- Last time we noted the ways that God has revealed himself to the world. The creation declares the existence of God and, according to Paul, was put into place so that we would seek after him. But God has revealed his will to us through his Son and his apostles who wrote down God’s will, so that when we read, we can understand what God wants us to do (Ephesians 3:3-5).
- But how can we know that what we have in our Bibles is the word of God? We noted a couple weeks ago that the Bible passes the test of textual transmission. The New Testament has more historical attestation and manuscript copies than any other historical document. Further, with no other historical document of antiquity do we have copies so closely dated to the time of the original autographs. The works of Plato and Homer have hundreds to thousands of years between when they were written and any copy we have found today. Yet no one claims error or inaccuracy concerning these works. The Bible also has no errors in its textual transmission.
- But is the Bible man’s words or God’s words? How can we know so that we can be certain we are not following mere fables or stories? This lesson is intended to answer this question.
I. Understanding Inspiration
A. Definition of inspiration
- We must begin by defining inspiration. In today’s language, inspiration is anything that lifts the spirit. Therefore, we speak of paintings that are inspirational. We talk about football players inspiring their team to victory. When speaking in these terms, many people admit the Bible to be “inspirational.” However, this is not what the Bible means when it speaks of inspiration. The word “inspiration” literally means “the breath of God.”
- Therefore, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” To say the Bible is inspired is to declare the Bible to be the very words of God.
B. Method of inspiration
- Therefore the Bible does not contain the word of God, the Bible is the very words of God. The Holy Spirit inspired (gave the very words of God) to chosen men to write the Bible. This is exactly what the scriptures describe as the method of inspiration. Acts 1:16 says, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas….”
- Sometimes people find this method of revelation troubling. I suppose they would have felt better if God had written the words down himself. But we know that would not change anything since the Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18). But allow me to make an illustration to show that using a messenger does not detract for the validity of the message.
- Now, I did not have brothers or sisters growing up. But those of you who did can apply this illustration even more readily. When I was younger, I was upstairs playing with my toys with a friend. My friend decided to go downstairs to get something to drink while I continued to play. Moments later, my friend returned with a message for me: “your mom says to stop what you are doing, come downstairs, and eat.” I am right in middle of something that I did not want to stop. So what is my response? “I will be there in a minute.” That, of course, is not the answer any parent is looking for when one says to stop something and come do something else. Further, for remaining upstairs until I was finished, punishment was given. Now, could I have given a defense that my mother had not told me to stop, come downstairs, and eat? Of course not. We know that my friend delivered the clear message of my mother, word for word. Even though the words came through someone else, the words were my mother’s and I was accountable to obey.
- Just as much as we understand this scenario, we also should understand that God has spoken to us in the same way. God did not have to speak directly to you or to me for us to know hear his words. God sent messengers who had the very words of God and we are just as accountable, as if God had spoken the words directly to us.
II. Proving the Inspiration of the Scriptures
A. The Bible’s bold declarations
- We already noted that the Bible declares itself to be the very words of God. This makes the Bible very unique. Other documents shy away from making such a declaration because if the document contains the words of God, then those words must be flawless. As humans, we know we make mistakes and do not want to make a claim that you can go through our writings with a fine-toothed comb and not find a problem. Yet that is exactly what the Bible declares. Man alone has not declared the Bible to be the word of God, but the Bible itself makes that very claim.
- The Old and the New Testaments claim inspiration nearly 4000 times. Claims do not prove a fact, but the claims tell us something about those who have made the claim. For example, if I told you I could benchpress 1000 pounds, you immediately learn something about me. You would learn that I am either the strongest man in the world, I am a liar, or I am a lunatic. The same thing can be said concerning the writers of the Bible. Either the writers of the Bible told the truth when they claimed to write down the very words of God, they were liars, or they were lunatics. It is not possible for us to say that good men wrote the Bible and the Bible is a good book, but is not inspired. This is not a good book if the writers lied nearly 4000 times. The Bible is certainly not a good book if it is not inspired when we consider that we are told that if we do not obey its commands we will spend eternity in hell. Therefore, we are left with three options: (1) the Bible is the word of God, (2) the Bible was written by a bunch of liars, or (3) the Bible was written by people who were completely deluded and were lunatics. If either of the last two options is true, then we cannot ever say that the Bible has the greatest words or that it has the greatest standard of morality.
- How can we prove the Bible to be the very words of God? How can we know that these words are God’s words and not man’s words? We will first look at what the Bible says about itself.
