The Bible: From God to Us Pt 2
Now I want to talk about God, desiring to send a message to us. He wants to tell us who he is, and He wants to tell us all about Himself. He wants to tell us who we are. He wants to tell us where we came from, and what the purpose of life is, and where it finds meaning, and what's beyond the grave. How's He going to get that message to us? How can fallible men deliver an infallible message from an infallible God? I suppose he could have printed billions of copies of his book and dropped them from the sky. I suppose he could have seen fit to deliver it by angel express to people all over the world, in every generation. He could have done that, I guess, but he chose not to do it that way. How did he do it? Well, In our last class we studied the doctrine of revelation. We learned that God has spoken. And he has spoken to us by natural revelation and supernatural revelation. As we said in our first lesson, Natural revelation refers to God’s self-disclosure in creation, through the things that have been made. In addition to the revelation of God available in nature, God has also communicated directly with mankind through out history, which may be called supernatural revelation. Supernatural revelation communicates to humanity truths that transcends human reason although it is not opposed to human reason. Supernatural revelation has come to humanity in at least the following ways:
(1) the deeds of God in history,
(2) the words of the prophets,
(3) the life and ministry of the Son of God,
(4) the preaching of the apostles and Christ himself,
(5) Sacred Tradition passed down from the Apostles and perpetuated by the Church,
(6), The written Word of God in the Scriptures, in the Bible.
But How did we get our Bible? How can we be sure that it's accurate? And it's exactly what God wanted to say?
When we talk about God giving truth that's revelation. When we talk about man receiving truth, that's the doctrine of inspiration and that's where we are today. And this is a very important doctrine. I mean, what we believe about the doctrine of inspiration is going to affect almost everything else we believe. And if we stray from an accurate understanding of the doctrine of inspiration, we're going to open ourselves to almost every variety of error. We're going to be, as Saint Paul warned in Ephesians, chapter four, people "carried about with every wind of doctrine". And that's not what we want to be. But it all begins when we begin to weaken what God teaches us on the doctrine of inspiration. So let's begin by looking at the meaning of inspiration.
The word we use to describe this doctrine comes out of II Timothy 3:16. The word we use to describe this doctrine is found in this verse. "All scripture" it says, "is inspired by God". Paul is explaining how God's revelation was given to men. The word scriptures, by the way, simply means writings. But whenever it's used in the Bible, and it's used at least 50 times, it always refers to the Bible itself or some part of it. So, scripture refers to the Bible. Let's keep that clearly in our minds, the word scripture refers to the Bible. Paul says the Bible was given by inspiration of God. Now believe it or not, all six words, "is given by inspiration of God are the translation of one Greek word, theopneustos/theh-op'-nyoo-stos which means literally God breathed all scripture and the verb "is", has to be understood. It's not there. All scripture is God breathed. That's literally what Paul said. Inspired means God breathed. Now since the Latin word to breathe is inspirata from which we get our English word inspiration. That was the logical choice of the translators to describe this doctrine. It's not the perfect word how ever, because it means to breathe into, and that's not the way God gave us his word. He didn't find a collection of human writings that he liked and breathed into them his spiritual life. He didn't do that. He didn't say, oh, well, now there's a good book. I think I'll breathe in that one and that'll be part of my word. And, oh, here's another one that's good stuff. I'll breathe in that one. No, that's not the way he did it at all. He actually breathed it out. Expiration would probably be a better word, but that's got its problems too. So the Church stuck with the traditional one... Inspiration. But the word means that God breathed it out. The scriptures were brought into being by the creative breath of God. He breathed and they came into being, that's what the verse says.
Now in the Bible, the breath of God symbolizes his mighty creative word.
It was by the word of his power that he created the universe. For instance, the Psalmist says, "By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made and all the hosts of them by the breath of his mouth for he spoke and it was done."
I find that easier to believe than some of the theories the scientists are coming up with. God breath and the universe came into being. Only God could bring a universe into being. And all the matter of which it's made, had to come from someplace. It came from his breath. That's what the Bible teaches. The universe is God breathed. Now Paul's saying that the same breath of God was the power by which the scriptures came into being. The Old Testament established that fact, Jesus himself repeated it when he said, man shall not live by by bread alone. But by every word that proceeded from the mouth of God. The word from the mouth of God and now Paul reaffirms it. All scripture is God breathed. So it's obvious that the object of inspiration is not man. God didn't inspire the men. He inspired that which is in the book, not the writers, but the writings, God didn't inspire Isaiah or Moses or Paul or Peter or James. He didn't inspire the men, as if they had a flash of genius and wrote some real good stuff. We all have moments of inspiration when we write some good things, right? Maybe you've written a letter and say, wow man, that was inspired! Well, you have moments, flashes of inspiration, but you're not gonna write any scripture. Neither am I. God has told us what he wants us to know. Not only by the deeds of God in history, not only by the words of the prophets, not only by the life and ministry of the Son of God, not only by the preaching of the apostles and Christ himself, not only by the Sacred Tradition passed down from the Apostles and perpetuated by the Church, but also by the written Word of God in the Scriptures, in the Bible. It's right here in this book. God breathes out and brought these words into being, he inspired the writing, not the writer, and this writing pulsates with his life. It is the very word of God. Everybody doesn't believe that.
