Does the Bible Inform and Determine Your Values?

Click to Listen Here

How you view the inspiration of Scripture — was it penned by God or is it a fabrication of man — is critically important relative to what is authoritative in your life.

Some time ago I was speaking to a friend on the Hill whom we all know. He said, “Ralph, you have almost convinced Congressman_______ that Scripture is inspired by God. But he realizes that if he agrees with you, then the Bible will become the final arbiter for his life and policy decisions.... You’ve got him thinking!” He went on to encourage me to continue to work through this with him.

What follows is the case for the inspiration of the New Testament; and as illustrated above, this study has huge implications: Where you come down on inspiration will ultimately determine whether you are the judge of Scripture or Scripture is the judge of you. Heavy stuff, my friend! Inspiration is a watershed issue.

May God bless and buoy your confidence in His Book as a result of this week’s study.

Read on, my friend.

Ralph Drollinger

Ralph Drollinger

I. INTRODUCTION

There are several questions which will help a Public Servant, or for that mat­ter, any individual, to address the ques­tion of God’s inspiration of Scripture.

First, what is the testimony of Scrip­ture itself? Did the authors of the Bible know they were penning Holy Writ — did they say they were writing God’s words? Did they make this claim themselves or is this an idea later foist­ed onto them by others wanting that to be the case?

Second, what is the testimony of the early Church regarding the books that now make up the Bible? Were the Scriptures deemed God’s Word by those closest to the human authors of the Bible? And…

Third, how exactly did our Bible get to be in the form we have today? It’s not as if the Bible suddenly dropped out of the sky.

Again, and akin to my prologue, the answers to these questions are ex­tremely important to our beliefs. If the Scriptures are from God, that is to say they are inspirated by Him to man, then the Bible is the last and final authority in one’s formation of principles, values and policy. Rightly so, the late Francis Schaeffer deemed inspiration to be the watershed issue of the Christian faith.1 Accordingly this week’s study is intended to build your understanding of, passion for, and conviction regard­ing the inspiration and authoritative­ness of the whole of the Bible.

HOLDING TO, OR ELSE REJECTING THE INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE GREATLY IMPACTS VALUE FORMATION

When Paul said to the Ephesian El­ders whom He had ministered to for over three years, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)2, he was express­ing in effect his conviction that what he was saying and writing was indeed inspired by God — and therefore irre­sponsible for a teacher of it, or a believ­er following it, to be slack regarding it; Paul’s statement assumes that God inspired what he was saying. It follows that such a statement is ridiculous if Paul did not believe his speech and writings were inspired by God and in­fused with His authority.

Members of the White House Cabinet and Congress face multiple demands on every hour of their time. Regular partic­ipation in our Members Bible studies requires persistent and determined ef­fort on your part to block and protect your schedule (from your schedulers!) for the regular consumption of God’s Book. Why would you do that if you don’t believe it is God’s Book? Con­versely, why would you not discipline yourself and prioritize Bible study if in­deed it is His Book? All that to say: your conclusions relative to inspiration even affect your weekly calendar!3

What follows are three reasons why one can trust in the plenary inspiration4 of the Bible — more specific to this les­son, the 27 New Testament books.

II. THE TESTIMONY OF THE AUTHORS

If today the whole of the NT is to be taken as the plenarily inspired author­itative, infallible, inerrant, oracle of God, then it stands to reason that the writers would know this, and would say so. Note the following NT writers in this regard:

A. THE APOSTLE PAUL 1CORINTHIANS 14:37; 2:13; 2CORINTHIANS 2:17

If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spir­itual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.

Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combin­ing spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

Likened to Acts 20:27, quoted in the introduction, the Apostle Paul clearly understood he was speaking and writ­ing for God.

B. THE APOSTLE JOHN REVELATION 1:1-2

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-ser­vants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Cf. Revelation 1:10-11; 21:5; 22:6; 22:18, 19).

This passage serves to indicate that the Apostle John (here referring to himself as His bond servant John) realized as he testified herein, that he is penning what Jesus Christ told him to reveal.

C. THE APOSTLE PETER 1PETER 1:12

…these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things into which angels long to look.

