Week commencing January 17th 2021

Week Commencing Sunday 17th January 2021

Call to worship

 “The words of the Lord are flawless. Like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.” Psalm 12:6

“God’s word is truth” John 17:17

Opening Hymn (piano)

1 All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
God unknown,
he alone
calls my heart to be his own.

2 Human pride and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray his trust;
what with care and toil he buildeth,
tower and temple, fall to dust.
But God's power,
hour by hour,
is my temple and my tower.

3 God's great goodness aye endureth,
deep his wisdom, passing thought:
splendour, light, and life attend him,
beauty springeth out of naught.
Evermore
from his store
new-born worlds rise and adore.

4 Daily doth th' Almighty giver
bounteous gifts on us bestow;
his desire our soul delighteth,
pleasure leads us where we go.
Love doth stand
at his hand;
joy doth wait on his command.

5 Still from earth to God eternal
sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising
for the gift of Christ his Son.
Christ doth call
one and all:
ye who follow shall not fall.

Robert Bridges

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3LCGh02Vew

Opening Prayer

Jesus, the hope of all who trust you;
the power of all who serve you;
the wisdom of all who follow you;
the uniter of all who worship you.
Grant us light at the beginning of this year;

Fill us with strength and boldness according to your promises,
That we might reach our needy nation, with your love, in this season of Hope.
We humbly acknowledge our weakness and failure,
But our eyes are fixed on you.
Fulfil your purposes and plans that your name may be honoured in our land.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (Hope together)

Reading. John 16:12-15

1612 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

Item. ‘Ancient words’ (Recording)

Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world
They resound with God's own heart
O let the ancient words impart
Words of life words of hope
Give us strength help us cope
In this world where'er we roam
Ancient words will guide us home

Ancient words ever true
Changing me changing you
We have come with open hearts

O let the ancient words impart

Holy words of our faith
Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice
O heed the faithful words of Christ
Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world
They resound with God's own heart
O let the ancient words impart

Ancient words ever true
Changing me changing you
We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart

Martyr's blood stains each page
They have died for this faith
Hear them cry through the years
Heed these words and hold them dear

Ancient words ever true
Changing me changing you
We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart

We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart
O let the ancient words impart

Lynn DeShazo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOi1Rwt_kCI

Sermon. ‘The Accuracy of the Bible. Part Two’

Previously in thinking about the accuracy of the Bible I sought to warn about the bias of naturalism against anything miraculous in Scripture, for example that the Bible’s account of our origins is accurate. I stressed the reliability of eyewitness account; the historical

reliability of Scripture- that according to textual criticism and manuscript evidence  the Scriptures in our hands are as they were first given.

This week we will look at the reliability of the New Testament Canon- in opposition to the claims of the fictional Da Vinci Code, along with archaeological discoveries that corroborate the Scriptures and ways of looking at specific passages to discover internal consistency. In addition we will of course look at the Holy Spirit’s roll in controlling the writings of the books of the Bible

So we saw previously that the Bible is accurate in its transmission, but what about questions surrounding the inclusion of books in the Canon?

The Da Vinci Code- a work of fiction- caused some controversy by making it sound factual that the New Testament, as we know it was “compiled and edited by men who possessed “a political agenda…to solidify their own power base”. (p 234 DVC) The novel also suggests Constantine unduly affected the process. It’s true the New Testament underwent a compilation process referred to as canonization, but books weren’t selected according to a political agenda. Rather they had to meet three requirements if they were to be included in the Christian Scriptures.

  1. Because the apostles were the trusted eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, the writing had to be directly connected to an Apostle.
  2. The writing had to be orthodox- it could not contradict the teachings of the Jewish Scriptures or of the apostles
  3. The writing had to be accepted in churches throughout the known world- it could not be accepted only by one group of Christians.

 

According to the historic record, Constantine was never involved in the canonisation process. That process began long before Constantine became a ruler of the Roman Empire in the early 4th Century:

During the lifetime of the apostles the church grew at a phenomenal rate and spread over the whole of the Mediterranean world. The different books of the New Testament as we have it today were copied and reproduced throughout this spread of the church. So the churches preserved the writings of the apostles- the original eyewitnesses- from the very time of their presence in their midst. We saw last week the wealth of manuscript evidence for the New Testament existing in different parts of the world. This constitutes independent witness for the same already recognised New Testament books.

So the books of the New Testament were already widely known throughout the world church and different sections were read out in church services each week. Justin Martyr (AD 110-65) wrote “On the day called Sunday there is a gathering together to one place of all those who live in cities or in the country and the memoires of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. Martyr quotes from the Gospels beginning his citations with the important formula, ‘It is written’, recognising their scriptural authority. (‘Why trust the Bible? Amy Orr-Ewing).

F.F. Bruce writes “One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa- at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397- but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities.” (“The New Testament Documents Are They Reliable?”).  

