The Inspiration of the Scriptures: 2. Apostolic Doctrine

 •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Chapter 2 Apostolic Doctrine
WE are not left to facts however momentous, nor to incidental statements though abundant, plain, and reliable. The N.T. pronounces the most distinct and conclusive doctrine on so all-important a subject. For it concerns not man only but God's honor, and the character of His word in both Testaments so called. “For thou hast magnified thy word [saying] above all thy name” (Psa. 138). Let us weigh a few of these testimonies.
The Lord Himself in John 14-16 prepared the way not for fresh promises, but for the fullest revelation of the truth by the Pentecostal gift of the Spirit. It was indeed to comprehend the power of enjoying every privilege and of supplying every need for the new creation, for the children of God, once scattered, now to be gathered together into one. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth; for be shall not speak from himself, but whatsoever things he shall hear shall he speak; and he shall declare to you the things that are to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall take of mine and shall declare it to you.” He had already announced that the Paraclete or Advocate, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father would send in His name, should teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance all that He said to them. At Pentecost He came and made all good.
1 Cor. 2 is remarkably full as well as precise. The O. T. left “secret things” belonging to God, which were then unrevealed: so intimated the law (Deut. 29:2929The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)); and the greatest of the prophets acknowledged that it was not theirs to lift the veil (Isa. 64:44For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. (Isaiah 64:4)). The apostle refers to this last, and contrasts the silence of old with what the Holy Spirit was now disclosing. “But to us God revealed [them] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of God. For who of men knoweth the things of the man, except the spirit of the man that is in him? Thus also the things of God knoweth no one except the Spirit of God. But we received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God; which [things] also we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom but in [those] Spirit-taught, communicating spirituals by spirituals. But a natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he cannot know [them] because they are spiritually examined. But the spiritual examineth all things, while he is examined by no one. For who knew Jehovah's mind that he shall teach Him? But we have Christ's mind” (vers. 10-16).
Here in fact is the whole case. God by His Spirit revealed what had been hidden, even His depths, which He only knows. We, says the apostle, received His Spirit that the things freely given to us by Him we may know as they are. The first is revelation of the truth, of His counsels. Next comes the making known to others what God thus revealed: “Which things also we speak not in words taught of man's wisdom but in Spirit-taught, expounding spiritual [things] by spiritual [words].” Thirdly, follows the necessary spiritual condition to apprehend them. For a natural man neither receives nor can know what is scanned spiritually. It is the Spirit of God Who works in the Christian, the last stage, as He wrought in the first and the second. Thus we have God's gracious power by His Spirit, first in revealing divine things, next in communicating them verbally, and lastly in real reception or communion. Thereby have we Christ's mind, beyond even prophets of old.
The chief question lies in the word (ver. 13) translated “comparing.” As it undoubtedly has this meaning in 2 Cor. 10:1212For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12), it was a natural temptation to understand it similarly here. But notoriously words are modified by their context; and as we have no other occurrence in the N. T., we must search into the usage of the LXX or the like, For the sense of “comparing” is wholly unsuitable to the intermediate process, of which the apostle treats, though it might well form part of that which pertains to the reception or understanding of what was already written. Now in the Septuagint the most prevailing application of the word in its cognate forms is to the expounding or explanation of what God was pleased to reveal (Gen. 40:8, 12, 16, 18, 22; 41:12, 158And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you. (Genesis 40:8)
12And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days: (Genesis 40:12)
16When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three white baskets on my head: (Genesis 40:16)
18And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: (Genesis 40:18)
22But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them. (Genesis 40:22)
12And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret. (Genesis 41:12)
15And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. (Genesis 41:15)
), as in vision or dream (Dan. 2:2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 16, 24, 25, 26, 30, 36, 45; 4:3, 4, 6, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21; 5:7, 8, 13, 16, 18, 20, 28; 7:162Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. (Daniel 2:2)
5The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. 6But if ye show the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honor: therefore show me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. 7They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it. (Daniel 2:5‑7)
9But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can show me the interpretation thereof. (Daniel 2:9)
16Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would show the king the interpretation. (Daniel 2:16)
24Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will show unto the king the interpretation. 25Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation. 26The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? (Daniel 2:24‑26)
30But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart. (Daniel 2:30)
36This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. (Daniel 2:36)
45Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. (Daniel 2:45)
3How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation. 4I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace: (Daniel 4:3‑4)
6Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream. (Daniel 4:6)
14He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: 15Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: 16Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. 17This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. (Daniel 4:14‑17)
21Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: (Daniel 4:21)
7The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and show me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. 8Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. (Daniel 5:7‑8)
13Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? (Daniel 5:13)
16And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom. (Daniel 5:16)
18O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honor: (Daniel 5:18)
20But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: (Daniel 5:20)
28PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Daniel 5:28)
16I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. (Daniel 7:16)
).1 As however in our text it is no question of a dream or vision to be interpreted, the sense naturally admits of a larger modification, and hence in this instance requires “communicating” or some such equivalent.
