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THE TRANSFORMING WordDiscovering the Power and Provision of the Bible
By Tony Evans
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2004 Anthony T. Evans
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE BIBLE IS UNIQUE
An old story is told of two men who became lost in the forest. When night fell they realized the danger they were in and began frantically looking for the way home. As the men moved through the dark, frightening woods, they suddenly spotted a light in the distance and made their way toward it. The light was shining from an old cabin, but as one of the men approached the cabin and peeked in the window, he drew back in fear. The cabin belonged to a huge man who was well known in that region for being an eccentric hermit. Many scary stories had been told about him over the years, although no one knew for sure if he was really dangerous. The man looking in the window quickly crawled back to his friend, being careful to stay hidden. "What's the matter?" his friend asked.
"It's that hermit," the first man replied. "There's no way I'm going to knock on his door!" So the two men huddled in the dark woods. After about an hour, they were so hungry and cold they realized they couldn't just stay in the forest all night. So they decided to take a risk and ask the hermit for shelter. But before they knocked they decided to have another look in the window, just to see what he wasdoing. The second man volunteered this time, and he snuck up to peek in the window. He stared for a few seconds, then came running back to the other guy with a big smile of relief on his face. "It's OK!" he said excitedly. "He's reading his Bible!" There is no other book on earth that can turn fear into joy and doubt into assurance the way the Bible can. The Bible stands apart from and is unique among all other books and so-called sacred writings, because it alone is the very Word of God with the power to transform individual lives and entire cultures. One of the great state-merits the Bible makes about itself is found in Isaiah 55:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (vv. 10-11)
You will never find an unconditional guarantee like this in any other piece of writing-especially a guarantee that is still good some 2,600 years after it was first made. In fact, you will never find another book that can compete with the Bible in any form or fashion whatsoever. It is without question the transforming Word of God. The Bible's uniqueness may be comforting to you and me, but the world has never been quite sure what to do with the Word. Some simply try to ignore it, but that's as impossible as trying to ignore a lion in your living room. Some people put the Bible alongside the great works of philosophy that human beings have written, or categorize it as a book of wise sayings and moral lessons. To still others the Bible is a book of guidance and principles for life-and it is all of these things, but also far more. We could never exhaust the subject of the Bible's uniqueness, but I want to begin by considering several things that set the Word of God apart.
THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS ORIGIN
Everything we are going to talk about in this book hinges on the fact that the Bible came from God. Scripture is unique because it is not the word of man, but of God. Now some people will challenge this claim because they say their book is the Word of God. Mormons make that claim for the Book of Mormon, and other cults say the same about their founders' writings. And of course, Muslims make a similar claim for the Qur'an (we'll have more to say about this later). The problem is that anyone can step forward and claim that he or she has received a revelation from God. So how do we know which claim to believe? Thankfully, we don't have to guess, because there are stringent tests that any writing must meet to be validated as the true Word of God. Since the Bible claims to be the unique revelation of God, its words must stand out from all other words. It must be self-authenticating and superior to all other books. We will see how completely the Bible stands up to these tests and validates its claim to be unique.
Jesus Testified to the Bible's Uniqueness
The most important proof of the Bible's uniqueness is Jesus' testimony to the Scriptures. The main reason we know the Bible is God's Word is that Jesus said so. He used the word Scriptures on a number of occasions to describe the Old Testament writings, whether the Law or the prophets (see, for example, Matthew 21:42; 22:29; 26:56).
Jesus also made a statement in the Sermon on the Mount that no one can ignore. "Truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:18). When we want to emphasize a statement we often say, "Now mark my words." Jesus said that when it comes to the Bible, we can mark not only the words as true, but also every letter and even the smallest portions of the letters. In other words, the Bible is binding, authoritative, and dependable. One implication of this is that to reject the Bible is to reject Jesus and accuse Him of being a liar. Many people who want to claim Jesus don't want to accept the Bible as His Word. But Jesus ruled out that option when He tied His life and ministry completely to the fulfillment of Scripture. Jesus used the strongest language possible to declare that the Bible is God's Word. A Muslim once told me, "I don't believe your holy book, but I believe Jesus was a great prophet."
"OK, let's discuss that," I said. "How great a prophet was Jesus?"
"Oh, he was a great prophet just like Mohammed." Then I asked him, "Could Jesus be a great prophet on a par with Mohammed, and yet be a persistent liar?" My Muslim friend agreed that Jesus could not be a persistent liar and a great prophet at the same time.
Then I pointed out to him the inconsistency of Islam's view of Jesus. "But that's the position you have to take if you say you believe Jesus was a true prophet and yet reject the Bible, because Jesus affirmed again and again that the Bible is God's Word. Even your holy book, the Qur'an, records Jesus as saying that the Bible is God's Word. My holy book doesn't say that Jesus ever affirmed the Qur'an as God's Word. So was Jesus lying when He said the Bible is true and will be fulfilled down to the smallest stroke of its letters?" You see, we don't have to be afraid to assert the uniqueness of Scripture, because everything Jesus said and did proved the Bible to be true.
