2010-07-18 (pm) BC 5 Jeremiah 23:16-32; Matthew 4:1-11 Even the Blind Can See It
There are two hinges to the Christian faith. Two things that are essential. First: the cross and resurrection. The apostle Paul himself said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17a). No, cross, no death, no death, no resurrection, no resurrection, no hope, and we’re to be pitied above all men. But Jesus is resurrected from the dead.
The second essential is the Bible. The Word of God is vital to our faith. It teaches us everything we need to know about God, about the world, and about ourselves.
Now, both of these essentials can be proven as true, or at the very least, they would be admissible in a court of law as being accurate.
To help us, we notice that Article 5 is made up of 3 paragraphs. I’ve assigned these paragraphs as 3 c’s: Canon, Conscience and Clarity.
Canon, that’s canon with one n, not two, as in the weapon of war. Though the canon of scripture is more powerful than any weapon of war, whether ancient or modern.
Canon comes from the Greek word kanon meaning rule or measure. It was a term that referred to a stick used to mark something accurately. It was the standard. If you tried to build something without a canon, your building would have no reference point, you’d have no accuracy, and the whole project would be in danger.
The scriptures function as a canon for Christian living. The scriptures are the measure or rule for the Christian faith, as we see in the first section of article 5. The Bible is more than mere literature. This is more than a novel, an historical account, a collection of interesting thoughts and helpful hints to get through life.
No, it is the basis for regulating, founding and establishing our faith.
Is the Bible important? Yes! It is the foundation, the go-to source, the most important document for Christian faith. We believe the Bible to be accurate—it has been proven accurate through archaeology. We believe the Bible is true—it gives a very good and reasonable explanation for the state of the world we live in, why there is something instead of nothing, why evil is in the world, why we have knowledge of good and evil, that is morality and why we long to worship something. Granted there are other spiritual writings, and even secular writings which speak to each of those things I just mentioned, but the Bible gives us the most reasonable, most logical explanation for everything.
One might ask, “how were the books of the Bible selected? How did the church come up with this canon, this rule?”
Protestants have come up with four criteria for why certain books and not others were selected as the Old and New Testament books. Just a note, if you’ve read the DaVinci Code, Dan Brown made everything up. There was no great conspiracy. Constantine didn’t select the canonical books. However, he did facilitate the final rendering of the books by assembling the council of Nicaea to decide which books were to be included in the New Testament canon. He did this as a matter of expediency since he’d just declared Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, thus the need to have an accurate rending of the books. But the council worked on many other things as well!
The four criteria is as follows: First: Apostolic Origin—For the New Testament books, they had to be written by or based upon the preaching and teaching of the apostles or their companions. Thus, while the gospels of Matthew and John were written by apostles, Mark was a companion of Peter and Luke was a companion of Paul. All the NT books can be traced to close apostolic origin.
Second: Universal Acceptance—all the major Christian communities in the first four centuries accepted all the books that make up the current canon. Sure, some of them had more. In fact, it was a process, started quite early, a canon similar to ours was produced by Origin around 120 AD. Usually, it was a matter of having several texts to choose from, and selecting the best. The same criteria were used by the Jews to establish the Hebrew canon, OT.
Third: Liturgical use—When Christians gathered for their weekly worship services, they read from the Old Testament, as well as the letters and later, the gospels floating around. There quickly arose certain ones that were widely accepted among many communities in many areas of the world.
Fourth: Consistent Message—the chosen books all contain a similar theology. All the books, both Old and New Testament are remarkable that though they were written by more than 40 authors, they all contain a single, recognisable story woven throughout.
This might lead some to ask what makes the Bible authoritative. Okay, so those are nice points, but what makes these books of the Bible count? What made the compilers say, these are the ones? Conscience
The Bible describes the scriptures as a double edged sword. There’s something hard hitting about the Bible. Jeremiah describes a contrast between what is falsely written and the true words of God. Last time, we observed that God himself breathed into his word, that it is useful to teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
Jeremiah goes on to say the Lord describes his word as a fire, a hammer that breaks rocks into pieces. Indeed, the Bible is like that. It pounds into our hearts of stone, and turns them into hearts of flesh.
How does it do this? It convicts us of sin. It confronts us with a mirror, showing us our true selves. Either we look at the mirror and truly see what’s there, and make changes based on that reality, or we run and hide from it, contenting ourselves in believing the delusion we’ve created.
This demonstrates that the scriptures themselves have authority. It is not as though the compilers of the canon took all the letters of that were written, all the books, including those that are not currently included in the canon, and threw them down a flight of steps. Selecting those that went the farthest down were selected as being weightier. Although I did have a professor say that’s how he assigned grades. The papers that went farther got the highest grades.
No, the compilers immediately recognised the authority inherent in the scriptures. Go online, read the Gospel according to Judas. Compare it to the true Gospels. You can see it, just by reading it, that it lacks the authority that the Gospels have. You can do the same for the books of the apocrypha. These are books written during the inter-testamental period. They can be useful, they can help us understand the Old and New Testaments better, but in the end they lack the necessary authority.
But the best way to see why the scriptures are authoritative is to look how Jesus used them. Jesus quoted the Old Testament to the devil. Faced by temptations that were common to humans, Jesus used the Old Testament to turn from temptation.
Jesus used the Old Testament to testify to himself. When selected to read the scroll in the synagogue, Jesus read from Isaiah, “‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-19, 21b).
And that nicely leads to our third point, clarity.
The clarity of scripture, it’s truth, it’s accuracy, the reasonableness of it is clear, even to the blind.
Jesus himself said that he came to give sight to the blind, Jesus healed the blind, even one who was born blind. This is to show that Jesus gives spiritual sight to people.
Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, allows people to see the truth in scripture. A persons has to be given this sight in order to believe. Apart from Christ’s work, no manner of reasonable explanation will convince any.
And yet, reasonable explanations abound, and are useful for evangelism. But I think it is fascinating that so much ink is spilled in trying to disprove the accuracy of the scriptures.
No one questions the historical reliability of Alexander the Great, though I think we have only 4 written accounts of his conquests. No one questions whether or not the Babylonian creation epic was written by the Babylonians for the Babylonians. No one questions the Qur’an, or if they do, they might find their lives in danger. No one examines the validity of any other book like they do the Bible.
People, even former Christians like Bart Ehrman, have made it their life’s work to try to debunk the Bible. All have failed. The internal evidence is overwhelming. And so is the external evidence.
We could continue our study of this point, but I’ll leave you to do that on your own. The White Horse Inn has had an excellent series on this very topic. Greg Koukl at Stand To Reason has many excellent articles and resources at str.org.
The truth is in here. It is plain to see. If it isn’t plain to see, we need to pray to make it so. Pray that God will open our eyes to see his truth. Pray that God will help us to understand His Word. Pray that his word would not return empty. Amen.