The Bible’s Witnesses
Text: Isaiah 43:8-13
I. The strength of any testimony depends on the quality of the witnesses giving the testimony
A. In a court of law the witnesses are grilled as heavily as the defendants.
1. An inconsistent witness is not a believable witness
2. Thus the integrity of the witness matters
B. God made use of witnesses - Isaiah 43:10-11
C. God gave evidence so that we could test the truth of His statements and see that the Bible really came from God - Isaiah 46:8-11
1. By the time Isaiah was written, it was clear that God statements were always right.
A. It is an important point because by Jesus’ day, the Jews – God’s witnesses – were expecting the Messiah to show up
B. Jesus didn’t just appear and say “believe me”
1. There was the witness of John - John 1:19-34
2. The Samaritans were expecting him - John 4:25-26
3. Hundreds of prophecies given over a span of over thousands of years were fulfilled in Jesus - John 5:37-39
C. Compare this to other religions.
1. Mohammed, who founded Islam, and Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism, both just appeared.
2. God challenges these and other man-made religions to put up or shut up - Isaiah 44:8-11
D. The question that solidifies God’s position is whether we believe the advance witnesses given by God - Acts 26:27
1. Too many don’t bother to examine Christianity’s evidence and don’t realize how it excels against other world religions.
III. The Need for Questions
A. Jesus expects us to question before committing.
1. He did not expect us to take one man’s words - John 5:31
2. The testimony of men is not enough - John 5:32-35
3. What a person does reveals much more about who he is. Miracles are evidence not to be overlooked - John 5:36
4. The greatest is the testimony of God, yet sadly few accept it - John 5:37-38
5. The witness of the Scriptures. Written evidence existing in advance - John 5:39-40
B. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, those writing the New Testament added their witness.
C. There is even the unwilling witness of the Jews who chose to be enemies of Christ.
D. Consider that people can and have been duped by any single evidence shown above.
1. People have been persuaded by charismatic men
2. Supposed miracles can be faked
3. But Jesus’ point is that you can’t fool people on all these points at once. They can’t be all faked.
IV. The Character of the Witnesses
A. Jesus noted concerning his followers - John 17:12
1. Not one was lost, but the one so prophesied.
B. The witnesses of the Bible all suffered violence and most suffered violent deaths, yet they did so willingly rather than recant their testimony.
1. Can any other religion say the same?
2. Is any comparable?
C. Let’s compare Mormonism as an example. Joseph Smith tried to reproduce the evidence given by the Scriptures for his own religion.
1. In the front of every Book of Mormon you will find two testimonies. One signed by three men, the other by eight men. A total of eleven witnesses.
2. These men swore that they saw angels, saw golden plates, and stated that Smith’s weird story was true.
3. And virtually every one of these men fell away from Mormonism! Some were even thrown out of the church and had to run for their lives!
D. Oliver Cowdery
1. Was the primary scribe of the Book of Mormon. He was “second Elder” of Mormon church, the position of “first Elder” was held by Joseph Smith. He was also “Assistant President of the Church” from 1834 until he was excommunicated in 1838.
2. On April 12, 1838, the church excommunicated Oliver Cowdery, all the living Whitmers on the list, and Hiram Page, along with other non-witnesses. They became known as “the dissenters.”
3. What caused the rift? He disagreed with Joseph Smith’ policies, especially his attempt to blend church and state. But worse is that Cowdery took Smith to task for an affair Smith had with a teenage maid living in his home. This girl later became Smith’s first plural wife, but Cowdery opposed polygamy.
4. Then on June 17, 1838, President Sidney Rigdon preached a sermon calling the dissenters, “salt that had lost its savor” and told the faithful to cast the dissenters out "to be trodden beneath the feet of men."
5. Cowdery understood that this was a call for the Dannites, a secret vigilante society to attack the dissenters. So he fled the region.
E. Martin Harris repeatedly and publicly that he wasn’t there when the angel came and showed the other two the golden plates, which he claimed as a witness. He claimed he only saw the plates “with the eye of faith.”
1. “I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state.”
2. During a trial in Palmyra he told a lawyer who asked, “Did you see the plates and the engravings upon them with your bodily eyes?” He responded. “I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see anything around me - though at the time they were covered with a cloth.”
