Inspiration of the Scriptures
In Week Two, Trustworthiness of the Scriptures, emphasis was placed on theological integrity: We must place our trust in the Scriptures, just as the church has maintained over time.
Approaching our reading and study of the Scriptures rightly comes first with an accurate understanding of doctrinal truths. Sound doctrine reflects in summary what the Word affirms and what the church is bound to believe. Good theology reflects sound doctrine and stands in direct contrast to false doctrine. Sound doctrine of the Word of God is the foundation of all good theology.
God’s Word is trustworthy. It conveys what is true and demands what is right. Affirmation of the inspiration of the Bible furthers Christians’ maturity in their attitudes toward the Scriptures, the truthful voice of God. Read the following:
- Deuteronomy 30:11-14
- Psalm 33:6-9
- Psalm 119:75, 89, 96, & 160
- John 17:17
- Acts 4:25
- In what way would the Doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture affirm the Bible’s trustworthiness?
- If all Scripture (every book, chapter, line, and word) is breathed out, where is the source of Scripture’s inspiration from?
- Affirmed in Acts 4:25, David was God’s mouthpiece. How do the Psalm 119 verses characterize God’s Word? List specifics.
- God’s Word is holy, showing his lordship attributes. Using Psalm 33:6-9, how would you describe this?
What do we mean when we say, the Bible is inspired by God? “We do not mean that every sentence in it is inspiring. Many are; but some are also very mundane. Sometimes the apparently mundane turns out to be wonderfully inspiring. Read as it is meant to be, as the story of God’s plan unfolding from the time of Abraham until the coming of Christ, and it turns out to be a thrilling survey of God’s sovereign Lordship over history. But inspiration does not mean the Bible is inspiring like a beautiful and moving symphony or a deeply poignant poem. In fact when Paul wrote that all Scripture is ‘inspired by God,’ he was not thinking about its effect on us, but about its source in him,” Sinclair Ferguson explains.
The term inspiration is drawn from the older English translations of 2 Timothy 3:16. For example the Geneva Bible of 1560 rendered Paul’s words, “The whole Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” In defining inspiration, Wayne Grudem writes that inspiration refers to, “the fact that the words of Scripture are spoken by God.” Theologian B. B. Warfield writes, “The Bible is the Word of God in such a way that when the Bible speaks, God speaks” (emphasis mine). Paul’s point in his writing is not that Scripture is inspiring to read (although, it can be), or that the authors were inspired (yet, they were), but that Scripture’s origin means it is the very Word of God.
“The Bible is the product of God’s own creative breath.” – Dr. Chuck Quarles
- Have you found parts of Scripture to be inspiring at times?
- We are not judges of God’s Word; God’s Word is contrarily judge of us. Have feelings of embarrassment caused you to ascribe to some portions of Scripture, but not to all?
- Is denial of the superintending work of the Holy Spirit in particular parts of the Bible a low view of divine action? Why or why not?
- Consider the relationship of the Trinity to biblical inspiration. How would you define it?
- Read Deuteronomy 30:11-14. What would be the benefits of spending time in the Word?
Historically, Christians have held to the view that God is the ultimate author of the Scriptures. Today, when a person breathes out their speech, it is in audible form. When God Almighty breathed out in speech long ago, His word was written down by the prophets and then the apostles. Inspiration extends to the writings, not merely the ideas — the words, not simply the word. It extends to the tenses of the verbs, the letters of the words, and the smallest parts of the letters. Summarized by the term verbal-plenary inspiration, it can be broken down into: verbal, meaning in its words, and plenary, meaning in its entirety. In relation to Scripture, Verbal emphasizes that the actual words are God-breathed, while Plenary emphasizes the fact that Scripture is equally God-breathed in all of its parts: Thus its inspiration is described as verbal-plenary. Read the following:
- Genesis 12:7
- Exodus 3:6
- Matthew 5:17-18; 22:31-32
- John 10:35
- Galatians 3:16
- In your own words, what does verbal-plenary inspiration mean?
- If someone’s view is denial of plenary (full) inspiration, what reliable criteria would decide which parts?
