4. Special Revelation: The BibleRelated Media
What is the final form of special revelation?
God’s Word, the Bible, is the final form of special revelation. It must be remembered that it is through general revelation that one is without excuse for not believing in God, but it is only through specific revelation that man can be saved. It is only through hearing the message of the gospel, shared from the Word of God that one can come to saving faith. Romans 10:17 says: “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”
The Bible is God’s primary and final way of revealing himself to his people.
How We Received the Bible
How did we receive the Bible? The Bible has two authors: the first is God and the second is man.
In fact, God began writing the Bible himself. God wrote the Ten Commandments with his own hand. We see this in Exodus 31, “When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God (emphasis mine)” (Exodus 31:18).
But not only did he write the Ten Commandments, the Bible teaches that every word of Scripture is “inspired by God”—the actual breath of God, even though it was written by human authors as well. Second Timothy 3:16 says: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” “God-breathed” can be translated “inspired by God”.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are God’s words. Wayne Grudem said this:
All the words in the Bible are God’s words. Therefore, to disbelieve or disobey them is to disbelieve or disobey God himself. Oftentimes, passages in the Old Testament are introduced with the phrase, “Thus says the LORD” (see Ex. 4:22; Josh. 24:2; 1 Sam. 10:18; Isa. 10:24; also Deut. 18:18 – 20; Jer. 1:9). This phrase, understood to be like the command of a king, indicated that what followed was to be obeyed without challenge or question. Even the words in the Old Testament not attributed as direct quotes from God are considered to be God’s words… The New Testament also affirms that its words are the very words of God. In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter refers to all of Paul’s letters as one part of the “Scriptures.” This means that Peter, and the early church, considered Paul’s writings to be in the same category as the Old Testament writings. Therefore, they considered Paul’s writings to be the very words of God. In addition, Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:18, writes that “the Scripture says” two things: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” and “The laborer deserves his wages.” The first quote regarding an ox comes from the Old Testament; it is found in Deuteronomy 25:4. The second comes from the New Testament; it is found in Luke 10:7. Paul, without any hesitation, quotes from both the Old and New Testaments, calling them both “Scripture.” Therefore, again, the words of the New Testament are considered to be the very words of God. That is why Paul could write, “the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37).1
How can it be possible that the Scripture has two authors—both God and man? What was the process? Peter gives us a hint in 2 Peter 1:20. Listen to what he says: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (emphasis mine).
Peter says the prophecies of Scripture did not come about by a prophet’s interpretation or volition, but they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to be carried along by the Holy Spirit?
In Acts 27, the writer, Luke uses the same phrase to describe a ship being carried by a storm. Look at what he says: “The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along (emphasis mine)” (Acts 27:15).
In the same way the ship was “driven” by the storm, so the authors of the Bible were “carried” by the Holy Spirit in the writing of Scripture. The Holy Spirit drove them along in the writing of the content and also keeping them from error. The writers were there, they were thinking and writing, but they were being moved by the Spirit.
Let’s look at specific instances where we see the Bible being written by men.
After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD: “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die!
God commanded Moses to write everything down, and it was written to be a witness against the people because of their propensity to sin. Then, it was kept in the Ark of the Covenant. After Moses wrote in the Book of the Law, we see Joshua continue the writing. “And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD” (Joshua 24:26).
We see Joshua, previously Moses’s assistant, writing down the events that happened in the book of Joshua. Similarly, we see the same call to write given to the prophet Jeremiah. “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you” (Jeremiah 30:2). Again, God did this with the rest of his prophets throughout the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, we see the same process, except the work of the Holy Spirit is more emphasized. Jesus told the disciples that when he left, he was going to give them the Holy Spirit. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).
We see Christ repeat this in John 16. It says:
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
God sent the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, to inspire and bring to remembrance all the words that Jesus said. The Holy Spirit would not only bring things to remembrance, but he would teach the writers of Scripture future revelation. This is how the New Testament and the Old Testament were written: the Holy Spirit moved upon men to write the actual words of God because God desired to reveal himself to people.
