Our Credible Bible (Lesson 5)
What Scripture Says, God Says
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
One way to undermine the significance of any teaching is to say it is unimportant. This is how some skeptics try to undercut the doctrine of inerrancy. They say, since we do not have the original manuscripts, the doctrine itself is superfluous. This is the equivalent of saying God Himself evidently did not think the written Scriptures were very important.
This doctrine matters. It is essential to the life and success of Christianity. In all of redemption history, Holy Writ has been deemed vital. For 40 years, Levites carried in the Wilderness the tablets God wrote. What Old Testament prophets wrote was often a product of “Thus saith the Lord”.
In the early church, “Scripture says” and “God says” were one and the same thing. Luther, on trial at Worms, declared, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” John Wesley said, “At any price give me the book of God!” My Grandpa Marshall called it “The Book”, as if no other books were worth comparing to it.
No questioning of the authority of Scripture has ever had a positive impact on God’s people. Whenever Israel strayed from God, they always strayed first from His word. Whenever they returned to God, they first returned to His Word.
I rejoice at calls to prayer for revival I hear in our day, but am appalled at the dearth of preaching I hear about the six great Old Testament revivals. This troubles me because by ignoring them we miss a deep truth; all six were begun, not primarily in prayer, but in response to rediscovering God’s written Word.
Revivals under Joshua (JS 8:32), Asa (2 CH 14:4), Jehoshaphat (2 CH 17:9), Hezekiah (2 K 18:6), Josiah (2 K 22:8), and Ezra (EZ 7:10) were “Bible revivals”. God convicted people by a re-discovery of Scripture.
If revival comes in our nation and churches, it will descend on the wings of prayer and ascend from the pages of the written Word. Revival hinges on both/and not either/or. Keep praying hard about revival. At the same time, let’s ratchet up a notch our talking about the Bible.
Anyone who wavers on Bible-authority eventually fades off into trivial oblivion. Spiritual disaster looms at the end of this skepticism, as is being proved in Western Europe, and in High Protestantism in the USA.
The Trinity believed the holy writings were important. God the Father wrote the Ten Commandments with His own finger. God the Son said Scripture cannot be broken, that is, annulled; its authority cannot be denied (John 10:35). The Son began His post-baptism ministry with thrice saying “It is written” (MT 4:1-11). Near its end, close to Emmaus, He said, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (LK 24:25). “Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27).
God the Holy Spirit guided the authors themselves. “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” (2 Peter 1:20b-21). They wrote for God because they were borne along by the Holy Spirit. They did not do this writing on their own initiative.
As a result, we have something better than if an eyewitness were giving testimony of something he or she saw firsthand. We have a Holy-Spirit-moved prophetic word. Scripture is more reliable than any eyewitness’ testimony, for the latter is a matter of private interpretation. Scripture, though, is not a result of human investigation, or the production of the writer’s thinking.
This role of the writers of Holy Writ in the moment they were writing Scripture is a study worth investigating. Paul dealt with this issue in his last epistle. After mentioning “the sacred writings” (2 TM 3:15b) Timothy grew up on, Paul gave us an analysis of their “sacred” nature, saying, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 TM 3:16a).
The word “inspiration” implies an influence from outside producing results inside. Inspiration means a supernatural impelling and directing of the words that were written. To say the Bible is inspired is to say its words are a divinely determined product given through the men Peter said were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 P 1:20b-21).
Literally interpreted, 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed”. God breathed out the very words. Thus the words themselves have divine authority. The Bible not only contains the words of God, as if some of its words may not be God’s words. It is the words of God. In Scripture the breath of God was often mentioned to picture the irresistible outflow of His power. The breath of His mouth made all the stars (PS 33:6b). God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul (GN 2:7). The “breath of the Almighty hath given (us) life” (Job 33:4b). If God withdrew His breath from us, we would perish (Job 34:14-15); therefore you and I are divine creations. So is the Bible, for it was birthed and lives on the breath of God.
The Trinity invested in the Bible. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all focused attention on Holy Writ. This is why no one has ever been able to silence the Bible, and no one ever will. It is the God-book.
Just as we believe God directly intervened in human history to bring us redemption through the blood of Jesus, we also believe He intervened in human history to give us a guide whereby we could confidently know of His redemptive works among us. God did things in the incarnation no one can undo. God wrote things in the Bible no one can erase. God did not leave us ignorant of Himself. We are not adrift, totally clueless as to God’s dealings among us.
Before ending these lessons on the credibility of the Bible, I want to allude to a matter Warfield called attention to in his classic book. He gave instances of where “God says” and “Scripture says” were used interchangeably in New Testament passages referring to Old Testament passages. In Matthew 19:4 Jesus stated that God was the One who said in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife.” But the Genesis passage does not mention God as the speaker. It is merely a statement of Scripture. Jesus was saying the verse can be assumed to have been a declaration of God solely because it was a saying of Scripture. Paul followed the Lord’s lead in this, and handled the Gensis 2:24 passage in the same way in 1 Corinthians 6:16.
In Romans 9:17 Paul wrote, “The Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you.” But in the original text (Exodus 9:16) God, not Scripture, is speaking. Paul referenced this again in Galatians 3:8, where he wrote the Scripture says Abraham will be blessed. However, Genesis 12:1-3 records God said this.
When referencing Holy Writ, “God” and “Scripture” were, for Jesus and Paul, interchangeable. “Scripture” and “God” lay so close together in the minds of the writers of the New Testament that they could naturally speak of “Scripture” doing what Scripture records God as doing” (Warfield), and vice versa. In other words, what Scripture says, God says.
Other examples help reinforce this. Luke recorded the sermon of Peter, which stated the words of David were the words of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:16). Peter’s thoughts on this matter were echoed by the congregation at large (Acts 4:25). Matthew (2:15) claimed the Lord spoke through the prophet Hosea (11:1). Paul believed God had promised good news through His prophets in the Old Testament (Romans 1:2).
A final addendum: we long felt the bulk of Jesus’ teachings were passed down orally. Recent research indicates the early followers of rabbis in first century Palestine used wax tablets to write down the comments of their leaders. If the disciples did make private notes, it would help explain the recording of long speeches made by Jesus. Either way, the oral had to be made into the written fairly soon because of the demand for Scriptures to be read in church services.