The Bible is the only source of truth.
On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, a large crowd looked for Jesus and for answers. He “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” His first priority was to teach them. Mark wrote, “He began teaching them many things” (6:34).
It was like that from the beginning of his ministry. “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority” (Mark 1:22). From those who were so amazed, Jesus chose 12 men to be his apostles. It’s no wonder that those first disciples called him “Rabbi” or “Teacher” (John 1:38).
These future apostles had much to learn, including how to view the Bible they had at the time—the Old Testament. Jesus made extensive use of the Old Testament, quoting from it often (among others, consider Luke 4:14-30). Jesus reminded them, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). They learned that Jesus thought the Old Testament was the truth of God.
For three years, these apostles listened, watched, and learned. They became eyewitnesses of all he did and said. When John wrote what he learned from Jesus, he said, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:14,18). Peter, another eyewitness, wrote a similar message, “We did not follow cleverly devised stories, . . . but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
Can we be certain what they remembered is correct? Jesus assured them that it would be. He promised that the Holy Spirit would come after he ascended and help them remember what he said and did. He told them, “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. . . . The Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you” (John 16:13,15). The men Jesus chose were like the Old Testament prophets and given the truth by God, the Holy Spirit. Peter, like the Old Testament prophets, knew the work of the Spirit. He wrote, “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable. . . . You must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. . . . But prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21).
One apostle was added after Jesus ascended—Paul. At first he opposed and persecuted followers of Jesus. But in a special way Jesus called him to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9). The original apostles also considered him the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7-10). Paul took his place with Matthew, Peter, and John in writing down what Jesus taught.
Two others also wrote about Jesus. Mark probably wrote what Peter shared. Luke “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” and “decided to write an orderly account” of what he learned from the eyewitnesses. He wrote so that the early believers would “know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3,4).
Beware of false teachers
All the books we have in the New Testament trace their origins to those who lived at the time of Jesus. These men understood the reason they recorded what they knew of Jesus. They wrote for those who came after them. John says it clearly, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Those first-generation believers all have died and disappeared into the pages of history, but their understanding of Jesus has not.
The Bible still matters to us as much as it did to those early Christians after these eyewitnesses died. The Bible is the only record of those who saw and heard what Jesus said and did.
Only the Bible is a reliable resource of truth from above (John 8:23), so all of us can make some sense out of life, death, and God.
And we have another reason it matters. Jesus warned his disciples, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Peter also warned that false teachers would come: “There will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1).
John not only warned of the false teachers, but he also said what we should do when we confront their ideas. “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). How do we test the false teachings? Compare them to what the eyewitnesses wrote. The Holy Spirit guided those who wrote. What they recorded is true and reliable. All other writing must be evaluated by their words.
From the beginning, many opposed what Jesus did and said. When he spoke in Jerusalem and other places, some questioned and violently opposed him. That hasn’t changed. Critics of the Bible vehemently dismiss the words of those apostles who wrote down what Jesus said. Today’s arguments may sound convincing and intelligent, but the goal is just like those who opposed Jesus during his ministry. It is to cast doubt on his work and dismiss the record we have in the New Testament.
Others wonder how the Bible can actually be the words of those first early disciples. Certainly the original documents are gone, but consider that more copies of the New Testament exist than any other ancient text. The texts we do have are much older than those we have of Caesar or the Greek philosophers. Little reasonable doubt remains about the reliability of the eyewitness accounts of those early disciples.
With all believers, I want to know as much as I can about what Jesus said and did. I need to know it. So do you. So do all who struggle with life’s problems. Only the Bible is a reliable resource of truth from above (John 8:23), so all of us can make some sense out of life, death, and God, as well as forgiveness, love, and mercy.
God inspired those early writers and brought their words to us so many centuries later. In them, we have answers from Jesus so we are not like sheep wandering aimlessly. Remember that Jesus claimed to be from above. He knew things beyond anything we might discoveror know on our own. He spoke of forgiveness, peace with God, hope, love, and eternal life. It was not speculation or dreams. He knew because he is from above and is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). What he shared with his disciples in ancient times, he shares with us in the Bible.
This is the third article in a four-part series on the importance of the Bible today.
Author: John Braun
Volume 108, Number 4
Issue: April 2021