Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Bible is "Inspired". Great. What Does That Mean?

Starting a series on bibliology this morning. Today's post: the nature of "inspired" Scripture.

NOTE: For those of you writing the NANC exam who are looking for info, please don't forget to use citations (you can hyperlink to this entry in your exam, rather than formal footnotes) when phrasing your answer. In other words, kindly remember to give me credit if quoting from this page. I will appreciate it, and so will the NANC Fellows who are grading your exam. Thanks! :)

When the Bible is spoken of as being “inspired”, it literally means “God-breathed”. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul explains that “all Scripture is God-breathed” – meaning that it is the writings, not the writers which are “inspired”. The Greek term which translates to “given by inspiration of God”, theopneustos, appears elsewhere only once in Scripture – in Job 32:8, where it is translated “breath”: “But it is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.” This indicates that what is given as biblical revelation is straight from the mouth of God, and is not subject to the personal interpretation of those recording Scripture (as more liberal denominations may teach).

Jay Adams correctly notes that “inspired” would be more correctly translated “expired”, in keeping with the “breathing out” meaning of the Greek term. This verse tells us that the Scriptures are “every bit as much God’s Word as if you could hear them spoken audibly (by breath).” Therefore, to claim an extra-biblical writing as “inspired” (speaking for God) is actually heretical, since such a claim would put the text on par with Scripture. (Just this morning, a woman was gushing about "God speaking to her" through the devotional, "Jesus Calling". This is a book a woman wrote a few years ago claiming Jesus gave her messages as private revelation. Scary stuff...yet many Christians buy into these types of books unquestioningly.)

Additionally, 2 Peter 1:19-21 affirms that while men prophesied and wrote Scripture, the origin was never with them – they were “moved” or “carried along” by the Spirit, the Divine Author. The Apocrypha, the additional texts written in the inter-testamental period, are thus not considered "inspired" since they contain geographical, historical, and even theological errors. (These books were never quoted by Christ or the Apostles, nor were they ever a part of the Jewish Torah.) Only the 66 books of the Canon may accurately be described as "God-breathed".

The importance of the divine origin of Scripture is important to understand in relation to counseling, because after building his case for Scripture’s source of authority – God Himself – Paul goes on to state why biblical truth is therefore reliable: it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (vs. 16-17; emphasis mine). Because it is divine in origin, Scriptural injunction is trustworthy and therefore efficacious for training in holiness. Paul affirms that the Bible is a useful book, for teaching (revealing what God requires); for convicting (showing us where we fail to measure up to these); for correction (helping us get out of the problems we get into); and disciplined training in righteousness (helping us stay out of them in the future while obeying God).

Having established the “God-breathed” nature of Scripture, it follows that acceptance and adherence to its principles are non-negotiable. Our sin nature will cause all of us to attempt to rationalize, justify and otherwise excuse behavior that is contrary to the commands of God given in the Bible, but if we believe Scripture is “God breathed” – coming verbatim from Him – we are not free to add to, ignore, or subjectively interpret what has been dictated by God (Rev. 22:18-19; Matt. 7:26; 2 Pet. 1:20).

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