THE INSPIRATION AND INERRANCY OF THE BIBLE
No other book has received more praise or criticism than the Bible. Followers of Christ turn to it for spiritual guidance. It is absolute truth in an age that says there is no truth. It is the revelation of God. The Bible is infallible and inerrant. It is consistently ranked as one of the best selling books of all time. The sixty-six books that make up the Bible join together to tell one story, the life, death, resurrection, and return of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is contained in its pages have been debated for centuries. The Bible is the only book ever written that is inspired by God. However, God did not actually sit down at his desk with pen in hand and write the books of the Bible out himself.
God chose human authors to write out every word in the sacred pages of Scripture. “Scripture is God speaking his truth to us in human words. The New Testament writers claim that the Old Testament is sacred Scripture, which literally means “writing.” The word Bible comes from the Greek word for book. Holy Bible therefore, means “Holy Book.” It was written in three languages (Hebrew, Greek, and a bit in Aramaic) over a period of more than fifteen hundred years by more than forty authors (of varying ages and backgrounds) on three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe).” Being that the human mind is so finite, it is not possible that a human being wrote out Scripture without the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” All Scripture is breathed out by God. There is not one classification for the Old Testament and a different classification for the New Testament. The Jewish Bible is different. The Jewish Bible is made up entirely of just the Old Testament books. The Jewish people never really saw Jesus as the Messiah. Some Jews, such as the Pharisees, were experts in the law but they considered Jesus a false prophet. The Pharisees did not like the sermons and teachings of Jesus and wanted him killed. The fact that the Jews did not believe Jesus was the true Messiah is the reason that the Jewish Bible only contains the Old Testament books. Peter in 2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Peter is saying that Scripture does not come from the will or opinions of man. “Peter therefore pointed to inscripturated revelation. The Old Testament originated with the Spirit of God; therefore, its teachings are true. Its very pages are saturated with predictive prophecy about the second advent of the Messiah.” Scripture was also not written by divine dictation. In other words, the Bible was not written as the Holy Spirit spoke to the author word for word what was to be considered Scripture. The Scriptures were produced as the Holy Spirit spoke to men and the men wrote what was revealed to them by God.. “A divine revelation, then, is the communication or disclosure by God to man of truths which he could not otherwise know, no matter how trustworthy his source of knowledge.” The New Testament is also written in its entirety by divine inspiration. “Revelation is the subject matter of the message, that is, what God imparts to man; inspiration is the power or method by which man communicates his God-given message to others. We may therefore regard inspiration as a special gift of the Holy Spirit, by which prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles and their companions in the New Testament transmitted the revelation of God as they received it.” Over half of the New Testament was written by the apostle Paul. Paul wrote many of the Scriptures that we consider applicable for daily life, doctrine, and preachers use for sermons every Sunday. John Piper said, “If we take Paul as our model for what it meant to be an apostle of Christ, then it would be fair to say that the New Testament as well as the Old is not merely from man but also from God. The writers of the Old Testament and New Testament spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The Bible has many different authors. The Holy Spirit moved on them and through their different personalities and writing styles communicated what God disclosed to them.
Erickson says that inerrancy is, “A reference to the variously interpreted doctrine that the Bible is free from error.” It is true that men are human and because of Adam, sin entered the world. Humans are fallible and far from perfect. The truth is that a perfect Bible was written by imperfect men. How does one expect for the Bible to be written by imperfect men and still be free from errors? God does not make mistakes and is also incapable of making any mistakes. God in his sovereignty, perfectly chose the men that he wanted to write the Bible. The Bible is made up of many different types of categories. There is historical, poetry, law, satire, and sarcasm to name a few. Wayne Grudem, in his book, Systematic Theology lists the following statements about the inerrancy of the Bible:
The Bible can be Inerrant and still speak in the ordinary language of everyday speech.
The Bible can be Inerrant and still include loose or free quotations.
