By Warren Rainwater
A study of the inspiration of the scriptures should be a challenge to everyone that loves the word of God. A careful and systematic analysis of the entire Bible will increase the faith of the Christian many fold. We accept the Bible as the inspired word of God. Do we know why? Could we defend the Word in a discussion with an atheist or with anyone that cares to try to refute the inspiration of Holy Writ? This is a challenge to all that hold dear to their hearts the Word of God.
In our study, the first thing that we must do is to define what we mean by inspiration. We define it thusly: “The power put forth by the Holy Spirit on the authors of the Holy Scriptures to assure the exact words used to convey the mind of God to us.” In other words, the Bible is inspired to the very least word and thought. It is from God or it is not from God. It is God’s revelation to man and is complete or it isn’t God’s revelation and is incomplete. There is no middle ground as we shall see in our study.
Men have taken it upon themselves to divide the Scriptures into three major divisions regarding inspiration. Class No. 1: They deny the existence of inspiration in any form. Class No. 2: It is declared that a part of the Bible is inspired and from God and the other is from man. They admit of the possibility of “small” errors in the Bible but nothing to affect the doctrine contained therein. Class No. 3: They admit of inspiration but divide the inspiration into four major sections: superintendence, elevation, direction and suggestion. We shall examine these divisions one by one as we go on into a full study of inspiration. Some of the positions taken by the so called Doctors of Divinity are fantastic and it is hard to see how any thinking man could accept such conclusions.
These distinctions made by the divines of the day are completely false and have no foundation in the Word of God. Such division was not known to the early church. Even through the first eight centuries such ideas were not entertained. Modern thinkers feel that they have the right to arrive at conclusions concerning the inspiration of the scriptures that the Word itself does not warrant. We shall proceed to examine the arguments advanced.
The denial of the existence of inspiration is hardly worthy of notice by anyone. We have only to look at the complete harmony of the Old and New Testaments. Writers that lived hundreds of years apart and wrote of things pertaining to eternal life without any contradictions. Look at the Psalms and hear the Messiah a thousand years before his advent cry, “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me? . . . . they have placed my hands and my feet . . . . they have cast lots upon my vestures .... they look and stare at me .... as well as the narratives of them by John, Mark, Luke or Matthew. The scriptures declare their own inspiration. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” In other words, all scripture is from God, entirely from God, even the least “jot or tittle.” Every word in the Book is from God and therefore inspired verbally.
The second class, though willing to admit the existence of divine inspiration would confine it to a part of the sacred books. They say that Matthew and John are inspired, but Mark and Luke are not. They declare a part of the epistles to be from the thoughts of man and a part from God. They feel that it is within their power to judge and to decide the nature of the passage.
If I were to dictate a letter to my secretary and on the morrow use someone else to write another letter, would they be any less mine? No, undoubtedly. I can use the mechanics of various persons to take dictations and by and through them impart my views to the world. It is not necessary that the world know of the emotions or thoughts of the ones used in transcribing my words. Their thoughts or emotions might be very interesting to know but it matters not what they might be, it does not affect in any way the thoughts I convey through them.
Such is the fact of the divine inspiration of the scriptures. God employed priests, kings, warriors, shepherds, publicans, etc., to reveal to man His will. He employed the instrumentality of their understanding, their will, their memory and all the powers of their personality. You must conclude that the first line, the last line, all its teachings are by the same author, whether understood or not understood. It is the work of Moses, yet of God. The work of Paul, Peter, or John, yet of God. God speaks in man, by man, as man, through man. “It is God that works in you to will and to do.”
In the face of such evidence, the idea of a part of the scriptures being from man and a part from God is revolting to the honest logician.
It isn’t required of us that we understand the hidden emotions of the writers, neither did God see fit to reveal their feelings except in various degrees. Some understood the things that they revealed yet some did not. Their understanding was not a factor. “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me and his word was my tongue,” said the psalmist, David. The apostles “spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance.” No doubt the apostle Peter did not fully understand the full impact of all the things that he said on that great day when he preached the first gospel sermon.
It is a matter of faith that we subscribe to verbal inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. Faith is founded only on the Word of God. (Rom. 10:17.) If no word of God then no faith.
