Have you ever stepped out to follow God, only to discover when you got to where you were going, that it didn’t look anything like you thought it would? Has your obedience ever been followed by trials and testing? This is exactly what happened to Abram after he obeyed God’s call. It all started out very different than he must have imagined, but at just the right time, God fulfilled every one of His promises. If you are faithfully following God, but your life isn’t what you hoped for, keep trusting Him. He will not steer you wrong.
Can We Trust the Bible?
Do you believe the Bible is really a supernatural book inspired by God? If so, why do you believe that? Is it just because that’s what you were taught growing up, but you’ve never examined it for yourself? Are you absolutely certain that the Bible is true and trustworthy? Today we explore some of the amazing historical and scientific evidence that demonstrates the Divine authorship of this incredible Book, and you’ll have even more reasons to know that you really can trust the Bible!
I want to say Happy New Year as we begin a new teaching series through the Bible. I don’t want anybody to feel intimidated or nervous by that – this is not going to be a super heavy thing at all. We’re going to take breaks along the way. No, we’re not teaching every single verse in the Bible. That would take 10 years, maybe 20 years. I don’t know. But we’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and are very excited to be able to start that today. I would encourage you to make this a practice, to be here, to be a part of this, to take notes and see what the Lord will do in our lives this year as we look into his word. We’ve entitled this series Unravel and one of the reasons we wanted to do that is because this series is so huge.
It’s the biggest series we’ve ever done and I knew that it may feel overwhelming at first to hear what we’re going to do. So my goal was to boil the entire series down to one word. That was my job. And this is the word we came up with. It seems like a strange, disconnected word from what we’re talking about. But the reason we chose that word, and I think you’ll see this as we go through the coming weeks, is that a lot of people go through life feeling confused about the Bible. They’ve never had anyone show them how it all fits together, how things link from the Old Testament to the New Testament and back. You read things in the New Testament that just sound crazy. They don’t make any sense at all until you have someone show you in the Old Testament what they used to do. Suddenly things click, they fall into place, the light goes on and it makes sense. That’s why we’re calling this Unravel because the Bible for so many people is just a tangled mess of stuff that they feel intimidated by. There are even portions of the Bible that Christians never venture into because they tried one time and they just about drowned. The New Year is a time when people make resolutions and one of them in the church is “I’m going to read through the Bible this year. I’m going to do it this year.” You go great through Genesis. You go great through Exodus. Then you hit Leviticus and the wheels fall off and you don’t even know why that book is in the Bible. And Numbers…Numbers! Why is Numbers in the Bible. Who cares? Right?!
So we want to help unravel some of this for you. The word unravel itself, if we look at the very definition it means to undo or untangle something that is tangled or knotted to free from complication or difficulty. To make plain or clear; to explain or solve; to unravel a mystery. Maybe the Bible is a mystery for you. Maybe there are just parts of the Bible that are a mystery to you that are frightening. Maybe there are parts of the Bible that bother you. You know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to bring that honestly and say, man, I don’t know what to do with this. Or this part of the Bible just really kind of makes me mad. You know what? At least let’s be honest about that. I want us just to to bring ourselves before this book this year and say, “God, I’m opening this up. I’m opening my life up to your word. I’m asking you to do what you said you would do through this book into my life.”
I want to give you a quick overview of this series so that we can at least get a snapshot of of where we’re going. I almost drove Jim Ferguson crazy preparing this series. He has so faithfully helped me with so many things behind the scenes and I kept telling him “I’m not sure how many parts I’m going to divide this up into. I think it’s five or six…I don’t know, I’m still working on that.” He would ask me and I’d be like “don’t push me man!” So here we go – I think it’s going to be six parts. Don’t hold me to this because we want to stay completely open as we go through this. If none of this works out then we just wasted a lot of time making slides – that’s all, and we’ll be fine with that. Here is a quick overview of this series.
The first section is called from paradise to slavery. In part one we’re going to go through creation, the fall, the flood, and the tower of Babel. We’re going to look at the importance of Abraham’s life beginning in Genesis chapter 12. Why that matters so much that God called him to leave his nation and begin a new, a new nation through him. The 12 tribes, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons. Why that even matters, why that will actually matter in heaven, and then how God’s people ended up in Egypt. That’s part one, I think.
Then the next section, part two, from slavery to holiness. Moses leads the people out of Egypt. They go into the wilderness, cross the Red Sea, do all that stuff that we know about. Come to Mount Sinai. God gives them the law, they disobey, they end up wandering in the wilderness, and we’re going to talk about the tabernacle a little bit. I don’t know how deep we’re going to go into that.
