For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of souls and spirit, and joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.Hebrews 4:12
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.2 Timothy 3:16-17
These two passages, and many others, are what separate the Bible from every other book. These verses make bold, audacious claims. These scriptures claim that the Bible is a living book able to discern the thoughts of our hearts. All other books are read by you, but with the Bible, it reads you. Wow.
Time after time the biblical authors claim divine inspiration as the basis for their writing. It is critical that we understand two Greek words used by Paul in the 2 Timothy passage. The two most important words used in the passage arguably are “Scripture” and “inspiration.”
The Word “Scripture”
The word “Scripture” is critical because it is the central focus of the passage. The Greek word Paul uses is consistently seen throughout the Bible to refer to the Holy writings. The word graphe is used 51 times in the New Testament. All but three refer directly to Old Testament passages. The three times it does not refer to the OT it links the New Testament with the same divine authority as the Old.
“For the Scripture (graphe) says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:18.
In this scripture, Paul refers to two separate passages as graphe, Deuteronomy 25:4, and Luke 10:7. From this verse, we learn that Paul undoubtedly believed that the Old Testament books were inspired by God, but notice that he uses the gospel writings (NT) as inspired by God as well.
“Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures (graphe).” 2 Peter 3:15b-16.
This is a fascinating verse in which Peter refers to Paul’s writings as Scripture (graphe) thus linking it with the other sections of the Bible. Peter would not have flippantly used the Greek term which so commonly referred to the Old Testament scripture unless he himself believed that Paul’s epistles were also to be held as divinely inspired. Peter wrote those words in AD 65, which means that before Paul wrote his last epistle (2 Timothy circa, AD 67) his writings were already accepted by the early church as divinely inspired Scripture (graphe). This is quite remarkable.
The Word “Inspired”
The other important word in 2 Tim. 3:16 is the word “inspired” or “theopneustos“. The Greek word comes from two root words meaning “God” and “Breath” or more literally “Breathed out”. Some have questioned the idea of the word as meaning that God “inspired” people to write and then they “took it from there.”
There is no question that God used the personalities of the writers to give unique stylistic flair to the different genres of writing. The literal meaning of the word goes way beyond a person who felt inspired, it denotes the message as divinely breathed into the hearts of the writers.
The Bible is the most unique compilation ever written. It is a collection of 66 books written by 40 different authors. These authors were kings, doctors, fishermen, prophets, shepherds, tax collectors, etc. The majority of authors didn’t know one another.
The books were written over a period of 1500 years thus the writers couldn’t have collaborated their stories. It is written in three different languages (Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic), on three different continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe) yet has one consistent theme. Each author regardless of occupation, nationality, or language wrote on a shared theme, the redemption of mankind from a fallen sinful state.
Phillip Yancey writes, “Imagine a book begun 500 years before Columbus just now being completed. Amazingly, the parts all fit together in such a way that a single story emerges.”
Pauls Claims About the Bible
Paul’s claim in 2 Timothy 3 is bold and big. Scripture has no errors because it was inspired by God. Since the Bible has God as its author then it cannot contain errors because by God’s very nature he is incapable of error.
“The words of the Lord are words that are pure, silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times.” Psalm 12:6
Many are the people whose lives have been transformed and redirected simply by reading a few verses in the Bible. What other books can claim that? This and many other reasons are why I believe in the plenary verbal inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. For centuries the mighty men of God have believed in the inerrancy of scripture.
Being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and his Spirit. -Irenaeus.AGAINST HERESIES II 28.2
I believe most firmly that no one of those authors has erred in any respect in writing. -AugustineEPISTLES 82.1.3
Speaking of the Bible John Wesley stated, “If there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth.”
Like pinpricks to an air-filled raft, the rise of Biblical criticism in the 19th century led to the deflating view of the inspiration of scripture among theologians and eventually many church leaders. This rise in historical and syntactical criticism has caused many to look beyond what the scripture actually says and to focus more on its peripheral meanings.
Clark Pinnock writes on the tragic results of the rise of Biblical criticism, “Theology has retreated from the plain sense of the text into the subjective wastes of speculation. Scripture’s essential function–conveying divine truth to the mind–has been virtually abandoned.”
Pastors must not abandon their role as theologians and once again place within the hearts of their congregation an absolute belief in the power, authority, and divinity of the Bible. The cry of the reformers, Sola Scriptura, must continue to be the enduring belief of the church today as we look toward the Bible as the only true and trustworthy source from which theological gems are mined.
Our belief in the authority and truthfulness of scripture is critical because from it we develop our belief in God. Scripture does not stand in need of proving itself to the biblical critics, rather it is the critics which must stand under the judgment of the divinely inspired Word.