Divine Inspiration: What it Means and Why it Matters
All Scripture is breathed out by God – 2 Timothy 3:16
When reading a book, it’s important to know who wrote it. Specifically, you should learn about the author’s beliefs, credentials, their other notable works, and their influences. Even though authors may possess many positive traits, they will always possess negative traits because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). If an author possessed only positive traits, that would make them the perfect author, but “none [are] righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). When we consider this reality on the quest for the perfect author and the perfect book in a fallen world, we must ask, “Is there any book that is perfect? Is there any author that is perfect?” As Christians, we can confidently answer, “Yes! The Bible is perfect because God is perfect!” This exclamation comes from the understanding of “divine inspiration.” In this article, I would like to briefly unpack that term and why it matters for those who delight in God’s Word.
What Does “Divine Inspiration” Mean?
According to renowned theologian Wayne Grudem, “divine inspiration” means that all words in Scripture are “God’s own words.” Another dilemma arises from this statement: “How could God bring forth his Divine Word through sinful, fallen men?” While not denying—as Grudem phrases it—the “completely human volition or personality in the writing of Scripture,” we must acknowledge that “the ultimate source of [every writer’s words in Scripture] was never a man’s decision about what he wanted to write, but rather the Holy Spirit’s action in the [writer’s] life . . . This indicates a belief that all of [Scripture is] ‘from God.’” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 75) In other words, God sovereignly brought forth his inspired, inerrant Word in spite of man’s sinful nature. This can be seen throughout the Old Testament when the prophets would precede their prophecies with the statement, “Thus says the LORD” (Isaiah 49:7-8). New Testament passages such as 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 also give sufficient evidence for divine inspiration. According to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, God’s purpose in giving us his inspired Word through the prophets and the apostles is “to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God’s witness to Himself.”
Why Does This Matter?
So why did God choose to reveal himself through his inspired Word? Some may ask, “Why does it matter that it’s inspired? Wouldn’t it be acceptable if there were errors in Scripture?” The answer to this is simple: because God is holy and has providentially revealed himself through the Bible, the Bible must be holy like he is holy. If the Bible were to have errors and were not plenarily inspired, then it gives a false testimony of God, who is holy. That’s why on many traditional Bibles the words “Holy Bible” are printed on the spine, because it’s a glorious testimony of the Holy God who wrote Scripture. It’s also important that Scripture is inspired by God because it reveals his plan of salvation for his people: by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, making perfect atonement on behalf of his people. If Scripture isn’t inerrant, then the Gospel message it contains wouldn’t be sufficiently inspired by God. If the Gospel message of the death and resurrection of Christ isn’t fully inspired by God according to his Word, “we are of all people most to be pitied” because of our belief in the Gospel and our allegiance to Christ. Thankfully, we have full assurance in the Gospel because God is holy and he has revealed the good news in his inspired, holy Word.
Delighting in God’s Inspired Word
Now that we examined what it means to proclaim God’s Word is divinely inspired and why it matters for his people, I will briefly discuss how we can delight in God’s inspired Word. God himself uses his Word to pierce the stone-cold hearts of men to convict them of their sin, which causes them to repent and turn to the living God, causing regeneration to happen by the power of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26; Hebrews 4:12). With a new heart of flesh, soft and responsive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, the Word of God gives the new follower the direction and the principles needed in living a life sanctified unto God. Sanctification comes when we meditate on God’s righteousness and holiness according to his Word. Psalm 119:1-16 beautifully illustrates this diligence to love the Lord by following his Word. Based on the delight described in Psalm 119:1-16, the Word is the greatest treasure to those who place their hope in Christ and follow him daily and diligently as Lord and Savior. As seen in other places in Scripture, God brought forth his Word for many reasons: for his people to glorify him in teaching, preaching, worship, discipleship, correction, evangelism, among other ministries of the Word (Romans 10:13-15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:2-3, 5). God has also used his inspired Word to shame the wise because the Gospel hope that it contains is foolishness to them, but “to [those] who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). God’s life-giving Word is also our comfort in times of affliction. When we feel troubled, stressed, afraid, downcast, or any other emotion, God has given us his wonderful Word. In it, we find counsel for our troubles, medicine for our wounds, and hope in our sorrow. Charles Spurgeon, the beloved Prince of Preachers, said it well:
May God, in His infinite mercy, when you read your Bibles, pour into your souls the illuminating rays of the Sun of Righteousness, by the agency of the ever-adorable Spirit; then you will read to your profit. [Be Bible-readers; Be Bible-searchers.] – (Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons vol 1: The Bible, pp. 34, 44)