The word “inspiration” occurs only once in the Bible. It is in 2 Tim 3:16 (Job 32:8 is more correctly translated “breath”.) Our understanding of this great truth is critical to the reverence we give to the Bible. This word “theopneustos” is literally “breathed out by God”, not “inspired”, but “ex-spired.” The passage tells us that every writing or text (graphe) classified as Scripture, not just the concepts and doctrines therein, is Divine, including words, verb tenses, articles, prepositions and, yes, historical events and even selected heathen quotations. It is the writings which are inspired, not the writers.
In vs. 15, Paul refers to the sacred writings Timothy knew, the 0. T. In vs. 16 he uses, “also profitable” (R.V.), to include holy writings that were being added, which would embrace the N. T. (including his own writings) then in the process of being written. Peter recognized Pauline writings as inspired by linking them with the O. T. Scriptures (2 Pet 3:15).
Inspiration thus includes both Testaments and would refer to their original formation, not to
copies and translations which, through a human process, introduce textual errors and corruption. By “inspiration” of the Word of God, we mean that it is a Divine revelation couched in Divinely-given terms.
What are the dynamics of this great communication from God to man? Firstly, it originated with God as to the subject matter and substance to be revealed. Secondly, the Spirit is seen in O. T. and N. T. to be the “breath” of God for that is His title (Heb. Ruah ,Gk. Pneuma) and denotes both the outgoing of Divine power and inseparable association of the presence of God. God breathing out the scriptures is the Holy Spirit acting as the agency who conveys them (Heb 3;7). The Lord said of this activity of the Spirit: “He shall not speak from Himself. . .whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak” (Jn 16:11). Thirdly, human vessels were taken up to be the actual penmen whom the Holy Spirit employed to write the actual words by which the revelation from God was to be conveyed. “The Holy Spirit spake by the mouth of David” (Acts 1:16).
Consequently, we have a Divine message that, in its construction, is stamped with the personality and individuality of the human writer acted upon by the Spirit. By such arrangement, God may be described as the primary author. The servant who wrote is the secondary author. We learn that holy men of God spoke as they were “borne along” by the Spirit (2 Pet 1:21), as a wind drives along a sailing vessel. We are told that, regarding the prophets, the Spirit of Christ was “in them” communicating to us by their writings (1 Pet 1:11). Further, Paul as representative of the N. T. writers was “given wisdom” to write, undoubtedly a special gift by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 3:15). Like Bezaleel in building the tabernacle, these writers were empowered by the Holy Spirit for their specific writing and enabled to exactly express the revelation of the mind of God.
Having stated the foregoing, it is still beyond explanation how the writers knew exactly what to write. Expressions like “Thus saith the Lord,” “The word of the Lord came to…,” and things such as visions, or the handwriting of God on tablets of stone, though written with conviction, hardly enlighten us as to how details were written down with the confidence these were the exact sayings of Almighty God. Furthermore, Paul stated that he was writing the commandments of the Lord at one time while later he was writing by permission, not commandment, as though not certain (1 Cor 7:6,10,25,40).
Luke tells us he took all the available writings of the life of Christ, then selected and arranged the material in his own order for Theophilus’ benefit. How did he know what to select (Lu 1:1-4)? Then Jude seems to have changed his mind after starting to write (Jude 3). Peter writes things his readers already knew (2 Pet 1:12). How does inspiration fit into all this? Surely their hands did not move in robotic fashion across the page, bypassing the brain and thought processes of the writers. Every thinking student of the Word of God has pondered such issues. Is there an answer?
There isn’t a reader who could explain the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. He would ultimately say that it was a mystery, in that the Holy Spirit came upon the human mother, Mary, leading to the entry into the world of One who was perfectly Divine, yet in human form. We reverently accept the truth that the written Word of God was given by a Divine work. The Holy Spirit came upon human vessels who, in ways only known to God, expressed in pen and ink what was the mind of God in words selected by Him. Thus, Divine and human qualities are blended together in one glorious Record designated as the Scriptures.
We can read and relate to it because it is expressed in human terms, but we can really only feel its power by the enlightening and enabling work of the Holy Spirit.
Let us emphasize that the Word of God is thus equal in power and authority to the Incarnate Word Himself. There is nothing that He would say or do that would be different from what is written. The words He spoke were spirit and life and power, and those words were eternally inscribed in the writings of Scripture. The power of Christ’s miracles was the Holy Spirit. The power of the Scriptures is also the Holy Spirit working through them. This is why human lives, destiny and history have been changed through the reading of the Bible. These are the “greater works” of which the Lord spoke.
These things cannot be grasped by the unregenerate mind. To tell an unsaved person of prophecies fulfilled, historic accuracy, the scope, variety and uniformity of the Bible will never convince him that it is God’s Divine Word. He will only be convinced and convicted of such by the Spirit’s power as he reads it. As believers, we have come into the power and blessing of the divinely inspired Word of Almighty God. To defend it, simply quote it. Someone asked C. H. Spurgeon how to best defend the Bible. He answered with a question. “How do you defend a lion? Simply let it out of its cage!”
One other concern relates to the canonicity of Scripture. That is, of all the writings in N. T. times, how was it determined which were part of the inspired record to be included in the body of writings we know as the Bible. It is beyond the scope of this article to review the historical process. Very briefly, it is to be noted that there was no blaze of light or voice from heaven to indicate which writings were part of the holy record.
Rather, it is evident that the Holy Spirit superintended this matter over a period of time through spiritual men with a deep exercise to hear God speak to them and make His Word available to others. He was the Paraclete whom the Risen Lord would send to produce the Scriptures and thus guide us into all the truth. Progressively, some writings were included, some rejected, and some originally included but later rejected. The product of such exercise was the Bible we now have and treasure: 39 books in the O. T. and 27 in the N. T.
- Believe it to be saved,
- Read it to be wise,
- Practice it to be holy.