Then we see a terrible turn take place in the people. They go from holiness to pride and we see how that affects them and how it will affect us as well. Joshua leads the people into the promised land and everything is hunky dory at first, but they forgot what God told them. Remember when you get there and you live in nice houses and you have food to eat and all these things, don’t forget the Lord your God. Guess what they did? They did just that. So we’ll look at the judges, will look at the Kings, the temple, how the kingdom was split int two, how they were taken captive into exile, talk about the profits and so on.
Then we’ll move over into the New Testament. We’ll talk about the life of Christ. We’re going to go through his life, look at some of the prophecies that he fulfilled, the Great Commission, up through the ascension.
In part five, we’re going to talk about the life of the church. How the church began, why it’s important, the power and the impact that that early church had. Some of the dangers, some of the problems they ran into, and what we can still learn from that today. Some of the warnings that were given to the church.
Then the final section, part six, we’re calling the life to come as we finish up the Bible and we start looking at the warnings Jesus gave to the churches in Revelation. Some of the things that the Bible says are going to come, the final judgment, and our eternal destiny.
Now, the strange thing is you would think if you’re beginning a teaching series through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that you would start in Genesis. We’re actually not going to get to Genesis 1:1 for two weeks because I really feel like it would be a mistake for us to just jump in to Genesis 1:1 and saddle up and start riding through the Bible without pausing first and asking some really important questions about the Bible. I think we as Christians are sometimes afraid to ask questions. Maybe there are some lingering questions in our minds about the Bible, but we’re kind of afraid to ask them. We think that it’s a bad thing. I would suggest to you the opposite. If they are asked in the right way, with the right heart, please bring your questions to God. If he is a faithful God, he’ll be faithful in that too. Won’t he?
This morning I want us to ask the question: can we trust the Bible? Pastors aren’t supposed to ask that in church, but I want to know. Would you not want to know if we’re going to take, I don’t know, a year, eight years, to go through this? If we’re going to invest that time studying one book, wouldn’t you want to know for sure, that this book is even worth investing that time in? I’ll tell you, I don’t like wasting time on things that don’t matter. That’s why I despise yard work, because it’s pointless. It never ends. No matter how nice you get it to look, it always grows back. It feels pointless to me. Same thing with shaving. I can’t stand to shave and one of these days I’m just going to go with the five o’clock shadow thing and that’s going to be me.
I don’t want to spend an hour on something that’s pointless and needless, nevermind a year. Do you know if you can truly trust this book? Do you know? How do you know? Well, my mom told me. Wonderful, God bless your mom. But how do you know that this book is true, reliable, and totally trustworthy from cover to cover? What if it isn’t? What if I’m the greatest con man in the world and I’m up here lying to you every week? Do you know? We’re going to ask that question this morning and next Sunday in a very different kind of way than I normally teach. Normally we turn to a passage and we work word by word through the passage. Today we’re just going to be all over the place with a number of scriptures. Again, that’s not the normal approach, but I think it just has to be this way for us to be able to kind of land where we need to in answering this question today.
Folks, here’s the thing. If this book is not true, we are wasting our time here. Let’s pack it up and go do something else. But if this book is true, the implications are enormous because this book says some very hard things that pertain to your life, your relationships, your habits, and your destiny. If this book is true, if it truly is the word of God, the consequences for us are enormous. So we need to know. How can we know? How can we know if the Bible is trustworthy? Well, there are so many ways that we can begin examining that, and finding evidence of that. We could literally spend two or three months just talking about the evidence that supports the Bible. I’m just going to take two Sundays so you can thank me ahead of time for that. And even taking two Sundays, we’re just scratching the surface of what we could talk about.
There are mountains of evidence that prove the authenticity, the accuracy, the divine authorship of this book. We’ll see when we get to Genesis 1:1 – in the beginning, God created. Hmm, there’s a problem for a lot of people right there. Anybody who doesn’t believe that God created this world, that he is the author of this book, I say courteously that they are simply not opening their eyes to the evidence. It is everywhere and there is enough evidence to satisfy even the harshest critic. So I really didn’t know where to start. I’ve just jotted down a few things for us today. A lot of this is going to feel sort of technical, but I hope it will be very interesting. I hope that once we’re done with this, your heart will really be moved by this because we’ll leave here saying, “wow, I never knew this.” I never knew that God really is faithful. He really is who He said He was and I can trust him. I hope that today and next week will be a real firm foundation for us.