Scripture Is Powerful
We don’t only see the revelation of God in the writing of Scripture, but also in the power of Scripture. Second Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is God breathed”, which not only speaks of God’s authorship of Scripture, but also its power. When you think about God’s breath or words in Scripture, it’s always a demonstration of his power. Let’s look at a few texts:
The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (emphasis mine)
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years. (emphasis mine)
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (emphasis mine)
Wherever God’s breath is, life is created and sustained. God’s breath or spoken word has the ability to create life, just as it created the heavens and the earth, and it has the ability to sustain all of creation. In the same way, God has given us his “breath”—his Word— in the writings of the Holy Bible, and it has great power.
Power Like Fire, a Hammer, and a Sword
In what ways do we see this power? Listen to what God said to Jeremiah about his Word: ‘“Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29).
God described the power of his Word like a fire that heats and like a hammer that breaks a rock into pieces. Sometimes, man’s heart is so cold, it needs to be warmed by Scripture. Sometimes, man’s heart is so hard, it needs to be broken in order to respond to God. The Word of God has this power.
The writer of Hebrews says something similar, comparing the Word of God to a sword. Listen to what he says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
God’s Word is alive and active. It’s like a sword that does surgery on the hearts of men. It reveals sin and secret attitudes of the heart. Many times, we are blind to our sin until the Word of God discerns and reveals it through a sermon or Scripture reading.
The Word of God is active; it cuts and reveals our heart condition. It’s like going to the hospital for a checkup. Sometimes the diagnosis can be hard to hear, but it is healthy for us. Listen to Luke’s description of the Israelites after Peter’s sermon at Pentecost: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do (emphasis mine)?”‘ (Acts 2:37).
Has the Word of God been convicting and cutting you? What else is Scripture compared to?
Power like a Seed
Scripture would also compare itself to a seed. It has the power to give life. Look at what Peter says about the Word of God: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
A person’s eternal destiny is affected by how he or she responds to the seed of the Word of God. James says something similar, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:21).
Second Timothy 3:14–15 says:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (emphasis mine)
We can only be saved through the revelation of the Word of God. This is one of the things that makes the Word our chief revelation—salvation comes through it. The Word of God is powerful like a seed that brings life.
Power to Bear Fruit
In continuing the metaphor of the Word of God being a seed, it not only brings life through saving, but it also bears fruit in one’s sanctification. It has the power to change us continually. We get a good picture of this in the Parable of the Sower. Look at what Matthew 13:23 says:
But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (emphasis mine)
The person who has truly received the seed of the Word will naturally produce fruit. This fruit represents many things. It represents leading others to Christ (1 Cor 16:15, KJV), it represents praise and thanksgiving to God (Hebrews 13:5), it represents giving (Rom 15:28), but primarily it represents an inward character change. Look at what Paul says in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
The Word of God is a seed that bears fruit in the lives of those who accept it. It is the seed that is continually sown in the soil of our hearts in order to produce a harvest of righteousness.
Power That We Should Be Unashamed Of
Finally, Scripture would say that the Word of God is so powerful that the minister should never be ashamed to speak it. Listen to what Paul said about the Word of God: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
He was not ashamed of the Bible, or specifically the gospel, because it is the power of God. It works. It convicts and confronts on its own. It doesn’t need an apologetic because it has power. It has changed the lives of many. It has overthrown corruption in governments and changed nations. It is powerful. God said through Isaiah that the Word of God would never return to him void (Isaiah 55:11).
We should not be ashamed of it as well. We should not leave it on our bookshelves at home collecting dust. We shouldn’t be quiet about it when we are around our friends. It has the ability to change lives, and it will change ours if we let it. It’s worth talking about.
Many churches have abandoned the clear exposition of Scripture and specifically the gospel. They say, “How can we reach the world with this? The world cannot understand the Word and they don’t care about it.” Therefore, they have given their church services over to entertainment. They have focused primarily on playing games to win the youth, and therefore, the kingdom of God has suffered greatly because of it. They may grow in numbers, but while they do that, their spiritual health decreases; there is no true lasting fruit.