Here the Apostle Peter testifies that he (and other Apostles) who preached the Gospel did so via the Holy Spirit, the message being sent from heaven.

D. JESUS JOHN 12:48

“He who rejects Me and does not re­ceive My sayings, has one who judg­es him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”

Jesus speaks of God the Father’s judg­ment for one who rejects what Jesus says.

The skeptic will often reason that since the written NT did not exist when these men penned the aforementioned testimonies regarding the inspiration of Scripture, that their statements must have been in reference to the OT, which was then existent in canonical form. In rebuttal of this, note that the Apostles cross-pollinate one another. For instance, Peter testifies that Paul was writing Scripture, Paul testifies that Peter was writing Scripture, etc. Such is evident in the following pas­sages.

E. PETER TESTIFIES OF PAUL 2PETER 3:15,16

And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Peter directly testifies that what Paul wrote was Scripture. How do the skep­tics discount the strength of this pas­sage when they debate inspiration? Since this is such a strong and straight­forward passage of the Apostle Peter attesting to the Apostle Paul’s writing of Scriptures (graphe), many liberal theologians of the twentieth century have tried to claim it was written much later, and not by Peter. However, 2Pe­ter was widely circulated and accepted by Church leaders in the second centu­ry! They were obviously much closer to the book’s creation and publication and they classified it as being inspired just as they did the other 26 books of the NT; they did not question its au­thenticity nor its date of authorship like those of more recent days!

F. PAUL TESTIFIES OF PETER 1THESSALONIANS 2:13

For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

Wow! How much more direct can you be? Paul is referring not only to himself but to the other apostolic preachers as recorded in the birth of the Church, the chronological account of which is located in the NT Book of Acts. Heard from us refers to the other preachers, such as the Apostle Peter. What was heard? The word of God.

G. JUDE TESTIFIES OF THE APOSTLES JUDE 17-18

But you, beloved, ought to remem­ber the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own un­godly lusts.”

An Apostle is someone who not only saw, but who spoke on behalf of the second member of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. As such, Jude is saying that the Apostles spoke for God!

H. ALL OF SCRIPTURE

In addition to referring to their own and each other’s writings as inspired by God, both Paul and Peter attest to the whole inspiration of Scripture — all of Scripture — elsewhere in their various letters. What follows are sev­eral examples:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteous­ness; (2Timothy 3:16).

This is another very clear and straight­forward passage that again scores a knockout punch for “team inspira­tion!”

Of course theological liberals attempt to interpret this important passage in another way. Here’s their twist: this passage means All Scripture inspired by God is…thereby leaving open the possibility that some Scripture is not inspired and therefore it is incumbent upon man to figure out what is and what isn’t inspired (something they enjoy doing, witness the “Jesus Semi­nar” wherein liberal “scholars” voted on what was “inspired” and what was not). Don’t fall for their Scripture twisting antics! Save a lengthy gram­mar lesson in Greek, it is clear from similarly constructed passages in the Greek NT (Romans 7:12; 2Corinthi­ans 10:10; 1Timothy 1:15; 2:2; 4:4; and Hebrews 4:17) that such a trans­lation is intentionally misleading. All Scripture is inspired is the proper translation. Peter adds:

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no proph­ecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2Peter 1:20-21).

This passage clearly states that the Bi­ble was not and is not the product of human will. Rather, the writers were carried or moved along by God.

In summary of this second Roman nu­meral point in the outline, the testimo­ny of the inspirated authors of Scripture roundly indicates that they knew that what they were writing was from God! In the attempt to convey the idea that inspiration was later foisted onto their ancient writings, one cannot say that these men were unaware that when they wrote, God was inspirating their writings. These passages serve to indi­cate that they knew it when they wrote! Nor does it make sense to say these men were lying about what they wrote be­cause of everything else that surrounds and comes forth from their writings: It is obvious that these were men of great integrity!

