What Is Inspiration?

2 Timothy 3:16  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 11
By inspiration we mean that which is God-breathed. We are told, "All [or every] Scripture is given by inspiration of God." 2 Tim. 3:1616All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16). It might be rendered, "Every scripture is God-breathed." The scriptures are therefore a revelation from God, and their force or authority to our hearts and consciences flows from that fact. If Scripture be not God's Word, it has no more value to us than the writings of good men. But it is His Word; hence it comes to us with the authority, love, wisdom, and holiness of God. Though its pages run over thousands of years, take us back before time was, and lead our thoughts on to the eternal state, and though some of the books were written more than three thousand years ago, it is unlike any other book, for it is always new. Take up an ordinary volume of human composition, written two or three hundred years ago, or even go back to one of the so-called Fathers, and you will find you have scarcely patience to read a few pages, but Scripture, as we have said, is always new. It carries with it a freshness and power to the heart and conscience that no other book does, and all the changes in the world and in mankind never affect it.
Scripture warns us against "men" and their "philosophy," ritualism and its imposing ordinances, and of putting "tradition" in the place of authority instead of Christ. While addressing itself to the heart and conscience, it always has a voice of instruction and blessing to those who believe and receive its words from the mouth of God. Those who do not believe cannot understand it, for "by faith we understand." "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." Psalm 25:1414The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. (Psalm 25:14). And we have "joy and peace in believing." But, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God... neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Cor. 2:1414But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The Bible is the only Book that faithfully tells us what we are, and that even to the discerning of the thoughts and intents of the heart. This shows it to be divine, for only God searches the heart. It also truly reveals God, so that when the Word is received, it brings our souls into the consciousness of God's having to do with us. This also shows its divinity, for the world by wisdom knows not God (1 Cor. 1:2121For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)). The variety of aspects in which the Son who came forth from the Father to save sinners is presented to us—His personal glory, moral perfection, finished work, walk, words, ways, life, death, resurrection, ascension, glorification, present offices, and future judgments and reign—as the leading truths of Scripture, give it also a divine character.
Its unity carries with it the stamp of divinity as nothing else could. The way in which the different parts are adapted to each other—types in the Old Testament having their antitypes in the New, a multitude of prophetic statements in the former having their accomplishment in the latter, and the immense number of quotations in the New from the Old Testament, to prove the soundness of the doctrines taught—combine to give it a divine character which is incontestable. It is not then surprising that an inspired writer should commend "the word" to us as if in its operations it possessed divine attributes. "The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Heb. 4:1212For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12).
There are many who, instead of bowing to Scripture as God's Word, and allowing it to judge them, sit in judgment on the things of God and thus take common ground with the infidels. Alas! such is the pride of man, that many prefer their own opinions to Scripture, and make void the Word of God so that they may keep their own tradition. Hence, also, the Word is being solemnly fulfilled in men's rejection of Holy Scripture, that "seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." 2 Tim. 3:1313But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13).
If we have not the words of God, we have no basis for faith and must therefore be tossed about with irremediable uncertainty, but having divinely given communications, we have on their authority divinely-given certainty as to eternal salvation. By it we have present assurance, founded on the redemption work of our Lord Jesus Christ, that our sins are forgiven, that we have eternal life, are the children of God, and shall not come into judgment (Acts 10:4343To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. (Acts 10:43); Gal. 3:2626For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26); Rom. 8:11There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)). If such are asked why they believe on our Lord Jesus Christ, and why they have such certainty as to their present and eternal blessings, their reply will be, "Because God in His Word says so, and faith needs no other authority for confidence, and no other rest for the heart and conscience."
We live in an evil and perilous time. At first heathen idolaters were chiefly those who scoffed and mocked at the Scriptures being God's own revelation of His mind; later on, avowed infidels in Christendom treated the subject with scorn and ridicule. Today, however, it is those who profess to be servants of Christ and guides of the flock of God, who are so busily engaged in undermining the eternal verity of the holy Scriptures and their divine authority. This too is seldom attempted as a whole by one person, but by different persons in various places, so that it may be, by Satan's artifice, the less manifest. At this moment there is scarcely a vital and fundamental doctrine of Scripture that is not being assailed or corrupted within the length and breadth of Christendom.
What has especially stirred many hearts at this time is the consciousness of the appalling state of souls in the neglect of the Scriptures, and the skeptical thoughts that are current among professors of Christianity as to their divine authority. Not that we imagine that we have power to lead any to see and act differently, for we are told that "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." The prayer, however, of not a few, has been that God will yet work by His Word, and bless and help souls according to His own thoughts and for His own glory.