- Do you see Jesus’ argument for the resurrection of the dead as a present-tense verb in Matthew 22:31-32, quoting Exodus 3:6?
- Did you catch Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:16, in which he was quoting Genesis 12:7?
- Does Scripture support itself concerning inspiration?
Paul Enns gives a description referencing the text itself inspired, and referring to quality of context, not the human author, “Inspiration may be defined as the Holy Spirit’s superintending over the writers to that while writing according to their own styles and personalities, the result was God’s Word written – authoritative, trustworthy, and free from error in the original autographs.” In addition, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “You must accept the revelation as infallible, or you cannot unquestioningly believe in the God therein revealed. If you once give up inspiration, the foundations are removed, and all building is laborious trifling. How are the promises the support of faith if they are themselves questionable?”
From Article VI of the Chicago Statement, “We affirm that the whole of Scripture in all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration. We deny that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.” Read the following:
- Genesis 2:7
- 2 Timothy 3:15-17
- 2 Peter 3:16
- Psalm 119 and 2 Timothy 3:15-17 run through the entirety of this series. In your own words, paraphrase 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
In 1 Timothy 3:15-17, Paul is encouraging Timothy to continue in the teachings he has received. Paul makes the assumption that Timothy is familiar with the Scriptures and urges him to continue in them since they are divinely inspired. The impression here is that they are divinely produced, just as God breathed the breath of life into humans. Therefore, they carry value for building up the believer into maturity to be equipped for every good work. If we are to take Paul as our model for what it meant to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, then it would be fair to say that the New Testament (as well as the Old) is not merely from man but also from God. The writers of the Old Testament and the New Testament spoke as they were moved by the Spirit.
In the New Testament, a number of passages indicate that all of the Old Testament writings are thought of as God’s words. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem references 2 Timothy 3:15-16, “Paul here affirms that all of the Old Testament writings are theopneustos, ‘breathed out by God.’ Since it is writings that are said to be ‘breathed out,’ this breathing must be understood as a metaphor for speaking the words of Scripture. This verse thus states in brief form what was evident in many passages in the Old Testament: the Old Testament writings are regarded as God’s Word in written form. For every word of the Old Testament, God is the one who spoke (and still speaks) it, although God used human agents to write these words down.” Read the following:
- Isaiah 7:14
- Matthew 1:22
By context, “all Scripture” in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 refers properly to the 39 books of the Old Testament. Wayne Grudem writes, “In the context of Jesus’ repeated citations from Deuteronomy to answer every temptation, the words that proceed ‘from the mouth of God’ are the written Scriptures of the Old Testament.” However, the New Testament writings are elsewhere included with the Old Testament as Scripture. Therefore, all Old and New Testament writings are viewed as Scripture and thus both are considered “God breathed.” In other words, the Old and New Testaments are equally inspired and equally authoritative. When we turn to the early church’s preaching, we find similar understand of the Old Testament. This fits well with the prophets’ own testimonies. Again and again, they declared “Thus says the Lord.” Read the following:
- Matthew 4:4
- 2 Peter 1:16-21
- 2 Peter 3:13-16
- Deuteronomy 25:4; Luke 10:7; Acts 3:18-21; 1 Corinthians 9:8-14; 1 Timothy 5:8
- Referencing Matthew 4:4, what is meant by living by every word that comes from the mouth of God? Does this encourage you?
- The prophetic word would have been prior to Peter’s own eyewitness account. Regarding 2 Peter 1:19-21, where did Peter place his confidence?
- Did what was seen on the mountain by Peter, James, and John confirm the prophetic word?
- What three different terms are used when Peter is referring to the word of God in these verses?
