All men live, and move, and have their being in God (Acts 17:28). Human life would otherwise be quite impossible. This fact above all else enables men to act in a truly spontaneous way. That the purposes of God enclose even the evil that men do does not deny the reality that men choose wilfully to sin, nor does it absolve them of the responsibility for what they do or place the cause of their sin anywhere else but with them. Those born again of the Spirit of God having once been in bondage to sin now willingly serve the Saviour whom they love (Romans 6:16). This is a living relationship not a mechanical one. Doing the will of God does not suspend the human will, but the will of God and the will of man now function in harmony towards an identical end. With the Psalmist, we delight in doing the will of God (Psalm 40:8). God’s thoughts become our thoughts; His words become our words. Thinking the thoughts of God does not suspend the operation of the human mind. On the contrary, without the functioning of our mind, we could neither think nor receive any thoughts at all.
There is a most amazing verse to be found in the thirty-seventh Psalm.
“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
This does not teach that we can somehow bend God to our every whim, but that as we delight ourselves in Him, all our desires are found in His perfect will. Even as we are enabled through Scripture to think the thoughts of God, in a similar way our heart desires the desires of God, so that God is perfectly willing to give us what we ask of Him. Although on occasions we may be passive instruments in God’s hands, more often than not our will is not put out of action so that the will of God can displace it, but rather it is active within the will of God. The options are not that either my will prevails and I please myself and sin or else God’s will operates in its place and I please Him. Instead, the one is superimposed upon the other so that both act together. Our wills work in harness with God. We are submissive in love to God, but not necessarily inactive. This coincidence of wills is best exemplified in the life of our Saviour.
“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. …I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:19 & 30)
What was perfectly enacted in the life of the Lord Jesus is only imperfectly realised in us.
First, inspiration is possible because God is both omnipresent and immanent. We live only of Him, through Him, and in Him. Second, inspiration is only possible because we are made in His image. Inspiration is based upon a special affinity between God’s Spirit and ours, an affinity true of no other creature. Human consciousness is the distinguishing mark of a spiritual being. Thus is opened up the possibility of communion between our spirit and the Spirit of God, by which the thoughts of God can become our thoughts.
God uses man’s spirit as His organ, consciously or unconsciously, actively or passively. Sometimes, for example in the New Testament epistles, the human activity appears to be the only factor and inspiration is hardly observed. At other times, the human spirit appears almost only as a vessel to catch the action of God’s Spirit, as for example in the visions of Ezekiel. Despite the superficial appearances, in neither case is the one portion of Scripture less inspired than the other. Nor can we construe an explanation suggesting that the human element is greater in one and the divine greater in another.
In the process of inspiration the mind and consciousness of the writers of Scripture were so elevated that the thoughts arising there came solely from the Spirit of God, unhindered by the intervention of anything originating from within the individual concerned. Moved, or borne along by God’s Spirit, the thoughts of God become the thoughts of these men. Nevertheless, the functioning of the human personality was not set aside, but its faculties operated coincidentally and utterly in tune with the Spirit of God. We cannot think without words, the writer of Scripture would have been conscious of God’s thoughts as words. He then, still under the perfect guidance of the Spirit of God, commits these same words to writing without error. This is inspired Scripture.
The prophet is an instrument whilst God speaks the word. From the descriptions of many prophetic visions and from the words of the prophet himself, it is clear that he often regarded himself as being taken hold of by God and being compelled to speak not his own thoughts but those of God. This is indicated by the constant phrase ‘thus saith the Lord’. It is shown too by Jeremiah’s great struggle (Jeremiah 20:7-9). At first the prophet Nathan speaks from himself, encouraging David to build the Temple, “Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee” (2 Samuel 7:3). Later this is contradicted when it is reversed by a word from the Lord, recorded in the verses following and announcing that David’s son would build a house for the Lord. The distinctive element in prophecy is that the prophet is always an instrument for the words of the Lord.
The Bible does not teach that men can only act spontaneously when, to a greater or lesser degree, they do so outside God’s determinative will and counsel. God’s plan enables and guarantees human spontaneity and freedom. God wills it. This makes us something more than captives to chance or immoveable natural law. It makes us responsible beings, answerable to our Maker for all that we do. A freedom conceived outside God’s will can only amount to an assumed and sinful human autonomy, an impossible desire to break with God completely. Were a true spontaneity upheld by His sovereign will not possible, God would be reduced to dictating Scripture word by word in a lifeless way to ensure its accuracy. The writer is then nothing more than an inanimate writing tool. There can be no adequate defence of the inerrant inspiration of Scripture that sets aside the biblical teaching of the sovereignty of God and the free agency of the human will within it. This enables the coincidence of the will of God and the will of the believer without disabling either.
