The Inspiration of Scripture
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/10/2003
Category: Christian Living
"The Inspiration of Scripture"
As you know, we're doing a little series on studying the Bible, how to get the most out of God's Word. And I'm happy to
say to you that in August a book will be released entitled How to Get the Most Out of God's Word which will have some of
what I'm saying to you and a whole lot more. It will be a sort of a trade sized paperback book, I'm really excited about it
because obviously I have such a passion for the Word of God. And through the years I have written a number of books and
articles and things about the Bible and this book pulls together the best of everything and kind of updates it all and gets it all
together. Again, the title is How to Get the Most Out of God's Word. And as I was...I've been reading through it and editing
it and I probably was...Patricia was probably wondering how I could have such an experience of joy over something I wrote
myself, but I kept saying to her, you know, "This stuff is really potent, this is really good." And the issue was I wrote it so
long ago I had forgotten that I had said all these things. So that book will sum up a lot of this that we're sharing with you. We
are so blessed to have so many new folks in our church, so many new in the faith. Last Sunday night we had 80 some
people welcomed into the right hand of fellowship this month, into the church family. And many new in Christ. And we are
so anxious to lay a foundation of confidence in the Word of God. I've said to preachers throughout my ministry that when
your people consciously submit to the authority of the Word of God, then you can open it anywhere and they will submit to
its truth. To understand what you have in having the Word of God is so foundational.
So, in this little series on how to study the Bible, we've tried to lay the foundation of what the Scripture is so that you would
be compelled to that study and then we'll get into the details of how to do that, starting tonight. By way of some introduction
and continually laying some sort of foundational thoughts to the actual expression of how we study the Bible, which, as I
said, we'll begin tonight, let me remind you that the Bible is the most powerful book in existence, the most powerful piece of
literature ever penned. According to Hebrews 4:12 it is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. And it has
the capability to pierce into the very soul of man and dissect man and reveal his own nature and his own character and his
own sinfulness, his own longings be they for sin or for God. It can literally tear you to pieces. It cuts deep. It is a powerful
and living tool that God uses to expose the heart and the truth about us to ourselves.
But not only does the Bible tear you to pieces, it puts you together again. According to 1 Peter chapter 1, the Apostle Peter
reminds us that we have a living and abiding Word of God that is an imperishable truth upon which God builds a foundation
of eternal life and glory. So while the Word has the power to cut and to tear and to shred our confidences and to reveal the
truth about the inner recesses of our hearts, it also has the power to put us back together again. According to 1 John 1:4
John said, "These things I write unto you that your joy may be full." The Bible also is the source of consummate joy, built on
perfect peace and hope for time and eternity. This is THE most powerful book in existence. And that because in order to
accomplish these living things, it must be not the word of men, but the word of the living God. And that is exactly what it is.
That's why Psalm 138:2 says, "God has exalted the Word to the very level of His own name." It is impossible to separate
the glory of the Word from God Himself because this is indeed His own Word.
The Bible is not the word of men, it is the word of God. And I want to talk about that a little this morning because if you're
going to be a student of Scripture, it will be largely predicated on your confidence in the Scripture, and your understanding
of what it is you're dealing with. The Bible is revealed truth. In it God speaks.
I want you to turn to several scriptures to understand this. First of all, Hebrews chapter 1...Hebrews chapter 1. This is going
to more like a classroom lecture than a normal message that we would normally or regularly give to you on a Sunday, but I
think it's very, very important. I'm going to take the role of the teacher if I can this morning.
But in Hebrews chapter 1 verses 1 and 2 we have a good summation of the idea of revelation, that is truth revealed.
"God...it says...has spoken...literally...long ago to the fathers by the prophets in many portions and in many ways. In these
last days He has spoken to us in His Son." And we'll stop at that point.
Here we come across the reality that God has spoken. That sums up the matter of revelation. God has spoken. That is He
has revealed Himself, He has disclosed Himself. God has revealed truth for man.
