When Jesus walked the earth about 2000 years ago, He was faced with a very similar question when the people who heard Him teach wondered if His teaching was truly from God. Jesus answered them by giving this simple, yet profound answer, “...My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.” (John 7:16-17) We can apply this same principle to knowing that the Bible is truly from God. All those who desire to obey God will know by the very words of the Bible that it is indeed from God himself.

This is an astonishing argument, since most people would claim that simply hearing Jesus’ teaching could never be enough. They would have to see miracles before they could believe Him to be from God. Jesus even challenged his hearers to believe because of the miracles He had performed (John 14:11). Yet, did everyone believe in Jesus when they saw these undeniable miracles? No, even when faced with miraculous proof, many remained in their unbelief. The reason for this is found in Jesus’ original answer—­only those who truly want to do God’s will shall know the truthfulness of Christ’s message (John 7:17).

The Bible itself is sufficient proof for all who desire to know if it is from God. This can be clearly seen in a story that Jesus told about a rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19-31. As Jesus concludes the parable, He explains that if they will not believe the message of the Word of God based on its inherent authority, neither will they believe that message if an undeniable miracle was performed. The Bible itself is all the proof that is needed; it is self-authenticating. There is no need for additional proofs or miracles to establish the authority of God’s Word. It stands on its own.

Circular Reasoning?

This argument seems circular—and it is. When speaking about an ultimate authority (which the Bible claims to be), circular reasoning is required by its very nature. If a claim is proved to be true by appealing to some other authority, then that authority must be more authoritative than the claim that was proven by it. To prove something as a supreme authority, one needs to appeal to that supreme authority alone. This principle of authority is illustrated in Hebrews 6:13 when God made a promise to Abraham, “...since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself”

This same reasoning applies to the Bible as a whole. Since the Word is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16), it cannot be subjected to lesser authorities, but must be authenticated by God himself. It carries within itself the character and marks of being the Word of God. The Bible remains authoritative, even if there were none to hear or believe it.

The Problem

If the Bible proves itself as divine, then why do most people still not believe it? The problem arises from the condition that Jesus explained in John 7:17, only the person who desires to do God’s will can see that the teaching of Christ is from God. The foundational problem is that sinful humans do not want to do God’s will because they are blinded by the darkness of sin and the devil (2 Cor 4:4). Therefore, they cannot see the self-authenticating glory of the Scriptures. The person who has their will set on doing what is evil will not submit to God’s authority, since they think of it as foolishness (Rom 8:7). They love the darkness, instead of turning to the light of the Word, which would expose their evil deeds (John 3:19-20).

There is no lack of proof for the truthfulness of the Bible, rather the problem lies in the sinful blindness of all those who willfully continue in their rebellion against God. A sinner asking for proof for the truthfulness of the Bible is like a man who made himself blind and now demands proof for the existence of the sun. He cannot see the glory of Christ because of his darkened mind, which he is fully responsible for (Rom 1:21; Eph 4:18; Matt 13:15; Titus 1:15; 2 Thes 2:10-12). The solution to this problem cannot come from within oneself, since we are unable to give ourselves sight.

The Solution

If all men by their nature reject God and His Word, how can one come to believe that Jesus and his teachings are from God? The answer to this is the very reason that Jesus came to earth in the first place—to bring us to God (1 Pet 3:18). God sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life, and die on the cross taking on himself the punishment for the sin of all those who will turn from their sin and trust in him. Three days later He rose from the grave, conquering death itself.

God commands us to turn away from our sin and trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness and salvation. If we do this we are saved and born again into a new and eternal life with God our Creator. It is only Christ that can save us from our sin and give us a true desire to do God’s will, which results in us seeing the truthfulness of the Bible, as the very Word of God, by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Since the Bible itself, and the gospel message found in it, is the very power of God (Rom 1:16), the best way to come to know the truth of God is to read the Bible and pray that God would give us eyes to see the wonder of His Word (Ps 119:18).

MacArthur and Mayhue summarize this truth well by stating:

The internal testimony of the Holy Spirit illuminates the believer so that he knows that the Scriptures are the Word of God. The biblical basis for this clarity is derived from two sources. First, the words of Scripture are self-attesting because they claim to be from God (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20-21). Second, the Holy Spirit’s dynamic power applies the truth of Scripture, resulting in a confident assurance in the Word itself (1 Cor 2:4-16). This ministry of the Spirit is actuated through the reading and proclamation of Scripture (Rom 10:14, 17). That does not mean that all who hear or read believe (Rom 10:14-21), but it does mean that those who believe do so because of the convicting and illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. (Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth, p. 104).

Recommended reading

John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Vol. 1. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), 78-81.

John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, eds. Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth. (IL: Crossway, 2017), 100-107.

John Piper. A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016).

Michael J. Kruger. “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics.” The Master's Seminary Journal 12, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 69-87.