The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 13
Of all those great items of scriptural truth which are fundamental in their character, the one which forms our present theme stands first. Now that our Lord and His apostles are gone from this world, we have those revelations which are conveyed to us in writings, divinely inspired and therefore of full authority, and forming the basis of the faith today. Until therefore the inspiration and authority of the Bible are fully and firmly settled in our souls, it is hardly worth proceeding to establish from its pages those further truths which at first sight may appear to be of a still more fundamental character.
Before Man’s Creation
In the Old Testament, three things strike us. First, that in the opening chapters we are told of things completely outside the range of the observation of any human writer—things that could not be possessed apart from a divine revelation, since happenings before man’s creation are recounted. Further, these things are stated not in terms befitting human speculation but with the quiet ring and assurance of absolute knowledge and, therefore, of truth.
Human History
Second, in all the historical books we find features utterly unknown in all human histories. We may specify such a feature as the complete absence of all hero worship. Men, indeed, there are approved of God, but even so their failings are recounted, and all with a lofty detachment from human passions and prejudices, with an impartial and serene judgment which is found only in God Himself. Or, again, we notice that matters that we never should have even mentioned are dwelt upon at considerable length, such as the passages Judges 17, 18:14-26, and 1 Samuel 1:4 to 2:11, while things we should have thought worthy of much notice are ignored. For example, the great earthquake in the reign of Uzziah is never mentioned historically, and we should have no knowledge that the great catastrophe happened were it not for two passing allusions in Amos and Zechariah. The historical books, in short, are only “history” insofar as its recital serves the purpose of illuminating the purposes or the ways of God.
“Thus Saith the Lord”
Third, in the prophets we cannot but feel the directness of their appeal. No hesitation, no apologies, but the most direct and emphatic “Thus saith the Lord” repeated again and again. The Word of God came through their lips and pens, and its powerful appeal to heart and conscience is perceptible today in the hostility that their words still awaken in sinful men, as well as in the way of subduing men’s hearts with a view to their ultimate blessing.
When we reach the New Testament, we find plain endorsements of the inspiration and authority of the Old, first from the lips of our Lord Himself, and then from the evangelists in their frequent references to the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture in the life and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. “That it might be fulfilled” and “that the scripture might be fulfilled” are words that we read over and over again. In the epistles, too, we have inspiration clearly claimed for the Old Testament writers.
In the New Testament, we have the Apostle Paul claiming inspiration for verbal utterances of his own and of the other apostles when conveying the truths of divine revelation. Further, in the introductory verses to his Gospel, we have Luke claiming a “perfect understanding of all things from the very first,” and also that he wrote “in order” or “with method,” so that in result Theophilus might “know the certainty” of the things he had previously received. In the Revelation we have the Apostle John receiving the revelation, bearing record of it, and in result producing “the words of this prophecy” (Rev. 1:1-31The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. (Revelation 1:1‑3)), and finally pronouncing a solemn curse on any who should dare to tamper with those “words” as originally given (Rev. 22:18-1918For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18‑19)). Here, again verbal inspiration is assumed.
First Corinthians 2 is perhaps the most striking chapter bearing upon this subject, for here we are permitted to see the process that God has been pleased to ordain for the communication of His thoughts to His people. Here are three distinct steps and a distinct action of the Holy Spirit of God in connection with each.
The first step is that of revelation. The things prepared of God for those that love Him, things unseen, unheard, and unimagined by man, have been made known by the Spirit of God, who is thoroughly competent for such work, as the end of verse 10 shows. Verse 11 goes further and declares that the Spirit of God is the only possible source of such revelations. Now these Spirit-given revelations reached, not the world, not even all saints, but the apostles and prophets (see Eph. 3:55Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; (Ephesians 3:5)), who are the “us” of verse 10, and having received them, they proceeded to convey them to others. Hence the “we” of verse 13 indicates the “us” of verse 10.
Inspiration and Appropriation
The second step, then, is that of inspiration. God took care that the apostles and prophets should convey these revelations to others under supervision of a direct and divine kind. They were not left to exercise their own wisdom regarding the best way of stating the truth, but were guided by the Holy Spirit in the exact words they used, as verse 13 teaches.
Third comes the step of appropriation. The truth having been revealed to men chosen of God, and by them communicated in inspired words, it must now be received or appropriated if it is to have an enlightening and controlling effect upon men. Of this verse 14 speaks. No natural man—that is, man in his natural or unconverted condition—can possibly receive these things. He totally lacks the faculty that would enable him to receive them. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Believers have “the mind of Christ” and have received the Spirit of God that they may “know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
Revelation is concerned with the transference of truth from the mind of God to the minds of apostles and prophets, so that the conception and understanding of it might be theirs.
Inspiration is concerned with the transference of the same truth from the minds of the apostles and prophets to all the saints, and for this not merely thoughts but words were needed. But if human words are to be the proper expression of divine truth, they must be chosen and used with perfect fitness and accuracy, and this was secured by the action of the Holy Spirit. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:2121For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:21)).
The Holy Spirit
Sometimes, indeed, this action of the Holy Spirit took so powerful a form as to overleap necessary limitations that existed in the mind of the prophet in question, and caused him to write things, the real and full meaning of which he knew not, and so it came to pass that some, if not all, the writers of Old Testament scripture had to enquire and search diligently concerning the meaning of that which they themselves had written. In answer to their search it was further revealed to them that they were writing for the benefit of saints in the future—the saints of the present dispensation. This being so, the full import of their inspired writings necessarily remained vague and indistinct to their own minds. There was full inspiration, but no full revelation save to future generations. First Peter 1:10-12 tells us about this and proves how powerful and real a thing inspiration is.
Intelligent Inspiration
The kind of inspiration mentioned in 1 Corinthians 2 is that which almost entirely characterizes the New Testament writings, and may, by contrast, be termed intelligent inspiration. The possible exception to the rule, which leads us to insert the word “almost” in the above statement and italicize it, is the case of some parts of the Revelation. It is quite likely that some of the visions and statements in that remarkable unveiling of the future were obscure to John the seer as they are to us, and that they will only stand out clear in their full and distinct meaning to saints of the coming tribulation period. The famous number 666 (Rev. 13:1818Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (Revelation 13:18)) is the most pronounced example of what we mean.
The above distinction may be helpful to those who would study the question a little more closely. It must never be overlooked, however, that whether unintelligent or intelligent, the fact and degree of inspiration is in both cases exactly the same. It is written not for the lazy, but for diligent searchers for truth and guidance like the Berean Jews (Acts 17), who read it in faith and dependence on God. Only thus do we “rightly divide” (2 Tim. 2:1515Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)) its contents and obtain light and wisdom from God.
F. B. Hole (adapted)