Many people who claim to be Christ-followers, say they believe the Bible to be the Word of God, but are not convinced that the Bible is truly the one and only inerrant, God-breathed message to the human race. In our world today, there are many “holy” books. Whether it is the Bhagavad-Gita of Hinduism, the Tao-te-Ching of Taoism, the Qur’an of Islam, or the Bible, they cannot all be right! Pope Francis has made the statement that all religions worship the same God, but they take different roads to get there. He is WRONG.
The purpose of this series of articles is to show that the Bible genuinely does stand as unique. There is no other book like it on this earth, nor has there ever been. We will see that it is not only accurate, but divinely inspired–a claim no other “holy” book can make. We will see that this Book is the only one the human race can trust its eternity to.
It is amazing to note that, even among many Christians, there is shock if you say that you believe in the infallible Word of God. They may wonder how any ancient writing could be infallible after it has been in the hands of men for so many centuries? A more important question to ask would be: How can the Word of God not have gotten to us intact? Is He the Almighty or not? He controls everything in the universe, He can surely see to it that His inspired Word has gotten to us complete.
So what does it really mean when we claim that the inspired Bible is without error? We need to start with how the word “inspired” is really defined. The word is found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The word “inspired” only appears twice in the New Testament. The original Greek word is “theopneustos.” We find that it is made from two words, one being the word for God (theos, as in theology) and the other referring to breath or wind (pneustos, as in pneumatic). Here is what is important to understand about this: God did not “breathe into” (inspire) all Scripture, but it was “breathed out” by God, or “expired”. The passage in 2 Timothy above is not so much about how the Bible came to us but where it came from…the Scriptures are “God-breathed!” 2 Peter 1:16-21 lays it out quite clearly:
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
The Biblical writers were just as human as anyone else, and the Spirit of God allowed them to use their own minds but He directed their thinking to the point that only His God-breathed words were written and recorded. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:9-13 puts it this way:
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches…
It is important to understand how this “inspiration” was accomplished, because it would be impossible for the Bible to have been written and preserved as it was without the sovereign, supernatural direction of the God who rules the entire universe. It is the most remarkable book ever written. About 40 men from numerous countries, several continents, and many occupations did the writing. Their writings were accomplished over a period of 1,500-2,000 years and in three languages; Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Yet this wondrous Book is a well-organized unity with one great theme and central figure, Jesus Christ. All of this would have been impossible unless the Bible had one single supreme Author, and it did, the Holy Spirit of God.
Men did not think on their own to write. The Spirit of God moved upon them to do so. At the same time, He allowed them to use their own styles, cultures, gifts, and character. Their own study and research was allowed; they were allowed to use their own experiences, and express their minds. Yet, the Holy Spirit did not allow error to influence their writings. He overruled in the expression of thought and in the choice of words they used. This way they recorded accurately all that God intended them to say and exactly how He wanted them to say it in their own personal way.
Something I learned many years ago is that the human mind tends to make a couple errors when trying to describe this process of “inspiration.” First, some think inspiration is no more than a writer’s heightened sensitivity to wisdom, just as we describe the inspiration of a painter or inventor. Second, some feel that the writers were no more than mechanical dictation machines as they wrote out the words of God. Both are wrong because they fail to adequately account for the active role played by both the Holy Spirit and the human writer.
So, we must decide how much of the Bible is inerrant. If “inspired” really means “God-breathed”, then the assertion that the Scripture quoted above, 2 Timothy 2:16, is that all Scripture, being God-breathed, is without error and so can be trusted in its entirety. Since God truly is THE Almighty, He absolutely cannot lie. If He were ever to lie, He would cease being God. This means that He cannot breathe out errors or contradictions, even “minor” ones! So, as long as we understand what “God-breathed” really means, it is not difficult to understand or accept the full inerrancy of the Bible.
Let us go a little farther in our description of how exact the Scriptures really are. First of all, the accuracy of the Scriptures is absolutely complete from beginning to end. This means that “the whole of Scripture” in every part is God-given. But not only is the “whole” inerrant, but so are the very words originally breathed by God into the souls of the writers. Later in this series some examples of this will be provided.
One very important principle that must be remembered, however, is this: the inerrancy of the Scriptures refers to the original writings of the Scriptures. We do not have any of the original “autographs,” as they are called, but only copies, including a number of copies of each book. These have differences here and there, but in all reality, they are amazingly close to each other in how they have been copied and recopied. It was said by one eighteenth century New Testament scholar that not one thousandth part of the text was affected by these differences. We now need to see what “inerrancy” of the Bible does not mean.
- Not everything in the Bible is good; for instance, there are descriptions of evil people in the Bible,such as people who lie. There are several examples of this in the Scriptures. Some of the words of the devil, who is the father of lies, are even recorded in the Bible. What we are assured of is that the account of the stories, including the lies, is absolutely accurate.