In the Old Testament, we read in Exodus 34:27, “The Lord said…The word of the Lord came to the prophet…saying…Write down these words.” In Hebrews 1:1, we read “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways…” We read Jesus’ use of the Old Testament in Matthew 1:22 citing Isaiah 7:14, in Matthew 4:4. Once again, Wayne Grudem reiterates, “the pattern of attributing to God the words of the Old Testament Scripture should be very clear.” Read the following:
- Exodus 34:27
- Isaiah 7:14
- Deuteronomy 1:3
- Matthew 1:22
- Matthew 4:4
- Matthew 5:17-18
- John 10:35 (referring to Psalm 82:6)
- Acts 4:24-26 (quoted Psalm 2:1-2)
- Hebrews 1:1
The authors were divinely prepared to write God’s word in much the same way as the prophets were made ready to speak His word. Jesus himself gave the guarantee for what the apostles taught and wrote. Thus, promising the Holy Spirit for the New Testament writings in their truthful witness to him and his work. In the mechanics of inspiration, scripture is not a matter of the human author’s interpretation or explanation. Paul wrote some things difficult to understand. However, the rest of scriptures told us the letters are a part of the scriptures and the apostles recognized their authenticity. As we have established the very words of Scripture are God’s very words, the Bible is the word of God down to the smallest letter or even part of a letter. Read the following:
- John 14:26
- Acts 4:21-26 (quoting Psalm 2:1-2)
- 1 Corinthians 2:10-13
- 1 Thessalonians 2:13 & 4:2
- In the scriptures covered thus far, where do you find Old Testament evidence for the Doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture? New Testament evidence for this Doctrine?
- Is inspiration uniform throughout the Bible or are there different degrees or differing levels of inspiration? Support your answer.
- Do you place emphasis on the red letter words of the Bible, seeing them as more fully inspired than the black? Why might this be an error?
The Book of Psalms slowly developed over an extended period of time and reflects the full spectrum of ordinary human experience and emotions. But it was under God’s loving superintendence the authors were given words by which to express every aspect of human experience. Inspiration is concursive– the Spirit and the human authors wrote together. Dr. Gregg Allison, Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, adds, “The Spirit’s work was not just the influence of providential care or guidance that all Christians experience as they walk with God. Nor extend only to the thoughts or ideas in the minds of the human authors. This particular work of the Holy Spirit was unique to the prophets and Jesus considered that what Moses said, God himself said (Matthew 19:4-5. Quoting Moses’s comment about marriage [Genesis 2:24] and ascribing it to ‘he who created them’ that is, God).” Read the following:
- Genesis 2:24
- Deuteronomy 1:3
- Isaiah 8:11; 66:1
- Jeremiah 30:4
- Matthew 19:4-5
- Acts 1:16
- Acts 3:18, 21 & 4:25
- 2 Samuel 23:2
- Amos 3:1
- Micah 4:4
- Why can we not reduce the writing of Scripture to merely human work?
- Do you see Scripture’s own affirmation about itself being divinely inspired? List the verses.
- In what ways does the Bible witness to its divine origins?
2 Peter 1, in verses 17-18 and 21, the word phero, is translated as “produced” in 21 or “borne” in 17 and 18. B.B. Warfield explains, “The term here used [for carried/borne] is a very specific one. It is not to be confounded with guiding, or directing, or controlling, or even leading in the full sense of that word. It goes beyond all such terms, in assigning the effect produced specifically to the active agent. What is ‘borne’ is taken up by the ‘bearer’ and conveyed by the ‘bearer’s’ power, not its own, to the ‘bearer’s goal, not its own. The men who spoke from God are here declared, therefore, to have been taken up by the Holy Spirit and brought by His power to the goal of His choosing. The things which they spoke under this operation of the Spirit were therefore His things, not theirs. And that is the reason which is assigned why ‘the prophetic word’ is so sure. Though spoken through the instrumentality of men, it is by virtue of the fact that these men spoke ‘as borne by the Holy Spirit,’ an immediately Divine word.” Read the following:
- Genesis 3:1-5
- 2 Peter 1:17-21
- Does the divine authorship of the Scriptures preclude the use of active human instrumentation?
- Does human participation render the Scriptures any less perfect and divine?
- In Genesis 3:1-5, Satan was the first to challenge God’s revelation. What challenges the Bible in your life?
Though God used men as His instruments to write Scripture, God is ultimately its author and source. The reason we call the Bible the Word of God is because it is, indeed, the very words that God wanted communicated. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 conveys the idea of God “breathing out” the Scriptures. Since the word for “breath” can also be translated “spirit,” we can easily see the work of the Holy Spirit as He superintended the writing.
