The following was adapted from a sermon delivered by Jacob Abshire on January 16, 2013. It was preached at Christian Tabernacle’s The Journey, a Wednesday Night Bible Study. It was part of a series on the foundation teachings about God’s word.
God in His wondrous grace decided by His own good pleasure that man should not be left to his own imaginations. So, he revealed to man secret truths, or truths that man would otherwise not know unless God gave them. He did so willingly and lovingly and at His own discretion. He did not owe it to us. He did not have to give us truth. He wanted to. And, we call this truth revelation.
Revelation is the substance or the content of what God gave for us to understand. It is the “content” of God’s truth. In fact, it is God’s truth. Tonight, we want to talk about inspiration or the doctrine of The Inspiration of Scripture. The truth that God gave to us is called “Scripture” and inspiration describes the process by which God gave the “Scripture” or His truth.
This is an important doctrine because it helps us to be confident that the truth is untampered with and pure. You might have played a game when you were little whereby you sat in a circle with other children and you told the person next to you a secret. This person then told the next person. And around the circle the secret was passed from one child to the next until it returned to you. And when that secret was whispered into your ear it was a totally different secret.
The way God tells us the secret, if you will, is important for that reason. By the time the secret gets to us, we ought to wonder if it is still the same secret or if it has been through a filtering and adjusting process and reshaped and reformed to be a totally different secret. If so, then the secret we were given has lost it is meaning and truth and can no longer be trusted. For this reason, we ought to know how God gave us the Scripture.
God Breathed (2 Timothy 3:16)
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Notice first of all that Paul desires that Timothy continue, this is an action with no end, in the sacred writings. I work on a computer all day and sometimes all night as work demands occasionally and I might shuffle through 100 to 200 emails. In any given day, people are publishing magazines, journals, blogs, newspapers and text messages by the millions just the like. But no where, and never have, any of these writings been called sacred. And rightly so.
Paul is making a distinguishing remark. The particular writings that he is referencing are “set apart” and “holy” and “divine” as we will see. They are unlike all of the other writings that are happening now and were happening then. Paul, himself, wrote at least four letters to the Corinthians yet only two are found in the Bible because only two of them were sacred. This is the first thing to note—the sacred writings.
Now what are these sacred writings? Plainly put, they are the Scripture. Beginning with verse 16, “All Scripture,” he says. There is a pastor down the road from us who would say this whenever he came across the word “all” in the Bible. As he would preach, he would say, “All means all and that’s all that all means.” I don’t know if that is indefinitely correct but it does set the context for us. Paul does not say “some Scripture” but “all Scripture.” By sacred writings, he is talking about all Scripture. And this is what he says about it, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.”
Now, if you are reading a King James Version or maybe an American Standard Bible, you might find the word “inspire” or “inspiration” there instead of “breathed out.” Now, I can’t be too sure about why that is, I suppose it had something to do with the Latin translations, but the word “inspire” can be misleading in the English. In our language, the word “inspire” means one of two things:
- First, it might mean to be urged to do or feel something. You might say that a movie or a song or a story was inspiring to you or that it was a inspirational song. By this, we only mean that song urged us or compelled us to feel a certain way or do a certain thing.
- Second, it might mean to inhale. Though I rarely here it used this way, the word “inspiration” can mean to breath in air.
Neither of these definitions fit what the text is communicating. The word is theopneustos which means “God breathed” and it carries the idea of blowing or breathing out, not breathing in. So the English Standard Version reads this way, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” Now what does that mean?
There are at least three times in the Bible that God breathes:
- First, God breathed into Adam, who was only clay, and he came alive. God created the first soul and man was alive (Gen. 2:7).
- Second, God breathed on dry bones and flesh formed on them and they came alive (Ez. 37:1-4).
- Third, God breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:21-23).
Now I’m not sure to what extent these relate to God breathing out all of Scripture, but it does set us in the right kind of thinking. When God breathes, He gives, makes, and forms life. What Paul wants us to know here is that all Scripture comes from God’s creative power. He is the source. He is the originator. All of Scripture comes from His mind and by His work.
God Spoke (Hebrews 1:1-2)
Now what does that mean that God breathed out all Scripture? What is the Scripture?
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
Here, we have description of our two Testaments: the Old and the New. Listen how this is related to us. God spoke “long ago” and did so to the Jewish fathers “by the prophets” and did so “at many times and in many ways.” This is a description of how God revealed His truth in the Old Testament. We now that God revealed by using visions, prophecy, ceremony, symbols, parables, types, theophany, audible voice and even the writing on rocks with His finger. God spoke in many ways and at many times long ago. And, when God spoke, it was written down and collected in books and then collected together as a full testament of God. We call it the Old Testament.
Now, God spoke again in “these last days” which is a reference to more recent times—times of the apostles. It says that God “has spoken to us by his Son.” What does that mean? Simply put, God spoke through Jesus Christ, who was called by John, the Word of God. Jesus was God’s living word, incarnate word. The gospels record the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The book of Acts records the disciples and apostles proclaiming Jesus. Then, we have the wonderful epistles, letters of instructions, that were teachings about and based on Jesus. Finally, we have Revelation which tells us about the Kingship of Jesus and His wondrous return.