SPECIFICS ON WHAT INSPIRATION ACTUALLY MEANS

  1. IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE WRITERS WERE INSPIRED EVERY MINUTE OF THEIR LIVES
It is All Scripture (graphe) that is inspired (theopnuestos) (or better, God-breathed; inspirated). Specifically it’s not the writers; it’s the Scriptures that are given by the breathing forth of God in and through them. When speaking and writing apart from the penning of Scripture the writers of the NT were human and subject to fallibility and inaccuracy.5
  1. IT MEANS THAT GOD WORKED IN UNISON WITH THE WRITER’S MIND
Sometimes God dictated through the writer ( Jeremiah 1:9, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth”) but most often God utilized the personality, education, and setting of His Prophets and Apostles.6 Note the following in this regard: “But, as clearly seen in Scripture itself, God’s divine truth more often flowed through the minds, souls, hearts, and emotions of His chosen human instruments. Yet, by whatever means, God divinely superintend­ed the accurate recording of His divinely breathed truth by His divinely chosen men. In a supernatural way, He has provided His divine Word in human words that any person, even a child, can be led by His Holy Spirit to understand sufficiently to be saved.”7
  1. IT MEANS THAT ONLY THE ORIGINAL AUTOGRAPHA8 WERE INSPIRED
Being pro-inspiration implies one believes only in the error-free original autographa. Critics point out that none of the original manuscripts is in existence today. This is a challenge: copying scribes could and did err. But it does not decide the inspiration debate. Note the following in this regard:

“The NT Scholar is not significantly hampered by the unavailability of the autographa, however, because of the science and art of textual criti­cism. The abundance of manuscripts of the NT or portions thereof and the earliness of their dates in relation to the original compositions places him in a better position to know precisely what was originally written than for any other ancient writing.”9

III. THE TESTIMONY OF THE SECOND-CENTURY CHURCH

The last book of the NT to be written was the apocalypse, which we call to­day the book of Revelation. The Apos­tle John around A.D. 94-96 wrote this. Thus the era of the first-century church came to a close and the writ­ing of the NT was completed (cf. Revelation 22:18-19). Many of the NT books were known as encyclicals, meaning they were intended for more than one audience to read. Soon all 27 books would become encyclicals as the various papyrus10 manuscripts that contained the NT books were passed around and often recopied as they circulated from church to church during this period. Importantly, they were immediately viewed as authori­tative because in addition to Christ’s words, the Apostles had always been seen as Christ’s representatives, having been appointed by Him (cf. Acts 1:8). There was never any reason for the sec­ond-century church to doubt that the Apostles were Christ’s spokesmen. As a matter of fact, after the ascension and the day of Pentecost they were even given miraculous sign gifts by Him to further legitimize their appointment and authority. Given their own written affirmations (as previously mentioned) they were viewed and accepted by the early church leaders as authoritative. There was never any doubt.

Moreover, the Apostles’ writings con­tained commands that they be read in the church services. In that the early church patterned their services after those of the Jewish synagogues (where the inspired OT Scriptures were given preeminence and authority by their regular reading in the worship service) the internal demand by the Apostles to have their Apostolic writings read along side of the OT readings com­municated a huge message both to the audience then and to the reader of the Bible today: their apostolic writings are equally Scripture! Note such apos­tolic commands to the early church in the following passages:

A. COLOSSIANS 4:16

When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from La­odicea [Ephesus].

B. 1THESSALONIANS 5:27

I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.

C. REVELATION 1:3

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

The second selection, 1Thessalonians 5:27, especially underscores the idea of apostolic commanding. The Greek word for adjure (enorkizo) means “to put under an oath.” This is very forceful lan­guage: Paul put the Church at Thessalo­nica under oath by God to read his letter to them and in the main service! Again: The fact that all of these verses explic­itly say to read the Apostolic writings in the church services is akin to plac­ing these writings on par with OT Scripture.

By the middle of the second century, “the authority of the apostles was ac­cepted as equal to that of the OT. Ap­ostolic writings were read in church services along with those of the OT. By the end of the period the principle of a fixed and written NT canon was estab­lished.”11

By the end of the second century the classification of the NT writings as scriptural is evident in the apologetic writings of Irenaeus. Irenaeus was a dis­ciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus wrote to de­fend the faith from heretical teachings in his compendium of books titled, Against All Heresies. In his treatment he quotes 21 of the 27 NT books as his authority in refuting doctrinal er­rors. And his NT quotes far outweigh his use of the OT. As of yet, the 27 NT books had still not been formally “sewn together” in what is referred to as the canonization of Scripture.