This happens because people start to believe and/or treat the Word of God as if it’s anemic. It is not powerful enough to change the lives of people. It is not all that is needed. People essentially start to become ashamed of it. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” for it has power. The power of teaching the Word does not come through homiletics or oratory (cf. 1 Cor 2:3-4); it comes simply because it is the “breath of God.” Scripture reveals God because it shows us his power.
Scripture Is Sufficient
Another way that Scripture reveals God is in its sufficiency. One of the characteristics of God is his independence. He does not need anything because he is sufficient in himself (cf. Acts 17:25). We see something of this in the “sufficiency” of Scripture. Wayne Grudem defines “sufficiency” this way:
The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.2
The Word of God is sufficient to teach a person about what is right and wrong, and also to equip him or her to live righteously. It doesn’t need any support. We see this clearly in 2 Timothy 3:16–17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (emphasis mine)
What type of good works? What exactly is Paul talking about? God wants you to be a good husband, good wife, good child, good leader, good servant, good student, etc. Anything that is a good work, the Bible will thoroughly equip us for. Do you want to get rid of a habitual sin? You must come to the Bible. Do you want to be a good leader? Come to the Bible. The Bible is sufficient to equip us for every good work.
Listen to what 2 Peter 1:3–4 says:
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desire. (emphasis mine)
Peter says God has given us everything we need for life and godliness “through our knowledge of him.” Where do we get this knowledge? We get it in his Word. He also says that there are “great and precious promises”, through which we can participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world. We have promises in the Bible that will enable us to look more like God and also enable us to remain untainted from the corruption of sin and the world.
According to one person’s count, there are 3573 promises in the Bible.3 Each of these will help us look more like God and also escape the corruption of this world. What are some examples? There are promises for those who struggle with worry and depression. God has given us promises like Philippians 4:6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
How do we get free of worry? (1) We must choose not to worry, as it is not God’s will for our lives. (2) We must learn to pray about everything. (3) We must learn how to give thanks in everything. The result of practicing this type of lifestyle is that God will protect our hearts (emotions) and minds (thoughts) with his peace. Many people are destroyed and crippled by fears, but God says, learn to reject anxiety, learn how to live in an atmosphere of prayer, give thanks in all things, and I will protect your heart and mind with my peace.
There are tremendous promises in the Bible that will help us be more like God, but we have to know them. We have to study them. We have to practice them in order to live the righteous life God has called us to.
We see another promise in Philippians 4:19. It says: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
We look at many Christians who have great needs. They lack physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, socially, and in various other ways. However, Scripture promises that God will meet all our needs. How do we tap into this promise? This promise is given to the Philippian church for their faithful support of Paul’s missionary work (cf. Philippians 4:18). This is a promise for every believer who is a faithful giver. Paul essentially gives the same promise in 2 Corinthians. Look at what he says:
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (emphasis mine)
2 Corinthians 9:7–8
God promises that if you are a cheerful giver, “all grace” will abound in your life, you will always have what you need, and you will abound in every good work. When you give to God’s work, he will graciously meet all your needs and also supply grace to abound in everything righteous that you put your hands to. However, we must realize that this is the very reason so many are in lack. They do not faithfully support the work of building God’s kingdom, and therefore, they lack grace in having their needs met and also in producing good works.
The prophet Malachi actually calls for the Israelites to test God in the area of giving to see if God would not in response abundantly supply all their needs. Look at what he says in Malachi 3:10:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
God’s Word is sufficient. It is sufficient to equip the man of God for all righteousness. God has revealed his character in his Word, and we see something of this character in the sufficiency of Scripture. In the Word of God, he has given us everything we need in order to be righteous. The Bible is God’s training manual to make a sinful depraved people righteous.
Sufficient Compared to Other Revelation
Finally, because Scripture is sufficient, it is greater than other forms of revelation. We have talked about prophecies, visions, and even miracles being a revelation of God. There are some who sadly begin to seek these over God’s Word. Let me emphasize again, Scripture is the primary means of God’s revelation given to us today, and it will equip us for all righteousness. It is greater than any other revelation.
