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Inspiration of Scripture

Query for the Month

of

December 2006

Next up-date: January 1st 2007 (God willing).

Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.

Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world?
Click here to find out!

Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download for free and share amongst your friends.   It's called "Light on the Dark Side of God" and is one of the best on this subject that I have ever read!


Query:

2 Timothy 3:16-17

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, thoroughly furnished to all good works. 

When Paul wrote these words to a young minister of the gospel, what did he mean?  And just what is scripture?


Answer:

The apostle warned Timothy against the false teachers who would seek to gain entrance into the church in his time (and in ours).  “This know also,” he declared, “that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For [professed Christian] men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy  .  .  .  having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away [don’t call them fellow-Christians] ”. 2 Timothy 3:1-5. 

“Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse,” he continued, “deceiving, and being deceived.  But continue you in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them; and that from a child you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise to salvation .  .  .  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, thoroughly furnished to all good works”.  2 Timothy 3:13-17. 

God has provided abundant means for successful warfare against the evil that is in the world.  The Bible is the armoury where we may equip for the struggle. Our loins must be girt about with truth. Our breastplate must be righteousness.  The shield of faith must be in our hand, the helmet of salvation on our brow; and with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, we are to cut our way through the obstructions and entanglements of sin.  See Ephesians 6.

In those days there was no New Testament so all this advice regarding the Scriptures referred to the Old Testament, but today we need not make any distinction.  

We should take the whole Bible just as it is, as inspired, and believe in an entire Bible.  Men have arisen who think they find something to criticize in God's Word. They lay their thoughts bare before others as evidence of superior wisdom.  These men are, many of them, smart men, learned men, they have eloquence and talent, the whole lifework of whom is to unsettle minds in regard to the inspiration of the Scriptures.  They influence many to see as they do.  And the same work will be passed on from one to another, just as Satan designed it should be, until we may see the full meaning of the words of Christ, “When the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).  

At the same time we should recognise that although the Bible is written by inspired men, it is not God's mode of thought and expression.  It is that of humanity.  God, as a writer, is not represented.  Critics sometimes say that such an expression is not like God.  But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible.  The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen.  We only need to look at the different writers and their way of expressing their understanding to see that. 

It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. 

Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts.  But the words spoken or written deliver the impress of the individual author’s mind.  The divine mind is diffused.  The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God. 

If it were any other way then we could not trust the word as we do, for we have only translations to read – there are no “originals” left anywhere in the world.  Even our beloved king James version of 1611 is based on other manuscripts that had survived to that time.  What makes it different from all the others is that the scholars who translated it were inspired as only new-born Protestants who had clearly seen the anti-Christ could be. 

In our Bible, we might ask, “Why need Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Gospels, why need the Acts of the Apostles, and the variety of writers in the Epistles, go over the same thing so often?”

The LORD gave His word in just the way He wanted it to come.  He gave it through different writers, each having his own individuality, though going over the same history.  Their testimonies are brought together in one Book, and are like the testimonies in a church meeting.  They do not represent things in just the same style.  Each has an experience of his own, and this diversity broadens and deepens the knowledge that is brought out to meet the necessities of varied minds.  The thoughts expressed don’t have a set uniformity as if cast in an iron mould, making the very hearing monotonous.  In such uniformity there would be a loss of grace and distinctive beauty.

There is variety in a tree, there are scarcely two leaves just alike.  Yet this variety adds to the perfection of the tree as a whole without changing its nature.  So it is with the Bible.  

The Creator of all ideas may impress different minds with the same thought, but each may express it in a different way, yet without contradiction.  The fact that this difference exists should not perplex or confuse us.  It is seldom that two persons will view and express truth in the very same way.  Each dwells on particular points which his constitution and education have fitted him to appreciate.  Sunlight falling upon different objects gives those objects a different hue, and that’s how it is with the truth. 

Through the inspiration of His Spirit the LORD gave His apostles truth, to be expressed according to the development of their minds, and according to their understanding.  Sometimes, in a history recollection, they are inaccurate, but that very inaccuracy is truthfully recorded, as in Stephen’s address to the council in the book of Acts.  He mentioned that the people of Israel were in bondage for 400 years, when Moses wrote that it was 430 years to the day.  Acts 7:6 and Exodus 12:40-41.  Sometimes the words of Satan or one of his followers are recorded – they are naturally lies or stretchings of the truth, but are also recorded as spoken.  All we need to do is ask the Spirit and He will guide us to see who was speaking or writing, and to whom it was addressed. 

Occasionally prophets added their own ideas, but that is usually easily recognised, as with one of Paul’s statements. “Now concerning virgins [unmarried women, regarding marriage] I have no commandment of the LORD: yet I give my judgment, as one that has obtained mercy of the LORD to be faithful”. 1 Corinthians 7:25.

