Todd describes the four pillars on which the Bible's reliability rests. It is divinely produced, divinely preserved, and is a divine proclamation revealed in prophesy. These principles should encourage us to be the product and reflection of Christ's love.
Why The Bible Can Be Trusted
Why There is Hope
Why The Church
Why Change is Possible and Necessary
Why All the Passion
Why There is the Law
Why the Jews
Why We Are Here
Why There is Evil
Why the Story You Live in Matters
We have been working through this little series that we've called Why. We've called it Why because we said that in this series, as we look at this story, that you would find the answer to every great question that you've ever had in life: Why am I here? Where am I going? What am I doing? Who do I need to know? How do I experience fulfillment? What's on the other end of the grave?
It was the very first part of this song that we just sang where it lists out all these different things where it was mentioned and talked about. Who am I? Why am I here? You just heard it. So many doubts, so many fears. That's all part of who we are as creatures who live in this sense of grandeur when we feel so infantile and small. We go, "Why am I here? What difference do I make?"
That's what we said about this book that is arrogantly titled the Book as if to say, "the definitive word." There is no other place you need to look. You can go someplace else if you want to find out what you should hope in, but you're looking foolishly if you don't look here. This is the divine word from God.
We said this story that God has given us…this great author who is a lover who pursues those who have fallen away from him that he seeks to rescue and romance and bring back into relationship with him where they will return rightly and rule over the world that they have defeated…that this story answers all those questions. Why is there suffering and hurting? This book answers it.
Why should you trust this book? Why do you know or why should you believe for a second that this story is true? There are lots of books that claim to be divine, and they do not all agree. If you look at the Hindu books (the Hindu Scriptures, if you will, their divine writings), they will tell you that god is the world, which directly contradicts this story which says, "No, God created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing), that he is the divine cause."
If you look at Buddhist writings, they will tell you that morality, meditation, and wisdom is the solution to the human suffering. This book says it's not the case. The solution to human suffering, this book says, is the person of God who walked on this earth, who offered himself up as a sacrifice, who suffered on a cross as an ultimate solution to evil and suffering in this world. One day, he will eradicate it and make it right. This book says there's a different solution than medication and morality.
The Qur'an will tell you that this Jesus never went to a cross. It claims to be divine, and it will tell you that to say that Christ suffered and died is heresy. This book doesn't say it's heresy. This book says it's the preeminent act in history. It is the turn of the page that makes us stand in awe that God would love us in this way, that he would suffer for us, that he might win us back and deliver us back from the prison from rebellion and sin and rescue us from the Enemy, who seeks to destroy and capture our heart.
Now, Abraham Lincoln was well known for saying that when we disagree, there's one of three awful possibilities. Either you're right, and I'm wrong; I'm right, and you're wrong; or we're both loopy, neither one of us has a clue. When they're all kinds of different claims about books that are divine, how do you know which book you should trust? What is authoritative?
Here's our why today. Why can the Bible be trusted? Why is this story appropriately titled the story, the biblios, the Book, and that all truth is contained herein? There is a world full of people who are crazy who think that they are spokespersons for God. There's a world full of people… In fact, institutions these last decades have been primarily full of people who have claimed to be God. It's called a Messianic complex.
Often, we institutionalize them to protect them from themselves. Tragically, sometimes they don't get institutionalized. They bring others down with them. See also, Heaven's Gate. See also, just north of Waco. But if there's one that claims to be God and this individual happens to heal the blind, walk on water, and raise people from the dead, you might want to take note of him.
If there's a book that claims to be divine, and it can be shown to be in every way accurate, reliable, consistent, true, prophetic, revelatory, and transforming into the lives of those who give themselves to it, you ought to stand back and hesitate and pause and go, "Well, maybe this book is a little different."
Let me say this about all divine writings and how they are different than this book. This is not the collection of some grand thought and thinking of some gifted poet. The Qur'an is a wonderful work of literature, but it's not something that ultimately can be verified or tested. It is poetry. It is prose. It is ideas that can be debated, philosophies that can be believed or rejected, but it is nonsensical by nature in that you can't ultimately tether it to history in geography and geology and science and see if you can verify it. If you can't verify something, make sense out of something, then it is nonsensical by nature.
The Bible is not some meditations of some brother underneath an oak tree in Upstate New York who said he had a visit from an angel who gave him two golden tablets; therefore, you should believe what he has heard. God has dared to take the book he has given you and says, "This is your story that answers your whys." He has anchored it in the context of our world. He has tethered it to history. He has tethered it to archeology, to what was. He has tethered it to what will be.
