£0.00
Postage £0.00

Inspiration

Last month we wrote on the subject of the authority of Holy Scripture. We viewed the organic unity of the Book and pointed to this as a powerful and irrefutable argument for its divine authority. We emphasized the nature of this authority and showed that it was abundantly confirmed in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Old Testament prophecies and types which He fulfilled. His view of the authority of Scripture was reiterated by His apostles who were directed by Him to teach all things that He commanded them.

We now wish to follow another line of enquiry and deal with what is usually termed "Inspiration". This has to do with the origination of Scripture - how it comes about that fallible men were instrumental in the production of writings which are described as the Word of God (Mark 7.13). Scripture gives an account of itself and of its divine origin. We shall review some of the passages which deal with this issue, and point once again to the testimony of our Lord and His apostles on this weighty subject.

The term "inspired of God" in relation to Holy Scripture is used in 2 Timothy 3.16. It is important that we attach the proper meaning to this term. The English word inspiration has a wide and varied use in common speech but as applied to Scripture it has a narrower technical application. It means that in the production of Holy Scripture a supernatural influence was exerted on its writers so that their writings were God's words. This can readily be seen by an examination of the Greek word which is translated by the English term "inspired of God." The word is theopneustos (theos, God, pneo, to breathe). This means that Holy Scripture is God-breathed, the product of the creative breath of God. This is precisely what the apostle Paul states here. He goes no further; he tells us nothing of the process which secured this result through the human writers. He simply says that Scripture is God-breathed and therefore profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. The following comment is worthy of careful thought: "Theopneustos is primarily expressive of the origination of Scripture, not of its nature, and much less of its effects. What is theopneustos is 'God-breathed', produced by the creative breath of the Almighty ... It does not express a breathing into the Scriptures by God... What it affirms is that the Scriptures owe their origin to an activity of God the Holy Spirit and are in the highest and truest sense His creation. It is on this foundation of Divine origin that all the high attributes of Scripture are built" (Warfield).

In a passage of great importance in relation to our subject (2 Peter 1.19-21), the apostle Peter gives further light on this profound matter. The passage is complementary to the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 3.16, and is the most complete scriptural statement on how God produced the Scriptures through the instrumentality of men. Here is the passage in full:

"And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: knowing this first that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit."

All Scripture is prophecy in the sense that it is of divine origin. We are clearly told here that Scripture did not originate in the minds of the human writers. Nor did their private opinions intrude to cause them to put their own construction on their message, "for no prophecy ever came by the will of man". God gave the messages - " men spake from God, being moved (Greek, phero:

borne along) by the Holy Spirit".

This is an impressive part of the testimony of Scripture to its own origin. It is as far as Scripture goes in defining how the Spirit of God operated in the human writers. The process of inspiration cannot be analysed; the divine and human were blended in a way we are unable to fathom. It is clear that the mode of inspiration was not that of mechanical dictation. The faculties of the writers were fully exercised; the Spirit exercised control without superseding human personality. "God, who gave the message, chose and prepared His messengers, and by His almighty power, using the faculties of His messengers, produced statements of absolute truthfulness. In combining His divine power in perfect union with the exercise of man's faculties, God was surely able to effect results accurate in every detail in spite of natural fallibility. The divine ray, while using the human medium through which it passed, yet retained its own purity" (Westcott).

We now turn to examine some of our Lord's teaching to see what He said about the origination of Holy Scripture. He frequently described the Old Testament writings as "the Scriptures" (e.g. John 5.39; Matthew 21.42). Sometimes He used the singular - " the Scripture." In these terms our Lord bore witness to the entire body of writings which comprised the Old Testament, making no difference between its various parts. To Him Scripture was a unitary whole, all of which was authoritative and binding. "The Scripture" He said, "cannot be broken" (John 10.35). When speaking one day to the Pharisees (Matthew 19.4-6) our Lord quoted words written by Moses about marriage (Genesis 2.24) and attributed these words to God. Again, quoting Psalm 110.1, He said that David spoke "in the Holy Spirit" (Mark 12.36). There can be no question of the implications of this use by our Lord of the Old Testament writings - "to Him, what Scripture said, God said" (Warfield).

