Jesus Believed the Bible

If Jesus believed that Scripture was truthful and trustworthy who am I to disagree? His endorsement of the history and theology of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) is good enough for me. In fact, he placed his imprimatur on some of the stories modern skeptics find most challenging and controversial.

To Jesus, Adam and Eve were real persons created by God, Noah and the flood were histories, not mythology, Jonah and the great fish symbolized his death and resurrection, and Moses led the Hebrew nation through the wilderness. To our Lord, it was all true.

He quoted freely from the Old Testament Scriptures and stated that the human authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 22:43). When he frequently said, “It is written,” he was saying that the voice of Scripture was the voice of God speaking with continuing relevance for all time.

Three examples stand out

In Matthew 5;17-18, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you 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 is here speaking of the entire Old Testament, saying that it will find its fulfillment in him. The Lord’s point is that every detail of Scripture is important and will be fulfilled according to God’s purpose.

A second example is found in John 10:33-39. Jesus was engaged in a dialogue with his detractors. In a closely reasoned argument, he added a comment with which his enemies had to agree: “Scripture cannot be set aside” (v.35). He was stating his belief in the immutability and binding authority of the Bible. It cannot be annulled, canceled, or invalidated. Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle commented, “Wherever the Scripture speaks plainly on any subject, there can be no question about it. The case is settled and decided.”

Then in Luke 24:13-35, we have the familiar account of the Lord’s appearance to two men on the road to Emmaus. V. 27 says, “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Jesus staked his reputation as the Son of God and Messiah of Israel on the truthfulness of Scripture. His coming was prophesied in every section of the Hebrew Bible. He went on to say, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (v.44).

“You have heard … But I say”

Not only did Jesus assume the divine origin and authority of the ancient Scriptures, but he claimed that his own words carried the same divine authority. In Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28 he compared his own words with the Old Testament: “You have heard … but I say to you.” Here Jesus placed his own words on the same level as Old Testament Scripture.

The Holy Spirit

In addition, he imparted authority to his chosen apostles who, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, would write the New Testament Scriptures. Before his death, the Lord promised them, “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 14:26). “The Spirit of truth, who goes out from the Father — he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

The New Testament is the testimony of the Holy Spirit about Jesus through his apostles. Their report about him in the gospels, the Acts, the letters, and the Revelation, is completely truthful and trustworthy. The apostle Paul stated, “The gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). He wrote to another group of believers, “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Jesus believed in the Bible. He wanted us to know that the Scriptures are the word of God revealing how we may be sure of eternal life. Just as Jesus is a divine-human savior, the Bible is a divine-human book. When we read it a divine Person is speaking to us. When we open our hearts in faith to him, he makes the message of God’s love and saving grace real in our lives. If Jesus believed in the Bible, it is reasonable for us to do the same.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner 


Giving Thanks in a Pandemic

Imagine a plague so severe that 8000 citizens of one town would die in a year. That same town was threatened by an invading army. Soldiers commandeered scarce resources of food and household goods. Many of the people had not known a time of peace and prosperity in all their lives.

Pastor Martin Rinckart remained faithful to his surviving congregation in the German town of Eilenburg during this desperate time. Many of his fellow ministers had died in the plague and he had to do the work of three men. Day after day he found himself conducting funerals. There were so many deaths that eventually victims had to buried in mass graves without proper committal services.

Refugees from the Thirty Years’ War flooded the overcrowded fortress town. Imagine the scene: starving neighbors fighting in the streets over scraps of garbage and even for the remnants of dead animals. Anything for a little food. Rinckart himself had to mortgage his future income to try to obtain bread and clothes for his children. His wife died in the plague in 1637.

Last Sunday morning my friend Dr. Mike Philliber told the amazing story of Martin Rinckart. It applies to our present national emergency. If we feel the inconvenience, disruption, loss, illness, or worse, of the pandemic, the example of this devout Lutheran pastor can inspire us to remain faithful to our Savior and to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Amid his own unimaginable sorrows, Rinckart taught his children to take refuge in God and to be thankful for the blessings they still had. He wrote a hymn for the family to sing as a table grace at mealtime. “Now Thank We All Our God” was published in 1636 and became one of the most widely sung hymns in all of Germany, second only to “A mighty Fortress is Our God.”