He says, "This shows you who I am." What I'm going to do today is I'm going to give you four pillars, four pegs, that you can hang your belief on. I would encourage you to listen today. There is no way that you're going to take in what I'm about to share to you. I know folks tell me all the time, "I like Watermark a lot, but when you teach, it's like drinking from a firehouse." See, you're not alone. I know that.
Can I let you in on something? I'm not giving little sermonettes for Christianettes. That's not my goal every week. My goal is to share with you God's truth in a way that you are stirred to go, "Son of a gun, if there's not some stuff there that, if that is true, should impact my life." I might get sometimes five, six, seven, eight things, that you go, "Well, yeah. Okay, that."
There might be one that specifically the Lord uses to pierce you. You just sit there and meditate on that and let it happen. You can know there's more there if you want to go back and get it, but I hope you're stirred to dig in on your own. We have this stuff there. You can go back and listen to it again.
I try and teach in such a way that you are moved to teach and learn yourself by your own study, by your own questions that you might ask. Every week, I want to give applications, and I want to stir you with illustrations that would make you consider the truth I'm sharing. I'm not trying to give you three little points and a poem that you can walk out of here with. It's just not the way I'm wired. It doesn't make me better or worse than anybody else. There is a weakness to that, and there is corresponding strength to it.
When you are full, when your mouth has all the water it needs, swallow, and just enjoy the bath that continues around you. All right? Know that there is more there. Somebody else might get hit with a different spurt than you. Today, I would encourage you. What I'm going to do is move through some material that's going to answer this question, "Why can you trust this book? Why is this book divine? Why is it worthy of my full attention?"
Let me tell you this. It's a fair question to ask, "How can fallible men write an infallible book? How can temporal individuals write about eternal truths? How can imperfect persons produce a perfect document?" That is a fair question, and I'm going to answer that question this way: they cannot.
The Bible does not tell you that these men wrote this book on their own accord. This is what it says, in and of itself, in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is God-breathed..." That's the way the NIV says it. This particular translation (the New American Standard) says, "All Scripture is inspired by God…"
It comes from the very mouth and presence and God, and it is profitable, therefore…singularly profitable…different than every other book that you might read that any other philosopher, no matter how impressive his name… This book alone ought to teach you, this book alone ought to reprove you, it ought to correct you, and this book alone should inform you and train you. If you kept reading, it would say that you might be adequate, that you might be equipped for every single good work.
When we talk about the fact that this book is inspired, we do not mean that Paul saw a sunset and said, "Sun," and wrote Romans. This is not Beethoven's first kiss put down on a sheet of music. This is not Shakespeare in love, inspired to write some great work of literature. No. What we're saying here is that these are men, who God in his sovereignty decreed to use in such a way that he would deliver a message that he wanted delivered.
Let me throw this out. You must accept as a possibility if God exists, and if we're going to have a cosmological argument or an argument for the existence of God, we can welcome that one day, but if God exists… We have noticed already that sociologists and anthropologists will tell us that no society has ever been inherently, intrinsically atheistic.
They might sometimes not be monotheistic. They might believe in pantheism (all is god) or polytheistic (that there are thousands and millions of gods), but they all believe that there is something greater than them, that transcends them, that they're subject to in some form or way. If God exists and your God is not capable of delivering a word to those he wants to communicate with, your God is too small.
If God exists, and that God wanted to give you his word, and wanted to preserve that word free from error or any distortion that you might know what is true, he must be able to do that, or he is not God. So the philosophical possibility has to exist that if God wanted to deliver us something, he could. Otherwise, he is an impotent God not worthy of worship.
So if you believe God exists, you must believe that he could deliver to us and preserve once delivered, that which he would say is ultimately revelatory about who he is. You can argue with me whether or not this is the book that that has happened in, and I would just introduce you to the topic of today. But you must believe philosophically, if your consistent, that if God exists, this could happen.
The Scripture says, "He's done that, and he did it through men." Peter wrote and said, "I was in some amazing places. I was on the top of the mount of transfiguration. I saw the veil of Christ pulled back where God mingled with fallen humanity." It says He introduced his perfect divinity in order that you might have the perfect living Word. Likewise, he will introduce his Spirit into fallen humanity in order to produce the perfect written Word.
This is why Peter says, "It was a cool thing to be there on the mount of transfiguration to see Moses, Elijah, and the glorified Christ. I wanted to hunker down there. I suggested to him that we set up a few tents and hang there for a while. He told me that wasn't such a good idea, but he has given you something even better than the experience which fades.