Speaking presumes a person who thinks and intends that what is said should pass into the consciousness of another person. When God speaks, it is His intention that what He says is received by men. The result of this is that there arises in the human consciousness a thought that previously existed only in the mind of God. For human beings to communicate with each other, the content of what we have to say must pass through the physical world. In the case of speech as sound waves, they must pass through the air to be picked up by the ear and passed through the nervous system to our mind. Anyone whose ears do not function properly, or at all, is unable to receive speech. God is not limited by our imperfections. He can access the human heart and consciousness directly from within, even reaching to the stone deaf. In order for us to receive the thoughts of God, they must be clothed in words we can understand. If there are any obstructions, they exist with us and not with God.
Revelation is the name we give to the miraculous operation by which God communicates His thoughts to men. Inspiration is the work of the Holy Spirit by which God’s thoughts infallibly fill and direct the minds of His servants as they speak or write. Revelation will have come to both prophets and apostles not everything of which was recorded as Scripture. They will have spoken under the inspiration of God. Again, not all of this will have found its way into Scripture. Whether the writers were always conscious of their inspiration is not the point, the Holy Spirit sharpened their mind in the choice of expression and vocabulary so that their choice would always have been that directed by God’s Spirit – they always chose the right word. Sometimes God spoke audibly to men, sometimes He spoke directly to their souls, but always in words. Whether He dictated what was to be written as is the case with the book of Revelation, or whether He governed the writing in a more indirect way, as in historical parts such as the Gospels, the result will always be the same. The Bible is a book in form and content down to the last jot and tittle designed by the Spirit of God, inerrant and infallible. Inspiration does not exclude the normal collation of documents, literary style, structure, choice of vocabulary, but what we must insist upon is that the resultant writing is in every detail given of God and carries divine and absolute authority for all men at all times.
In inspiration there is the Spirit who inspires, the spirit of man that is inspired, and the content of what is inspired. The nature of all consciousness is determined by consciousness in God. His thought goes before any other. Our consciousness is not an unknown sphere to God. He made it. Inspiration assumes a God who has the will to inspire with one or the other thought. Unlike us, who do so much without even realising what we are doing, everything that God does is because He has willed it so. Through inspiration God wills that from His divine consciousness He will introduce into the consciousness of man this or that thought in a form within our capacity to receive. In this way, He introduces His thoughts among men.
Scripture will show as many different dispositions towards inspiration as there are authors. In the Temple, Simeon showed a strong inclination towards that which was given him. Jeremiah, on the other hand, showed a severe disinclination towards inspiration (cf. Jeremiah 20). In the case of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit did not simply descend upon Him but remained upon Him. He is a model of the way in which the human spirit ought to respond towards inspiration. His was an ever-continuing inspiration within His human consciousness.
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)
Although the Bible is word-for-word given by God, we must not automatically assume that the character and personality of the Scripture writers are set aside and become matters of indifference. It is not as though God just looked around for someone who would be suitable for what He had in mind. Instead, God caused these men to be born with the idea of using them for a purpose He already had in mind. He caused them to spend their early years in those circumstances and surroundings best suited as a preparation, so that in due time they would be entirely suitable instruments. Personality sets the tone for what is written. Isaiah will not speak as Jeremiah or Luke as Paul. The instrument was designed to accomplish the task God had in mind for each one. God made a Jeremiah to exercise the ministry of Jeremiah and write his prophecy.
“Then the word of the Lord came unto me saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
He made a Paul to be an apostle; he too was preordained of God to his apostolic task and to the writing of Scripture.
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen…” (Galatians 1:15-16)
This predestination is not to be limited to these people as individuals, but is to be extended to the whole circumstances of the life from which they sprang. If there is any predisposition to inspiration, it is in the fact that they were created and chosen by God to that end. This disposition was moulded and tuned and gifts of God’s grace endowed to suit each one to their particular task. There is an election to service as much as there is to salvation. Many are the leadings of God’s providence in the education and background of God’s chosen instruments: Moses in Pharaoh’s court, David the shepherd boy, Peter and John to become ‘fishers of men’, Paul sitting at the feet of Gamaliel. It was God who created and chose an Isaiah or a John, He it was who animated and inspired them.
