The Sacred Text Message–The Doctrine of Inspiration

John Locke said:

“The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its author; salvation for its end; and truth without any mixture for its matter. It is all pure.”

The importance of the inspired text is seen in Moses’ words:

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

The Bible was to be central for their lives, worship, and the foundation of their hope.

In order for mankind to have the Bible today, men cooperated with God’s sovereign control. Every word of the Bible is the product of divine “out-breathing.” Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASBU). Our English word “inspiration” which we are accustomed to seeing is translated “God breathed” by the ESV.

The inspired Word differs from what we call general revelation. In “general revelation” God speaks through his created world to mankind. The Psalmist described it this way, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). From creation we can reason that there must be a God (Hebrews 3:4), but there are some things we can only learn about God from his inspired Word. Paul described the necessity of special revelation in the Scriptures when he wrote:  

These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (2 Corinthians 2:10-12).

Our need for the inspired Scriptures to know and understand the ways of God should help us appreciate the value of the sacred Text.

We understand that the Bible is both divine and human in its production. 2 Peter 1:21 tells us that “men spoke from God.” This human agency is seen in passages such as Jeremiah 1:9, “The Lord said to me, behold I have put my words in your mouth.” Acts 4:25, “God said through the mouth of our father David.” Hebrews 3:7, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says.” Luke 1:1-4 describes the writing of the Gospel according to Luke, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,  just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

When we understand that God utilized human authors in the writing of his words, we are better able to understand some things present in the Scriptures. We understand the stylistic differences in writing between various authors. We better understand the use of secular sources recorded in the Scriptures. We are better able to understand Luke’s use of research confirmed in Luke 1:1-4. We also are able to better grapple with the inspired record of Paul’s own self-described “lack of memory.”

While the Bible does have a human side, the Bible is ultimately a divine work. How are we to understand the cooperation between men and God in the Bible? This synergy between God and man is best described as God exercising total, absolute, sovereignty in conjunction with human freedom. This system is described as verbal plenary inspiration. Perhaps we can best learn about the process of revelation and inspiration from 2 Peter 1:20-21. Peter wrote, “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.”

The Bible tells us that Scripture does not originate with man—“no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” Scripture does originate with God—“men spoke from God.” How is it that God utilized mankind in this endeavor? “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” What does it mean to be “carried along”?

The word translated “carried along” (φερόμενοι) is defined as “to cause to follow a certain course in direction or conduct.”  Another said the word means “to so influence others as to cause them to follow a recommended course of action—‘to guide, to direct, to lead.” The same concept is seen in Acts 27:15, 17 describing the ship which was “driven along” by the wind.  Simon of Cyrene “carried” the cross as he followed Jesus (Luke 23:26). Peter used the word to describe the writer who was “driven along” by the Holy Spirit. “They were but men; prophets they became only by the (Spirit of God) πνεῦμα Θεοῦ”.

God is the ultimate source of the Scriptures. This is the way the Bible describes itself. In Acts 4:25 we see it the “Sovereign Lord…who through the mouth of our father David your servant, said by the Holy Spirit” the quotation from Psalm 2.

Since this is God’s Book, we must treat it as God’s Book. We should love it. We should know it. We should share it. We should obey it. We should serve it. As the apostles did so we should “devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4).


1. How does the doctrine of inspiration affect your daily Bible reading habits?

2. How does the doctrine of inspiration affect your submission to the Bible’s teaching?

3. How does the doctrine of inspiration affect your desire to know the Bible?

4. How does the doctrine of inspiration affect your worldview and decision making?

5. How does the doctrine of inspiration affect your future?

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