The LORD speaks to us in imperfect speech, in order that our degenerate senses, our dull, earthly perception, may comprehend His words.  Thus is shown the Son of God's condescension.  He meets us where we are.  The Bible, perfect as it is in its simplicity, does not answer to the great ideas of God; for infinite ideas cannot be perfectly embodied in finite vehicles of thought.  Instead of the expressions of the Bible being exaggerated, as many people suppose, the strong expressions break down before the magnificence of the thought, though the penman selected the most expressive language through which to convey the truths of higher education.  Sinful beings can only bear to look upon a shadow of the brightness of heaven's glory.  

Some have implicit faith in the Bible and say, “I accept and most firmly believe that EVERY word is as inspired as the Ten Commandments” which were indeed written by the finger of God.  Exodus 31:18.  That is an extreme position because all we have are translations as already mentioned, and the words are not the same as they were in the original language.  Every word may be true as expressed in the translator’s view, but the truth is now written in different words.  I repeat, that while every word is an accurate record of what was said or done, some of the thoughts or words are lies or errors.  That only which is extremely accurate is a “Thus saith the LORD” when the writer quotes the words of God or an angel  For the rest we need the guidance of the Spirit each time we read the Bible.

The Bible points to God as its author; yet it was written by human hands; and in the varied style of its different books it presents the characteristics of the several writers.  The truths revealed are all “given by inspiration of God” yet they are expressed in the words of men.  The Infinite One by His Holy Spirit has shed light into the minds and hearts of His servants.  He has given dreams and visions, symbols and figures, some to His representative people (Daniel 1:17) and some to those who oppose Him (Genesis 20:3) ; and those to whom the truth was thus revealed, have themselves embodied the thought in human language. 

The Ten Commandments were spoken by God Himself, and were written by His own hand.  They are of divine, and not human composition.  But the rest of the Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human.  Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man.  Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”.  (John 1:14.)

Written in different ages, by men who differed widely in rank and occupation, and in mental and spiritual endowments, the books of the Bible present a wide contrast in style, as well as a diversity in the nature of the subjects unfolded.  Different forms of expression are employed by different writers; often the same truth is more strikingly presented by one than by another.  And as several writers present a subject under varied aspects and relations, there may appear, to the superficial, careless, or prejudiced reader, to be discrepancy or contradiction, where the thoughtful, reverent student, with clearer insight, discerns the underlying harmony.  

As presented through different individuals, the truth is brought out in its varied aspects.  One writer is more strongly impressed with one phase of the subject; he grasps those points that harmonize with his experience or with his power of perception and appreciation; another seizes upon a different phase; and each, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon his own mind – a different aspect of the truth in each, but a perfect harmony through all.  And the truths thus revealed unite to form a perfect whole, adapted to meet the wants of men and women in all the circumstances and experiences of life.

God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do His work.  He guided, but did not control, their minds in the selection of what to speak and what to write.  The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, none the less, from Heaven. (2 Corinthians 4:7.)  The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, “full of grace and truth”.  See John 1:14.

Because they cannot fathom all its mysteries, the sceptic and the infidel reject God's word; and not all who profess to believe the Bible are free from danger on this point.  The apostle says, “Take heed, brothers [and sisters], lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God”.  Hebrews 3:12. 

It is right to study closely the teachings of the Bible and to search into “the deep things of God” so far as they are revealed in Scripture.  1 Corinthians 2:10.  While “the secret things belong to the LORD our God,” “those things which are revealed belong to us”.  Deuteronomy 29:29.  But it is Satan's work to pervert the investigative powers of the mind.  A certain pride is mingled with the consideration of Bible truth, so that men feel impatient and defeated if they cannot explain every portion of Scripture to their satisfaction.  It is too humiliating to them to acknowledge that they do not understand the inspired words.  They are unwilling to wait patiently until God shall see fit to reveal the truth to them.  They feel that their unaided human wisdom is sufficient to enable them to comprehend the Scripture, and failing to do this, they virtually deny its authority. 

It is true that many theories and doctrines popularly supposed to be derived from the Bible have no foundation in its teaching, and indeed are contrary to the whole tenor of inspiration.  These things have been a cause of doubt and perplexity to many minds.  They are not, however, chargeable to God's word, but to man's perversion of it. 

God intends that even in this life the truths of His word shall be ever unfolding to His people.  There is only one way in which this knowledge can be obtained.  We can attain to an understanding of God's word only through the illumination of that Spirit by which the word was given.  “The things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God;” “for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God”.  1 Corinthians 2:11, 10.  And the Saviour's promise to His followers was, “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth . . .  For He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it to you”.  John 16:13-14. 

But, if it were possible for created beings to attain to a full understanding of God and His works, then, having reached this point, there would be no further discovery of truth, no growth in knowledge, no further development of mind or heart for us.  God would no longer be supreme; and we, having reached the limit of knowledge and attainment, would cease to advance.  Let us thank God that it is not so.  God is infinite; in Him are “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”.  Colossians 2:3.  And through all eternity we may be ever searching, ever learning, and yet never exhaust the treasures of His wisdom, His goodness, and His power.  

