If God truly gave us His Word
in written form, as He has in
the Bible, then what do
we have with which
to compare it?
In a certain sense, we have all been inspired at one time or another. A moving poem, the birth of a child, a once-in-a-lifetime beautiful sunset, or a heartfelt sermon could all serve to inspire us. This is generally the world’s view of inspiration. Inspiration is viewed as merely a strong feeling or emotional tug, an intellectual movement to action—whether through song, painting, writing, or activism.
This is why it is so essential that we remember to define the doctrine of verbal inspiration as being of divine origin rather than being a product of the emotions or minds of men. Our Bible is the verbally-inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. Unfortunately, many—even “Christian” denominations—are denying these aspects of Scripture.
The term Bible, or the books (stemming from the Greek ta biblia), was not used extensively among Christians until 350 to 400 years after Christ’s ascension into heaven. The Bible simply calls itself the Scriptures (Writings), Writ, or Holy Scriptures (Sacred Writings).
The Bible was written during approximately 1600 years by about forty different writers. Moses, who lived some 2500 years after the creation of the world, is, we believe, the first man commanded by God to write down His Word. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in the book’” (Exodus 17:14). We don’t find in the Scriptures any reference to anyone writing down God’s words in the pre- or immediate post-flood world. We do know that God chose to speak directly to men during this early time period before He inspired the writing of the Scriptures. For instance, God spoke directly to Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, and others. We may also surmise that due to the great age to which the pre-flood patriarchs lived, oral transmission of God’s revelation to man was the norm, and thus the written word was unnecessary at that time.
From Moses’ time (about 1500 years before Christ) to about 100 years after Christ’s ascension, God chose various men to be His instruments for setting down in writing the very thoughts and words He wished to communicate to mankind. As mentioned earlier, belief in divine verbal inspiration is becoming a rarity in our time, yet we declare it to be an article of faith, to be believed on the Bible’s own testimony. Is it credible that we go to the Bible to prove the origin, efficacy, and trustworthiness of the Bible? Why not? We claim that the Bible is unique due to its divine origin and unimaginable power, unlike anything else in all creation. If God truly gave us His Word in written form, as He has in the Bible, then what do we have with which to compare it? It simply must be able to stand on its own merit if it is the infallible Word of our Lord, as we claim and believe it to be.
Many may contend the Bible merely contains God’s Word, or that God may have only guided the thoughts of the writers; but the Scriptures clearly teach a deeper form of inspiration than this. Our go-to passage for declaring the divine inspiration of Scripture would have to be 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God . . .” as well as Peter’s declaration, “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). We also have, in 1 Corinthians 2:13, the apostle Paul pointing to the source of divine inspiration: “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches.” In his first epistle to the Thessalonians (2:13), Paul again cites the divine origin of the Bible: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” The very words that Paul, the prophets, and the other apostles wrote and spoke were given to them by the Holy Spirit. God inspired—literally breathed into—the men His Holy Word.
Even though it was the work of the Holy Spirit which inspired the writers, we also believe the men were not mere automatons, placing words on paper in a robotic fashion. This is why it should not bother us that the books written by different writers are often in a recognizable writing style. God, in His wisdom, was able to convey the thoughts and words He wished while making use of the individual writer’s particular talent, educational level, colloquialisms and personal writing form.
We also see that the writers knew they were being inspired. Paul mentions this in the passage just noted, as well as in other texts. Paul also clearly distinguishes between the inspired Word of God he was presenting and his own personal opinions. David confessed that it was the Spirit of the Lord speaking through him in 2 Samuel 23:2. Other writers of the Scriptures were also clear in teaching the people that the words they were presenting were from the Lord.
What a blessing it is that our Lord has placed in our hands, in written form, the very thoughts of His heart, the plan of our salvation, and the hope of our future! It is as relevant today as it ever was, or will ever be. As Jesus Himself declares, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mark 13:31).
David W. Bernthal is the principal of Luther Memorial School in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.