He has given you something better, and that is the written word of God, which is more sure than anything I would experience. God has preserved it, and you can go back, read it, learn from it, digest it, and be transformed by it."
He then writes, "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation…" It didn't come from some guy's thought after a sunset or after a kiss or after a long walk on the beach. "…or no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will…" No true word from God was ever given just because somebody thought, "I'm going to say this. Thus sayeth the Lord."
True prophecy comes when men are moved. Pherō is the word. Carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. That same word is used in Acts 27 in the Greek language of a ship that is moved by the wind, that is carried along by this mysterious force that doesn't understand, we say, where it comes from or where it goes, but it moves us.
Peter says, "That's exactly what happened when the Scriptures were written." If you will, God picked up different instruments. I will tell you in a minute, there were 40 different instruments that he picked up. Some looked this way, others a different way, and he blew his divine, perfect musicianship through that to produce in those 40 different instruments, if you will, a perfect orchestra of truth that he has deemed worthy of preservation that he might deliver it to you, that he might one day hold you accountable to it.
That is how imperfect men can produce a perfect book. God, if you will, enters into them and works through them without denying their responsibility. Some sound like a French horn, some sound like a trombone, some are a sweet string, but he plays them to get the perfect tune delivered as he picks them up and says, "Will you be available to me? Write this."
Not everything that Paul wrote, not everything that old Moses wrote, was God's word, but when he said, "This is for this purpose," he preserved it and canonized it and said, "Measure truth by it in this way." That is what we believe. Should you?
The four pillars, the four Ps. First of all, this book's production. I mentioned to you already there are 40 different authors. Those authors are made up of kings and peasants, Pharisees and fishermen. They are made up of wealthy statesmen and poor shepherds, terrorists and poets. It's about as broad a spectrum of instruments as you could use. These 40 different instruments that God used, he used to write his word in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) over a period of about 1,500 years which represent 10 different civilizations on 3 different continents. There are 66 different books.
There is stuff in this book that you would not bring up at a dinner party in Plano because it's so controversial, a fight would break out. You don't talk about some of this stuff at dinner at Thanksgiving because you know it's going to cause isolation. Yet, in the midst of this, there is one prominent idea, one prominent problem: human sin. One prominent solution: the shed blood of the God who created them to die in their stead, taking their sin, their cross, and their shame.
The prominent idea is redemption. Throughout this book you have these men writing about the promise of redemption, then the providence which will fulfill the promise that he will redeem you through one group of individuals that he will make a deal with, and covenant with, and promise that he would fulfill his ultimate purpose for humankind as he promised through them, the prophecies through which he will fulfill his providential will, the person who would redeem them, and the proclamation of the person who lived in his redemption of them.
Then one day, the preeminence, if you will, or the picture of what God intended. That is in this book, it is in this story, and these men who were from all different civilizations, over all different periods of times, with all different kinds of temperaments. They are unified in their presentation and in their idea, and there's only one way to explain that. That is that these men were played by a divine conductor who has called himself creator God, who alone could pull this off.
You just today send out 40 letters to 40 different countries to 40 different classes of people and say, "Tell us about your ideas about sin, suffering, redemption, life after the grave, and the character and nature of God," and you see what kind of consistency you get. It won't be there. Yet, it's here. Why?
The production of this book has divinity written all over it. This is not one man's philosophy that has been edited and reworked. This is a group of men who God said, "I will establish my truth. I will anchor it in this world, and you can test it and verify it and see if it is so." This book has been divinely produced.
Secondly, it has been divinely preserved. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is this book has been as attacked as any book in the history of humankind. It has been outlawed, burned, and destroyed. It has been perverted. It has been criticized. It's been mocked. It's survived 2,000 years of poor preaching. It has. I can testify to 40 of it. Yet, it's still there. This book has been translated into more languages than any other book in history, over 2,000-plus and counting at this time.
The movie about the central idea of this book, the Jesus film, exists currently in over 300 languages. It is the most-watched movie in history, the most translated movie in history, the most widespread book in history. It has been preserved, and it has been propagated like no other publisher has ever been able to propagate his book because this publisher is not Random House, this publisher is the God of this earth. He said, "I want this book read. I want this message out. I want this message preserved in this way."
