89 Your word, Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Five centimeters doesn’t seem like much, does it? Though I’ve never quite gotten on the bandwagon known as the metric system, those of you who have will know that 5 centimeters is just shy of 2 inches. A distance hardly worth noting, right? Unless you are Elise Ray, for 5 centimeters changed her life. Elise Ray was one of the gymnasts who represented the U.S. at the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She was also one of the athletes victimized by the mis-measurement of the part of the gymnastics competition known as the vault. As most of you probably know, the vault is a padded horizontal apparatus that sits between a mini-tramp from which the gymnast takes off and the mat where she lands. We’ve all seen these young girls barreling down the narrow runway, hitting the tramp, pushing off the vault with their hands, then doing all sorts of gyrations in the air before finally and hopefully landing with both feet firmly planted on the mat.
Olympic athletes do this thousands of times as they prepare for competition. And every time they do it, the vault is exactly the same height. That never changes. Can you imagine, then, what would happen if in the biggest competition of your life that vault was a couple of inches lower? Well, sadly, that’s what happened to Elise Ray in Sydney. And the mis-measurement of the vault threw her off just enough that it led to 3 consecutive falls, something unheard of in Olympic competition. Others had problems too, though not quite as bad as Elise. And when the mis-measurement was finally discovered, the athletes were given the opportunity to try again, but most refused because their confidence was shattered.
Well, you and I don’t vault from that type of an apparatus. But we do need a firm place on which we can plant our faith when we are taking one of those leaps into the unknown. We need a solid place to land when the circumstances of life try to trip us up. Because, you see, we may not be going to the Olympics, but we are going to make mistakes. And so we need to know what the Apostle Paul tells us in Rom. 8:1, namely, that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We may not be going to Sydney, Australia, but we are going to disappoint God. And so we need to know what Paul says in Rom. 8:38-39, that nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. And we may not be competing against other gymnasts, but we are going to be attacked by Satan. So we need to know what John tells us in his 1st epistle, namely, that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” We may not be going down under to Australia, but we will one day find ourselves down under beneath the ground, lying in a casket, buried in a grave. And so we need something firm that we can plant our faith on in order to prepare for the inevitable, like Jesus’ words in John 14 where he says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you… And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Verses like these are to the Christian what the vault is to the gymnast – a firm place to put our hope and trust when we take those giant leaps of faith. We need to know then that the Bible is solid, that it will catch us when we fall, that it will not change in meaning or in any other way like the vault did in the Olympics we just heard about. Put simply, we need to know that the Bible is believable. That’s why for the past few weeks we’ve been talking about this crucial issue under theme, “The 7 Wonders of the Word.” And just to quickly review what we’ve learned so far, the 1st wonder of the Word was the resurrection of Christ. As we stated a few weeks ago, if the tomb of Jesus was empty, then the claims of the Bible are not. The 2ndwonder of the Word was the endorsement of Jesus. Time and time again he authenticated, quoted, and upheld the Scriptures. The 3rd wonder of the Word is the vision of Scripture. In the Bible we find more than 2000 prophecies that we can actually point to as being fulfilled at some point in history. No other so-called holy book in the world has anything like these specific predictive prophecies. The 4th wonder of the Word has to do with the endurance of the Bible and how it has withstood the test of time. For centuries all the powers of the world and hell have tried to disprove, discredit, or destroy the Bible, but it has not only survived all of that, it also continues to thrive as the #1 best seller of all time. The 5th wonder of the Word isits accuracy. As we concluded with last Sunday, the Bible is accurate textually. In other words, you can be sure that what you read in the Bible is reliable because even though we don’t have any surviving original manuscripts of any of the books of the Bible, we do have over 5600 copies of the Greek New Testament alone, many of them dating back to close to the time of the originals. So when textual questions arise with a particular verse, scholars can cross-check that verse against all of these other copies, thus giving us as accurate a Bible as possible.
But not only is the Bible accurate textually, it is also accurate historically. And that’s where we want to pick it up today. Now to be sure, there have been those who have time and time again called into question its historical accuracy. But time and time again they have been proven wrong by one of the Bible’s best friends – the field of archeology. For example, there were those who once doubted the existence of Nineveh, the city to which the prophet Jonah was sent to preach. But in 1845 an archeological dig uncovered 1st the palace, then the library, and finally the whole city of Nineveh.
For centuries unbelievers scoffed at the biblical account of the fall of Jericho, but sometime ago the Associated Press, not exactly known for its conservative leanings, carried an article that was entitled “New Study Backs Biblical Version of Jericho’s Demise.” It began by saying: “The walls of Jericho did come tumbling down as recounted in the Bible, according to an archaeological study.” Archaeologist Bryant G. Wood of the University of Toronto said, “When we compare the archaeological evidence at Jericho with the biblical narrative describing the Israelite destruction of Jericho, we find remarkable agreement.” Wood noted that the Bible places the event after the spring harvest and indicates that the Israelites burned the city – both facts confirmed by the archaeological remains.
