As much as we might want to ignore it, and the world surely has not, the reliability of the scriptures and the Gospel remain as a priority for the Christian. We have heard relentless attacks against the reliability of the Christians both by those on the outside and the inside attempting to discredit the scriptures. During each Easter season there is a plot of the media to further cast doubt on the reliability of the scriptures. This has been done in endless ways such as trying to make some unreliable ancient books look more trustworthy the the holy scriptures or recasting the teaching of the scriptures–Judas, Jesus and others. (Click on the Error graphics for helps on understanding cults and outside threats to the church).
In recent years there has been a supposed group of experts who claim to know more about God’s Word than Jesus did. This Jesus Seminar believe they can come up with pretty accurate means of deciphering which words originally belonged to Jesus. They claim that most of the Gospels was not really spoken by Jesus at all. In the end, they assign a few harmless phrases that effectively neutralize what Jesus said. Jesus spoke just the opposite about the reliability of the Holy scriptures.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-19).
There are also those who, supposedly on the inside, twist the scriptures. The cults of Mormonism and Jehovah Witness, the Latter Day Saints, are such groups. They do not agree with the deity of Jesus Christ and the grace of salvation that we read about in Ephesians 1 and 2. They come up with a system of works. They will call themselves Christians and bait people to enter their own organizations. They will often call themselves Christians just to deceive you enough to join their organization.
Paul approached this topic different than we would or could. He as an apostle pointed to the Gospel as given from heaven to him. We will look at the nature of Paul’s knowledge of the Gospel.
Paul uses the word ‘revelation’ (Ephesians 3:3) to describe what God has allowed him to know and see. The word revelation is the same that is the name of the last book of the Bible from the Greek word, apokalupsis. It means to reveal or disclose. Paul is not saying that he was any better than another when he received this revelation (he said he was worse), but only that God had revealed the Gospel to him. When we look back in his life, we realize that it was this revelation that made such a great change in his life. He was on the road to Damascus to imprison believes of The Way and then all of a sudden had this vision, which others also saw. He was led blind into the city, became a believer and called to follow Jesus. Such change came over him that in a short time he had to secretly leave the city for fear of his life. Three times Paul recounts his testimony in the Book of Acts. He does not feel it appropriate to have it stated again here. It was at this time that he received his call to serve and suffer for the Gentiles as he brought them the Gospel. His call to salvation came just prior to His call to preach but both were inextricably linked up to the revelation from heaven.
Paul is telling us that the Gospel is reliable because God revealed it to man. For many generations people could not understand the proper understanding of the Gospel. The question put before us is whether we can trust what Paul said. But actually, the argument goes much deeper. The real issue is whether what Paul had said was true. Was it revealed from heaven to him? Was it:
(1) Confirmed by his life - yes
We have seen this above when Paul had lost all his prestige and power among his Jewish colleagues and only gained disrepute, suffering and finally death later on.
(2) Consistent with what Jesus said - yes
Jesus’ message found in the Gospels is very consistent with what Paul had said whether it be election, total depravity, or that one is saved by faith in Christ alone.
(3) Consistent with the other apostles - yes
The importance of the Book of Acts. Notice Ephesians 3:5. The Gospel has been revealed not only to Paul but many others together correlating the facts of what happened in the years after Christ.
(4) Confirmed by miracles - yes
Paul was not fibbing. People were healed and came back to life all help showing us that the revelation was also true. He was not getting a good commission by getting people to buy his Gospel. No. Nothing like this. This is the reason it is critical to understand the change in Paul’s life. Before anyone understood the full ramifications of this revelation, Paul risked everything including his life to follow and preach Christ. He gained no earthly rewards but disdain, trouble, rejection and hatred. He had no ulterior motive to suffer for the Gentiles.
Our dedication to Christ is dependent upon our belief that without question that the Gospel is true. Our experience is one link in the chain of confirmations. So are the miracles. So is the flash change in Paul’s life. The worst thing that we can do is to dismiss the issue as irrelevant. The people are nice. I will become a Christian. Yes, we hope Christians live nice lives but we need a faith that God has revealed a ways of salvation that goes far beyond what man could do for himself. God wants to build up your faith. He wants you to fight the world. Unless you carry conviction in your heart, you will be easily shaken and no good to anyone. Paul himself could do a lot of good in such a little time because his faith was great.
How great is your faith? Do you ‘kind of’ believe or is your faith of such a nature that it compels you? I advise you to never be afraid of studying the truth. Several antagonistic people like lawyers were deliberately trying to discredit the gospel, but as they got the facts out before them, they themselves became believers.
The fear of examining the facts is a tactic of the enemy which immobilizes God’s people. Let the truth be the truth and like light fight off the darkness by baring its truth! You might need to start studying the reliability of God’s Word. Find out what you question. Get the question out front and then see whether the scriptures really are reliable. I have no doubt that you will find them to be so very reliable. Only when we see their reliability do we better see our need to properly respond to them.
The glory of the Gospel is seen in the next section of Ephesians 3:6-7.