In this session of Secret Church 17, Pastor David Platt provides more biblical insight to answer the question, “Is the Bible divine?” He focuses on the inspiration of Scripture, a mysterious supernatural process by which God worked through men to reveal his truth in written form. While there is some mystery concerning how God inspired Scripture, that he inspired Scripture is evident to us in a number of ways.
David Platt reminds us that the canon was recognized, not created, by man. In order to determine whether or not a particular book or writing was inspired, the church applied specific tests of canonicity. One such test was, “Was this book written by an apostle or a close associate of an apostle?” If we are going to bank our lives and our eternity on the truths of Scripture, then we need to know whether or not we are reading God’s Word or merely the religious insights and opinions of men.
- How We Know the Bible is Inspired by God
- The Bible Has Power
- Five Questions Used to Determine if the Bible was Inspired by God
The Word of God inspired by the Spirit of God is what we need, if we have any hope of knowing Him or being in relationship with Him. So this is a critical question and the keyword is “inspired.” We need to understand that when we say that, it’s more than just saying, “Your example inspired me in this way or that way.” When we say “inspiration,” we’re talking about the mysterious supernatural process by which God worked through human instruments to reveal divine truth in written form. This is what the Bible teaches in a place like 2 Peter 1:19-21, when Peter is talking about the prophets in the Old Testament. He writes:
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
So picture something vertical and something horizontal here. Revelation is vertical. God is speaking to man. It’s God’s verbal speech to man. Then based on that revelation, there’s also something horizontal going on. Inspiration is horizontal, as God speaks through men to men. God speaks to men—revelation—and God speaks through men—inspiration. And this picture of inspiration, as the Bible teaches over and over again, is proclaimed by the prophets. The prophet’s message was always prefaced with “The Lord said to me…” or “The Lord says to you…” “Thus says the Lord…” occurs over 3,000 times in the Bible—3,000 times!
Not just anybody can say that. Jeremiah 14:14-15 says when anyone prophesies, saying “The Lord has spoken” when He has not spoken, it will be clear that he was not speaking God’s word. Prophets would be tested according to whether or not what they prophesied was true—actually came about—like we see in 1 Kings 21:19 and 2 Kings 9:25-26. So the reality of inspiration was that it was proclaimed by the prophets and demonstrated by fulfilled prophecies—by prophecies coming true.
How do we know the Bible is inspired by God?
So how do we know the Bible is divine—inspired by God—and not just made up by men? Well, one of the ways we know is because of fulfilled prophecy. This is so important. Other books that claim divine inspiration (the Koran, parts of the Vedas, the Book of Mormon, etc.) do not contain any predictive prophecy. Yet the Bible contains numerous instances of prophecy fulfilled in history.
This includes the destruction of empires, such as Edom, Babylon, Tyre and Nineveh. The exile and return of Israel was prophesied and recorded throughout the Old Testament. And then, in clearly the most powerful picture of fulfilled prophecy, the Bible contains 300 specific prophecies that are fulfilled in the coming of Christ. This quote from R.A. Torrey sums this up:
We are told the exact time of [the King of Israel’s] manifestation to his people, the exact place of his birth, the family of which he should be born, the condition of the family at the time of his birth (a condition entirely different from that existing at the time the prophecy was written, and contrary to all the probabilities in the case), the manner of his reception by his people (a reception entirely different from that which would naturally be expected), the fact, method, and details regarding his death, with the specific circumstances regarding his burial, his resurrection subsequent to his burial, and his victory subsequent to his resurrection. These predictions were fulfilled with the most minute precision in Jesus of Nazareth.
The Bible contains prophecy concerning Jesus’ birth. Micah said he would be born in Bethlehem, and hundreds of years later that’s exactly where He was born. The Bible contains prophecies concerning His death. “More than twenty Old Testament predictions relating to events that would surround the death of Christ, words written centuries before His first advent, were fulfilled with precision within a twenty-four-hour period at the time of His crucifixion [alone]” (E. Schuyler English). Psalm 22:18 and Matthew 27:35 were one such pair.
