Study 8 THE INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE
PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 2 Timothy 3:1-17. Key verses: verses 15-17
Paul firmly believed in the inspiration and the authority of the Scriptures, and he reminded Timothy that he had known these from his infancy - verse 15. The number of people with a Christian background is decreasing, and consequently there is much ignorance of spiritual things today. In this time of increasing unbelief, we must have no doubts about the Divine inspiration and authority of the Scriptures! Notice three vital things in our verses:-
1. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ARE INSPIRED
When Paul wrote the word ‘all‘ he referred only to the thirty-nine Old Testament books, for the New Testament was then in the process of being written; but the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Old Testament also inspired the writing of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. Verse 16 tells us that “all Scripture is God-breathed”, or “given by inspiration of God” (KJV). In a broad sense everyone believes in the inspiration of the Bible - but not everyone means the same thing when they use the word ‘inspiration’ in reference to the Bible. What do we mean when we speak of the inspiration of the Bible? Notice some of the things we do not mean:-
- (1) We do not mean Natural Inspiration, the inspiration which is purely human genius. Poets and musicians are inspired, but only by a natural inspiration.
- (2) We do not mean merely that the Bible is an Inspiring Book. Of course it is, but so is “Pilgrim’s Progress” and so are hundreds of other books.
- (3) We do not mean Partial Inspiration. There are those who say that parts of the Bible are inspired and parts are not; or, to put it another way, that the Bible contains the Word of God. This, however, is quite illogical. Who is qualified to decide which parts are inspired and which are not? Where can you find two people anywhere who will agree on this?
- (4) We do not mean Progressive Inspiration. Those who accept this theory say that the later books included in Scripture are more inspired than the earlier books. Genesis (they say) is not fully inspired and therefore it is not authoritative and reliable; on the other hand (they say) the Gospels are inspired!
- (5) We do not mean the Inspiration of the Thoughts only, or the ideas that are expressed. Thoughts can only be accurately expressed by the very careful choice and use of words. Inspired thoughts might be imperfectly expressed if the inspiration did not extend to the words as well as the thoughts.
The above makes it clear that when people say they believe in the inspiration of the Bible we need to clarify what they mean. What does the Bible teach about this? It declares that the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, was God-given; as verse 16 tells us – “All scripture is God-breathed” - or literally, ’out of God’. Therefore we believe that the Bible is absolutely reliable, trustworthy and authoritative. In 2 Peter 1:21 we read of the way in which God inspired the writers of the books of the Bible by overseeing their work so that what they wrote was absolutely correct in every detail in the original documents. This means that:- “The Bible as we now have it, in its various translations, when freed from all errors and mistakes of translators, copyists and printers, is the very Word of God, and consequently is wholly reliable and without error.”
2. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ARE INSTRUCTIVE
In verse 16 Paul tells us that the scriptures are profitable in four ways - for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Notice that he is careful to say that all scripture is profitable in one or other or all of these ways. This means that every part of the inspired Word is adapted to our needs. Consider the four particular ways that are mentioned:-
- (1) For TEACHING. Is there anything we need more than this - to become fully acquainted with the great teaching and doctrines of the Bible? We must study the Word of God, where we have a statement of true doctrine.
- (2) For REBUKING. This tells us that the Word of God is the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses in order to rebuke us and to produce conviction of sin (John 16:8 and Acts 2:37).
- (3) For CORRECTING. This word tells us that the scriptures not only show us where we are wrong but they also show us how to get back on to the right path. They are the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to ’convert’, or turn us - look up Psalm 19:7.
- (4) For Training in RIGHTEOUSNESS. The scriptures give us God’s standards of holiness and right living and they tell us how we may attain to these standards. They are the only instrument that the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish the will of God in the child of God.
Now we shall only gain the profit that the scriptures can give us if we read them (Acts 17:11); if we study the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15); and if we apply what we read to our lives (Hebrews 4:2) - and compare Joshua 1:8.
3. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ARE INSTRUMENTAL
Notice here that the Lord does two things through the scriptures: First: to make us “wise for salvation…” (verse 15); and second: to make us “thoroughly equipped for every good work …” (verse 17). In other words:-
- (1) The Holy Scriptures are the instrument God uses to effect our Salvation. How does God convey His message of love and grace to sinful men? - verse 15 tells us. There is only one book in the world that contains the specific and the authoritative message of John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:15; and Revelation 22:17. God’s plan of salvation is only made in the Scriptures, and therefore these alone can make us ”wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” - look up Acts 4:12.
- (2) The Holy Scriptures are the instrument that God uses to effect our Sanctification. Verse 17 tells us that when God saves us (verse 15) His plan and purpose is that we should become complete, mature and fully-equipped. As we read, study, receive and apply the Word of God to our lives the Holy Spirit does His sanctifying work in us - look up and compare Psalm 119:9; John 17:17 and 2 Peter 1:4.
Let us treasure this wonderful, inspired Word of God.