Here are a few things I think worth considering. Number one, I want you to consider the indestructibility of the Bible. I didn’t really know what word to use there. You could say the resilience of the Bible. The Bible has survived against extraordinary odds. You look back through history and you’ll see that no other book in history has undergone the intense, relentless opposition and scrutiny that the Bible has. It has endured constant attacks, constant criticism, constant slander down through the ages, and yet it continues to stand firm. It has emerged from all of that criticism unscathed, unashamed and unshaken. Even after centuries of attack, no book in history has ever stood that kind of test and endured more persecution.
Folks, you look back through history, you see that kings and entire governments and tyrants have done everything within their human power to wipe the Bible off the face of the earth. They’ve burned it, they’ve buried it, they’ve torn it to pieces, they’ve done everything they could to rid the world of the Bible. Yet the Bible always rises from the ashes stronger than before, and it continues to be the best selling book of all time every single year, including last year. How’s that possible? That so many hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, people have tried to discredit this book. They’ve tried to destroy this book and yet it just keeps rising up. It’s like the little blow up punch thing you had when you were a kid that had sand in the bottom and you’d hit it and they would fall down, but then it would always come back up, wouldn’t it? That’s that’s the Bible.
Voltaire, the French writer who died in 1778 said that in a hundred years from his lifetime, Christianity and the Bible would be swept from existence. But only 50 years after Voltaire died, the Geneva Bible Society used his house to print Bibles. If anyone ever had the right to roll over in their grave, I guess it would be him.
First Peter 1:24 says “all men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands for ever forever.” This book is eternal. Albert Cummins said this: “the Empire of Caesar is gone. The legions of Rome are smoldering in the dust. The avalanches that Napoleon hurled upon Europe have melted away. The prince of the Pharaohs is falling. The pyramids they raised or eroding every day in the desert sands, but the word of God still survives.”
All things that threatened to extinguish it have only aided it, and it proves day how transient is the noblest monument that men can build, but how enduring is the least word that God has spoken? Isn’t that beautiful? Matthew 24 35 Jesus said, “heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away.” I can’t give you too many rock solid guarantees in life. Goodness knows, in Greenville I can’t guarantee you what the weather’s going to do next week. I can’t guarantee you what the stock market is going to do next month. But I can guarantee you without hesitation that the Bible will stand for ever forever long after you and I are gone. It will never be blotted out despite the opposition, despite the attacks, despite the criticism.
We could also talk about the extraordinary supernatural unity of the Bible despite the diversity from which it came, over a period of 1,500 years. We’re actually going to talk about that next week. If you’ve never heard that, it’s pretty mind boggling to think about. It forms one complete story when it’s all put together – the odds of that are astronomical. We could consider the indestructibility of the Bible.
Secondly, we can consider the scientific evidence of the Bible. In 1861 the French Academy of Science printed a brochure offering 51 “incontrovertible facts” that proved the Bible was in error. But today there is not a single reputable scientist who would support those supposed facts because modern science has disproved every one of them. Sometimes it just takes time. Sir Isaac Newton said: “I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.” Psalm 119 verse 160 says “All your words are true. All your righteous laws endure forever.”
There are extraordinary scientific facts in the Bible. Many of them were not known by science until recent generations and yet the Bible knew about these things thousands of years ago. The writers of the Bible knew about these things long before scientists ever did. Here are a few quick ones and there are so many we could talk about. I just picked a few for you. First, that blood is the life source of the body. How many of you remember from school studying American history that doctors used to drain people’s blood when they were sick because they thought that that was going to let the disease out of their body. They wondered why their patients kept dying because they didn’t know at that time that the blood contains the life of the human body. They were literally draining the life out of people. So the next time you say to your kids “you’re draining the life out of me,” they’re actually not, literally. Modern science, modern doctors didn’t know that until pretty recent generations. Yet the Bible clearly told us 1,500 years before Christ in Leviticus 17:11 the life of the flesh is in its blood. If they were to just read the Bible, they could’ve saved all those pointless deaths.
Number two, that the earth is suspended on nothing. I know this is hard for us to get our minds around, but ancient people believed that the earth was held up by Atlas. You’ve seen the statue. Some ancient societies believed the earth was held up on giant pillars. Others believe that it a rode around on the back of a giant animal. This was common accepted belief for centuries, but all the way back in 2000 BC, the Bible told us that the earth is suspended in space. Job 26:7 says “He that is God spreads out the northern skies over empty space. He suspends the Earth over nothing.” Another one: they thought for years the earth was flat and yet the Bible says that God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth.
