As a pastor, I am often asked how we can know for sure that the Bible is truly the Word of God. When confronted with this question, many Christians frequently respond by quoting 2 Timothy 3:15 — “All Scripture is God-breathed . . .” That is certainly a glorious, God-breathed truth, but when you use that verse to prove the reliability of Scripture to the serious skeptic, that unbeliever will often reply, “That’s circular reasoning! You’re telling me that the Bible is the Word of God because the Bible says it is the Word of God. That’s a logical fallacy.” At that point, far too many Christians begin to stammer and stutter, having no apologetic arrows left in their quiver.
Let me make something perfectly clear before we continue: only the Lord God Omnipotent can truly verify the Bible as His Word because He is the Creator of all things and the ultimate Authority over all things. We need not attempt to “prove” God nor the truth of His Word. After all, whose word is to be believed? The word of fallen, sinful, ever-changing men? Or the Word of the holy, infallible, immutable God of the universe? Enough said!
However, when we are witnessing to people who ask questions about our faith, we have been commanded to “always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15), and we have several resources to support our assertion that the Bible is indeed the very Word of God. This month we’ll look at the power of prophecy.
A prophecy is the foretelling of a future event that the prophet uttered by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Scholars estimate that the total number of prophecies in sacred Scripture number 2,500 — nearly a third of the entire Bible. And then there are the prophecies concerning coming of Christ. I still remember the first time I heard my pastor and mentor, Dr. D. James Kennedy, say: “There are 333 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ — all of which were literally fulfilled.”
In his book, Science Speaks, Dr. Peter Stoner, professor emeritus of science at Westmont College, calculated that the probability of just eight of those Messianic prophecies being fulfilled in the life of Jesus was 1 in 10 to the 17th power, or 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. That’s one in one hundred quadrillion! Dr. Stoner illustrated the breadth of this astronomical number: “Imagine filling the State of Texas knee deep in silver dollars. Include in this number a single silver dollar with a black check mark on it. Now turn a blindfolded person loose in this sea of silver and the odds that the first coin he would pick up would be the one with the black check mark are the same as 8 prophecies being fulfilled accidentally in the life of Jesus.”
At this point, the skeptic may retort that Jesus knew all the prophecies written about Himself in the Old Testament, so He simply arranged His life in such a way as to fulfill them. For example, the skeptic might argue, knowing the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 (“Your king comes to you lowly and riding on a donkey”), Jesus made sure He rode a donkey during His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
It’s undoubtedly true that Jesus knew every prophecy written in the Old Testament, but if He was “just a man” and not God, how could He “arrange” the fulfillment of prophecies related to His birth, His betrayal and the events that occurred while He hung on the cross?
* Born in Bethlehem: Prophesied in Micah 5:2; fulfilled in Matthew 2:1. Could “just a man” arrange the location of his birth?
* Betrayed For 30 pieces of silver: prophesied in Zechariah 11:12-13; fulfilled in Matthew 26:15. Could “just a man” arrange what Judas Iscariot would be paid for his treachery?
* Soldiers gambled for His clothes: Prophesied in Psalm 22:18; fulfilled in Matthew 27:35. Could “just a man,” whose hands and feet were nailed to a cross, direct the actions of the soldiers who nailed him there?
You might ask the skeptic this question: Even if Jesus could have arranged to live His life in such a way as to fulfill all those prophecies, why would He ever do that, knowing that would lead Him to crucifixion — the most ghastly, torturous death known at that time? You can also point out that the prophecy of His death by crucifixion — “Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet” (Psalm 22:16) — was written 1,000 years before Jesus was born; at that time, the Jewish method of execution was stoning, not crucifixion. Even at the time of Jesus’ death, Jewish law still required stoning for execution, but as a Roman-occupied nation, the Jews had lost the power to impose the death penalty, so the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, ordered Jesus to be crucified.
When it comes to fulfilling biblical prophecy, all notions of “coincidence,” “accident,” or “arrangement” simply don’t add up. What does add up is the fact that prophecies written centuries before the birth of Jesus were written under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy proves beyond a shadow of any doubt that the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus is the promised Savior of the world.
And that brings us to the final question to ask the unbeliever: Is Jesus your Savior? You don’t need to “clean up your act” in order to come to Christ. Come just as you are, trusting that He died for all your sins, and you will receive forgiveness of your sins and life everlasting.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that…Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.