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What Did Jesus Believe about the Bible?

In light of increasing skepticism about the Bible’s authority in our lives (see article one here), we should take a fresh look at why we claim that Scripture is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and instructing us. By looking at who Jesus Christ is and what He says about Scripture, we can have confidence and assurance to submit to God’s reliable Word.

Who Jesus is

Over 40 years ago, John Stott wrote a brilliant little pamphlet on the question of biblical authority. He asked this very question: “Why should people believe that the Bible is God’s Word written, inspired by his Spirit and authoritative over their lives?”[1] According to Stott,

  • We don’t take blind leaps of faith and white knuckle our way to believe what we strongly suspect is incredible.
  • We don’t simply believe because the universal church has considered Scripture perfect, reliable, and authoritative. (Though it has.)
  • We don’t believe Scripture is authoritative simply based on “feeling” or “experiencing” that it’s true in our own lives. 
No. The overriding reason for accepting the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture is plain loyalty to Jesus.

We believe in Jesus. He was not just a good man. He was not just an example to be followed. He was not simply a revolutionary pushing against the religious establishment.

  • Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
  • He is the firstborn over all creation.
  • All things have been created through him and for him.
  • He is before all things, and in him all things hold together by the word of his might.
  • Jesus is the head of the body, the church.
  • He purifies us from sin.
  • He reconciled us to God so that we, once enemies, are now holy and pure and blameless.
  • He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
  • All the fullness of God dwelt in him.
  • He is seated at the right hand of God.
  • And he will reconcile all things through himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Does this sound like someone we invite into our lives as a personal assistant or life coach? Does this sound like someone we can ignore when it comes to what he believes about the authority of the Bible?

Therefore, we bring our minds into submission to the mind of Christ. We want to conform our thoughts to his thoughts.

It is from Jesus that we derive our understanding

  • of God and ourselves
  • of good and evil
  • of duty and destiny
  • of time and eternity
  • of heaven and hell

Our understanding of everything is conditioned by what Jesus taught. And this everything means every thing: It includes his teaching about the Bible.

What Jesus Says About Scripture

And what did Jesus believe about the Bible? Let’s start with the Old Testament. He made several direct statements about its divine origin and permanent validity.

First, He said that he had not come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them. Indeed, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, (i.e. not the smallest letter or even a part of a letter) would pass away from God’s Word until all was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18 cf. John 10:35.) He said in John 10:35 that “Scripture cannot be broken.” And in Matthew 19:5, Jesus tells us that in Genesis “God said” that, “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.” But when you go back to Genesis 2:24, you discover that all that is mentioned is that the human but inspired author of Genesis wrote that.

So, to Jesus, what Scripture says, God says.

And Jesus did not simply believe the Bible, but he guided and regulated every step and detail of his life by it (see John 19:28.)

Consider these examples. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus turned to the Old Testament Scripture to resist. When the apostles rejected the necessity of his sufferings, he insisted that Scripture must be fulfilled. When the Jewish leaders criticized his teaching, he criticized their treatment of Scripture, noting that the Pharisees added to Scripture with their traditions while the Sadducees subtracted from Scripture with their unbelief in the supernatural.

To be clear, Jesus endorsed the Old Testament as the Word of God.

But what about the New Testament? It wasn’t even written yet when Jesus walked the earth. Can we trust it as reliable as well?

Stott notes that Jesus foresaw the writing of the New Testament Scriptures and deliberately made provision for them by appointing and authorizing his apostles.

Apostle is the title which Jesus himself chose for the Twelve, to indicate their role (Luke 6) and to send them out to preach (Mark 3). This title carried the connotations of the OT prophet as one who was sent as well as the connotation of the Aramaic word shaliach, which was a teacher sent out by the Sanhedrin to instruct the Jews of the Dispersion. As such, the shaliach carried the authority of those he represented.

The shaliach first appears in the Torah in the person of Eliezer, whom Abraham commissioned to find a wife for his son, Isaac. Rebecca was selected and betrothed as a wife for Isaac by Eliezer—she was legally Isaac’s wife without her actual husband having ever set eyes on her or having exchanged a single word with her. In the words of the Talmud, “A person’s shaliach is as he himself.”[1]

So, the apostles were personally chosen by Jesus, were commissioned and authorized by him, were with him and sent out to preach, and were given special inspiration by the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the apostles that the Spirit would remind them of all Jesus had said to them and teach them many things that were too hard to bear at the time (John 14 and 16).

In these ways, Jesus made a purposeful preparation for the writing of the NT.

The apostles understood this, and the early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2). When the time came to settle the canon of the New Testament, the supreme question about every questionable book was whether it possessed apostolic authority.

It is tragic in our day to witness the loss of this understanding. People talk of Paul, Peter, John, and the other apostles as if they were foolish and fallible first-century Christians whose teaching was nothing but their own opinions and may readily be set aside if we do not happen to like it.…But no, the teaching of the apostles is the teaching of Christ. To receive them is to receive Christ; to reject them is to reject Christ.[3]

So, if we decide to trust and follow Jesus, we must believe what he taught for the simple reason that it is he who taught it.

This is like a hammer blow to our contemporary way of life. Many people you are mentoring feel strongly that they have the right, even the obligation, to select what parts of Jesus’ teaching they can accept and what parts they cannot. But that makes no sense.

If we decide to trust and follow Jesus, we must believe what he taught for the simple reason that it is he who taught it.

I encourage you to probe and to ask questions to see what their worldview is. Why should they trust in him as Savior if they are wiser and smarter than he? Either he is who he said he is, and his views judge our views, or he was lying or deluded about being the Son of God.

So, Jesus’ authority and the absolute authority of the Bible stand or fall together. If we believe he was who he said he was, then we must accept the entire Bible as God’s word.

In the final article in this series, we will explore how we can begin treating the Bible like Jesus did.

[1] Stott, John. The Authority of the Bible (InterVarsity Press, 1974), 6. The remainder of this article draws heavily upon this booklet.

[3] Stott, John. The Authority of the Bible (InterVarsity, 1974), 22.

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