Point Two in the short statement of The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy states that “Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction in all that it affirms; obeyed as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.”
In Article VII of affirmation and denial, the Chicago Statement explains: “We affirm that the inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us. We deny that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to heightened states of consciousness of any kind.”
- Why could the biblical authors not be passive, without any significant and willful participation in the writing process?
- How is the denial of human authorship opposition to the present various personalities and writing styles?
- Did the Holy Spirit protect the Word of God from human error? Why is it not plausible that God simply dictated the writing?
- So to clarify, what part did the human authors play?
God supernaturally used human authors to pen the words of the Bible, without compromising the perfection, integrity, or purity of the finished product. It’s a case of dual-authorship. “God superintended the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded, without error, His revelation to man in the words of the original manuscripts,” states Charles Ryrie in his Basic Theology. Millard Erickson notes, “The Spirit was apparently very selective in what he inspired the biblical authors to report.” Though God used men as His instruments to write Scripture, God is ultimately its author and source. Read the following:
- John 21:25
- 1 Thessalonians 2:13
- 2 Peter 1:21
In 2 Peter 1:21, Peter used a specific word picture to describe this arrangement when he wrote that men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. The word moved is the same word used to describe a ship moving along under the power of a blowing wind. The biblical writers were guided in their writing to go where God wanted them and to produce the exact content God wanted them to produce.
Article VIII of the Chicago Statement reads: “We affirm that God in His Work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared. We deny that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.”
Without question, their personalities, writing styles, perspectives, and distinctives are reflected in their words. But their accounts are more than the words of men – they are the very Word of God. Warfield explained, “If God wished to give His people a series of letters like Paul’s, he prepared a Paul to write them, and the Paul He brought to the task was a Paul who spontaneously would write just such letters.”
Similar to Warfield’s explanation, Herman Bavnick writes, “…the Spirit’s actions in the Bible writers at the moment of the composition is the natural climax of a long process of the Spirit’s preparation of the writers through their birth, upbringing, natural gifts, research, memory, reflection, experience of life, revelation, etc.” It is clear from all this that the action of God referred to in this text cannot be translated to anything close to what is meant by the English word inspire.
Historical research lies behind Luke’s Gospel. The Spirit shaped Luke with gifts and opportunities to do this and also superintended his activity. We recognize the books of the Bible were composed in very different ways. Thus, if we want to know how any section came as God-breathed, we need to listen to the clues it gives us about the way in which it was actually written. For example, Luke 1:1-4 assumes that the writer undertook historical research, John 14:26, requires that the writer had a Spirit-assisted memory, 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 consists of miraculous revelation, the book of Ecclesiastes was written by observation of life, apocalyptic language in Revelation 2-3 was occasionally by dictation, 1 Corinthians 7:25-26 as well as 39-40 was formed with sound counsel. Read the following:
- Luke 1:1-4
- John 14:26
- 1 Corinthians 7:25-26 & 39-40
- 2 Corinthians 12:1-4
- Revelation 2-3
- Considering the clues the Bible has given us about the way in which it was written, why is the truth of inspiration so important to the authority of Scripture?
