If you live in Florida, you no doubt spent some time (probably a lot of time) these past two weeks tracking Hurricane Dorian. This slow moving and surprising storm threatened Southwest Florida for several days and had sights on the East Coast of the peninsula for quite some time past that. The unpredictable nature of the forecast had preparations in various locales going through fits and starts and had residents, myself included, glued to the television for all the cycles of three hour updates we could catch. My family watches Jim Farrell’s forecast (if you watch some inferior meteorologist, we can still get along!). Not only has he been around our area for a long time, but I well remember viewing him back in 2004 when Hurricane Charley was predicted to run aground in the Tampa area. Jim was the first one, well before the National Hurricane Center, to notice a shift in the track that would bring the Category 4 monster towards Charlotte and Lee Counties. Since then, wherever Jim Farrell is stationed will always be The Weather Authority in my book (and, in case you’re wondering, neither Mr. Farrell nor WINK-TV are paying me endorsement fees—but if they do catch wind of this article and want to express their appreciation, the church address is below and we’ll apply their funds to this month’s insurance down payment against such occasions as hurricanes!). So, when this latest storm, Dorian, was howling and hovering in the sea, our TV turned to Channel 11. Whatever the opinions of various models (one of which briefly had the Hurricane taking a stroll straight across State Route 80 (Palm Beach Blvd.) from West Palm Beach to Downtown Ft. Myers); whatever the forecasts of national weather services; whatever the prognostications of locals who think they have a feeling for such things; I always looked to Jim Farrell and his knowledge and expertise to interpret it all for me and give me the for sure word with regard to Dorian’s trek at any given time…
Within the past year or so a well-known pastor of one of the largest churches in America stated that we need to “unhitch ourselves from the Old Testament.” This same minister further states that we need to quit using the phrase “the Bible says…” about anything. The acclaimed pastor (and noted leadership speaker in both sacred and secular arenas) says that the church needs to adopt these and similar views in large part because today’s world, especially today’s youth, do not believe the Bible is true to the same proportions of generations gone by. Contemporary society has easy access to the Internet and within seconds can see multiple presentations denying and refuting a Six Day Creation, a six thousand year old Earth, the flooding of the whole world, the parting of the Red Sea, the falling of the walls of Jericho, the possibility of a man coming out the belly of a whale in 3 days, and countless other biblical assertions that used to take hours and days to research in library books. This leading pastor’s contention is that by “unhitching from the Old Testament” and ceasing to declare “the Bible says” about anything, the needless necessity to defend some antiquated biblical ideas will be removed. Time and energy will be freed up for the church to simply focus on Jesus, and particularly the event of His resurrection (which this pastor deems is somehow able to be proven and can be believed apart from faith in the divine inspiration of Scripture), and the intellectual embarrassment of holding to so many “unbelievable” biblically recorded events will be avoided. This megachurch leader believes that this strategy will win the lost to Christ and keep them in church. I have many responses to the thought processes of this pastor who in my view thinks he needs to save Christianity (and perhaps even Jesus Himself) from the Bible. However, much in the same way I dismissed the views of various people and weather models when I heard what Jim Farrell, The Weather Authority, said about Hurricane Dorian; in this month’s newsletter I suggest that we dismiss the views of this well-known pastor and many other of his ilk regarding the Scriptures (and especially the Old Testament is particularly in view here) in light of what Jesus, the ULTIMATE AUTHORITY over all, believed about them.
Jesus Believed Scripture Is Divinely Inspired (Matt. 4:4)…At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry He fasted 40 days and was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness. Satan comes to the Lord with three distinct enticements. The sneaky fallen angel first comes and tempts Christ saying that “if You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Certainly it was in Jesus’ power to do so; He who fed thousands with five loaves and two fish could have transformed sediment into something to savor. Certainly the miracle would have filled the natural hunger of our fully human, fully divine Savior. (Who knows, it might even have been enough to impress the multitudes and captivate their attention, at least until they demanded the next miraculous manifestation. Yet, to do so was not in the Father’s plan. Instead, our Lord powerfully responds to Satan by quoting a verse from the Old Testament, “it is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Jesus had no problem declaring “it is written”, which I think could justly be called an equivalent to proclaiming “the Bible says.” By quoting a verse from Deuteronomy to this temptation (which He did to the two subsequent ones as well), Jesus also equated the Old Testament to being the very words of God! Jesus, the Ultimate Authority, believed and proclaimed that Scripture is divinely inspired, and so too unashamedly should we!
