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The Ax and the Ox – Chapter 1 – Word

[ If you haven’t read the Introduction, here it is.]

This is the most important chapter. Everything I’m about to write about the Gospel is based on the belief that the Bible is like a long letter written by God to all of us and that everything God says to us in it is true. That sounds crazy to many people. I don’t blame people for thinking that because, I believe it takes a miracle to believe the Bible is God’s Word (which is also what it says about itself!). As I’ve mentioned, any of my “persuasion” in this book is based on my trust that God can and does use our speech and writing to perform a miracle of understanding when He wants, through His Word (which is why I’ve added so many Scripture verses in here. Please do look them up!).  

The good news of the Gospel is rooted in the belief that God Himself has written to us. God planned and knew exactly which people would pick up their pens, in each of their time periods, in each of their countries and languages, to create the 66 books in the exact form we have before us today that we call the Bible. It was no accident, which I hope to point out more clearly. 


There is no sufficient logical defense of the Christian faith. Reasoning and logic are only part of the picture. But logic and reason are not at odds with Christianity. In fact, they are God-given tools to use to the best of our ability. But faith in Jesus is a miracle and a gift. (See the Bible, book of Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 8, written from here forward as Ephesians 2:8) Reason and faith are not enemies, but they are separate and complimentary things. God is the one who created our minds to reason and think logically. In the Bible, we are warned against behaving like “irrational” animals (2 Peter 2:12), and all throughout Scripture we are taught to use wisdom. (e.g. Proverbs 4:5, James 1:5) God alone grants faith and opens eyes, but here are some great reasons to believe.

The Ring of Truth

As you read the Bible you may notice something remarkable about its honesty. If you devote yourself to studying it, you may see Scripture has a certain ring of truth about it. It gives many people the impression that those who wrote it were not out to deceive anyone. Even if the accounts recorded in the Bible are wrong, we at least get the impression that the people who were writing believed what they themselves were saying. Part of the reason for that is because it’s not written like a novel, with wonderful descriptive narratives. It’s written more like a history textbook, in many places mentioning real places and nations. There are some unbelievable details, but you can tell it’s not written for our entertainment, like you might find in fiction like Beowulf or The Iliad.

After reading God’s Word, many people discover for themselves a thousand little miracles that can only be experienced by reading it. This is what I mean when I say, if you need help believing the Bible is true, read it often. Truly give it a shot. If you haven’t already, why not decide that you will do that today? Anyone can read the Bible in a year by reading three chapters a day. That may seem like a great endeavor. However, all things worth doing require some time and patience and effort, don’t they? God has said about himself, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) I’m confident that if you truly read the Bible from cover to cover, ask hard questions, and honestly look for answers to those questions, you won’t remain unchanged. You just might discover its honesty, and God willing, you will see the signature of God in its pages.

Miracles


The miracles recorded in the Bible used to be an obstacle for me. For example, as if it wasn’t hard enough to believe that Moses raised His staff to part the Red Sea, the Bible even says the ground they walked on in the middle of the sea was dry! I remember thinking to myself, “That must have been a shallow sea on a hot day with a strong wind.”

But I think it helps define what a miracle is. If a miracle is something that doesn’t normally happen, why is it so hard to believe they happened? Extraordinary miracles are hard to believe because we have a lack of experience with them. But my lack of experience about something doesn’t prove its non-existence. It makes total sense that if I have never witnessed a miracle like the ones recorded in the Bible, I would have a hard time believing them, but simply not witnessing something does not prove that it has never, does never, or will never happen. For someone to say that they know that something does not exist simply because they have not seen it doesn’t seem honest to me. 

There are 66 books in the Bible, yet the most extraordinary and unbelievable miracles, in my opinion, all happen in the book of Exodus. The rest of the miracles recorded in the Bible for the most part are rather simple comparatively, like victories in battle or the healing of sickness. The exception to this is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. 

But it’s reasonable that extraordinary miracles don’t happen often because they aren’t ordinary; they are extra-ordinary! I have never experienced food falling from heaven (manna). Exodus 16:31 says “It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” Experiencing that would be very strange. In fact, that is why it was written down! It was weird! Even the word “manna” means “what is it?” (See Exodus 16:14)

If falling manna happened often we wouldn’t call it a miracle, we’d call it normal, and it wouldn’t be worth writing down. 