So inspiration—this picture of God speaking through men to men—is proclaimed by the prophets, “Thus saith the Lord…” and then it is demonstrated through the fulfillment of prophecy. Inspiration was also taught by the apostles who believed that the Old Testament was inspired. Look at their understanding of Old Testament writings. Genesis 12:1-3 records God’s call on Abraham’s life, and then Paul in Galatians 3:8 calls Genesis 12 “Scripture.” Paul does the same thing in Romans 9:17, when he’s referencing Exodus 9:16. The church in Acts 4:24-26 acknowledges that when David was writing Psalm 2, he was speaking the word of God by the Spirit of God.
So the apostles were teaching inspiration in their understanding of Old Testament writings, and then in their understanding of their own writings, they believed the words they were writing were inspired in the same way. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:37, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” Peter references Paul’s letters in 2 Peter 3:15-16, calling them “Scriptures.”
But even more important than the testimony of prophets and apostles, the reality of inspiration was declared by Jesus Himself, over and over again. Jesus refers to the books of the Old Testament as authoritative Scriptures inspired by God, in such a way that in order to deny the inspiration of Scripture, one must reject the integrity of Christ Himself. In other words, if you say Scripture is not inspired by God, then you are saying that Jesus was at best delusional and at worst a liar. Look at Luke 24:27: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Then in Luke 24:44-25:
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
The inspiration of Scriptures—not just proclaimed by the prophets, not just demonstrated and fulfilled, not just taught by the apostles—it’s actually declared by Jesus. Then it is authenticated by the Spirit, as we’ve seen in 1 Corinthians 2:13-14, and finally, such inspiration has been affirmed throughout Christian history from the very beginning.
The Bible was not made up, rather God inspired the Scriptures
This is not just something we made up in the 21st or 20th or 19th or 18th centuries. You can go all the way back to the second century and start walking forward. Justin Martyr said, “We must not suppose that the language proceeds from men who were inspired, but from the Divine Word which moves them.” Hippolytus wrote, “The Law and the Prophets were from God, Who in giving them compelled His messenger to speak by the Holy Spirit, that receiving the inspiration of the Father’s power they may announce the Father’s counsel and will.” He continues, and I love this quote:
These blessed men … having been perfected by the Spirit of Prophecy, and worthily honoured by the Word Himself, were brought to an inner harmony like instruments, and having the Word within them, as it were to strike the notes, by Him they were moved, and announced that which God wished. For they did not speak of their own power (be well assured), nor proclaim that which they wished themselves, but first they were rightly endowed with wisdom by the Word, and afterwards well foretaught of the future by visions, and then, when thus assured, they spake that which was [revealed] to them alone by God.
Origen said in the third century, “The Scriptures were written by the Spirit of God.”
Augustine in the fourth century wrote:
When they write what He has taught and said, it should not be asserted that He did not write it, since the members only put down what they had come to know at the dictation of the Head. Therefore, whatever He wanted us to read concerning His words and deeds, He commanded His disciples, His hands, to write. Hence, one cannot but receive what he reads in the Gospels, though written by the disciples, as though it were written by the very hand of the Lord Himself.
All the way up to the Reformation. Martin Luther wrote,
We must make a great difference between God’s Word and the word of man. A man’s word is a little sound, that ﬂies into the air, and soon vanishes; but the Word of God is greater than heaven and earth, yea, greater than death and hell, for it forms part of the power of God, and endures everlastingly.
John Calvin—this is a really good quote showing how huge this understanding of inspiration is:
This is the principle that distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God hath spoken to us and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak of themselves, but as organs of the Holy Spirit uttered only that which they had been commissioned from heaven to declare. All those who wish to profit from the Scriptures must first accept this as a settled principle, that the Law and the prophets are not teachings handed on at the pleasure of men, or produced by men’s minds as their source, but are dictated by the Holy Spirit.
Everything in the Bible hinges on that reality.
Is using the Scripture to assert the inspiration of Scripture a circular argument?
Now, it’s at this point when, talking about how Scripture teaches inspiration—from the prophets, the apostles, to Jesus—some might say, “Oh, wait a minute. Is Scripture using Scripture to assert the inspiration of Scripture a circular argument?” The argument is this: “We believe Scripture is divine—why?” Because Scripture claims to be divine. “And we believe Scripture’s claims to be divine—why?” Because Scripture is divine. “So isn’t that a circular argument?” Well, sure it is. But here’s the reality. Any argument for absolute authority will ultimately and inevitably appeal to its own authority.
