The Inspiration of Scripture – The Dynamics of Inspiration11 min read
The Dynamics of Inspiration Generally Considered
Though last week there was much depth found in 2 Peter 1, there are obviously other passages that speak of God’s inspiration of Scripture. For instance, there are over 3,500 uses of phrases like “Thus saith the Lord” throughout the Bible. God has repeatedly embedded in it His stamp of authority and its stamp of authenticity. Specific concepts related to the Old and New Testaments will be given later, but for now, some general comments from foundational texts need to be made.
The first of these texts should be familiar to every Bible student, 2 Timothy 3:16a – “All/Every Scripture is God-breathed.” The first thing this verse tells us is that inspiration is comprehensive; if something belongs in the body of written revealed truth from God, then it is God-breathed. Secondly, inspiration is deliberate, for it is specifically “Scripture” that is inspired. All Scripture is inspired, and only Scripture is inspired. Thirdly, this verse gives a working definition of inspiration: that God breathed a certain written body of truth.
The second text we find is in Job 33:14 – “For God speaks once, even twice, yet man perceives it not.” The simple, but profound truth in this verse is that inspiration is not equivalent to illumination. This understanding helps in dealing with skepticism. Many dispute the inspiration of Scripture because it does not make sense to their carnal minds; whereas, we realize that truth, being objective, can be valid even apart from a person’s perception of it. Thus, the claim that Scripture is not of God because it does not conform to human standards is useless, because God can speak freely even when man cannot or will not understand Him. This understanding also helps when it comes to gospel preaching or reasoning from the Scriptures: it is still authoritative even when man rejects the authority. It is still fully of God, regardless of its lack of recognition by rebels. However, if one is honest with a God-centered (and realistic) world-view, there is no problem in admitting the divine origin of Scripture. May we never see inspiration as either confirmed or denied on the basis of liberal, self-centered standards.
The third text is Mark 12:36-37 in which we find something of the dual-authorship of Scripture: “’For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, “The LORD said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” David therefore himself calls him Lord; and how is he then his son?’ And the common people heard him gladly.” For the statement of the Lord Jesus to make any sense, two things have to be true: (1) The Holy Spirit was fully behind the quoted statement, (2) David was also deliberately behind the quoted statement. This is traditionally called the dual-authorship of Scripture – the affirmation that both God and man were deliberately involved in the production of Scripture. More will be said on this later.
The fourth text is Hebrews 1:7 – “And of the angels He says, ‘Who makes His angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.’” This is a quotation from Psalm 104, which is the composition of a worshiper’s sentiments of God. Obviously, this had a human author, and yet God is said to be the author when this text is quoted in Hebrews 1. Thus, we find internal affirmation by which God’s ultimate authorship is credited. Scripture writers acknowledged other Scripture writers to be speaking on God’s behalf or at least according to God’s exact purposes.
The Dynamics of Inspiration in the Old Testament
Specifically with the Old Testament, there is a wealth of affirmation that it was from God. In Hebrews 1:1, for instance, we read, “God spoke long ago in various portions and in many ways to the fathers by the prophets.” In other words, what we find in the Old Testament was not given at one time by one person to the same audience. It was progressive. It was partial. But there were two things that remained consistent in Old Testament witness: (1) It was God speaking throughout, (2) It was prophetic in its means of communication. Even though there were many different time periods covered and many different people reached, the fact that God spoke clearly and authoritatively by human means remained the same.
As to what this looked like, we find an illustration of Old Testament inspiration in Jeremiah 30:2 – “Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying, ‘Write all the words that I have spoken unto you in a book.’” Notice what is involved here. First, we have the authority of the Lord God of Israel: this communication is purposeful. Second, we have His exact words being recorded: this communication is accurate. Third, we have the fact that the content of Scripture was often spoken before it was written. This concept helps us understand words like, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thess. 2:15). This does not mean there was a separate body of truth being promulgated apart from the written word (as the Roman Catholic church would teach); rather it is clear that the body of truth presented orally was afterward fully written. Jude 3 is a similar case when it references “the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.” Jude was not the last book written, yet he could say “the faith” was fully delivered as a body of truth. In other words, the truth had been revealed to the apostles once for all, and there is nothing to be added. This may bring up an objection: if Scripture embodies “the faith,” how could Jude claim that the faith was once for all delivered, even when Scripture had not yet been fully written? But such an objection falls apart when we understand the nature of Scripture. To claim it is our body of revealed truth for today does not necessitate the claim that the truth did not exist before it was penned, since the truth was often revealed before being perfectly written down by God’s chosen vessel.