Neo Orthodox theologians today, for instance, tell us that it is not the Word of God in itself, but it only becomes the Word of God when it speaks to our hearts. It is not the truth of God as such, it merely bears imperfect witness to the truth of God. It's a human document with errors and contradictions. But if we listen closely enough, we can hear the voice of God in it, however imperfectly. Kind of like a scratchy photograph record. You don't get a very good idea of the talents of the musician or the message that the music conveys. It just comes through kind of distorted rather than a clear and powerful rendition. That's the way some people think God spoke in his word.
He didn't inspire the men, as if they had a flash of genius and wrote some real good stuff. We all have moments of inspiration when we write some good things, right? Maybe you've written a letter and say, wow, man, that was inspired. Well, you have moments, flashes of inspiration, but you're not going to write any scripture. Neither am I. God has told us what he wants us to know. Not only by the deeds of God in history, not only by the words of the prophets, not only by the life and ministry of the Son of God, not only by the preaching of the apostles and Christ himself, not only by the Sacred Tradition passed down from the Apostles and perpetuated by the Church, but also by the written Word of God in the Scriptures, in the Bible. It's right here in this book. God breathes out and brought these words into being, he inspired the writing, not the writer, and this writing pulsates with his life. It is the very word of God. Everybody doesn't believe that.
"Poor God." He wasn't smart enough or powerful enough to give us a clear revelation of himself. We have to settle for a distorted one. But I'll tell you that you don't get that out of II Timothy 3:16. The product of inspiration is not a faulty human word that comes to us in distorted tones. God does not stutter, and he doesn't have laryngitis. When he speaks, the message is going to come through loud and clear. The product of inspiration is a perfect word from a perfect God. All scripture is God breathed. That's the meaning of inspiration.
Now we know the message was clear when it left the mouth of God. But we still haven't figured out how it got to man, how fallible men could receive this message accurately. That's still a problem. Peter tells us the answer to that problem.
So let's go over to II Peter 1 and talk about the method of inspiration.
Did God shout from the skies with a megaphone and mechanically dictate to the writers, the writings that he wanted them to write? Did he say, "Now hear this, this is God speaking, pick up your pen and write this down." That's not quite the way it happened. And I'll tell you why I know it didn't happen that way because each book bears the imprint of its human author. His personality, his temperament, his training, his experience, his writing style. It bears the mark of the times during which he wrote and the local color of the place where he lived. It's evident that each author wrote voluntarily and spontaneously. Sometimes from his own experience in his own convictions. But the point is somebody else was guiding him. That's the point Peter wants to make in II Peter chapter one.
Saint Peter has been telling us, in this chapter, that he was an eyewitness of Christ glory. He saw the transfigured Christ when God stripped the veil of his flesh away and all that glory shown through. For a brief moment he saw it.
He says, "We were there with Him on the holy Mount," verse 18, "but we have something more than just my testimony." Peter says, "We've got something more. We have, the Old Testament scriptures that spoke of Christ," verse 19. "We also have the prophetic word made more sure which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place until the day dawns, and the morning star rises in your hearts." Now the prophetic word is not necessarily a prediction. Prophecy can simply be a declaration of God's truth. And that's what Peter's referring to. He's talking about the old Testament scriptures, where did the scriptures come from? Well, he's going to tell us, but first he is going to tell us where they didn't come from. He says in verse 20, "knowing this first", now get this, this is absolutely essential. First, "that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation." The writers of the Old Testament didn't put their own interpretation on the God breathed words they spoke. Were ever they got their information, some of them got it through direct revelation from God, some through firsthand observations, some through careful examination and investigation, but wherever they got it, they were not giving their own personal explanation of God's mind. That's what he's saying here. They didn't originate it themselves. "For prophecy." Verse 21, never came by the will of man. No human will had anything to do with revelation from God. I mean, the man may have decided when to speak and he may have spoken the thoughts of his own mind, but there was a will at work beyond his own. That's the point.
