Week Commencing Sunday 10th January 2021

Week commencing Sunday 10th January 2021

(Please note this service will take place at ABC)

Call to Worship.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Like new-born babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it, you may grow up in your salvation. (1 Peter 2:2)

At this time of year it is common for people to reflect on goals for the coming year. ‘Staying safe’ has been a shared goal but we hope for more than that in 2021. Some have resolutions to do with their interests or work, some want to exercise and work off anything they put on over Christmas, others make it their goal to try new foods through 2021 and become connoisseurs!

Christians will desire to grow in their knowledge of God, and to do that we need a different kind of food- to feed on the ‘bread’ of God’s Word. The Bible is God’s written Word to us. It is food for our souls. As we meditate on the Scriptures, personally and hear them taught, we grow in our knowledge of God. This morning we think about the Bible’s accuracy.

Hymn

 

1 Break now the bread of life, dear Lord, to me, 
as once you broke the loaves beside the sea. 
Beyond the sacred page I seek you, Lord; 
my spirit waits for you, O living Word. 

2 Bless your own word of truth, dear Lord, to me, 
as when you blessed the bread by Galilee. 
Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall; 
and I shall find my peace, my All in all! 

3 You are the bread of life, dear Lord, to me, your holy Word the truth that rescues me. 
Give me to eat and live with you above; 
teach me to love your truth, for you are love. 

4 O send your Spirit now, dear Lord, to me, 
that he may touch my eyes and make me see. 
Show me the truth made plain within your Word, 
for in your book revealed I see you, Lord. 

 

Mary A. Lathbury

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQpj4TSe-Ec

 

Prayer

Thank you Lord for your gifts of Creation. For all material blessings we enjoy. Thank you for the gift of life.

Thank you Father for the new life you have given us in Jesus Christ. Our spirits now long for Him. The Living Word. We are grateful for His sacrifice that means forgiveness of sins for us. We want to love Him more dearly, follow Him more nearly day by day.

Thank you for the Scriptures, given to us to help nurture the new life we have in You. The Scriptures that reveal your will, that teach what is true and right and which encourage and enable us to overcome when we face conflict. The Scriptures You use to bring us peace and make us wise for salvation.

Please forgive us those times we have neglected opportunity to develop our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Where we have not prayed or sought your presence. Neither have we taken time to have your words ‘remain in us’. We have made other things- even good things like family, friends more important. We have frittered away an inordinate amount of time on entertainment, and although this last year has restricted much of what we would normally do, to our shame we still have not availed ourselves of the extra time, we have been given to seek your face. We have no excuses.

Thank you that if we confess our sins You are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) We are reliant on your grace and mercy.

Please lead us by your Holy Spirit into the truth of your Word and bless us with that truth, that we might know all your words are reliable and so build our lives upon You and your teaching. Amen.

 

Reading John 5: 36-47

536 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Hymn

 

All my days I will sing this song of gladness,
Give my praise to the Fountain of delights;
For in my helplessness You heard my cry,
And waves of mercy poured down on my life.

I will trust in the cross of my Redeemer,
I will sing of the blood that never fails;
Of sins forgiven, of conscience cleansed,
Of death defeated and life without end.

Beautiful Saviour, Wonderful Counsellor,
Clothed in majesty, Lord of history,
You’re the Way, the Truth, the Life.
Star of the Morning, glorious in holiness,
You’re the Risen One, heaven’s Champion
And You reign, You reign over all.

I long to be where the praise is never-ending,
Yearn to dwell where the glory never fades;
Where countless worshippers will share one song,
And cries of ‘worthy’ will honour the Lamb

 

 

Stuart Townend

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSm6fdZHl5Q

 

Sermon. ‘The Accuracy of the Bible.’ Part 1.

Jesus said “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practise is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practise is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matt. 7:24-27).