Here are a few examples. You might say, “Well, my reason is my ultimate authority.” To which I would ask, “Why?” And the inevitable answer you would give is, “Because that seems reasonable to me.” You might say, “Well, logical consistency is my ultimate authority. Something has to be logically consistent in order for me to believe it.” To which I would ask, “Why is that the case?” And you would answer, “Because that’s logical to me.” Or an atheist or agnostic might say, “I know there’s no ultimate authority.” To which I would ask, “How do you know there’s no ultimate authority.” And the answer you would inevitably give is, “Because I don’t know of any ultimate authority.”
Now, the point in all of that is this: we need to realize that any argument for absolute authority is going to ultimately and inevitably appeal to its own authority. So that shouldn’t keep us from believing what that authority says. It should simply cause us to say, “Well, does that supposed authority have credibility?” And that question then leads to our responsibility, at which point I believe our challenge is to listen to the Bible’s testimony to itself. The Bible clearly claims to be inspired by God. Second Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God (inspired by God) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The Scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament alike, claims to be inspired.
External Validation that proves the Bible is inspired bu God
So listen to the Bible’s testimony about itself, and then look for validation of that testimony. With regard to external validation, I love this quote by R.C. Sproul. He says, “The very dimension of the sheer fulfillment of prophecy of the Old Testament Scriptures should be enough to convince anyone that we are dealing with a supernatural piece of literature.…God has Himself planted within the Scriptures an internal consistency that bears witness that this is His Word.”
So look externally at the supernatural nature of Scripture, and then look internally, meaning in your own heart, and ask, “Is this Book supernatural?” John Calvin writes:
Now this power which is peculiar to Scripture is clear from the fact that of human writings, however artfully polished, there is none capable of affecting us at all comparably. Read Demosthenes or Cicero; read Plato, Aristotle, and others of that tribe. They will, I admit, allure you, delight you, move you, enrapture you in wonderful measure. But betake yourself from them to this sacred reading. Then, in spite of yourself, so deeply will it affect you, so penetrate your heart, so fix itself in your very marrow, that compared with its deep impression, such vigor as the orators and philosophers have will nearly vanish. Consequently, it is easy to see that the Sacred Scriptures, which so far surpass all gifts and graces of human endeavor, breathe something divine.
I’ve shared this story before, but it’s worth bringing up again. One of our missionaries in the International Mission Board was telling me a story about how they were in a particular country, and he was on the streets with a New Testament, trying to share the gospel with different people in this particular city. He started talking to a guy who looked down at the New Testament and said, “Oh, that Book you’re holding. It’s got nice paper that’s really good for rolling cigarettes.”
And so our missionary said, “Well, all right. I tell you what. I’ll give you this Book, with all of its nice paper, if you’ll promise me that before you tear out a page and roll it into a cigarette, you’ll read that page.”
The guy responded, “So I just need to read it, and then I can roll it and smoke it?”
“Yeah, that’s what I just said.”
So he gave the guy the New Testament and he left. The missionary came back weeks later and saw the same guy on the street and asked him, “Hey, have you been doing what I asked you to do?”
The guy looked at him and said, “Well, I read and smoked my way through Matthew. And then I smoked my way through Mark and Luke. I smoked all the way to John 3. But I came to this verse, verse 16. Everything made sense. God loves me enough to send His Son Jesus to die for me. So now I’ve put my faith in Him and trusted Him to save me from my sins.” That guy is now training to be a pastor. I’m not necessarily recommending that particular method of evangelism.
The Bible has power
But I’m saying that this Word has power. I mean, just read it. It’s got power. Now, that may seem kind of hard to measure—somewhat mystical. Let me give you something measurable. I came across this after we put together these study guides, so it’s not in your notes. Back to the Bible Ministries did an extensive four-year study with thousands of people on Bible engagement and here’s what they found.
They have the data to prove this. Very simply, they found that people who read the Bible four days a week—in other words, the majority of the days in a week—are 57% less likely to give in to certain temptations they were tracking. More specifically, they were 57% less likely to get drunk, 68% less likely to have sex outside of marriage, 61% less likely to view pornography, and almost 75% less likely to gamble—purely based on just reading the Bible.
So that’s the question: does this Book have supernatural power to change your life? I want to challenge you to read it regularly and see if it does. I don’t want to just have a Bible study tonight, with a guy up here talking really fast and all of us staying up really late. It’s kind cool, but there’s something more here. I don’t want to just do that, and then thousands of people walk away unchanged. So here’s a challenge I want to give you, as we bring our first teaching section to a close.
