Ever since the devil sowed doubt in the mind of Adam and Eve in the Garden, doubters have been in the world. In this sinful world we have all been told or thought on our own, “Don’t believe everything you hear.” Today we cannot necessarily even believe what we see. Human perverseness born of a corrupt heart combined with modern technology has accentuated societal skepticism of just about anything we hear and see, and with good reason. In the past one could be convinced by looking at a picture. Today, not only are lies purveyed through words, but through photo-shopped pictures. We have become skeptics as never before. In our lifetime, never has need for skepticism been more necessary.
Depending on context and circumstance there is something to be said for healthy skepticism. Deception occurs in two ways — through blatant lies, or by withholding the truth. Nations have been deceived by words and actions. Lives have been destroyed by lying words and pictures. Marriages have been ruined by lies. Goods have been sold through lies. Politicians shamelessly lie and spin the truth to enhance themselves or promote their agenda. Whether intentional or not (What shall I believe?), in the current covid-19 world one does not know what to believe or whom to believe since there are countless experts who disagree with one another, and occasionally with themselves. It pays to ask questions to try to determine the truth.
Skepticism, however, is not limited to matters of the world. It is also widely practiced and promoted in the area of religion. From a Christian perspective it bears serious and negative consequences. Skepticism as practiced by religious skeptics and promoters of it is a philosophy in direct opposition to faith which “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence [conviction] of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Bible truths such as inspiration of Scripture, creation, the reality of the Triune God, the person of Christ, Christ as the Messiah are questioned. Skeptics question divine authority, God’s watchfulness over creation, the preservation of man through the Lord’s oversight and care. While not necessarily anti-religious, as a philosophical theory skepticism says truth is not attainable and basically promotes an attitude that says, “Prove it.”
One radio commentator recently opined that one cannot even believe a pastor anymore since much of the church has become more socially and politically oriented. One would like to gainsay it but can’t. Jesus was not addressing politics when He warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). His apostle by the Spirit warns, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit. But test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
In light of Jesus’ warning and John’s alert to the Church, Christ-believers are to listen carefully and test what is taught. As relates to the faith, the faithful should be ready to ask questions, not as the skeptics who doubt the Bible but as believers who respect the Bible. If necessary, we should be ready to inquire of those who claim to speak for God. However, when we do we are to compare what we think we heard or what is being taught or practiced in the name of the Lord to Holy Scripture in as much as the inspired Word of God is truth (John 17:17). God’s Word does not change from generation to generation! From his pastor, never should a faithful Christian hear something that makes him say, “I don’t know what to believe anymore.”
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1: 20). So speaks God’s Word; yet Bible skeptics doubt. Unbelievers deny and skeptics question the evidence of God and His love. The Jews want signs to convince them of God’s truth, and the Greeks (Gentiles) want to be overwhelmed by wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:22). However, faith is not the product of philosophical argument, nor rationalization. One cannot convince the skeptic of the truth of Scripture by mental acuity or by argumentation for the devil always has another question. If a skeptic can be convinced at all it will be only through the Word of God itself. The Gospel, the cross, is the manifestation of the truth that saves, but Jesus was asked by the people, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You” (John 6:30). The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” Jesus told them there would be no sign but the sign of Jonah. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12: 38-40).
The scribes and Pharisees had “Moses and the prophets [Old Testament]; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). They could look it up. Their Scripture recorded Jonah’s experience which the Lord declared to be a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection. From the Old Testament, had they believed it, they could know they were living in the time of fulfillment. They claimed to revere the Old Testament but rejected its divine message.
Purely on the basis of the Word of God that speaks both prophecy and fulfillment, Christ believers confess in the Apostolic Creed, “On the third day He rose again from the dead.” Jesus promises those who believe, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19). We will experience the grand day of resurrection. By the power of the Spirit, we believe it. We do not doubt it. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence [conviction] of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
One may have intellectual knowledge of Christ without the Word but cannot know Christ apart from the Word. One may have an intellectual knowledge of Christ but is not saved without faith in Christ. The Spirit alone imparts understanding of the Word through knowledge of it and at the same time creates the faith that says, “I believe…”. To reiterate, faith is of the Spirit alone, but never apart from the Word. “Faith comes by hearing…” (Romans 10:17). Hearing what? The Word of God. The sinner is justified by grace through faith alone. Faith in what or Whom? Faith (trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ Who by His life, suffering, death and resurrection reconciled the sinner unto the Father. And how is Christ known? Jesus tells us. “You search the Scriptures…these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).
Saving faith is the conviction of things believed, not seen, “though now you do not see Him [Christ], yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable” (1 Peter 1:8). One of the indescribable comforts and joys of faith in the Christ of Scriptures is the truth that we are known of Him. Jesus said, “I know My sheep” (John 10:14). Further, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:27-30).
In contrast to the words of men, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6). Absolutely every Word of God is truth, and anyone who twists it, distorts it, denies it, adds to it, or changes it, is a liar and will in time be proven so. Be alert. Test the spirits. Every Word from Genesis to Revelation is truth, doubters and skeptics notwithstanding. The Psalmist said in his haste, “All men are liars” (Psalm 116:11). Paul wrote, “Let God be true though everyone were a liar, as it is written ‘That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged’” (Romans 3:4, ESV).
So, what shall I believe? In the world and the society, in the earshot of the raucous noises, in face of political agendas, in everyday existence in a corrupt world, maintain a healthy skepticism. What you hear and see today, may change tomorrow, even in the mouths of those who spoke yesterday.
Is there, then, anything one can believe with certainty? Yes! Believe God’s Word! As God is true, His Word is truth. Said He, “I am the Lord; I do not change…” (Malachi 3:6). Jesus, one with the Father, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus said, “… I tell the truth…” (John 8:45) — yesterday, today, and forever! “The testimony of the Lord is sure” (Psalm 19:7). “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). The proof of Scripture truth lies in the message itself. And yes, we believe of the Word even though reason cannot understand. Faith does not understand every what, why, and how. Our Lord knows and gives us understanding of everything that we need to know for our salvation, that while waiting, by the grace of the Spirit, we may live to His glory.
Therefore, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Said Jesus, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:33), for “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6).
To Thomas who wanted proof of Jesus’ resurrection, the Savior said upon offering such proof, “Thomas because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:24-31).
What shall I believe? The word of men? Investigate and verify! God’s Word? Take it to the bank!