The authority of the Bible was not dependent upon councils of men choosing its books. The New Testament books was already widely accepted within the church as authoritative and scriptural. However because the church came under increasing attack and because of the growth of the church geographically it became important to have the books of the Bible publicly recognised for what they were by the councils in North Africa.

I was Pastor of Eastgate Baptist church, Lewes when the ‘Da Vinci Code’ came out and became so popular. We showed a film/documentary called ‘Breaking the Da Vinci code’ in response. It is a detailed two hour critique, not only about the process of canonization but also answers other criticisms of the Bible’s teaching raised by the novel. While not the film itself, the following link is to a lecture given by one of the presenters in the film who gives key points from it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FO7f6AUFy8

Further the pamphlet ‘’Answers to the Da Vinci Code” (Rose Publishing.2004, 2005.) is an excellent fold out pamphlet that also has more on these matters. I have about a dozen of these that I can give free of charge to anyone who is interested.

Of course the historic Christian belief is that the Holy Spirit controlled the writing of the books of the Bible, He also controlled their selection, collection and transmission, thus continuing to fulfil our Lord’s promise that he would guide his disciples into all truth.

‘But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.’ (John 16: 13, 14)

I will devote a whole sermon to the Holy Spirit’s Inspiration of the Bible in the future. Then I will speak about the Bible’s many fulfilled prophesies which speaks of its accuracy. But for now it is enough to mention how the risen Lord Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, did indeed open the eyes of the apostles and lead them into truth as they wrote the Scriptures. As we read the New Testament we see how they had come to understand that Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of promises and prophesies in the Old Testament- ‘’In 528 verses of the New Testament there are 419 exact quotations from the Old Testament. In addition there are hundreds more allusions to passages in the Old Testament.’’ (The Bible. An Authentic Book. Brian H Edwards)

A further area of evidence supporting the accuracy of the Scriptures is Archaeology. There are books filled with items where Archaeology has confirmed details from both Testaments. In no instance has any detail been disproved, countless items have been corroborated.

Liberal scholars in the 19th and 20th Centuries heavily influenced by evolutionary theory insisted that Bible histories were in large part merely legendary, but as the archaeologist William Albright states: “the excessive scepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history” (‘Evidence That Demands A Verdict’ Josh McDowell).

Joseph Free in his book “Archaeology and Higher Criticism” comments he once thumbed through the book of Genesis and mentally noted that each of the 50 chapters are either illuminated or confirmed by some archaeological discovery” he adds “the same would be true for most of the remaining chapters of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments”

In 2018 we watched ‘Patterns of Evidence. Exodus’ DVD here at ABC as part of the evening series about Moses. This documentary features interviews with leading archaeologists and outlines scientific investigation to confirm the exodus of Israelite slaves from Egypt was a historical fact, something that had been doubted by many. (Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2assFIyLInE )  

I have been looking at “The Emmaus Mystery” subtitled “Discovering Evidence for The Risen Christ” by Peter Thiede. He shows that only now have excavators through their archaeological finds conclusively shown where Emmaus was, the place Luke records where Jesus walked, ate and revealed himself.

A final thought about reliability and accuracy of Scripture, and that is its internal consistency. Josh McDowell writes:

“Students of the Bible are often troubled to find statements in the Bible that appear to contradict other statements in the Bible. For example, one of my associates had always wondered why the books of Matthew and Acts gave conflicting versions of the death of Judas Iscariot. Matthew relates that Judas died by hanging himself. But Acts says that Judas fell head long in a field, “his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.” My friend was perplexed as to how both accounts could be true. He theorised that Judas must have hanged himself off the side of a cliff, the rope gave way and he fell head long into the field below. It would be the only way a fall into a field could burst open a body. Sure enough, several years later on a trip to the Holy Land, my friend was shown the traditional site of Judas’s death: a field at the bottom of a cliff outside Jerusalem.” (‘Evidence that demands a verdict.’)

It’s worth remembering that whatever passage we read from the Bible and we meet a difficulty we must be certain that we have understood it, that we possess all available knowledge on the matter and that no further light can possibly be thrown on it by textual research, archaeology etc. Unresolved problems are not of necessity errors. We must come in humility and patience as we read the Bible. Week by week we work through passages of Scripture here in some detail and learn the truth of what is being said in a passage and its wider context and how those truths apply to our lives today. We can look at commentaries to help us. I have a volume called “Hard Sayings of the Bible” (Kaiser, Davids, Bruce, Brauch) that help give background, the wider biblical picture and ways of harmonising difficulties. As I learn from scholars like that I grow in understanding. We can all do that.

We should be aware of our own limitations. Sometimes we struggle with the Bible because of our ignorance, sometimes because of our sinfulness- We don’t like what the Bible says. So we don’t like it’s teaching on some aspect of morality or the idea of judgment or hell for example. Not because the Bible isn’t true but because we don’t like God’s holiness and absolute justice. Another reason we find it hard at times is because of temptation. The devil tempts us to doubt God. He comes to us as he did with Eve and says to us “Did God say?”