We know that gravity acts like a “law” in that it always happens the way we expect it to happen. But just because something always happens the way we expect it to, does not mean it isn’t powered by God. So far in human history we have been able to describe gravity using lots of scientific words, but we still don’t fully understand it. To be clear, I’m not saying God is simply the explanation for anything we can’t understand. If that were the case, God would disappear as we explained things. I’m saying that God is the explanation for everything, including the things we think we do understand. We need a word for these miracles that are all around us every minute of every day. We need a word, other than “miracle,” a word for all of that we have called “life.” The Bible calls it “creation.” Everything we see is a kind of miracle because it’s the creation of God. We’re not usually astounded by these ordinary miracles because we see them every day. 

Even extraordinary miracles, then, aren’t so hard to believe if you believe there is a God. If there is a God, and if He is all-powerful, what’s stopping Him from doing anything that He pleases? (Scripture says this is in fact what God does. He does everything He wants. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Psalm 115:3) He can make bread fall from the sky once, and never do it again, which is what He did according to the verses in Exodus. If God wants to teach people to rely on Him alone, He might put them in a desert with no way to get enough food, except miraculous falling bread. Imagine if there was no way for you eat, except to wait for it, to collect it from the ground, and then gather just enough each morning to feed you for the day. You don’t have to even experience that miracle to understand the principle that God was trying to teach, and wants us to know: that we have no life apart from Him. In other words, if we want to live, we need to rely on God. God not only used this miracle to teach the Israelites during that time, but God planned for it to be written down, for us all to learn. 

As a kid, I used to stare at the stars at night and beg God to send a shooting star just for me, to prove He was listening. Today, I’m glad He didn’t. God doesn’t need to perform a magical Exodus-like miracle for any of us, because He doesn’t need us to believe in Him. I remember thinking He did. But He is not like Santa Claus, who needs “Christmas spirit” to power his sleigh. God needs no one. He didn’t create us because He was lonely, or in need of anything. The Bible teaches He created everything out of an abundance of generosity, grace and joy, to show His awesome power, to make Happy creatures, and ultimately for His own glory and His “own name’s sake.” (e.g. see Psalm 106:8) He is happy in and of Himself, and would still be so without a creation or creatures. He has lacked nothing and has never suffered discontentment. He doesn’t need to prove Himself to any of us.

God’s Word teaches that when every final person has lived and died, we will all stand before Him, and we will Have no excuse as to whether or not we trusted in God. This is because God’s “invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20). And according to God’s Word, all of us have a God-given instinct that tells us there is more to life than what we see. “He has put eternity into man’s heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We know it deep down inside us. Instead of suppressing that instinct, I encourage you to explore that instinct. Run after God with all your heart. His Word says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found.” (Isaiah 55:6) This verse indicates that there will come a day when it will be too late to find God. 

Until then, we shouldn’t assume that God owes us some miracle to prove Himself. He does as He pleases, and doesn’t need us to like Him or love Him. He is good, however, and He does love us. The most important miracle of the Bible is also the simplest, but it is also the hardest for us to believe, and yet the most crucial for us to believe. It is that God loves and likes His people.

The most extraordinary miracles in the Bible are not the most extraordinary obstacles to faith. You can believe in all sorts of miracles, and never meet God, because you doubt His love for you. Our first mistake as humans (Adam and Eve) was to mistrust God, and it is the sin we will all struggle with most until we die. Mistrust is the opposite of faith. Faith is a decision to trust, a decision to believe God at His Word. This is why Jesus says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29). And Jesus says again elsewhere, “Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1). 

One question you might be asking yourself at this point is, why start a book with this chapter on the Bible. Why not start with the chapter on God? Doesn’t God deserve to have the first chapter? I’ve written it this way because His Word is how we know Him. 

This is the most important chapter, because if you are convinced that the way we meet with God and hear from God is within the pages of Scripture, not within ourselves, you will better understand everything else I write. 

