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Reliable Information (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 29, 2022 3:00 am

Reliable Information (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 29, 2022 3:00 am

The Christmas season is a festive time of year! But what’s the significance of our celebration? How can we know that the story of Jesus’ life is true? Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg presents evidence for the truth and reliability of the Gospels.



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The Christmas season is certainly a festive time of but we need to be mindful of the significance of this celebration. The truthfulness of the Bible, and particularly the truthfulness of the Gospels, like to do so by suggesting that there are discrepancies on account of the fact that the oral tradition could never be a time of security and that God somehow or another could not mastermind the control of the oral tradition so that we might then have this Bible left to us in its sanctity. I don't want to get into this—it is a major point of discussion—except to say this, that a lack of chronological arrangement is exactly what we would expect from oral tradition. In the same way that people write biography today.

You pick up a biography, and it starts when the guy's forty-five, and then it goes back to his great-grandfather, and then it goes over to when he was in high school, and sometimes you have the hardest difficulty figuring out what's going on. And that's what we have in the Gospels. Now, contemporary unbelief, epitomized in the Jesus Seminar—with which some of you will be familiar—who sat down to take the New Testament apart and to use colored pencils and color in the bits that Jesus really said.

As of right now, they have reduced it by eighty-two percent. Of the material that we have in the Gospels, they have determined that only eighteen percent of what is here is the recorded events of the life and words of Jesus is actually the life and words of Jesus. How do they arrive at that?

Well, this is the way they work it. They say, since there was a period of time of oral tradition, when these things were not written down, and since there was in their minds a much longer gap before the Gospels were penned, what we have in the New Testament is not the historical truths concerning Jesus, his works, and his Word. But what we have in the New Testament is a combination of little bits of history, but they are completely impregnated with the views and ideas and mythologies and thought forms of people now living some two hundred years after the time of Christ's walking in Palestine. In other words, the factuality of the New Testament is suspect, and that what we have here is an expression of the faith of individuals who then made up the facts. It certainly flies in the face of the clear statement of Dr. Luke, who says, verse 3, I have carefully investigated everything from the beginning.

Is it not inconceivable that a community whose faith focused so exclusively on a single historical figure could have been, according to liberal scholarship, so blithely unconcerned about the historical facts of the life of this Jesus? Look at verse 2. Those who handed down the material were those who were intimately acquainted with the facts.

They were eyewitnesses and servants of the world. This is not something that is unique to Luke's Gospel. For example, when John writes his first epistle in 1 John, listen to the way he puts it. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched, this we proclaim concerning the word of life. The life appeared, we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard. These individuals who preserved this oral tradition, these eyewitnesses, were not concocting a gospel. They were declaring the gospel. They were not making it up.

They were making it plain. If you examine, for example, the post-crucifixion events—just think about that for a moment—where were the disciples when Jesus' body was taken down from the cross? Preaching? No.

Witnessing? No. On the streets declaring the reality of Christ?

No. They were hidden in a room with the doors locked for fear that they would go the same way that Jesus had gone. When the women come from the tomb with the news of its emptiness and with a variety of stories about an encounter with Christ, these same committed followers of Jesus declare the women out of their minds. When ten of them have a direct encounter with this risen Christ, one of them—namely Thomas—refuses to take at face value the testimony of these ten men with whom he has lived the last three years of his life and says, I will not believe that he is alive unless I can put my fingers in his hands, unless I can place my hand in his side. Now, I ask you, does that sound like a group of people who are just waiting to go out and tell the world about the reality of the risen Lord Jesus Christ?

Not for a moment. It describes a group of people who were disillusioned, who were defeated, who were disappointed, who were fearful, who were faithless. Peter says, I'm going fishing. So then, how do we arrive within such a few days with this same Peter who had gone fishing, who had denied Christ through his curses, who had ended up defeated and in despair and in his tears? How do we find him out on the Jerusalem streets saying, And I want you to know that this Jesus whom you crucified, God has made him both Lord and King.

