One Great Argument for the Inspiration of Scripture

January 09, 2018

by J. Gresham Machen

I want just to indicate very briefly one great argument for the inspiration and divine authority of Holy Scripture. Mind you, it is not the only argument; but I am just singling it out by way of example this afternoon.

That argument is found in the testimony of Jesus Christ. In the first century of our era, there lived in Palestine a man called Jesus of Nazareth. We have certain records of his life in the New Testament. I want you to study them at least as historical documents. If you are not yet ready to take them as part of the inspired Word of God, as I do, study them at least, fairly, as historical documents.

A Key to Riddles

If you do study them thus fairly, you will be impressed by the picture which they give of Jesus Christ. That picture is evidently the picture of a real person; of that there can be no doubt. But it is also the picture of a very strange person. The Jesus of the Gospels advanced stupendous claims and substantiated those claims by a sovereign power over the forces of nature. He seemed to command nature as nature’s Maker and nature’s God. He was clearly a supernatural person.

Very comprehensive, very wonderfully cumulative, very profound, and very compelling is the evidence for the reality of the supernatural Christ.

Modern men have tried to separate the supernatural from the natural in the gospel picture of Jesus. “We shall just remove these antiquated supernatural trappings from the picture,” they have said to themselves, “and then we shall have a picture of the real Jesus, a great religious genius and nothing more.” But the effort to make that separation has been a failure. The supernatural element in the gospel picture of Jesus has proved to be an integral part of the whole. It cannot be separated from the rest in that easy, artificial way. The gospel picture of Jesus is supernatural through and through.

Some radicals of the present day are drawing the logical conclusion. Because the supernatural is inseparable from the rest, and because they will not accept the supernatural, they are letting the whole go. They are telling us that we cannot know anything at all with any certainty about Jesus.
Such skepticism is preposterous. It will never hold the field. You need not be afraid of it at all, my friends. The picture in the Gospels is too vivid. It is too incapable of having been invented. It is evidently the picture of a real person.

So the age-long bewilderment of unsaved men in the presence of Jesus still goes on. Jesus will not let men go. They will not accept his stupendous claims; they will not accept him as their Savior. But he continues to intrigue and baffle them. He refuses to be pushed into their little molds. They stand bewildered in his presence.

There is only one escape from that bewilderment. It is to accept Jesus after all. Refuse to believe that the picture is true, and all is bewilderment and confusion in your view of the earliest age of the church; accept the picture as true, and all is plain. Everything then ts into its proper place. The key has been found to solve the mighty riddle.

The supernatural Jesus is thus the key to a right understanding of early Christian history. But he is also the key to far more than that. Mankind stands in the presence of more riddles than the riddle of New Testament times. All about us are riddles—the riddle of our existence, the riddle of the universe, the riddle of our misery and our sin. To all those riddles, Jesus, as the New Testament presents him, provides the key. He is the key not to some things but to everything. Very comprehensive, very wonderfully cumulative, very profound, and very compelling is the evidence for the reality of the supernatural Christ.

The Word on the Word

But if we are convinced by that evidence, we must take the consequences. If we are convinced that Jesus is what the New Testament says he is, then the Word of Jesus becomes for us law. We cannot then choose whether we will believe him when he speaks. We must believe. His authority then must, for us, be decisive in all disputes.

Jesus did certainly believe that the Old Testament was the very Word of God, and he certainly placed that belief at the very heart of his life as a man.

On many questions, our records do not record any decision of Jesus. But on one question his decision is plain. It is plain to us not only after we have become convinced that the records of his life are divinely inspired and therefore altogether without error, but it is plain even when we take those records merely as reasonably accurate history. If one thing is clear to the historian, it is that Jesus of Nazareth held to the full truthfulness of the Old Testament Scriptures; it is that Jesus held that high view of the divine authority of the Old Testament which is held by despised believers in the Bible today.

That is admitted even by those who have a low opinion of the truthfulness of the Gospels. Jesus, they admit, held that view of the Bible which was held generally by the Jews of his day. They are sorry to admit that. “Too bad,” they say, “that Jesus, whom we admire so much, was in this respect a child of his time!” But admit it, if they are scholars, they must. Jesus did certainly believe that the Old Testament was the very Word of God, and he certainly placed that belief at the very heart of his life as a man.

But if he thus pointed back to the Old Testament and founded his human life upon it, he also pointed forward to the New. He chose apostles. He endowed them with a supernatural authority. In exercise of that authority, they gave the New Testament books to the church. No man who believes what Jesus says can, if he is consistent, help taking the whole Bible as the very Word of God.

This post is adapted from J. Gresham Machen, Is The Bible Inspired?, (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2017), 57–61. Used with permission of the publisher.

J. Gresham Machen

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