Essential Truths of the Christian Faith - Thursday, January 16, 2014

Special Revelation and the Bible

When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He rebuked the devil with the words, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Historically, the church has echoed the teaching of Jesus by affirming that the Bible is the vox Dei, the "voice of God" or the verbum Dei, the "Word of God." To call the Bible the Word of God is not to suggest that it was written by God's own divine hand or that it fell from heaven in a parachute. The Bible itself clearly calls attention to its many human authors. In a careful study of Scripture we notice that each human author has his own peculiar literary style, vocabulary, special emphasis, perspective, and the like. Since the production of the Bible involved human effort, how can it be regarded as the Word of God?

The Bible is called the Word of God because of its claim, believed by the church, that the human writers did not merely write their own opinions, but that their words were inspired by God. The apostle Paul writes, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). The word inspiration is a translation from the Greek word meaning "God-breathed." God breathed out the Bible. Just as we must expel breath from our mouths when we speak, so ultimately Scripture is God speaking.

Although Scripture came to us from the pens of human authors, the ultimate source of Scripture is God. That is why the prophets could preface their words by saying, "Thus says the Lord." This is also why Jesus could say, "Your word is truth" (John 17:17), and "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).

The word inspiration also calls attention to the process by which the Holy Spirit superintended the production of Scripture. The Holy Spirit guided the human authors so that their words would be nothing less than the word of God. How God superintended the original writings of the Bible is not known. But inspiration does not mean that God dictated his messages to those who wrote the Bible. Rather, the Holy Spirit communicated through the human writers the very words of God.

Christians affirm the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible because God is ultimately the Author of the Bible. And because God is incapable of inspiring falsehood, His word is altogether true and trustworthy. Any normally prepared human literary product is liable to error. But the Bible is not a normal human project. If the Bible is inspired and superintended by God, then it cannot err.

This does not mean that the Bible translations we have today are without error, but that the original manuscripts were absolutely correct. Nor does it mean that every statement in the Bible is true. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes, for instance, declares that "there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The writer was speaking from the standpoint of human despair, and we know his statement to be untrue from other parts of Scripture. Even in revealing the false reasonings of a despairing man, the Bible speaks truth.

  1. Inspiration is the process whereby God breathed out His word.
  2. God is the ultimate source of the Bible.
  3. God is the ultimate superintendent of the Bible.
  4. Only the original manuscripts of the Bible were without error.

The Essential Truths of the Christian Faith devotional is excerpted from Essential Truths of the Christian Faith Copyright © 1992 by R. C. Sproul. All rights reserved.

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