The Bible Testifies to Its Own Uniqueness
It would take another book to deal with all of the Scripture references where the Bible either explicitly' or implicitly refers to itself as God's Word. Of course, when we say the Bible speaks of itself as God's Word, we are talking about the testimony of the authors of Scripture who recorded God's revelation. For example, hundreds of times in the Old Testament the prophets said "the word of the Lord" came to them. Many other times God spoke directly through the patriarchs or the prophets to His people, who never failed to acknowledge that it was God who spoke. One great statement of God's uniqueness is found in Isaiah 43, where the Lord said: "Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me" (vv. 10-11). If God is unique among all so-called gods, then His Word is unique. A classic argument for the Bible's validity is the way that the Word so naturally and continually, without the slightest self-consciousness or apology, refers to itself as the Word of God. This factor has to be taken into account, for if it were otherwise and the Bible was constantly trying to defend itself or insist that it was true, we would have reason to doubt its claims-much like a judge and jury might begin to doubt a witness who kept loudly insisting that he was telling the truth. Another proof of the Bible's uniqueness is the very nature of the truths it teaches. What I mean here is that the Bible gives unmistakable evidence that its thoughts come from God and not man. We began this chapter by looking at Isaiah 55:10-11. Now I want to consider verses 8-9, which also make a strong case for the Bible's uniqueness: "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'" That's a very strong claim, so if the Bible is indeed unique, then its thinking should be so far higher than our thinking that we could never figure it out on our own. And that is exactly, the case with Scripture. This argument may not satisfy the skeptics, but the fact is that the doctrines of Scripture, such as man's total ruin in sin and helplessness to save himself, and the incarnation of God Himself to save mankind, are utterly apart from any other religious teachings. Someone has said that the Bible is the only book that has the courage to tell us the truth about ourselves. Clearly, the Bible did not originate with men. The apostle Peter gave us the definitive word on Gods revelation. "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Peter 1:20-21). No author ever wrote a word of Scripture until the Holy Spirit moved him to write.
The Bible's Perfect Unity Testifies to Its Uniqueness
The Bible is also unique in the way it has come down to us. The Bible's unity of message is nothing short of a miracle, given that it was written over a period of about fifteen hundred years by forty or more different people, who lived in several different countries with different cultures and came from every kind of background imaginable. Just try bringing together a liberator and national leader (Moses), a military general (Joshua), two kings (David and Solomon), a shepherd (Amos), a tax collector (Matthew), some fishermen (Peter and John), and a rabbi (Paul), have them write down even the simplest message, and see if they can agree with each other. That wouldn't happen even if they were in the same room at the same time working with the same set of facts, let alone separated by hundreds of years. The thin red line of our Redeemer and His blood runs all the way through the Bible-from the first prophecy of a Savior and God's slaying of animals to cover Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15, 21), to the last chapter of Revelation that invites the redeemed to spend eternity with God (Revelation 22:17). The Bible's message is consistent and unified from beginning to end. I love the psalmist's statement: "The sum of Your word is truth" (Psalm 11.9:160). Now don't let anyone intimidate you on this one. Someone will say, "Yeah, but the Bible is full of contradictions." That's an old charge that has never been demonstrated, and those who make it usually can't point to one example. Let me tell you, the world has had about two thousand years to prove this charge, and yet the Bible still stands. The best answer to this charge is to hand the skeptic a Bible and ask him to show you an example of a contradiction. Most people have no idea what to do because they're just repeating a line they've heard. In the 1970s a mechanic came forward after the death of billionaire Howard Hughes, claiming that Hughes had made him his heir because the man had once rescued Hughes when he found him staggering around in the desert. The mechanic supposedly had Hughes's true will, naming him as heir. This mechanic's story had all kinds of holes in it, and it didn't take skeptical officials very long to expose his claim as bogus. We're talking about one man's story that didn't even depend on anyone else's validation, and yet he couldn't make it work. But even though the Bible has been examined, dissected, and attacked by the greatest minds in history, no one has ever made a charge of inconsistency or contradiction stick against God's Word. You can relax, too, because it is never going to happen. No one but God could make one perfectly unified document out of sixty-six books. The unity of the Bible is like that of the human body, in which every part can only be explained in reference to the whole (see Psalm 119:160a). Now someone might say, "You're just using circular reasoning here. You're going to the Bible to authenticate the Bible." OK, then let's turn to other sources outside of the Scripture to help verify its truth and corroborate the Bible's witness to itself.
History Testifies to the Bible's Uniqueness
When I make this argument I am not talking about the Bible as a supernatural document, but as a work of historical literature. The point here is that if people accepted the same standards of validity for the Bible that they readily accept for other historical documents, they would have to admit that the Bible is the most widely attested book ever written. To show you what I mean, we can take any figure from history who is no longer on the scene. How do we know that George Washington was our nation's first president? Nobody alive today can say, "I have seen George Washington. I've met him and heard him speak, and I know he was real." We accept the historicity of George Washington because we trust the historical record we have about him. And the same can be said for many other people we could name from history. One test of the validity of any historical record is its proximity to the life of the person whose history it records. One reason the history of George Washington is considered reliable is that much of it was written during his lifetime by people who did see and know him, and more of it was written in the years very soon after his death. The closer the historical record is to the person's life, the more valid it becomes. Well, guess what? The Bible comes through with shining colors on this score. The very latest part of the New Testament, the book of Revelation, was written in the 90s A.D., about sixty years after Jesus' death. But it was also written by the apostle John, an eyewitness to Jesus' life, so that gives his writings added weight. This is amazing testimony to the Bible's trustworthiness.
Excerpted from THE TRANSFORMING Word by Tony Evans Copyright © 2004 by Anthony T. Evans. Excerpted by permission.
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