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Bible Inspiration: Infallible, Inerrant, Verbally Inspired?

Inspiration of the Bible:
Is the Bible Infallible, Inerrant, and Verbally Inspired?

The nature and extent of Bible inspiration contrasted to modernism and liberalism. Do Scriptures claim to be the infallible, inerrant, verbal revelation of God's will?

Did the Bible writers claim to be inspired and guided directly by God? Do the Scriptures claim Divine inspiration? Do they claim to be the infallible, inerrant, verbal revelation of God's will? Did God guide inspired men in the very words they wrote? Could the Scriptures contain errors or mistakes in history, science, or doctrine? Is the Bible a true and accurate revelation of the will of God for man? This is a study of the nature and extent of Bible inspiration: the claims of Scripture contrasted to the views of modernism and liberalism.

Click here to listen to this study as a free recorded MP3 message.

Introduction:

Some people teach that the Bible writers never claimed to be inspired or directly guided by God. They say that neither the writers nor God viewed Scripture as a revelation of the mind of God which we should follow as a pattern for our lives. As such, they deny the infallible, inerrant, verbal inspiration of Scripture.

Other people say the Bible is inspired in that the writers did put down some of God's ideas, but maybe men still put some of their own uninspired ideas in it. For example, maybe God just taught the men right ideas, but left them to express those ideas as they see best.

Others say the Bible writers speak the truth in matters of religious faith and morals, but when they speak about history or science they are writing as humans and may be wrong. Therefore, we cannot accept the Bible accounts of miracles and the lives of Bible characters as necessarily valid.

The results of these views of inspiration are that maybe there is some error in the words written by "inspired" men: maybe we can, even should, reject parts of it as not being true. Such views are called "modernism" or "liberalism." Yet those who hold these views may still claim to be Christians who believe in God, Christ, and the Bible.

This study deals with the basic question: In what sense, or to what extent, is the Bible inspired? 1) Did the Bible writers really claim inspiration? Did they say that what they wrote was God's will? 2) Did God actually guide the words the men chose in expressing the teachings (verbal inspiration)? 3) Could it be that some words in the writings of these men were true and accurate, but some may have been mistaken in some way? Or is the Bible an infallible and inerrant revelation?

Notice the subject as outlined for us in Revelation 19:9 - "These are true words of God."


I. These Words Are from God
- A Message Originating with God


Revelation 19:9 - John claimed "These are true words of God".

Consider what other Bible writers claimed for their writings. Did they actually claim God guided their writings or is this something modern people attributed to them though they never claimed it? Are there just one or two references about it, or is this something they claimed frequently?

A. Old Testament Writers Claimed Their Message Was from God

Isaiah 1:2 - The Lord has spoken.
Jeremiah 10:1,2 - Hear the word which the Lord speaks. Thus says the Lord...
Ezekiel 1:3 - The word of the Lord came expressly.
Hosea 1:1,2 - The word of the Lord that came ... the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said...
Jonah 1:1 - The word of the Lord came to Jonah.
Micah 1:1 - The word of the Lord that came to Micah.
Zech. 1:1 - The word of the Lord came to Zechariah.

[See also Joel 1:2; Amos 1:3,6, etc; Obad. 1:1; Zeph. 1:1; Hab. 2:2; Deuteronomy 30:9,10; Numbers 12:6-8; 23:5,12,16,19; plus see references in other sections.]

B. New Testament Writers Claimed Their Message Was from God

1 Corinthians 14:37 - The things I write are commands of Lord.

Ephesians 3:3-5 - The things Paul wrote were made known to him by revelation. Formerly these things were not known but have now been revealed by the Spirit to apostles & prophets.

1 Thessalonians 4:15 - We say by the word of the Lord.

1 Timothy 4:1 - The Spirit expressly says.

[2 Thessalonians 3:12; John 12:48-50; Acts 16:32; Romans 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:5]

C. Inspired Men Claimed that What Other Writers Wrote Was from God.

Matthew 1:22 - A quotation was spoken by the Lord through the prophet.

Matthew 2:15 - Another passage was spoken by the Lord through the prophet.

Acts 1:16 - The Spirit spoke by the mouth of David.

Acts 28:25 - The Holy Spirit spoke by Isaiah ... prophet.

Hebrews 1:1,2 - God spoke in times past to the fathers by prophets. But now He has spoken to us by His Son.

Matthew 15:4 - Jesus Himself confirmed that Scriptures were from God. He quoted the Law revealed through Moses and said it was what God commanded.

Matthew 22:29-32 - He said the Scriptures were spoken by God.

Luke 10:16 - He also confirmed the inspiration of the New Testament for He told the apostles who wrote it: He who hears you, hears Me; he who rejects you rejects Me and rejects Him who sent Me

John 16:13 - He promised the men who penned the New Testament that the Spirit would guide them into all truth

To deny or question that the Bible writers spoke from God is to deny and reject the truthfulness of their own statements about themselves, their statements about one another, and Jesus' statements about Scriptures.