Hymnologist Alissa Davis has pointed out that Rinckart’s theology pervades the hymn. God is a God who acts: “Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices.”

He is a God who guides: “O may this bounteous God through all our lives be near us, with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us; and keep us still in grace, and guide us when perplexed; and free us from all ills, in this world and the next.”

The final stanza is a doxology ascribing praise to the God who is eternal, the Holy Trinity: “All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given; the Son  and him who reigns with them in highest heaven, the one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore; for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.”

Imagine such an expression of thanks in such a time of grief and hardship! Yet that is the attitude to which we are called. As we pray for an end to the pandemic and for a cure or vaccine, we do so “with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6). 

As we adjust to economic constraints, school closures, crowded ICUs, and the continuing threat of a dangerous virus, we train ourselves to be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

If Martin Rinckart can be “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7) in his circumstances, then by God’s grace, I can too, in mine. “Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom this world rejoices; who from our mother’s arms hath blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”

Pastor Randy Faulkner


The Main Thing

Recently I was part of a friendly conversation with a group of men. The talk drifted to the subject of local churches: who attended where; which congregations were holding services during the pandemic; what worship is like when you try to participate through a computer screen.

There was general agreement among the men that the nameplate on the church building is less important than the message being proclaimed. Someone said that the main thing is the gospel. To that sentiment I offer an “Amen!”

The apostle Paul would agree. A reading of his letter to the Galatians emphasizes the point that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of grace, not works (1:6-7). The gospel is not of human origin; it was revealed by Christ himself (1:11-12). It was the same message consistently proclaimed by all the apostles (2:2). Paul was especially called to bring the gospel to the Gentiles and Peter especially to the Jews (2:7).

The gospel is the message of the cross of Christ. It was so important to Paul that he said, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14). Paul relied upon and proclaimed the message of the cross because of what it accomplished in his life. Jesus“gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according the will of God” (1:4). This is the gospel.

It is not surprising, then, that Paul warned against departing from the gospel. In Galatians 1:6-7 he wrote to caution the believers against those who pervert the gospel, turning people away from the grace of Christ to “a different gospel.” The word he used in the Greek language means “another of a different kind.” The NIV correctly translates the next phrase: “Which is really no gospel at all” (6:7).

The difference between a church that faithfully proclaims the gospel  and one that offers a substitute message, is the difference between a truly Christian congregation and one that is departing from God himself. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ” (1:6).

The New Testament is clear. There is only one gospel. There are not many from which to choose. Paul vehemently and repeatedly denounced in Galatians 1:8-9 those individuals that preached any message as a substitute for the gospel of grace (“no gospel at all”). Any ministers or congregations or denominations calling themselves Christian that omit, dilute, or deny the gospel are not really Christian at all. They are guilty of religious malpractice and are under the judgment of God.

The nameplate on the church building is not the most important thing. The message of the gospel is the most important thing. But choosing a church is a very serious matter. Make sure your church is one that in its worship practices, preaching, studying, and outreach keeps the main thing the main thing: the glorious gospel of grace revealed in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

When Life is Hard

Historical scholars tell us that first century Christians were often misunderstood, slandered, persecuted and martyred for their beliefs. They were accused of disloyalty to the political establishment of the Roman empire. This is the background to the letter written by the apostle Peter to the provinces of Asia Minor.

His words in 1 Peter 1:6-16 are just as relevant today as when he wrote them. We are given guidance on how to respond when life is hard. He tells us that difficulties in life (such as the present pandemic and civil unrest) are temporary, “for a little while,” as the Lord sees our lives (v. 6). We wonder when life will return to “normal.” Peter wants us to know that God has his own timetable and his timing is perfect.