When you have a book that is over a 1,500-year period that we think that it was closed, it was finished, written, that, "Amen, so be it," was put at the end of it some 2,000 years ago, you might ask yourself, "How do we know that we had today is what God intended us to have then? I'll go back to my first premise, which is if God wanted to preserve it, he could, and a suggestion is that he did. I'm going to give you an overwhelming bit of what is called textual criticism evidence to show that he has.
When you took your humanities class at college (I know you didn't go to it), you were asked to read Homer's Iliad. How many of your professors spent weeks saying, "Even though people tell you this is Homer's writing, you should not trust that Homer actually wrote this because we're not really sure if what has been handed down over the course of time is an actual representation of what Homer wrote. We don't doubt that there's a guy named Homer (probably), but we're not sure that Homer wrote this."
No. He said, "You read this book like your daddy wrote it on his deathbed, and I will test you on it, because this is Homer's Iliad, one of the greatest of pieces of literature ever." Right? Let me just show you of all the ancient books of antiquity. I tip my hand because I put it all on one chart right here.
They are writings from Caesar, Sophocles, Aristotle, and Aristophanes, Plato's tetralogy, and Homer's Iliad. All of those different books you can see when they're written. Anywhere from 496 BC when Sophocles was working to as recent as AD 40 to 100, this little book we call just the New Testament.
The earliest copy is called a manuscript. That's what a manuscript is. It's a known copy of an original, which is called an autograph. What we have of all those top number of books there, the earliest copy we have of them is for Caesar 1,000 years after he lived. There may have been other copies that were there that they made that copy from, but that's the earliest copy that we have. Sophocles, it's been 1,400 years from when he lived to when we have a manuscript.
All the way down to Homer. Let's just look at Homer's because Homer's is the most trustworthy book of antiquity. If you're going to believe that you have the Iliad that Homer wrote, you believe that because in 400 BC we have a copy. That's 500-some-odd years after Homer first spun his tail. There are 643 different copies, different manuscripts, of Homer's Iliad that exists, and nobody debates and talks about whether or not it's a reliable representation of what Homer intended.
Look up there, and that is the largest, by a long shot, except for one. There is one book that has been preserved in a different way from antiquity. It is a book that's called the Book. It is a book that I will make a case has been preserved in the way that it's been preserved because God said, "This book alone I will care for. The message in this book is not just a brilliant work of literature. This is my revelation to those who I love."
There are over 24,000 known copies and manuscripts of the New Testament alone. When they made a copy or a manuscript, they would have certain rules that they would live by. Here are a few of them. No letter could be written from memory. To copy the word "No," one would look at the letter N, write it down, then look back at the letter O, and write it down. They didn't want to mess it up.
No letter could connect or overlap another letter. The distance between each letter was measured by a single hair or thread. Every letter of every page was counted and compared against the original. The number of times a letter of the alphabet occurred in a book was counted and compared against the original. The middle letter of the first five books of the Old Testament and the middle letter of the entire Hebrew Bible were computed and indicated in the text. If it didn't match, if one of these calculations was incorrect, then the entire copy was torched.
There were men who gave their entire life to the manuscripting of what they believed was the word of God. These were the rules they lived by. There were men who suffered and died. I talked to you about how this book has been preserved. There was a group of men called Huguenots. There's a memorial to them in the land that they lived because so many of them were slaughtered for their effort to keep this book pure and accessible to humankind. On that little memorial that is written for the Huguenots, it says, "Hammer away, ye hostile hands, your hammers break, God's anvil stands."
You can do all you want to pervert this book, destroy this book, outlaw this book, but you will find yourself kicking against the goads because this publisher is getting this book out. There is no book even close, just like there is no man in history that the calendar pivots on. You can go visit Buddha's grave, you can go visit Muhammad's grave, you can go visit Joseph Smith's grave.
You can go to Pampa, Texas, and see where Charles Taze Russell is buried as the founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses. God's last bit of spite and judgment against a godless man put him in Pampa. But there's one man whose tomb is empty. There's one book that is unique. Why is that? Why is preserved in that way? Let me share with you a little dirty secret.
In those 24,000 manuscripts and copies we have, there are 200,000 errors. I know. It's a lot. Again, we're not running these off on the Xerox on the office here. These are scribes who are trying to live by this rule. There are 200,000 errors, but this is what an error on a manuscript means. Anytime that a manuscript made its way through that wasn't torched by the lead scribe that had an error in it…
If instead of saying, "In the beginning was the word," it said, "In the beginning was was the word," and if it went through, every time that was copied, that is considered an error. So of those 200,000 errors in those 24,000 manuscripts, they only represent 10,000 different places. Of those 10,000 different places that are represented, 9,600 of them can be explained away by the village idiot.