We see this truth clearly in the story of the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus, which Jesus told in Luke 16:19–31. As the story goes, there was a rich man and a beggar who both died. In hell, the rich man was in torment while Lazarus was safe across a gulf of water in paradise—Abraham’s Bosom. The rich man eventually asks for Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his family so that they would not come to the same place of torment. Look at their conversation and specifically Abraham’s replies in Luke 16:27–31:
He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ (emphasis mine)
Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Moses and the prophets were dead, but their writings were captured in Scripture. Abraham was saying there was greater power in the Word of God than in miracles, such as a resurrection. Essentially he says, “If they won’t accept what the Bible says, they won’t even accept a miracle.” Certainly, we saw this reality with Christ’s resurrection. The Pharisees, who had him killed, still did not repent. They had already rejected the Scripture, and therefore, the resurrection was unprofitable.
This speaks a great deal to the many churches that have forsaken the sufficiency of the Word of God in pursuit of revelation through healings and miracles. Many claim that the gospel cannot go forth without such revelations. There is nothing wrong with miracles, but the greatest and most powerful miracle is the “written breath of God.” It is sufficient on its own.
Our great commission is to make disciples by teaching them to obey “everything” that Christ has commanded through the Scripture (Matt 28:19). The Scripture is our greatest revelation as it testifies about Christ (the living Word), and it is the way we test all other revelations such as visions, dreams, prophecies, etc. (cf. 1 John 4:1).
This truth of the Word’s sufficiency in comparison to other forms of revelation is also tremendously challenging to us. Many times we condemn Israel for not responding to all the miracles that God did for them in the wilderness or that Christ did during his first coming. However, the reality is, if we do not respond to the truth of the Word of God today, then we also would not have responded to all the great miracles that God did for the nation of Israel in the past. To make our accountability greater, they only had Moses and the prophets, but we have Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, and others. We have a greater revelation than Israel and also the early church. How much more accountable will we be if we neglect the revelation that God has given us in his completed Word?
Scripture Is Reliable
Another way Scripture reveals God is in its accuracy and reliability. The Bible is reliable because it is without error or in other words “inerrant.” There are many definitions of inerrancy.
Wayne Grudem said, “The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.”4 The Lausanne Covenant declared the Bible to be “inerrant in all that it affirms.”5 The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy said in its Chicago statement that “Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching.”6 Millard Erickson said it this way, “Inerrancy is the doctrine that the Bible is fully truthful in all of its teachings.”7
Inerrancy simply means that the Bible is true and without error in the original manuscripts, and for that reason, we can trust its copies.
How do we know that? Why should we believe in its inerrancy? What are some evidences for the inerrancy of Scripture?
1. Evidence for the inerrancy of Scripture is the character of God.
God cannot lie. Look at Titus 1:2: “A faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (emphasis mine).
Paul encourages Titus with the fact that God cannot tell a lie. That’s why we can trust the Scripture and everything said in it. Scripture is God’s Word, and God cannot tell a lie. Numbers 23:19 says this: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
In fact, Christ called himself “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus is the truth because there is nothing false in him. Everything he says and does is true because he is God and that is his character.
Another proof of the truthfulness of God, and therefore, the truthfulness of Scripture, is seen in how God instructs Israel to test prophets. Look at what he says in Deuteronomy 18:21–22:
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. (emphasis mine)
The way God tells Israel to test prophets also teaches the truthfulness of God. If a prophet made an error in his prophecy, he wasn’t speaking for God because God cannot make errors. He knows all things and cannot lie or be tempted (cf. James 1:13). Since the Bible is God’s Word, it cannot have errors.
2. Evidence for the inerrancy of Scripture is what the Bible teaches about itself—that every word is true, not just the ideas of Scripture.
This is important because some liberal theologians teach against this. They would say that the ideas of the Bible are true but not necessarily every event, such as Jonah being swallowed by a big fish, the virgin birth of Jesus, etc.
However, this teaching contradicts what the Bible says about itself. Look at what Christ taught in Matthew 4:4: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (emphasis mine).