What is especially important about the aforementioned is the acceptance and adherence of the second-centu­ry church leaders and believers to the scriptural authority of the apostolic writers.

THE SECOND-CENTURY CHURCH HAD A MUCH CLOSER VANTAGE POINT THAN WE DO: LOOKING BACK THEY COULD SEE THE BAKERY THROUGH THEIR BINOCULARS

…so to speak. How can liberal theo­logians criticize the apostolic writings from their vantage point 2000 years later? How can they think they have a better perspective than the second and third-century church leaders who per­sonally witnessed and supervised the germination of the encyclicals into the formal canonization of the Scriptures? Comparatively speaking, today’s at­tempts to superimpose personal ideas on the clear pronouncements of apos­tolic authority, as well as first and sec­ond century church leader attestations, are not only arrogant but laughable!

IV. THE TESTIMONY OF THE CANONIZING PROCESS

The canonization of Scripture did not occur until the early fourth centu­ry. From A.D. 200 to 300 the church knew of the basic contents of the NT and continued to view them as inspired and authoritative (although precise limits had not yet been defined). Prior to discussing the actual formalizing of the canon, it is essential to point out what the word means.

The English word canon is trans-lit­erated from the same word in Greek. Its etymology stems from its most lit­eral understanding: “a cane or a reed” seguing into meaning a “rod” (since a cane or reed, like a yard stick could be used as an ancient measuring device). Over time it took on the meaning of a “bar.” And since a reed became relat­ed to the idea of measuring, the word took on the metaphorical meaning of a “standard.” Used in literature, it meant, “A list of works correctly attributed to an author.”12 Used in English today it means the authoritative books accept­ed as Holy Scripture.

In a proper sense, the canon actually came into existence when the original penning of the autographa occurred — even though it took the church many years to recognize that. In other words, the authority is in the books them­selves — not the body that later “can­onized” them.13

IMPORTANTLY, THE CANON CONSISTS OF THOSE GOD-INSPIRED BOOKS WHEN PENNED BY GOD’S AGENTS

Much more could be said about the historical authenticating events that led up to the official recognition of NT canonization. It is a fascinating story — for another time. Today for the sake of brevity I will cut to the chase.

Diocletian was the Roman Emperor at the dawn of the fourth century. He was a vicious man who ordered all reli­gious books be burned in his attempt to have everyone worship him as god. Christians risked death by hiding a copy of Scripture. One person who lived through this ordeal was Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 270-340). He was a respected church leader and historian who spent a great amount of time and attention on the canon. The future of the Scriptures was at stake. In his book, Church History, he speaks much about the subject of the canon.

In 313 Constantine conquered the Ro­man Empire and declared Christianity as a legal religion. Soon thereafter he commissioned Eusebius to make him 50 copies of the NT. Eusebius followed through and this led to the actual “sew­ing together” of the books of the NT. Until this time the NT existed in vari­ous codices14 and the criteria for deter­mining which books would actually be in the canon had not been solidified. Eusebius may be credited with achiev­ing that amongst the church leaders.

Athanasius then completed Eusebius’ work. Therein the extent of the NT is codified and ratified by the Church Counsel of Laodicea in A.D. 365. The pronouncement of this gathering read, “Psalms composed by private men must not be read in the church, nor books not admitted into the canon, but only the canonical [books] of the New and Old Testaments.”

Following the Laodicea gathering, in two subsequent church leader coun­cils, the canon was further ratified throughout the world. These councils were: The Council of Hippo in A.D. 393 and The Council of Carthage in A.D. 397. It is in this latter counsel that Augustine said, “[It is decreed] that nothing except the canonical Scriptures be read in the church under the name of divine Scripture…Of the New Testament the four gospels, Acts, thirteen epistles of St. Paul, the epistle of the same to the Hebrews, Peter (2), John (3), James, Jude, Apocalypse...” States Westcott:

“GENERAL ACCORD WITH THIS DECISION WAS EVIDENCED IN THE PRACTICE OF ALL THE CHURCHES FROM THAT POINT ON.”15

The NT was now canonized. The la­tently authoritative writings had now been formally recognized for what they always had been since their orig­ination, collected and bound. The church had assented unanimously, — inspired by God!

