light of the Bible.

2. Cherish – that’s an affection word -- the word of God is supremely valuable only under God, himself. I tried to find my source last night, and I couldn’t find it, so I’ll just paraphrase a quote that J. I. Packard used in one of his messages where he said that a puritan preacher in a time of great persecution stood up, and he said, “Take our houses, take our clothes, take our children, and take our wives, but don’t take our Bible.”  

3. Study the word of God seeking to understand its original meaning with your mind.  

4. Pray over the word of God, that God would illumine your mind to see what is really there. Even though God has done that for you decisively so that you’ve been able to see it is true if you are a Christian, there is so much more to be seen. And every day, Satan is trying to cloud you, shoot fiery darts at you. We need to pray earnestly that he would be defeated.  

5. Meditate on the word of God, reflecting both on the meaning and the implications for your life. 

6. Memorize the word of God so that it feeds you, transforms you, and is available for use in blessing others. Memorizing has two effects; one, it has a transforming effect on your world view and on your way of thinking to have memorized Scripture in your mind and your heart, and it’s there ready to bless other people in times of ministry.  

7. Spread the word of God by supporting missions and translation work and by giving away copies and portions to others. Oh, that you would carry around little pieces of the Bible, Gospels of John, that you would be giving Bibles away, that you would be leaving them in hotel rooms. Let us be a disseminating people; the Bible has power in and of itself, so let’s get it out! And especially to nations and languages that don’t have it at all.

8. And finally, obey the word of God as the highest authority in your life.  And that’s the end of the matter, isn’t it? “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I will be with you to the end of the age.” You give yourself to knowing and studying and teaching and disseminating and doing the word of God, and you have a promise, “I’ll be with you to the end of the age.” 

Let’s pray.  Father in heaven, how I thank you for the written word of God.  Where would we be if we had to intuit ultimate reality, intuit ways of salvation.  You have not left us without a testimony, and so I praise you, and I thank you for the Bible and for the heart of the Bible, the gospel, and for the heart of the gospel, the cross of Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen for our salvation.  Make us instruments of spreading this truth, I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.