Biblical Inspiration: Has God really spoken?

William J. Brown, Webmaster

By William J. Brown

What is the big deal about biblical inspiration?

From the dawn of time man has doubted the accuracy of what God says. We find the first mention of human distrust in God in Genesis 3:1. In the Garden of Eden, Satan planted the seed of doubt in Eve's mind. "Hath God said?" the serpent hissed. Eve fell for Satan's lie and Adam shortly after that. That opened the doorway to sin and human fallen nature.

Since that time man has continually questioned the Word of God. He has even perverted and changed the truth to fit his own liking (See Romans 1:23.)

But we have to ask the question what makes the Bible the Word of God? After all, isn't it just another book written by men? The Bible was written over a period of 1500 years by 40 different writers. This in and of itself makes it one of a kind. But is this the only reason we hold it up so highly?

To answer this question let's ask another, "Has God really reached down to Earth to communicate with His creation?"

We'll answer that question right up front. Yes, He has. That is what sets the Bible apart from all other books.

He used certain men to write His very words. This is called biblical inspiration. How can we make that claim with such authority? Grab your Bible and let's get started. If you want to do everything online click here to open a new window to use the King James Version, New International Version, New American Standard and more!

I. What is biblical inspiration?

Before we get into specifics, we should go over what we mean by inspiration. Our definition comes from II Timothy 3:16 which says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God..."

The word "inspiration" here literally means "God-breathed" (theopneustos for all you Greek scholars.) We can contrast the "breathe" part of this word with two other similar words used in the Bible. One means "to breathe gently." The other means "to unconsciously breathe."

However, the word used in II Timothy carries the opposite idea contained in both words. "Breathe" here means "to forcibly, consciously breathe." We could say it means "to blow." God "blew" His very words into human history using ordinary human beings to give us the instruction we needed.

So we can honestly say the Bible is "The Word of God." God spoke every bit of it.

So how did God impart this biblical inspiration to mankind?

From II Peter 1:20,21 we find out how God interacted with men to write His very Words. This text says...

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."

"Interpretation" does not refer to the reader discovering the meaning of God's Word. Here the word defines the source of Scripture, God. We can learn from this verse that God used certain men in an unusual way. They did not use their own words to interpret what God had given them. They wrote exactly what God wanted.

As the verse indicates, God spoke. These holy men were moved in an such a way that they knew and wrote the very Words of God. The word "moved" used here means "carried along." In other literature this word describes wind moving a sailing ship across the water...

The writers of the Bible were "carried" along in much the same way.

These men were "carried along" by the very "breath" of God across the sea of human history. They wrote what He wanted. Nothing more, nothing less.

II. What biblical inspiration is not!

Let's be careful at this point to make sure we understand what true biblical inspiration is by looking at what it is not...

Inspiration isn't the same as revelation. Revelation is the message. We could say the Bible is God's revelation to man. Inspiration, on the other hand, is the method by which God gave us His message or revelation. It's important that we know the difference for our later studies.

Also, inspiration isn't just a heightened state of creativity. Shakespeare, Milton and Handel were all inspired and wrote great enduring works. But this is not the same use of the word "inspiration." This is known as "natural inspiration." These men and others like them had great natural abilities in literature and music. But there's nothing miraculous or unusual about them or their works. The Bible is God's very Words, not just a great work of literature or art.

We must also realize that inspiration was not mechanical dictation. God did not have these men write word for word what He said as if they were mere secretaries taking dictation. If that were true we would find that vocabulary and writing style would be the same throughout the whole book.

But we can see in the Bible that style and vocabulary differ greatly from book to book. In some amazing way, God gave us His exact words, but did it in a way that kept each writer's unique style and ability. In some instances, as in the letters of Paul or the book of Jonah, God even used the writers' life experiences to make His point.

Remember: Peter told us these men were "carried" like a ship on the sea...

A ship can only go the direction the prevailing wind takes it. But within certain limits it still has the ability to use its rudder and sails to steer.

In that way God "moved" these men to write His exact words but still allowed them to use their own human experience to "make it real" to fallen human beings. It is the perfect combination of sovereignty and human responsibility.

Before we get to the last point, let's take a quick break...

Get your cup of coffee...

...and review what you've learned so far.

III. How do we know what is inspired?

Let's turn our attention to this important question, "How do we know what is inspired Scripture and what is not inspired?" What is true biblical inspiration? The Bible itself clearly directs us here.

Proof for the Old Testament

We find the phrase, "Thus saith the Lord," mentioned over 400 times in the Old Testament. Old Testament writers used these words to mark the exact Words God had given them. These men obviously believed that God had spoken to them and given them the exact message He wanted His people to hear. These men knew they had spoken and written the Word of God.

Jesus also stated very clearly that the Old Testament was inspired.

1. He used the creation account as a historical reference (Matthew 10:6.)

2. Christ cited a story of David as a historical example to combat the Pharisees' legalism (Luke 6:4.)

3. Using a passage from the Psalms, the Lord proved He was the Son of God, not the son of David (Mattew 22:41-46.)

4. He quoted the prophet Isaiah extensively (Matthew 15:7-9, Luke 3:4, John 12:38.)

5. Jesus saw the story of Jonah as a historical reality (Matthew 12:39.)

6. From the beginning to the end, Jesus considered the Old Testament inspired. (Matthew 7:12, Luke 16:16-17.)

Note: Notice that Christ cited from every section of the Old Testament: the Books of Law, History, Poetry, Major Prophets and Minor Prophets.

Proof for the New Testament

In the New Testament we find these proofs. Take note of the progression...

1. Paul cites the words of Jesus alongside an Old Testament passage putting the Gospel accounts on par with Old Testament Scripture (Luke 10:7.)

2. Peter states clearly that Paul's letters are inspired Words (II Peter 3:15-16.)

3. Jude quotes almost word for word a verse from Peter's writings showing its authority as prophecy (Jude 17,18.)

4. John clearly cites that all three persons of the Trinity (three Persons of our one God) spoke to him everything he wrote in the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:1,7, 19:9, 21:5.)

Note: You don't need to memorize every Old Testament and New Testament reference. Pay attention to bold print references though.

We recommend you look up each one and read the passage yourself. Make sure you know the general proofs listed here such as which sections Jesus cited from the Old Testament and who proves who in the New Testament.

Apply: What does Biblical Inspiration tell us?

So what does biblical inspiration tell us? It tells us the Bible is the very Word of God. He has made His message clear in the exact way He wanted to do it. As you hold your Bible in your hand, you can say with authority, "I have the true Word of God, the Bible."


...take a deep breath...

...get another cup of coffee...

...and review the material we covered in today's lesson, then take the Bible Knowledge Survey.

God bless!

Click here to take the Biblical Inspiration Survey!

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