There are considerable differences between all the writers of Scripture. What one cannot do the other is able to accomplish. The personal stamp of the human author remains upon his writing. At the same time, the thoughts must not be viewed as originating with the man – not even the words in which those thoughts are clothed – but as coming from the consciousness of God. In the providence of God, the background, education or lack of it, the development of the writer and his general lot in life are all available to God to bring the Word He wants to and in the way He wants to do it.
When thinking of how God inspires, we must distinguish between that which is already present in man and in the world about him, and that which God purposely brings about to effect inspiration. In order to speak to men, God sometimes uses what is already to hand, but at other times He brings things about that would not otherwise occur.
God spoke to men audibly using the ears He gave us, but also He spoke internally, bypassing the physical organs of hearing reaching directly into the world of thought. This would be much in the same way as when we hold a dialogue with ourselves – thinking. Here God intervenes directly into the thought processes. This is a speaking within by which God has direct contact with the human consciousness and causes such thoughts to arise within us as he wills. Of course, we cannot do this with each other. Communication among men goes out through our nervous system and organs of speech, from there the sound travels through the air and affects the auditory nerve of the other person. Only in this way can our thought reach the consciousness of someone else.
In thinking, or speaking within ourselves, our organs of speech and hearing are not involved. Nevertheless, moment-by-moment successive changes of thought take place in us. We note once more, that God does not think in this time-bound moment-by-moment manner. Yet, God has direct access to human consciousness, outside and inside and He cannot be limited to organs of speech and hearing. In this kind of inspiration, God brings thoughts into the human mind directly. Jesus experienced a constant internal dialogue with His Father.
We can probably assume that God spoke to Adam in this way before the fall. Only after the fall do we read that he heard God as though His voice walked in the garden in the cool of the day. God’s voice is no longer within but outside. Evidently, because of sin, the susceptibility for internal address by God may have been blunted, but it was not removed. After the entrance of sin, but exclusively within His redemptive purpose, God still revealed His thoughts directly to man in the prophets and the apostles.
There is a kind of speaking that does not arise from within the normal human consciousness. Examples of this would be glossolalia or tongue speaking, speaking done by parrots and the like, the speech of Balaam’s ass, also in demon possession. There is the inspired speech promised by Christ to the apostles.
“For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:20)
At times, God also spoke audibly as one man does to another.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)
“With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches…” (Numbers 12:8)
The emphasis here is more upon what a man hears, rather than upon what he speaks after the suggestion of God.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. …” (Exodus 19:9)
“And ye said, Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth.” (Deuteronomy 5:24)
“And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and he spake unto him.” (Numbers 7:89)
Perhaps the most obvious example of this manner of speaking is the call of Samuel, when the boy Samuel heard what he first took to be Eli’s voice. Only after speaking with Eli did he recognise it as the voice of the Lord.
“And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.” (1 Samuel 3:8-10)
Sometimes when God spoke audibly, what He said could be heard by others standing by. Jesus prays to His Father,
“Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.” (John 12:28-30)
In Acts 8:29, we read that “the Spirit said unto Philip”. We are not told that a thought occurred within him, but that there was an actual speaking.
At Sinai, God’s voice came down from above. Moses heard a definite voice from between the cherubim. Samuel too heard a voice. At the baptism of the Lord, there was a voice from heaven. Peter testifies of what he saw and heard,
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” (2 Peter 1:16-18)
We have the testimony of Paul on the road to Damascus, of John on Patmos. We set aside the question as to whether in each case the sound was produced by a vibration of the air waves or whether it was a sensation on the eardrum. In either case, it would have been a physical hearing. God who made the voice, vocal cords, waves of air, the eardrum, auditory nerves, can He not make all of them perform a task appointed by Him seeing that He maintains them moment by moment?
“He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?” (Psalm 94:9)
What is clear is that each of these people heard a voice speaking in a language they could understand as though a friend or neighbour were speaking to them.
Another form of inspiration where God makes use of that already to hand is that which we can call impulse. We read of Samson, “And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times…” (Judges 13:25). Peter writes,
“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21)
Someone who is moved is given a push, an impulse is a mental push urging the mind to move. Jeremiah could not contain himself however hard he tried.
“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” (Jeremiah 20:9)
Inspiration here is a push, an impulse of the Holy Spirit.
At other times, God purposely brings something about in order to bring His Word to the human mind. One of these is sleep.
