Refutable Testimony

By Larry Ray Hafley

Most of you remember that Senator Joseph Biden recently withdrew from the presidential race because of plagiarism. Biden, without attribution, quoted Kinnock of Great Britain, John and Robert Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey. He used their material as his own. He also made exaggerated and inflated claims of his scholastic, academic record. He gave testimony that could be refuted, and it was. The media and his detractors checked his words and found them to be untrue.

The New Testament abounds with refutable testimony. It cites known historical characters and specific dates (Lk. 3:1; Acts 24:27). It notices famines and current economic conditions which are historically attested (Acts 11:27; 2 Cor. 8). The Bible contains endless numbers of facts and figures which could have been, should have been and would have been refuted if they were false.

In the competitive world of politics, Senator Biden could not escape scrutiny. The apostle Paul was in a parallel position in the combative world of religion. His enemies hounded him from town to town (Acts 14:19; 17:13). Just as spies were sent to catch Jesus in error and “entangle him in his talk” (Matt. 22:15; Mk. 12:13; Lk. 20:20), so Paul was watched. As Stephen’s utterances were examined for error (Acts 6:9-14), so were Paul’s. If, therefore, Paul’s preaching could have been refuted, it surely and certainly would have been.

It is important to note that Paul’s testimony was open and subject to refutation. As he said, “This thing was not done in a comer” (Acts 26:26). Below are a few samples and examples of refutable testimony.

(1) Paul said that his preaching was based on the Old Testament (Acts 24:14; 26:22; cf. 1 Pet. 1:10-12). The apostle stressed this in various situations in public orations (Acts 13:27; 17:2,3; 28:23). This was refutable testimony. It could be checked, studied, investigated. His peers, his contemporaries, poured over his words (Acts 17:11). Jewish scribes and scholars had hundreds of Scriptures which they would have used if they could have discovered a single discrepancy that did not fit the deeds and doctrine of the Lord. That they did not do so signifies and testifies to the veracity and integrity of apostolic preaching. Oh, think how intensely Paul’s opponents desired to disprove his allegations!

(2) Paul said living witnesses saw Jesus alive after his death (Acts 13:31; 1 Cor. 15:6). The resurrection of Christ is the hinge on which the door of faith hangs (1 Cor. 15:12-19). It is the keystone, the cornerstone, the fundamental foundation fact of the gospel. With the enemies of our Lord seeking a crack in the stone of revelation, trying to find a rip in the fabric of faith, they would have seized upon this testimony if they could have. Biden’s statements were tested and researched by his hearers, and so were Paul’s. If they could have disproved the claim of living witnesses, the gospel story would have become another blip in the history of ignorance and superstition.

(3)Paul referred to his past, his background. He named his professor, spoke of his accomplishments and said it was all documented by his former friends and present enemies (Acts 22:3-5; 26:4,5; Gal. 1:13,14; Phil. 3:4-6). Again, this was subject to review. Senator Biden claimed that he received three college degrees, that he had a full scholarship, that he finished in the top of his class. None of these items were true. They were dissected and Biden was discredited. So, Paul’s foes pounced on his every word. If they could have found that Paul had lied, his gospel would have been denied. But they could not, and it was not.

Conclusion: The point is that the record God has given us of his Son is verifiable and reliable (I Jn. 5:6-13). It is not merely a mass of pious platitudes and “cunningly devised fables” that cannot be observed and tested. The apostles welcomed and encouraged informed dissenters and unbelievers to consider its content and substance (Acts 13:43; 17:2,3,11; 19:8; 22: 1; 26:2,3; 28:23,30,3 1). We, too, may do so today “with all confidence” and “with all authority” (Acts 28:31; Tit. 2:15).

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 22, pp. 675, 687
November 19, 1987