V. SUMMARY

There are still many who espouse Theo­logical Liberalism. But I must add it is a dying breed because what results from their theology is little motivation to save or evangelize the lost: too few converts, their churches are aging and merging.

Whether or not the Bible is inspired by God is a watershed issue. Where one stands on inspiration will either solidi­fy or discount the Bible as authoritative in terms of one’s personal formation of principles and values, and for a Public Servant, one’s policy decisions. If you accede to inspiration, then it follows that the Word becomes authoritative in your life. If you reject inspiration, you conclude that you, or some liberal pastor, is the final authority.

When you think about it:

REJECTING INSPIRATION MEANS YOU OR SOME OTHER HUMAN STANDS IN AUTHORITY OVER GOD

Intellectual arguments against inspi­ration could be a smokescreen for a heart in rebellion to God. If you ar­gue against the authors and those who knew the authors, you are argu­ing against history and the internal attestation of Scripture itself! Submit to Scripture, submit to the revealed Christ of Scripture and follow the pre­cepts of Him and His Book! Allow Je­sus and His Word to inform and deter­mine your thinking, your values, your decisions and actions. He loves you and His ways are always best for you and the nation! It is not as if God cre­ated mankind and left him without a manual to guide him personally — and in the governing decisions Public Ser­vants must make for the betterment of a nation. All the right solutions to our personal and national problems are right there in His inspired Book!

The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple, states Psalm 19:7. God’s Word will give you the skill to live life (wisdom). And He promises He will reward you if you obey Him. Verse 11 of the same Psalm states, In keeping them there is great reward. Inspiration is a pivotal, watershed issue! The Scriptures are the word of God! Accede today to their authority in your life!

1 Schaeffer, Francis He is There and He is not Silent (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1972) 2 Note too that Paul and other NT authors strongly condemned those who in any way adulterated or diminished the Scriptures (cf. Galatians 1:6-9; 2Corinthians 2:17; 2Tim¬othy 4:3,4; Revelation 22:18,19) 3 Harold Lindsell’s classic book, The Battle For The Bible, was penned after Fuller Theo¬logical Seminary had abandoned inerrancy. He went on to help found Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary with a high view of inerrancy. In his book he builds the case for how the abandonment of inerrancy leads to missiological atrophy. All that to say, in¬spiration or not determines a myriad of things in the Christian life: missions, national policy and even the discipline of Bible study attendance. 4 Plenary Inspiration is an historic reformation term that codifies the belief that God is the ultimate author of the Bible in its entirety. That is, God’s superintending work in inspiration extends to the whole Bible and to each part of the Bible...and that it is au¬thoritative. (Cf. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms). 5 Nowhere in Scripture, including Matthew 16:18-19, can one support the idea of ex-ca¬thedra (Latin, “from the chair”). I.e. that there is supposedly a lineage of leadership stemming from the Apostle Peter to a present-day church leader, who when he speaks ex-cathedra is speaking for God. 6 Sometimes this included the use of an amanuensis, which is a secretary to whom they dictated. 7 John MacArthur The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 2 Timothy (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1995) p 143 8 Autographs, or manuscripts written by the author. 9 Dr. Robert Thomas The Canon of the New Testament, excerpted article. p. 2 10 This was (and still is) a sedge plant that was made into a primitive form of paper. Later, vellum or parchment, a processed animal skin that was much more expensive than papy¬rus, was used in the copying of NT books. 11 Dr. Robert Thomas The Canon of the New Testament, excerpt notes, page 13 12 Merrill Tenney, The New Testament, A Survey, p. 417 13 In theology this is termed “a collection of authoritative writings” versus, “an authori¬tative collection of writings.” Whereas the former stresses the latent authority of the documents, the later stresses the authority of the collection agency — i.e. the church rather than the books. 14 A codex (plural codices) was an early, primitive form of a modern day book, contrasted with a scroll, which was a rolled up papyrus mss. 15 Westcott, The Bible p. 189

For more information please visit capmin.org. Capitol Ministries is also available on OnePlace.com and LightSource.com.