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INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

“Inspiration” means to inhale, to breathe in. The Bible claims that its words were breathed in by
Almighty God through chosen men of old. The term “inspiration” is used twice in Scripture (Job
32:8; 2 Ti. 3:16). In the N.T. it is one of the terms selected by God to describe the nature of the
Bible. There are basically three views regarding inspiration:

(1) The pagan view of inspiration: The Bible is inspired only in the sense that great human
writings, such as those of Shakespeare, are inspired.

(2) The partial view of inspiration. Some believe the Bible is inspired in those matters not
affecting science, but that there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible.

(3) The perfect view of inspiration: The Bible is perfectly inspired and contains no error. It is this
latter view that is supported by the Bible itself. The Bible claims to be the perfect, inspired Word
of God. This view is also called infallible or inerrant inspiration.

THE CLAIM OF INSPIRATION

Thousands of times in Scripture we are confronted with the unmistakable claim that God is the
author. Phrases such as “thus saith the Lord” and “the word of God” permeate the Bible. By my
own count, these phrases are used 2935 times in the Old Testament. Consider the following
examples:

“And he Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have
made a covenant with thee and with Israel” (Ex. 34:27).

“The spirit of the Lord spake by me and His word was in my tongue” (2 Sa. 23:2).

“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken” (Is. 1:2).

“Whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak ... Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth” (Je.
1:7,9).

“Thou shalt speak my words unto them” (Eze. 2:7).

“All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet”
(Mt. 1:22; 2:15).

“David himself said by the Holy Ghost” (Mk. 12:36).

“He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began” (Lk.
1:70).
“Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath
spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Ac. 3:21).

If the Bible is not the Word of God, it is the greatest lie that has ever been perpetrated upon
humanity.

THE EXTENT OF INSPIRATION

Consider some of the major New Testament passages on the divine inspiration of Scripture:

2 TIMOTHY 3:13-17 — “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are
able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given
by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

This is the key passage on the inspiration of the Scriptures, and it teaches many important
truths. Note that the Apostle Paul wrote these verses. He was chosen by God to reveal divine
truths (Ep. 3; Ga. 1). If we cannot trust this man’s writings, we can trust no man’s. Personally, I
had much rather trust Paul’s testimony than that of some modern, critical-thinking, miracle-
denying liberal, or some compromising, liberally-influenced evangelical or some relativistic
emergent. Paul was utterly dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ and suffered constant persecution
and hardship because of his faith. He was personally called by Christ to be an Apostle and he had
the signs of an Apostle (2 Cor. 12:12). Let us see what the Apostle Paul testified concerning the
nature of the Bible:

1. The Bible is set apart from all other books (v. 15). Here the Scriptures are called “holy.” This
means “set apart, different.” According to Paul's teaching, the Bible cannot in any way be
compared with other books. Any theologian or textual critic that treats the Bible like other books
is wrong from the outset and cannot possibly come to a right understanding of his subject.

2. The Bible is from God (v. 16). This verse literally says the Scriptures are God-breathed. Though
written by men, the Bible is a product of God. This is the biblical doctrine of divine inspiration.
When discussing its own inspiration the Scripture does not focus on the mechanics of inspiration
but on the product. God spoke in many diverse ways (dreams, visions, angels, directly as on Mt.
Sinai and on the Mt. of Transfiguration, etc.) but the result in all cases was that the writings were
God breathed. L. Gaussen, in Theopneustia: The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures
(1850), rightly says of 2 Timothy 3:16: “This statement admits of no exception and of no
restriction ... All Scripture is in such wise a work of God, that it is represented to us as uttered by
the divine breathing, just as human speech is uttered by the breathing of a man’s mouth. The
prophet is the mouth of the Lord.”

3. The Bible is from God in its entirety (v. 16). All of the Scripture is said to have come from God.
The word for Scripture here, graphe, is a word meaning “writing” or “book.” This is referred to as
“plenary inspiration.” Plenary means full, complete, entire.

4. The Bible is from God in its smallest detail (v. 15). The word for Scripture here is gramma,
referring to a letter. This teaches that even the smallest details of the Bible are from God. This is
called “verbal inspiration.”

5. The Bible is one book with an all-encompassing theme: Salvation in Jesus Christ (v. 15). The
Bible is not just a group of unrelated, disconnected religious writings. It is a unified Book planned
by God to teach man the way of salvation (compare Lk. 24:44-45; Jn. 1:45; 5:39; Ep. 3:11).