“In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.” (Job 33:15-16)
We are not thinking here about something that comes about in a purely natural way, but a sleep that is brought on by God for a specific purpose. Such a sleep came upon Adam (Genesis 2:21), upon Abraham (Genesis 15:12), upon Saul and his men (1 Samuel 26:12). In each of these cases, it is specifically stated it was a deep sleep. Men dream, we are told, during periods of light sleep, but here the body of those affected was cut off from all contact with the surrounding world. It was a form of revelation, totally isolating the person from the things of this life.
That revelatory dreams in Scripture are something more than common dreams is clear from 1 Samuel 28:6,
“And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.”
Godly and demonic influences can be at work in dreams, there are false prophets and pseudo-dreams. Dreams were a common means of revelation used by God to speak to those outside Israel. Anyone dreaming such a dream would have understood it to be symbolic and immediately sought the reality behind it. Abimelech, Pharaoh, and Nebuchadnezzar are cases in point. These dreams all needed interpretation, Joseph for Pharaoh and Daniel for Nebuchadnezzar. Both the dream itself and the interpretation of it were supernatural and given directly by God.
The difference between a dream and vision – also something brought about deliberately by God –is that a dream occurs in sleep whilst a vision takes place at the periphery of the inner consciousness when wide-awake. Visions were often experienced by false prophets. In the prophetical books of the Old Testament and in the Apocalypse in the New we find symbolic prophetic visions followed by an interpretation.
We cannot assume that the words recorded in Scripture are the only ones ever spoken under inspiration of the Holy Spirit by a particular person. A man like Amos, a prophet inspired by God, would not only have spoken under inspiration whilst writing the short book bearing his name. He doubtless preached many sermons under direct inspiration, yet not all are recorded. The Lord Jesus, to whom the Holy Spirit was given without measure, always spoke under inspiration and most of what He said was never written down.
“This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:24-25)
Those words of the Lord Jesus not recorded cannot be thought to be less inspired that those that are.
“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” (John 12:49-50)
What is lost of the inspired words of our Saviour does not detract in any way from the inspiration of Scripture. These different elements in inspiration need to be distinguished from each other. Inspiration is to be thought of as the means employed by which God caused those instruments of His revelation to speak, sing, or write what He desired and purposed.
For the greater part in Scripture, that recorded by the writers, whilst being directly inspired by God, gives us the distinct impression of being the result of their own subjective consciousness. Scripture is not, however, as some have portrayed it, part the work of God and part the work of men. Scripture is not God plus men. At the back of everything written lies a higher motive from another consciousness above that of the writers. Again, the will of God does not strike out the will of man, nor does the will of man preclude the work of God behind what is done. Instead, it is the will of God, and the action of God, that sustains and enables the will of man to act as it does. This happens not mechanically like a robotic machine but willingly and freely so that what is done is truly the work of the writer, yet at the same time is something totally determined by God.
To say that the man Christ Jesus knew everything without inspiration is to deny the incarnation. The consciousness of God and the consciousness of the mediatorial Saviour are not one, but two. The transfer of divine thoughts from the consciousness of God to His Son is not common inspiration but inspiration of the highest degree. It occurs because of the union of the divine and the human nature. This is what Christ Himself said.
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)
“Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” (John 7:16)
“I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.” (John 8:26)
“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.” (John 12:49)
“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” (John 14:10)
“He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.” (John 14:24)
This was to be expected when the divine Son of God took upon Himself human nature. It was the more necessary because He assumed that nature in all its weakness, with the single exception of sin.
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
This means that in Jesus there was no lie, no falsehood to set itself against the truth and be overcome, as would have been the case with the prophets. The Lord Jesus increased in wisdom. He became gradually more enriched as He went through the world in the consciousness of God. This came about as He read the Scriptures, saw the created world and by His life in Israel, as well as through direct inspiration. The Holy Spirit was also given to Him. The precise process of this inspiration is described for us.
“For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” (John 3:34)
It was not possible for the Lord Jesus to be passive towards inspiration without being active at the same time. It is interesting that the Lord Jesus never received a vision, all inspiration came to Him directly as a clear concept. Before coming to earth, Jesus had seen the heavenly reality which in prophecy had come in visions.
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.” (John 3:11)
“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:13)
“I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” (John 8:38)
The instrumental means necessary to the prophets because of sin was unnecessary for the Lord Jesus for whom there could be no individual limitation. This is why the Lord Jesus spoke ‘as one having authority’. What He spoke was the fruit of direct inspiration because of the divine union. All inspiration, in fact, has Christ as its centre. He is the Prophet who in the Old Testament spoke by the prophets and after His ascension bears witness by His apostles. It is He who is still today our prophet through His Word.