Take a look at some of these things that Scripture says about itself:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). Scripture is not simply some words written by men with pen and ink. They are God’s very words, and when we read them it is as though they are always being breathed out by Him. As these words exist, He is speaking, at every moment, of every day.

God calls Jesus the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was 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.” (John 1:1,14). The Word of God is divine, and it is a result of God moving in the world.

Scripture also even more clearly states about Jesus, that “the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13). When we read the Word, we meet with God. Stated conversely, if you aren’t reading the Word, you aren’t meeting with God. 

Jesus himself said this to religious people who thought they knew Scripture. Jesus said Scripture is actually all about him: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39). 

Jesus explained the same thing to His disciples: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27. The Old Testament is about Jesus!

Jesus told His followers to read God’s Word, which was known in His time as “The Law and Prophets” which is our current Old Testament, and makes up most of the Bible. He said, “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.” (Matthew 5:17-19)

It’s wise to remember that real people wrote the Bible, but we ought to primarily see the Bible, not as something that contains words of God but actually is God’s word. If we want to read it for how it expects itself to be read, we can’t say things like “I don’t like what James says there,” or “I’m not sure I agree with Paul here.” In the same way, we should less often say things like “Paul told husbands to love their wives,” but instead “God’s Word tells husbands to love their wives.” 

The Apostle Peter calls the Apostle Paul’s writing’s “Scripture” when he says, “There are some things in them [Paul’s writing] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:16)

The Apostle Paul was aware that he and others were speaking and writing as God’s mouthpiece: “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) 

Some other helpful reasoning on the authenticity of Scripture

The letters or books we have in the New Testament were all written by someone who had a close association with Jesus or one of the Apostles (someone who was personally sent out by Jesus). Scripture stopped being written after these men stopped writing. The early church all recognized God’s voice in the pages of those 27 letters, which circulated the region, and were added to the 39 books of the Jewish Scriptures making up our 66-book Bible. 

When I picked up a Bible in the past, I often asked myself how I could know that I was reading the words God intended for me to read? For example, Moses supposedly wrote most of the first five books of the Bible. That was thousands of years ago. Why should I believe that from that time until now, nobody altered its meaning, or that whatever God intended to say, I’m still able to read? And why should I believe that Moses didn’t just make it all up? 

We have come so far as humans with our technology of writing that we have a hard time comprehending what it was like to write in ages past. So much bad writing is tossed around on the internet today that we have less respect for writing than we ever have (except for when it says what we want it to say!). We’ve been lied to over and over about the silliest things. What makes the Bible different? 

Those are smart objections, and so many people have answered those objections far better than me. There is a whole science called “apologetics” devoted to showing why the Bible is reliable. I want to raise a few of these objections here though to make it clear that I’ve also thought about these things, and despite them, I’m still confident to stake my life and reputation on proclaiming that the Bible is the Word of God. 

Here are some fascinating details I learned over the years that really helped me read the Bible with an open heart, and I hope these help others too:

  1. History and geography are congruent with the Bible.
  2. Scribes could not afford to mess around.
  3. We have more ancient copies of the Bible than anything else. 
  4. The authors of the Bible are many, but the message is still unified.
  5. Fulfilled prophecies are sitting on pages right in front of us to see.
  6. Eye witness accounts are still strong evidence today in court today.
  7. Christianity is everywhere.

History and Geography


The absence of made-up places and made up people in the Bible has always been impressive to me. When you read Scripture, you read of real places and real people that continue to be confirmed by other non-Christian historians and archeologists. Many of these places exist with their current names today. Many landmarks, rivers, countries, and nations are mentioned throughout Scripture, and these places really exist in our world. 

The Historical Value of Writing

We rarely write today with pen and ink. When we do write by hand, many times it’s with a pencil and an eraser. But there is no easily erasing ink, which is what was used to write Scripture. And we have so much paper at our disposal today that sometimes we don’t think twice about throwing paper out if we make a mistake. 

Imagine that a family member of yours is very sick and the only way you can save them is by copying the words of your favorite book onto paper. It’s important you copy everything correctly because your family member’s life depends on it. The only ink you have to write with is in a bottle that costs you as much as a car. And the only paper available costs as much as if it were made of gold.  

