Many people do not believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. It cannot be trusted, they say, because everyone knows it is full of errors, or it promotes mass genocide, or it enslaves you with a false concept called “sin,” or whatever the reasoning may be. So instead of fully believing in the Bible, and thus casting themselves on a seemingly shaky foundation, they choose to follow the life and teachings of Jesus. They are religious, but only in the sense that they try to model the good life that Jesus lived.
I have met many, many religious people who sincerely believe this to be true. They make serious accusations about the reliability of Scripture. If that person is you, I encourage you to keep reading. This post is for you. I want to graciously but carefully answer your serious objections by driving to the heart of the discussion and asking, “What did Jesus think about the Word of God?” If we are to follow the life and teachings of Jesus, we need to know what motivated him to do what he did (his actions) and be what he was (his character) during his earthly ministry. Let’s look at what Jesus believed concerning the Word of God. Let’s consider Jesus according to Jesus.
The Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is a kingdom call where Jesus explains to all of us what kingdom citizens look like. If I want to be a part of the kingdom of God, what character traits should be true of me? It is in this sermon we find gems like this, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:3,7,9).
Most religious people would heartily agree with the first half of Jesus’ sermon. But after making his introductory remarks about what kingdom citizens look like, Jesus addresses a crucial problem. What right does he have to stand up and make these authoritative claims? Keep in mind he’s a Jew talking to Jews who revered Old Testament Law and tradition.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least
of these commandments and teaches others to do the same
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,
but whoever does them and teaches them
will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
I’ve included for you a chart I found of an iota (“yod”) and a dot.
Now check it out in actual writing. Below is the Hebrew word “words,” so you can play “Where’s Waldo? Hebrew Edition” by finding the iota and dot.
Jesus refuses to reject or redact even the smallest feature of God’s written Word. Far from rejecting the authority of the Word of God, Jesus upholds it.
He then explains the Old Testament Law in contrast to its misinterpretation by the religious leaders of his day. Over and over again he says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you” (Matthew 5:21-22,27-28,31-32, 33-34,38-39,43-44). Jesus is serious about the Word of God.
If we claim to know Jesus, but reject the Word of God, we are in peril. That’s the application of this sermon- not according to me, but according to Jesus. Notice his final words:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them
will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
And the rain fell, and the floods came,
and the winds blew and beat on that house,
but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them
will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
And the rain fell, and the floods came,
and the winds blew and beat against that house,
and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
The Temptation of Jesus
Not only did Jesus preach about believing the Word of God, he practiced what he preached. Before the Sermon on the Mount, and before any aspect of his public ministry, Jesus endured a trial of temptation by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights.
Starving and malnourished, Jesus responds to Satan’s temptation to make bread for himself with these words from Deuteronomy 8:3:
“It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes
from the mouth of God.’”
When tempted to cast himself off the pinnacle of the temple in a reckless and pointless attempt force the Father to save him, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16.
“Again it is written,
‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When tempted to worship Satan in exchange for worldly power and fame, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13,
“Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
I recently saw a Twitter post by Matt Smethurst that summarizes this passage very well.
If Jesus needed the Word of God to defeat Satan, and Satan’s tactic of temptation was to cast doubt on the validity of Scripture (see The Garden of Eden), we should think long and hard before abandoning the Word. And then never abandon it.
The Word of God
While Jesus preached the Word of God and used it to defeat Satan, there is one more teaching according to Jesus that should make us take the Bible seriously. It is the claim that Jesus himself is the Word of God. The Gospel of John, testifying to the life of Jesus, begins this way:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God…
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
Jesus himself is the Word of God, co-equal with the Father. That’s not to say the Bible on a person’s lap is itself Jesus, but it does mean that the Bible is the divinely inspired expression of the Son. Nothing in the Bible can be rejected without rejecting Jesus himself.
Lest we think this introductory passage in John is some hasty claim made by an overzealous disciple, let’s look at the words of Jesus. In chapter 6, Jesus tells the multitudes, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56). He makes himself out to be Living Bread. We cannot partake of Jesus physically, and he never once gives the impression that we are literally supposed to eat him. Instead, he makes a spiritual application.
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.
The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
(For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were
who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)”
Jesus claims to be the Living Bread. As we read earlier, according to Jesus, “It is written,“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4). We live spiritually when we feed on the Word of God by listening to Jesus’ teaching about himself.
This truth is not popular with religious people. It wasn’t then, it isn’t now. It’s too radical, too extreme, too narrow, too unbelievable. In this story we are told that “after this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66).
But some will believe. Some will taste the Word of Life and hunger for more. And that is my prayer, that some, even you, may read and believe. Notice Jesus’ conversation with his disciples after this discouraging moment.
So Jesus said to the twelve,
“Do you want to go away as well?”
Simon Peter answered him,
“Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life,
and we have believed,
and have come to know,
that you are the Holy One of God.”
The application? Believe the words of Jesus as the very Word of God. In his final prayer before his ultimate sacrifice on the cross for our sins, Jesus asked on behalf of his disciples, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). We can only be made holy, sanctified, through the life-giving Word of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.
Several years ago C.S. Lewis made his classic argument that Jesus must be either Lord, liar, or lunatic. The claims of Jesus, if taken seriously, are so radical that he must be accepted on the basis of his Word or rejected as deceptively manipulative or outright deranged. Jesus leaves no middle ground to claim to be his disciple yet reject his Word. According to Jesus, his Word is unbroken and eternal.
Perhaps you have never thought of some of these things. Maybe what I have said has offended or enraged you. But please remember my compassionate plea- do not take offense at the Word of Jesus. It is Living Bread; it is eternal life. I pray you will read and believe in the Living Word of God. Believe in Jesus according to Jesus.