Our motto for 2021 this year is taken from this passage: Jesus said “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practise is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’ Our Age has been described as one of uncertainty. When people disagree over fundamental questions of life- of birth, death and the meaning (or otherwise) of our existence. When safeguards like our health or the economy are shaken. These factors have been accentuated in the current climate. Opinion is rife. But without certainty you will be reluctant to put your trust in another person and let their words influence the way you live your life.

John records how certain Jewish leaders were persecuting Jesus (John 5:16) Jesus himself issues a warning to all human beings when he says to them “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me, but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” These words suggest we are not as objective as we like to think. There is a tendency in each human being to seek their own glory, and this they look for through the appraisal and approval of other human beings. This tendency also skews truth and makes it difficult for us to put our faith in the speaker and the message they seek to convey; unless what they offer correlates with our own desires and ambitions!

Jesus, in stark contrast, claims to come in his ‘Father’s name’ (John 5: 43). His works are the Father’s works; ‘the very works that I am doing- testify that the Father has sent me’ (John 5:36). So too Jesus’ words ‘for the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God’ (John 3:34).

Having celebrated Christmas we have been reminded of the Incarnation (See Update 20/12/20) It is precisely because Jesus is God incarnate that He speaks this way. What He says is therefore true truth and utterly reliable. He speaks the words of God because He is God. So much so that in His parable of the wise and foolish builders (from Matthew 7) He can insist all people should not only hear His words but also obey them. Not only that, but to the extent all people obey or disobey His words has repercussions for each person in this life and the next. If Jesus were merely an ordinary human being saying such things then His words would be preposterous even comic in their inflatedness. But if He is God- ‘The one who comes from above is above all’ (John 3:31), then they make perfect sense.

Jesus Himself claims that ‘the Scriptures testify about me’ (John 5:39), and that Moses wrote about Him (John 5:46).

So then, Jesus’ words are either true or not true. If true then- as the Parable of the wise and foolish builders alone indicates- Jesus’ words have consequence for every person in the way they live their lives here and their eternal destiny

So we need to know that we can trust Jesus’ words, indeed that we can trust the Bible as God’s Word. We must have a conviction about the reliability/accuracy of Scripture since it is foundational for all other Christian beliefs, the way we are to live and has eternal consequences

I believe the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. If I believe God created the heavens and the earth, I believe that God exists and created everything, then I believe it’s easy for God to raise the dead or to send a global flood in Noah’s day.

An Astronomer studying the stars, asked God why He went to all this trouble creating so many galaxies and stars- to which God replied “What trouble?” Nothing is impossible with God.

And it is right here that someone with a naturalistic bias would be tempted to rule out anything supernatural in the Bible as unreliable. A naturalistic bias is the presupposition that every event or happening has a natural explanation. Any reference to a divine act or event is futile since the naturalist has presumed there must be a natural explanation for all phenomena. But Naturalism as a philosophy has its own limitations: If Nature is all there is then human existence is essentially meaningless and futile- since death ends everything. Further men and women are in bondage, they are merely victims of their genes and environment- since the spirit and dignity given by God to us to rise above “the machine” is illusory. Naturalistic philosophy which many adhere to today is also founded on evolutionary theory. That Nature has somehow created itself. But can anything evolve from something simple to something more complex without their being an intelligent first Cause? We say steam engines have evolved into the modern engines we have today- but this creation and progress are only possible because of something infinitely greater and complex behind their invention- namely the minds of men and women. So too when it comes to Nature, can we really have everything from nothing without God as the “Prime Mover”-our infinitely powerful and wise Creator? And if the naturalist insists on believing in “gue to you” macro-evolution and see themselves merely as the products of mutation and chance then there is always the doubt of whether they can trust the thoughts of their own brains!

