When Christ reveals His ultimate purposes and plans to His church, to prepare her, guide her into all truth, edify and comfort her, He doesn’t simply send a prophet, an apostle or a teacher; Christ reveals the message to a trusted apostle and enables him to write it down in a book. (Re 1:11) This may seem uneventful to us at first glance, but I think it’s significant.
As we pursue truth, particularly in spiritual things, we have very few options:
We may trust God to speak directly to us to confirm what’s true.
We may trust other “selves” to tell us what God has revealed to them.
We may trust what we read in a book which claims to be inspired of God, a text which bears up under the most intense scrutiny over time.
The first two options are obviously problematic because we’re all flawed and tend to misunderstand and misrepresent truth, even when God clearly reveals it to us. Even when we’re trying our best we often get it wrong, much less when we’re actually trying to deceive ourselves and others. This makes even written materials suspect, since they’re likely just more permanent variations of the same.
To be rightly grounded in truth, we need a book which not only claims to be inspired by God, but which proves itself out to be so over many generations, generally received as God-breathed by those loving and pursuing God, based on how its words encourage, strengthen and direct us.
And, ideally, this would be a book written down by holy people who both love God supremely and also suffer greatly in providing it to us, who receive its message under persecution and difficulty, who actually do suffer in their own pursuit of God, and who have no hope of profiting personally in any way from writing it.
And if this book actually is inspired by God, we expect to find those who aren’t pursuing God to be careless with it, taking it out of context and using it for their own benefit. And we find those hostile to God relentlessly and irrationally attacking it, opposing it, maligning and mocking it, blind to their own irrationality in the process.
The Bible, the Word of Truth, fits this expectation to a “T”, and it’s the only book which does. It’s the foundation of Western civilization, an ongoing miracle for us all to discover and cherish. Many who won’t claim to be Christians take it as truth on a moral and spiritual level, astonished at how such a book could have come to us by any natural means.
And those who attack and denounce it must inevitably take it out of context, twisting its words as they would no other text to which they’d give an honest read. It’s clear they hate its Author and cannot give it the chance it deserves. (Ro 8:7)
To love God is to love His word; it becomes the joy and rejoicing of our hearts (Je 15:16), just as He is. (Php 4:4)
The scriptures are essential to spiritual life (Ps 119:9); to depart from their precepts is to walk in darkness. (Is 8:20) They’re given by inspiration(2Ti 3:16) to make us wise unto eternal salvation(2Ti 3:15), providing more evidence of spiritual reality than any miracle ever could. (Lk 16:31)
But how do we know what scripture is? What documents should we consider to be inspired of God? How do we go about validating this? What tests should we apply? Several characteristics are common to all of the books included in the Bible, giving us ample clues.
To begin, we know that Jesus Christ, the greatest figure in human history, accepted the 39 books of the Old Testament cannon as scripture (Lk 24:44); He acted as if the Jews of His day had correctly identified all scripture, and only scripture, within these texts. (Jn 5:39) This is now a well-documented, historical fact.
And Christ’s Apostles identified certain new texts penned in their own era as inspired, the 27 books of the New Testament, which recorded the details of Christ’s teaching and ministry, the history of the early church, and how to rightly understand the ways and nature of God in light of all that had already been revealed. (2Pe 3:16) This is also a well-documented, historical fact.
All of these 66 texts in the cannon of Scripture, the Bible, have several unique qualities in common, which are to be expected from scripture:
All scripture is committed to the Jews, God’s chosen people (Ro 3:1-2), who have recognized each inspired text, acknowledged it as scripture, and committed themselves to preserving it for us all. Just as salvation is of the Jews(Jn 4:22), so also are the scriptures, which teach us the Way of salvation, of the Jews.
Scripture does not exalt any mere mortal to spiritual prominence or importance. The authors of scripture often did not even know that they were writing scripture; they did not do so in order to promote or enrich themselves. Those who did write any details about themselves admitted faults which implicated themselves as fallen souls, much in need of grace. There is no record of any author of any biblical text proclaiming that God had perfectly inspired the text through themselves. The assertion and confirmation of inspiration was made independently, through godly men and women who were not in any kind of league with the author to promote them. (Lk 14:11, (Pr 27:2)
Scripture does not contradict any truth of any kind; each text retains a perfect integrity with every other inspired text (Pr 30:5), with science (1Ti 6:20), and with history. (De 18:21)
All scripture is generally received by the people of God as the Word of God. (Ps 119:105) As a pillar upholds a roof and connects it with the ground, so the church upholds the truth of God as His Spirit reveals it to her (1Jn 2:27), and teaches her how to translate that truth into godly behavior. (1Ti 3:15) As a spiritual community, the early Jewish Christians recognized the spiritual power of the Word of God in the New Testament cannon and affirmed it, piece by piece, just as their fathers had recognized the Old Testament cannon of scripture.