Jesus said that man lives on “every word” that comes from the mouth of God, not SOME words or SOME events. Similarly, the Psalmist said this about Scripture:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.
Scripture teaches that every part of it is true, not just some parts or the main ideas of Scripture.
3. Evidence of inerrancy is the perseverance of Scripture.
Jesus said this, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).
This is important because some liberal theologians say that the Scriptures we have today are not the same as the original writings. Essentially, they are saying that God did not preserve his Word. However, Jesus declared that even the smallest letter, the least stroke of a pen will not disappear from the Law until all is accomplished. We can believe that the Word of God is inerrant because God has preserved it.
4. Evidence of inerrancy is that Scripture uses Scripture in such a way that supports its inerrancy.
In the Bible, at times an entire argument rests on a single word (e.g., John 10:34–35 and “God” in Psalm 82:6), the tense of a verb (e.g., the present tense in Matt 22:32), and the difference between a singular and a plural noun (e.g., “seed” in Gal 3:16). Let’s look at an example.
In Matthew 22:30–32, the entire argument rests on a single word. The Scribes were the liberal believers in Christ’s day; they did not believe in miracles, the resurrection, or even an afterlife. So one day, they tested Christ on his belief in the resurrection. They concocted a scenario where a woman’s husband dies and then she marries his brother. The brother dies and she marries another brother. He dies and she marries another and so on until the seventh died. Then she eventually died. “Basically, they argued that the idea of resurrection posed insuperable difficulties, hence it was not reasonable, therefore it was not true.”8 Then the Scribes asked Christ, “At the resurrection whose wife will she be?” Look at how Christ responded in Matthew 22:30–32:
At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. (emphasis mine)
Here, Christ’s argument rests on the tense of the word “am”. Essentially, Christ says didn’t you notice that “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” was written in the present tense. Christ was saying that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are all still alive, and therefore, would one-day be resurrected. This confronted their lack of belief in the afterlife and the resurrection. Every word has been chosen by God even down to the tense.
We also see this in how Paul handled the words of Scripture. Look at what Paul says:
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.”
When looking at the promise of Abraham, Paul argues that the promise was not just to Israel specifically, but that it was to Christ and therefore, everybody in Christ. He says in Genesis the promise was to Abraham’s “seed”, singular, and not “seeds”, plural. Here the argument rests on the word “seed” being singular.
The Bible is inspired and inerrant even down to the tense and plurality of the words. Every word is inspired by God and not just the ideas. This gives credence to studying and meditating on each word of the Bible since we believe God chose them for a purpose. This is one of the reasons many Bible students study the original languages of Scripture. They do this because they are convinced of the validity of each word. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).
Questions about Inerrancy?
1. Some might ask, “How can the Bible be without error if mere humans wrote it? I know God made it but so did man, and man is fallible.”
This is true, and, because of this reality, it must be clearly recognized as a miracle. Man is sinful and prone to error; however, God is perfect and cannot err. The Holy Spirit inspired the authors in such a way that he kept them from error in the writing of the Scripture.
2. Then someone might ask, “If, we do not have the original manuscripts, isn’t the argument of inerrancy in the original manuscripts a moot argument?”
When we look at the way that the apostles and the early church handled the copies of Scripture, we see their belief in the reliability of the copies.
In the early church, the copies of the originals were passed around from church to church, and, yet the copies were always still considered authoritative. We see this in several ways.
a. When Paul spoke about the Scripture being God-inspired in 2 Timothy 3:16, he was using copies, not the originals. The early church was using copies just as we are now. The original texts were copied and passed from church to church. Yet, they still believed they were inspired, and, therefore, authoritative.
b. We also see how the early church believed the copies were authoritative in the Old Testament quotations used in the New Testament. The majority of the OT quotes in the NT were from the Septuagint, which was the Greek version of the Old Testament.9 Even though the original verses were in Hebrew, the writers of the NT still considered the copies, the translated verses, authoritative and without error. We even see Jesus quote the Septuagint in his rendering of Isaiah 29:13 in Mark 7:6–7:
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’
Again, this is a quote from a copy, but it was still inspired by God. The apostles primarily used Greek copies in the quotes placed in the inspired New Testament. If Jesus and the apostles used copies, then similarly we can trust the copies we have.