Today this naturalistic bias more than any other-stops a person from hearing reasons given for the reliability of the Bible. As soon as they hear “God” or even “God said” they reject biblical accounts as unhistorical. But this is a biased approach, if you’re like that I would encourage you to have an open mind and go where the evidence leads, even when it points beyond the merely natural. It might be a shock to your belief system that as well as being inconsistent with biblical truth, evolutionary theory has fundamental scientific discrepancies, and conversely, scientific principles as we observe them today confirm the Bible; such as DNA as evidence for the infinite God, the basics of genetics and natural selection as they relate to biblical ‘kinds’, the origin of the so called ‘races’ and evidence for a worldwide flood among others. The best presentation I am aware of that that gives an excellent overview on the accuracy of the Bible in describing our origins is Ken Ham’s ‘Science Confirms The Bible’  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74UIt8uHQPs. If you do not have access to YouTube, the publication ‘Creation & Evolution. Why it matters what you believe’ by Colin Garner covers similar ground. If you would like a copy I can send you one free of charge. Colin Garner is professor of applied thermodynamics at Loughborough University. He will be coming to Angmering Baptist Church on Saturday 24th April 2021 (10.00am-3.00pm) to speak on these matters (along with a Q & A session). All are welcome.

Further when we consider the accuracy of the Bible we should understand the writers of the New Testament either wrote as eyewitnesses of the events they described or they recorded eyewitness accounts of these events. 2 Peter 1:16 says “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). When someone says that there are similarities to Christ’s virgin birth and resurrection in other religions or mythology- like Greek mythology- we need to remember that these vaguely similar stories were not applied to real flesh and blood individuals, but instead to non-historic, mythological characters. But, when it comes to Christianity these events are attached to the historic Jesus of Nazareth whom the New Testament writers knew personally. Eye witness accounts.

But would their commitment to Christian theology have skewed their accounts? Craig Blomberg writes: “There is no question that a special agenda can skew the facts, but in certain instances the very ideological commitments that lead to recording a certain portion of history require that one tell the story straight. Consider the example of Jewish historians after the Nazi holocaust in the mid-twentieth century. Precisely because of their passionate concern that such atrocities never again befall their people or anyone else, Jewish chroniclers carefully collected and published detail after detail about the horrors their people experienced, culminating in the death of six million” (‘Making Sense of the New Testament’ Craig L Blomberg).

Blomberg goes on to write that Jews and Christians through both Old and New Testaments were concerned to demonstrate that God had acted in history to provide salvation for humanity, realised in Jesus’ once for all sin offering and resurrection in the New Testament. If these claims were not historically accurate Christianity collapsed. Blomberg states “Therefore the very theology that the sceptics claim would have warped the New Testament accounts more likely acted as a safeguard against such distortion”

We should also remember the impact of Christ’s resurrection on these eyewitnesses:

“Each of the disciples, except John, died a martyr’s death. They were persecuted because they tenaciously clung to their beliefs and statements. As Paul Little writes: ‘Men will die for what they believe to be true, though it may actually be false: They do not, however, die for what they know is a lie” If the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body, they would have known that their resurrection proclamation was false. However they constantly referred to the Resurrection as the basis for their teaching, preaching, living and- significantly- dying. The theory that the disciples stole the body, then, is utterly absurd! (‘Evidence that Demands a Verdict’ Josh McDowell)

The Bible attests to its own accuracy. O.T. Psalms, Psalm 12:6 “The words of the Lord are flawless. Like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.” David is saying the Scriptures are perfect. Jesus in His great High Priestly prayer- John 17:17- “God’s word is truth” and in John 10:35 He says “the Scripture cannot be broken.” Promises can be broken, marriage vows can be broken, contracts can be broken. International agreements can be broken, but God’s Word cannot be broken.

Further, it is a detailed accuracy. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and there are some very small letters and symbols called jots and tittles. The jot is like a dot on an eye, and the tittle would be the difference between a small “t” and an “l” the tittle would be the little bar across the l that makes it a t rather than an l. A tittle is a small part of a letter. And Jesus tells us that not a jot or a tittle will pass away from God’s word. NIV translates it- Matt 5:18- “Jesus says I tell you the truth, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” In Luke 20 we have Jesus debating with the Pharisees. They are debating one letter of the Hebrew Scriptures.