This is a silly illustration to give you some idea of what it was like for the men and women God inspired to copy the pages of the Bible for us over the centuries. The tools needed to write were expensive, and people didn’t have computers and keyboards to edit their mistakes. One misspelled word could mean that the entire paper was thrown away. There are also records of scribes being severely punished for making small mistakes. (For further reading see The Indestructible Book: The Bible, Its Translators, and their Sacrifices (1996) by W. Kenneth Connolly) The scribes who copied the Scriptures were also not people who were just writing for fun or for money but were devoutly religious. However wrong it was, some likely thought they were earning favor with God and so were meticulous. Some may have understood they might be being used by God to save the very souls of the people who would be reading their writing. That, after all, is a major purpose of the Bible: to save lives. The lives of the Bible’s readers are on the line; scribes knew that. They were something sacred and holy. They knew that what they were writing was a holy work and that God and His Word is not someone or something to be trifled with. Those who copied Scripture desired to be faithful to God. They cared about what they were doing as an act of worship.

Copies

We have more ancient copies of the Bible than all other ancient writings. (For example, see https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence) And all the copies are unified in their overall message. In other words, even if the copies differ from the spelling of a word, the overall message is clearly the same between them all, which is ultimately what matters.

Let’s look at some examples of other works of antiquity. Aristotle wrote his works around 300 B.C. The earliest copies we have of his writing date back to 1100 A.D. That means that 1,400 years passed until a copy was made that has survived until today. We have only have 49 copies of the works of Aristotle. And 1,400 years of copying mistakes could have been made to his original work as we know it today. Yet we read his works and assume we have his intended message. 

The more copies you have, the better you can compare them to other copies, to see how they all agree with each other. Let’s take Homer’s Iliad for example. This was written around 900 B.C. We have copies today dating back to about 400 B.C. which is about 500 years after it was written. 500 years is less time than the 1,400 years mentioned above for Aristotle, but that is still a long time for mistakes to be made. Since we have as many as 1,800 copies, (https://www.josh.org/wp-content/uploads/Bibliographical-Test-Update-08.13.14.pdf) we’re able to compare these together and see that there is only a 5% variance in “errors” between the copies. However, no one is doubting that we have the story of the Iliad. I could summarize it in a sentence: “During the siege of Troy, the arrogant but powerful Achilles refuses to fight over a stolen woman, and changes his mind after his friend is killed.” 

Now let’s take the New Testament portion of our modern day Bible. It was written anywhere from 50 AD to 100 AD. We have 5,600 copies that date back to 130 AD, less than 100 years after their writing! When comparing these copies, we see a 0.5% variance that includes things like spelling errors, numerical discrepancies, word order, etc. Absolutely zero percent of these errors do anything to change the message of the Bible, the Gospel, which is  this: God is perfectly good and holy. God made mankind good and upright but mankind committed crimes against a Holy God and is sentenced to an eternal death; God in Christ supplied the only remedy by being born a man, laying down His life on a cross, and rising to eternal life so that all who put their trust in Him alone would also live forever with Him.

This is very important because one common argument is that we can’t believe what the Bible says because humans make errors, and the Bible was written by humans. But the fact that humans make errors, and many humans wrote the Bible, makes the Bible even more astounding. It’s astounding because after you study it you begin to see something terrible and wonderful: the Gospel message clear throughout, and unified. It’s one message. It’s hard enough to get one author to make sense when writing a book (take this book for example, hopefully I’m making sense, but I’ve likely said something confusing). Yet the Bible and it’s 66 books were written by many people, over hundreds of years, in many different countries and languages, and the message is still one and the same. 

