Knowing What We Believe
The world will tell you that you can’t really know truth–that those who follow Christ by faith put their trust in a God they can’t see or know. It’s just blind faith with no evidence or facts.
Nothing could be further from the truth. (See what I did there?)
We actually have more evidence for God as Creator than any other explanation for life. (See here, here, and here.) And we have more evidence for the reliability of the Bible than any other work of history in the world. (Read here, here, and here.)
As we explored in last week’s post, faith and action go hand in hand. I’ll go a step further today and say that faith and knowing also go hand in hand.
First, let’s dive into the word faith. The Bible’s only definition of faith is in Hebrews.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”Hebrews 11:1, NIV
The writer of Hebrews goes on to explain that the ancients were commended for their faith. They were certain of what they did not see, but many of them walked with God (Enoch, Noah), heard His voice (Abel, Abraham, Moses), and experienced Him in powerful ways (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph).
They walked by faith in response to the God who had revealed Himself to them. That’s not blind faith. That’s a faith that comes in response to a knowing.
Now, let’s look at the word know. The Hebrew word know means to know, recognize, or understand.
Throughout the Old Testament, God revealed Himself to His people. He is a God who invites us to know that He is God–not just to believe.
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”Psalm 46:10
This verse comes in the context of the psalmist’s calling the people to “come and see the works of the LORD” (8). God had brought them victory against their enemies, and that victory was proof that He is God and He was with them.
Their faith was based on their knowing.
Then the Word became flesh. God became a Man and entered our world to seek and to save the lost. How would we know that He was really God? How would we be able to follow Him in faith?
Jesus performed miracles to prove that He was God.
“Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…’ Then he said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, take your mat and go home.'”Matthew 9:4-6
Jesus had the authority as the Son of God to forgive sins, but that’s not something they could see. So, he healed and performed miracles so the people could see, know, and believe.
After walking with Him for days, weeks, and months, the disciples struggled to understand the truth of who Jesus was. But when He asked them point blank, “Who do you say I am?” they acknowledged He was God.
“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”Matthew 16:16
By the time Peter made that declaration, he had seen Jesus teach with authority, heal the sick, cast out demons, calm the storm, raise the dead, feed thousands with a few loaves and fish, and walk on water.
Peter went on to share his eyewitness testimony with John Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark just twelve to fifteen years later, which is very early as far as historical documents go. (For example, the earliest historical documentation we have about Alexander the Great, the leader of the Greek Empire, was written at least 200 years after his death.)
Peter was later crucified for his faith in Jesus. One might say that many people will sacrifice their lives for a cause that is not legitimate. But would they if they were in the unique position to actually know if it were true or not?
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”John 6:68-69, italics mine
Peter knew. He followed Jesus because He believed He was the Messiah and He went on to die for that faith. His faith was based on the truth of who Jesus revealed Himself to be. Many of Jesus’ followers died for their faith. Had it all been a lie, they would have known better.
Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). He wrote 13 of the New Testament books, sharing the good news that Jesus is the Messiah even under harsh persecution and imprisonment by the Roman Empire.
He shared his eyewitness testimony with Luke, his companion and friend, who later wrote the Gospel of Luke within twenty years of the time of Jesus’ death. Luke said this:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”Luke 1:1-4, italics mine
We don’t know exactly who Theophilus was, but Luke made it clear that he had investigated this account that was handed down from eyewitnesses and that it can be known with certainty that it is true.
All of the Gospel accounts were written within the first hundred years of the life of Christ, during the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses. If these testimonies were not true, those who were there could have refuted them. But they didn’t.
We have over 5,000 copies of the original Scriptures in Greek, and over 15,000 copies in Latin, Coptic, and Syriac languages that when compared to one another are amazingly the same. Compare that to the writings of Homer, which at under 700 copies is the most of any other literary documents. (See here.)
We have archaeological and historical evidence that the names and places referenced were accurate. Sometimes information left out of one Gospel is explained in another. The fact that there are “discrepancies” between the Gospels further proves that they were actual eyewitness accounts.
Ask any detective and you will find that eyewitnesses almost never describe events exactly the same. In fact, if two testimonies are verbatim, investigators are suspicious. But when testimonies are reliable, they reflect the unique perspectives of the eyewitnesses.
We also have historical documents outside the Bible that verify the facts. The historians of the time period corroborated most of the main facts, even though they were hostile to the movement of Christianity. (That fact alone lends further credence to the reliability of the accounts because they weren’t trying to prove Christianity.)
Josephus, Thallus, Tacitus, Mara Bar-Serapion, Phlegon, and Pliny the Younger together tell of a man named Jesus who lived in Judea, was reportedly born of a virgin, had a carpenter for a father, was a good man, had miraculous powers, had a large following of disciples, could predict the future, taught a high moral code, claimed to be God, and was crucified by Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. They tell that there was darkness and an earthquake at the time of his crucifixion, that he reportedly rose from the dead, was seen by many after his death, was believed to be the Messiah by many who adopted his teachings and lived according to their belief in him, and that his followers were called Christians. And they were persecuted for their faith in him.
We would have all of this information even if the Bible had not survived!
In other words, we have much evidence for our faith.
God gave us the ability to think and reason. Our faith is not unreasonable. But it’s also not just belief in a set of facts. Our faith and our knowing go hand in hand. And God gives us the evidence that we may be certain of it.
The early followers of Christ had that certainty, and we can too.
“Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”2 Timothy 1:12
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”1 John 5:13
Do we know everything? Of course not. But our faith is grounded in the truth. We can know that we know that our faith is real.
Do you follow God because that’s what you were taught to believe, you were raised in church, or you had an experience that changed your life? There’s nothing wrong with any of those reason, but many believers of other faiths cite those same reasons for their belief.
So, what is your faith grounded on? Could you share your reasons for believing to someone who had doubts or questions? As my pastor says, “We don’t have a hope-so faith. We have a know-so faith.”
When you know what you believe and why you believe it, then you become a true disciple–one who is willing to risk it all to follow Him.
Do you want to understand the Bible better so you can know what you believe? Check out my FOCUSED 15 Bible Study Club where I teach the historical, chronological, and cultural background of the Bible.
For more on Faith and Action, click here.
For further reading, check out these books:
The Case for a Creator, The Case for Christ, God’s Crime Scene, Cold-Case Christianity, Forensic Faith
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