Our church has just finished a 3-part series on the Old Testament book of Jonah. And I just taught an adult Sunday school class on the last part of the book. Surprisingly, for such a short book, there is a lot of stuff you can get into.
While reading the biblical account of Jonah and studying other commentaries about it, I was struck by a very basic truth. That Jonah was an historical account to be believed by all Christians. It isn’t an allegory or parable or fairy tale.
The Historical Accuracy of Scripture
The sad truth is that many Christians are moving away from solid faith in the historical accuracy of the Bible. Jonah’s encounter with the “great fish” prepared by God is a perfect case in point. Men will accept that Jonah was a prophet. But they will fight you on virtually everything else.
For example, they will say that it is impossible that a whale or other “great fish” could have swallowed Jonah whole and then vomited him out alive after 3 days and 3 nights. They have even argued, in the past, that Nineveh did not exist. Until, of course, archaeologists found ruins of Nineveh near the modern city of Mosul in Iraq.
Those pesky archaeologists are always digging up stuff that proves the Bible to be accurate — contrary to the denials of “approved” scientific authorities.
His Word is True from the Beginning
For the believer in Christ, there is nothing more precious than God’s Word. Every word of it. Our faith stands or falls upon the accuracy and trustworthiness of that Word. If it is inaccurate in one place, it is not trustworthy in any other. Everything is linked together.
We cannot pick and choose the scriptures like food from a Chinese buffet. Jesus said, “and the scripture cannot be broken…” (John 10:35). This means that all scripture is God-breathed and must be believed and accepted as it is written. Genesis 1:1 is as faithful and accurate as Revelation 22:21.
Of course, we are always to read the Bible in context; Taking into consideration what the verses before and after a passage are saying. Noting whether we are able to interpret something as literal or to understand it as an allegorical or symbolic passage. But, unless we see clearly that something is allegorical, we must accept what is said as true. To come simply and humbly and accept that God meant what He said.
And we must always compare scripture with scripture. All 66 books of the Bible work together to bring us what the Lord wants us to understand. We must not camp out on one verse in the middle of a book and build a doctrine there. We must study the “whole counsel of God”.
The Minimalist Gospel
Consequently, it is of great concern to me that more and more Christian leaders are believing less and less of the Bible. We are seeing a major movement to create what one might call “the minimalist gospel”. A group of truths chopped down so that just about anyone can accept them.
This movement would have us deny the literal 7, 24-hour-day Creation, accept a regional flood rather than a global flood and toss out just about anything else that doesn’t fit into popular religious or popular scientific acceptance. A very famous pastor said recently that it is really just about the “resurrection”. All else is negotiable. All else is up for grabs!
All of this is done, of course, to create a “gospel” that the world will accept. To avoid bringing “offense” to the world. To spare the world from the “foolishness” of Biblical literalism. And to conform to the world’s acceptance of evolution as the explanation of man’s origins.
There is so much more that can be said about this. It is a very real threat we are facing as Christians. The gospel we believe is under attack from within. The only solution is to stand fast. To believe what God has said and not compromise to please other Christians that are being led astray.
It is tragic, really, that Evangelical churches are exchanging the Truth for a lie. All in the name of “evangelism” and establishing their “relevance” to this wicked and unbelieving culture.
A Book of Miracles
Jonah is a book filled with miracles. It is about the eternal sovereignty and omniscience of God. It puts on display the miraculous things God orchestrated to bring Jonah to Nineveh, God’s provisional care for all those that were involved with Jonah along the way, and His tender and amazing personal dealings with Jonah despite his obstinate heart.
It is a wonderful story that God wants us to believe. A record that Christ Himself referenced as a real event in world history.
And to underscore the importance of the record of Jonah, Christ told us he would give a “sign” for our generation. Something of incredible historical and spiritual significance.
“The sign of the prophet Jonas. . . ” (Matthew 12:39 – 41)