Study 5 THE INSPIRATION AND AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE
THE SECOND LETTER OF PETER
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portions: 2 Peter 1: 16-21 and 2 Timothy 3: 14-17
In these days, when many are denying the Faith, we must be absolutely sure about the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible, which is the basis of our Christian faith. In 2 Peter 1:19-21 this truth is brought before us, as follows:
- (1) The Bible is a “more certain” Word (verse 19). This means ‘firm’, ‘reliable’, ‘trustworthy’. The reference is to the Old Testament, but what is true there is also true of the New Testament. Thank God, the Bible is a ‘sure’ word and it can be depended upon! If this were not so – look up Psalm 11:3.
- (2) The Bible is a light in a dark place (verse 19). The world is a dark place, with no ray of light anywhere, no divine revelation – except in the Bible. Apart from God’s Word we know nothing about the meaning of life, about death or about eternity (Psalm 119:105). The Bible throws light on the Christian’s path until the Lord comes back (last part of verse 19).
- (3) The Bible is one organic whole (verse 20), which means that no scripture is to be interpreted by itself – that is, apart from other scriptures and apart from the rest of the Bible. The word is to be “correctly handled” (2 Timothy 2:15); the books of the Bible form a unity, and therefore one part of scripture must be interpreted in the light of every other part.
- (4) The Bible was written by holy men. God chose about forty human writers and He used these to write the sixty-six books of the Bible. But we must notice that they did not write according to “the will of man” (verse 21). What they wrote was not a concoction of their own ideas, nor the result of human imagination, insight or speculation.
- (5) The Bible was and is inspired by the Holy Spirit (verse 21). He is the divine Author and He inspired the writers. They were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit as they wrote.
Everybody believes the Bible is inspired, but the use of the word ‘inspiration’ has different meanings:-
- (1) We do not mean natural inspiration, which is no more than human genius. Artists, poets, musicians are inspired, but by natural inspiration. We mean more than this when speaking about the inspiration of the Bible.
- (2) We do not mean simply that the Book is inspiring. It inspires all those who read it, of course it does! But we mean much more than this.
- (3) We do not mean partial inspiration – that we can rely on parts which are inspired, and regard other parts as unreliable.
- (4) We do not mean progressive inspiration – in that there is a progressive revelation where there is much fuller truth in the New Testament than is revealed in the Old Testament.
- (5) We do not mean the inspiration of the thoughts only. Some say it is only the ideas and the general thoughts expressed which are inspired, and that the general sense, therefore, is reliable but the words must not be relied upon. We do not accept this view.
What are the positive answers to the question, “What is Inspiration”?
- (1) We believe the Bible is inspired by God and not by man; it is of divine (not human) origin. 2 Timothy 3:16 literally reads, “All scripture is God-breathed”.
- (2) We believe the whole Bible is equally inspired by God – from Genesis to Revelation. We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Bible – a full, complete inspiration. (The word ‘plenary’ means ‘passing through all its stages’).
- (3) We believe the inspiration of the Bible extends to every Book, chapter, sentence and word in the original documents. This is verbal inspiration, meaning that it extends to the very words used in the original writings.
Many Christians do not accept this; they prefer to accept the deductions of modern critical scholarship. There is a very necessary and valuable criticism of the biblical manuscripts, but error results when those who bring their scholarship to the scriptures reject all that they cannot understand and refuse to accept by faith what God has revealed. They substitute human speculation and reasoning for divine revelation. We believe the whole Bible is inspired by God and is therefore reliable. But how do we substantiate this claim?
- (1) If the Bible is God’s Book, if He is the Author who inspired its writings, then such inspiration must extend to the whole Book. God would not have given an imperfect revelation of Himself. All His ways and His acts are perfect.
- (2) If the whole Bible is inspired, then the words must be inspired as well as the ideas and thoughts. Otherwise there can be no accuracy; thoughts cannot be expressed without words, and they cannot be accurately expressed without carefully chosen and precise words.
- (3) The Scriptures themselves claim this full and complete inspiration extending to the words. If Peter’s words in verse 21 are right, it must be so – see Psalm 19:7; Psalm 119:89; John 10:35 and 1 Corinthians 2:12-13.
- (4) Our Lord Jesus Christ accepted the full inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures. His own words were inspired, they were God-given (Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35; John 6:63; John 8:26,28,40; and John 12:49-50).
- (5) The Bible is therefore fully inspired, accurate, authoritative and reliable, and it demands that we “pay attention” to what God says in His Word – that is, to read it, believe it, love it, obey it, learn it, spread it and thank God for it!