Here is a contemporary argument. If I apply for a job, the company will most likely take a photocopy of my driver’s license and keep it for their records. They know the copy is not perfect, it may have a smudge here or there, but, in general, the copy is considered accurate and acceptable.
This is how the early church handled the copies of Scripture and so do we. God has preserved his words, and it is still authoritative. In fact, when we compare the thousands of copies of Scripture, they are 95 to 99 percent the same.10 There are no great variances in the copies of the OT and NT manuscripts. The errors are typically copyist errors such as an undotted “i” or an uncrossed “t”, but nothing that affects any doctrine in the Bible. God has preserved his Word.
If there are errors, they are errors in our understanding of the text, the copy of the manuscript itself, or the translation. But the Bible cannot have error because God is without error. If we cannot trust the Bible on one thing, then the whole Bible comes into question.
What does all this mean for us?
1. The inerrancy of Scripture means we can trust the Word of God.
We should not doubt even spectacular stories in the Scripture, such as Jonah being swallowed by a big fish, Moses parting the Red Sea, or the earth being destroyed by a flood. Listen, God cannot tell a lie, and therefore, you can trust his Word.
It also means you can trust his word for salvation. You can trust his word on how to raise your kids and how to run a business. The Scripture holds the very words of God and so not only is it powerful, but it is also trustworthy.
2. The inerrancy of Scripture should guide us on how we meditate on the Word of God.
It is good at times to meditate on single words, noting their tenses, and their pluralities, because each word was chosen by God. They are God-inspired and every aspect of them has meaning for us.
With the Sadducees, Jesus said, “Have you not read?” Sure, they had read, but they really didn’t study and meditate on each word as given. Many times we miss a great deal in our study of the Bible because we forget that every word was chosen by God and that man shall live by every word (Matt 4:4). This type of study will greatly enrich our devotional time.
Scripture Is Eternal
Another way that Scripture reveals God is in its eternality. God has always existed and will continue to exist eternally (cf. Deut. 33:27). In the same way, Scripture is eternal because it comes from God. Listen to what Peter says: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (emphasis mine)” (1 Peter 1:23).
Peter calls it the “enduring word of God” or it can be translated as the “everlasting word of God” (cf. International Standard Version). It is true that the Scriptures did not always exist in written form, but they have always existed in that they are a representation of the character and person of God. And, it will always exist because God will preserve it.
As mentioned before, this is one of the reasons we can trust that no manuscripts have been lost or ultimately corrupted (cf. Matthew 5:18). God has preserved his Word because it is a reflection of him and his eternality.
Scripture Brings God’s Blessing
Finally, we see the revelation of God through the Word in how it brings God’s blessing. Scripture teaches that it is the character of God to bless. He blessed the sea creatures and birds of the air (Gen 1:22). He blessed Adam and Eve (Gen 1:28). Hebrews 11:6 says he rewards those who seek him. God is a God of blessing.
We see the revelation of this blessing on those who love God’s Word. It is a truth that is taught throughout the Bible. Look at what God says in Psalm 1:1–3:
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (emphasis mine)
Blessed is a word that can be translated “happy”. People who give their lives to the study of God’s Word will find that they are happier than others. They will find joy even in the midst of trials because they meditate on his Word. David also teaches this in other passages. Look at what he says in Psalm 19:8: “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.” Those who love God’s Word and meditate on it day and night will find joy and happiness. They will find an inner peace that can only come from God.
Blessed is a word that also has the meaning of approval. When a man asks a father for his daughter’s hand and the father gives him his blessing, it means he approves. One of the greatest things we should want in life is the approval of God. God approves those who delight in and study his Word. Paul teaches this as well in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (emphasis mine).
Who is the one that God approves on the earth? It is those who do their best, those who work tirelessly at understanding God’s words. They study it and correctly handle it when they are teaching it to others. God will approve of Christians who do this. We see this reality in other texts as well. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:1–2 (KJV): “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (emphasis mine).