Class three involves a much more detailed study of the scriptures. The late moderns have seen fit to declare the inspiration of the Word of God to consist in degrees. They extend the notion of inspiration to all the scriptures but not to all equally. Inspiration, they say, might be in all the scriptures, but unequal, imperfect and carried to different degrees, according to the nature of the passage. Therefore, they go so far as to distinguish four degrees of divine inspiration.
Superintendence is the degree that preserved the writers from serious error. For example, they say it would be folly to inspire a writer when he had the knowledge by ordinary means. In these cases, no supernatural influence is needed to preserve them from error, or to enlighten their minds because they knew the truth by association and natural knowledge. The writers only need now and then infallible preservation from error.
When the passage was difficult then it was necessary to be supernaturally endowed with more than ordinary vigour. Then in some passages, the subject dealt with must directly be revealed to the writers.
The advocates of inspiration by superintendence declare that if inspiration does not exclude the personal actions of the sacred authors no more does it destroy all influence of human imperfection. All these include in assumptions and conclusions the notion that there are some passages in the scripture quite devoid of importance and that there are others that are filled with error. The ones that are important came from God and the ones that are of no importance came from man. They feel able to judge as to the importance of the scriptures. In other words, they divide the scriptures into essential and nonessential. That has been the course taken by sects for many years.
The pathetic words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:13 have been used by all the advocates of partial inspiration to try to prove their point. Paul, from the recess of his prison, begs Timothy to hasten and come to him before winter and to bring the cloak that he had left in Troas. This domestic detail seems too trivial to be inspired to some, but they fail to view the grandeur of the passage.
The Lord spoke of his garment and vesture on the day of his death. Would you have that passage dismissed from the inspired saying? After a night of prayer and anguish and being mistreated, beaten, buffeted, and blindfolded in mockery, the Lord was taken to Pilate’s Pretorium. Finally, the Son of God was crucified between two thieves. The most horrible death possible. Who would think of saying that the words used in describing the garments that were parted and the vesture for which a lot was cast was uninspired.
So it is that the Holy Spirit carries us into the inner walls of the prison of Rome where Paul was spending his last days here on earth. We see him as he sits there in solitude. He had been a giant in the spreading of the gospel, beaten with many stripes, in prison more frequent, beaten with rods, shipwrecked and naked. He had fought a good fight and kept the faith and was at the end of the road for the Master. He is shivering with cold because winter has commenced and he wants his clothes. Perhaps the cloak and the papers were the only things he had left. Most of his friends had turned away and gave him no comfort. He was facing death at the hands of the Romans and needed the cloak. Would you say that the emotions that are stirred at the mere mention of Paul in his present condition, the pathetic picture of Paul in his last days were there by the work of man and not the hand of God? God is teaching us a lesson and forcefully bringing it to our passions by relating the last few things in the life of the great apostle, Paul. If we cannot view the condition of Paul and appreciate the life that he lived from even these few words then we do not grasp the love of God that is shed forth in the fearless champion of the cause. May we be able by prayer and study to better understand God’s message to us and to comprehend the deep meaning of the Holy Scriptures instead of taking the easy way out and say that certain passages are the handiwork of men and not of God. To try to make a division in the scriptures is a tell-tale clue to our faith in God and his message to man.
The thought of revelation by elevation is something that makes the man of God shudder. The attributing of God’s will to that of the illuminating of the mind of man so high that the mere thoughts are pure and holy is repugnant to the divine pattern. It is true that all Christians are built up in the most holy faith by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and by the knowledge of God’s goodness we are exalted and illuminated to a high state of ecstasy but that does not mean that all Christians are inspired. We are able to understand God’s will by study and wisdom given from above but never are we able to reveal a new truth. We must always confine our activities to a study of the truths that God has given us through the prophets and His Son.
It is declared that the “prophets have inquired and searched who prophesied of the grace unto you; searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify.” It mattered not how much wisdom they might have had from God. It was not enough to elevate their minds to creation but to analytics. Sometimes, they spoke of things by inspiration that their illumination could not grasp, proving, without a doubt, the complete division of the two. In fact, there is no real closeness in the two but a great gulf is fixed between the idea of inspiration and illumination. Each works in a field all its own and separate from anything else.