3. On April 15, 1838, Stephen Burnett gave the following report. “I have reflected long and deliberately upon the history of this church & weighed the evidence for & against it - loth to give it up - but when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave away . . . . I therefore three weeks since in the Stone Chapel gave . . . the reasons why I took the course which I was resolved to do, and renounced the Book of Mormon. . . .I was followed by W. Parrish, Luke Johnson & John Boynton, all of who concurred with me, (sic) after we were done speaking M. Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them, only as he saw a city through a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of (him) but should have let it passed as it was.”
F. Hyrum Smith died in a gun fight beside Joseph Smith in the Carthage jail in 1844.
1. These two Mormon founders were not "willing" martyrs! They are more like John Wayne than Jesus!
2. Sometimes Mormons try to claim both Smiths were martyrs like the writers of the Bible. It is true that they were killed in a gun fight, but they were trying desperately to fight their way out and escape.
3. Here is a Mormon account of such, "Brother Joseph as he drew nigh to Hyrum, and, leaning over him, exclaimed, 'Oh! my poor, dear brother Hyrum!' He, however, instantly arose, and with a firm, quick step, and a determined expression of countenance, approached the door, and pulling the six-shooter left by Brother Wheelock from his pocket, opened the door slightly, and snapped the pistol six successive times; only three of the barrels, however, were discharged. I afterwards understood that two or three were wounded by these discharges, two of whom, I am informed died." (History of the Church, Vol. 7, p. 100, 102 & 103)"
4. The Mormons are rather proud that Smith killed two men before they got him!
G. How different from the founders of the New Testament church!
1. James, son of Zebedee, died about A.D. 44 by a sword stroke - Acts 12:1-2
2. Most of the rest are based on Fox’s Book of Martyrs. It was written long after the fact and it is not inspired, still it is probably as accurate as any other historical account.
3. Phillip of Bethsaida, died in Hieropolis, Phrygia, about A. D. 54. He was scourged, imprisoned, and then crucified.
4. Thomas, also called Didymus. He is the one often called “doubting Thomas.” He died near Madras, India. They ran him through with a spear.
5. Nathaniel, also known as Bartholomew. This is the one Jesus called an Israelite without any guile (John 1:47). In India, they tried to make him deny Jesus by skinning him alive. They failed, so they beheaded him. - II Peter 1:16
6. Matthew, also known as Levi. Killed with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, Ethiopia, about A.D. 60.
7. James, the son of Alphaesus, and James, the Lord’s brother. These two men have often been confused in history. Eusebius, Josephus and Jerome record that one or both of them were killed by the priests between A.D. 64 and 66. One of them was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple. The other seems to have been beaten or stoned to death at the hands of the priests as well. - Acts 26:25-26
8. Matthias who had replaced Judas. Stoned and beheaded in Jerusalem. - II Corinthians 2:17
9. Simon Peter. Crucified by Nero, upside down by his request so he would not die the same way Jesus died since he thought he wasn’t worthy. - II Peter 1:13-14
10. Paul. Beheaded in Rome by Nero. Traditionally on the same day that Peter died. He wasn’t crucified because he was a Roman citizen. - II Timothy 4:6-8
a. Note that some of these men knew they were about to die.
b. They had plenty of time to think about it and went without a wimper.
11. Judas, the brother of James, also called Lebbeaus and Thaddeus. Crucified about A.D. 72 in Edessa, Mesopotamia.
12. Simon the Zealot was crucified in Britain about A.D. 74.
13. Timothy became an elder in Ephesus about A.D. 65, in A.D. 97, at the age of 80 he tried to stop a drunken pagan festival. For his troubles he was beaten, dragged through the streets, and then stoned.
14. John Mark founded the church in Alexandria, Egypt. The local pagans didn’t appreciate it. They drug him through the streets during the Passover. When the governor did do anything, they grabbed him the next day, tied a rope around his neck, and drug him to death.
15. John, son of Zebedee, brother of James. The only one to escape a martyr’s death - John 21:18-23; I John 1:1-4
H. Given the hostile environment these men lived within, if they had cowered or ran, we would have heard about it. But they didn’t!
V. Why? - II Corinthians 4:13-14
A. And people think that Mormonism is just another church of Jesus Christ?
B. Think again! Look at the evidence. Look at the witnesses.
Based on an article by Jerry Blount