“I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18)
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13)
“Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” (1 Peter 1:10-11)
If we make the inspiration of the prophets the measure of all inspiration, not only will we find it difficult to understand the inspiration of the Lord Jesus, but also we will be bound to conclude that the apostles could have not have been inspired. The nature of the apostles’ inspiration is quite different from that of the prophets. First, the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out and had taken up His abode in believers. Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon men in the Old Testament and then departed. The indwelling of the New Testament is quite different from the inshining of the Old. Second, the inspiration of the apostles came in conjunction with their official role in the Church and adapted itself appropriately. Third, the apostles came after the incarnation, which was anticipated by the prophets of the Old Testament.
The book of Revelation is somewhat different than the rest of the New Testament in that it does not deal with that which appeared in Christ, but it moves on to that which is yet to come, it is prophetical. The vision that came to Peter in Acts 10 with respect to Cornelius is also unusual. Paul was not one of the immediate circle of the Lord’s disciples, but had received a separate calling from Him. Everything he needed in order to fulfil the office of apostle was given to him directly. Apart from these examples, most of what appears with the preaching of the apostles as recorded in Acts and the epistles comes across as though they are speaking and writing in quite a normal manner and of themselves. There is little to suppose it was any different from the preaching and writing that has not come down to us in Scripture. Paul’s reference to the “cloke, books and parchments left at Troas”(2 Timothy 4:13) gives the letter very much of an everyday feel. With the prophets the phrase “thus saith the Lord” shows at least a claim to inspiration. Such a suggestion of inspiration rarely occurs in the New Testament. Indeed, there seems to be some kind of opposition between inspiration and words like “I command” and “speak I, not the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:10 & 12). This, however, is explained by the difference between what Paul knew from the special revelation given to him (see 1 Corinthians 11:23) and that which came as normal apostolic inspiration, to which he refers in the words “and I think also that I have the Spirit of God” (7:40).
Clearly, the apostles were inspired
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:12-14)
“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10-12)
Only the Holy Spirit could reveal to the apostles the ‘deep things of God’. Paul, along with the other apostles, had not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit which is of God, and the direct effect of this was that he knew the things that were freely given by God.
Paul states that the mystery that had been hidden from former generations “is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5). He also does not hesitate to say that what they had heard from him was “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). John writes in Revelation (1:10), “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”.
With the apostles, inspiration came about because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them not coming upon them, possible only after Pentecost and therefore different than the Old Testament prophets. This deserves emphasis. First, they had received in-workings of the Holy Spirit before the day of Pentecost. In breathing upon them, the Lord Jesus had officially communicated to them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Despite this, the Lord Jesus repeatedly declares that only when the Holy Spirit shall have been sent to them from the Father can real apostolic inspiration begin, as it did at Pentecost in the sermons of Peter. After Pentecost there was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, before that day there were in-workings from without. This gave inspiration a modified form. From within the Holy Spirit was able to use, guide, and enlighten the consciousness of the apostles in a more immediate way, and without any break, even without them knowing.
Second, the impulse for the working of this inspiration lay in their official function as apostles. There are instances where there was a break, inspiration coming from without, as for example the vision of Peter at the house of Simon the tanner (Acts 10:19), or the vision of Paul of the man of Macedonia (Acts 16:9). Nevertheless, as a general rule inspiration came to them on a continuous basis as they discharged their duties as apostles. This went on until they died. Inspiration was given to them so that they could discharge their duties as apostles. They do not write simply because the Holy Spirit impels them irresistibly to write but because this was part of their office of being apostles. Inspiration flowed into their everyday activities.
Third, the apostles stand in a different position to the centre of all revelation, Christ Himself. What was vague with the prophets was concrete with the apostles, they testified of what they had seen and heard, the prophets could not do this. The inspiration of the apostles was an inspiration first of remembrance.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)
They had not to stop there but to proclaim the message of the Gospel and for such they were given remembrance by the Holy Spirit. Then, they were to announce the things to come and for this they receive apocalyptic vision. Finally, they had to give apostolic reflection concerning the ‘Word of life’ and for this the Holy Spirit led them into the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-12).
The inspiration of the writers by the Holy Spirit and the inspiration of Scripture ought to be kept distinct in our minds. That which originated within the consciousness of God through the working of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration entered the consciousness of the Scripture writers. We now need to consider how what is in Scripture has come from this sphere of inspiration to be written down in a totally authentic and reliable form and free from error.