This accordingly and perfectly falls in with the bearing of the clause and the demands of the context. For the clause is occupied, not with the spiritual man's apprehension of what is propounded, but with the conveying it to him in words taught by the Spirit. They were as to this expressly not left to man's wisdom or ability. Not only divine ideas were seen in the Spirit, but moreover the wording was no less taught by the Spirit. Herein “comparing” has no propriety and is therefore inadmissible. And though “interpreting,” “expounding,” or “determining” might convey the sense in substance, none of them seems to give it at this stage so unambiguously as “communicating.” The connected words also acquire a definite force, free from the liability to different meanings which add nothing of moment. For “comparing” opens the door to vague and uncertain adjuncts; whereas with “communicating” the sense is fixed to “spiritual [things] by spiritual [words].” He had already spoken of the things of God, here designated “spiritual things,” and he had also treated of words Spirit-taught; now brought together briefly in communicating “spiritual [things] by spiritual [words].” “To spiritual men” would be premature in ver. 13; for he takes up this question in the verses that follow.
His latest Epistle (2 Tim. 3) gave the apostle the fitting occasion to lay down the distinct and full dogmatic decision of the Holy Spirit on the scriptures. He had himself been raised up, not only as “minister of the gospel” but as “minister of the church,” to fill up the word of God, as he tells us in Col. 1:23-2523If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 24Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: 25Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; (Colossians 1:23‑25). To Timothy he writes in view of difficult times to prevail in the last days, men who presented its evil traits being already there to turn away from. For if they had a form of piety, they denied its power. They had their prototypes in those who withstood Moses, and their folly should be quite manifest to all, as theirs too became. But Timothy had followed up Paul's teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings, what things befell him at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions he endured, and the Lord delivered him out of all. But wicked men and impostors shall advance to worse, leading and led astray. “But abide thou in the things thou didst learn and wast assured of, knowing of whom thou didst learn, and that from a babe thou knowest sacred writ that is able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.”
Here we learn the safeguard to be in no way the church's witness; for therein it is that we see the awful spectacle of a veneered Christian form, yet a moral heathenism, with hypocrisy added, the grossest ways only concealed or withdrawn (cf. Rom. 1). The man of God rests on no Unnamed one, great or small. He was well aware of whom he learned the truth, even the apostles; as he thoroughly knew what sort of life was his with whom he had the closest intimacy. For what is teaching without practice akin? Here it was maintained in face of persecutions and sufferings, with the marked deliverances of the Lord throughout; as indeed all should expect persecution who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus. Thus was manifested a marked difference in the later revelation as compared with the earlier. For its witnesses and instruments were contemporaries, bringing out the truth finally an together by the Spirit after Christ's advent and redemption; as the earlier writers had done their piece-meal work, spread over more than a thousand years, yet with a unity most marked.
But was it not the O. T. that Timothy knew from a babe? Unquestionably. Would anyone with wicked heart of unbelief thence seek to question or lower the N. T.? Let him learn that the apostle, while upholding God's ancient oracles as “sacred writ” (ἱερὰ γράμματα), is careful to affirm in the most comprehensive terms the divine authority of all, or rather “every,” scripture, not old merely but new. For he, γραφὴ, which he declares in its every part to be inspired of God, or God-breathed, as is no other writing. It runs through the four Gospels, the Acts, and the apostolic Epistles in this sense alone, singular and plural.
The more general sense was expressed by γράμμα, a writing, which might mean a “bill” (Luke 16:6, 76And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. (Luke 16:6‑7)), or “letter” in the abstract (Rom. 2:27, 29; 7:627And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? (Romans 2:27)
29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:29)
6But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:6)
; 2 Cor. 3:66Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (2 Corinthians 3:6)), “alphabetic characters” (Luke 23:3838And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (Luke 23:38); 1 Cor. 3:77So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:7); Gal. 6:44But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. (Galatians 6:4)), “epistles” (Acts 28:2828Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. (Acts 28:28)), “letters” or learning (John 7:1515And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? (John 7:15); Acts 26:2424And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. (Acts 26:24)), or “writings” (John 5:4747But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? (John 5:47)), which needed the epithet ἱερὰ, sacred, &c. to stamp them as scriptures. But γραφὴ in Greek N. T. usage means nothing else, even without the article here or elsewhere, as our idiom also bears.
“Every scripture [is] God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped completely for every good work” (vers. 16, 17). The Revisers, like some others, take “inspired of God,” not as the predicate but as qualifying the subject; and the clause would then run, “Every scripture inspired of God [is] also profitable.” But who will say that this is the natural meaning? who can deny that it involves a twofold awkwardness, but both by withholding the understood copula where one cannot but look for it, and by supposing it where it jars with the flow of the sentence? None of the constructions within or without the N. T. cited by Dean Alford approaches the one before us. One near in some respects is 1 Tim. 4:44For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: (1 Timothy 4:4), where it would be intolerable to make καλὸν (good) part of the subject. Still nearer perhaps is Heb. 4:1313Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:13), where nobody doubts that “naked and laid open” is the true predicate, if so, “God-breathed and profitable” ought to be thus taken here.