Not only does the Old Testament contain an illustration of inspiration as we know it, but it gives various hints as to a prophet’s relationship to divine revelation. Ezekiel 1:3 is an example: “The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.” Notice what characterized this Old Testament prophecy: (1) the promulgation of a body of truth not formulated by, but rather entrusted to a prophet (2) an exactness as to what was given (3) a historical rooting (4) the sovereignty of God operating upon the prophet.
All of these are specific examples that show a pattern of Old Testament inspiration. But these observations are incomplete without broader statements concerning the entirety of the Old Testament. Notice how New Testament individuals approached it, revealing their view of inspiration:
- The Lord acted upon (and thus assumed) the inspiration of the entire Old Testament. This can be seen in Luke 24:27 – “And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things concerning himself in all the scriptures.” (LEB). Notice, the writings of Moses are considered a unit, all the prophets are acknowledged, and “all the Scriptures” are emphasized.
- In John 5:39 the Lord says, “Search the Scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” There was no question as to what composed the Scriptures, just as there was no question that the entirety of “the Scriptures” was part of God’s testimony of His Son. Both the fact and object of inspiration are without question.
- The apostle Paul tells Timothy that all Scripture (which, in Timothy’s mind, was the Old Testament) is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Paul wanted Timothy to hear the voice of God in every passage of what was then considered “Scripture.” The Old Testament as a unit is fully inspired.
- Paul also acknowledges the role Israel played in the process of inspiration when he says in Romans 3:2, “unto [the Jews] were committed the oracles of God.” While this would be discussed further under the topic of the Canon, it is vital to realize the role Israel played in handing down an inspired text. God entrusted them with His words; thus it is reasonable to say He gave them the proper recognition of what composed the body of divine communication in their day.
- In Matthew 5:17-18, the Lord acknowledges the entirety of the Old Testament, even in its smallest pen-strokes, as being communicated with Divine authority. “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For truly I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law until all be fulfilled.” Here the second use of the word “Law” is inclusive of both “law and prophets” as Old Testament sections.
Clearly, in light of the above observations, the Lord acknowledged the entire body of the Old Testament to be inspired, every passage of the Old Testament to be inspired, and every pen stroke of the Old Testament to be inspired. There is no room for anything less than a wholly-inspired Old Testament.
The Dynamics of Inspiration in the New Testament
In the New Testament, there is also abundant confirmation of its inspiration. Rather than being delivered through prophets carrying the oracles of God, the New Testament takes more so the form of letters and treatises by apostolic authority. Ephesians 2:20 describes the foundation of the Body of Christ as being the “apostles and prophets [NT saints with prophetic gift], Jesus Christ himself being the chief Cornerstone.” Galatians 1 tells us something of how this worked. Paul says, “I marvel that you are so quickly removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel… But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” The original message they received was “set in stone” as it were: even an angel could not legitimately preach something different. Such was how God worked in the first century. He delivered once for all the faith that should be held by all future generations. This task was entrusted to the apostles. “The mystery of Christ… in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”
This thought is taken further into, not only the apostolic message, but the apostolic writings themselves. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 14:37, Paul says, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” The apostle is confident that his writings are directly from God. But there was further confirmation from assembly to assembly by means of prophets (see 1 Corinthians 12:10) and those who had the gift of discerning different spirits. Thus, this was not a subjective claim to the possession of a God-breathed text. Rather the apostles were deliberate in their writing on God’s behalf, and the local prophets confirmed what was truly of God and what was not.
Furthermore, the individual believers in Acts 2:42 show universal recognition of apostolic teaching as their rule of faith: “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and in fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” There is actually good weight to this point, because Christ said, “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me.” The early church universally recognized the body of truth delivered by the apostles to be of divine origin. They heard through the teachings of the apostles the voice of the Chief Shepherd, because it was ultimately of Himself.
Having this established, it is no wonder that Peter equates the apostolic writings with Old Testament prophecies. “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you… that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.” (2 Peter 3:1-2). In chapters one and two, Peter spoke of the Old Testament as being God’s Word and yet rejected by the people of that day. In chapter 3, he follows the same pattern of claiming apostolic writings to be God’s Word and then outlining modern rejection of it. Clearly, just as God spoke to Israel under the Law, so God is speaking just as clearly and authoritatively to the Church under grace.
So then, we have found that God has repeatedly established the principle that He is able to communicate truth through human instruments while not compromising His clarity, purpose, or authority. Even though written by men, it is God’s Word. The Old Testament is clearly of divine origin in its whole and in its parts, by the affirmations of the Lord Jesus Himself. The New Testament is clearly the exact same type of communication from God as the Old Testament was, but slightly different in its form and mode of delivery. We can be confident that God has spoken clearly, deliberately, and authoritatively through both Old and New Testaments. Our Bible as we know it is God’s Word.