God desires us to exercise our reasoning powers (Isaiah 1:18); and when we do so the study of the Bible will strengthen and elevate our minds as no other study can.  Yet we are to beware of deifying reason, which is subject to the weakness and infirmity of humanity.  If we would not have the Scriptures clouded to our understanding, so that the plainest truths cannot be comprehended, we must have the simplicity and faith of a little child, ready to learn, and beseeching the aid of the Holy Spirit.  (See Matthew 18:1-4.)

A sense of the power and wisdom of God, and of our inability to comprehend His greatness, should inspire us with humility, and we should open His word, as we would enter His presence, with holy awe.  When we come to the Bible, reason must acknowledge an authority superior to itself, and heart and intellect must bow to the great I AM. 

There are many things apparently difficult or obscure, which God will make plain and simple to those who thus seek an understanding of them.  But without the guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall be continually liable to wrest the Scriptures or to misinterpret them.  There is much reading of the Bible that is without profit and in many cases a positive injury.  When the word of God is opened without reverence and without prayer; when the thoughts and affections are not fixed upon God, or in harmony with His will, the mind is clouded with doubts; and in the very study of the Bible, scepticism strengthens.  The enemy takes control of the thoughts, and he suggests interpretations that are not correct.  Whenever men are not in word and deed seeking to be in harmony with God, then, however learned they may be, they are liable to err in their understanding of Scripture, and it is not safe to trust to their explanations.  Those who look to the Scriptures to find discrepancies, have not spiritual insight.  With distorted vision they will see many causes for doubt and unbelief in things that are really plain and simple. 

Disguise it as they may, the real cause of doubt and scepticism, in most cases, is the love of sin. 

The teachings and restrictions of God's word are not welcome to the proud, sin-loving heart, and those who are unwilling to obey its requirements are ready to doubt its authority.  In order to arrive at truth, we must have a sincere desire to know the truth and a willingness of heart to obey it.  And all who come in this spirit to the study of the Bible will find abundant evidence that it is God's word, and they may gain an understanding of its truths that will make them wise to salvation. 

Christ has said, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine”.  John 7:17.  Instead of questioning and criticising concerning that which we do not understand, if we give heed to the light that already shines upon us, we will receive greater light.  If, by the grace of Christ, we perform every duty that has been made plain to our understanding, we will be enabled to understand and perform those of which we are now in doubt. 

Lastly, but not least, there is an evidence that is open to all – the most highly educated, and the most illiterate – the evidence of experience. 

God invites us to prove for ourselves the reality of His word, the truth of His promises.  He bids us “taste and see that the LORD is good”.  Psalm 34:8.  Instead of depending upon the word of another, we are to taste for ourselves.  He declares, “Ask, and you shall receive”.  John 16:24.  His promises will be fulfilled.  They have never failed; they never can fail.  And as we draw near to Jesus, and rejoice in the fullness of His love, our doubt and darkness will disappear in the light of His presence.

The apostle Paul says that God “has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son”.  Colossians 1:13.  And everyone who has passed from death to life is able to “set to his seal that God is true”.  John 3:33.  He can testify, “I needed help, and I found it in Jesus.  Every want was supplied, the hunger of my soul was satisfied; and now the Bible is to me the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Do you ask why I believe in Jesus? Because He is to me a divine Saviour every day.  Why do I believe the Bible? Because I have found it to be the voice of God to my soul”.  We may have the witness in ourselves that the Bible is true, that Christ is the Son of God.  We know that we are not following cunningly devised fables. 

Peter exhorts his brothers and sisters to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ”.  2 Peter 3:18.  When we are growing in grace, we will be constantly obtaining a clearer understanding of His word.  We will discern new light and beauty in its sacred truths.  This has been true in the history of the church in all ages, and thus it will continue to the end.  “The path of the just is as the shining light [of dawn], that shines more and more to the perfect day”.  Proverbs 4:18.   

By faith we may look to the hereafter and grasp the pledge of God that that will be a time of growth of intellect, the human faculties uniting with the divine, and every power of the soul being brought into direct contact with the Source of light.  We may rejoice that all which has perplexed us in the providences of God will then be made plain, things hard to be understood will then find an explanation; and where our finite minds discovered only confusion and broken purposes, we shall see the most perfect and beautiful harmony. 

“Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known”.  1 Corinthians 13:12. 

 

Conclusion:

The Bible is the word of God given to us through intermediaries.  We may trust it if we are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but we should know from personal experience that the Son of God lives and walks with us every day.  This combination, the power of the WORD and the word, will give us victory whenever we really want it.

 


Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.

Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.

Next query. To be discussed from December 1st, 2006.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

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, thoroughly furnished to all good works. 

When Paul wrote these words to a young minister of the gospel, what did he mean?  And just what is scripture?

 

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