The Bible presents itself as both a divine and human book from beginning to end. “Because the Bible has been inspired, we can be confident of having divine instruction. The fact that we did not live when the revelatory events and teachings first came does not leave us spiritually or theologically deprived. We have a sure guide. And we are motivated to study it intensively, since its message is truly God’s Word to us.” Millard Erickson states in his Christian Theology. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “A divine originality runs through it all; marks of the divine mind abound in every portion, and the Holy Spirit still inspires it all, and breathes it into the hearts of believing readers.” Read the following:
- Exodus 34:1
- Deuteronomy 29:29
- Acts 17:10-11
- 1 Corinthians 2:13
- 2 Peter 1:21
The key distinction of inspiration/illumination is important to note. In his Pilgrim Theology, Dr. Michael Horton articulates that “Scripture is inspired – that is, God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), whereas our interpretation is illumined by the Spirit. Thus, Scripture is infallible and inerrant where as our interpretations as churches and as individuals are always fallible and subject to revision in the light of Scripture.” The Bible was given by means of direct revelation, having been noted in Scripture by words or expressions nearly 4,000 times. The revelation of truth is sufficient in the Bible alone. And while revelation is the communication of God’s truth to humans, inspiration relates more to the relaying of that truth from the first recipients of it to other persons (whether then, or later). In other words, revelation might be thought of as a vertical action, but inspiration must be thought of as a horizontal action. In 1 Corinthians 2:13, Paul made the point that God’s revelation came to us in words. This counters what some might contend: Inspiration only relates to the thoughts that God wanted us to know. Read the following:
- Deuteronomy 30:11-14
- Psalm 119:130
- Romans 1:16-17
- What do people usually mean by “revelation?” Explain some differences between an orthodox Christian view and rival accounts.
- How would you explain the correlation of Scripture’s inspiration and Scripture’s authority?
- In reference to Romans 1:16-17, why is the Doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture foundational for the Christian faith?
- Read Deuteronomy 30:11-14 and Psalm 119:130. Is the Bible only for Pastors or Priests? Explain.
In the words of Augustine, “When we are wrong because we haven’t understood it, we leave it in the right. When we have gone wrong, we don’t make out Scripture to be wrong, but it continues to stand up straight and right, so that we may return to it for correction.”Therefore, our understanding of the orthodox teaching of inspiration of Scripture has vast implications for the way we read and study the Bible today. A properly Christian doctrine of inspiration must derive from the doctrines that Scripture itself teaches (*). The wisdom of God in Scripture is inexhaustible.
“…the authority of God’s word resides in the written text – the words, the sentences, the paragraphs – of Scripture, not merely in our existential experience of the truth in our hearts. Some people don’t like written texts and propositions because they imply a stable fixed meaning, and people don’t want truth to be fixed. They would rather have inspiration be more subjective, more internal, more experiential. But according to 2 Peter 1:19-21, the inspiration of holy Scripture is an objective reality outside of us.” – Keven DeYoung
Read the following:
- Isaiah 55:10-11
- Psalm 12:6; 19:7
- Psalm 119:16, 37, 50, 93, 99-100, 105, 107, 111, 142-143, 155 & 174
- Romans 1:16; 4:20-21
- Hebrews 6:18
- 2 Peter 1:19-21
- According to Psalm 119, God’s Word says what is true and right, providing what is good. Explain.
Timothy Ward penned that “…because the Spirit himself is the living God, he also preserves Scripture providentially from one generation to the next…in the present he is the one who opens minds to comprehend and hearts to trust what God says in Scripture.” Read the following:
- Hebrews 4:12
- How would you define inspiration of Scripture and the relation of the Holy Spirit to that process?
- Referring to Hebrews 4:12: Do you sometimes fall into the trap of believing that hearing audible words from God would be of greater importance than listening to His words penned in the Bible?
- Do you believe your present response to the words of Scripture to be appropriate?
- What positive steps can you take to create and maintain the type of attitude toward Scripture and hearing from God that He would desire you to have?
- The Bible never leaves us the same; we hear it for better or for worse. Apply this principle to your own Bible reading, hearing, and study. Briefly explain.
The doctrine that emerges from Inspiration of the Scriptures is this: The Holy Spirit is the divine author of all of Scripture, the only true way to hear His voice. If this doctrine is true (and it is), then the implications are so profound that every part of our lives should be affected.
- Reflect on your understanding of Inspiration of Scripture.
- My goals for application of the inspiration of the Scriptures in my Bible reading are…
- As a result of better understanding of inspiration versus inspiring, I hope…
- My prayer in regard to inspiration of Scripture is…
*For the purposes of this series, future posts will briefly view inerrancy and infallibility, as well as sufficiency and authority of Scripture. In addition to these, the individual should consider a study beyond what is provided in this context of perspicuity (clarity) and the transformative power of the Scriptures.
All sources for this series are listed here: https://debbieswindell.com/2019/05/30/excited-to-share/