It is consistent with Inerrancy to have unusual or uncommon grammatical constructions in the Bible.
The Bible does not have to be written using words that are hard to understand. The Bible when it was written, used the everyday language of the people that the author was intent on communicating to. The authors did not have a doctorate of Theology when they were conducting their writings. They were just obedient to God. The Bible also uses terms and wordings that one from a different culture may not understand. That still happens today. For example, A word in the United States may mean one thing depending on how it is used and in Britain, it could mean something completely different. Word usage depends highly upon the culture from where the writing takes place. Every culture has slang words and words that are used apart from their original meaning. The word dog in the United States could mean the actual animal but when dog is used as a reference to another person, it usually means friendship. This would not make sense in another culture where apart from the animal, dog might be seen as a derogatory slam against a person. Just because someone does not understand the word usage or slang used in the Bible does not mean the Bible has errors in it. One must also take into consideration the time period that the original manuscripts of Scripture were actually written. The first written books in the Old Testament were written more than 4,000 years before Christ. The original manuscripts are what Christians consider to be inspired and inerrant; not copies or modern translations. The human language has changed in over 6,000 years. People do not talk the same today as they did 6,000 years ago. Bible translations do their best to stay true to the original text while modernizing the language. While a Bible translation is not inspired, the original manuscripts were. A translation also does not mean that the Bible has errors in it.
PREACHING AND CONTEXTUALIZATION
The message of the Gospel does not change but the method in which it is communicating does. Making the message of the Gospel relevant to today’s culture is important. Every generation is different from the one before it. As culture influences each generation, that generation then becomes defined by what is important to it. A preacher must be able to understand contextualization. The way the Gospel is contextualized to Builders and Boomers is different than the way it is contextualized to Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers and Postmoderns. Erickson defines contextualization of theology, “The attempt to adapt the expression of theology to a given time, place, culture, or audience.” A preacher’s attempt or method of contextualization also does not mean the Bible has errors in it. Every preacher at one time or another has probably misquoted a verse or given a wrong reference in a sermon. The Bible is not at fault for a preacher’s verbal mistake. A preacher is supposed to draw the meaning out from Scripture rather than reading into Scripture or preaching his opinion of Scripture. Drawing the meaning out from Scripture is what is called exegesis. A preacher’s sermon nor his sermon preparation is conducted under divine inspiration. Preachers today are not apostles. Apostles in Biblical times were defined by two qualifications: they could do signs and miracles and they had to be able to testify that they had seen the risen Christ. There is no preacher alive today who can say that they have seen the risen Christ. Preachers do their best to glorify God by the way they communicate God’s Word to their audience. A preacher needs to communicate to every generation that there is sin in the world. The world is broken because man sinned and because of man’s sin, every person born into the world is born into sin. Voddie Baucham says, “The problem with the world is me. The problem is the fact that I do not acknowledge the supremacy of Christ in truth. The problem is that I start with myself as the measure of all things. I judge God based upon how well he carries out my agenda for the world, and I believe in the supremacy of me in truth. As a result, I want a God who is omnipotent but not sovereign. If I have a God who is omnipotent but not sovereign, I can wield his power. But if my God is both omnipotent and sovereign, I am at his mercy.” A person who does not believe in the omnipotence and sovereignty of God already has made up their mind that the Bible is not absolute truth. It is most probable that a person questions or denies the inerrancy of the Bible because they do not want to believe that the Bible is true.
