I was recently asked by a friend who we’ll call Don, “How can you think a book that was written thousands of years ago is still true for today’s society?” His point was clear: People and cultures have changed over the past 2000 years and the Bible’s message remains unchanged, so it has become irrelevant. It sounds like a valid argument, but is it true? Let’s consider two strong reasons to believe that it is not.
Something written that long ago in that different of a culture can’t still be relevant today, right?
The question that Don was raising isn’t an atypical rebuttal to hear from a 21st Century “scientifically-minded” and post-truth influenced individual. On its surface, it seems to have some validity: The Bible was completed 2000 years ago and cultures have changed immensely over that time. Something written that long ago in that different of a culture can’t still be relevant today, right? The problem is that Don’s question is only true if the Bible ultimately only contained the ideas of men. If the Bible was only produced by the wills of men 2000 years ago, then what Don said would be demonstrably true. However, 2 Peter 1:21 says, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” If this is true (and we have great reason to believe it is), then the message given 2000 years ago is definitely still relevant. Here’s why: First, God doesn’t change with time and, second, the specific problems he addressed within humanity 2000 years ago haven’t changed either.
“God doesn’t change with time and the specific problems he addressed within humanity 2000 years ago haven’t changed either.”
James 1:17 tells us that God never changes and there are no less than 15 other verses that agree to that fact. If that is true, then God’s Word does not change either. Our words reflect our ideas, purposes, and desires. The reason that much of what I said of myself ten years ago would not be true today is because I have changed a great deal! The same is true with every other human. In contrast, God does not change with time. His thoughts, purposes, desires, and character are the same today as they have been for eternity past and will be in eternity future. That means that the way he felt about sin – all sin – 2000 years ago is exactly the same way that he feels today. Furthermore, the consequence for those who would choose to live in sinful ways remains the same today as it was 2000 years ago. On the other hand, the truth that God does not change also means that the Way to receive God’s free gift of forgiveness and eternal life with him is still available through the same exclusive Way (see John 14:6) that he offered us 2000 years ago, namely through believing and submitting our lives to the authority of Jesus Christ.
“Cultures have changed. Buildings have changed. Technology has changed. Humanity has remained the same.”
The second reason that the Bible remains relevant today is that the problems inherent within humanity that the Bible discussed 2000 years ago remain the exact same! Among the most commonly listed sins in the New Testament are: Love for money, loving anything more than God, dishonoring your parents, hating others, coveting, laziness, lying, slandering, hypocrisy, boasting, speaking wrongly of others, materialism, sexual immorality, drunkenness, and gluttony. That isn’t an exhaustive list, but 2000 years ago God said that anyone who has ever committed any one of the sins that I just listed is deserving of the same penalty: Separation from God for all eternity (Romans 6:23) – hell. Unfortunately, I would venture to say that 2000 years later everyone on earth has done at least some of the things I just listed no less than hundreds of times. If we’re still doing today the very things about which God warned us 2000 years ago, then can we really believe that people have changed, or “progressed,” as much as we’d like to think? It doesn’t seem like it. Cultures have changed. Buildings have changed. Technology has changed. Humanity has remained the same.
We still object, “What about all of the people who don’t believe in Jesus?! Why is that the only way to receive forgiveness and eternal life?!”
The good news about the 2000-year-old Bible’s continued relevance is that the promises given by God in it remain true today! Yes, the penalty of sin remains the same, but so does God’s promise to forgive and accept anyone who trusts solely in Jesus, his perfect payment for their sins, and his resurrection (also Romans 6:23). Sadly, something within us still wants to push back against that wonderful promise! We still object, “What about all of the people who don’t believe in Jesus?! Why is that the only way to receive forgiveness and eternal life?!” That is a discussion for another day, but isn’t it true that we should rejoice in the fact that God made a way at all? In 2010, 33 Chilean miners were trapped in a mine with no way of escape for 38 days. On the 39thday, rescuers provided one way for the miners to escape their impending slow and horrific deaths. Unsurprisingly, none of the miners argued that there should be more than one way provided to save their lives – all of them gladly and unflinchingly took the way that was offered to them so that their lives would be saved! How much more should we be consumed with gratitude that God would look on humanity in our most desperate eternal state of need and offer to rescue us through the one Way that he offered? This is truly the most relevant message in all of the Universe.
“Yes, the penalty of sin remains the same, but so does God’s promise to forgive and accept anyone who trusts solely in Jesus, his perfect payment for your sins, and his resurrection…This is truly the most relevant message in all of the Universe.”