[Matthew 19:4-6; John 10:35; 2 Chronicles 34:14-19; Isaiah 2:1-3; Matthew 22:43; Romans 1:1,2; Hebrews 3:7; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20f; 3:15f; Acts 4:24f]

D. The Writers Denied They Wrote by Human Wisdom

Some people think the writers wrote some ideas that were their own. Hence, the Bible may contain some things from God, but it may also contain some things the writers originated without Divine guidance. What do the Bible writers say about this?

Jeremiah 14:14 - If a man speaks as though he has a message from God when God really did not speak to him and the message is just his own idea, that man is a false prophet and deserves to be punished and rejected as a prophet (23:16,26; Ezekiel 13:2-7,17).

Clearly if the Bible writers wrote a message of their own origin, then they are condemned as false prophets by their own words.

Ezekiel 3:26,27 - A prophet was not to speak until God opens his mouth ... When God did move him to speak it would be a thus says the Lord God.

Matthew 10:19,20 - It is not you who speaks but the spirit of the Father speaks in you.

1 Corinthians 2:4,5 - Preaching was not with words of human wisdom. Their faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but power of God. Faith is based on the message preached (Romans 10:17). To the extent the message is human in origin, then the faith rests in the men who originated it. Paul expressly did not want their faith to rest on human wisdom but in God's wisdom and power.

Galatians 1:8-12 - The gospel came not from man but was revealed from Jesus. To preach another is to be accursed. Hence, to preach a message that is human in origin is to bring God's curse upon us.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 - The message is not word of men but the word of God.

2 Peter 1:20,21 - Prophecy never came by will of man, but holy men spoke as moved by the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 22:18,19 - If men add their teachings to the book, God will add the plagues written. They were not just forbidden to write something entirely human. They were forbidden to take a message from God and then add something human to it.

The writers themselves say they did not write human ideas, but it was God's will. They said if anyone did put in human ideas, God's curse would be on them and they deserved to be destroyed. If we claim there are human ideas in the writings, then we are calling the men liars, false teachers, deserving of punishment.

[Numbers 22:35; chap. 23 (see below); Deuteronomy 18:18-22; Matthew 15:9]

E. The Writers Claimed Inspiration for Everything in Scripture

The writers did not claim that part of their writings were God's will and maybe part was not. They claimed everything they wrote was from God so it was all authoritative.

This follows from the last point. The writers were prohibited from adding anything human. If anything human was added, they were under a curse. Hence, if none of it is human, then all of it must be of God.

Note also the following Scriptures:

Exodus 24:3,4,7,8 - God's will included all that was written. The people agreed to keep it all. But man-made teachings are not authoritative such that men must obey them in religion (Matthew 15:9). If all must be obeyed, then all must be from God.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 - The king was to copy the law and keep all that was written.

Joshua 1:7,8 - Joshua was to observe all written in the book.

Matthew 4:4 - Man must live by every word from the mouth of God.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 - All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching & furnishing to all good works.

The belief that we should obey everything Scripture requires of us goes hand in hand with belief that it is all God's word. Invariably when people begin to say there may be some parts of the Bible that are not from God or not accurate, you soon find there are Biblical requirements that they do not want to obey.

There is simply no reason to believe you must obey all Biblical requirements unless you believe it is all accurately God's word. Bible passages claiming we must obey it all, then are saying necessarily that it is all inspired.

Note especially these passages from 2 Peter:

2 Peter 1:20,21 - No Scripture is of private interpretation; for prophecy never came by will of man, but men spoke as moved by the Holy Spirit. Consider the significance of "interpretation" here. The context shows the reference is to the prophets who wrote the Scriptures, not to the readers of the Scriptures.

Note: For (this explains the previous statement) prophecy never came by will of man, but men spoke as moved by the Holy Spirit. The passage is discussing how prophecy came and how prophets spoke, not how it is studied.

If God just gave ideas and men explained them as they thought best, Scripture would be of private interpretation (like the difference between what the president says and what the news commentators say about what the president said)! But this is not the case with any Scripture or any prophecy.

Instead, the men spoke as moved by the Spirit. The Spirit carried them along to a destination of His choosing, not of the prophets' choosing (like a person carrying a burden - Luke 23:26, or a ship being borne by the wind - Acts 27:15,17). This passage directly disproves the view that God gave men ideas and they explained them as best they could by human wisdom.

2 Peter 3:15,16 - This concept of inspiration applies to the New Testament as well as to the Old Testament, because later in the same book Peter said writings of Paul in the New Testament are Scripture like "other Scriptures." [Cf. 1 Timothy 5:18 to Luke 10:7]

[John 14:26; 16:13: Deuteronomy 31:9-13; 18:18-22; Josh 23:6; Jeremiah 25:13; 30:1-4; 26:1-4; Acts 3:22,23; Mat. 28:18-20;


II. These Are Words of God
- God Gave the Words.


Revelation 19:9 - These are true sayings ("words" - ASV) of God. God did not just give the ideas and let men choose the words to express them. God guided the men in the very words they chose so that every word was the word God wanted, not the words the men chose by human wisdom. This is exactly what 2 Peter 1:20,21 said. Note other Scriptures.

