In the previous article we explored the Fact of Divine Revelation: God must speak and has spoken in order for us to know him, know our world, and know ourselves. The critical means of Revelation is Verbal, as recorded in the Bible. Below we will explore the inspired nature of God’s Verbal Revelation to man. [The general outline for this discussion is adapted from Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Part I; which is of course framed by the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter I.]
- The Fact of Divine Revelation – Previous Article
- The Process
- Objections Answered
- The Inspired Nature of Divine Revelation
- The Attributes of Divine Revelation – Later Article
- The Bible’s Necessity
- The Bible’s Inspiration
- The Bible’s Self-Authentification
- The Bible’s Authority
- The Bible’s Sufficiency
- The Bible’s Perspicuity
- The Bible’s Finality
The Inspired Nature of Divine Revelation
God himself has said, via Paul’s letter to Timothy, that Scripture is “Inspired”; that is, “God breathed” (2Ti 3.16). God immediately spoke the world into existence (Gn 1) whereas he used mediate causes — men — as he spoke out Scripture.
While the phrase “the Bible is inspired” simply means that God wrote the Bible this doesn’t quite capture the truth of the matter because the Bible does not describe God sitting down with a pencil and writing it all out. Only the original Ten Commandments were written directly by God (Ex 31.18); he used other means to communicate the Bible. Taken in a broad sense this other means is “inspiration.”
Peter describes it this way: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2Pt 1.20-21). Just as ships are driven by the wind (Ac 17.25) so too were prophets driven by God’s will in order to convey just what God wanted to convey.
“Inspired” literally means “breathed out.” God breathed out the Scriptures thereby investing them with his divine attributes and giving us sure knowledge that they can be trusted. (see the later article The Attributes of Divine Revelation).
Christ’s Authentication of the Bible
Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, whose incarnate life and work are the hinge-point of history, had much to say about the importance, validity, and endurance of the Scriptures. He said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn 10.35) and “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail” (Lk 16.17). He referred to “the Law and the Prophets” as the authoritative source to settle controversies and point mankind to a saving knowledge of himself (Mt 5.17; 7.12; 11.13; 22.40); this included such pivotal events as Creation (Mt 10.4-5), the murder of Abel (Mt 23.35), Noah’s flood (Mt 24.37), and the destruction of Sodom & Gormorrah (Mt 10.15;11.23-24), etc. Clearly Jesus saw the Scriptures as true and worthy of enduring respect. He was not intimidated by modern critical theories that dismiss these as mere fables to teach a moral lesson. No, the Law and the Prophets contain real history that teaches the way of eternal life; ignore it at your own peril.
New Testament Writers’ Identification of God’s Word
As we read the New Testament it is intriguing to note how the writers articulate the co-identity between God himself and the words of Scripture: “the Scriptures are spoken of as if they were God;… God is spoken of as if he were the Scriptures.”[Benjamin Warfield, “‘It Says:’ ‘Scripture Says:’ ‘God Says:’”, in The Inscripturation and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1948), p.299.] For example, “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh…” (Rom 9.17); it was God who said this (Ex 9.16). On the other hand, “He that raised him up from the dead… he said… he also says…”; it was Scripture that records this by the hand of Isaiah (Is 55.3). There are numerous other examples that show the New Testament writers understood the words of Scripture to be God’s words, and vice verse. Indeed, the Scriptures are God’s living voice.
The implications of this are three-fold: 1) The Bible is its own witness to its inspired revealedness; we don’t look outside the Scriptures for testimony about its validity. 2) The Bible is the only means by which we can interpret the Bible; all other standards lack self-authentification and are thus insufficient for determining the meaning of the Bible. 3) The Bible is timeless truth spoken for all men of all ages; we don’t need a living human purporting to have God’s words for today since we have God’s words from yesterday still living and active today. Each of these points will be expanded in section on the Attributes of Divine Revelation.
That the Bible is “inspired” means far more than that it is “inspiring” (i.e. giving us insights and encouragement). God has breathed out his revelation and as such Jesus Christ and New Testament writers knew it was God’s Word. We have clear witness so that we will believe the same.
Next, Part 3.