We’ve all heard it before, “I believe in the Bible, but not that whale story….”
Is that possible? Can Christians believe in some parts of the Bible and not others?
Actually, no! – but let me explain.
The All or Nothing Premise
To begin, 2 Tim 3:16 states that “all scripture is God-breathed and profitable….” Additionally, Hebrews 6:18 states, “It is impossible for God to lie.”
If we are to understand the Bible in the only consistent and logical manner possible; that of a “literal, historical, grammatical, and synthesis” approach to interpretation, what the Bible says must be true, and that includes all of it.
To believe otherwise would undoubtedly cause confusion and render the Bible invalid.
The Jonah Example
Let me give you an example. Say I don’t believe in Jonah and the great fish. I mean, it is a bit far-fetched, right?
Well, according to the Bible, Jesus Christ Himself believed in Jonah…but it gets even more complicated to deny that story.
Let me refer you to two seemingly unrelated verses in 1 Corinthians:
- 1 Cor 1:22, which states, “…Jews ask for signs,” and
- 1 Cor 6:2, which states “Do you not know that believers will judge the world [at the Great White Throne Judgement]?”
So Jews wanted a sign in order to believe, and believers will judge the world. But how does this apply to the veracity of the story of Jonah?
First, let’s review the short story of Jonah:
In the Old Testament Book of Jonah, God instructs Jonah to “go to an actual city called Nineveh and preach salvation.” Jonah runs away because the hated enemies of Israel, the Assyrians, occupied Nineveh. So Jonah books a passage on a ship headed in the opposite direction; Tarshish. A great storm overcomes the ship, and the crew and passengers determine, by casting lots, that Jonah is the reason for the chaos because he has offended God. To remedy the calamity, they resolve to toss Jonah into the sea. The Lord provides a giant fish that swallows Jonah for three days and deposits him back onto the shore near Nineveh. Jonah reluctantly preaches, and the Ninevites are saved, which avoids the destruction threatened by God on the city of Nineveh.
Now, let’s look at Matthew 12:36-37.
Jesus is speaking to some Pharisees and warns them in verses 36 and 37 “…in the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned.” To put it another way, your words are the outward manifestation of your genuine spiritual state, to which you are accountable.
In response to what Jesus just said, the non-believing scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 12:38 say, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” Now, this is right in line with what 1 Corinthians 1:22 states, that the Jews will “ask for a sign.” In other words, they still don’t believe Him without some proof.
And Christ responds in the next verse, Matthew 12:39-40 “…no sign will be given…but the sign of Jonah…for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man [Christ] be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Christ responds by saying; you don’t need another sign; you need to believe the Scriptures – you already have the story of Jonah as a sign, and, I am the fulfillment of that.
Jesus has just confirmed the story of Jonah, and we already know that He can’t lie.
Now, this is not the only time Christ chastises the Jews for wanting a sign. In Matthew 16:4, He states, “An evil and adulterous generous eagerly seeks for a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.”
Seems like Jonah may be believable; Christ indeed relies on it.
But it gets even more challenging to deny the Jonah story. Remember the second verse; 1 Corinthians 1:22, where Paul states that “believers will judge the world?” Listen to what Jesus says as He continues in Matthew 12:41 “…the men of Nineveh [those Assyrians] will stand up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it because they [the Assyrians] repented at the preaching of Jonah….”
What Christ is saying is this – remember the Assyrians to whom Jonah preached after the fish re-routed him to Nineveh? They believed, and these very same “men of Nineveh” will join with other believers who, at the Great White Throne Judgment, as 1 Corinthians 6:2 promises, “will judge you.” Yes, you! The same ones who are now denying Me and are demanding a sign.
So Christ not only, confirmed the validity of the story of Jonah, but He also promised that the Assyrians who were saved by Jonah’s preaching will actually participate in the Great White Throne Judgment and would judge the very unbelieving Jews who are right now demanding a sign as they continue denying Christ.
The Creation Example
How about another example?
How many times have you heard that the Bible’s story of creation; “created in six days,” is unscientific? Shouldn’t we all know it was billions and billions of years? Many Christians, in an effort to appear scientific, have even acquiesced and claimed that a day in the creation story is really an era that can each last billions of years.
But what did Christ say?
In John 5:45-47 Jesus says, “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” Simply, Jesus declares that true believers accept all the words of God, including those of Moses. They are all true.
Convincingly, one of the passages in the writings of Moses in Exodus 20:11 claims, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Moses records almost the exact words in his conversation with God in Exodus 31:17.
Billion-year eras make no logical sense with Moses‘ statement. Jesus is affirming, through Moses, that the Genesis creation story of six days is a factual account. Certainly impossible for man, but as Matthew 17:26 asserts, “…with God, all things are possible.”
Either God created the world in six days, or both Jesus and Moses are liars or, apparently, grossly out of touch with science.
As the following instances demonstrate, the Bible is replete with references to the integrity of Old Testament accounts.
- God’s Creation of man (Mark 10:6–9)
- Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4–5)
- Cain’s murder of Abel (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51)
- Noah’s Ark (Luke 17:26)
- God’s judgment on the world by a global Flood (Matthew 24:37–39)
- Abraham (John 8:56–58)
- Lot (Luke 17:28)
- Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire (Luke 17:29)
- Lot’s wife turned back (Luke 17:31-32)
- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—are real historical people (Matthew 22:32; see John 4:12)
- God spoke to Moses in a burning bush (Mark 12:26)
- God fed Israel with manna in the wilderness (John 6:32)
- Moses’ truthful authorship (Luke 24:27; John 5:46–47)
- Moses’ brass serpent healed Hebrew believers of snake bites (John 3:14)
- David’s great deeds (Matthew 12:3; Mark 2:25; Luke 6:3)
- David’s authorship of Psalms (Matthew 22:42–45; Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:42–44)
- King Solomon’s glorious rule (Matthew 12:42)
- Elijah’s and Elisha’s unique miracles (Luke 4:25–27)
- Isaiah’s authorship of the prophetic book bearing his name (Matthew 13:14 citing Isaiah 6:9–10 and John 12:38 citing Isaiah 53:1)
- Daniel’s authorship of the prophetic book bearing his name (Matthew 24:15)
If Christ consistently refers to stories in the Old Testament as authentic, is not denying those stories tantamount to rejecting Christ and His truthfulness?
Do you believe the story of Jonah and the fish?
Or, do you still need another sign?