The rest of this book will explain this in more detail, but my point here is that the copies are many, and the message is one. Many people have used a pen to write Scripture, but only an act of God could have produced the Bible we have before us today. ( For a good article on this read https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-difference-between-original-autographs-and-original-texts/)

Prophecy

The most convincing book of prophecy in the Bible, in my opinion, is Isaiah, which is sometimes called the Fifth Gospel because of how clearly it predicts the coming of Jesus. It’s agreed upon by historians, non-Christians included, that Isaiah was written around 700 years before Christ. And if you know anything about Jesus, I dare you to read Isaiah chapter 53 and try not to think of Jesus. We have a preserved copy today of the writings of Isaiah dating back to 125 B.C in the form of the Dead Sea Scrolls, that you can see for yourself (and read if you learn the language). (Check out http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/isaiah#1:1)

Isaiah wrote about Jesus, His virgin birth, His betrayal by Judas for a few pieces of silver, and His self sacrifice – 700 years before Jesus was born! Isaiah is far from the only prophecy that points to Christ. In fact all of the Old Testament is full of allusions to Jesus. Something must be said of the evidence we have of predictions of Jesus long before he ever walked the earth. 

Please don’t miss what I have written above: Jews and other Non-Christian historians who even don’t believe Isaiah is describing Jesus, will still confirm that the copies of Isaiah we have date back at least 125 years before Jesus lived. In other words, it doesn’t even matter if those copies have been meddled with; even if they were meddled with somehow, they were meddled with in 125 BC! It’s what they say that is astounding, but you’ll have to read Isaiah for yourself.

Tanakh

Both Jews and Christians share the same Old Testament (Tanakh) and though we believe different things about it, we agree that the text is largely the same. This is actually helpful because it shows that the text that we have was not grossly manipulated after Christ to somehow make the Scriptures fit some new beliefs. Jews and Christians just interpret the same Scripture differently. The Jews have the same text and yet they still do not believe that Jesus is who the Scriptures are talking about. They are still waiting for the “Messiah,” the savior-king, “the Christ.” This helps prove that we have the Bible God wants us to have. Two religions! Same text! That’s amazing. As mentioned earlier, Jesus told His followers to uphold the ancient Jewish texts because they were all about Him. (Matthew 5:17-19, Luke 24:27) So Christians are motivated to keep what the Jews have preserved because Jesus, a Jew, said to preserve it. It would be unchristian to alter the Jewish text. And the Jews who don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah believe we just have it wrong. I hope you can see how amazing and helpful this is to the authenticity of what we have available in the Old Testament part of our Bible, which is most of the Bible.

Eye Witnesses

In The Case for Christ written by Lee Strobel, a former lawyer, he speaks about how the Gospel records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are like written eye witness accounts in a courtroom. He points out that some court cases today are resolved with no other evidence but eye witness accounts, and he points out how strong a role those play. 

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are four books in the Bible that specifically record the life and teachings of Jesus. One of the things that always struck me when I first read them was that they are all telling the same story. I remember thinking to myself as a teenager, after I read Matthew, and started reading Mark, “didn’t I already read this?” And I still had yet to read Luke and John which also repeat a lot of the same, but in a different way. There is no other book I know with so many authors repeating the same information. This is important because it’s easy for one person to make up a story, but it gets harder to keep a made up story straight when you add more authors to the mix. 

This is why police interrogate criminals separately about a crime. When criminals are separately making up lies about the same event, it becomes obvious that lying is happening when the stories differ on the key parts of the story. What is shocking about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is that they might differ on little details, but they all clearly agree about who Jesus was and what He taught. But they are obviously written by different people with different perspectives. 

For example, what were Jesus’ last words on the cross? Both Matthew and Mark record that Jesus said “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34) but Luke and John don’t. Luke records that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34) but none of the others record that. John records that Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) and again, none of the others record that. So who is right? Did someone hear incorrectly, or did He say all of those things? While I think there are great answers to those questions, the point is that the various accounts that the original authors wrote are still intact, and yet the theme of them and the entire Bible is still strong in all of them. One amazing example is that the Old Testament speaks of the “Messiah” (Hebrew for anointed one) and the New Testament introduces us to “Christ” (the Greek word for anointed one). Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all say that Jesus is that anointed one, the Christ. They all clearly agree on this, and this is a most important detail. (Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20, John 5:18)

Many people want to point out minor details about the Bible, that seem to be inconsistent, (E.g. http://www.thywordistrue.com/contradictions/3-how-many-horsemen) and while I believe there are fantastic defenses for even small discrepancies in the Bible, these arguments miss the point: that the clear message of the witnesses (authors) of the Bible is the same; stated concisely: “Jesus Christ is the way to eternal life.” 