In other words, God spoke in the Old Testament and it was collected in books. Then, God spoke in the New Testament and it was collected in books. These two testaments were put together and we call it the Bible. Hebrews 1:1-2 is saying that the Bible is a collection of words God spoke. Now, to take this further, this passage is picking up with 2 Timothy 3:16 was in order to say to us that all Scripture, all of the Bible, is God speaking. This is important because sometimes we emphasize the words that are in red and say that they are more important than those in black. But that is not the case. All of the Bible is God speaking.
This is why we call it God’s Word. Each word came from God. It is what He wanted to say and the way He wanted it said. In fact, we find all over the Bible the words “God” and “Scripture” being used interchangeably. For instance, Galatians 3:8 says:
“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’”
Now you know the story. Paul, here in Galatians, is referencing Genesis 12:3. If you turn there you will find that God was the one who said “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” Yet, Paul calls God “the Scripture.” This is fascinating. Another passage like this is Romans 9:17. It reads:
“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’”
You know what this is. It is the time of the Exodus. In fact, Paul is again quoting God in the Old Testament saying that God is “the Scripture” (Ex. 9:16). There are many others like this. In fact, Peter refers to Paul’s writings in the New Testament as Scripture so that we see both Old and New Testaments are God speaking, Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16). So, we take our understanding of “inspiration” a step further. God breathed. Now, God Spoke. Scripture is God breathing out or speaking what He wants us hear.
God Carried (2 Peter 1:20-21)
What still remains on our minds is this: If God spoke and breathed out the Bible, how did He do it? See, we read the Bible and we find references to culture and events of history. We see the personalities and language of men. This is because God did not use men like robots. He sovereignly worked in another way so that men were not mindlessly controlled.
“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.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
If God didn’t use men as robots to write what He desired, then how did He accomplish the Scripture? If He used men, should we be concerned that men altered the Scripture by the time they wrote it? Peter assures us that the Scripture is trustworthy. He says that no “prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” Now, we can confuse the word “prophecy” today to think that it refers to predicting the future. But the word only means to “tell the word of God” and nothing more. Before the Bible was written, God would speak through men and it would be prophecy because they were telling God’s message. Some times, that message was about future things. So it was predictable. Other times, it was about things past and present, yet it was still God’s message. So prophecy is just that—telling God’s message.
Peter wants us to know that we can trust the Bible because it did not come from “someone’s own interpretation.” That is to say that the Bible was not from some man’s imagination. Again, he says “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man” or no man thought the Scripture up so no man can take credit for it and it bears no man’s signature of authorship.
Rather, he says that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The word “carried” refers to being moved or brought along. There is a popular river near San Antonio, Texas. People drive there and rent tubes. Then they walk up to the tip of the river and jump into the water and float down. And, for the most part of the day, they are drifting down the river to the bottom. This is what comes to mind when I read that God “carried” or in the Greek, phero, them along. They were moved and carried along by the Holy Spirit.
This is a mysterious thing that God has not explain any further. I would venture to say that we might be able to understand how the Spirit of God did this anyways. But we know that this is how God gave us the Scripture. He breathed it. He spoke it. He carried it along to the final place. It was collected and preserved. The entire Bible, from the beginning to the end, came from God and was kept pure by God so that we can trust it and obey it and not be worried that man interfered and distorted God’s Word. We can be sure that the Word of God that we have is the Word of God.
Now if you put your finger down somewhere in the Bible and look at that word, you can be sure that the word under you finger is a word that God intended. If you look before or after that word, you can be sure that God intentionally put that word there. Then, to broaden our reference, the text that comprises the book that you are in was authored by God the way God intended.
Suppose your wife came to you to tell you something important. And as soon as she started to talk to you, you interrupted her saying, “Look, I’m not really into that stuff right now, I’ve got real problems, I need you to tell me about some things that relate to this or that.” So she agrees and changes the subject to something relating to your present needs and begins to talk again. You again interrupt her saying, “You know, I really don’t like the way that you are telling me this nor do I like the tone you have and the stuff you are saying isn’t really hitting it with me; I’d rather tell you what I want to hear.”
This sounds absurd. Our spouses would be furious. Unfortunately, this is exactly how we treat God’s word. We pick and choose and delete and add. We combine and substitute. But God has delivered what He says we ought to know and has done so in a way that we ought to know it. The way the Bible comes is the way God intended it come. We should not skip ahead or refuse to read any part of it. All of it is equally God’s word and equally important. We started in 2 Timothy and we can finish there.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The Scripture, God’s spoken word, is all that we need. When we have the Bible, we have God. Yet we cry out on Sunday asking for Him to come. He is saying to us, “I’m already there with you. You only need to read.”
Here are some statistics to end with. The average person eats 3 meals each day. That is about 1 pound of food and about 700 calories. Most people I know do more than this, but this is just for thought. By the time the average person reaches age 70, he will have eaten enough food to fill a large grocery store. That is a lot of food. But here it is in another way, by the age of 70 you will have eaten:
- over 38 tons of food (not including snacks)
- over 53 million calories
- over 73 cows (if you eat meat)
- over 4,300 dozen eggs (that is over 51,000 baby chickens)
Now think about this. Jesus said that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The Bible we own contains every word that came from the mouth of God. The question is this—Which are you feeding most: your body or your soul? And while you are thinking about that, ask yourself this: Which one will you live in the longest?
Finally, think about these numbers. If you spend 15 minutes per day for 5 days each week, you will have spent about the same amount of hours in God’s word feeding your soul that you do at a table feeding your belly. That is not a lot of time. Yet, most of us fail to do just that. We feed our body and starve our soul.