The Inspiration of Scripture - Part 1
John Riddle, Cheshunt, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The Apostle Paul told Timothy that, ‘the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables’, 2 Tim. 4. 3, 4 RV. It hardly needs to be said that the ‘itching ears’ belong to the hearers rather than the teachers. Even the Lord’s people, at times, ‘like to hear what they like to hear’. One Bible teacher of yesteryear got rather ‘near the bone’ when he said to his audience, ‘What would you rather hear – an address on Russia, or an address on Romans?’
When it comes to the foundations of the faith, we must not assume too much. David asks the question, ‘If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’, Ps. 11. 3. Thankfully, our ‘foundations’ can never be destroyed, but we must be familiar with them. This involves all the people of God: young believers must be taught them, and older believers who ‘know them, and be established in the present truth’, must have their ‘pure minds’ stirred up ‘by way of remembrance’, 2 Pet. 1. 12; 3. 1.
With this in mind, it is essential for us to be completely assured that the Bible is the word of God. We must remember that the scriptures are more than our final court of appeal in ‘all matters of doctrine and practice’ – they are our only court of appeal.
Our confidence in the word of God will be weakened if we fail to recognize that ‘all scripture is given by inspiration of God’, 2 Tim. 3. 16, something that is often called ‘the plenary inspiration of scripture’. If we are not convinced that this is the case, we will be seriously disadvantaged in endeavouring to ‘declare . . . all the counsel of God’, Acts 20. 27. As already stated, we rightly contend that the teaching of the Bible is binding in all matters of doctrine and practice. It is now our task to prove that this contention is justified.
In 2 Timothy chapter 3, we are confronted with the difficulties of the last days, and learn that the stability afforded by the scriptures is vital. Timothy is urged, ‘But continue [abide] thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them’, v. 14. Notice how the structure of verses 9 and 10 is repeated in verses 13 and 14. The word ‘thou’ is emphatic. Whatever was happening around him, Timothy was to remain constant.
The final section of this chapter brings us face to face with the ‘holy scriptures’. We will deal with these important verses by asking, and answering, five questions:
- How should we treat the scriptures, v. 14?
- When should we get to know the scriptures, v. 15?
- Why can we trust the scriptures, v. 16a?
- Where should we apply the scriptures, v. 16b?
- What will be accomplished by the scriptures, v. 17?
We will address the central question first:
Why can we trust the scriptures, v. 16a?
In this connection, we should note:
The extent of inspiration
‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God’. The word rendered ‘inspiration’, theopneustos, comes from theo, meaning ‘God’ and pneo, meaning ‘to blow’ or ‘to breathe’. Hence the expression, ‘God-breathed’. The word emphasizes the source of scripture, rather than the channel by which we receive it. It describes ‘breathing out’, rather than ‘breathing in’. The scriptures are still ‘warm with the breath of God’. We prove this every time we open our Bibles. 1 Hence, the Old Testament scriptures are called ‘the oracles of God’, Rom. 3. 2. In the New Testament, Paul writes, ‘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’, 1 Cor. 14. 37. Because they are God-breathed, they are authoritative. We must remember that:
Inspiration includes Old and New Testaments
Note the way in which 1 Timothy chapter 5 verse 18 combines Old and New Testaments as scripture, ‘For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn’, referring to Deuteronomy chapter 25 verse 4, and, ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire’, referring to Luke chapter 10 verse 7. Notice, too, that Peter placed Paul’s Epistles alongside the other scriptures, 2 Pet. 3. 16. Whether Old or New Testaments, both are alike given by inspiration of God. In 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 15, the word ‘scriptures’ refers particularly to the Old Testament scriptures, but, in the following verse, ‘All scripture’ refers to both Old and New Testaments.
Inspiration includes the very words of scripture
See, for example, Matthew chapter 5 verse 18, ‘For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled’. The ‘jot’ is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and yod, the ‘tittle’, is the little projection which distinguishes some Hebrew letters. So, inspiration extends to the very letters which make up the words of the Bible. No wonder Ezra was a student of the words of the law of the Lord, Ezra 7. 11. John records the words of the Lord Jesus as follows, ‘For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book . . . and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy’, Rev. 22. 18, 19.
Examples of the accuracy and importance of the very words of scripture are legion. For example, ‘Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ’, Gal. 3. 16. Note, in this connection, the singular in Genesis chapter 22 verse 17, ‘thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies’. A further example lies in the use of the little word ‘one’, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord’, Deut. 6. 4. This translates the Hebrew word echad, which comes from a root meaning ‘to unite’ and conveys plurality in unity. 2 Another Hebrew word conveys an absolute unity, but this is never used in connection with God. He chose exactly the right word to describe the Godhead, for God is one, but within that unity there is a plurality of divine persons.
To this end, books which help us to understand the meaning of Bible words are most valuable. 3
The means of inspiration
Bearing in mind that the word ‘Spirit’ comes from the word pneuma, akin to pneo above, we can see that when Paul says that ‘All scripture is given by inspiration [theopneustos] of God’, he refers to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 4 Notice how the Holy Spirit is mentioned in connection with every part of God’s word.
In connection with the law
Speaking of the Day of Atonement, we read ‘The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing’,
Heb. 9. 8.
In connection with the prophets
Note, for example, 2 Peter chapter 1 verses 20 and 21. 5 When the apostle says that, ‘no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation’, he is referring to the prophets themselves, not to the readers. The prophets did not record their interpretation of what was revealed to them, they recorded exactly what was revealed to them.
We should also notice Acts chapter 3 verses 18 and 21, ‘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’. In this connection, we should notice that the written word of God is perfectly divine, yet perfectly human. Its unity is divine, but it is expressed through the background and personalities of the various writers. It is perfectly divine in its absolute accuracy and authority; it is perfectly human since it is expressed in the language of men, and therefore intelligible to us.
In connection with the writings
See Mark chapter 12 verse 36, ‘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’. ‘Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas . . . For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein’, Acts 1. 16-20.
David himself recognized that he spoke by the Holy Spirit, 2 Sam. 23. 1, 2. The prophets said, ‘Thus saith the Lord’.
In connection with the New Testament
See, for example, John chapter 16 verses 12 and 13. To be continued . . .
1 For other examples of God breathing, see Gen. 2. 7; Ezek. 37. 1-14.
2 Also see ‘a branch with one cluster of grapes’, Num. 13. 23.
3 For example, W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Oliphants.
4 John chapter 20 verse 22 is interesting in this connection, ‘he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost’.
5 See also, Acts 28. 25; 1 Pet. 1. 10, 11.
AUTHOR PROFILE: John Riddle is an elder in the assembly meeting at Mill Lane Chapel, Cheshunt, and serves the Lord in written and oral ministry throughout the UK where his gifts are much appreciated. He took early retirement from business as a pensions executive.