All scripture is profitable for godly instruction (2Ti 3:16), teaching us how to walk with God. It glorifies God, not man (1Co 1:29), and feeds our spirits so that we grow up into the image of Christ. (1Pe 2:2)
When it comes to deciding what’s right and wrong, we only have three choices:  make up moral law as we go, deciding for ourselves and imposing our view on everyone else;  let some other sinners do this for us, delegating our responsibility to identify the correct moral standard, or  look to God to reveal moral lawto us, acknowledging His unique right to define good and evil.
Option 3 is our only reasonable choice, and leads us to expect God to either [A] personally reveal moral law to each and every one of us independently, requiring us all to understand and apply moral law in isolation, effectively making each of us a law unto ourselves, such that we’re unable to either verify or validate our own understanding through the insights of others, or to lawfully hold others accountable for breaking moral law, or [B] to provide a formal written document revealing His moral code, one that we can all access, understand and study together, comparing insights and observations as we seek truth in community. Evidently, B is the only rational choice here.
And given that morality is as complex as life itself, nuanced and multi-faceted in ways that take a lifetime to comprehend, we’d expect God to reveal His righteousness within this written Word in multiple ways: (i) through a clearly defined moral code covering all relevant aspects of our lives; (ii) through stories and accounts of how various peoples have kept or broken this moral code in a wide variety of circumstances, and how God has responded to them; and (iii) through recounting the life pattern of one perfect Man, as He obeys this moral code and walks it out before us. And it is no surprise that this is exactly what we find laid out and preserved for us in Scripture.
God has inspired scripture perfectly (Ps 19:7), even giving it divine life (He 4:12), the perfect spiritual weapon, sufficient to fully enable us unto all good works. (2Ti 3:16-17) God is good, and He is faithful.
To attack this holy document, or any part of it, by altering Scripture in any way, is thus to attack humanity itself, and also God’s intent to reveal Himself to us all; God explicitly forbids this. (De 4:2) For anyone to take upon themselves to diminish, alter or add to the written revelation of God is thus a presumption of the highest order, undermining the very foundation of civilization and spiritual life. (Is 8:20) There is no higher treason than this, to deliberately taint the King’s masterpiece, to misrepresent His heart (Ps 11:3), as if one were qualified to sit in judgment of the Almighty, and correct Him.
Those who commit themselves to carrying out this kind of atrocity, in the myriad of ways that it might be wrought, whether adding to (Pr 30:6), corrupting(2Co 2:17), or taking away from God’s Word (Re 22:19), will necessarily both fail (Jn 10:35b), and also answer to the Author of Scripture for trying to corrupt it; He reserves His severest punishments for such depraved souls. (Re 22:18)
Christ gives us insight into the heart of Man, what we’re all like unless God interferes with our free will, in a parable about a king inviting his subjects to a wedding for his son. The king sends out the invitations and prepares a lavish feast (Mt 22:2), but when the time comes to celebrate, no one shows up: the prince has zero guests at his wedding.
So, the king sends messengers to call on all those he’s invited, encouraging them to come and enjoy the wedding, but all of them decline, every last one of them, refusing to attend. (Mt 22:3)
So, the king sends more messengers to plead with them, explaining that the food is ready, and that it can’t wait much longer; he’s laid it all out and it can’t be taken back. If they don’t come the food will spoil and the prince’s wedding will be ruined. As their king, he commands them to come. (Mt 22:4)
But the people don’t take their king seriously, having no respect for him; he’s a kind, patient and merciful man, so they presume he won’t do anything if they just ignore him. They simply go on about their busy lives, leaving the king and his prince to enjoy their little wedding alone; they’ve no interest in celebrating with royalty, to share in their joy and fellowship. (Mt 22:5)
However, a few citizens become so irritated by these invitations to the royal marriage that they capture the king’s messengers, treat them hatefully, and eventually kill them all. (Mt 22:6) The rest of the townspeople get wind of this, but don’t bother arresting the murderers or making amends with the king; they just go on about their business as if nothing’s happened, essentially making themselves out to be accomplices in the treachery.
When this terrible news gets back to the king, how his own people have murdered his servants in response to his generosity, though he isa temperate man, this outrage makes him so angry that he sends out the army to kill them all and decimate their city, razing it to the ground. (Mt 22:7) Those he has invited to his son’s wedding have shown themselves to be traitors and murderers; they have no right to dwell in his kingdom, much less attend the wedding.
