Is the Bible God’s Word? Is it inspired? Is it inerrant? In recent weeks, I have been asked these questions repeatedly. People want to know what I believe about the Bible. But more important than what I believe, is what the Bible says about itself. So, today I thought I’d begin by explaining what the Scriptures say about their own inspiration.
The central verse about inspiration is 2 Timothy 3:16. It reads, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting for training in righteousness . . .” I want to focus on the first part of this sentence: “All Scripture is inspired by God” and highlight three crucial principles.
First, it’s the Scriptures themselves that are inspired, not the authors of the Bible. Although the authors of the Scriptures were said to be moved by God’s Spirit (2 Pet 1:21), Paul writes to Timothy that it is the Bible itself that is inspired, or literally, God-breathed. This single word indicates that the Bible comes from God, that God exhaled the Scriptures. Sometimes when we read the word “inspired” we get the idea of breathing into something. Rather, this verse is saying that God breathed out the Scriptures. It is saying that the very words that we read in the text of the Bible are “breathed out” by God. They don’t become inspired when we read them and find something of value for our lives. The text of Scripture stands as God’s Word even if we don’t read it (but of course we should).
Second, it is the whole Bible that is inspired. The Scriptures are God’s Word in their entirety. Some people say that when Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16, he only was referring to the Old Testament and not the New. But in the previous letter to Timothy, in 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul said, “For the Scripture says: “You must not muzzle an ox that is threshing grain” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Paul is quoting two verses of Scripture here, one from Deuteronomy 25:4 in the Old Testament and the other from Luke 10:7 in the New, and he calls them both “Scripture.” It’s likely that the Gospel of Luke was only written about five years earlier than Paul’s quotation of it as Scripture. At about the same time, Peter, the acknowledged leader of the apostles, wrote in 2 Peter 3:16 that Paul wrote about salvation “in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.” Notice that Peter includes Paul’s letters in the Scriptures. Here’s the point: By the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16 and said, “All Scripture is inspired” he meant that the whole Bible is inspired, including both Testaments.
Third, since the whole Bible is inspired, it is completely true. Way back in the Torah, Moses wrote, “God is not a man who lies or a son of man who changes his mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill” (Num 23:19)? Paul wrote similarly in Romans 3:4, “God must be true, even if everyone else is a liar.” And the Lord Jesus, God incarnate, said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He calls Himself the truth and He is the divine author of Scripture. Since God is true and He breathed out the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus said in His High Priestly prayer for His followers, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). This line of reasoning is where we get the teaching that the Scriptures are inerrant. The point is that the Bible is as true as God Himself and completely trustworthy.
When my kids were little I enjoyed playing “Jinga” with them. We’d build a tower, adding piece upon piece, until it fell down. My younger boy was a little mischievous and would sometimes pull out the bottom piece in order to make the whole tower of blocks collapse. That reminds me of the inspiration of Scripture. It is foundational to every other teaching. If we pull that one teaching out, then all the others will fall apart. It’s why our affirmation of the inspiration and truth of God’s Word is so vital. If we take it away, our life and faith are in jeopardy.