- Inerrancy does not mean that there are not minor contradictions, but they are not in the text itself, and they can be resolved. One familiar example has to do with John the Baptist. In Matthew 3:11 the writer speaks of John as not worthy of carrying the coming Messiah’s sandals. In the Apostle John’s account in John 1:27, it says the Baptist said he would not be worthy to untie the straps of his sandals when he arrived. It is not hard to see how he likely said both. The Baptist preached for some time before Jesus made Himself known, and he would have made this very point many times. All preachers repeat themselves, and will express the same point using different words from time to time. Matthew’s account was recorded from one instance and John’s account was of another. The point is the same either way.
- Not every copy of the original text is inerrant. The doctrine of inerrancy only applies to the original text. Yet, from all of the ancient scrolls that have been found, it becomes quite apparent that the Almighty saw to it that the human race got the Word of God intact.
There is one other point to make here before going on. Sometimes sceptics will excuse themselves from believing in the inerrancy of the Scriptures due to the many errant doctrines that have been crafted, often several from the very same passage. Not all men who teach the Word of God are good conduits of the teaching of the Spirit of God. Neither are all theologian’s commentaries in line with the Spirit’s intent. Many translators are also guilty of sloppy translations. This is why we study and allow the Spirit of God to join with us in our times in His Word so that we can get the true meaning of the words that have been recorded for us. Understanding and recognizing the context of what is being said is also of the utmost importance. A thousand doctrines can be crafted just from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes if one does not recognize that the true context in this case is the entire book; from the first verse of the first chapter to the very last verse of the last chapter.
Inerrancy does mean that it is incorrect to claim the Bible is only “reasonably accurate,” as some do–especially now that we are so near to the End of the Age. God has seen to it that we have no reason to be uncertain which parts of the Word of God we can have confidence in and which we maybe cannot. He also saw to it that His Word covers every age, time period, and culture. He has not changed, and neither do we dare change what He has said to accommodate the deviances in our fallen world.
The Old Testament writers had no doubt whatsoever that the words they were being given were directly from the Almighty. I would like to share a few examples.
After the prophet Moses had led the Israelite people out of Egypt, a day came when God told him to have the people consecrate themselves and come to Mount Sinai and He would speak to them in person. When they gathered, the mountain became covered with black smoke; there was lightning, and the mountain shook violently. Then God’s trumpet began to blow, long and increasingly louder. Then all the people heard God speak to Moses with an audible voice.
Moses then went up the mountain and received the Law. There were three parts to the Law. The first part was the Moral Law, the ten commandments, which God etched into the two slabs of stone with His own finger. The second and third parts were the Civil Law and the Ceremonial Law. These two sets of laws were given to Moses letter by letter, and Moses wrote them letter by letter as they were given to him by the Almighty. The account of him going up the mountain is found in Exodus 19.
Each of the prophets in the Old Testament had a different story, a different encounter with God, and a unique calling. One thing they all shared was that God spoke to each of them in very specific terms. He gave them intricate details and instructed them what to say to those they were sent to, word for word, and word for word what was to be recorded. Isaiah was one of the greatest of the prophets; the Book of Isaiah is sometimes called the “Miniature Bible.” Beyond providing a great deal of history of his time, he also foretold the rise and fall of nations and empires, including the fall of Israel and Judah. Isaiah is also known for foretelling details of the coming Messiah that were so intricate and exact, it is mindboggling. The 53rd chapter of the book foretells the death of the Messiah and the conditions surrounding it in astounding detail 700 years before Jesus died and rose again. As is the case with most Old Testament prophets, many of Isaiah’s prophecies are unfolding in our generation. A defining experience for Isaiah is recorded in the sixth chapter of the book:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and tell this people:” (verses 1-9a)
And, that is exactly what Isaiah did; he spent the rest of his life telling the people.
Jeremiah had a unique calling. In the first chapter of the book of Jeremiah, we find the record of God’s interchange:
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nation. Then said I: “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.” But the LORD said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD. Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.” (verses 4-10)
In Jeremiah’s case, the LORD touched Jeremiah’s mouth and literally put His words into him. As with Isaiah, from that day forward, Jeremiah became a prophet to the nations. He provided a great deal of history, and a great deal of detailed prophecy as well–some of which is unfolding before our very eyes today.
Ezekiel’s calling was no less unique. He was brought into the presence of God, detailed in the first chapter of Ezekiel:
…above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of an throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of his waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of his waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.
And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me. And He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you…You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious. but you, son of man, hear what I say to you. do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe. Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” so I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll. And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. Then He said to me: “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. (Ezekiel 1:26-28; 2:1-3, 7-10; 3:1-4)
I have purposely included a significant portion of the text to show the personal hand of God as He anointed Ezekiel. It may seem odd that God would have a man eat a scroll in order to put His words into the man’s spirit, but it is what He sovereignly chose to do in Ezekiel’s case. Each and every one of God’s special hand-picked prophets had an encounter with the Almighty. He (the Almighty) then saw to it that the words that were delivered were perfect, to the very letter and punctuation.
But, this is only a small sampling of how God set His prophets in place to fulfill His will. There are a great many more represented in the Bible.
Continued in Part 2