"It wasn't a potential atonement actuated by the sinner, it was an actual atonement initiated by the savior."

John MacArthur

Can you believe in just parts of the Bible?

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You’ve heard it before, “I believe in the Bible, but not …”

Is that possible? As Believers can we believe in some parts of the Bible and not other parts?

Actually no! – but, let me explain.


First of all, 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 through the only consistent and logical manner possible – that of a “literal/historical/grammatical/synthesis” principle of interpretation, what the Bible says must be true, and that includes all of it.

To believe otherwise would only cause confusion and 1 Corinthians 14:33 states “God is not a God of confusion…”


But…let me give you an example. Let’s 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 this story.


Let me refer you to two interesting verses in 1 Corinthians –

  1. 1 Cor 1:22 which states “…Jews ask for signs,” and
  2. 1 Cor 6:2 which states “do you not know that believers will judge the world?” 

Interesting, so Jews want 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 Nineveh and preach.” Jonah runs away because the enemies of Israel, the Assyrians lived in Nineveh, and books passage on a ship headed in the opposite direction to Tarshish. A great storm overcomes the ship, and the crew and passengers determine, by casting lots, that Jonah is the cause because he has offended God, and to remedy the calamity, toss Jonah into the sea. The Lord provides a huge fish that swallows Jonah and deposits him back onto the shore near Nineveh. Jonah reluctantly preaches and a large number of Ninevites are saved and avoid the destruction threatened by God.


Now, let’s look back at Matthew 12:36-37.

Jesus is speaking to some Pharisees and warns them in verses 36 and 37 “…in the day of judgment ‘by your words you will be justified, and…condemned.'”


In response to Jesus, 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 still “ask for a sign.”

And the sign? Jesus replies in verses 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 be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”


In other words, you don’t need a new sign, you need to believe the Scriptures – you already have the story of Jonah as a sign, and furthermore, 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 should be believed.


But it gets even more damaging. Remember the second verse in 1 Corinthians where Paul states that believers will judge the world?


Listen to what Jesus says as He continues on in Matthew 12:41 “the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it because they 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?  These “men of Nineveh” are some of the believers, who at the Great White Throne judgment, as 1 Corinthians 6:2 promises, will judge you, the very ones who are denying Me and are still demanding a sign.



Do you not believe in Jonah and the fish?

Do you need another sign also?


P.S. So just how many Ninevites were saved? Jonah 3:5 says “the Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. Verse 3:10 records “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on the destruction He had threatened.” We do know from verse 4:11 that there were “a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left…” This refers to the number of children in Nineveh, so the total population is probably around 600,000. Regardless, these are awful significant numbers for the story of Jonah to just be a hoax.

The Book of Nahum records the destruction of Nineveh approximately 150 years after Jonah. Together Jonah and Nahum illustrate God’s way of dealing with nations – prolonging the day of grace and in the end visiting punishment for disbelief and sin.