The Breath of God - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2003-11-30 PM
  • Systematic Theology
  • Sermons


I want to show you something that is very special to me as we begin our study tonight. This is probably (it may be one of, if not) my greatest treasure on earth, that's not a person. This is a page from the Tyndale New Testament. Let me give you a little history. John Wycliffe was the first man to translate the Bible into English. But his particular version or translation was handwritten because Gutenberg hadn't yet invented the printing press. So, the first printed version of the New Testament in English was by William Tyndale in 1525. There are two copies extant of that first printing. One of them is in the British Museum, which I had the joy to see. The other is in the (as I understand) the Queen of England's private treasures. And then there were several other printings, but all of those were destroyed. Of course, it was against the law at that time to print the Bible in English, and so all of them were destroyed.

The next printing that's available in the English language, besides the one the British Museum has and the one the Queen has, is this one. This page was printed in 1536. It was printed by, not by William Tyndale, although it's his translation. It was printed by his friend, Miles Coverdale. And the reason is that William Tyndale was in prison. He had been imprisoned for one reason, his desire to put the Bible in the hands of the common people in English. This is from Galatians 3 on justification. I couldn't resist getting that particular page.

You notice how small it is. It's one of the smallest printings, ancient printings, of the Scripture, and the reason is, it was against the law to have, to be caught with, an English translation of the Bible. And so, they made it small. This is only four by six inches so that it could be hidden easily. So, this was printed the year that William Tyndale was in jail for his faith, and after sixteen months in prison he was taken out and publicly strangled, and then his body burnt. And the only crime he committed was this. What an amazing treasure we have in the Bible.

The Bible is a unique and unusual book, and we come now from general revelation to special revelation where God has revealed Himself in the Word of God. The Bible, as I've already mentioned was the first book to be printed. A portion of the Bible, the Bay Psalm Book was the first book printed in North America. And it continues to be by far the best-selling single title in the US. It has been translated into more languages than any other book, more than a thousand languages, devoted readers of the Scripture are able to read. Why is it that this book, above all other books, has become such a prize in our world? R. Laird Harris, that's a name you need to know, and there's a book I want to recommend to you by him. R. Laird Harris wrote in 1969 a Book of the Year. A Christian Book of the Year. It's called The Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scriptures. If you want a book that will challenge your thinking and will really encourage you in this area, that's the book. And here's what he says. Listen to this.

What is the secret of the Bible's appeal? In itself it's a strange phenomenon, that a history of the struggles and the sins of the kings and the priests of an ancient nation should have a compelling fascination even for the children of our day. And men ask themselves what possible meaning the story of a religious teacher of Jewry and His little band of twelve fishermen can have for our time. If the Bible were merely a collection of ancient tales, not to say legends, the imposing structure of the Christian Church with all of its beneficent enterprises would rest upon a foundation of sand. If the Bible were merely a classic, it could be of interest, but there would be no explanation of its power over the hearts of men. That the Bible is a book of interest, and of beauty, and of moral force, few would care to deny, but that it is more than this seems abundantly self-evident.

Why? Why are these things true that R. Laird Harris wrote? What distinguishes this book from all others? Well, Harris answers. "The Bible claims to be a book inspired by the Spirit of God, bringing a message of salvation to despairing and helpless men." There's the reason. There's the reason that this book above all others has been attractive to the world.

This week, and next week, and I'm not making any promises beyond that. we have two Sunday nights when we'll have special Christmas events so I won't be coming back to our study in systematic theology. The last Sunday night of December we will, and I don't know if I'll finish it next week or the last Sunday night of December, or maybe into the new year; but we're going to be looking at what the Scripture says about this foundational doctrine of inspiration. I want to spend some time on this, because without the Scripture, we have no sure foundation for our faith.

In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (many of you have read that and benefited from it), in Pilgrim's Progress there's a point in the book when Christian loses his scroll, his copy of the word. And Bunyan graphically portrays the sort of anxiety and turmoil that Christian undergoes and experiences until he retraced his steps and found the book. I don't want you either to lose the book, or to be unaware of how important it really is to us and our faith. So, that's why we're going to take some time to study this together.

And we're going to begin tonight. This is a more of a classroom setting than we have on Sunday mornings, so I'm going to do something that I wouldn't typically do on Sunday morning, but I think it's important. I want us to begin by looking at a brief history. I'll never forget my first experience in college when I was sitting down to read a commentary. And as I read this commentary, to my shock, I discovered that the commentator was saying that he didn't believe that the Bible was completely inspired.