Would you be willing, as a result of this night, to commit—and have somebody hold you accountable—to simply reading the Bible the majority of the days in a week? Like four times a week. Now, if you’re already reading the Bible more than that, I’m not encouraging you to read the Bible less. Just to be clear. If you’re at four days already, then I’ll challenge you to go to five. If you’re at five, go to six. If you’re at seven, go to eight. I don’t know. Just read a little more.
I just want to challenge every single person—if you read the Bible the majority of the days in a week, I guarantee it will change your life. If you read this Word, I guarantee you will see supernatural power in your life.
That God-inspired Scripture is certain; how God-inspired Scripture is mysterious.
Now I want us to think about the process of inspiration of Scripture. That God-inspired Scripture is certain. How God inspired Scripture is mysterious, and that’s what I want us to think about. So here’s what we know. Scripture was written by a wide variety of authors.
Here are a few examples. You’ve got a law giver named Moses. You’ve got a general named Joshua. You have various prophets and kings. A musician like Asaph in Psalm 50, or herdsmen like Amos. A prince and statesman like Daniel, in Daniel 9. A priest like Ezra. A tax collector like Matthew. A doctor like Luke. A scholar like Paul. And fishermen like Peter and John. If you’re not following along, that was about five pages in your study guide that we just went through.
This is something that sets the Bible apart from other books, like the Koran or the Book of Mormon, that were written by one author. Here you have a wide variety of authors with a wide variety of styles. These writing styles include laws, genealogies, psalms of praise, laments and oracles of judgment. You also have biographical Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. You have narratives of theological history. You have letters to churches, apocalyptic prophecy, and on and on and on. So you have a wide variety of authors with a wide variety of styles working through a wide variety of processes.
Think about the different ways God spoke to different writers at different times. You have divine dictation in a sense, when God would say, “Write this down.” You have historical research. Luke was a historian, as well as John, saying, “Here are all the things I wrote down, but there are so many other things I didn’t have space to write.” You have dreams and visions, like we see with Ezekiel and Daniel, and even Paul. And sometimes—much like we were talking about direct and indirect speech earlier—you simply have authors who were hearing God’s voice. “The Lord of hosts has revealed himself in my ears” (Isaiah 22:14).
So a wide variety of different authors, different styles and ways that God is speaking—but how did God do this? How did God inspire Scripture through a wide variety of authors who are recording the exact words of God? The Scripture is clear, over and over again, that every word in this Book was inspired. And not just every word, but every letter of every word. Jesus said in Matthew 5:18, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
The picture you have when it comes to the inspiration of Scripture is that God moved and the writers mouthed. Just like we read from Peter when we started talking about inspiration, in 2 Peter 1:21, “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” And in this way, the canon—the authoritative books of the Bible—were revealed by God.
The Canon: Recognized by Man
But then, how were those books in the canon recognized by man? In other words, how do we know which books or writings are supernaturally inspired by God and which ones are not? So we’ve got to keep in mind what we’ve already seen, what Packer said earlier, Newton didn’t give us gravity. God gave us gravity. Newton recognized what God had given. So man didn’t come up with the canon of Scripture. God gave the canon, and man recognized what God had given. Edward J. Young has said something really helpful:
“When the Word of God was written it became Scripture and, inasmuch as it had been spoken by God, possessed absolute authority. Since it was the Word of God, it was canonical. That which determines the canonicity of a book, therefore, is the fact that the book is inspired by God.”
F.F. Bruce, a brilliant New Testament scholar, said the same thing specifically about the New Testament:
One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa—at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397—but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of these communities.
Five questions used to determine if the Bible was inspired by God
So how did they do this? How did the early church, even the people of God before Jesus came, recognize books of the Bible as authoritative? Well, essentially you have five fundamental questions that they would ask over the course of time.
1. Was the it written by a prophet or an apostle of God?
One question people would ask is whether something was written by a prophet or an apostle of God. In the Old Testament you had people who were recognized as prophets, speaking the word of God faithfully. Moses in Deuteronomy. Amos in the book named after him. In the New Testament you have the apostles who spoke authoritatively, like Paul or Peter or John. So that was one question, but it didn’t mean that a book couldn’t be a part of the canon if an apostle or prophet didn’t write it.