We have taken great care to distinguish between the inspiration of that which was written and all other forms. In writing, Scripture inspiration took place by the direct influence of the Holy Spirit upon the minds of the writers of Scripture through which their writings took on that form, even down to the words and syntax used, which was in the eternal counsel of God and was predestined by Him to be the means of grace to us that it is. In most of the epistles, apostolic inspiration will completely overlap with the inspiration of that which was written. The two aspects of inspiration thus coincide. Nevertheless, the two do not always overlap in this way. There may have been a choice between several epistles or even different copies of the same epistle whereby another factor is introduced. The fact that an epistle to the Colossians is preserved but one to the Laodiceans is lost can only be that the choice lay not in the hands of men but in the providence of God by which He permitted one to be lost and the other preserved. This does not mean that the one lost was not inspired, but that it was not intended by God as part of Scripture. The psalms of David would have been inspired to him as he sang them, but this alone did not give them a place in Scripture. Even as the notion of revelation and inspiration overlap at times, so too does that of the preservation of that which was inspired. God is directly at work in inspiration in the compiling of and, where applicable, the editing of the books of Scripture.
Inspiration is least obvious in forms such as the epistles, since their form is that of writing anyway. In those sections of Scripture taking the form of poetry, it is unlikely anything would have been changed, certainly were this the case those changes must have taken place under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as they were written down. The working of inspiration is more obvious in the recording of apocalyptic visions, especially one of such proportions as the Revelation of John. To obey the command to “write the things which thou hast seen” (1:19) when the visions were finished required a special sharpening of the memory. It was also necessary that the descriptive language in particular be appropriate to what John was writing.
It would have been different again in the writing of the historical books where the author may well have begun to compile what he wrote from data already available to him, perhaps gleaned from the testimony of others. Luke’s preface to his Gospel and the Acts provide an interesting insight.
“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.” (Luke 1:1-4)
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.” (Acts 1:1)
We learn that Luke was not the only one to have made a record of the things that Jesus said and did. As is implied by John at the end of his Gospel some of these may not have been entirely reliable and the need for something fixed and trustworthy was now becoming increasingly essential. Not being present himself, nevertheless, Luke had established for himself a perfect understanding of all things from the very first. In this, he had been guided by the testimony of those who had heard and seen the Lord. Having done this he then deemed himself competent to write down a narrative of all these things in good order. This procedure was doubtless followed by all writers of historical events of the Bible of which they were not themselves witnesses. The inspiration here lies in the preserving of the account from all error and its phrasing in precisely those words and structures determined by God, the Author behind the author.
No human being was present at creation, therefore no one but God Himself can be the author of information about what actually happened. Those things that happen to men are matters of human experience, so that the compiler of history would have probably followed a method similar to that followed by Luke. Their task then consisted in committing to writing a representation of the past that had thus formed itself in their minds. We must see at this point that that which was thus formed in their minds was itself in every detail facilitated by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That whilst what they were doing had the outward appearance of a work of purely human origin, in reality it was a work done entirely under the direct inspiration of the Spirit of God.
Often in Scripture there will appear more than one account of the same incident. This is particularly true in the Gospels. These are not repetitions but independent representations formed in the consciousness of the different writers under inspiration of the Holy Spirit giving different perspectives on the same incident and event. Inspiration does not override intellect, but subjects it to itself and uses it as an instrument. The words “all scripture is given by inspiration of God”(2 Timothy 3:16) clearly refers not to the writer, but to the products of the inspired writers. They remained writers, even compilers and poets, but in all their functions, the Holy Spirit worked upon their hearts and minds so that what they produced was error-free and carried divine authenticity and authority.
All those born again of the Spirit of God testify to the divine authority of the Bible by their submission and obedience to it as the written Word of God. The Lord Jesus, whose Spirit witnessed beforehand in the prophets, attributes absolute divine authority to the Scriptures and through His apostles He gives us the ground for that authority in divine inspiration. We can do no other than accept the same to be from God. Not to recognise it is to admit that the Lord Jesus Himself was mistaken about these things. Loss of an inspired Bible means loss of an infinite Saviour
Were the Bible not inspired, the reading of it would never bring a single soul from death to life. Those not born of God will invariably see the inspired Scriptures as a dead book. All within them tends to disown the authority of Scripture and resists it with every human effort. Inspiration at its heart amounts to this, that God in His sovereignty employs all the faculties He created in man that He might communicate to men what He has purposed to reveal with respect to the maintenance of His glory, the execution of His plan for the world, and the salvation of sinners.
Taken from David's book THE BIG PICTURE: the authority & integrity of the authentic Word of God. See publications page.