Here’s another one: The Hydrologic Cycle. We all know today and understand that clouds pull up water from the ocean and then that water falls down as rain. It runs down the mountains and the hills into the rivers and eventually makes its way back to the ocean. Where then it is drawn up once again into the clouds, comes back as rain. The cycle that we learned about in science class goes on and on. Folks, that concept was not even known until the 1700s, but the Bible very precisely describes the hydrologic cycle. Ecclesiastes 1:7, written about a thousand BC, says “all streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.” If you pause and think about what he’s saying, it would be impossible for them to understand how the streams flow to the ocean. But the streams return back to the point of origin and flow once again. Job also mentioned this. Job 36:27 says “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams.” Are you kidding me? We didn’t know this until the 1700s. The clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. Wow.
Here’s another one: the number of stars. When Ptolemy went out and studied the night skies, he studied and studied and studied and counted and made all kinds of diagrams and charts. Brilliant guy. He concluded that there were 1,026 stars in the universe. 1,026. And yet nearly 3,000 years ago, the Bible told us in Jeremiah 33:22 “the stars cannot be counted and the sand on the seashore cannot be measured.”
One more: currents in the ocean. A scientist from the mid 1800s named Matthew Fontaine Maury believed that the paths in the sea mentioned in Psalms chapter 8:8 was real. Paths in the sea. I want you to try to think about that. Put yourself hundreds of years back. Paths in the sea? There’s no way you could understand what that meant. Yet this guy believed that the Bible was accurate when it talked about paths in the sea and Psalm eight. So he spent most of his life discovering and mapping ocean currents and underwater streams and his research earned him the reputation of the father of oceanography. His work has been an invaluable resource ever since.
We could go on and on and on. How did the people in the Bible know thousands of years before these things that these were true? How did they know? Lucky guesses? No, it’s the inspiration of God because the same one who created all those things is the same one who wrote this book. We can look at scientific evidence.
Thirdly, we could look at historical evidence and here’s where you could go on for weeks and weeks and weeks. The Bible makes hundreds of references to people to places, dates, and events. Specific places, specific times. It’s sort of putting itself out there to be tested, to be proven, if it just talked in sort of vagueness. But no, it’s very specific. Especially the book of Luke, very specific details. So there’s plenty of opportunities for contradiction with the historical record. People have tried to discredit the Bible with archeology and the more they try, the more they fail. The Bible continues to prove itself to be true. There are so many “missing cities” that the Bible has talked about forever, that people believed didn’t exist. They were just myths. Cities like Sodom and Gomorrah. For a long, long time, experts said that those cities and the events that the Bible describes, they were just myths…until some fairly recent excavations confirmed the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah.
In fact, it goes way further than that. As they began to dig and uncover this, they discovered something remarkable. The Bible says that God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Do you remember how? By raining down fire upon them. You know, we sang this morning “Lord, let your fire fall down.” That’s one line in our songs. I’m not sure I agree with…maybe we should change that to “Lord let your power fall down” or something. But every time we sing that, I kind of just draw back. I’m not sure I understand that the fire mentioned there is referring to something different. But God rained down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah and completely destroyed the cities. Skeptics read that and go “yeah right, never happened.” Well, just fairly recently, they discovered Sodom and Gomorrah. And guess what? They found thousands of sulfur balls. You know, if you look in the dictionary at Brimstone, it says sulfur. There’s videos online – you can go watch them. They light these balls and they still burst into flame. They found molten pottery and they said for it to melt like it did would take the heat of something near a nuclear blast. Probably just a coincidence.
The city of Nineveh – critics said for years and years and years that it didn’t exist until one day archeologists just happened to find the city of Nineveh with its massive gates and statues of winged gods outside. Those wing gods sit right now in the British Museum if you care to go and see them.
The city of Jericho, same thing. The Bible records the destruction of Jericho. The walls completely fell because God caused them to fall. They weren’t torn down brick by brick, stone by stone. They fell down. The city of Jericho has been found. They are unearthing its walls and they found, just as the Bible said, that there’s one wall, the northern wall, that is still standing, that has houses built along the wall. The Bible says Rahab was spared from the destruction. Her house was on the wall, and that part was spared. Discoveries in the Bible that people never thought existed include the pool of Bethesda in John 5, the pool of Siloam and John 9, Jacob’s well in John 4, the tunnel underneath Jerusalem that king Hezekiah dug to let water come in during the siege, the theater in Ephesus where the riot occurred with Paul in Acts 19. Archaeologist, Nelson Glick has made more than 1,500 archeological discoveries by using the Bible as his guide. Pretty smart guy. He said it can be categorically stated that no archeological discovery has ever been made that controverts the historical content of the Bible. One of the greatest archeologists in history named Sir William Mitchell Ramsey devoted 30 years of his life trying to disprove the Bible through archeology and historical records especially. He had a special hatred for the book of Luke because Luke, from almost start to finish is just detail after detail – historical details. And he was determined to disprove this. Ramsey shocked the academic world when his work was finally published. He said this: “Luke is a historian of the first rank. He should be placed alongside the greatest of historians.” And then Ramsay gave his life to Christ. What else could you do in the face of such evidence?