In other words, we know exactly what they intended. When we see word duplications or misspellings. That is considered a variant in a manuscript. So 200,000 errors, which represent 10,000 places that 9,600 can be written away right away by simple misspellings or duplication. Of the 400 that are left, 360 of them are simply word order.
In other words, there is debate as to whether the original autographs said, "Jesus Christ our Lord," or if it said, "Our Lord Jesus Christ." That leaves 40. Of those 40, there is not a single doctrinal truth, command, precept, or moral code that is not wholly and fully substantiated by other pieces of Scripture that are not under any debate at all as to what it said.
Textual critics, scholars will tell you, that this document is what they call 99.5 percent pure, with the 0.5 percent being that we're not 100 percent sure which way to read it. It doesn't mean we're not what it says, we're not really sure which one is right, but none of them change in any way the meaning or the belief that this book is intended to communicate. That is miraculous.
Let me tell you one thing that we mean here about infallibility. When we say that the word of God is infallible and is preserved in such a way, we simply mean it this way. A scholar by the name of Feinberg wrote this, and this is what he said. "…when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences."
Let me tell you again, One of the things we have that is unique about this book and its claim to divinity is that it is daring to say, "Test this. See if it's so." We spent an entire week in here talking one time why the whole creation/evolution debate was such a subtle way to undergird all of Christianity as we gave away biology, as we gave geography, as we gave away geology and said, "Ah, that's not important.
A book that claims to speak about spiritual and moral truths, if you can't trust it on hardline facts, why should you trust it on issues of the heart. We're saying when everything is understood in the original autographs as they properly should be understood and interpreted that they are absolutely true and infallible in every area that they speak to. In other words, if you go to this book, and it says that the moon is made out of cheese (and it doesn't), there's a problem there. If it says Mickey Mouse is the Czar of Russia, there's a problem there (and it doesn't).
This book has been preserved when weighed against all those sciences. The greatest archeologists that have ever lived, some have sought to disprove the Bible by going and showing how the sciences will show the foolishness of the text. They have gone. They have followed the paths of Paul through the books of Acts with an agenda to disprove the Scriptures.
They have become so overwhelmed with the evidence of the archeological proof that is there they thinking the Bible is a map. They go, "This cannot be anything other than a Word of God that he has preserved in this way, because we find things that we're sure were not there." People argued that the Scriptures weren't reliable because there was never any evidence that a man such as David existed in antiquity.
In the last 40 years, we've found proof that there was a man named David who was king of Israel. Did you know that there was debate as to whether or not there was even a man named Pilate that existed? So the New Testament by scholars was scoffed at until 1960 when we found an inscription with Pilate's name on it. One less problem with the Scriptures was taken away as science became it's friend.
Belshazzar was a man who they said never did reign as king in Babylon. There was no record of it. Archeology, interestingly enough, recently found evidence that the current king of Babylon at one time who had a great love for archeology, left his throne and stewarded the leadership of it to his son, Belshazzar, who reigned, if you will, during that time in Babylon while his daddy was out on a dig. To have a dig a little bit later will show you that this Bible knows what it's talking about. You can test it, you can make sense of it, you can verify it because it has been preserved and shown to be true.
Thirdly, this book's proclamation. This book is over 2,000 years old, and yet there is not a new philosophical thought, moral truth, or ethical idea that cannot be traced to the origins of its truth being found here. It proclaims what it ought to proclaim. It tells you about the nature of God. That he is triune, that he is loving, that he is good.
It talks about the origins of this earth, the purpose of humanity, what happens at the grave. It talks about things that books that are from God, revelations, the veil has been pulled back, and he's shown us what we cannot know. It speaks about those things.
It's interesting that Buddha never made a prophecy. In the Hindu works, there's not a prophecy. Confucius never made a prophecy, but 25 percent of this book when it was written in prophetic language and terms; 25 percent of it said, "Watch this. I'll show you how you can trust that this is God's Word, because it will perfectly accomplish these things."
In fact, this is what God writes about in Isaiah 41. He says this. He calls men out. He says, "Do you want to take me on? Do you want to establish yourself as somebody worthy of being trusted? Then bring it out." Isaiah 41 says, "'Present your case,' the LORD says. 'Bring forward your strong arguments,' The King of Jacob says. Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what they were…"
In other words, he's daring him to do two things. "You tell me what was before we were here to see what was there, and you tell me what will be before we're there to note it," because that's only what God can do. It's interesting when God called a guy named Job out, he said, "Job, you have all these questions for me? All right, big boy. You answer even one of these, and I'll answer your question."