That was really my first encounter with that whole concept that there were people who studied the Bible and claimed to believe the Bible to some degree, who gave their lives to the Bible, who didn't believe that the Bible was inspired. My first reaction was shock. And then it was sort of anger. And then it moved to sadness, because I thought, here is a guy who has devoted his life to doing something that he doesn't even believe.

But my most interesting interaction with those who reject inspiration came about sixteen years ago. I met a man who directed the men's ministry at St John's United Methodist Church on Roscoe Blvd. And he came to Grace for a special event. I think Chris Parkening was playing classical guitar, and his wife played classical guitar. So, he came to the event. We met, struck up a conversation, and he asked me to come and speak to the men's group. Well, I followed my mentor's advice, and that is I'll go anywhere as long as I can say what ought to be said, so I went there. And of course, as you know, probably the United Methodist Church is liberal to the core, most of them. There are very few that will embrace anything that we believe.

And so, I went there, and I decided, what's the most important topic I can teach, and that is, the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And so, I just went to the gospels, and I laid out from the Scripture the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And I was thrilled with the response. These men were so excited about what I was teaching, and so interested. I'm sure that there were probably one or two Christians there who had fallen in with this lot, and the rest were not, but they had a great interest in this issue. They listened intently.

But at the end of the men's meeting that evening, I opened it up for questions. Well, sitting in the back, that evening, was the pastor of this United Methodist Church. And I could tell during my message that he became more and more uneasy with what I was teaching and where I was going. But when I opened it up for questions, his was the first hand up. And his question was this. He said, now Tom, he said I understand, I appreciate your zeal, but isn't it true, that what you're teaching from the gospels was actually written much later than what you were saying it's written, and in fact, we aren't sure if that was even John who wrote that. We don't know if that's what he was recording about Scripture. Isn't that right, Tom?

Well, I was not too long out of seminary, and so the Lord brought back to my memory some of my textual criticism and that is, learning the manuscript families of the New Testament, and the various documentation for that, and so I was able to refute his question and show that, in fact, there's a fragment of John that goes back to 125 AD-within 25 years after the apostle's death. And that sort of silenced him, but I'll never forget arguing with this pastor in his church about the reliability of the Scripture. And I was struck with the point of, how did this happen? How did a church get to the point where they rejected the whole concept that the Bible was God's inspired Word? I think it's important, before we examine the doctrine itself that we take a few minutes to trace the church's rapid and unabated fall from the inspiration of Scripture.

And so, I want to take just a moment to deal with history. Until the 1700s no one of any consequence had questioned the biblical view of the inspiration of Scripture. Occasionally, you had an extreme heretic like Celsus who questioned the authority of the various books of the Scripture, but almost unanimously, all of the ancient creeds and church leaders supported a high view of the Scripture's integrity and authority. So, what happened? How did we get from that to a United Methodist pastor arguing that, in fact, those are not the inspired words of God, they are even, not even the words of John as they claim to be, they're written some time much later?

Well, in 1753 a man by the name of Jean Astruc noticed a variation of the divine names in Genesis, and as he noticed those names, he saw that sometimes Jehovah was used and sometimes Elohim was used, and so he concluded that part of Genesis was a combination of different sources. Now this man was orthodox. He believed in the integrity of Scripture. So, he simply believed that Moses may have used two ancient sources as he wrote, one that liked the name the name Jahweh or Jehovah for God, and one that liked the name Elohim, the Hebrew name Elohim, for God. Well, later writers took this basic theory, and they took it much farther. They extended it to the entire Pentateuch, and even portions of the rest of the Old Testament. They argued that Moses didn't even write the Pentateuch, but it was a compilation of historical documents written by others. And then in 1865, Karl Graf modified Astruc's position to include not two sources but four. He said there were four original source documents. The Pentateuch was sort of this patchwork quilt of original source documents that had been pieced together.

Now I understand source documents. When I was an English teacher in college, I had some papers that were obviously from two sources. Part of it was written by the student, and part of it was poorly plagiarized from someone else. Because you would read along and there would be these two and three syllable words written in halting English grammar. And then you would come to a paragraph with four and five and six syllable words, complex sentences, and you knew there was no way in the world this student had written this. He had borrowed from another source.

