20 November 2017

INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES

The Christian experience has, as its foundation, the Scriptures. The Bible is the source of our knowledge of God. The written Word is our Text Book and Reference Book. There are no other ‘authorities’ that we use to compare what is written in the Scriptures. Neither do we recognise any other book, or prophecy or revelation as being of equal validity to that which is recorded in Scripture.

Unique…

We believe the Bible to be unique in its information: it tells us things that are not available in any other document, for example, an account of the Creation of the World.

We believe the Bible to be unique in its predictability: none of its prophecies have been proven to be inaccurate.

We believe the Bible to be unique in its science: none of its statements have been proved erroneous by scientific or technological studies.

We believe the Bible to be unique in its ability: no other book radically changes the lives of its readers.

We believe the Bible to be inspired by God.

The Meaning of the Term ‘Inspiration’

It seems almost regrettable that we don’t have a different word to describe the inspiration of the Scriptures because the word is commonly used in everyday language but with a weaker meaning than we give to it in this study.

Some would say that Shakespeare was inspired to write his plays and sonnets. Handel was inspired to write ‘The Messiah.’ The soloist gave an inspirational rendering of the song. Even an athlete or footballer was inspirational. Hymns are sometimes called ‘inspirational songs.’

We need to take great care because when we describe the Bible as inspired we are using the same word to describe something much more profound and comprehensive.

There is a radical difference between the inspiration that caused Psalm 23 to be written and even the great hymns written by John Newton or Isaac Watts or Charles Wesley. Psalm 23 carries an originality and an authority that is not possible to produce by any writer, other than a writer of Scripture.

There is a uniqueness about the ‘Inspiration’ of Scripture.

Literally the word means ‘to breathe into.’ (2 Tim. 3:16)

In the Scriptures, God is breathing in such a way as to put Himself into the Book. God has breathed into the Book and since God Himself is Spirit He has projected Himself into it. Thus the Bible can correctly be called ‘The Word of God.’ From Genesis to Revelation we meet God in His Word.

Orton Wiley describes inspiration as, “the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the writers of the books of the Bible in such a manner that their productions became the expressions of God’s Will.”

The Word of God

What do we mean when we say, ‘let us read the Word of God?‘ In the Bible we often read “God said” but we also often read, “Peter said” or “Abraham said”. Do the words of Abraham as recorded in the Bible constitute the Word of God? How do we explain the humanity of the Bible? In actual fact, the largest part of the Bible is made up of words spoken by individuals other than God and some of them even enemies of God. Even the words of Satan are recorded in Scripture (Job1:7.)

A. The word of God as a Person – Jesus Christ

Specifically in John’s prologue he describes Jesus as the Word.

“In the beginning was the Word,

And the Word was with God

And the Word was God.” (1:1)

“The Word became flesh.” (1:14)

It is interesting to note that neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit are ever referred to as “The Word of God.”

Grudem has an insightful explanation when he says, “God the Son in His Person as well as in His Words has the role of communicating the Character of God to us and of expressing the Will of God for us.”

God was walking around Palestine in the Person of Jesus. Jesus was a letter from Heaven to us so that we could understand what God is like. He is the communication of God to man.

B. The Word of God as Speech by God.

There are basically four understandings of the Words that God speaks and the effects that they have.

 God’s Words as Decrees

There were occasions in the Bible when as God spoke, His intended action took place simultaneously. In Genesis we read, “God said ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” (Gen. 1:1) God literally spoke the light into existence.

And God said, “Let the land produce … And it was so.” (Gen. 1:11)

God spoke the whole creation into existence. The only tools that God used were the words He spoke.

The Psalmist teaches us, “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made.” (Ps. 33:6)

 God’s Words as Personal Address.

Many times throughout the Scriptures we read of occasions when individual human beings heard God speak to them personally. They actually heard the Words of God.

God said to Adam personally, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9)

God said to Abraham, “Leave your country …” (Gen. 12:1)

In the New Testament we read of the Baptism of Jesus. There some people heard the actual Words of God, “Here is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)

The Words of God came from Heaven to different people throughout the centuries. These people were in different circumstances and locations and spoke different languages, yet they all heard and understood this human communication. God spoke in human language.

 God’s Words as Speech through Humans.

A lot of the Bible is the record of the words spoken by prophets, apostles and teachers. Are these speeches of inferior authority to the actual words spoken by God Himself?

Our answer is that all Scripture is of equal authority.

God said to Jeremiah, “I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jer. 1:9)

God said to Moses, “I will teach you what to say.” (Ex. 4:12) God’s words, spoken through human beings, are of equal authority to those which have not filtered through the human channel.

 God’s Words in Written Form.

God wrote His Words when He gave the Ten Commandments. It was the finger of God that transcribed the actual words of the Law. (Ex.32:16)

Afterwards Moses re-wrote the same words on new stones.

Later Moses wrote much more extensively. (Deut. 31:9-13) Moses’ book then became God’s Words in written form, not just the Ten Commandments but the whole first section of the Bible we possess today, Genesis to Deuteronomy.

Joshua then continued the Book, “And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the Law of God.” (Josh. 28:26) Isaiah continued it further. God commanded Isaiah, “And now, go write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness for ever.” (Isaiah 30:8)

Therefore all of these writers were writing down God’s Words in human language. As such they are of equal authority to the words spoken directly by God.

The Bible could thus be described as ‘The Words of God.’ We refer to it as ‘The Word of God.’ The Bible is the Word of God.

That is basically what we mean when we say that the Bible is inspired. It is actually God writing His Words through human instruments so that other humans can hear and understand God’s Words. As such, the Bible stands apart from every other book. And as such, the term ‘inspiration’ stands apart from every other understanding of it.

The Bible is the Word of God

The Scriptures are inspired. God has breathed Himself into the Book.

The Bible is therefore accurate – God cannot make mistakes.

The Bible is therefore authoritative – God is its source.

The Bible is therefore accessible – We can understand what God says.

Next month we will be discussing what we mean when we describe the Scriptures as being ‘fully’ inspired. I look forward to sharing this with you.

John Matthews