He just rips him through some animal husbandry, some cosmology, some astronomy. He says, "Job, where were you when I formed the earth? Were you there? Where are you to feed the lions? Where are you…" and on and on and on he goes. Job says, "I get the idea. I can't do what you do. I can't see what you see. I can't note what you note. I can't sovereignly, providentially affect what you sovereignly, providentially affect.
The king says to do this, "…that we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods…" People to be trusted, folks to follow after. "…indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.** Behold, you are of no account, and your work amounts to nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination."**
How about that? Who's the greatest prophet of our time? Just a contemporary of ours? You know her. She's dead, but you all read her work when you were buying your eggs and sliced ham at Tom Thumb or Kroger or Albertsons. There in that little National Enquirer was sweet Jeane Dixon telling you all the things that were about to be.
Jeane Dixon was asked to predict in 1952 and 1956 and 1960 who would be the major nominees for president of the Democratic and Republican party and who would win. She went zero for six. There are so many illustrations of these people who we think are prophetesses who can speak. The Bible makes it really clear. If a prophet goes 9,999 for 10,000, get rid of them because God goes a million for a million.
There are 2,000 of them. Do you know that almost every nation within a 1,000-mile perimeter of Jerusalem has a major prophecy attributed to it in the Scripture? God wanted them to know that he was sovereign over not just this little group of people but, "I am sovereign over all of you." As an illustration, I'll suggest to you Tyre, which is on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea just up from Jerusalem.
Tyre was the Babylon of its day. It was the Hong Kong, the Tokyo, the New York City. It was the major harbor and port. It was as prosperous a city as you could imagine there being. During the height of its prosperity, Ezekiel said, "Tyre, get ready because God's fixing to open up a bag of trouble on you, and he's going to do it in such a way that you will be decimated to the point that you will be like the top of a rock."
He didn't just say that they would be tackled. He didn't just say that they would come down. He said that they would be scrapped to the bone, and all they would be good for is for fisherman to casts their nets on them. God raised up a series of nations to move against Tyre at different times. Nebuchadnezzar was the primary and first that moved against them. He put a 13-year siege against this prosperous, protected Phoenician city.
After 13 years, he finally made his way in through the walls. He ransacked and destroyed and murdered in an awful way. But Tyre was a smart group of people, and they had built, because they were a great harbor town, a half-mile off the coast another little island that became (if you will) Tyre of the Sea and put a fortress around it. They continued to live and exist out there.
Once Nebuchadnezzar got through and had done some serious destruction, the prophecy of Ezekiel was not fulfilled yet. Even though the town had been decimated, Tyre still existed, and it wasn't, as you will, as the top of a rock. Then God brought about this terror from the north, this swift-moving leopard named Alexander the Great who took one of the nations on that succeeded Babylon, Persia.
He was taking on the king of Persia in his effort to rule the world. He chased them back towards the west, but then the king of Persia made a dive downward towards the south towards the coastal regions of the Mediterranean Sea and then moved down towards Egypt to get away from Alexander's coming armies.
When Alexander got down there, they realized that because the Greek people did not have a navy, they had to control the ports from the entrance of other troops that would come and get them. So he stopped at Tyre, and he and his architect did one of the most audacious things that had ever been done in the history of warfare at that time. They decided they needed to make sure they took care of that little island capital that was out there a half-mile off of the coast.
So they built a half-mile causeway that their army could march out on to bring these people to their knees. Guess what he used to do it. He used the millions of pounds of rubble that was the old city of Tyre. He took every bit of it and threw it in the sea. Check out the book of Ezekiel and see what it says will happen. They marched across it, wiped them out, and the Scripture says, "It will never be inhabited again."
What's amazing about that is that land on the Mediterranean Coast hovers above spring water that pumps enough spring water (freshwater) in an arid region every day to support a major city. Yet, for some reason, Tyre has not been inhabited again to this day. Just like God said Babylon wouldn't when he prophesied against Babylon. What's interesting about that Alexander the Great that God used to fulfill his prophecy in Tyre is that Alexander the Great didn't know his Bible, so he gets over there to Babylon.
He decides he's going to make that the capital of his world empire. He gives 600,000 rations to his men in order that they might rebuild Babylon to make that the center of his greatness, and history tells us that moments after that decree that contradicted the Word of God which said Babylon will never be rebuilt, that Alexander died at 33. There's another man who recently sought to rebuild Babylon. He went from a palace to six feet of dirt because God said, "We're not going to rebuild that city because my name has come against it."