The banquet is near to spoiling now, and there are still no wedding guests, yet the king is determined to share his celebration with others. So he sends out more servants to try to find travelers, vagabonds, the homeless, anyone at all that’s willing to come, no matter what their background is, and invite them. These servants do manage to find a few folk willing to oblige the king, and they provide each one with a special gift from the king: a garment in which to celebrate the wedding. (Mt 22:9-10)
The king is pleased that guests have arrived and enters the banquet hall to introduce himself, but notices one with no wedding garment. (Mt 22:11) The king is concerned about an intruder refusing to identify as his guest, and politely questions the man about it. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding, or he was overlooked. (Mt 22:12a)
But there’s simply no excuse for acting the way this man has, to ignore the king’s provision and crash the wedding as if he weren’t invited. As he faces the king surrounded by guests who arewearing the wedding garments, he’s speechless (Mt 22:12b): he’s treated the king, the prince, and the wedding celebration itself, with utmost contempt, and for no particular reason other than disdain for the king and his son.
The king is indignant at this insulting behavior, and commands his men to tie up the intruder and expel him into the darkness outside, leaving him to suffer indefinitely. (Mt 22:13)
What does this parable tell us about Man, about our natural state before God? If it tells us anything, it is this: Many are called, but few are chosen. (Mt 22:14)
In other words, everyone is invited to walk with God, but none of us will come to Him (Ro 3:11) unless God chooses (elects) us (Ep 1:4-5), and intervenes in our will by giving us a new nature that is not alienated from Him (Ez 36:26), a nature that is inclined to seek Him and draw near to Him, such that we are no longer at enmity with Him. In this way, God draws His elect to Himself, and these few precious souls do come to Him and are saved. (Jn 6:44)
Further, Christ is telling us that the root cause of this problem between Man and God isn’t a lack of information, or a lack of awareness; the root cause isn’t our ignorance of His interest in us, or not knowing how to connect with Him. (Ro 1:19) The problem is that we dishonor, dislike and despise Him (Ro 1:21): in our natural state we’re all at enmity with Him (Ro 8:7), such that we just won’t bother to seek Him out, even if He pleads with us to do so. And even if some of us happen to be willing to take advantage of His gifts, without His aid we won’t come the way He has provided; we insist on our own way, remaining obstinate, disobedient, alienated from Him (Ep 4:18), separate from Him and His way.
This universal behavior in Man is totally inexcusable (Ro 1:20), and we’re all guilty as charged. (Ro 3:19) If God left salvation up to us, to receive Him and His free gift of righteousness and eternal acceptance with Him, Heaven would be empty — not a single human soul would dance in its streets. God calls us all to the marriage of the Lamb, but He must choose some, working in us to be willing to come, or no one would. God is not obligated to choose any of us, but I am so thankful that He does!
The implication of the parable is clear: God is both the author and finisherof our salvation (He 12:2); apart from His aid, no one is saved. And salvation is much more than a willingness to take free stuff; it involves a supernatural heart-transplant, a new creature. (2Co 5:17) Those who are continually preoccupied with their own interests and focused on earthly things (Php 3:18-19), who are not actively loving and pursuing Jesus Christ, submitting themselves to God and to His way, remain His enemies, and will be destroyed. (1Co 16:22) No lukewarmness is to be tolerated within our hearts (Re 3:16); He has come to save us from that. (Ro 7:24-25) The springing forth of His new nature within us, delivering us from our evil ways and from this present evil world (Ga 1:4), demonstrates His choosing of us. (1Jn 3:18-19)
Just as all religions aren’t the same, modern Bible translations are also different. How can we tell which one’s best? Why does it matter?
Well, if we’re not committed to obeying our bible then it really doesn’t matter; we’ll go with whatever happens to make us feel good … hardly noticing when it encourages men to abuse their families, as many of our newer English translations actually do.
But if we’re hiding our bible in our heart, meditating on it daily and conforming our lives to every word of it, then I think the version we choose makes a big difference: we should trust it as God’s inspired Word. Is any translation worthy of our trust? How can we know?
As it turns out, I don’t think we need a seminary degree to nail this one; no need to master ancient biblical languages. The consistency of the Majority text sheds invaluable light: most of our English translations are based on patent absurdity: The Syrian Recension.
Of the few that remain, the King James Version (KJV) empowered two Great Awakenings, was the backbone of the English-speaking world for nearly 300 years and is the only English bible to have ever been generally accepted as inspired by God’s people. In my humble opinion, this one’s a no-brainer.
The Bible isn’t just any old book; it’s alive and powerful (He 4:12); it cannot be broken. (Jn 10:35) God’s Word is food for our soul (Je 15:16), a light to our way (Ps 119:105), a map for our journey(1Ti 3:16-17), and theSpirit’s sword, our weapon of war.(Ep 6:17) Let’s choose our bible wisely; pick one we trust and obey it as the very Word of God to us. Our spiritual health depends on it.