While many of us may have heard this question from someone who doesn’t believe in God or at least not the one presented in Scripture, it is a bit different when it comes from a Christian.
For many in evangelical Christianity this is an argument that has been settled since the mid-twentieth century, and in the SBC it was met by a landslide victory in the 1980’s that solidified the foundation of our faith in the Christ of Scripture. Now when we use the word ‘believe’ we are not talking about salvation, but as the apostle Paul says to Timothy “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-16).
So why has this discussion come back up again? In the last few weeks a prominent Pastor has spoken in 2 different forums and in both case exposed a belief that the Scriptures are a stumbling block to non-believers and as us such we should make them less important to our conversations with them. Instead of focusing on what Scripture says we need to only focus on what Jesus says and making a historical case for His resurrection…in the end is not the Bible that saves anyone it is faith in a resurrected Savior.
To this I would agree, that we’re saved through the work of the Spirit in us leading us to repentance and faith in the one true God, and this faith is not placed in ourselves but in the work of Jesus the Christ who came to earth in the time of Caesar Augustus and was crucified under the governance of Pontius Pilot in Caesarea. But who is this Christ, not who is Jesus, who is Christ? Apart from the rest of Scripture the title means little or nothing. Apart from a belief in the Old Testament prophecies, the covenants handed down from Adam to David, the words of Isaiah of one who would suffer so that we may live, what is it that our belief is founded in?
Now I could spend a lot of time giving an apologetic on the reason we believe the Bible, but that is not my goal today. My goal is to point out a simple flaw in the whole realm of thought that we can somehow jettison the Scriptures for the sake of evangelism.
For those who have read my first two post here and here, the final call of Christ is an important one, but one that encouraged the disciples not to hide from the Scriptures but to embrace them. In Luke 24 while on the road to Emmaus Jesus doesn’t just talk to these disciples about all the cool things that He did on earth and how they should put their faith in Him because of those things. No, He points back to the Old Testament and walked them through how this Jesus who they followed had to be the Messiah because all of Scripture pointed to this moment. He was the fulfillment of all that went before. They were talking to the Son of God and He wanted them to see how He was the fulfillment of scripture, not for them to abandon Scripture. When He appears to the rest of His disciples at the end of the chapter we see that Jesus opens their minds to understand the Scriptures in light of Himself.
So in Jesus’ own words the Scripture must be true and valid, for if they are not then how can we trust that He is the promised one. How could Peter preach in Acts 2 that the day’s prophesized by Joel were coming to pass? The teachings and work of Christ mean little if we do not have the Old Testament, without them we cannot fully understand or appreciate the Christ,. We cannot fully appreciate the long suffering work of God. We cannot fully grasp that God is working all things to His end, in His time table, and that He will bring these things to pass.
Clearly, the Scriptures are essential for our full understanding of God and His Christ, Jesus.
Now then the question will arise ‘Are they necessary for salvation?’ And to that I would ask ‘What are they being saved to?’ The first words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark are a look into the message he came to proclaim: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
What is so interesting is the Gospel we are to believe in is based on the reality of two preceding things, 1) the time is fulfilled, and 2) the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is out of these two things we are called to repent and believe. We don’t repent and believe because we want a ‘better life’ or because we want to feel better about ourselves. We repent and believe because of the conviction of sin and the reality that the time has come and the plan of God is fulfilled in His Son the Christ, who is the foundation of the message Jesus is proclaiming. Our faith is deeper than a prayer, it is more than a moment, it is a life with Jesus the Christ the Son of God who was promised from Genesis 3:15, who visited Joshua before Jericho, who stood beside the faithful in Babylon, and who is the suffering servant portrayed in the book of Isaiah.
So while we would agree the Bible doesn’t save anyone (only God can do that, only the Spirit at work can change a heart of stone to the heart of flesh) we cannot agree that the Old Testament is not a very important part of the Christian faith. It teaches us and points us to the only promised one of God. By it Phillip leads an Ethiopian eunuch to an understanding of Jesus as the one promised in Isaiah 53. By it Stephen makes his defense for his faith before the Jewish religious leaders.
For some this brief article will just seem like semantics, to others it will seem like nit picking, to some maybe it will be another reminder to be clear and concise when speaking about what you believe, but personally listening to the talks this past week and the follow up this week by apologists attempting to clarify (sort of) the view of Scripture that started this whole theological and pastoral pondering, it was a reminder to know what and why we believe.
My faith is in a risen Savior. Who came, suffered, and died as the Word of God declared would take place, and now has risen from the dead 3 days later and ascended to the right hand of the Father as testified to by the apostles. I believe because of the work of Christ in me and I am assured of His love and promises because of His written Word to us, both the Old and the New.
Yes I believe in the Event and in the Words that testify to it. Both before and after its occurrence.