How Do I Know the Bible is True?

Series: Question Box

by Rick Phillips August 20, 2000

We are continuing with our Question Box feature, and tonight’s question is, “How do I know the Bible is true?” That is a singularly important question at a church like ours, because we are constantly quoting the Bible as the source of our authority. Everything we do assumes that the Bible is true, but it is certainly good to explain why we believe that it is. The best book I can recommend to you on this topic is by Dr. Boice. It is one of his most significant books and it is titled, “Standing on the Rock.”

I will deal with this question by offering three positive evidences that the Bible is the Word of God and therefore true. The first is the testimony of the Scripture itself. Indeed, I want to begin with Jesus’ own belief about the Scripture. It will not take much digging to find that He had the highest view of Scripture. Jesus very clearly made it the rule for His own teaching and conduct. When He was tempted in the wilderness, it was to the Bible that He turned to refute the devil. “Man does not live on bread alone,” He said, quoting Dt. 8:3, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). Jesus believed and taught that the Scriptures came from the mouth of God.

In John 10:35, Jesus taught that “the Scripture cannot be broken;” in Mt. 5:18, He said, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Jesus actually referred there to the Hebrew letter yod, which is the smallest letter, as well as to what is called a “tittle,” that is a tiny stroke of the pen that distinguishes some letters from others. The point He was making is that not only will the Bible’s message not fade away, but it will endure in the most minute details, down to the very letter of the text. What, then, allows the Law to endure, but that it is of God. Anything of man does pass away. As Isaiah 40:8 says, “The word of our God stands forever.”

You will find all through the Gospels that Jesus treated the Old Testament as completely true and as the very Word of God. He believed in a literal Adam, as well as the events of the Patriarchs and the Exodus. Jesus endorsed the New Testament with a similar view. In John’s Gospel He explained His provision for the giving of the New Testament. John 14:26 says, “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 16:13-14 says, “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth... He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

This does not prove that the Bible is true. But it does show that it is utterly inconsistent to profess faith in Jesus and hold any but the highest view of the truthfulness and divine authorship of the Bible.

There are many other passages that clearly express the Bible’s testimony about itself. Paul writes in 2 Tim. 3:16 that “All Scripture is God-breathed.” That is, it is not merely the work of divinely inspired men, but is breathed out from the very mouth of God. 2 Peter 1:20-21 is a very important text, telling us how to relate the human writers to the divine author. We do not deny that various men were used by God to reveal Himself in Scripture, nor that these men left their mark on Scripture, brought their experiences, situations, and even their attitudes. What we do deny is that the human authors in any way interfered with the process of divine revelation. Rather, they were the means provided and employed by God. Here is what Peter says to explain:

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21

Despite human agency, it is not the human writer’s interpretation that we have, for the origin of Scripture is God. The key formula is, “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

That is what the Bible says about itself. Second, I want to turn to what we observe by examining the Bible. We start here with the unity of the Bible. There are forty human authors, and yet there is but one integrated story and message. These authors are separated by over 1300 years and by considerable historical, linguistic, and cultural barriers. And yet they all speak of the same God, with the same character and purposes. They refer to one problem in history, namely, sin, and one solution, the forward-moving work of redemption that centers on Jesus Christ. It is mind-boggling to account for this unless there is one author behind the whole, even God Himself. There certainly are real differences between early books and later ones, between wisdom literature and apocalypse. But through it all there is an organic unity, with a pedagogical flow. The ideas and themes develop and deepen, crystallize and focus as the revelatory process moves forward.

To this we add what the Westminster Confession refers to as “the heavenliness of the matter.” If you compare the Bible to its competitors you will find a profound difference in quality. The Old and New Testaments reveal a different logic than in found anywhere else, one that conspires to glorify God while humbling man. What the Bible teaches is foolishness to men and wisdom to God. Surely the Puritan Thomas Watson was right to conclude:

I wonder whence the Scriptures should come, if not from God. Bad men could not be the authors of it. Would their minds be employed in indicting such holy lines? Would they declare so fiercely against sin? Could good men be the authors of it? Could they write in such a strain? Or could it stand with their grace to counterfeit God’s name and put “Thus saith the Lord” to a book of their own devising?1

Third, and finally, I want to point to fulfilled prophecy as the Bible’s own intended proof of its divine authorship and truth. God said through Isaiah in the 8th century B.C., “I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come” (Isa. 46:9-10). The point is that God declared in minute detail things that did not happen until hundreds of years later, so that their fulfillment proves the Bible. I do not have time to work through the many, many prophecies that have demonstrably come true in history. I will mention two categories, beginning with the prophecies of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are dozens and dozens of prophecies about Christ in the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the Gospels, including more than twenty that were fulfilled on the day of His crucifixion.

The other great theme of prophecy is one that was commended to the famous Prussian King Frederick the Great. Frederick was a man of the Enlightenment and had many doubts about the Bible. One day he demanded of his chaplain a simple defense of the Bible. The minister boldly replied, “Sire, I can do that with just one word.” The king was astonished and demanded what it was. “Israel,” was the reply. Indeed, the history and presence of the Jews marvelously proves the Bible right before our eyes.

God said to Abraham, “Your descendants will be like the sands on the seashore.” Abraham saw only one descendant, but we see great multitudes of them, still thriving, the people of Israel, Abraham’s seed of the flesh. I defy you to show me any other people from the time of the Book of Genesis. Show me a Hittite, an Amorite, a Moabite, even a Babylonian. But there they are right before our eyes, the walking proofs of the truth of Scripture, the very children of Abraham and Isaac, distinct as the same people, with the same language and culture and religious traditions from the earliest time of Scripture.

All this commends the Bible as true, but I have not yet really answered the question, “How can I know the Bible is true?” There is only one answer to that. You must read it, seeking to know the truth. As Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt. 7:7). And as He said to those who look to His Word with faith, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32).


1 Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, Carlysle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1958. p. 26.

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