There was a will at work beyond his own. A power working on him that he may not even have been aware of, but it's beyond his own power, his own abilities. And Peter explains what that power was. He says literally, "but being moved by the Holy Ghost, men spoke from God.” There it is. That is the key to how men got the Prophecy, the declaration of God's truth, that we find in the written Word of God. "Being moved by the Holy Ghost men spoke from God.” That word moved is an interesting word. It is used in other Greek literature about a sailboat being moved or born along by the wind. I mean, there's a sailor there and he's got a rudder, but he's not in control. The win is carrying him along. When the wind stops, he stops, the wind is in control.
It's the same word used in Acts 27 of Paul's shipwreck. There were sailors there, and they were working and they were doing everything they could do using every means at their disposal to keep that ship afloat. But the text tells us there in Acts 27, that it was the wind that was in control. The driving force was the wind. And that's the way it was when God's Word was given. The moving force behind it all, the moving force behind the prophesy written down in the scripture, was the breath of God.
The Bible is God's love letter...about God given to you.
God loves us so much, he revealed himself to us through that which is written in the Bible. How did it get to you? Somebody wrote it. God so influenced those men who wrote it, that it's exactly what He wants it to be. It bears their marks, but it's what he wanted it to be. It is God's word to you. The Bible is the world's only divine human book. The only one, it originated with God from the breath of his mouth, but it came to us through men in God's control. That's the meaning of inspiration and the method by which it was carried out.
Now I want you to look next at the extent of inspiration. The extent, how far does it reach? Does it cover the whole Bible or are there some parts excluded?
Now it's increasingly popular in our day for professing Christians to say that the Bible, "contains the word of God", watch out for that word "contains". It's dangerous. "The Bible contains the word of God, but it is not necessarily in its entirety the word of God." Some say that the moral and spiritual teachings in the Bible are the word of God, but that the historical geographical, chronological and scientific facts are not necessarily true. What does the Bible claim for itself? Well, if we're convinced that it is God's revelation of mankind, then we ought to heed what it claims for itself. If we believe that yes, the Bible is God's revelation, then we need to listen to how it came to us. Let God tell us. And let Him tell us the extent of that inspiration. The Bible teaches what we call verbal plenary inspiration. Now, what does that mean?
Well, let's start with plenary. The inspiration of the scripture is plenary. You know what the word means? If you've ever been to a conference that had plenary sessions, you have a clue. Plenary sessions are almost always held in the largest room because they are full sessions. That's what the word means. Nobody's excluded. Everybody at the conference is invited. It is not a little seminar for some, it's for all. So the Bibles inspiration is plenary. It extends to every part. No part is excluded. Paul said that back in II Timothy 3:16. It says all scripture is given by inspiration of God, all scripture, not part of it, but all of it. That's what God said through the apostle Paul and the evidence is there. We accept the Lord Jesus. I mean, we accept him as our authoritative teacher. He believed it was all inspired. He quotes every major portion of the old Testament as scripture and therefore as inspired because all scripture is inspired.
He also told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would teach them and help them to understand and would call to their remembrance all the things he told them. So those things written by the apostles were likewise inspired. You say, "but some of those weren't apostles, Paul wasn't one of the 12 original apostles." Peter called his letters inspired scripture. That's over in II Peter 3:15-16. Peter called Paul's letters, inspired scripture.
Luke was not an original Apostle, but Paul put his gospel on the same plane with the old Testament, inspired scriptures. He quotes Deuteronomy and St. Luke, in 1 Timothy 5:17–18 as scripture. You see the Bible claims to be fully inspired throughout, and that inspiration reaches right down to the words. And that's the second major word to describe the doctrine of inspiration taught in the Bible. It is verbal and it is plenary.
Now some people think that only the thoughts of the Bible are inspired, not the words. They don't believe in verbal inspiration, that each word was exactly what God wanted to be. They think it was just the thoughts. Have you ever tried to communicate thoughts apart from words? I mean, you can do it if you know, sign language. You can play charades. I doubt very much whether God gave the Bible by playing charades with the authors. Because they couldn't see him. How is God going to communicate his thoughts apart from words? I mean, the Bible is clearly verbally inspired. And that's what it claims to be. Old Testament writers actually claim to speak the words of God. Like Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:9.
Jesus emphasized words. He said in a prayer to his Father in heaven, "I have given you the words, the words, which you have given me." The words. "Man, shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God". (Matthew 4:4). The other reference is John 17:8. Paul makes a point of it also. He states that the Holy Ghost teaches in words, I Corinthians 2:13.
There are passages of scripture where the whole point of the passage rests on one word being chosen rather than another. Like when Jesus said "Before, Abraham was, I Am." The whole point of the whole story is that he said, I Am rather than I Was. The story doesn't make any sense if you say I Was, he had to be, I Am. And that's what he said. And that word is important. Paul builds a whole argument in Galatians chapter 3 on the fact that a prophecy in Genesis 3 was singular versus plural, that it was seed and not seeds. Do you think Paul believed in verbal inspiration? You can be absolutely sure he did. That's what the Bible teaches. It insists that the very words used are from God. Well, maybe we're ready for a definition.