6. The Bible can protect Christians from error (vv. 13-15). If the Bible contains myths, mistakes,
and untrue claims concerning authorship, miracles, and prophecies, it certainly is not a book that
can give sure protection from false teachings!

7. The Bible is sufficient to make the Christian complete and mature (v. 17). An imperfect book
could not produce perfection, and since the Bible is able to make the man of God perfect it is
obvious that nothing else is needed. The Scripture is thus the sole authority for faith and
practice.

MARK 12:36; LUKE 1:70; ACTS 1:16; 3:18, 21; 4:25; 28:25 — “For David himself said by the Holy
Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy
footstool. ... As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world
began. ... Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost
by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took
Jesus. ... But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that
Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. ... Whom the heaven must receive until the times of
restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the
world began. ... Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage,
and the people imagine vain things? ... And when they agreed not among themselves, they
departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet
unto our fathers.”

The teaching of the Bible regarding its own nature is described in these verses. Though men
wrote the Scriptures, they are the writings of God. The Bible is God’s Word given through human
instruments. This is the plain teaching of Scripture. Any other view is false human conjecture.

JOHN 17:8 -- “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have
received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that
thou didst send me.”

Jesus Christ received words from God the Father and delivered them to the apostles. He
promised that His words would not pass away (Mat. 24:35). He further promised that the Holy
Spirit would guide the apostles into all truth, would bring things to their remembrance, and
would show them things to come (Jn. 14:25-26; 16:12-13). Thus, the apostles and prophets who
wrote the New Testament did not have to depend upon their fallible human devices. Edward
Hills wisely observes: “The New Testament contains the words that Christ brought down from
heaven for the salvation of His people and now remain inscribed in holy Writ. ... For ever, O
LORD, Thy Word is settled in heaven (Ps. 119:89). Although the Scriptures were written during a
definite historical period, they are not the product of that period but of the eternal plan of God.
When God designed the holy Scriptures in eternity, He had the whole sweep of human history in
view. Hence the Scriptures are forever relevant. Their message can never be outgrown. The grass
withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of our God shall stand for ever (Isa. 40:8).”

ROMANS 16:25-26 -- “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and
the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret
since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets,
according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the
obedience of faith.”

Paul stated that Scripture was being written by the New Testament apostles and prophets by
divine revelation. See also Ephesians 3:4-5.

1 CORINTHIANS 2:9-13 — “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have
entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But
God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep
things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in
him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received,
not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are
freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom
teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

1. In this passage we also see what Scripture is:

It is God’s revelation (v. 10). Revelation concerns those things which man cannot know by his
own investigation and intellect (v. 9). God, by His Spirit, has chosen to reveal things about
Himself, salvation, and His plans (vv. 10-12).

It is the deep things of God (v. 10).

It is the very words of God (v. 13). In v. 13 we are told that this revelation extends to the very
choice of the words used to relate it. God did not merely give the Bible writers the general
thoughts they were to write; He gave them the very words.

It is the mind of Christ (v. 16). We cannot know Christ or His will apart from the Scriptures.

2. The Scripture is understood only by the spiritual man (vv. 14,15). There are three types of men
described in this passage.

The natural or unsaved man (v. 14). The natural man cannot understand the things of God.

The spiritual man, or the saved man who walks in the Spirit (v. 15). The spiritual man can know
all things that God has revealed.

The carnal man that is a spiritual baby and has not grown spiritually (3:1,2). The babe can only
understand the simplest things of the Scriptures (3:2)

1 CORINTHIANS 14:17 -- “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.”

Here we see that Paul knew that his writings were the commandments of the Lord. See also 1
Cor. 11:2; Gal. 1:11-12; Col. 1:25-26, 28; 1 Thess. 2:13; and 2 Thess. 3:6, 14.

1 PETER 1:10-12 — “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who
prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the
Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of
Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves,
but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have
preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the
angels desire to look into.”

This passage deals with the mechanics of inspiration. The Spirit of God was in the prophets
testifying of the things of God. The prophets themselves did not even understand all that they
spoke and wrote. This shows the error of any view of inspiration that deals with the thoughts
alone. The prophets were not given general thoughts and then left to record those thoughts and
impressions as best they could. They were given a perfect revelation from God and were
controlled in every detail of its recording.