I'll tell you, the prophecies of Scripture are overwhelming. There are over 300 prophecies of Scripture that predict the coming Messiah, 60 major ones. Statisticians and probability have told us that you if you try and fulfill even eight of those different prophecies to any man in history… You'll find some are fulfilled in John Kennedy, and you can find some in Churchill, some in Martin Luther King, but to find just eight of them…
Victory Publishing House of Denver, Colorado, has offered $1,000 to anybody who can take any 8 of those and align those with anybody in history other than Jesus Christ. There have lots of folks who hate the Bible and love money, and yet nobody has collected that cash. The probability statisticians will tell us that any eight of those prophecies can be fulfilled in any one person by chance, is one in ten to the seventeenth.
Now to give you a tangible description of that number, ten to the seventeenth can be represented this way. If you took a silver dollar and multiplied it by that number, it would be enough silver dollars to cover the state of Texas two feet thick. If you took one of those silver dollars, painted it red, blindfolded somebody down there in Brownsville and said, "Start walking. I'll tell you if you're going the wrong way towards the Rio, but walk anywhere you want as long as you want. When you tire and are ready, dig your hand down and pull up a silver dollar." The probability that they would pull up that silver dollar that is red is that number. That's just eight.
Guys who are a lot smarter than me and clearly with too much time on their hands have tried to figure out what the probability statistically is of 48 of those being fulfilled in any one man. That number is one times ten to the one hundred and fifty-seventh. To illustrate that number, you need something much smaller than a silver dollar, so they have come up with an electron. An electron is so small, that if you took 2.5 times 10 to the fifteenth electrons, that's how many it would take to get 1 inch of subsequent electrons.
To give you an idea of that number, if you counted 250 electrons a minute, it would take you 19 million years to count one inch of electrons. But, this number is not represented by one inch of electrons. It's represented by 1 cubic inch of electrons, which to count that would take you 19 million years times 19 million years times 19 million years.
If you somehow made one of those electrons red and asked somebody to pick it out randomly, the likelihood that they could do that is the same likelihood that chance would have these prophecies fulfilled in any one man. So some people have said, "All that this Messianic lunkhead named Jesus did is he sought out and made it his life goal to fulfill these prophecies by himself."
However, let me show you a few of these prophecies. Here are just eight that would be rather hard to self-fulfill. Where are you born, the time that your born, the manner that you're born (specifically related to a virgin), the fact that you were betrayed, the manner of your death, the reaction of the people at your death, the treatment by the persecutors, and the manner in which you would be buried, not even to mention the resurrection.
Just to give you some concept of these numbers… God has so set these things apart. He's saying, "Duh. Would you note this book? Would you note this man? I'll have the godless world pivot history on his death, burial, and resurrection. He is significant to me. The story that records who he is and what he's done will be preserved uniquely. I will establish it around that which you can verify and test like nothing else can be verified and tested."
Here are some other numbers that we commonly tell our kids, "Don't go there. It's a waste of time and money." This is the odds of winning the Powerball lottery. One in 80 million. Compared to what we just saw, that doesn't look too bad all of sudden, does it? The likelihood that somebody's blood could be found at their ex-wife's house and it be somebody else's blood is one in 8 billion. No wonder he got off. That's not a big number. Right? Compared to 48 of those prophecies being fulfilled.
We send people to the hangman's gallows for those numbers, and that is why God has no problem saying, "If you don't note this man, there's another prophesy, and that prophesy is that you will be subject to him, and you will be accountable to him. I will convict you of your willful disregard of what I have shown you and preserved and proclaimed and produced for you."
There's a fourth P, and that P is the product. I can sit here all day long and give you intellectual evidence that this book is unique and worthy of being trusted, but at the end of the day, if it does not produce a transformed life, it is worth nothing. This book, it has been well said, has been debated, it has been denied, it's been demeaned, it's been destroyed, but not often enough has it been demonstrated.
The reason most folks rejects the Bible is not because they haven't looked at this evidence and found it to be wanting. It's like one man said, "The Bible has not been tried and found wanting; it has been unwanted and left untried." Too many folks have watched people who say this book is holy to them, have nothing to do with it in the application of their life and saying, "I couldn't really care less about what that book says because if that book produces you, I want nothing to do with it."