How did He do it? He did it to the fathers, that is to the fathers meaning the men who were the leaders of Israel and even
before them, of course, to the fathers known as the patriarchs in the Pentateuch, the book of Genesis primarily. God spoke
long ago to those fathers of the nation Israel. He spoke by the prophets. That's just a generic term meaning the Scripture
writers, or those who spoke for God, those who were God's spokesmen. It is a term that includes prophets, the technical
term for those who are called prophets in the Old Testament. It also includes kings like David and Solomon. It would
include priests like Samuel and others who were used by God to speak. Prophet used here then in a sort of a non-technical
generic sense of one who speaks for God. God spoke through human speakers and writers, meaning, of course, the writers
of Scripture. He spoke, it says, in many portions, polumeros, it's a word that means segments. It has to do with the fact that
God spoke, and he's referring here to the Old Testament, and He spoke clearly using human instruments as the writers and
He did it in many portions. There are 39 specific portions in the Old Testament, if we call those books portions, 39 books.
The Bible has 66, the New Testament has 27, the Old has 39. So He spoke in many portions.
Within those books, those 39 books we could call portions, there are portions as well. Those books break down and
contain various and sundry portions, sections, paragraphs, etc. He did this over a lengthy period of time through numerous
human prophets or writers. But all of it was God speaking.
He also spoke, it says in verse 1, in many ways...in many ways. What did He use to convey these words to those who
would write it down? Well, visions. You know, of course, that there were a number of visions, even Moses had a vision of
God in a burning bush in the wilderness. The vision of Isaiah is well known to us. The visions of Ezekiel are well known to
us. There are numerous other visions that came to the prophets. In fact, often the prophets write speaking of their writings as
visions, the vision of the Lord came to the prophet So-and-so and he wrote.
And then there were direct words from God by way of moving in the human mind and giving truth to the writer who first
preached it so he could say he spoke it prophetically and then later wrote it down. God spoke to the writers of Scripture
through parables, through types, through symbols, through ceremonies, through what we call theophanies or appearances of
God as the angel of the Lord, or even visible appearances of God such as in the burning bush. He spoke occasionally
through an audible voice, thundering out from heaven in an audible way so as to be heard clearly and distinctly and
So in many ways in many segments through many different human writers, God spoke. That's what that verse is saying. And
this is recorded then, this revelation of God, in the Old Testament. Men were used to write down this revelation from God
which God Himself revealed, men who were then enlightened and energized by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then
energizing them we have in the Old Testament not a collection of the best of human wisdom, this is not the best musings of
religious ancient men, this is the very voice and word of God.
Then God spoke also, verse 2 says, in these last days and that signifies the time of Messiah. The last days are the time when
Messiah comes. Messiah came, born in Bethlehem, initiating the last days. And in the last days He has spoken to us in His
Son. God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. And the record about Jesus Christ was then written down.
Four writers were chosen, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, to write down the inspired record of the revelation of God in
Jesus Christ that we know as the four gospels. And then the writer Luke was inspired by the Spirit of God to follow the
record after the life of Jesus Christ in the book of Acts and show the early years of the church. And then came the writers of
the epistles...Peter, James, John, Jude, Paul. They wrote those epistles which basically are explanatory and define the
meaning and the significance of the coming of God in Christ in His redemptive work and then the Scripture closes with
Revelation which is the promise of the return of Christ in coming glory.
The New Testament, 27 segments through varying authors wrote down the revelation of God, particularly that came in and
around the person of Jesus Christ. So you have the revelation of God in the inspired writers in segments called the Old
Testament, you have the revelation of God through inspired writers and segments called the New Testament, 27 books and
39 equal the 66 books of Scripture. This is the revelation of God. It is the result, singularly the result, of God's
self-disclosure. God has spoken. When you pick up a Bible you are reading the Word of God.
Now the process God used to put down this revelation is called inspiration. Inspiration is a word that defines a process. It
defines a means. And we can understand something of this means...and by the way, it is a supernatural means. It is not
natural. We might say, "Well somebody wrote a beautiful song, they really were inspired." Or you wrote a beautiful letter to
someone, it was really very inspired, or you gave a speech and it was very inspired. We're talking about a human level of
excellence that's very different than what we're referring to here. When we talk about inspiration in a biblical sense we're
talking about a technical way in which God uses a supernatural miraculous process to reveal His own Word.