Paul says believers are “stewards of the mysteries of God.” In ancient times, if a master went away on business, he would leave his household under the care of a steward. The steward would manage the affairs of the house until the master came home. When the master came home, he would inspect the faithfulness of the steward’s ministry.
Similarly, God has given us his Word. He has given it for us to study it, to live it, and to teach it to others so that they may know God. One day, he will come to inspect our faithfulness and those who were faithful will be “approved” and rewarded (1 Corinthians 3:12–14).
Are you being faithful with God’s Word?
The word blessing also has to do with receiving abundant grace. He gives abundant grace to those who delight in his Word. In fact, David describes those who delight in God’s Word as a tree that bears fruit (Psalm 1:3).
Trees are not made for their own benefit, but for the benefit and enjoyment of others. The fruits can provide food and medicinal benefits; the tree itself provides shelter and protection. Trees are a blessing to others and that’s how the man who meditates on God’s Word is described. He will bear fruit that brings blessings, protection, and healing to others. His life will not be about himself, but it will be used for the enrichment of those around him.
David says this type of man will prosper in everything he does (Psalm 1:3). In whatever God calls him to do, he will find prosperity and success. Certainly, the success God is talking about does not mean the absence of trials. Joseph was sold into slavery, which doesn’t seem like prosperity, but even as a slave he was exalted to manager over the household. Soon, he was sent to prison, but even there, he was exalted to the head of the prisoners. Ultimately, he was made second in command over all of Egypt. Even the evil Joseph’s brothers committed against him was used for good (Gen 50:20). It’s the same with those who delight in God’s Word. He gives them rich blessings even in the midst of their trials. God’s prosperity doesn’t mean an exception from trials, but favor and perseverance through the trials of life. The trials that destroy others make the one who meditates on the Word of God strong.
Are you one that meditates on God’s Word? He blesses those who do. This blessing is a special revelation from God. It is his favor on the lives of those who love him and revere his Word. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2b).
The primary way God reveals himself to people today is through his Word. His Word reveals his characteristics. The Word is powerful; the Word is truthful and reliable in all that it affirms. It is sufficient in that it trains the man of God for all righteousness. The Word of God is eternal; it cannot be corrupted or destroyed as it is a reflection of God. God’s blessing is on those who delight and study it. Those who love it will know God more, but they also will see his favor over their lives.
Are you delighting in God’s Word?
- What does the sufficiency of Scripture mean? How can you support this biblically?
- In what ways do we see the power of God’s Word? How do we utilize this power?
- What is inerrancy? In what ways does Scripture teach its inerrancy? Why is it important for the church to believe in and to defend the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture? How is this doctrine being attacked?
- In what ways does God bless the person who delights in his Word? How do we develop and/or protect our delight? In what ways do you practice meditating on Scripture?
- Pray that God would draw us individually and corporately to delight in his Word, that we would faithfully study it, and that we may grow up into full maturity as a body of Christ (Psalm 1, John 6:44, 1 Peter 2:2).
- Pray that the Word of God would be proclaimed throughout the world in churches, schools, businesses, and nations. Pray that it would be received and glorified among the people (2 Thess 3:1).
- Pray that God would continue to protect his Word from distortion and the lies of the evil one. Pray that the church would faithfully guard the Scripture given to us and also be faithful stewards of it (2 Tim 1:14, 1 Cor 4:1–2).
Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown
The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, and King James Version.
Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version ® (ESV ®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
1 Wayne A. Grudem; Elliot Grudem. Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2009), Kindle Edition.
2 Wayne A. Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 127.
3 (accessed June 19, 2014)
4 Wayne A. Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 90.
5 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 92.
6 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 92.
7 Millard J. Erickson. Christian Theology (2nd ed). (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 246.
8 William MacDonald. Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.). (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1287.
9 Gleason Archer and Gregory C. Chirichigno, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey. (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2005), Kindle edition.
10 Josh Mcdowell. New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1999), Kindle edition.