When our Lord referred to the historical parts of the Old Testament He treated them as fact; never as myth, legend or allegory. He spoke of Abel (Luke 11.51), of Noah (Matthew 24.37), of Abraham (John 8.56), of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10.15) and many other Old Testament persons and incidents. He frequently drew lessons from Old Testament history, giving it the stamp of His authority, acknowledging its accuracy and its abiding value. He described Old Testament precepts as "the word of God" (Mark 7.10,13). He also referred to its word forms, thus confirming the flawless accuracy of the original autographs: "Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets:

I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished" (Matthew 5.17,18). A "jot', is the smallest Hebrew letter; a "tittle" is a small mark distinguishing one Hebrew letter from another.

This treatment of Holy Scripture by our Lord was consistently followed by the apostles who were His accredited witnesses. Throughout the historical record in the Acts and also in the epistles there is complete and unmistakable testimony by them to the divine origin of the Old Testament writings in their entirety. They use the terms "the Scriptures" and "the Scripture" in precisely the same way as our Lord used them. By frequent use of the phrase, "it is written", when quoting Old Testament passages they gave the same emphasis to its abiding validity as did our Lord Himself. They always referred to Old Testament history as fact; the dealings of God with Abraham, Moses, David and other Old Testament characters being viewed by them as basic in the history of salvation. And they regarded their own ministry as apostles of the New Covenant as a development of the great plan designed by God and foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

In Acts 4.25, in association with a citation from Psalm 2, it is asserted that God spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of His servant David, thus echoing our Lord's own words (Mark 12.36). The apostle Peter also asserts that the writings of Old Testament prophets were the product of "the Spirit of Christ which was in them" (1 Peter 1.10,11). The human instrument and the divine Author are linked in these passages. Further striking testimony to the Holy Spirit as the ultimate Author of the Holy Scriptures is found in the epistle to the Hebrews. Quotations from the Psalms and from Jeremiah's prophecy are given without naming the human writers but ascribing the authorship of the words directly to the Holy Spirit. In the former case the quotation is prefaced by the words, "The Holy Spirit saith" (Hebrews 3.7), and in the latter case by the words, "The Holy Spirit... beareth witness to us" (Hebrews 10.15).

The apostles were endowed with the same Spirit who operated in the Old Testament writers and they acknowledge Him as the primary source of their writings (see, e.g. Ephesians 3.5; 1 Peter 1.12). It is perfectly clear, then, that the term "inspired of God (God-breathed), applies to the whole collection of sixty-six books which comprise the Sacred Writings. This is the account Scripture gives of its origin, endorsed by the unqualified testimony of our Lord and His apostles.

In the counsels of the Godhead the Holy Spirit of God became responsible for the entire revelatory process unfolded in Holy Scripture. The infinite knowledge and wisdom of the Divine Spirit who "searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2.10) are evident not only in the glorious theme of Scripture but also in the order and mode of its unfolding. With what reverence and care we should handle this priceless heritage! Here are the closing words of Dean Alford's Greek Testament and Commentary: "I have now only to commend to my gracious God and Father this ... my labour of now eighteen years, herewith completed. I do so with humble thankfulness, but with a deep sense of utter weakness before the power of His Word, and inability to sound the depths of even of its simplest sentence. May He spare the hand which has been put forward to touch His Ark". Such words breathe a reverence for Holy Scripture worthy of our emulation.

It is clear that the Scripture doctrine of Inspiration extends to the very words of the original autographs of the Sacred Writings Words are the vehicle of thought and upon their exact meaning the discovery of the Divine Mind depends. Fallen man needs nothing less than an infallible written communication from God. Any other view of Inspiration would leave us with an inspired message in uninspired words - an impossibility. "To suppose that words and cases are convertible, that tenses have no absolute meaning, that forms of expression are accidental, is to abjure to fundamental principles on which all intercourse between men is based. A disbelief in the exactness of language is the prelude to all philosophical scepticism" (Westcott).

We have endeavoured in this article and in the one which appeared last month to examine briefly some of the evidence for the authority and inspiration of Holy Scripture, largely from the Book itself. There are other external lines of enquiry which could be followed but these are outside the scope of our present subject. But we do believe that if the testimony of Scripture on these vital matters be rejected then we must abandon the Christian Faith and leave ourselves in darkness and ignorance, cast back on our own fallible reason. And this is just the choice some modern critics invite us to make!

"All flesh is as grass... The grass withereth...

But the word of the Lord abideth for ever"

(1 Peter 1.24,25).