2. Was it written by someone with a special relationship to a prophet or apostle who affirmed its authority?
But if it wasn’t written by a prophet or apostle known to speak for God, then was it written by someone with a special relationship to a prophet or apostle who affirmed its authority? Luke would be an example of this. Paul would have affirmed the authority of his writings based on his travel with him. Similarly Peter with Mark.
3. Does it tell the truth about God?
So a third question they would ask is: does it tell the truth about God? Deuteronomy 18:20-22 says:
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” And if you say in your heart, “How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?”—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously.
So people would examine a book or writing for historical accuracy, as well as consistency with what God had revealed about Himself in other places to other people, knowing that in the words of Hebrews 6:17-18, God’s perfections, His purposes are unchanging.
4. Does it demonstrate the power of God?
The fourth question they would ask is: does it demonstrate the power of God? In other words—much like we were talking about earlier, do we see the supernatural effect of that book? Do we see it in that writing, and in people’s lives, in a way that attests to its authority?
5. Was it accepted by the people of God?
And finally, was it accepted by the people of God? What we’re talking about here is not just, “Was it was accepted by the people of God in the third or fourth centuries?” as if those were the first Christians to think about this. No, was the book or writing accepted by the people of God as authoritative as it was spoken, or as it was written down, and in the years that followed? If you look at the development of the Old Testament, the very law God gave to Moses was clearly accepted as God’s Word to His people from the very beginning.
Moses’ writings eventually became the first five books of the Old Testament, and Moses says in Deuteronomy 31:24-26, “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you.” Then Joshua, for example, wrote words in the Book of the Law, and it was accepted by God’s people as such. Samuel, the same thing. On and on. The Chronicles, then Kings, then the writings of the prophets, the proverbs of Solomon, the psalms of worship, on and on throughout the Old Testament.
This then led to the attestation in the New Testament of these books from the Old Testament. So we’ve talked about this already, but the New Testament authors attributed authority to Old Testament books, starting with the very beginning of the Old Testament. So Paul calls Genesis “Scripture” in Romans 4:3. John references the authority of Exodus in John 6:13. Matthew 8:4 references the authority of Leviticus. Hebrews 3:5 references the authority of Numbers. Matthew 4:4-10 quotes from Deuteronomy. And on and on and on. The New Testament writers are referencing promises made “beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2).
Which then leads to the development of the New Testament. Based on Jesus’ promise to send His Spirit to bring to remembrance all that He had taught His disciples (John 14:26; 16:1-14), we see that New Testament writers, much like Old Testament prophets, were taking God’s Word, writing it down, and then commanding it to be read. Paul writes to the Thessalonians , “We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). You received this word—the Word of God. Then he says in 1 Thessalonians 5:27, “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.”
In Peter’s description of Paul’s letters in 2 Peter 3:16, he says, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” So Peter is referring to Paul’s writing as Scriptures. This idea goes all the way to the prophecy of John in Revelation 1:3 and 22:18-19. So you have the development of the New Testament in a way that has authority equal to that of the Old Testament.
The people of God are built on the foundation, not just of the prophets, but the apostles and the prophets, according to Ephesians 2:19-21. In Ephesians 3:4-5, Paul speaks of “the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”
Then your study guides lists 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Deuteronomy 25:4, and Luke 10:7 here as examples of the authority of the Old Testament and the New Testament side by side. In 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Paul says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’” Paul is quoting from two places as being authoritative Scripture. The first is from Deuteronomy 25:4 in the Old Testament, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” But then the second quote is from Luke 10:7 in the New Testament, where Luke writes about the laborer deserving his wages, in a way that attributes scriptural authority to Luke.
So you put all that together, and over time the people of God recognized the canon of Scripture—the books we now have in the Bible—after asking some specific questions. These included the questions of whether or not it was written by a prophet or apostle, if it was affirmed by an apostle or prophet, if it spoke the truth about God, if it uniquely demonstrated the power of God, or if it was accepted by the people of God as the Word of God.
What about the Apocrypha?
All of this leads to a side question: what about the Apocrypha? These are additional books which the Roman Catholic Church claimed were canonical at the Council of Trent in 1546. At the Council of Trent—which came about in response to the Reformation begun by Martin Luther and others before him—the Roman Catholic Church made this declaration:
The Synod … receives and venerates … all the books (including the Apocrypha) both of the Old and of the New Testament seeing that one God is the Author of both … as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth or by the Holy Ghost … if anyone receive not as sacred and canonical the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church … let him be anathema [in other words, condemned].