Please understand, my friends, that many books have been written recounting one archeological discovery after another that has proven the Bible to be true. As one well-known archeologist once said: “It can be categorically stated that not one single archeological discovery has ever controverted (or called into dispute) a biblical text.”
Contrast that with the Book of Mormon and the New World that it teaches about. John Ankerburg, a well-known defender of the Bible, states, and rightly so: “No Book of Mormon cities have ever been located. No Book of Mormon places, nations, or names have ever been found. No Book of Mormon artifacts, Book of Mormon Scriptures, Book of Mormon inscriptions…have ever been found.”
Make no mistake about it, my friends, the Bible is accurate historically. And isn’t that great? Isn’t it comforting to know that when we plant our faith on the vault of Scripture, it is strong enough and accurate enough to endure any leap of faith we’re about to take? But there’s more.
The 6th wonder of the Word has to do with the like-mindedness of Scripture. Now I actually dealt with this in my introduction to this sermon series a few weeks ago, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it today. But basically what I’m talking about here is the incredible consistency of Scripture. Remember, the Bible is actually a library of 66 books that were written over a period of 1600 years by about 40 different human authors in 3 different languages on 3 different continents in a wide variety of circumstances and situations, and yet all those books are held together by one theme. Some call it the scarlet thread that runs throughout Scripture from Genesis all the way to Revelation. And that scarlet thread is the blood of Jesus Christ, which really takes us right into the 7th and final wonder of the Word that we want to look at this morning, and that is the story of salvation.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, once said: “If man would have written the Bible, he couldn’t have. If man could have written the Bible, he wouldn’t have.” Now what did he mean by that? Well, if man would have written the Bible, if he’d actually wanted to write the Bible, he couldn’t have for 2 reasons. #1, he doesn’t have the ability to predict the future like we find in the more than 2000 prophecies the Bible contains. And #2, nor does he have the intellectual wherewithal to conceive of angels and demons and heaven and hell and all the other things the Bible reveals to us about God.
But this is even more important: If man could have written the Bible, he wouldn’t have. Why not? Because we would never be as blatantly honest about ourselves and the human condition as the Bible is. We would never write words about ourselves like these found in Jer. 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” If we were to write the Bible, would we dare say that the mind of man is filled with every kind of wickedness, greed, and depravity? Would we really say that there is no one who does good, not even one or declare that even our righteous acts are like filthy rags? Would we be that harsh and that hard on ourselves?
I don’t think so because we haven’t been. When we look at the bibles or religious writings that men have created, they’ve gone as far as to say that man is in trouble, but they make it pretty clear that he can solve his own problems and find his own way out of that trouble and into heaven. If he just tries hard enough or works hard enough or puts forth enough effort, he can save himself and make himself right with God. So when man writes a bible, he writes a book about human potential. But when God writes a Bible, he writes a book about human failure so that we will know how much we have to depend upon him for our eternal salvation.
So man couldn’t have written the Bible because he would never describe himself as the Bible does. But at the same time we must also be quick to add that he would never describe God as the Bible describes him. Who could ever imagine a God who loves us as much as the Bible tells us God does. Who could ever conceive of a God who would enter his own creation and do what the Bible says God did for those who had rebelled against him. The gods that man has created throughout the centuries, whether it was the gods of Greek and Roman mythology or the gods of Eastern mysticism, were all distant, unapproachable gods. But look at the God of the Bible. Why, he’s the God of the stable; the God who walked the dusty roads of Palestine; the God who bounced little babies in his lap; the God who touches the open sore of the leper and brushes away the tear of the widow. He’s the God who places himself on a cross in the person of Jesus and declares to the heavenly court: “Whatever you would do to a sinner, do to me. However you would punish Doug Meyer for all he’s done wrong, punish me. However you would treat the adulterer, the liar, the murderer, the child molester, the rapist, the gossip – however you would treat them, treat me.” That’s the kind of God the Bible reveals to us, my friends.
Now tell me, would we ever dream up a God like that? No way! And that’s why I use the incredible story of salvation that the Bible proclaims as the last wonder of the Word, the last proof that the Bible has to be God’s book and not man’s.
So one more time. What are the 7 wonders of the Word? Pay attention here because I’m about to give you an acronym to help you remember. The Resurrection of Christ, theEndorsement of Christ, the Vision of Scripture, the Endurance of the Bible, the Accuracy of Scripture, the Like-mindedness of the Bible, and lastly, the sweet Story of salvation. R-E-V-E-A-L-S. The Bible reveals to us what we would never know were it not for God giving it to us in this Book. And hopefully, as we have studied these 7 wonders of the Word, you feel perfectly confident now in planting your faith on the vault of Scripture and trusting the Savior that it proclaims to land you safely and firmly on heaven’s shore whenever you leave this world behind.