Prevalence

The prevalence of Christianity is worth noting. You can find Christians in every country in the world. In fact, Christians are more evenly distributed across the world than any other religion. (https://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/) I remember thinking Christmas was an American holiday. We may have some particularly American traditions, but all over the world, people are celebrating the birth of Jesus every year.

Roughly 84% of the world’s population adheres to some sort of religion. (https://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/) Roughly 60% of the entire world adheres to a religion that is “Abrahamic” in nature, that is, it is based on books contained in our Bible. (“Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, Mid-2002”. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2002. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2014.)

This 60% is made up of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. As you may know, Muslims, Jews, and Christians disagree about many things. But all of them believe that 1) God created the world, and 2) that the Bible is a holy book. 

I visited a Mosque in 2012 and sat down cross-legged on the rug with the Imam (leader) of the Mosque. He wore a keffiyeh (headscarf) on His head. After being asked, I put on a green and white taqiyah (hat) out of respect, and we discussed his beliefs about the Bible together. The picture here is me wearing that same hat. I’ll never forget him saying that Muslims believe the Bible is a holy book. They have been taught to believe that it was once theirs but that they believe it has been corrupted or changed too much over time.

Another Muslim friend of mine, Jahanur, said that if he ever sees a Bible on the floor, he picks it up out of reverence. He also asked me once if he could sing the Quran to me, which I said he could. I listened respectfully, and I’m confident that showing him love and respect was something Jesus would have done. It’s also helped me to understand other people and other religions. What’s fascinating to me is that these Abrahamic religions all believe that Abraham was a real person who lived circa 2000 B.C. And we all believe that Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. We all believe that the Jews come from Isaac, and that the Muslims descended from Ishmael. We all agree that Jesus Christ descended from Abraham too, and that Jesus was more than a mere man. Muslims also believe Jesus will return to judge the earth again. (Abdullah Yusuf Ali: Surah Az Zukhruf , The Gold Adornments, 61) This is a lot to have in common with 60% of the world!

Who in the world disagrees more with each other than Christians, Muslims, and Jews? Yet we all agree that the Bible is more than just any book. It is strange. It is wonderful. There is no question about that. So why aren’t we studying it at least as much as we study football or Star Wars? It’s worth our attention. 

The question I’m trying to get a skeptic to ask is, “If I look around the world today, can I find any evidence that God has made attempts at making Himself known? What are some ways that God may be trying to contact us?” If 60% of the world adheres to a religion based on the Bible, I think the Bible is at least worth our consideration. I’d go even further and say, if the Bible has caught that many people’s attention, we ought to study it well, if we study anything in this life.  If eternal life is dependent on knowing God, we ought to seek God while He can be found. If He has made Himself known in a special way through the Bible, which the Bible claims, we ought to seek God. And according to the Bible, knowing God has value, whereas just knowing about him is incomplete. I’ll explain more about this later. But according to God’s Word in the Bible, there is coming a day when He will no longer be able to be found, and it will be too late (Isaiah 55:6) 

The Most Unbelievable Miracle is the Simplest One

All of these things I’ve mentioned are not things that I think prove anything. They don’t prove the existence of God or prove that Jesus is God the Son. The things I’ve mentioned above only help to contribute to the idea that, at the very least, it is not intellectually dishonest to study the Bible. God has created us all with the minds that we have. If the Bible is no accident, we can trust God designed it with our brains in mind. I can agree that extraordinary miracles are hard to believe, but I also can’t logically rule them out as impossible simply because I haven’t witnessed them. 