So for 1,500 years these apocryphal books were not accepted by God’s people as part of the canon. But after all that time, the Catholic Church decided to change course. Why? Well, using the questions above, the books in the Apocrypha were not written by prophets or apostles, they don’t tell the truth about God, and they don’t demonstrate the power of God. Books like Judith and Tobit, as well as 1 Maccabees contain historical, chronological and geographical errors. The Book of Wisdom teaches the creation of the world came out of pre-existent matter. Ecclesiasticus teaches that the giving of alms makes atonement for sin.
The Apocrypha doesn’t demonstrate the power of God, and it wasn’t accepted by the people of God. These books were not regarded as God’s Word by the Jewish people or Jesus or other New Testament writers. Jesus and the New Testament writers quote various parts of the Old Testament 295 different times, but never once from apocryphal books. So for all those reasons and more, we would be wise to heed the warning from the end of Revelation not to add to that which God has inspired. Particularly, in the words of E.J. Young, “There are no marks in these books which would attest a divine origin.”
Coming back to our original question—is the Bible divine or did humans create it?—what I hope we’ve seen is that the Bible is revealed by God through special revelation, specific communication and the Bible is recognized by man. The Westminster Confession of Faith expresses well both the external and internal testimony to the divine origin of the Bible:
We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is some of the greatest news in the entire world. God has made Himself known to us. And because of this, we can know God. So it makes sense for the Bible to say, in the very words of God:
Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
The Bible is Divine
Ladies and gentlemen, do not boast in how smart you are or think you are. Don’t boast in how much you have and how you look. Don’t boast in what you accomplish. Boast in one thing: boast in knowing God. And that is only possible because this is the Word of God, not created by men, but given by God Himself. The Bible is divine.
Session 3 Discussion Questions
Study Guide pp. 30-59
1. How would you define “inspiration” as most people use the word today? How is this different from the biblical concept of inspiration that we read about in 2 Timothy 3:16?
2. The process by which God inspired Scripture is somewhat mysterious to us, but we do have some evidences of Scripture’s inspiration. Give some examples of these evidences.
3. How is our view of Scripture related to our view of Jesus?
4. When arguing for the authority of Scripture, why should we not shy away from citing Scripture itself as evidence?
5. Does the wide variety of personalities and writing styles of Scripture’s authors undermine the doctrine of inspiration? Why or why not?
6. What’s the difference between the church creating the canon and the church recognizing the canon?
7. Why should the Apocrypha not be considered part of the canon?
8. How would you respond to someone who says that we are limiting God by not allowing more books in the canon of Scripture?
9. Did this session increase your confidence in Scripture as the Word of God? How so?
10. Why is a low view of Scripture dangerous for the rest of your Christian life?
Key Terms and Concepts
- Canon: an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
- Revelation: God’s communication to humans of truth they need to know in order to properly relate to Him.
- Inspiration: the mysterious supernatural process by which God worked through human instruments to reveal divine truth in written form.
- Apocrypha: additional books which the Roman Catholic Church claimed were canonical at the Council of Trent in 1546. However, each book contained in the Apocrypha fails one or more tests of canonicity (see below for tests of canonicity).
- When Christians argue for the authority of Scripture based on the testimony of Scripture itself, they are sometimes charged with circular reasoning. However, remember that any argument for absolute authority must ultimately appeal to its own authority. For example, a person who appeals to reason as his ultimate authority must rely on his own ability to reason.
- The Reality of Inspiration:
- Proclaimed by the prophets
- Demonstrated by fulfilled prophecy
- Taught by the apostles
- Declared by Jesus
- Authenticated by the Spirit
- Affirmed throughout history
- That God-inspired Scripture is certain; how God-inspired Scripture is mysterious.
- A wide variety of authors (lawgivers, prophets, kings, doctors, etc.)
- A wide variety of styles (Gospel accounts, laws, laments, letters, etc.)
- A wide variety of processes (divine dictation, historical research, etc.)
- Tests for Canonicity
- Was it written by a prophet or apostle of God?
- Does it tell the truth about God?
- Does it demonstrate the power of God?
- Was it accepted by the people of God?