1 PETER 1:25 -- “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the
gospel is preached unto you.”

Here we see that Peter taught that the word that was preached by the New Testament apostles
and prophets was the eternal Word of God.

2 PETER 1:19-21 — “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye
take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise
in your hearts: 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.”

1. First, we are told that the Scriptures are a light shining in a dark place (v. 19). The dark place is
the world. Though it contains some truth, the world is pictured as dark because man is not able
to know spiritual truth without a revelation from God. The Bible is that revelation which is
shining in the midst of the darkness.

2. Second, the Bible is not a product of man’s will (v. 21). Other books are products of the will of
the human author, but not the Bible. God chose certain men and moved in them to deliver His
message. As the Holy Spirit moved them the things they spoke were the words of God.

3. This passage explains the method whereby the Bible was given. God used men, but He used
them in such a way that what they wrote was precisely God’s Word. When the Bible touches on
the subject of inspiration and revelation, it focuses on God and His role in the process. We are
told very little about the actual mechanism. The method of inspiration is an unrevealed mystery.
It was accomplished mysteriously by the Holy Spirit. We are not supposed to try to delve into the
method of inspiration; we are supposed to believe God’s testimony that it happened and we are
to have faith in the finished product, the Holy Scriptures. Modern Bible scholars usually do just
the opposite of what the Scriptures do in reference to the subject of inspiration. They focus on
man’s part rather than upon God’s. That is because most modern scholars do not operate by the
principle of faith. They are operating by their own intellect and by means of human scholarship,
yet no man can know the perfect Word of God through scholarship, for “without faith it is
impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6).

4. The phrase “private interpretation” refers to the writers of the Bible. In the context this refers
to the giving of revelation rather than to the understanding of it. The Bible writers did not
personally interpret God’s revelation to mankind; they were given God’s revelation by the Holy
Spirit. They did not always even understand what they were writing (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

2 PETER 3:2 -- “That ye 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:.”

Peter put the commandments of the apostles on the same level as that of the Old Testament
prophets. A Jew would not have dared to make such a claim if he were not convinced that the
apostolic writings were Holy Scripture, because he looked upon the Old Testament prophets as
the very oracles of God.

2 PETER 3:15-16 -- “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our
beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also
in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be
understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other
scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

Here we see that Peter called Paul’s writings “scripture” and put them on the same level of
authority as the Old Testament. Peter says that Paul did not write by his own understanding but
by wisdom given to him of God. Peter warned about the false teachers who were attacking the
Scripture even in that day. “Although some [of Paul’s epistles] had been out for perhaps fifteen
years, the ink was scarcely dry on others, and perhaps 2 Timothy had not yet been penned when
Peter wrote. Paul’s writings were recognized and declared by apostolic authority to be Scripture
as soon as they appeared” (Wilbur Pickering).

1 JOHN 4:6 -- “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth
not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”

John held forth the writings of the apostles and prophets as the sole and absolute standard for
truth.

JUDE 17 -- “But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of
our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In warning the believers of false teachers, Jude refers to the “words which were spoken before of
the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He holds these words up as the sole divine standard for
faith and practice.

REVELATION 1:3 -- “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy,
and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”

The book of Revelation was written and presented as the prophetic Word of God. See also
Revelation 21:5; 22:18-19.

HOW MUCH OF THE BIBLE IS INSPIRED SCRIPTURE?


The entire Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is Holy Scripture. (1) The entire O.T. is Scripture
(Lk. 24:27; Ro. 3:2; 2 Ti. 3:16; 2 Pe. 1:19-21). The following O.T. books are specifically called
Scripture: Genesis (Ro. 4:3; Ga. 4:30), Exodus (Mt. 22:29-32; Ro. 9:17), Leviticus (Ja. 2:8), Kings
(Ro. 11:2-3), Psalms (Mt. 21:42; Jn. 10:34-35; 13:18; 19:24, 36; Ro. 15:3-4), Isaiah (Mk. 14:28; Lk.
4:17-21; Ac. 8:32-33; Ro. 10:11; 1 Pe. 2:6), Zechariah (Jn. 19:37). (2) The Gospels are Scripture
(compare 1 Ti. 5:18 and Mt. 10:10; He. 2:3). (3) The writings of the Apostles are Scripture (Ro.
16:25,26; 1 Co. 2:7-13; 14:37; 1 Pe. 1:12; 2 Pe. 3:1-2,15-16). (4) Revelation is Scripture; it is called
the Word of God (Re. 1:2).

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