DENIAL OF INERRANCY
John Piper says, “If you believe that the Bible is the Word of God with authority over your life, it takes a good deal of humility to interpret it correctly. The reason is simple: the Bible often requires of us that we feel and think and act in ways that go against our natural inclinations. Therefore, the only person who will own up to these uncomfortable teachings is the humble person who is broken and open before the lordship of God and ready to do whatever he says. The proud person who still wants to give lip service to the Bible will twist the Scriptures to fit his own desires. In the long run sound interpretation comes only from the broken and contrite in spirit.” A denial of the Bible being inerrant poses a few problems. It is hard to believe in God and then believe that his word contains errors. God is incapable of lying. God does not give evidence that he ever contradicts himself. God is a perfect being. Perfection does not allow for mistakes. Therefore, one who says that they believe in God and also believes the Bible has errors fails to see God for who he really is. The same can be said of people that call themselves Christians and yet refuse to live out Scripture. A Christian that does not believe the Bible is completely true will show evidence of such belief in their lifestyle. This type of lifestyle could be called practical atheism. A Christian or other person that says they believe God with the words that come out of their mouth and yet deny that same God by their lifestyle are liars. People that refuse to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible also fail to trust anything that God says. Grudem says, “Once we become convinced that God has spoken falsely to us in some minor matters in Scripture, then we realize that God is capable of speaking falsely to us. This will have a detrimental effect on our ability to take God at his word and trust him completely or obey him fully in the rest of Scripture. We will begin to disobey initially those sections of Scripture that we least wish to obey, and to distrust initially those sections that we are least inclined to trust. But such a procedure will eventually increase, to the great detriment of our spiritual lives. Of course, such a decline in trust and obedience to Scripture may not necessarily follow in the life of every individual who denies inerrancy, but this will certainly be the general pattern, and it will be the pattern exhibited over the course of a generation that is taught to deny inerrancy.” People are born into this world selfish. This is made evident when a child first says the word “mine.” Society teaches this present generation to follow those selfish desires. This generation is taught to do what makes them happy, do what feels good, satisfy sexual desires, and to feed whatever craving they hunger for. It is easy to feed the desires of the flesh. People do not want to follow Scripture because it requires them to die to self. Christianity is not for the weak. Christianity is not easy. People want to be “spiritual” and to live their life apart from any form of accountability. People want to look at the Bible as a buffet and pick and choose the parts that they want to believe and the parts that they want to obey. They want to choose the love of Jesus without the teachings of Jesus. They want to choose the grace and mercy of God without ever being confronted with the cross. The cross is the center of Christianity. This may be why some people refuse to change their selfish ways. When Christ draws a person, the love of Christ compels us to the cross where our lives are laid down. The old way of life dies. Those who see the Bible as a book with errors, have no compulsion to change their life. This for some people is justification to continue in their selfish, sinful lives. Some Christians fall into a category called backsliding. These are Christians who love the world more than they love God and his word. They fail to understand the consequences of sin and think that they have time for “fun” and can obey God later. Nowhere does the Bible condone such behavior. These Christians believe in God and may even believe the Bible to be inerrant but they refuse to obey. They have flirted with the world and then became intimate partners with the world. They have tweaked their ability to tune out the Holy Spirit that they are no longer prone to feel his conviction. Their heart has become hard and they may no longer be able to recognize the Spirit’s voice. This breaks the heart of God and should break the heart of Christians and spark within them the fires of evangelism. Christians are called to be evangelists and this directly shows whether or not they truly trust God and his word. However, evangelism starts with the local church. This fact rests on preachers in today’s culture.
