Ask Steve: Inspiration and Infallibility

 

Currently Reading:

The Expository Genius of John Calvin

by Steven J. Lawson

Category: Christian Ministry / Preaching

2007, Reformation Trust

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I am a new Christian and am still learning some new things about the Bible. I have often heard of the Bible as being “inspired.” What does this mean? Also, what does infallibility of the Bible mean and what is its relationship to the authority of the Bible?

Answer: Inspiration, as it relates to the entire Bible, means that all of Scripture was spoken by God and was accurately penned by the biblical writers as such. In its most literal sense, inspiration means that the Bible is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This does not mean that the Bible fell out of the sky or that it was fully dictated, word-for-word, to the scribes. Rather, the process involved God moving in the hearts of the biblical writers, both in the Old or New Testament, to write and record the very words that He intended for them to write, using the personalities of the human writers to write the words of Scripture so that each book of the Bible is a characteristic work of the particular author. The result is that the Bible is both a human and a divine book. As a human book, humans have finitude when writing and are prone to error, yet the Holy Spirit (who is the Spirit of truth, righteousness, and holiness) overrode human weakness so that the words of Scripture would be recorded accurately, efficaciously, and without error.

The Bible is essentially the Word of God. The Holy Spirit inspired all the writers of the Old and New Testament (using their individual vocabulary and creative personalities) to fully record the entire will and revelation of God for humanity. Because the Bible is inspired, Scripture is inerrant, infallible, all-sufficient, has total consistency, and has binding authority over human lives (both believers and non-believers). It must be noted that only the autographs of Scripture can rightly be deemed as inerrant and not the translations or commentaries that came out of it. However, the Bible is still trustworthy because the inspired, true word of the autographs is found in the manuscripts that we have to this day. Therefore, God’s word is true and living.

Inspiration is a central tenet of the Christian faith because it is the Christian’s confidence that the word alone is capable to bring salvation and sanctification to a person’s life. Because the Bible is God-breathed, it is a unique book amongst all other religious and philosophical books in the world. 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares that every part of the Bible comes directly from God, implying that it is neither the work of demons nor the arbitrary thoughts of humanity. Therefore, Scripture is profitable for us and worthy of being trusted for salvific and sanctifying instructions for the Christian faith. Any other religious, philosophical, or ethical books that contradict the teachings of Scripture are erroneous and are purely the works of either human or devil. Any “evangelical” theories that attack the inspiration of Scripture, such as errancy of Scripture or historical-critical theories found in neo-orthodox circles, is heretical and must rightly be discarded, since they neither honor God nor have any power in sanctifying a believer to the optimal in this life.

Like inspiration, infallibility and authority are also non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith. Without them, we have no reason to believe in the words of the Bible (or at least portions of it) and submit to its governance over our lives. Infallibility of Scripture means that God uses the Bible to accomplish His intended salvific and sanctifying purposes for all people and all times. God’s Word cannot fail to accomplish its specific purposes, since Scripture is inspired, inerrant, and sufficient. God’s Word is incapable of failing, because God Himself is without fail. He is perfect, holy, and true (Matt 5:48). Various parts of Scripture also testify to the fact that God’s works, especially in regards to saving and perfecting His people, are perfect, complete, and unfailing (Deut 32:4; Ps 19:7). The essence behind infallibility is that the Word of God can be fully trusted and should be utilized in evangelism, discipleship, and counseling. It must be utilized to convince, rebuke, and exhort (2 Tim 4:2). Where God’s Word is, the Holy Spirit is surely moving. No other religious or human books have the same power to change the sinner or produce efficacious results like Scripture does, which subsequently leads to its implied authority over our lives.

Understanding infallibility of the written Word allows us to clearly see the Bible’s authority over our lives. Authority of Scripture states that God’s Word alone is the vehicle that edifies, strengthens, corrects, and teaches the Christian to be all that God desires him to be. Because God created the heavens, the earth, and all living creatures that belong in it (Gen 1:1; Ps 24:1), He owns our lives and has the right to seek worship, love, and obedience from us. To disobey or disbelieve God is to blaspheme Him and rebel against His authority. Similarly, to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God, since the Bible is God’s Word. God cannot lie, therefore all the words in Scripture are completely true, without error, and emblematic of God’s unbending, ultimate will. 

Scriptural support for the authority of Scripture includes Matthew 4:4, 2 Timothy 3:16, and Deuteronomy 18:19. Because God’s Word will last forever (Matt 5:18) and cannot be broken (Jn 10:35), it stands even now and has the right to demand compliance from every human being living on earth. This reality is also represented in the fact that the teachers of God’s Word (evangelists, pastors, etc.) are given authority when ministering the Bible’s content to other people (1 Thess 4:2; Titus 2:15). When church members rebel against their elders or are unrepentant to sin, the elders are given authority by God, through the written word, to exercise church discipline, in which Jesus claimed that heaven would be in full agreement with their decisions as long as they faithfully abide by God’s revealed standard (Matt 18:18).

 

Recommend Resource: Defending Inerrancy by Norman Geisler and William C. Roach