What produced that? Now, the Jesus Seminar says, just the feelings and the faith of the people two hundred years later who concocted it and wrote it back into the story. Get serious. I would love to go against anybody in a court of law on the basis of that kind of argument.

I wouldn't find that very difficult at all to deal with. The reason that Peter was on the Jerusalem street is not because his faith produced a fact. It's because the fact produced his faith. He's out on his boat. He's not catching a thing. A stranger comes on the shore and says, Hey, put your thing down on the other side. He puts it down on the other side.

They can't contain the fish. Someone says, It's the Lord. Peter dives off the side of the boat, goes walking on the beach, meets Jesus. He makes breakfast for him. He weeps before him.

He is restored. And as a result of an eyewitness encounter with Jesus, he says, Okay, Lord, I will go out now, and I will live for you, and I will die for you. Now, that is what the Gospel writer is saying. He's saying, That's where we got the material to write down these Gospels. We got it from individuals who were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word. I daren't delay on the phrase servants of the Word, but simply say this, that they were not out on the streets propagating their view of the events. They were declaring the testimony about Jesus. These individuals were writing the very Gospels when the knowledge of the life of Christ was challengeable, when the news of the Lord Jesus was still flowing in the minds of people fresh and pure. And it is in that context that Luke then says, I conducted an investigation, and on the strength of that I provided this information.

Now, let me draw your attention to these two thoughts, and I will close. Therefore, verse 3, since I myself have carefully investigated everything… The word there is acribos. It means since I have gone into this with a realm of painstaking thoroughness, since I have examined the light of the evidence available, I have been very careful. You would expect a doctor to be careful, wouldn't you? Doctors are to show meticulous care.

They may be struck off the register if they fail to, and justifiably so, because we place our lives in their hands. If you have listened to doctors taking case histories of people, you know the extent of their thoroughness. If you've been on the receiving end of one of those things, you want to know, Why do you have to ask me all these things? Why do you take such care? Why do you have to poke your nose into everything? Why is it so crucial? Because life depends upon it. Why is it so crucial in the Gospels?

The same answer. Life depends upon it. Luke's not playing fast and loose with the material.

He's not monkeying around with this stuff. He says, The eyewitnesses came, the servants of the Word came, this is what I heard from them, and I took it apart, he says. I went through it with a dose of salt. I didn't leave any stone unturned. I examined it all—not just portions of it, but from the beginning right through to the end.

And those who want to suggest that the Gospels emerge from the fertile imaginations of lively souls should recognize that the charge fits best at their own feet. His investigation was careful, and his investigation was comprehensive. Look at that. Everything from the beginning. And then on the basis of this careful, comprehensive investigation, he provides information. Now, what is the nature of the information he provides? This will, in a sense, come out as we go through all of these studies that are coming.

So let me simply highlight it for you. First of all, the information he provides is historical information. Although this is not all that it is, it nevertheless is this. Secondly, it is reliable information—hence verse 4—"so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." His concern is for this man Theophilus, about whom we know nothing, which doesn't stop people from getting PhDs on the strength of his existence, nor does it stop home Bible studies from shutting themselves down for a week and a half in trying to discover who the man was. It's like the nursery rhyme they went to.

The cat went to London to see the queen and chased the mouse under the chair. So many of our Bible studies are just exactly like that. We miss the point that's actually there, while we chase mice underneath all the different chairs. And for those of you who lead those home Bible studies in these small groups, make sure that you've got a solid working grasp of the material before you go in there, and it'll be like the blind leading the blind. There's nothing quite as unsatisfying as coming out of one of those events and feeling as though nobody had a clue about what was going on, and we chased theological mice underneath the couch and the chair and out into the laundry room and so on. That's just an aside on small groups, for which I'm thankful.

But they need to be led. The information is reliable. It's not myths and fancies. It's not fairy tales.