On the other hand, there are individuals like me who have seen people love in such a way that I couldn't explain it, who had seen people care, who seen people serve, who had seen people value things that the world didn't value and love a buck-two skinny kid who has gone through a lot of stuff and start to all of a sudden say, "Todd, you matter to the God who has revealed his goodness and kindness to us. Therefore, you're going to matter to us."
When I said, "Would you please explain that to me, they say, "Yes. We'll explain it to you by telling you who this Jesus is who we love and serve. Since we love and serve him, we're going to love what he loved and serve what he would have us serve. This is the book that explains that." I could find nothing else other than that life and this book and the claims it made that would explain that kind of love.
Later in my life, I decided to put some intellectual energy into seeing if these things were so, and I found all kinds of evidences that supported that this book was what it claimed to be. But had I not, and if your friends do not see the product of your life so transformed from self-centered living to others-centered living, from isolation and hate and destruction to love and community and service, they're not going to care about our Bible. That's what the Scripture says.
"If you don't love like I've loved, they're going to say you're not a follower of mine. Or if you are a follower of mine, they're going to say I'm not who I claimed to be." That's what Jesus said. That is why the final apologetic, the ultimate evidence that this book is what this book is is your life and my life. The greatest evidence for this book is the church of Jesus Christ.
Do you know what the greatest hindrance to this book is? The so-called church of Jesus Christ. That is why God takes very seriously those who say they're going to follow after him and say that they're going to serve him and honor him. They're going to trust in him. They're going to live according to his Word. Because you, friends, are likely the only Bible that anybody is going to ever read.
Better said, you, friends are likely the only intellectual source of conviction that most people are going to ever consider. Folks say, "Todd, this is so overwhelming. If this is true, then why do so many bright people not accept the Scriptures?" I'm going to tell them it's the same reason that so many dumb people reject the Scriptures. They don't want to believe it.
I will tell you that most of you who struggle today as to whether or not you should follow hard after Jesus Christ, your true problem is not a problem of intellect; it is a function of your will. You don't reject the Bible because it contracts itself. You reject the Bible because it contradicts you. This book calls you to submission and humility. This is a book which is God-glorifying and man-deprecating, and it says, "Deal with it." In the midst of this, it talks about a God who loves you and pursues you.
I will tell you this. If you have intellectual problems, we welcome them here. We want you to know this is a safe place to have your questions answered. If this is true, friends, then no amount of scrutiny can affect it. So let's shine the light on it, but I want to make a deal with you. If we're going to spend time pandering to your intellectual integrity, I'm going to call you to be a person of integrity.
That is to say, once we answer these questions, if we can answer them in a way that satisfies your integrity, are you ready to surrender? If not, let's not go through these games. I have more questions than you I can throw at you. We can do this all day long, but let's be honest about what we're really chasing here. Are we chasing answers, or are you looking for an excuse? There is a prophecy that if this book does not affect the product of your life, you will be affected by that which you think has nothing to do with you.
This book says there's a man named Jesus Christ, and how you respond to him determines where you spend eternity. It affects how your life is lived out now. I say to my friends who are part of the church, "Is it changing your life?" I say to my friends who are here today who don't believe there is one who can take their sin, their cross, and their shame, "Would you let him? He has made himself known."
Father, I pray we would always be a church that would celebrate, first and foremost, not the fact that we have intellectual ammunition, that we would not use truth as a club, that we would use truth as a transforming presence in our life. Father, I pray when we look for the authority of God's Word, we would always look first at what it produces in us, that it takes self-willed, rebellious, sinful men and teaches them humility, love, and kindness, that your fruit would bear evidence in our life.
I thank you for what you did last week in this body; that you produced something…repentant, obedient, followers of Christ who decided to stand before a watching world and say, "You want evidence the Bible is real? Watch me." I declare myself as a changed man or woman who will stand before a watching world and say, "There is one thing I think is important enough to call the community together and listen to me, and that is my testimony that this Jesus is who he has claimed to be, and he has forgiven me and given me hope."
Father, I pray that we would always measure our success that way. By our ability to be and make disciples. May the product of this book scream from this community of faith like nothing else in any other place, that the world might be forced to surrender to it. Amen.
We all love a great story...one filled with rescue, romance, and unrelenting love...one filled with courage, heroism, and ultimate triumph. Stories like this resonate with something deep inside all of us. Why? Because there is a greater story that we are all a part of. A story so embedded in our beings that we find even a shadow of it irresistible. It is a story that makes the most audacious claims in history, and a story which uniquely and powerfully provides hope, meaning and answers to all of life's great questions.