Since there is a difference in inspiration and illumination and God’s will is given by inspiration, it is in order at this point to observe that distinction. In points of duration, inspiration is intermittent, whereas, in illumination it is continuous. Regarding measure, illumination is by degrees but inspiration is not by degrees.
Our knowledge of the Word and understanding increases as we spend more time in study. The knowledge that we obtain never leaves us even though it may diminish because of refusal to continue in the study the more we are illuminated. We see that our knowledge is then a matter of degrees.
Inspiration never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21.) According to Paul, the men of God spoke in divers manners and at different times. They were not the authors of God’s will in manners of their own choosing, but they spoke as the “Spirit gave them utterance.”
It would be folly indeed to assign the infallibility to the prophets except as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Without divine inspiration they usually were holy and faithful men and led a Godly life but it was only holy and God-fearing men that spoke. They were fallible because God was not speaking through them. Men of God were infallible only as “they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” All their actions and thoughts were not inspired and any attempt to make them so is to show a lack of knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. It is also wishful thinking to believe that God has sent us His will through the process of invigorating the mind.
The idea of inspiration by suggestion entails snares that cannot be answered in the light of the scriptures. This being the fourth of the degrees proposed as God’s method of inspiration, it is in order to observe the points put forward. It is usually admitted that God suggested the ideas but that He only inspired the thoughts of the sacred writers and they used their own words to convey God’s message to mankind.
The idea of inspiration of thoughts instead of verbal inspiration is held as a matter of faith by the moderns of the day. They think that by a system of planting the thoughts in the minds of men, the scriptures came to us without the words being supplied to the authors. We shall examine that position in the light of God’s Word.
First of all, this idea is contrary to the testimony of the scriptures. The Bible declares itself to be written “not with the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches.” It declares itself to be the “voice of God,” “the oracles of God,” etc. A scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable, etc. The Lord said “it is written.”
Besides being a system that is contradictory to the Bible, the system is also irrational. Our ideas are made known to others by embodying them in words. My friends are made known to me by the language of their voices and their gestures, and if they had no power of employing these they could stay at my side and be as they were not.
Also, there is a connection between the two that cannot be separated. The ideas and the words of man cannot be separated. The word of man is the only way to enquire into the inner character and then we can only guess as to the true character unless we have the assurance that the words spoken are a true interpreter of the mind. The reflection must be true and reflect the idea intended. Even then we have no assurance that we have not been mistaken but must accept the thinking of the mind by the words expressed.
Language then is the wondrous mirror that reflects to us the depths of the soul. God giving to man the pure thoughts and not giving the words to express them to us is so irrational that it cannot be considered sincere by the honest student. How could unlearned men express the wonderful thoughts of God, when it was almost impossible perhaps for some to write correctly in their own language. It is absurd to think thusly.
What would we do if someone were to give us some ideas of a wonderful speech to deliver and lo and behold, at the very last minute inform us that it must be spoken in Russian to a group of Russians! We would have the thoughts but would be completely lost because we were not supplied with the words also. Actually, we can only think in a language in which we are trained. It is impossible for me to think in French because I do not know the language. Carry this supposition to Jerusalem and to the apostles, and then we have Galileans, commanded to speak the wonderful words of God. They were required to speak in Latin, Parthian, Coptic, and other tongues. What could they have done on that day without the words? They certainly did not have the knowledge of these various tongues. The God of Heaven inspired them verbally as to what to say. They spoke “as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
It is necessary that every tense of the verb be inspired and given to the men of God and the very placing of the least particle in order to insure the complete reflection of God’s will to mankind.
There are many more ideas that could be brought into defines of the verbal inspiration of God’s Word, but the summation of the points already given should convince the honest seeker of the truth that any idea that contradicts the verbal inspiration of the Bible is not the truth and is not in harmony with the revealed will of God. May I say again that the scripture is from God, by God, yet by man. God speaks through man by using his mind and language. It is not rational to think that God gave us the scriptures and left it couched in the minds of men to try to explain without the use of inspired words.