And I want you to be reminded of that so that you can tell that to your friends this week—friends who have expressed a great interest, for example, in books such as The Elves of Lily Hill Farm. Individuals who, when you say to them, we were studying about the Gospels and how they have been preserved for us in oral tradition and how the eyewitnesses then conveyed the information to the people who wrote it down, and they say, Oh, you don't believe that stuff, do you? I mean, you mean the Mary, Joseph, Babin of Bethlehem, and the Nazareth, and all that? You don't believe that stuff, do you? Yeah. Oh, I could never believe stuff like that. That's bogus.

How can anybody believe that? And then, almost without a pause, they'll go on to tell you. But I'll tell you, I've been reading a great book, The Elves of Lily Hill Farm.

What's it about? Well, the author Penny Kelly describes her enduring relationship and regular conversations with a small clan of elves led by Alvy, a twenty-two-inch-tall spirit in baggy pants and feathered hat. You say, Excuse me? You want to throw me out because I suggest that the Gospels are verifiable, they're historical and reliable, and then you want me to listen to your stories about a twenty-two-inch elf that wears a baggy hat?

Yes, I do. And they may say, And furthermore, did you read those two fabulous books of conversations with God? Do you know that God converses with people?

Well, he does. That's what I was trying to tell you in the Bible. Oh, I don't mean like the Bible.

No, no, no, no. We don't accept the Bible. I mean, really converses with people.

Really like what? Really like Neil Walsh in his two best-selling books on the New York Times bestsellers list called Conversations with God. Neil Walsh, he hears from God. He does. What did Neil Walsh say about it when he was questioned about the believability of his conversations?

This is what he said. I don't really care what you believe. I'm not trying to convince people of anything. And so what people believe on some level is irrelevant.

I am simply sharing. LA Times writer Russell Chandler reports that roughly thirty million Americans—about one in four—now believe in reincarnation. That fourteen percent endorse the work of spirit mediums. That ten million Americans are engaged in some aspect of Eastern mysticism, and nine million in spiritual healing. There is an undeniable interest in spiritual matters. In the old days, you had to go and find a hippie with bare feet and beads to have a discussion about Zen Buddhism.

Today, your next-door neighbor is just as likely to be into Zen as the barefoot hippie of the sixties. But if we don't know what we believe, the pagans will eat us for lunch. And do you know why people are shouting so loud in the evangelical world? Why, when you listen to so much Christian radio, the guy protesteth too much?

At least fifty percent of the time, it's because they are unsure of their own convictions regarding the truth. And I say to you always, and I say to you again, that it is of imperative importance that you, dear folks, and your children and grandchildren after you, our children and grandchildren after us, are confronted with the historicity and the reliability of this material. And finally, his approach to the information is not only historical and reliable, it is also purposeful. Purposeful. What he has provided is a document written by one who was convinced and committed in order to bring others to the same conviction and the same commitment.

He marshals his facts to show the unique significance of Jesus. Aha, says my friend, got you. There you are. You just admitted it. The Gospels are biased. You said it yourself. You said the Gospel writer marshaled his facts and presented them in a certain way.

That's exactly right. But what I'm saying is that he marshaled facts that were there. He didn't marshal facts that were created. And after all, isn't that the way every biography is written? Biographies are not written like, James was born on the second of January 1926. James had a very good day.

On the fourth of January, James had a bottle of milk around nine o'clock, and his mother put him to sleep for three hours. And then it would go on painstakingly all the way through the journey. You say, what in the devil is this thing? That's not a biography. That's just a litany of events. No, the reason you read a biography, and the reason a biography proves compelling, is because the biographer takes the material of the individual's life, and he labors to show the reader why it is we should ever be interested in reading about this character. And that's exactly what Luke does. He takes the material to show why it is we should be so concerned about this Jesus. And his desire is that Theophilus and all the Theophiluses that follow him would come to a convinced and assured faith in Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and Savior. He is not, as the Gospel writer, a conservator of tradition. He is not a novelist. He is an evangelist.