And what isn’t hard to comprehend logically is the entire purpose of the Bible: to bring glory to God and save a people from their sins through Christ. Yet according to the Bible, this Gospel is even more impossible to believe than the parting of the Red Sea. Anyone can believe that miracles and strange things happen, but according to the Bible only by a miracle can any of us truly believe that Jesus is God the Son, who was born a man and lived a sinless life, died for our sin on the cross, and rose from the dead, that all who trust in Him would have everlasting life. God’s Word says our minds are hostile to God, and “cannot” submit to him. (“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” Romans 8:7) The Bible itself says Jesus, and the message of the cross and resurrection, sounds like folly or foolishness! (1 Corinthians 1:18). Trusting in and desiring God and believing His good news is not something anyone can just do on their own whenever they want. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws [drags] him.” (John 6:44). So if there is any flicker of desire for God in your heart, that is something to give thanks to God for. It’s also worth stopping and praying that God would reveal more of His truth and love to you. 

In Amos 8, God says, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”

One Biblical scholar wrote about this verse saying, 

“Worse than strong words of judgment from the Lord is no word from the Lord, an ominous and foreboding silence. To receive no word from God in response to cries for help meant that God had hidden His face from them, rejected and abandoned them to their enemies.” (B. Smith. F. Page. Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, New American Commentary 1995)

In the past God’s judgement (his justice) for sin (crimes against God) included a shortage of food. In the above verse, God’s judgment  for sin is said to be a shortage of His Word. In the immediate context this applies to the upcoming period in Israel’s history where no prophet spoke on God’s behalf for 400 years. It’s also apparent from this Scripture that God’s Word is not always something simply available to anyone who wants it whenever they want it. When God’s Word reaches a person, it is a mercy, and a gift. His Word is His prerogative, to give it, and to make it understood. God is the one who gives understanding. (Proverbs 2:6-8) And God does this generously. But ultimately God decides when and who it reaches. God’s Word says to those who believe in Christ, “it has been granted to you …  [to] believe in him.” (Philippians 1:29). This is how the Bible talks about faith! Again elsewhere it says, “they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)

This is why we should pay attention to the warning of God’s Word in Hebrews 3:15: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” 

If you wouldn’t call yourself a Christian before today, but have any desire for following Christ, please don’t ignore it, because it is a mercy from God. Please take a moment at the end of this chapter and just pray, and ask God to give you faith to trust in Christ and His Word.

For the rest of this book, I will assume that either you have a desire to know Jesus and the Bible better, or you already know Christ and want to help others find him. I will take off my apologist hat. I won’t be defending why I believe what I do as much as just explaining what the Bible teaches.

More and more with each passing year I discover how the Bible is a miraculous, life-giving, gracious, cohesive whole. My hope is that God would use my words, and these days I’ve spent typing away at my computer to help you see this.

And if you already love God’s Word, my hope is that we could celebrate it together in these pages. The Bible is the biggest sign, the biggest miracle, the biggest wonder in the world, and it’s right in front of our noses, being taken for granted every day. It shouldn’t even exist. It’s impossible (or a miracle, rather!) and yet here it is. I don’t shed tears very often, but this is something that causes my eyes to water again and again.

The Bible is like a field I walked by, and then one day inside that field I discovered an enormous chest full of gold and diamonds. That treasure is still in that field, buried underground. For those who haven’t seen that treasure, please continue to read. Come to the field with me. I can’t show you the treasure if you don’t come to the field. For those who know that treasure well, let’s celebrate it in these pages together.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in His joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” – Jesus (Matthew 13:44)


IN SUMMARY

The Ax – Said bluntly, like an ax, the Word of God is true.

The Ox – Said with logic and reason, the Word is worth studying.

  1. The Word of God is of utmost importance
  • Understand what Scripture says about itself
  • It is how we meet with God
  • God has to reveal Himself to us
  • The Bible has a ring of truth
  • The biggest so-called obstacles to faith are really the least important
  1. There are good reasons to believe:
  •    History
  •    Scribes
  •    Copies
  •    Uniformity
  •    Prophecies
  •    Tanakh
  •    Witnesses
  •    Prevalence 
  1. The most unbelievable miracle is the simple Gospel
  • God’s Word is His prerogative
  • His Word is a treasure to celebrate

GOSPEL MEMORIZATION GRAPHIC

In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1)
This is a drawing I created to help my children memorize the entire content of this book at a basic level.
The drawing will expand with each chapter to help you memorize the Gospel in order to tell others.

Chapter 2

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