A fourth bit of evidence to believe in the Bible, and that is that Jesus believed in the Bible. Turn to Luke 24. This is the part of scripture where it’s Resurrection Sunday. Jesus has risen from the dead in verses 1-12. It describes how the women were at the tomb. They saw that it was empty. They ran back and told the disciples, the disciples didn’t believe them. They said, what you’re saying sounds like nonsense to us. We don’t believe it. And in verse 13 it says that same day, two of them (two of the disciples) were going to a village called Emmaus. It’s about seven miles from Jerusalem. So they’re walking along talking with each other and they’re discussing, the Bible says, all these things that have happened. Verse 15 says, as they talked and discussed these things with each other, something amazing happens. Jesus himself came up and walked along with them, but they were kept from recognizing him. How that happened beats me. I don’t know, but it happened.
Jesus just did not allow them to know that it was him for a moment. He just looked like another traveler. And so Jesus comes along and he begins walking with them and he asked them “what are you discussing together as you walk along?” And then in verses 20-24 these two disciples began explaining to him. They’re like, dude, are you serious? Are you new in Jerusalem? Everybody knows what has just happened here. They start explaining to him what has just happened to him. He must’ve been holding back a laugh. They explained to him about how you know, we thought this Jesus was the Messiah. He was a prophet, mighty in, in work, in deed. Man, we put our faith and we put all our hope in him. We thought he was going to restore Israel, but it didn’t turn out the way we hoped. They killed him. He’s dead. Verse 25, Jesus says to them “how foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe.” To believe what? Watch this…”to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And here’s the key….verse 27 “and beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.” This is important. Of all of the things that Jesus could have said to these disciples in this moment of despair and grief and hopelessness. He could have said “ah, perk up boys, it’ll be better tomorrow. The Sun will shine again.” Out of all the things he could have said to them in this moment, what did Jesus do? Where did he point them? To the scriptures. Why? Because Jesus believed the scriptures were true.
He was saying to them the same thing He’s saying to you and me today. If you want the truth, look in God’s word – that’s where you’ll find it. He was saying to those guys on the road “Boys, listen. If you want to know what happened, if you want to know why the story had to unfold how it did, why your savior had to be crucified, and if you want to know the wonderful end of the story, go to the scriptures. Look in the scriptures there you will find the truth.” Jesus quoted scripture again and again and again in his ministry when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. What was the very first thing he did? He quoted scripture because scripture is the truth. It is powerful and living and active. Every time Jesus did this, he was affirming the authenticity of the scriptures. If we believe in Jesus, we better believe in everything in this book because He did as well.
One final thing and then I’ll wrap this up. Can we trust the Bible? I will tell you why, for me, the most important bit of evidence exists for me to trust the Bible and that is that the Bible has changed my life. We could spend, as I said, hours, days, weeks, months, talking about all this other evidence and it’s all valid, and it’s all worthwhile, and it all has its place. Folks, I’m going to tell you that the greatest piece of evidence for me is that the truth of that book changed my life. It transformed me from who I used to be to who I am. You might say, “well, you’re not so great now…what were you before?” No, I get it. I understand. But spiritually I’m a new person. I went from darkness to light. I went from death to life. I went from hell to heaven because of the truth that this book told me about. My life has been changed by this book and so have the lives of millions of other people
So I close by asking, what about you? What about you? Has your life, has your heart ever been gripped by the power of God’s word? I’m going to tell you the reason I wanted to start here today. It was not just because of all the historical scientific evidence and all that stuff. It’s because I want us to understand that as we dive into this book this year, this is more than just a book. This is the living, active, powerful word of God that has the power to change your life. Have you ever opened your heart and allowed this Word to change you? If you haven’t, I pray you do that today or at least consider it. As we sing a couple of closing songs or after the service, if you need help, if you’d like to talk to someone about this, if you have questions, if you’d like someone to pray with you, we have men and women available who are ready to do that. And I pray if God is prompting your heart that you would follow what he’s asking you to do.