PREACHING WITH THE CULTURE IN VIEW
Albert Mohler says, “The first thing that must be said about preaching with the culture in view is that our primary attention as preachers is not to the culture at all but to the text of Scripture. The most important part of our role as preachers is that we be scholars of Scripture. Thus we start with a definition of preaching that directs us above all to the text of Scripture. Every other issue and every other concern is secondary to that one central task of presenting the biblical text.” A preacher that is not a student of the Biblical text is in danger of preaching a false doctrine. A preacher should love and believe every word of Scripture. Proper exegesis, as stated earlier, involves drawing the meaning from Scripture rather than reading into Scripture or trying to make Scripture say what one wants it to say. This is what makes the prosperity gospel such a heresy. The prosperity gospel roughly says that nothing bad will happen to you if you are in God’s will. It also says things such as a person will be blessed financially as long as they are giving and are in God’s will. The prosperity gospel tells people that all they have to do is think more positive thoughts and their life will change for the better. Didn’t the same thing happen to Peter Pan? Preachers of the prosperity gospel are more motivational speakers than they are preachers of the cross. The prosperity gospel does not prove that the Bible has errors in it. The prosperity gospel is just a movement of positive thinking and nothing more. The preachers of the prosperity gospel usually have big churches and are in danger of leading people astray. They preach the Bible out of context and only preach “feel good” sermons. Preachers of the prosperity gospel fail to ever preach about Hell or sin. The prosperity gospel is preached as to not offend its audience. This is a huge heresy. The problem with the prosperity gospel is that it never leads people to the cross. Christianity is offensive. The cross is offensive. Preachers must preach the offensive Gospel. The cross beckons that people come and die. There is no place for self at the cross. Self dies at the cross. People are changed at the cross when Christ rocks their world. They are washed white as snow by the blood of the Lamb. Christians that want to sincerely follow Christ are told in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The Gospel tells a person that they are dead to their self. The person is crucified with Christ on the cross. Then Jesus takes over that person’s life and his spirit dwells in them. God’s desires become their desires. When a person is saved or “born again,” the Christian life compels them to be conformed to the image of Christ. The problem with the self is that the self tries to come back. Preachers must preach that people have to die to their self everyday as they pick up their cross every day. Dying to self and picking up the cross is the first step in the sanctification process. The sanctification process is more of a journey that a Christian is on and it ends when God deems that person has served their purpose on earth and takes them home to their eternal destination. Preachers that fail to preach about Hell, sin, dying to self, sanctification, and other doctrines are not preaching the full counsel of God. Preachers should be compelled to preach the Gospel. Preachers should be on their knees praying that their sermons would be received by their audience and that they would contextualize the gospel in such a way as to make it relevant and applicable. Preachers that fail to preach the word in a manner that glorifies God is not preaching for God. Preachers should preach for an audience of One even though their sermon is heard by many. Preachers that read into the Bible or preach their opinion may not believe the inerrancy of the Bible. This is sad. How would it be possible to preach something if the preacher did not believe it with his whole being? A preacher can also not preach that which he has not experienced. A preacher that has not experienced the God of the Scriptures has trouble communicating the God of the Scriptures. “Perhaps one of the reasons that God is not declared with great clarity and beauty is that many pastors have lost their vision of God’s majesty personally. They have not entered the arena of glory themselves.” Preachers must check their motives of why they are preaching. Who are they preaching for? Who gets the glory for their sermon? Are they preaching for money or do they really have a passion for the glory of God? A preacher with the passion for the majesty and glory of God will preach the cross without apology. He will preach every message as if it is his last message. He will have a heart for the lost and dechurched. He will preach to his audience every word of the Bible because he believes it with his whole being. That kind of passion for God and Scripture needs to be communicated to churches everywhere. There is a fire within the soul of a preacher who loves God, loves Scripture, has wrestled with God, and loves people. He understands the importance of his calling. God has chosen preaching as the main method of transporting his word to people. A preacher that is bent on glorifying God and leading people to Christ by way of the cross is an anointed messenger. Those preachers are the preachers today’s culture needs to preach the truth of Scripture.
The Bible is the most important book ever written. It is truth and is able to be applied to one’s everyday life. The Bible was given by the Holy Spirit to chosen men of God who were compelled to write and they humbled themselves to be obedient. Piper explains it like this, “The doctrine that emerges is this: The Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture. If this doctrine is true, then the implications are so profound and far-reaching that every part of our lives should be affected.” The Bible is also inerrant or error free. The Bible is God’s word and God does not contradict himself or make mistakes. The inerrancy of the Bible means that it is truth, absolute truth, God’s truth. There will always be people who refuse to believe the Bible is inspired or inerrant. That does not mean the Bible will ever change. God in his providence saw to it that the Bible would survive for many centuries and never cease to be true.
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