This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).
We know the Bible as the Word of God. That means God is the source of Scripture, revealing truths we are incapable of knowing without divine help.
The Bible is special revelation in that it is a record of God’s work before time, in time, and beyond time, with a particular emphasis on creation, sin, redemption, and restoration. As such, Scripture complements God’s general revelation, which all people witness in creation and conscience (Rom. 1:18-32; 2:14-16).
In the Bible, God is revealed as one being in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While these divine persons carry out distinct roles in creation and salvation, they are unified in purpose.
The holy, loving, self-giving persons of the Godhead set the standard for how human beings created in God’s image should relate to God and to one another. At the same time, without Scripture, we would not be able to comprehend God as a Trinity.
Our ability to observe the natural world points us to a divine Designer. Yet, nature itself cannot adequately explain how Yahweh is one being in three persons. And mankind’s universal conscience compels us to conclude that there is a divine moral Law Giver. Even so, conscience can’t tell us the reason behind or the remedy for our violations of standards that have been written on our hearts.
It takes special revelation from this divine Designer and divine moral Law Giver. That’s where the Bible steps into the picture.
The 40 men who penned the Scriptures insisted that their messages came from God. They claimed to be under the direction of the Holy Spirit (2 Sam. 23:2; 2 Peter 1:20-21). “Thus saith the Lord,” “God said,” “the Word of the Lord came to me,” and similar phrases are found hundreds of times in the Bible.
The apostle Paul declares, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). Even before the New Testament canon is completed, Peter refers to the writings of Paul as “Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). And ancient non-Christian writings attest to the truthfulness of the eyewitness accounts of Jesus of Nazareth.
It should come as no surprise that the triune Godhead also produced the Bible. Christians understand the Holy Spirit to be the divine agent of God’s written revelation. Yet the Spirit moved in concert with the Father and the Son.
Scripture is God-breathed
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The phrase “inspired by God” translates the Greek word theopneustos. It means “God-breathed.” God did not breathe into the Scriptures, thus inspiring them; He breathed out His Word. The Bible’s originator is God.
Theologian Charles Ryrie defines inspiration as “God’s superintendence of the human authors of Scripture so that using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs.”
By superintendence, we do not mean God dictated His Word to human stenographers, as Muhammad claimed of the Qur’an (via the angel Gabriel). Rather, God breathed out His Word, enabling the human authors to use their own writing styles, backgrounds, experiences, and ideas to put in written form the very thoughts of God, thus ensuring their accuracy.
We should be clear that inspiration applies to the autographs of Scripture – that is, the original documents – not to subsequent manuscript copies, which contain some scribal errors, or to Bible translations, which vary in accuracy and readability.
God is so identified with His Word that when Scripture speaks, God speaks. For example, Paul writes, “For the Scripture tells Pharaoh, I raised you up for this reason so that I may display my power in you and that my name may be proclaimed in the whole earth” (Rom. 9:17; cf. Exod. 9:16). Further, Scripture is called “the very words of God” (Rom. 3:2) and can neither be altered nor broken (Matt. 5:17-18; John 10:35; Rev. 22:18-19).
Note several important components that contribute to the inspiration of Scripture:
(1) The Holy Spirit’s superintendence of the human authors guarantees an inerrant and infallible original text. Inerrancy means freedom from errors or untruths. Infallibility means the original manuscripts are incapable of error because God is wholly dependable.
(2) Inspiration extends not just to spiritual ideas or theological concepts, but also to the very words of the writers. This is known as verbal inspiration.
(3) Inspiration pertains to all Scripture. All parts of the Bible are equally authoritative. This is called plenary inspiration.
But how did God inspire His Word? The apostle Peter offers a hint when he writes, “No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21).
The Greek word rendered “interpretation” conveys the idea of unleashing something. Therefore, no human being may take credit for untethering divine revelation; God is the one who makes the meaning of the text accessible to human beings.
In addition, “carried along” translates a Greek term sometimes applied in a nautical context, describing the effect of wind on a ship’s sails. As John MacArthur writes, “Similarly, the Spirit moved on the Biblical writers to produce the Word of God in the language of men.”
Next: God the Father and Scripture