Turn to 2 Peter for a good look at what this process is. Second Peter chapter 1, and by God's goodness He has disclosed
to us this...this process of inspiration in the text of the New Testament so we can understand it. Verses 20 and 21, 2 Peter
1:20 and 21. "But know this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy
was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."
Now these two verses are just loaded with significance with regard to this matter of inspiration. The key word here is the
word "moved" in verse 21. "Moved," carried along, borne along, it's a word that is used in secular Greek sources to refer to
something floating down stream like a leaf. They were literally carried along by the Holy Spirit. The writers of Scripture, the
men who wrote the Scripture...and by the way, there are no female writers of Scripture, all 66 books are written by
men...so the Spirit of God moved these men along so that they actually spoke from God borne along by the Holy Spirit.
Let's look a little further into this text. Verse 21, "No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will." Back to verse 20,
"Know this first, no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation." Now there are two immediate disclaimers
and both of them say Scripture doesn't come from any human source. It is a miraculous book authored by God through the
Holy Spirit moving human writers to write exactly what God wanted said. No prophecy of Scripture, that refers to all of it,
no place in Scripture...it's not talking about prophecy in a predictive sense, prophecy means to speak forth. No message
from God, no speaking forth of God contained in Scripture, nothing from God contained in Scripture is a matter of...look at
that phrase...a matter of one's own interpretation.
Now this needs a little bit of explanation. I really never have liked the translation "interpretation" here because the Greek
term is epilusis. If you know anything about the Greek language, luo is the word to loose, and this is a compound of loose.
It's the idea of unleashing something. It's the idea of unloosing something. No Scripture is of any human unleashing and it's
speaking of origin. It's speaking of source.
In the genitive case the usage indicates source so Peter is actually saying, "Scripture does not come from any human source."
It isn't a question of some men having intimacy with God and some people knowing God and watching God work and
having historical acquaintance with the operation of God, having a high level of human genius and a high level of religious
sensitivity writing down their best understandings of God. It is not that. It isn't the worst of men and it isn't the best of men
writing down their musings about God. No prophecy of Scripture, no message in Scripture anywhere is as to its source
And then in verse 21 he further strengthens the point by repeating it. "No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will."
That is a very remarkable statement. Nobody ever said no matter how noble they might have been, or how godly they might
have been, "I think I'll write Scripture." No one has ever said that and done that. Some may have said it but they didn't do it
because it's impossible. No prophecy was ever made by an act of the human will. You can't produce Scripture from the
human will. You can't produce Scripture by any private origin. Rather men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. It
doesn't come from man. No prophecy was ever borne along by human will, same verb, but it was moved, borne along,
same verb, by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit selected the author and the Holy Spirit gave the message to the author so that
what he wrote down was exactly the Word of God inerrant and infallible. They spoke from God, writing exactly what God
wanted said. That's inspiration.
Now turn to another scripture, 2 Timothy. We could spend a lot of time on that text, and have in the past, but for now just
to put you in touch with these very formidable claims so that you understand the character of inspiration, 2 Timothy 3:16 and
17. "All scripture is inspired by God." That's where we get that word "inspiration." Now this is pasa graphe theopneustos.
The word theopneustos is God breathed, it's translated inspired here. It means God breathed. If you didn't have any air you
couldn't speak. If you couldn't bring out air you couldn't vibrate your vocal chords, you couldn't make any sound, couldn't
form your words. What this is saying is God breathed out Scripture. God spoke it. It is the very breath of God. And not just
in the sense of breath but in the sense of blowing out breath in a way that goes past the vocal chords, vibrates the vocal
chords, past the mouth which forms the enunciation and God produced exactly what He wanted said. God spoke it.
In psalm 33 you have a good comparative text for this, Psalm 33:6. "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made," and
here's his synonym, "By the breath of His mouth all their host." Here you have a statement, the word of the Lord, and a
parallel statement, the breath of His mouth. The breath of His mouth is the word of the Lord. It was by the breath of His
mouth which is the word of the Lord that everything was created. God spoke it into existence. So God breathed means God
spoken, God said, God stated. Scripture then is God speaking. That is why Romans 3:2 calls Scripture the oracles of
God...the oracles of God. God is the author of what the Bible says. Everything in the Bible comes from God, it is not a
human book. All scripture and every scripture is God breathed, it comes past His vocal chords, if you will, in the
supernatural sense and it conveys to us precisely what He wanted to say. Every word of God is pure, Scripture says.