Well in thinking about the accuracy of the Bible over these two Sunday mornings I have sought to warn about the bias of naturalism against anything miraculous in Scripture, and to stress the reliability of eyewitness account;  the historical reliability of Scripture- that according to textual criticism and manuscript evidence  the Scriptures in our hands are as they were first given;  the reliability of the New Testament Canon;  archaeological discoveries that corroborate the Scriptures and ways of looking at specific passages to discover internal consistency.

I have tried, as Clark Pinnock puts it, “to lay the evidence for the Christian gospel before men in an intelligent fashion, so that they can make a meaningful commitment under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. The heart cannot delight in what the mind rejects as false”

While we would expect accuracy even inerrancy from the Bible since it is inspired by God, we have seen that historical tools of enquiry are not at odds with this conclusion but point towards it. In terms of historical reliability we have only confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s guiding work.

You have nothing to fear from the sceptics. You can believe the Bible. The Bible is accurate- the Scripture cannot be broken. Now as the Holy Spirit calls you to trust His Word, commit yourself to Him, follow His leading with confidence and pray over what you read, ask Him to open your eyes that you might behold wonderful things from His Word.

Recommended

“(New) Evidence That Demands A Verdict” Josh McDowell

“The New Testament Documents” F. F. Bruce

“Making Sense Of The New Testament” Craig L Blomberg

“Why Trust The Bible? Amy Orr-Ewing

“Answers to the Da Vinci Code” (Rose Publishing.2004, 2005.)

Hymn (violin & guitar)

 

My Jesus, My Saviour
Lord there is no one like you
All of my days, I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love

My comfort, my shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You

Shout to the Lord, all the earth let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King!
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of your name!
I sing for joy at the work of your hands
Forever I'll love you, forever I'll stand
Nothing compares to the promise I have in You

Repeat verse

My Jesus, my Saviour
Lord, there is none like You
All of my days, I want to praise
The wonders of your mighty love
My comfort, my shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You

Darlene Zschech

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqSQvoinDE4

Hymn (violin & guitar)

As we are gathered Jesus is here
One with each other, Jesus is Here
Joined by the Spirit, washed in the blood
Part of the Body, the Church of God
As we are gathered Jesus is here
One with each other, Jesus is Here

John Daniels

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCdD5Ouq-2Q

Prayers

Trusting in God’s care for his children, we pray in the name of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

For those who are sick

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Psalm 36:5

We pray for those who are unwell due to the coronavirus: in your compassion, grant them strength and healing.

For our health workers

In the day of trouble you answer us, O Lord, and you protect us; you send us help and give us support. Psalm 20:1-2

We pray for all who minister to the sick throughout our health service, that they may renew their strength in you and be channels of restoration and renewal for those who suffer.

For the anxious

You are near to the broken-hearted, O Lord, and you save the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

We pray for all who are anxious about loved ones, friends and neighbours: enable them to trust in you and be steadfast in hope.

For the lonely and the isolated

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me. Psalm 23:4

We pray for all those who feel isolated or alone, that they may experience your loving presence. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer. For the strong and the vulnerable Lord, you raise the poor and lift the needy.

For those in authority

We cast our burden upon you, O Lord, and you sustain us. Psalm 55:22

We pray for all in authority who face difficult decisions that affect the lives of many; grant them wisdom and courage.

For those engaged in research

O Lord, you are great and abundant in power; your understanding is beyond measure Psalm 147:5

We pray for all engaged in research, who have developed vaccines and remedies for coronavirus: grant them wisdom, understanding and effectiveness in their continued endeavours. We pray for efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines to people of all nations.

For traders and employees

Lord, you are our light and our salvation; whom shall we fear? You are the stronghold of our life; of whom shall we be afraid? Psalm 27:1

We pray for traders and employees who are fearful of the future, that businesses may be secured, jobs protected and families supported. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer. Amen (National Council of the Churches of Christ)

Hymn (piano)

1 Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

Refrain:
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

2 Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear,
when the breakers roar and the reef is near?
While the surges rage, and the wild winds blow,
shall the angry waves then your bark o'erflow? [Refrain]

3 Will your anchor hold in the floods of death,
when the waters cold chill your latest breath?
On the rising tide you can never fail,
while your anchor holds within the veil. [Refrain]

4 Will your eyes behold through the morning light
the city of gold and the harbour bright?
Will you anchor safe by the heavenly shore,
when life's storms are past for evermore? [Refrain]

Priscilla J. Owens

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9aLhTHmuTg

Blessing

May God, the Lord, bless us with all heavenly benediction, and make us pure and holy in his sight.

May the riches of his glory abound in us

May he instruct us with the Word of truth, inform us with the gospel of salvation, and enrich us with his love,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(From the Gelasian Sacramentary)

David Barnes 13/1/21