The truth appears to be that the conjunction καὶ though indubitably genuine was overlooked by early versions, as the Memphitic, Peschito-Syr., and many of the Latin copies, besides the Clem. Vulgate: so too some fathers Greek and Latin. This error necessitated, one may say, the view that “God-breathed” belonged to the subject. Other Latin copies, with the Gothic, Harklean-Syr., Arm. and Aeth., interpreted καὶ in the sense of “also” as introducing the predicate. Taken thus, καὶ is here feeble, and so superfluous that it was easily forgotten; whereas, wherever it is correctly so taken, it has an emphatic or supplementary force, as in Luke 1:3636And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. (Luke 1:36), Rom. 8:29, 3429For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Romans 8:34)
, Gal. 4:77Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:7). It would certainly become those who contend for their construction to produce a sentence, where a like severance occurs or indeed can be between two adjectives ostensibly connected by a conjunction.
But, if possibly allowed as grammatical, can this rendering be counted tenable on internal grounds? For if θεόπνευστος be treated as part of the subject, it must be taken either as an assumption, or as a condition. If it be assumed that scripture is God-inspired, nothing is gained by those who favor so harsh a construction. The sense is substantially alike, whether you assume or assert the inspiration of every scripture. But if the aim be to understand a condition (i.e. “if divinely inspired,” rather than “being divinely inspired),” you are confronted with the acknowledged fact that γραφὴ in the N. T. is appropriated to scripture and spoken of no other writing. Hence the conditional construction, in order to apply, contradicts the known usage, and would require the wholly unauthorized sense of mere “writing” “every writing, if inspired of God, is also profitable, &c. If we understand γ., as we must, in the sense of “scripture,” and take the epithet with the subject, we gain nothing but a strangely incoherent phrase, yet in substance agreeing with its natural sense: “every scripture, being inspired of God, is also profitable,” &c., as in fact Origen long ago took it, but not Athanasius, nor Greg. Nyss, nor Chrysostom, who held as the A.V.
The R. V., whether intentionally or not, is ambiguous: “every scripture inspired of God [is] also profitable, &c. If it was not meant to raise a doubt, why was it so left? If it was, is it possible to conceive an object more opposed to the context? For the Spirit of God is furnishing the 'invaluable and needed safeguard against the difficult times of the last days; and after dwelling among the rest on the fact of Timothy's privilege in knowing from a babe the sacred writ of the O. T., he crowns all with the universal principle (which applies to the N. T. no less than to the O., and to what might yet be written as well as to what was), “every scripture [is] God-inspired, and profitable for teaching,” &c.
The apostle gives first, as was most reverent and worthy, its relation to God, the Author of this incomparable boon as of all others; next, its profitable uses for the blessing of the man of God. For as no creature but man in virtue of his spirit can know the things of a man, no more can one know the things of God save by the Spirit of God, Who both revealed and communicated them, and enables the believer to discern them, as we have already seen. Scripture teaches us in our ignorance, convicts us of obstinacy or errors, correct us when shirking or straying, and disciplines us in righteousness inward and outward, that in our stand for God we might be complete on every side, and with equal fullness furnished for every good work.
A learned dignitary (in loco) speaks of “God-inspired” not excluding verbal errors or possibly historical inaccuracies, and those of human transmission and transcription. But is not this doubly a mistake of grave import? It would first make the written word a divine guarantee of untruth, both originally as well as in its dissemination. Next, how he could mix up the two points is hard to say; for clerical blunders have nothing to do with the question of God's inspiration, solely with man's responsible use of its fruit. The former is a virtual denial of “God-inspired,” unless the God of truth can lie: if He sanction errata in trifling matters, why not in greater things? But “scripture cannot be broken,” said the Lord. Compromise is unworthy of faith. “It is written” was His answer to Satan's temptations, and is the guide and standard of all saints since grace gave scripture. It is not a question of man's spirit, but of God's, Who is beyond doubt able to secure the truth absolutely, as the Lord and the apostles and the prophets every where assume and assert. To imply such weakness in man as is beyond the power of God is a feeble, not the full, inspiration, taught in the Bible. But when philosophy is sought as the ally of divine truth, the issue cannot but be vacillating, inconsistent, and misleading. “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God.” It is a singularly loose comment on “every scripture is also inspired of God,” &c. One can scarce doubt that a rendering so halting and strange tempts to a hesitating interpretation, even though not a whisper be given that they hold any scripture to be uninspired. Yet it is a plain and peremptory utterance of the apostle, calling for a version and a comment of no uncertain sound.
(To be continued, D.V.)