Scripture cannot be broken, John 10:35. Scripture will come to pass though heaven and earth will fail because it is the living
and abiding and eternal word right out of the mouth of God Himself.
The church readily recognized this very early on. They knew which books were God breathed, as the saints in the Old
Testament knew which books were God breathed. There were a lot of religious books written in antiquity. When the time of
the Old Testament writing was going on there were other books being written. There were books written that you know
show up in the apocrypha, don't they, in the intertestimental book section of a Catholic Bible, for example. Those books are
not included in the biblical canon.
How did they know the difference? There were very, very distinct ways they knew what was biblical. One, they knew that it
needed to be written by one of God's true spokesman, a prophet of God in the case of the Old Testament, an Apostle of
God, or an associate with the Apostles in the New Testament. They knew it had to have therefore apostolic authorship, or
apostolic affirmation. In the Old Testament they were prophets of God, spokesmen for God who wrote those books.
Everyone knew who they were.
They were also affirmed by their internal content. It was clear that they were consistent with everything else in the Scripture.
They had a supernatural element to them. They had the miraculous element to them. They exalted the greatness of God and
condemned the sinfulness of man which is what God tends to do, not false writers and false teachers. It was very clear to
them what the canonical books, they're called canonical from the word canon which was the word for a standard, they are
the standard books of revelation. Church councils recognized in the fourth century officially the canon of the New
Testament, but unofficially the church had always known what belonged in the text and what did not. It was easy to
recognize. Was it written by an Apostle in the case of the New Testament or an associate of an Apostle? Did it have that air
of supernatural character? Did it have that exaltation of God and Christ? And did it have that- -that condemnation of
iniquity? Was it consistent with all other New Testament writings? And was it affirmed by the Apostles themselves?
The church, to put it in illustration form, the church did not give us the New Testament canon, anymore than Isaac Newton
gave us the law of gravity. The law of gravity existed before Isaac Newton identified it. The canon existed before the church
identified it. It was God who gave us gravity. It was God who gave us Scripture. We recognized it. The church recognized
it. And God then is the author of everything that Scripture says. There is nothing in Scripture that God did not Himself write.
And the church has universally affirmed that. As the Old Testament of 39 books has been universally affirmed through the
ages, so has the New Testament. There is really no equivocation on that point. We have the living and abiding word of God.
Now some other things you need to understand about the inspiration of the Scripture. Paul does not say in 2 Timothy, and
it's very important to note that, that the writers were inspired. He says all Scripture is inspired. And you want to understand
that. The writers were not inspired, the scriptures were. We talk today about an inspired person, inspired to some great
achievement or some great literary accomplishment, whatever it might be, some great scientific accomplishment. That's not
what we're talking about. The Bible doesn't know anything about inspired men, it only knows about inspired words. You
understand that? That's very important.
You say, "What do you mean by that?" I mean by that that Paul wrote some things that weren't inspired. It was not Paul that
was inspired, it was Scripture that was inspired. And when Paul wrote scripture, Scripture was inspired. When Paul wrote
something else, it was not inspired. Remember now, we've been studying 2 Corinthians before we took our little break,
we're going to get back to it in August. And in 2 Corinthians I've told you repeatedly that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 1
Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, the two inspired books in the New Testament. But there is a letter that he wrote to them
before 1 Corinthians and a letter between 1 and 2 Corinthians which do not appear in the Scripture because they were not
inspired. Paul is not just generally inspired, no Bible writer is...no Bible writer is. Isaiah was not an inspired writer as such,
neither was David or Paul or John or anybody else, only when they wrote Scripture were they inspired, or literally were they
the vehicle through whom God breathed out His Word. Scripture is the Word of God, it is not the word of inspired men.
The writers wrote down the inspired word.
So God breathed into them the very words that He wanted them to write. And by some miraculous supernatural
indescribable means, they wrote down exactly what God wanted said which isn't difficult if you're God. He can certainly
accomplish that. The actual process can't be described, it is miraculous. It can't be defined, it is supernatural.
Some have suggested that it was a high level of human achievement. Not so. Some have said, "Well, they were...they were
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