The Logic of Faith

(9) The Witness of Jesus

Introduction

Jesus is the Son of God. This fact is at the core of the Gospel and God himself has given witness to it. God declared Jesus to be the son of God in several ways:

  • In prophecy: God prophesied many details of a man who would come who would not only be the descendant of David and the rightful king of the world, but also the Son of God. For example:

    Psalm 27 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said to me, Thou [art] my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

  • In the witness of miracles: Jesus worked many miracles. In themselves these do not prove very much, but taken with the teaching of Jesus and the fulfilment of prophecy they are a witness that Jesus was sent from God.

    John 536 But I have greater witness than [that] of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness concerning me, that the Father hath sent me.

  • By the resurrection of Jesus: Jesus was put to death, but on the third day he rose from the dead.

    Romans 13,4 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead...

Because of the relationship of Jesus with God we can trust the words of Jesus when he tells us how God has revealed himself to mankind. Jesus revealed God himself, and is uniquely qualified to tell us about the other ways in which God has revealed himself. In particular, Jesus is able to tell us how reliable the Bible is and how much it can be trusted to give a clear revelation of the mind of God. There is no-one with better qualifications on this score.

The witness that Jesus gives could not be clearer. It tells us that the words of the Bible are the words of God, and that the ultimate truth of God is revealed for us in the Bible.


The Old Testament

The only part of the Bible that existed in Jesus' day was the Old Testament. When Jesus spoke of the "Scriptures" it is the Old Testament to which he is referring. This was the Bible that Jesus used. The degree to which Jesus relied on the words of the Bible can be seen from the frequency with which he quotes it (see box below). Jesus referred to the Old Testament continually and about 10% of the recorded words of Jesus are quotations from the Old Testament.

Jesus Quotes the Old Testament
  Total no. verses in Gospel Verses spoken by Jesus Cited from OT % Jesus' words from OT
Matthew 1181 603 83 13.8%
Mark 609 275 34 12.4%
Luke 1251 570 42 7.4%
John 879 417 20 4.8%
Total 3920 1865 179 9.6%

These statistics are a powerful case in their own right. Jesus claimed to speak from God and for God:

John 1410,24 the words that I speak to you I speak not from myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doth the works... He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but that of the Father who sent me.

Either we accept this claim or we reject it. If we reject it we cannot call ourselves followers of Christ Jesus. If we accept it we must believe that the Old Testament contains words from God and that it is fully authoritative.

Besides the amount of use Jesus made of the Old Testament he also gave direct teachings about its authority. This teaching makes it quite clear that Jesus regarded the Old Testament as inspired by God and as the final authority on teaching in all areas. The terms that Jesus used to describe the Bible show the extent to which he found it authoritative.

  • It is written - Jesus uses this phrase 18 times to support his own teaching by reference to his Bible, the Old Testament. In every one of these cases the fact that something was written in the Bible was treated as a guarantee that it was true. Interestingly enough, other people realised that Jesus held the Bible to be fully authoritative and tried to convince him by quoting the scriptures. This occurs eight times in the gospels.
  • Have you never read? There are ten references in the Bible where Jesus appeals to the people with these words. When he does this it is because he is teaching that the contents of the scripture he quotes are fully authoritative.

    Matthew 2142 Jesus saith to them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

  • Search the scripture - For example Jesus said:

    John 539 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

    This is an appeal to the Pharisees to find an authoritative description of him in the Old Testament. The way he gives it shows that he expects the quotation to complete the argument and thus regards it as authoritative.

  • Matthew 2229 Jesus answered and said to them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

    This explanation tells us that the people to whom Jesus was speaking were wrong in rejecting the idea that their Bible was God's word. It is also an appeal for them to find an authoritative description of Jesus in the Old Testament.

  • Mark 1449 The Scripture must be fulfilled

    The fact that something was predicted in the Bible was, for Jesus, enough to guarantee that it would happen. This is the case because the Bible contains the words of God.

  • Luke 2425 O fools, and slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken.

    This was spoken by Jesus to two of his doubting disciples after his resurrection. The important point he was making is that it is enough to find something written in the Old Testament to know that it is true. The disciples were forced to accept that Jesus was raised from the dead by a quotation of passages from the Old Testament rather than by Jesus revealing himself to them.

The sum of these statements is to show how Jesus taught that the scriptures to which he had access were inspired by God and were fully authoritative. Jesus quotes from all the sections of the Old Testament; no part is omitted, which shows that Jesus accepted all of it as God's word. The way that the quotations are used shows that Jesus did not only accepted them as moral guides. He also accepted the Old Testament descriptions of history and its prediction of events yet to come. He treated the Bible he had as a complete source of true teaching from God.


The Gospels

The Gospels are our main record of Jesus. As such they contain an account of the words and actions of Jesus. These actions and words were, themselves, inspired by God. Two more verses which record occasions where Jesus stated unequivocally that his words came from God are:

John 716 Jesus answered them, and said, My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.

John 1249 For I have not spoken from myself; but the Father who sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

As the Gospels contain the words of Jesus and these words are inspired by God, the Gospels are clearly inspired by God to that extent.

However, the inspiration of the Gospels does not simply rest on the fact that the writers were reporting the words and doings of Jesus. There is a much stronger inspiration of the gospels in that the people who wrote them were writing directly under the control of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles and Evangelists who wrote the Gospels were given divine assistance in remembering the events that they were describing and the speech they were recording. The Spirit also told the Evangelists what episodes to include in the Gospels and what to omit from them. This is explained by Jesus:

John 1426 But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, ... he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.

The Holy Spirit was to prompt the memories of the Apostles so that they would be able to give an exact account of what Jesus had said and done. The spirit was poured out on the Apostles at Pentecost (See Acts 2) and gave them the ability to teach the gospel among other things. Before these gifts were again withdrawn the Gospels had been written.


The Epistles

The epistles are the last section of the Bible to be considered here, letters from various Apostles to various churches or people. The Apostles who wrote them were chosen by, and filled with, the Holy Spirit of God.

1 Corinthians 1228 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, various kinds of tongues.

The Holy Spirit brought various responsibilities and abilities to people; these are called gifts. There were two types of gift, the administrative gifts which gave people particular tasks in the church, and the direct gifts such as healing or prophecy which gave people the ability to do certain special things. The Apostles were filled with the Spirit and apparently were capable of exercising all of the gifts. It is the Apostles who in general wrote the epistles. We can therefore conclude that the words of the Epistles were inspired by God.

In fact there is another reason to believe that the Apostles were inspired by God:

John 1426 But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit ... he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.

When Jesus was about to die, after the last supper, he gave the disciples the promise that the Holy Spirit would settle on them and give them various things. Among these is the promise that they would remember what Jesus had said to them, and that the Spirit would also teach them "All Things".


Conclusion

The witness of Jesus is not only that the Bible is reliable, but that it is also the word of God. Thus the Bible is a record written by God to tell us all how to live our lives and what truths we must accept. The words of the Bible were chosen by God, and we need to pay attention to them because of this. Jesus believed every part of the Scriptures to be inspired and that no part of the Bible can be ignored. If we are to be true followers of Jesus, true Christians, we must accept the teachings of Jesus, even those about the inspiration of Scripture.
 

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