“The Bible is ‘Inspired’. What Does that Mean?”

breathed

Ok folks……I’m back into serious mode.

This weekend, I read an article on a Church Leaders website entitled “5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible” which was…..well…doctrinally problematic, to put it mildly. I am not familiar with the writer, John Pavlovitz, but the main problem in this piece seemed to be:

  1. He doesn’t correctly understand the Literal-Historical-Grammatical method we use to interpret Scripture; and
  2. He completely misunderstands what is meant by Scripture being “inspired”.

I’ll address the first issue in a later post, as I am teaching on basic principles of hermeneutics next month. (In my comment on the article, I explain point-by-point what was wrong with the author’s reasoning.) But first, understanding that the words of the Bible originate with the Holy Spirit, and not with the falible men who penned them, is the foundation on which we need to build any correct biblical interpretation.

Back in 2013, when I finished my Master’s course in biblical counseling, I wrote the theology and counseling sections of the ACBC (then NANC) exam/dissertation. The first question reads:

“The Bible is spoken of as “inspired.” What does this mean?” 

Several lectures were devoted to this topic, as well as the inerrancy of Scripture (not the same thing). This was my answer (now formatted with sub-headings):

“When the Bible is spoken of as being “inspired”, it literally means “God-breathed”. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul explains that “all Scripture is God-breathed” – meaning that it is the writings, not the writers which are “inspired”. The Greek term which translates to “given by inspiration of God”, theopneustos, appears elsewhere only once in Scripture – in Job 32:8, where it is translated “breath”: But it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.” This indicates that what is given as biblical revelation is straight from the mouth of God, and is not subject to the personal interpretation of those recording Scripture (as more liberal denominations may teach).

“Is it Literally ‘God’s Word’?”

Yes. Jay Adams notes that “inspiration” would be more correctly translated “expired”, in keeping with the “breathing out” meaning of the Greek term. This verse tells us that the Scriptures are “every bit as much God’s Word as if you could hear them spoken audibly (by breath).” (Jay Adams, notes on lecture four, “The Use of Scripture in Counseling”.) Therefore, to claim an extra-biblical writer as “inspired” (speaking for God) is actually heretical, since such a claim would put a non-biblical source on par with Scripture. Additionally, 2 Peter 1:19-21 affirms that while men prophesied and wrote Scripture, the origin was never with them – they were “moved” or “carried along” by the Spirit, the Divine Author. The Apocrypha, the additional texts written in the inter-testamental period, are thus not considered “inspired” since they contain geographical, historical, and even theological errors. (These books were never quoted by Christ or the Apostles, nor were they ever a part of the Jewish Torah.) Only the 66 books of the Canon may accurately be described as “God-breathed”.

Why Does this Matter?

The implications of the inspiration of Scripture are important to understand in relation to counseling, because after building his case for Scripture’s source of authority – God Himself – Paul goes on to state why biblical truth is therefore reliable: it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (vs. 16-17; emphasis mine). Because it is divine in origin, Scriptural injunction is trustworthy and therefore effacious for training in holiness. Paul affirms that the Bible is a useful book, for teaching (revealing what God requires); for convicting (showing us where we fail to measure up to these); for correction (helping us get out of the problems we get into); and disciplined training in righteousness (helping us stay out of them in the future while obeying God).

Having established the “God-breathed” nature of Scripture, it follows that acceptance and adherence to the principles outlined therein are non-negotiable. Our sin nature will cause all of us to attempt to rationalize, justify and otherwise excuse behavior that is contrary to the commands of God given in the Bible, but if we believe Scripture is “God breathed” – coming verbatim from Him – we are not free to add to, ignore, or subjectively interpret what has been dictated by God (Rev. 22:18-19; Matt. 7:26; 2 Pet. 1:20).

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