This confidence in Scripture comes from a recognition it is inspired by God. Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 3:16 that “All Scripture is God- breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The Bible is from the breath of God. Geisler says “Inspiration can be defined as the mysterious process by which God worked through human writers, employing their individual personalities and styles to produce divinely authoritative and inerrant writings.”

Sadly some people have copied manuscripts or translated the Bible and made mistakes. 1631 published a version of the Bible known as “The Wicked Bible”. Because when they wrote the seventh commandment, they left out the “not”. They read there “Thou shalt commit adultery”!! Or in Oxford in 1810 another version of the Bible, known as the wife -hater Bible because in Luke 14: 26 Jesus says “if a man comes to me and does not hate his own life he cannot be my disciple” Unfortunately they printed “if he doesn’t hate his own wife he cannot be Jesus’ disciple. Now these are mistakes. But they are not mistakes in the Scriptures. They are mistakes in the copying or printing of the Scriptures.

We need to get back to the original words of Scripture. Thankfully down through the ages people have valued the Scriptures so highly and translated the Scriptures so carefully that mistakes have been recognised and dealt with very thoroughly. We can be confident in our Bibles we have the very words of God.

Critics say the original manuscripts must be different to what we have today because through the centuries people would add bits and there would be mistakes and so on. But that is not true. Let’s consider the Old Testament in the light of this charge:

In transmitting the Jewish scriptures- our Old Testament- the Scribes were meticulous. According to the Talmud, there were specifications not only for the kind of skins to be used and the size of the columns, but the scribe was even required to perform a religious ritual before writing the name of God. Rules governed the kind of ink used, dictated the spacing of words, and prohibited writing anything from memory. The lines and even the letters were counted methodically

Then with the Dead Sea Scrolls came an astounding discovery. Scholars now had Hebrew manuscripts dated 1000 years earlier than the Masoretic Text manuscripts, which enabled them to check the fidelity of the Hebrew text. They found a word for word identity in more than 95% of the cases, the 5% variation consisting mostly of slips of the pen and spelling. They were amazed at how accurately the Scriptures had been handed down through the generations.

When Robert Dick Wilson was 25 he had a doctorate in theology. He had read the New Testament through in 9 different languages. He was concerned that some of his lecturers were teaching that the Bible contained errors. And when he studied what the scholars were teaching him they had copied what others had told him. No one had gone back to the source to check if what was being said was true. He determined to study the very source evidence for the Old Testament himself. He split his lifetime into 3 sections of 15 years. For 15 years he would study all the languages relating to the Old Testament Scriptures. At the end of that period he had learnt 45 languages and dialects. For the next 15 years he studied the Old Testament. Final 15 years he lectured, taught and wrote up all his findings. His scholarship has not been surpassed. And he has given us compelling evidence for the reliability of the Old Testament. He wanted to give his students “Such an intelligent faith in the Old Testament Scriptures that they will never doubt them as long as they lived”

Regarding the New Testament documents, again the evidence for their authenticity is very strong. What we have in our Bibles is what was originally written. We know this through the science of textual criticism. Essentially the more texts we have, the less doubt there is about the original. The late Professor FF Bruce shows in his book “The New Testament Documents Are They reliable?” how wealthy the New Testament is in manuscript attestation by comparing its texts with other historical works.

“For example, there are only nine or ten good manuscripts for Caesar’s Gallic War, and the oldest derives from nine hundred years after the dates of the events described. Only thirty five of Livy’s 142 books of Roman history survive, and these in about twenty manuscripts, only one of which is as old as the fourth century. Only four and one-half of Tacitus’s fourteen books of Roman history have survived, and these in only two manuscripts dating to the ninth and eleventh centuries.