He is not writing to answer the question, Did this happen? He is writing to address what happened, why did it happen, and what does it mean. He was writing to an audience long removed from the ministry of Jesus and geographically removed from the ministry of Jesus. And he wrote his Gospel to provide such an account of the life of Jesus that they might come to find in it a reliable basis for faith. And that is why we are studying the Gospel. So that men and women would come to find in Luke's Gospel a reliable basis for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That those who have on their shelves the elves of Lily Hill Farm and the conversations with God and Zen and Krishna, because they are concerned about spiritual things, that they might find in the pages of the Bible. That along the journey of these studies, lost sheep are found and stragglers are restored, and indeed there is no good reason as to why the pattern would not begin this morning. I do not understand the men who stand in pulpits around the place and themselves have embraced the Jesus seminar.

Do you understand that? That there are guys who are in pulpits around us here, and they believe the Jesus seminar. So they believe that there is only eighteen percent of the Gospel that is actually factual. Well, you say, they get through the Gospel of Luke a lot faster than you're gonna get through it.

Well, that's about the only good thing I can think of. My conviction is ultimately irrelevant, but I do want you to know for those who care that it is the most inconceivable notion of all that I would give my life to the study of this material, to the proclaiming of the eyewitness accounts that are inscripturated in the Gospels, if there was in my mind the slightest shred of doubt concerning their veracity and their life-changing power. Luke was an evangelist, and I am an evangelist, and together we will labor to see unbelieving people become committed followers of Jesus Christ. The Gospel accounts weren't concocted or dreamed up.

They were declared. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg highlighting Luke's historical, reliable, and purposeful evidence for the truth of the stories about Jesus. Now, if listening to today's program made you think about someone who might be interested in finding out more about the reliability of the Gospels, you can pass on to them a link to today's message.

Simply use the share option you find either in our app or on our website at truthforlife.org. Now, we would love for you to share the Gospel far and wide during the Christmas season. You're probably aware that today is Giving Tuesday, and many organizations are probably asking you to give a donation to them today.

Well, that's not what we want to ask you for today. Instead, we'd rather you take this opportunity to make this a season of giving to your friends and neighbors. We're talking about sharing the Gospel with them, and we have a suggestion on how you can do that.

In fact, Alistair is here to talk with us about it. Yeah, Bob, it's a wonderful opportunity, and we're delighted that you have actually made a huge contribution to this by writing this little book, The Four Emotions of Christmas. The fact that you have written it makes it all the more endearing to us, and will actually be to our listeners who write to us often to say how much they appreciate the way in which you do what you do. But the thing about it is that so many people have expectations at Christmas that often leave them feeling very sad, or that they're not really quite sure what to say to another person when they talk about their interest in Christmas, and that it really means something to them. And so instead of just saying, well, you know, Jesus is the reason for the season, which of course he is, here is a little book that they can buy for just a dollar, so it would be easy to buy 10 of them, and if you've got 10 friends, you're off to the races.

And that's what we want to do, make it available and have the opportunity to spread it as wide as they possibly can. Yeah, and we should say the book you're talking about is called The Four Emotions of Christmas, and on this Giving Tuesday, we want to encourage you to use this book to point others to the hope found in Jesus. You can purchase copies of the book on our website at truthforlife.org slash gifts.

And as Alistair said, the price for the book is $1. So we're hoping you'll buy several of these and make Giving Tuesday a day when you give good news of great joy to others. Don't forget, tomorrow is the last day we'll be offering the Advent devotional titled The Dawn of Redeeming Grace. Add a donation after you make your online purchase, and you can request Sinclair Ferguson's 24-day devotional.

In the book, Sinclair examines the birth narratives found in Matthew's Gospel, and he unpacks new insights about Mary and Joseph, about the wise men, about Jesus' genealogy. You can purchase additional copies of The Dawn of Redeeming Grace to give to your whole family or your Bible study group. Read it together, get everyone properly focused on the real reason for our celebration of Christmas. Again, extra copies are available for just $5 at truthforlife.org slash gifts. I'm Bob Lapine. You know, when we think about Christmas, we often think about angels, but not often about a cruel king or a childless couple. What do they have to do with the Christmas story? We'll find out tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-29 11:44:10 / 2022-11-29 11:52:56 / 9

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