We live and minister in a skeptical culture in which people are often finding it evermore difficult to place their trust in organizations and individuals, especially the more disconnected we become. As a result, it is no wonder that there is a deep skepticism about the truthfulness of the Bible. This lack of trust can manifest itself in the disbelief in the supernatural that was planted in the Enlightenment and grew in modernity. It can be seen in people who feel the church has let them down for one reason or another. It rears its head in the Academy through a higher critical methodology with flawed presuppositions.
So, what can we do to help our people know that the Bible is worth our attention and trust?
I suggest that we turn to the central figure in the Biblical story, Jesus, to determine what he had to say about Scripture. I propose that, in fact, we can trust the Bible because Jesus told us so. He not only told us so, but he showed us how to understand the Bible so that we can see God’s prophetic plan unfold in Scripture, and seeing this plan will ultimately serve as a witness to the Bible’s truthfulness.
One of the major witnesses God has given of Himself to the world and to His people is the fact that He calls His shots before he takes them. God foretells the future and then instructs His people to trust Him when they see it come true.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God challenged the false gods that the Hebrews were following to predict the future to show that they were real. When they could not do this, it exposed these idols for what they were - false gods (Isaiah 41:22-23). A little later in Isaiah 46:9-10, God says: “Remember what happened long ago, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like Me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will.”
God tells the end from the beginning and this is one reason that we are to put our trust in Him. How does this relate to Jesus though? Well, to get there, we need to listen in on a conversation Jesus had on the day of His resurrection with two of his followers on the road to Emmaus.
As these two men were traveling from Jerusalem they were trying to make sense of Jesus’ crucifixion and rumored resurrection over the weekend. They were now doubting if Jesus was indeed the Messiah they previously thought he was. His death caused them to question if God was really fulfilling His promises through Jesus. Jesus begins to talk with them, and in Luke 24:25-27 recounts the conversation:
“How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken! Didn't the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”
To assuage their doubts, Jesus points them to the writings of Moses and the Prophets, what we refer to today as the Old Testament. He then shows them from those writings that everything that happened to Him had to happen to Him. God had already committed the climax of the redemptive story to writing in the Old Testament, and Jesus pointed them to this in order to restore their trust in Him and what had happened that weekend.
This move by Jesus is as important for us today, as it was for those two unnamed men on the road to Emmaus.
When doubts about the truthfulness of Jesus arise, we can turn to the Bible to see that God was planning this all along. I don’t have to base my faith on just my emotions, my desire for this to be true, or any other subjective experience. There is empirical evidence in the Old Testament that exactly what happened to Jesus was what was planned by God all along.
This is also the same position that Peter held. In 2 Peter 1:19-21 he wrote:
“So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
Peter had already told his readers that he was an eyewitness to Jesus, so his message was not a cleverly devised myth. Peter was on the mountain with Jesus when he was transfigured. He ate fish with Jesus after His resurrection. He knew Jesus was alive because he saw it, but here he directs his readers to look not only to his own testimony, but to pay heed to the prophetic word: The Old Testament.
In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we see the promises of God in the Old Testament strongly confirmed. These prophecies, when understood in the light of Christ, give us evidence that we can trust God. God was foretelling this very ending all along. It is for this reason that Peter directs us to the Old Testament as a witness to the reality of Jesus Christ. In fact, this was the standard evangelism practice in the book of Acts. Jesus' followers repeatedly argued from the Old Testament that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. In effect, they were saying, "Don’t just trust me that I saw Him resurrected, but consider the Old Testament promises from God and see if that does not convince you." Here are a few examples from Acts to support my point: Acts 2:16-36, 3:17-18, 4:11, 4:25-28, 7:1-53, 8:30-35, 10:43, 13:15-41, 13:46-47, 15:13-19, 17:11, and 28:23-31.
In 1965, a movie was released called The Greatest Story Ever Told, which recounted the life of Jesus from the nativity to the resurrection. While it was an entertaining movie, it did not cover the opening two-thirds of the story. Watching it is like only watching Return of the Jedi. It’s a good story, but you are missing so much.
If you want to understand Jesus, you must go to the books that he directed the Emmaus road travelers to read. The Old Testament is not an optional part of Scripture that we can neglect. It is vital to seeing Jesus in the correct light and to bolstering our trust in Scripture itself. When two weary travelers were questioning their understanding of Jesus, Jesus Himself directed them to the Bible. So yes, we can trust the Bible this I know, for Jesus told us so.