Jesus Believed Scripture Is Indestructible (Matt. 5:17-18)…The greatest sermon ever preached was the Sermon on the Mount. During the course of this message, Jesus pointed out that fulfilling the Old Testament laws of not committing adultery or murder was not enough to stand righteous before God, for indeed lusting with one’s eyes and heart and harboring even unspoken hatred were vile enough transgressions to make all of humanity guilty and worthy of hellfire before the Almighty. Some back then, as well as today, may have mistakenly viewed such teaching as coming against the known Scriptures of Jesus’ day. The Lord silences these thoughts in verses 17 and 18 by saying, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets (a phrase which was used to speak of all the Old Testament); I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” The Word of God destroys the pride of humanity, but the Word of God shall never be destroyed. Not one dotting of an I or crossing of a T in Scripture is pointless or can be voided in anyway. Jesus, the Ultimate Authority, believed and proclaimed that Scripture is indestructible, for all time, and so too should we!
Jesus Believed Scripture Is Actual History (Matt. 19:3-5)…Jesus was not popular among the religious leaders of His day (and that’s one of the greatest understatements of all time). The various powerful sects of Judaism were constantly trying to test Jesus and catch Him in some kind of trap that would put Him at odds with Scripture, or with the people, or with both. In Matthew 19 the Pharisees come to Christ and try to get Him caught up in a theological debate of their day (and truth be told of any day). They come and ask Him if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason. Rabbi Shammai and Rabbi Hillel, two of the most cited teachers of Jesus’ day, held different views. Shammai had taught that divorce could only be granted for sexual immorality, whereas Hillel propagated the idea that nearly any and every small offense could be used as sufficient justification for a man to put away his wife. The Pharisees were hoping to get Jesus to take one side or the other so that He would alienate at least a certain portion of the people. However, Jesus did not quote either of the rabbis in His response. Instead Christ made His case for fidelity in marriage by going back to Genesis and stating that in the beginning God made them male and female, and for that reason a man was to leave his parents, cleave to his wife, and the two were to become one flesh. By doing this, Jesus not only spoke to the marriage issue brought to Him by the Pharisees, but He definitively supports the fact that the Bible is actual history. There really was a historical Adam and Eve made in the image and likeness of God on the sixth day of Creation from whom the whole of the subsequent human race has descended. The world thinks my last statement is absurd, and even many professing believers steer clear from it for fear of being seen as intellectual backwater hicks. However, Jesus, the Ultimate Authority, believed and proclaimed that Scripture is actual history, and so too should we, without apology!
Jesus Believed Scripture Is Sufficient (Luke 16:31)…One of Christ’s most famous parables is that of The Rich Man and Lazarus. The basic outline is that Lazarus was a poor man, both financially and physically, who was laid at the gate of the unnamed rich man day after day. Lazarus longed to partake of even the crumbs from the table of the rich man, but found himself receiving more comfort from the dogs who licked his sores than he did from his affluent fellow man. The two men both died, with the rich man going to hell and Lazarus going to heaven (technically it was Hades and Abraham’s bosom, but time fails to speak fully of this passage in this newsletter). The rich man longed for Lazarus to be able to bring him a drop of water and for Lazarus to be able to rise from the dead and witness to his five brothers so that they would not end up in hell as he had. Father Abraham responds that the rich man’s brothers have the Law and the Prophets (again, a phrase meaning the whole of the Old Testament) and that if they would not believe the Word of God, then they would not believe even if one rises from the dead. Certainly, there are many implications here concerning Christ, His death and resurrection, and salvation. However for the purpose of this article, we take note of the fact that Jesus, the Ultimate Authority, pointed to the Scriptures as sufficient for leading to salvation, and so too should we!
Jesus Believed All Scriptures Pointed To Him (Luke 24:25-27)…One of my favorite passages is Christ’s post-resurrection appearance to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. The two men who had hoped Jesus was the Messiah left Jerusalem broken hearted knowing that He had been crucified and buried. They had heard reports from the women and from John and Peter that the tomb was empty and that Christ had risen, but they did not believe it. Suddenly a stranger comes walking beside the duo and travels with them for a ways. This stranger of course was none other than Christ in His glorified body. He could have come and shown them His hands and feet. He could have come with an angelic choir and trumpets heralding His appearance. Instead the risen Lord walks a long while with the doubting and discouraged disciples, and far from some light show and fog machine display, “beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Jesus, the Ultimate Authority, far from discounting Scriptures or simply teaching that we strip-mine them for strategies on how to live life successfully leaving “undesirable” portions behind, elevated the importance of Scriptures as they all pointed to Him, and we should believe and preach Scriptures similarly as well!