The inspiration is the act by which the Holy Ghost directed the authors of scripture so that without losing their own individuality, they recorded accurately and completely, God's exact words to man.
Now that's a human definition. As best as I know how that describes what the Bible teaches about itself and its inspiration. The act by which the Holy Ghost directed the authors of scripture, so that without losing their own individuality, they recorded accurately and completely God's exact words to man.
And some of you are saying, well, that's nice. But so what? I mean, what does it mean to me? Who cares? Well, I hope you care. Let's talk a little bit about the implications of inspiration. If the Bible is what it claims to be, a message from the mouth of God, delivered to us by men in God's control, exactly what God wants to say in all of its parts, right down to the very words it uses, then there are obvious conclusions to which we must come. And Paul tells us for one, what some of them are, in 2 Timothy 3:16. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for teaching, for doctrine for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness." We can trust the Bible. God has given His Church the Bible to teach us about our relationship with God and our hope for eternity. God has given His Church the Bible for reproof, refuting error and rebuking sin. For correction, that is setting us straight. When we go astray or get off the path, God wants us to be on. God has given the Church the Bible for instruction and righteousness. In other words, how to live, how God wants us to live. It's all right there in our Bible. Not everything is dealt with, but principles are there which can help us make decisions in those things that are doubtful. It's all right there. Instruction in righteousness. That's what Paul is saying. If it is a word from a sovereign God, if it is what it claims to be, then it has authority over our lives. It's binding on our minds, our consciences and our hearts and our wills, everything.
It's higher than so-called scientific fact. And a lot of us don't like that. I mean, it's not a textbook on science, but now if it's authoritative, then when it touches on scientific matters, we've got to accept it. It's not written in technical language, its written for a layman. So we don't expect technical language. It was never intended to be that. But it's never been proven false in any of its scientific statements. And if the scientists claim, they have discovered something that's contradictory to God's word, I have to say, well, I'll wait. I'll just hold my opinion awhile, because eventually they're gonna find out they're wrong. They can't be right if they contradict God's written word. Because it has authority. It came from the mouth of God. How can a human scientist know more than the God who created him?
It has authority over our own personal desires. Now we're getting right down where we live. When our will comes in conflict with God's will, as it is revealed in or by God's Word, then we must submit to God's will and not ask God to submit to our wills, which some of us who claim to be Christians seem to be doing. We don't like that. That irritates modern Americans with their bent toward freedom and self expression. But I'm convinced that people who say they believe in God, but deny the doctrine of inspiration are usually looking for a God whom they can bend to their own will. A God who doesn't speak and tell them how to live, but a God whom they can twist around and make, and do, or say whatever they want him to do or say. And I find that when people want to disobey the word of God, the first thing they throw away is the doctrine of inspiration. You see, they can't claim to be honest sincere people and still believe in the doctrine of inspiration if they're going to knowingly disobey the Word. So what do they do? Bow to God's authority? No, they throw away God's authority. They want their authority to be higher than God's. Can't work that way. God has spoken. The Bible is his inspired written Word. And we would do well to read it and study it and obey it.
For example; The Bible warns us about drunkenness it warns many times over. We can ignore that, but statistics show that there's a good possibility of destroying our lives and others along with us if we ignore it. And God won't be glorified. He warns us about promiscuous relationships, sex outside of the bounds of marriage, the bonds of marriage. He warns us about that. We can ignore him if we want. We can throw over the doctrine of inspiration or we can find some other rationalization to do what we want to do. But the chances of bringing some real unpleasantness into our lives are very high. I don't know the statistics, but they could be close to a hundred percent. At least from my experience in talking to people. Diseases, unpleasant diseases, scars on our souls that we just can't seem to get rid of.
You see, it's because the Bible has authority. God knows how we operate best. He made us, and he told us from the word of God. Homosexuality...The scriptures warns us about this. We can ignore Him if we want, but the chances of dying prematurely of a fatal disease are certainly increased if we do. Because the Bible is God's written word you see. He tells us how to make our marriages succeed, what husbands are supposed to do, what wives are supposed to do. We can say that's old fashioned...out of date. We can ignore it if we want, but the divorce statistics certainly show that God's right. When we do it His way it works. He tells us marriage is forever. We can throw that over. We can say it doesn't matter. It's old fashioned, but we're going to have the pains that come from disobeying his Word because there's pain there...always.
Whether written or spoken, when we deny the authority of Gods Word, and refuse to bow to the authority of Gods Word, the Bible tells we shall spend eternity in conscious torment, separated from God. That's what it teaches. It's our choice to make. When you get right down to it, there really is no other choice, but to bow to the authority of the Word. Let's do it.