But, this is what Graf said. He said there were four documents. The first he called J because he said this writer likes to us the name Jehovah. That's the anglicized version of Jahweh. When you see the LORD in all caps in your Bible, that's God's personal name as I mentioned to you a couple of weeks ago. That's the name Jahweh, or anglicized, it's Jehovah. And so, he said the second one was E, which this writer had a propensity for Elohim. He liked that name for God. The third, he said, was D and this was because this particular writer, most of what he wrote ended up in Deuteronomy. And then he said the fourth original document that was put together to make the Pentateuch was P. And that's because this guy loved all things priestly. And so, he said that's what happened. Moses didn't write it. Instead, these four guys at some point in history wrote, and somebody pieced their documents together, and that's what you get.

Well, a man by the name of Julius Wellhausen popularized Graf's view. In fact, if you read much at all, you'll come across the Graf-Wellhausen Theory of Higher Criticism. And this theory got a lot of press from a man by the name of Robertson Smith who was editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica in his day.

Let me read you what this view teaches. Listen carefully. Otto Kaiser writes,

The picture familiar to everyone from the biblical narrative of the Israel, which starting from the twelve sons of Jacob miraculously became a numerous nation in Egypt, escaped from the servitude under the leadership of Moses, was delivered at the sea, taken into covenant with God at Sinai, and finally, after 40 years of wandering was led by Joshua into the promised land. [That's so far, so good. That all sounds right. That's what we believe. Listen to how he finishes.] All of that is, for us, no longer part of history. [Just like that, with a sweep of the pen it was gone.]

While there have been and continue to be modifications, that view represents what all liberals believe, once you arrive at the early 1900s. And the net results of this are catastrophic. There are basically three results of this view. One of them is, they deny that the first five books were written by Moses. They just dismiss it. It wasn't written by Moses. Secondly, they deny that the contents are truly factual. Instead, they say they are some group's personal twist on the historical events. And the third catastrophic result is they deny that they were written when they claim to be, but they say, in fact, they were written much later.

In the case of the Pentateuch, some argue that it was written centuries after, or even 1000 years after Moses lived. Well, you can imagine how ridiculous the writings of such men became. Let me illustrate it for you. Turn to Genesis 21, Genesis 21. In a commentary in the International Critical Commentary series, a man by the name of Skinner wrote the commentary on Genesis. It's not a bad commentary on Genesis as it deals with the Hebrew language and the various aspects of the text. It's a technical commentary, that deals with all of the ins and outs of Hebrew. But, he took this view. Listen to what he said. He said, look at verse 1 of Genesis 21. "Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised."

Now here's what Skinner said. He said the first half of that verse was written by J. See, you've got all caps LORD he said, but the second half of that verse was written by E because he liked Elohim. You say oh no, wait a minute, wait a minute. I've got all caps in the second half of the verse, too. So, do I. You know what Skinner said? He said, well obviously, somebody down the road replaced Elohim, or replaced Jehovah with Elohim. Where do you get that? You've got to read between the lines pretty seriously to come up with that conclusion. It's like that scene in Alice in Wonderland when Alice looks up the path and says, I see nothing, and the Queen says, such marvelous eyesight, to be able to see nothing, and at such a distance too. That's what they're doing. They're seeing absolutely nothing. It's ridiculous.

So, where did this ridiculous approach to Scripture come from? What motivated it? Well, the key issue is one thing, and that is finding a way to remove from the Bible everything supernatural. That was what motivated these men. That's what I want you to see tonight. What motivated these men was their anti-supernatural bias. Now, think about this. If you don't believe in God, or if you believe there is a God somewhere, but you don't believe He intervenes in the world, and you come to the book of Isaiah, let's say. And you come to Isaiah 44, 45, and in there where he's prophesying about Cyrus, 100 years before Cyrus is ever born, saying that Cyrus is going to capture Babylon. You've got a problem, because you don't believe in anything supernatural.

You don't believe there's a God who revealed something to this man Isaiah. And so, you just can't believe that this is true, so there must be some other explanation for how that got in the Bible. So, you say, well, I know, I have an idea, here's what happened. Isaiah didn't write that at all. In fact, what happened was, after Cyrus had lived and captured Babylon, some well-intentioned person borrowed Isaiah's name, and wrote the second half of Isaiah, and he wrote the thing about Cyrus as if it hadn't happened yet when in fact it already had, because he wanted to encourage the people he was writing to. You say, nobody says that. Yes, they do. And that's in scholarly works. But what motivates them, and this is what I want you to see, it is motivated by their anti-supernatural bias. God cannot intervene. He doesn't reveal things ahead of time, and so it can't have happened that way.

Well, several things happened in the late 1800s and the early 1900s that took these ridiculous theories out of the halls of academia and put them into local churches. In 1893, Charles Briggs, a professor at Union Theological Seminary of New York was tried for heresy. He was in the Presbyterian Church USA. He was tried for heresy by his presbytery because he accepted all of these critical theories, and he denied the full truthfulness of Scripture. He was convicted and put out of the church. In protest, Union Theological Seminary pulled out of the denomination, but of course, many kept coming to the seminary from that denomination and they kept going back into the denomination and infiltrating it. And they went to other denominations as well.

In the 1920s a man completed a survey of 1500 Presbyterian pastors, and 200 seminary students. Here was question 15. Listen "Do you believe that the Bible was written by men chosen and supernaturally endowed by God for that purpose, and by Him given the exact message they were to write?" We believe that, don't we? But of those surveyed, 43% of the pastors said no, and 91% of the seminary students said no. You see what had started happening? Those views had started infecting the young guys going to seminary who were impressionable and who were looking to their mentors--their teachers, and a whole generation was lost.

Around that same time the International Critical Commentary Series was published, and a generation of pastors began to be influenced by it. Briggs was one of the general editors of the Old Testament. But by far, what popularized this errant view of Scripture more than anything else was a man called the "high priest of modernism". Those of you who are little older will recognize his name: Harry Emerson Fosdick. In the 1920s, although he was a Baptist, he pastored the First Presbyterian Church of New York. He was eventually removed because of his liberal views, and so then he went to the Riverside Baptist Church and became pastor. He also became a well-known radio speaker, and this is an interesting little tidbit. Guess who's money financed the Riverside Baptist Church and Harry Emerson Fosdick's radio program? Rockefeller money financed it.

After his removal from the First Presbyterian Church, a committee of ten (now stay with me because I'm heading to sort of the first key point at which inspiration was publicly questioned in the US). After his removal from the First Presbyterian Church, a committee of ten pastors formed to defend Fosdick. This committee was spearheaded by men from then Auburn Seminary, which is now part of Union Seminary. They drafted a document called the Auburn Affirmation. Listen to what this document declares.

It says, "The doctrine of inerrancy [in other words that Scripture has no errors] intended to enhance the authority of the Scriptures, in fact, impairs their supreme authority for faith and life." How do you argue that? Well, they went on to say this. They insisted that five doctrines, inspiration, the virgin birth, true miracles, the substitutionary atonement, and the bodily resurrection "are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures".

Nothing like going to the heart of the Christian faith and ripping it out. That was the first formal challenge in American mainline denominations to the inspiration and authority of Scripture. The Auburn Affirmation. It was signed by 1300 Presbyterian ministers, about 10% of the whole, and no significant counterattack was mounted. It was that decline and the continuing fallout from that that have caused us in our generation, in the 20th century and now the 21st century, that have caused us to further refine, not what the Scripture teaches about itself that is forever settled in heaven.

But it has called us to greater precision about how we explain what the Scripture teaches because you know what these guys did? They took the language we were used to using, and they made it say what they wanted it to say. And they sounded to people who were undiscerning like "they believe what I believe". But they didn't believe it at all. So, we have to be very careful about how we understand this doctrine. If you do any reading at all, if you ever look at a commentary, there's a very real chance you will come across this junk, because it has permeated, absolutely permeated, American Christianity.

Well, I want us to go now from a history, some of you who aren't history fans are ready for me to move on. I want to go now to an explanation of inspiration. What is it? That's what it's not. What is it? Well, let's start by looking at the definitions.

The definitions. First of all, the word itself. The word "inspiration". The English word inspiration, in its theological use, comes from the Latin Vulgate translation of 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21. In other words, when Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate, he used the verb "inspiro" in those two texts. And then when Wycliffe produced the first English translation, he simply carried over the Latin word into his English translation, and we got the word "inspiro" or inspiration. Now, let's talk about (we can keep going through these, a couple more here) alright, let's go to the next slide.

Let's talk about the doctrine of inspiration itself. The doctrine of inspiration. We talked about the word briefly. Now, what about the doctrine? Well, let me give you a definition of inspiration. Here's one.

Inspiration is God's superintendence of the human authors so that using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs. Original autographs means the original letters as it was written, the original copy. B.B. Warfield defines it this way.

"Inspiration is, therefore, usually defined as: a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given divine trustworthiness."

Now, this is important. Listen carefully. The word "inspiration" is the word we've always used, but it can be confusing. If you look in the original King James Bible, go to the next slide now. If you go to the original King James Bible, here's what it says. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." Many of us learned that, and that's buried into our heads. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.

B.B. Warfield, in his classic book, and here's another book if you want a book for your library on this issue is Warfield's classic, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. He says that the Greek word translated "inspiration", listen carefully, very distinctly does not mean inspired of God. Now don't get up and run out yet. Stay with me. That English phrase "inspired" came down to us, as I mentioned before, from the Latin Vulgate, and then from Wycliffe and Tyndale and other English translations. Warfield is right, because the Greek word is a compound Greek word.

Let's put, there it is, it's "theopneustos". It's formed from two words in Greek. The first one is the word for "God", and the second one means "spirit, or breath". It occurs only here in the New Testament. It's an interesting compound word. The closest parallel, turn with me to 1 Thessalonians. The closest parallel is in 1 Thessalonians 4, and notice verse 9. "Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another…." You see that phrase, "taught by God". That is another expression with "theos", the word for God at the beginning, and an "os" ending, much like we have with "theopneustos".

Go to the next one. It's "theodidaskos". It literally means "God taught". So we could read the verse this way. Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you for you yourselves are God-taught to love one another. So, we go back to 1 Timothy 3:16, and how do we translate our word? "Theopneustas," how do we translate it? "God-breathed", that's what it means. All Scripture is God-breathed.

Well, what does that mean? What does it mean to say Scripture is God-breathed? Well, again, listen to Warfield. I can't say it any better than this.

The Greek term has nothing to say of inspiring, or inspiration. It speaks only of spiring, or spiration. What it says of Scripture is not that it was breathed into by God, or that it is the product of divine in-breathing into the human authors, but [here it is] that it is breathed out by God, God breathed. The product of the creative breath of God.

In other words, what is declared by this fundamental passage is simply that the Scriptures are a divine product without any indication of how God has operated in producing them. When Paul declares, then, that every Scripture, or all Scripture is the product of the divine breath is "God-breathed", He asserts with as much energy as he could employ that Scripture is the product of a divine operation. When he says "all Scripture is breathed out by God", his point is: God is the sole source, just as you are the sole source of the breath that comes out of your mouth. Just as God, in Genesis 2 is said "to breathe into man the breath of life", and that energy is what gives life, the word of God is "breathed out by God". He and He alone is the single source.

So, with that in mind, let's look more specifically at how inspiration takes place. Let's start by looking at the false views. The false views of inspiration.

The first is "natural inspiration". This is what you shouldn't believe, but you will see, natural inspiration. This view says that inspiration is like "an artistic ability, or a natural endowment". In other words, there's nothing supernatural about what the men of the Bible wrote. They were simply men of unusual ability who wrote the Bible in the same way that an individual would write any other book. They just had this natural innate ability to communicate better than anybody else.

A second false view is "spiritual illumination". In this view, the Spirit enabled the human authors to have greater insight into spiritual realities. In other words, in this case it's not the natural abilities. They are gifted by the Spirit, but they just have greater spiritual insight. It's the same kind of illumination that you and I enjoy but just much more, a different degree. In this view, any committed Christian, illuminated by the Holy Spirit can author Scripture. It's not that the writings are inspired. It's that the men are inspired.

The third false view, you've heard this, is "mechanical, or dictation". In other words, God dictated the words of Scripture, and men just wrote them down passively. So, the personality of the author is completely set aside. He becomes, many of you have a computer as I do. It's as if the human authors of Scripture became the keyboard that God typed on. God typed out the message, and they were just a keyboard. Now it is true that some portions of Scripture were given by dictation. We saw that last week in Exodus. But the rest of the Scripture reveals a great diversity among each author.

Another view is "dynamic inspiration" another false view. In this, the writers of Scripture were inspired by the Spirit like other Christians are inspired when they write great poetry or they write great music like Fanny Crosby was inspired when she wrote those hymns. That's the same way in which the men of the Scripture were inspired when they wrote. It's just, the Spirit gave them special inspiration. The Bible is simply great Christian literature, like other great Christian literature.

And then, I had to throw this one in, this final one, because it's the most bizarre view of inspiration I've ever come across: "post-canonical". You know what canonical means, that means those books that are included in the canon. This view was the view of the former president, from 1982 to 1993, the former president of Southern Seminary, the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. Roy Honeycutt was his name, and Al Mohler told me this personally, and your jaw just drops. When he was working, Al Mohler was working as the special assistant to the president then, Roy Honeycutt, and he was a young impressionable seminary student, and was working for him on the side, and taking classes, and he just assumed that this man believed like his pastor believed.

And as he got to know him, he was shocked to discover that there were some things that weren't quite right. And he read Roy Honeycutt's commentary on the incident of the floating axe head. And when he read that, he thought, I don't think he, I don't think I understand what he's saying, because he doesn't seem to be saying that that actually happened. He seems to be saying that maybe that didn't happen. So, he went to (with some fear and trepidation), he went to Roy Honeycutt to sort of find out what his view on inspiration was.

And of the sort of fifteen views, one being completely rejecting the Scripture, and the other being on the other end, believing in inspiration as you and I believe, he said, you know, I thought he'd be maybe somewhere toward the conservative end. But as he got into it, he found out that Roy Honeycutt believed that human authors wrote the Bible. They wrote these books, and then at some point after they wrote, God decided He liked it. And so, He inspired it. He decided to use what they had written for His Own purposes. That's post-canonical inspiration. You won't find that very many places, but I had to throw it in.

Alright, so what's the biblical view? Enough of the false. Let's look at the true. What does the Scripture teach? Well, the exact manner of inspiration is not recorded in Scripture. It details no theory. It merely sets forth the fact and the result. The result is God's Word. But it does identify several key elements in a biblical view of inspiration, of how God worked to give us the Scripture through human authors, basically, three views.

First of all, God superintended the process. Let's take a few minutes to look at this. God superintended the process. The key word is superintended. God oversaw the writing to insure the production of an infallible book. In other words, He acted directly on the human authors of Scripture. Let me show you how Peter argues for this so profoundly. Turn to 2 Peter, 2 Peter 1. Now let me give you the context of Peter's comment here. The context was that false teachers were claiming to have a new word from God that superseded the Old Testament and the New Testament apostles.

It was the beginnings of what would later become "Gnosticism" these people who had this higher knowledge, who had this sort of mystical revelation of what was true. And so, they were beginning to affect the Jewish Christians, and Peter wrote to them, and Peter calls their knowledge (notice in 1:16) "cleverly devised tales". Literally sophisticated myths is what he says. And then in 2:3 he says, "in their greed they will exploit you with false words," literally with made-up stories. Basically, Peter says, listen, these guys who are coming to you, and they're saying they have some new word from God, all they have is sophisticated myths and made up stories. And he defends what we believe about the Scripture. Notice verse 21. Let's start at verse 20.

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of the Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Now, you probably quoted that verse all your life. It is one of the richest verses on Scripture in Scripture.

Let's take it apart together. In this remarkable statement, first, Peter makes two negative statements. Notice verse 20. Know this first of all. "No prophecy of Scripture." What does he mean? He's talking about the entirety of Scripture. No prophetic utterance that became Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation. The Greek word for "interpretation" is a word for "loosing something", or "untying something". Peter is saying that none of Scripture was the result of some prophet personally untying it, or loosing it. In other words, none of Scripture originated with a human source.

Look at his second negative statement. For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will. That means the Bible is not the result of human impulse. It was not generated by the will of man. The ultimate source of every prophecy did not originate with man's decision to write, but God's decision to reveal Himself. Now, Paul set the negatives aside. He said, I want you to understand the negative.

Now, he's going to give us two positives. Notice verse 21, "but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." Let's separate those into two sections. But men spoke from God. But men spoke from God. This points out that there were special men and these special men brought, not their own message, but God's message. They were the mouthpiece for God. Notice, too, that they spoke. They were actual men, and they were involved in the process. They thought, they spoke, and Peter uses the word "Scripture", so they also, he's talking about their writing as well, not just their speaking. They were involved in the process. They weren't a keyboard God typed on.

But notice secondly, Peter tells us the means by which these men were able to speak from God. They spoke from God. He tells us that. How did that happen? How is it that God somehow spoke through them? Well, the last half of that phrase that's buried, I should say, in verse 21 tells us exactly how they did it. He says, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Men moved by the Holy Spirit.

I won't spend a lot of time here, but for those of you who may have missed an earlier discussion of this verse, I want to indicate for you that that word "moved" is a very interesting word. It's used in Acts 27, and let's go there just for a moment. Acts 27, it's the story of the shipwreck that Paul endured. And notice verse 15 of Acts 27. They get caught in a violent wind, verse 14. Verse 15, when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind. We gave way to it, and we let ourselves be driven along. There's our word for "moved", back in 2 Peter 1:21, "driven along". You see the word again in verse 17. Verse 16, running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship's boat under control. After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship, and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows, they let down the sea anchor, and, in this way, let themselves (here it is again) be "driven along".

You get the picture of that word? It's a word of "compelling force moving something", in some ways, against its own will, but not entirely. They co-operated. They opened, they let the ship run, they let the anchors down. So, in the same way a ship is "borne along by the wind", the writers of Scripture were "carried along by the Spirit of God". Warfield says, "they were not merely God's messengers, but His mouth."

Let me give you an updated version of Lloyd-Jones' favorite illustration of inspiration. Imagine for a moment, that you have, sitting in your garage, and why this would be true I don't know. But imagine for a moment that you have, sitting in your garage, a Chevy Chevette and a BMW (a Chevette, a BMW). You decide tomorrow to drive the Chevette to work. And then you decide Tuesday to take the BMW to work. Same driver, you start from the same place. You're going to the same destination. You're in control of the car.

But the feel of the cars is going to be vastly different. In the case of the Chevette, you'll feel every pothole. And you will not have good control probably. The, you know if it's an older model, as sometimes they can be, you're going to, you're going to have a lot of range of motion between when you turn the wheel and when the car actually responds. With the BMW you're going to have much greater control, and you're going to feel like you're in this driving machine, as their ads say.

Here's my point. That's how it is with inspiration. The Spirit was directing each writer. The Spirit was always driving. The Spirit was always moving them along to the same destination, the infallible Word of God. But you're going to feel for the difference between the different writers as you go. It feels a lot different. You read Peter. It's a lot different than Paul. You read Amos, you get a lot different picture than Isaiah. You feel the ride, but the Holy Spirit's still in control. He's still moving the writer toward the destination that He wants. He was moving them along.

The second key element of our biblical view of inspiration: not only did God superintend the process, but secondly, chosen men wrote the Scripture. You cannot, in an appropriate view of inspiration, you cannot leave out the fact that there were men involved. It was composed by humans, by men, who actively wrote. How did the human authors contribute? You know there's a lot of discussion about this. Well, wait a minute. You tell me God wrote the Bible, and now you're telling me men wrote the Bible. Which is it? The Bible teaches both is true. So, how did the human authors contribute? If the Holy Spirit was driving them along, how did they contribute?

Well, their own circumstances often prompted their writing. Paul's letters (we're studying Philippians), what prompted him to write Philippians? Well, the Holy Spirit did, ultimately. We learned that in verse 20. But on a human level, what prompted Paul to write? His circumstances, he wanted to let the Philippians know what was going on in his life. He was in prison in Rome.

Also, their vocabulary comes through. There's not some divine vocabulary. Their sentence structure is their own, their thoughts, their personalities come through. Their personal history is involved in the letters and the books they write. Their own spiritual understanding and study. They drew upon their own resources. They followed the lines of their own personal religious experience. They developed arguments in the way their minds worked. The book of Ecclesiastes is a lot different in logical flow than the book of Romans. Why? It reflects the human author. There's really a very small portion of Scripture where the writers are simply secretaries for God, taking down dictation.

Now, here's the question. How did God do it? How did God use the human experience of the authors and still get the message He wanted across? That's a question that's often troubled my mind, and I think the best way to understand it is this. It's really a working of divine providence. He providentially prepared these men. He knew that He was going to have them write. So, he had them go through just the right experiences to prepare them. Let me give you just a couple of mundane examples from my own life. I look back, as you probably do, and I see the hand of God in unusual ways.

When I was in high school, a man came up to me in my little small country church, and he said, Tom. He said, listen, I know you're probably looking for a summer job. I'd like for you to come work for me. And I was surprised, and I said, well, okay, what do you do? He said I'm an electrician. I don't know anything about being an electrician. That's okay, he said, I'll teach you. You come, and I'll teach you. So, I went to work for him, and for several summers I worked as an electrician.

Well, I got to college, and I was a poor college student. I was the last of ten kids, so whatever resources there had been for sending kids to college were gone by the time I came along. And I needed a job, and I needed a good paying job to work my way through college, and guess what job just happened to be available? An electrician. God had providentially prepared me when I was in high school for what I would need to make it through college and seminary. Basically, being an electrician paid my way through college and seminary.

Another example. When I was at college, I had to choose a minor. Some of you students are having to do that right now, and don't worry most students change their majors about three times. I think that's the average during college. So, don't feel some great pressure. But I had to choose a minor, and so, I thought, okay, what minor am I going to choose? Well, for a Bible major, which is what I ended up being in my Junior year, and I won't go into that story. I'll tell you sometime how the Lord changed my direction from law.

But my Junior year I changed majors, and I needed to choose a minor. And so, my instructor said to me, he said, listen (or counselor) he said you can either choose English or Speech. Those would be two good minors to go with your major. So, I sort of flipped a coin and said, okay, I'll do English. Well, I took English. I minored in English. Well, first of all, when I went to seminary, guess what they needed as far as a teaching assistant? They needed an English teaching assistant. So, I did that.

Then sixteen years ago when I moved from teaching to California, while I was driving to California, my wife and I were somewhere in either Texas or New Mexico, or somewhere over there, a job came open at Grace To You, while we were driving out. And what they needed was a study guide editor. Somebody who had an English background and a Bible background. We arrived on Saturday, went to church Sunday. Someone called me Sunday night and said, did you see the ad in Grace Today, the bulletin? No I didn't. So, I called Monday, two days after we had arrived, and a week and a half later, I was working at Grace To You. They needed someone with an English and Bible background, and I'd taught both at the college level. Now, think about it folks.

You have seen God's providence that way in your life. If God can providentially prepare us for our own ministry and our own lives, then can't God providentially prepare a writer of Scripture, equip him with the right vocabulary, with the right experiences, with the right spiritual knowledge, and use all of that to have him write exactly what God wants him to write? You know, sometimes we don't give God a lot of credit do we? Of course, He can. And that's how He brought together, providentially, the men to write the words He wanted. Because providentially, He made them, he prepared them for what he wanted them to be to write what He wanted them to write. And in that whole process, the Holy Spirit drove them along.

The third and key element of our definition, or our biblical view is, the result was God's error-free revelation. God's error-free revelation. In the original autographs, that is, in what Paul dictated originally, what Amos wrote in those original autographs, it was "inerrant and infallible". We're not going to discuss this here. We'll discuss it when we get to the attributes of Scripture. A very important discussion about the nature of Scripture.

Now, next week is what I've really been working toward. Next week, I want to lay a foundation. All we're going to do is come to the Scripture, and I'm going to lay out for you the biblical arguments for inspiration. And I'm telling you they are overwhelming. We tend to come to these couple of verses. The Scripture speaks profoundly and finally to the issue of its own origin, and it is from God. And next week we'll see that. I'll hopefully arm you for anyone who ever comes up to you and says, well, I just don't believe that the Bible is God's Word. Folks, we have God's Word. May God make us as willing to live for it, to read it, to study it, to make it our own, and if necessary, to die for it, because it is His Word, revealed to us through holy men who were moved by the Spirit of God.

Let's pray together.

Father, thanks for the wonderful reminder that You have spoken. That You have breathed out Your very words. And we are able to hold them in our hands, and to read them, and to study them.

Lord, we confess that we have often neglected Your Word for other things, Lord, even for good things. Forgive us for reading the writings of men, even those writings about Your Word before we come to Your Word itself. Forgive us for reading the newspaper instead of coming to Your eternal infallible Word. Lord, forgive us for all of those things that distract us from Your revelation.

Make us people of the book. Lord, may we love it dearly. May we read it. May we meditate on it. May it consume our thoughts, and if necessary, may we give our lives to defend its truths.

We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Systematic Theology