B. Proving inspiration by the Bible’s claims
- 2 Peter 1:16-21 probably contains the most extensive argument made by the scriptures for its inspiration. Peter declares that he and the other writers did not follow cleverly invented stories when they told people about Jesus. In fact, they were eyewitnesses to things they recorded. In referring to the transfiguration of Jesus, Peter declares that they heard the voice that came from heaven when they were with Jesus on that mountain.
- In verse 20, Peter wants to make a very emphatic point. None of the writers ever penned something by their own will. Nor did any writer pen their thoughts or interpretation of God’s words. Instead, men spoke the very words of God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moved them to write the very words of God. No writer was moved by his own will to write something down.
- Everything written down are the very words of God. This is the other point of the argument in 2 Timothy 3:16. Remember the words: “All scripture is breathed out by God….” The Greek word for “scripture” is the word graphe which literally means “piece of writing.” Not only did God affirm the very words spoken by the apostles and prophets, but God also affirmed the words the apostles and prophets wrote down. If we read these words literally in 2 Timothy 3:16, we would say “All of the writings of the apostles and prophets are breathed out by God.”
- Further, even the content of the writings repeatedly show these words to be the very words of God. In Acts 12 we read about the death of the apostle James. How much would we have written about the death of the first apostle? We would have written volumes about this monumental event, recording the impact it made on the Christians and what was done in honor of James. Yet the Bible records that James was killed by the sword and nothing else is said.
- How much would a human have written about the death of Jesus? We would have recorded how many beatings and whippings Jesus endured. We would have recorded all the details about the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. Instead we are left with simple statements like “and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26). Each of the gospel writers only record about three chapters worth of material about the death of Jesus. The average person would have written far more.
- How much would a person write about the birth of Jesus? Today we see large elaborate scene about the birth of Jesus. Stories are told today concerning his birth, embellishing and adding material that was not originally recorded. What would you have written about the birth of the one who would take away the sins of the world? How much would you write about the one who would fulfill all prophecy? Two gospel writers record nothing, Matthew records about 25 verses, and Luke records about 39 verses. Scant information exists about the birth of Jesus. The content of the Bible shows it to be the very words of God.
C. Proving inspiration without the Bible’s claims
- But some think that we need to use the Bible to prove the Bible’s claims. But this is not true, either. Many critics argue that Christians claim the Bible is inspired and then prove it by quoting the Bible. The critics declare we are arguing in circles. But we can prove the Bible to inspired without using it.
- Instead of assuming the Bible to be the word of God, we can begin by demonstrating that the scriptures are reliable and trustworthy historical documents. We spent a whole lesson showing that the Bible is reliable. I encourage you to read that lesson if you have not done so yet. We applied scholarly tests and historical criticism to the scriptures to prove it is a trustworthy historical document. There has not been found any fraud, inaccuracy, or error in the scriptures.
- Our next step is to establish that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Not only does the Bible affirm this, but many other historical documents, including Josephus, record that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. The greatest proof Jesus would use to validate his claim of being the Son of God was his ability to raise himself from the dead.
- When we examine the evidence, there is overwhelming proof and many arguments support the contention that Jesus did raise from the dead. We will go into these proofs in more detail in the future. But for now, let us quickly make a couple points. If Jesus did not raise from the dead, then the Jews simply needs to reveal the body of Jesus laid in the tomb to destroy the apostles’ claim of a risen Jesus. As we have studied in the book of Acts, we have seen the apostles repeatedly claim Jesus to have risen from the dead. The Jewish leaders persecuted, arrested, and killed the apostles for preaching these things. Rather than be flustered, if Jesus had not truly risen from the dead, those Jewish leaders could have produced the body. They would make a museum where the body of Jesus lay in the tomb. But for 2000 years there has been no body, showing a risen Jesus.
- Since Jesus rose from the dead, he truly is the Son of God as he claimed to be. Only God can bring life to dead, especially bringing one self back from the dead. Since Jesus is God, he speaks with authority on all matters. We know from the Bible and from historical documents that Jesus consider the Old Testament to be the word of God by quoting from it and plainly saying it is the word of the Lord (Matthew 22:29-33; 15:1-6; 5:17-18; Luke 24:27,44; John 10:34-36). Further, Jesus told his disciples who would pen the New Testament that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 14:26). Therefore, we are able to prove the Bible to be the very words of God even without using 2 Timothy 3:16 or 2 Peter 1:16-21 which both affirm the very conclusion. Jesus proved himself to be the Son of God and declared the Bible to be God’s words. Just as our brother or sister may have relayed to us the very words of our parents to obey, so the apostles and prophets have relayed to us the very words of God by writing those words down for us to read and understand today.