He also says that trials are purposeful. God has something he wants to  accomplish in the troubles that reach us. Peter compares the suffering of a Christian to a gold miner who brings his ore to a refiner so that the gold may be purified and alloys and impurities can be removed. The fires of testing (v.7)  refine our faith, so that we may glorify the Lord and be prepared for his return.

At Jesus’ revelation, Peter says, those who patiently endure affliction because of love for Jesus, will receive rewards of praise, glory and honor. This is a motivation for us to live holy lives (v. 15). In this context, holiness means to be set apart for God, separate from the world, and self-controlled.

“Therefore, with minds that are fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (vv. 13-15).

Some people have the mistaken idea that following Jesus is a guarantee that they will escape suffering and trouble in this life. Peter’s letter tells a different story. Sometimes God uses life’s hardships to accomplish his higher purposes in our lives. He wants to put his holy character on display in us (vv. 15-16). He wants us to behave as strangers and exiles in this world, living in expectation of Jesus’ return.

Charles Colson told of being hospitalized for surgery. As he recovered, he took walks in the corridors, dragging an I.V. pole along with him. He met a man from India, a Hindu, whose two-year-old son had had two failed kidney transplants and was now blind for life.

When he learned Colson was a Christian, he asked if he became a Christian would God heal his son. He said he had heard things like that on religious television programs. Colson wrote, “When I heard that I realized how arrogant the health and wealth gospel sounds to suffering families. Christians may be spared all suffering, but little Hindu children go blind. One couldn’t blame a Hindu or Muslim or an agnostic for hating such a god!”

“I told my Hindu friend about Jesus. Yes, he may miraculously intervene in our lives. But we come to God, not because of what he may do to spare us suffering, but because Christ is truth. What he does promise is much more — the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. … If that man does become a Christian, it won’t be on false pretenses.”

The fact is, we are called to live for God, whether or not the Lord relieves our pain, ends the pandemic, or restores the American economy. We love and serve Jesus not because he gives us easy, comfortable lives. It is because he has a higher purpose: he wants to make us like himself. “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Reckless Faith and Gospel Hope

Peter the apostle wrote to people who had experienced an inner transformation. Jesus had invaded their lives as they had heard the gospel and had believed in him. They had been given “a new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).  He went on to say that they had a secure inheritance in Christ and that their lives were now “shielded by God’s power.” These people had hope. That same hope is offered to us on the same terms: reckless faith in the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This came home to me in a conversation I had with a friend I will call Todd who had recently become a Christian. “I know Jesus is alive because of what he has done for me.” He had lost all hope of recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. His marriage was unhappy and his performance at work was declining.

He tried to change but he was powerless to overcome his addictions. In spite of the difficulties in their marriage, his wife was patiently praying for him. His neighbor was a friend he had known for years. He seemed to understand what Todd was going through.

His friend invited him to get together so they went jogging. As they ran, his friend said, “I want to tell you what has been happening in my life.” They met every evening after work to run together, and his friend would tell him how Jesus had forgiven him of his sins and had changed his life. He explained how Todd too could have a new life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Todd told me that he came home after one of these conversations, aching with guilt and tired of the struggle. He went to his bedroom, closed the door, and called out to the Lord, “God if you’re real; Jesus, if you’re really who they say you are, please save me. Take control of my life. I need you.”

“That was the best night of my life,” Todd told me. There is much more to the story, but he said, “God healed me of the desire for drink and drugs. He brought my family back together. I know Jesus is alive because of what he did for me!”

Peter’s letter is all about this kind of transformation. It was effective in Todd’s life and it is available for you, too. In the words of Warren Wiersbe, “We have a living hope because we have a living savior.” Carl F.H. Henry said that Jesus “planted the only durable rumor of hope amid the widespread despair of a hopeless world.”

Believe this. Peter, the apostle of the Lord, said that when you put your faith in Jesus, “you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Receive it the way Todd did, with bold, reckless, helpless faith. The living Christ is ready to transform your life and give you eternal hope, based on his gospel.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner