Why We Believe What We Believe: The Doctrine of Inspiration, Part 1 (Ep 5)

A series on theology: Why We Believe What We Believe about God. Originally given to the students and faculty at Moody Bible Institute.

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INTRODUCTION: Do you remember the first time you read the Bible, maybe as a child, teen, adult? Do you remember the first time you opened the Bible on your own and started reading it?

EASLEY: Hi, this is Michael Easley inContext and today we’re thinking about the Doctrine of Inspiration. God gave the Bible to us through divine revelation. The inspiration means that God inspired human writers to write words, but God is the Divine Author. Think about it this way: There is a big A, author God, and a little a, author the man that wrote on parchment, the man that wrote the very Word God gave to him.

I vividly remember when I started reading the Bible on my own. I didn’t understand anything. I flipped around from chapter to chapter, page to page, you know close your eyes and open the Bible and start reading and frankly it didn’t make much sense to me. I wanted to understand it. I was in a Sunday School class where the teacher was trying to explain it to us. But I think it was an eighth or ninth grade summer class,and  I started reading and I had all kinds of questions. I vividly remember reading the Gospel of John and when we came to the story of Nicodemus, it really struck a chord with me and that ministered to me, to use a word; it meant something; it kind of opened some things for me, but when I had questions about the Bible I didn’t know where to get answers. I remember asking some of the ministers of the churches that I attended both in junior high and high school and later in college, and I chased around a lot of questions about the Bible. The more I asked the more frustrated I became. The most frustrating part was if you had a problem passage, let’s call it, a passage you really couldn’t get around and you ask four or five ministers, or four or five people that seem to know the Scripture, and then you get four or five answers, then what do you do? It for me was a huge challenge all through high school and college. I wanted to read the Scripture and I wanted to understand it.

Well this Book, you might say is a living document and unfortunately, I think too many people approach it academically.  Yes, we approach it devotionally, academically, but let’s step further back. This is God’s revealed Word to you and me. If He wanted to communicate with us, He could have done it in a lot of ways. He did it in a beautiful fashion. We might say, He put it in print. Now, of course, not literally but, He gave the Word to man that we now have in print and on our technology. If anyone can learn to read, which essentially everyone can, then we can read His Word. So God has revealed Himself through His Word to us. That’s why the inspiration and divine revelation are important. This isn’t a book about God, it’s a Book from God. So let’s join the program in progress.

In a book that you probably never heard of Foundational Faith, David Fink Brenner begins, “Miller Jackson has defined authority as the right to command belief and or action. Christians rightly recognize there’s no higher authority than God. His right to command belief and action is unique after all. God is creator and therefore has the right of ownership over everything. His omnipotence gives Him the sovereign power to support His right of ownership and His unlimited power and wisdom render His judgements unquestionable. Indeed, all authority derives from Him. This is why discussions of Biblical authority are never far removed from the question of the Bible’s divine status.” Listen again! This is why discussions of Biblical authority are never far removed from the question of the Bible’s divine status. Excellent statement and question!

We are in a series I’ve entitled, Why We Believe What We Believe. In this section, I want us to think about Why We Believe What We Believe about inspiration, about divine revelation. It is not important; It is crucial! To understand why you believe that this Book is the Word of God and what all that entails is one of those foundation stones; one of those key issues that really you have no room to negotiate in. Now as I’ve been studying this whole topic in recent weeks, it’s been fascinating to go through and review inerrancy, divine inspiration, the transmission of the text, inerrancy, infallibility, all these issues that kind of swirl around when you talk about the Bible being the inspired Word of God. At the same time, I’ve been intrigued how many new arguments there are to continue to challenge that we have the very Word of God.

When I served in the pastorate, there was a church right across from us that began going up prior to 9/11. As we watched the construction of this building, it was very unusual and then we realized it was a mosque. It was an Afghan Mosque being built right across the street from us. Two of the pastors on staff that I was serving with, were pretty good in their knowledge of the Koran, and of Islam beliefs, and as they got established, we invited their Imam for lunch. They didn’t want to come to our church so we met in an Afghan restaurant. There were four of their leaders, the Imam, and then four pastors like sitting across from each other at this table. There was no one else in this restaurant for two and a half hours, and as we began chatting, the Imam told a little bit of himself, and I asked a lot of questions and discovered he memorized the entire Koran. When he got up he would recite the Koran and two, what I would call of his elders, were behind him if he made a mistake following along and they would correct him verbally. As we started talking about our differences and our similarities; on Fridays they used our parking lot, it looked like a cab depot; they all walked across the street and they went to mosque and on Sundays we used their parking lot, pre 9/11 and as we talked at length, very quickly the issue became, how did you get your Bible? And for the bulk of our two hour and change lunch, we talked about inspiration, the authority of Scripture, the difference between the Koran and what we call our Old and New Testaments. They of course believe that God, Allah, gave Muhammad the revelation through the Angel Gabriel, and the idea that you cannot translate the Koran into any language and still have the Koran is a fundamental tenet to most Muslims. The notion that we translated Hebrew, and Greek, and Aramaic into English and all kinds of different flavors of those English translations, is completely foreign to their thinking, because if you translate the Koran, you’ve lost the meaning of the Koran. Not only that, but their whole view of inspiration and the way the text is transmitted into the Koran is what they literally will die for. So this cordial, collegial, at times, lively discussion centered around, “Is this the Word of God, or not?”

Now when I was in seminary and graduate school, I thought, “I believe the Bible; I trusted it; it was good enough that ole bumper sticker, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” That’s kind of how simple I am. When I sat in that lunch, I was thrilled that I had the experience to understand, “How did we get this Bible?” “What is this document that I hold and love and cherish?” “And what does it mean to the world?” If anyone challenges the Koran, you will have an interesting discussion. But you can challenge the Bible all day long. The Bible is not a book like War and Peace, To Kill a Mockingbird, or The Grapes of Wrath. The Bible’s not composed by Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton, James Joyce’s, Evelyn Waugh, William Faulkner, Daniel Steele, or Stephen King. The Bible is comprised by men that God selected to pen, to scratch, to mark, down words that you hold in your hand.

If we look at this from a historical lens, we can almost say it was almost universally accepted by those who followed Jesus Christ that the Bible was inspired. Indeed, if you go back to Judaism, Genesis chapter one, God said, God said, God said, God spoke, and they believed it. After all, God is the agent. In the beginning God. This was the divine agent who breaks through revelation and says things. Jews and believers in Christ pretty well said, “Well Scripture said;  it is written; God said; God has said; and in the New Testament the Holy Spirit says.” So okay, that’s the Bible; that’s what we believe.

Before the nineteenth century that was pretty well accepted among Christendom’s big umbrella, and then as things changed, you know higher criticism. Some of you have studied the issues; this is when much of this comes under attack, and the idea of dismantling the Word of God. Maybe it’s just the concepts that are inspired; oh, some of it’s inspired; maybe none of it’s inspired; let’s make it a deistic book, not unlike an author just mentioned. Justin Martyr said, “The Bible was the very language of God.” George of Nissa, in the fourth century said, “It is the voice of the Holy Spirit.” By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Protestant Reformation in full force and by the second half of this process the evolution ideas, the humanistic ideas, and higher criticism ideas began to dismantle, what we would call the historic Doctrines of Inspiration. I won’t detail all the other issues about what people say about the Bible, you can do those at your leisure and all you want.

I want to address a little bit with you now is the idea of Why We Believe What We Believe about inspiration. It is not important to your faith; it is crucial. Because if indeed, this is God’s message to man, rooted from God to us in these forms we hold in our hand; It is the message of hope; it is the message of life; it is the message of truth; it is the message of Salvation to which we ascribe and to which we hope to share with others.

I want to direct your attention to the Moody Doctrinal Statement Article Two. Article Two reads: The Bible including both the Old and New Testaments is a divine revelation. The original autographs of which were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit and there are two references that we’re going to look at in some detail: II Timothy 3:16 and II Peter 1:21. Before we do that, I want to read a footnote that was added in 1928 to our doctrinal statement. It says, “The Bible is without error. All that it affirms in the original autographs and the only authoritative guide for faith and practice and as such must not be supplanted by any other fields of human learning. Whenever you’re in the areas of doctrine and you start to add more words to explain something, you create more pieces of the puzzle. Each one of those words, for you who are good students, and studying these issues, and wrestling with them, you know everytime you add another adjective, you open another set of discussions in these terms. So before we go too far off, or before I go off on this, I want to look at these two passages in some detail. So if you have a Bible,open to II Timothy 3, and I would simply call this verse is, Scripture is the Word from God. Scripture is the Word from God, in II Timothy 3, and I actually want to pick up the reading in verse 15, to set a context. II Timothy 3, let’s pick up the text in verse 15. II Timothy 3:15, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Verse fifteen, I think is important because the segway through the Holy Spirit, through Paul, to Timothy, to you and me was the Word, these Holy Scriptures, these Sacred Writings in verse fifteen, which do two things; they have the inspiration of God and they lead to wisdom so that a person can find salvation. Say it another way, the Bible, the Scriptures give us enough information to know what we believe; that’s what Paul is saying when he reminds Timothy of these Sacred Writings. Context is crucial. I’ve encouraged I hope many times, maybe you get tired of me encouraging you. Good, that’s when you start learning. When you have a question about something, look at the context very carefully.

I’ve told you the story about caulking, when you paint a house, or you do some work, you caulk to cover the cracks and blemishes. My friend used to say, “Caulk covers a multitude of sins.” I like to interpret that context covers a multitude of interpretational sins. When people get off you know, skilter in areas, go back first and look at the context in which it falls. Here we have a very important context, Paul said to Timothy, “You learn from childhood, from your mother and grandmother the sacred writings which gave you the wisdom to come to salvation,” and then that sets up verse sixteen; All Scripture is inspired and so on. Let’s look at the verse in some detail: All Scripture is important to note. There is some debate among scholars and theologians whether it’s collective or distributive. In other words, is it all the Bible or we might say every Scripture? Believe it or not, people argue about such things. Is it all or is it every? There’s traction for both arguments. I conclude that all Scripture, the whole Bible, the Old and New. Many want to attack the New Testament; they say, “Well that’s Pauline or that’s Markin;  that’s really not inspired or inerrant,” and we will see as you study this, Peter refers to Paul’s writings as Scripture;so there’s what we call internal evidence that corroborates. The New Testament authors, I believe fully understood what they were writing was inspired; not only are they referring to the Old Scripture, but the New Testament as we call it as well. Secondly, the word often pronounced theopneustos. (Greek word interpretation: the idea that it is God-breathed.) This word is what we call a hopox, you know this, only occurs one time. Hapax legomenas sometimes.(Transliteration of a Greek word into English) When you come to a word in the Bible and it only occurs once, it’s a delightful experience because you can’t go to other uses in the Bible to find out what it means, so you have to really do some careful study and that’s what I love to do. Find out why did the author use that word? Why did God want that word used? And as you scratch your head and do some word studies and dig a little further you start to find out some interesting ways the Word may have come into existence. The Word simply means God-breathed; theos-God; neos, the idea of breath or wind, so the Word is God breathed. God super intends this. He uses His Holy Spirit so that when the men wrote the Bible they were God breathed and directed to do it.

I don’t know how many of you know the car manufacturer FIAT? Anyone heard of a FIAT? A few of you have, ok. Did you ever own a FIAT? I feel sorry for you, if you did. If you live in Italy, great! If you live over here, it’s a problem. The word FIAT means one thing in the car realm, but in the English use, it means that you speak something into existence. When God spoke, Creation. Boom! It happened! Read Genesis one today. God said, God said, God said, and it happens. But in Genesis 2:7, He makes man a little differently, doesn’t He? He makes men out of the dom, out of the dirt, and what does He do in chapter 2:7? He what? He breathes life into him, Nephesh, his soul, he becomes a living being. (this is a transliteration of a Greek word into English). We often hear the expression “death rattle” if a person dies, if you’ve been bedside when a person dies their breathing changes. When the breath is gone, the person dies very soon after. Breath gives life, and we have this grand theology of the “breath of God” in His Word. He speaks things into existence. He fiats and it happens. (Greek translation) When He creates His Word; when He  gives meaning to a context, God spoke, and He puts His breath into it. Another way of saying this is: All Scripture (the extent of it), all Scripture, has the characteristic of God behind it. All Scripture has the characteristic of God behind it. Now there’s four functions that Paul gives us in this text and they are in your Bible for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Teaching of course is the instructing of believers and I think again, it goes back to Chapter 3:15, Remember Timothy, the sacred writings that you were taught (implication) that was able to lead you to salvation, all those Scriptures are inspired and profitable, for teaching.

Secondly, reproof; a very unpopular concept today. Reproof or rebuke means to express strong disapproval of someone’s sin. Rebukes a good word, but rebuke almost sounds like a stab in someone’s face. Reproof has the idea, the reason English translators use it, is you’re using proof to show someone their sin. You reproof them, so you show them the smoking gun, the videotape, the DNA evidence; you’d prove to them what they did was wrong. The Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction; another hapax, (Greek Translation) a word that only occurs here. More than likely it means setting them straight, and lastly, training in righteousness. The word training goes back to children, how you train a child, so this extent all the Scripture is God breathed and it has metrics, we might say. It’s profitable for teaching someone, teaching them the Scripture, teaching them the way to salvation, teaching them the wisdom of God. It’s profitable for correction, for reproof, and for training in righteousness. Verse 17 finishes it out, So that! perhaps exegetical, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. The reason all Scripture being inspired and profitable, that it’s God breathed for these functions, is so that the end result, what happens when you look at the God breathed Scripture, is that we’re changed; we’re equipped to do the work God wants for us. Said another way, put your confidence in the inspired, revealed Word of God, not in cleverness, or not in some new thing, but put your confidence here because we’re depending upon Him.

EASLEY: I’m fascinated that social media has reduced our ability to communicate; with one hundred and forty characters,a short text message, and while we’re texting let’s just misspell and truncate and make up all sort of interesting text words because we don’t need to complete the sentence. When we read today, we’ve lost the art of what most of us were trained in, even let’s say ten, fifteen years ago and it’s become such a quick instantaneous society, information has moved so fast for us all. When we read the Bible we cannot approach it that way. It takes time, we have to reflect; we have to read carefully; we have to meditate on what we’ve read; we have to study a little bit. The inspiration of Scripture and divine revelation are important for many reasons, but this is the very Word of God. We brush up against it with things we don’t like or don’t agree with and we make up our own theology. We say, “I don’t believe that part of the Bible;” “That parts okay;” “What’s true for you,” all those things we’ve been talking about, but what I want to urge you and marshall you onto, is when you open up the Scripture, you can trust God at His Word. Now, yes some things are complicated; we have to know the history and context of the story. Some things that are taken out of context get us into great trouble, and frankly that’s where most of our trouble comes. People say, “The Bible says this;” and “Oh, the Bible talks all about blood;” “The Bibles about genocide.” You have to say, “Wait a minute, there’s a context for all those exceptions.” When we summarize the Bible with these grandiose statements, and we don’t take the Bible as God’s Word, we get into trouble. When you open that book, when you open it on your droid or your iPad, or however you access the Scripture, you’re reading the very Word of God. Read it carefully! Study it! Get a commentary to help you along side it. We have some resources on the inContext website that can help you, but Scripture is God’s Word; He’s spoken, and as my Professor, Dr. Hendrix often said, “ God has spoken and He did not stutter.” He’s given us His Word. It is true; it is reliable; and it is the very Word of God and from God.

I hope as you continue listening to inContext Broadcast, you’ll communicate with us. We’d love to hear from you. Go to the inContext website; drop us a line; send us an email as we continue Why We Believe What We Believe.

Well I hope you’ll join us on tomorrow’s broadcast as we continue to think about the Bible; how we got it; how it was inspired; how it is the Divine Revelation of God. We’ll look a little bit into the authors and why God chose to give it to us through verbal inspiration. He could have done it anyway. He could have given it to us on plates, or dictated it to a person. And so we’ll see on tomorrow’s broadcast about Why We Believe What We Believe about Scripture; how we got the Scripture; inspiration, divine revelation, and why God chose to give it to us the way he did.

This is Michael Easley inContext. Hope you’ll join us tomorrow.

If you have questions or comments, please let us know at MichaelinContext.com. Thank you for listening to MichaelEasleyinContext.

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.

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