By contrast the textual evidence for the New Testament from the first centuries after it was written is staggering. Bearing in mind the New Testament was probably written between AD40 and AD100. We have excellent manuscripts of the whole New testament dating from as early as AD 350 (a time span of only 300 years), papyri containing most of the New Testament writings dating from the third century and even a fragment of John’s Gospel dating from about AD 130. There are over 5000 Greek manuscripts, over 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 other manuscripts, as well as over 36,000 citings in the writings of the early church fathers. As one of the greatest ever textual critics, FJA Hort, said, ‘In the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests, the text of the New Testament stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose writings.” (Cited in ‘Making sense of the New Testament’ Craig L Blomberg & ‘Questions of Life’ Nicky Gumbel who also adds the Hort quotation)

 So then against this charge of the corruption of Old or New Testaments through time we can affirm with Sir Frederick Kenyon “The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God. Handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries. The Scriptures are inerrant and infallible as originally given.” We have the original words in our hands.

 

Well in thinking about the accuracy of the Bible I have sought to warn against the bias of naturalism against anything miraculous in Scripture, that the Bible’s account of our origins is accurate, 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.

Next week we will look at the reliability of the New Testament Canon- in opposition to the fraudulent 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!

………………………………………..

 

Song. ‘Thy Word’. Amy Grant. (Recording)

 

[Chorus:]
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path

When I feel afraid, think I've lost my way
Still You're there right beside me
Nothing will I fear as long as you are near
Please be near me to the end

[Chorus]

I will not forget your love for me
And yet my heart forever is wandering
Jesus be my guide, hold me to Your side
And I will love You to the end

[Chorus]

Nothing will I fear as long as you are near
Please be near me to the end

[Chorus]

And a light unto my path
You're the light unto my path

 

 

Amy Grant & Michael W Smith

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6LC8cu03Ig

 

 

Prayers

 

Wonder-speaking God, you created all there is by the power of your Word and renew us daily by your life-giving Spirit. We give thanks for the Scriptures that you give us the wisdom leading to salvation through Jesus Christ, and that teach, train and correct us. We pray for all involved in the translation, distribution and production of the Bible worldwide, and for all who help people understand and live by it. Lord, so shape your people by your Word that we will bring life and hope to all around us through Jesus, your living Word. We ask this for your glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen. (The Bible Society).

 

 

How long, Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

We pray for those who feel forgotten and unseen, may they know that they are remembered and seen by you God.

Help us to partner with you to remember the forgotten.

Search our hearts to reveal those we hide our faces from, the outcast, the stranger or the homeless. Change our hearts, that we may turn our faces towards these people and see them as your beloved children.

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

We pray for those we know who struggle with mental illnesses, anxiety and depression. We pray that there will be resources released to help, enough staff employed and finances given towards mental health services nationally. Help us to be a friend and a listening ear to those who suffer. Fill us with compassion and wisdom.

Ultimately, we pray for those who wrestle with sorrow, that they may know your victory over those dark thoughts which currently seem to triumph.

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,'
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

We pray for those who might be considered fallen by those around them: may they know your restoration and grace. Help us to not judge or exclude your beloved children, but instead lift them up in prayer, and embrace them with the grace we know in Christ.

Thank you, loving Father God, for hearing our prayer.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord's praise,
for he has been good to me.
(Intercessions based on Psalm 13 Sara Hargreaves)

 

 

Hymn

 

 

1 Soldiers of Christ, arise,
and put your armour on,
strong in the strength which God supplies
through his eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts,
and in his mighty power,
who in the strength of Jesus trusts
is more than conqueror.

2 Stand then in his great might,
with all his strength endued;
but take, to arm you for the fight,
the panoply of God.
 

Leave no unguarded place, no

weakness of the soul;
take every virtue, every grace,
and fortify the whole.

 

3 To keep your armour bright,
attend with constant care;
still walking in your Captain's sight,
and watching unto prayer.
From strength to strength go on;
wrestle and fight and pray;
tread all the powers of darkness down,
and win the well-fought day.

 

 

Charles Wesley

 

Blessing. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.

David Barnes 6/1/21