Pretty well every single person that claims Christ has agreed that the Bible is both inspired and infallible. How those two words are defined will vary differently between every single Christian that you ask. It is true that many of us perform the obscene act of “circular reasoning.” Circular reasoning is defined as “arguing in a circle.” For example, if I say that the Bible is the word of God, and then to prove it is the word of God I appeal to the Bible, I am now arguing in a circle. There might be dozens or more steps in between, but the argument is still a circular argument. Because it says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is “God-breathed,” we then must believe that Scripture is God-breathed. Ironically, this is another term that is defined quite drastically different when multiple Christians are questioned.
The inspiration of Scripture is exactly what it sounds like. God inspired the authors of the books of the Bible to write down what they wrote. This breaks down a little bit. The question is asked, “Did God speak the very words to write, and they penned the words that God has spoken?” You only need to read the book of Job to know that this is not the case. The book of Job is an accurate account of what happened to a man, but that doesn’t mean that what some of Job’s friends say are doctrinally correct. The same is true with Ecclesiastes. Some of what is said in the Bible is not doctrinally true, but yet it is said anyway. Why? The point being made is not about the correctness of the doctrine, but instead about the whole of the story. When you come to the end of Ecclesiastes, you read, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
The inspiration of Scripture is much more easily defined by saying that the Bible records exactly what God had intended for it to record. What precisely that means is then broken down from there. God intended that there be false doctrines contained within Ecclesiastes, not so that we might follow them, but because we all endure this same struggle. Many of us have been able to take counsel from the book of Ecclesiastes, or some of the Psalms that speak of despair. We don’t read it and come away with false notions of God, because we read the book in its entirety and its context. The conclusion at the end shows us exactly how to interpret the rest of the book.
In regard to the epistles in the New Testament, or some of the prophetic books, the question is often raised once again about whether God spoke the words for them to pen. Once again, I would like to note in regard to the epistles, these men were writing to specific congregations with specific needs. They weren’t writing a dissertation on theology. It is in the spur of the moment and from the overflow of the heart that they spoke. This should all the more cause us pause. What is said in the book of 1 John is intrinsically John. You cannot separate the message from the man. What John writes is who he is. This is the expression of his life. In that sense, inspiration for the apostles was closely associated with revelation. They didn’t write down a dogmatic or systematic structure when addressing their readers. They wrote specifically for those they wrote to. We get a glimpse of the man Peter when we read his writings. God has invested in these men a revelation of Himself, and it is from that revelation that they speak. It is actually an eternal perspective that leads these men to write what they write.
This is somewhat scandalous. Many hold to the idea that God has spoken to these men certain revelations, and because He spoke this to them, they wrote it down. Yet, I find that it is much more plausible that God has worked these things in them. They represent what they write. This has been revealed to them through the working out of their own salvations. Jesus said that He did not speak any word that was His own; only what the Father had given to Him. How much of that is a statement that says Christ was not the man speaking when He opened His mouth, and how much of that is an exposition of what He told His disciples regarding when they stand before rulers and kings? He warned His disciples not to worry about what they would say, because in the moment the Spirit would give them the words to say. It will not be them speaking, but instead the Spirit speaking through them.
This, of course, requires of us. It requires that we would have lived a life in service to that Spirit. We need a history of being humble to that Spirit. Our history needs to consist of walking according to the Spirit and speaking only when the Spirit gives utterance. If we don’t have words to say, then we keep our mouths shut. We’ll dive into this a little more later. In regard to inspiration, it helps us to understand how we might understand inspiration. Is it possible for what I write to be inspired? In one sense, yes, but in another sense, no. When my writing is a direct revelation of the man Christ Jesus, then I am indeed writing something that is inspired. However, what I am writing needs to be held up to Scripture and tested by that Scripture. It is Scripture alone that is infallible, and not my writings.
When we think of the prophets, we often think of men who would have heard the audible voice of God. Moses did. There is implication to say others also did (Elijah heard the still small voice). However, I think the prophets came to an understanding through the progressive revelation of God. For example, you don’t find Moses prophesying of a Son of David to sit upon the Throne of David and rule over the whole of Israel. You don’t find Samuel prophesying the reuniting of Israel and Judah. It should be obvious why. Instead, God spoke to the prophets concerning their own day and age. What we see in the prophetic texts are statements of immediacy. The prophets believed that their prophecies would be fulfilled very soon – possibly within their own lifetimes. Yet, many of the prophecies contained within Scripture are still unfulfilled.
The inspiration of the prophets should be understood in the context of the prophets. There is a certain character that the prophet brings. They have a certain way of seeing things. The same is true for all of God’s callings. The prophet is shown the big picture: how the beginning relates to the end, and how the end relates to the beginning. To then discuss whether the prophet is writing from dictation or whether they write from vision, or whether they write by leading of the Holy Spirit is to miss the entire point. The prophet does not do any of these. They speak what it is that their hearts cry out. There is something intrinsic to the prophet – something that God has invested in them – that can discern the spiritual condition of the nation, and thus speak forth the necessary conclusion of that spiritual condition. The prophecies of judgment and doom, as well as the prophecies of restoration and redemption, are both governed by spiritual discernment over the nation that they are speaking to. This, however, does not give us the whole picture of the prophet’s words. They do speak oracles. Therefore, it is correct to say that their words are the very words of God. These go hand-in-hand together.
When we’re dealing with inspiration, we’re dealing with a difficult subject. We cannot say that God has dictated the words that are written. Yet, there is a real sense in which the whole of the Scripture seems to testify that God has dictated them. The way this is explained is in understanding what it means to obtain unto that revelation spoken of in the previous chapter. I focus highly upon revelation, because it is the revelation that is the inspiration. The divine message is the message of God’s heart. When we understand God’s heart, we understand His purposes. When we understand His purposes, we understand His character. When we understand His character, we are more conformed to His image. When we are more conformed to His image, we are given greater leading of the Spirit in our words.
This is why the whole of Scripture seems to be written by God. It would appear that when we study out the Hebrew language, and we study out the usage of the Hebrew in the Old Testament, we come to conclusions that no man could possibly have written this. Indeed there was no man that wrote it. Inspired men wrote it. What it means to be inspired is quite spectacular. Men that are gripped by the heavenly vision of God are they that are inspired. They’ve been taken out of the world and brought to unity with God. No longer do they write their own words, but instead write the very words of God. They no longer speak their words; they speak the words of God. That doesn’t limit opinion; for Paul even mentions that he is expressing his opinion in 1 Corinthians 7.
The point is that the man who God chooses to add to His Holy Scripture is one that has been caught up into Christ likeness. We read in Isaiah that “your thoughts are not my thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” but we need to read this with the understanding that we have been given the mind of Christ. That is not to say we have arrived at thinking God’s thoughts and walking in God’s ways, but that these have been revealed to us. They who added to God’s Scripture are men that were infused with the Spirit of God. God revealed Himself, which is to say, God revealed His thoughts and His ways. Thus, we read the Scriptures knowing that they are inspired, because the same Scripture that revealed these holy words to the authors is alive inside of us.