Exodus 4:14-16; 7:1,2 - In calling Moses, God defined the work of a prophet. Aaron was Moses' "prophet" like Moses was God's prophet. A prophet was a spokesman. The one who originated the message put the words in the prophet's mouth.

The point is that Moses claimed he could not speak well. He thought it would be up to him to express the ideas God gave him (like some people think today). God said He would be with the prophet's mouth. It wasn't up to the prophet to decide the words. He just spoke what words God put in his mouth.

Exodus 24:3,4,8 - Moses gave the words the Lord spoke.
Deuteronomy 18:18-22 - God put His words in prophet's mouth.
2 Samuel 23:2 - The Spirit's word was on my tongue.
Isaiah 51:16 - I [God] put my words in your mouth.
Isaiah 59:21 - My words which I put in your mouth.
Jeremiah 1:4-9 - I have put My words in your mouth.
Jeremiah 30:1-4 - Write all the words I have spoken.
Jeremiah 36:1-4 - Write all the words I have spoken.
Ezekiel 3:4 - Speak with My words to them
Zech. 7:12 -The words the Lord sent by His Spirit.
Matthew 10:19,20 - Given by Spirit what and how to speak.

1 Corinthians 2:4 - Preaching was not in words of human wisdom, so faith would not stand in man's wisdom but in power of Spirit. This could only be so if the words were given by the Spirit, not by the man.

1 Corinthians 2:10-13 - The message spoken was given to the men by the Spirit. Then they spoke in words taught them by the Spirit not by man. If the Spirit just gave the ideas and the men chose the words, this would be just the opposite of what this verse teaches.

What these passages describe is sometimes called "verbal" inspiration. To truly believe the Bible is inspired, one must believe every word is exactly the word God wanted.

This does not mean there is no human element in the words, for God used the men as they were with their human language, human vocabulary, human forms of expressions, and sometimes even the knowledge they had gained by research of personal eyewitness, etc. (Luke 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:1-8). But God then used them as they were and guided them to speak the words that accurately expressed His will.

[Exodus 32:15,16; 24:12; 34:1, 27,28; 31:18; 20:1; Numbers 22:35; 23:5,12,16; Ezek 1:3; Hos 1:1; 2 Peter 1:20,21; Jeremiah 25:13]


III. These Are True Words
- No Errors in Scripture


Revelation 19:9 - These are true sayings of God. If the men chose the words in the writing of Scripture, some say maybe there are errors in it. But if every word is from God, then there cannot be errors because God is infallible and makes no errors.

Numbers 22:35,38; 23:5,12,16,19,20 - A prophet must speak what God says. But God does not lie nor repent. He does not deliberately tell things not true, and he cannot make mistakes because of lack of knowledge since He knows everything. So there cannot be anything untrue in what He reveals.

Deuteronomy 18:18-22 - The test of a prophet is, if he makes a mistake in prophetic utterance, he is not from God. Don't fear him.

Note: if a man claims to be a prophet, but he makes a mistake in his prophetic speech, then the thing you know is that God did not send him at all, so don't accept anything he says as being revealed by God. In truth he is a false teacher. Some say they accept some of the Bible, but reject other parts of it; this passage says take it all or reject it completely.

Psalm 19:7-9 - God's word is perfect, right, true.
Psalm 33:4 - God's word is right & done faithfully.
Psalm 119:128,142,160 - All God's precepts are right.
John 17:17 - God's word is truth.
Romans 3:4 - Let God be true, though men may lie.
Titus 1:2,3 - God, who can't lie, manifested the word.
Hebrews 6:18 - It is impossible for God to lie.
Revelation 21:5 - The words written are true and faithful.

If one claims that the Bible errs, then either he must completely reject the Bible as God's will, or else He is saying that God is not infallible. For the Bible says it is all from God, and it says any teacher should be rejected if he says he speaks for God when he doesn't. If the message is in error anywhere, then either the speaker is not from God at all or else God made a mistake!

Hence, we must conclude that there are no errors at all in the Bible writings. This is sometimes referred to by saying the Scriptures are "infallible and inerrant." To truly believe the Bible is inspired one must believe there were no errors in what the men wrote.

[Psa 147:4,5; Job 37:16; 1 Peter 5:12; Galatians 1:20; John 10:35; Jas 1:25]


IV. The Consequences of Denying Infallible, Verbal Inspiration


When people say the words of the Bible are not all God's words but some are human in origin, or when they say there may be errors in the Bible, consider the consequences.

A. We Are Left without Any Reliable Source of Authority or Guidance in Religion.

Matthew 22:32 - Jesus claimed the Bible language was so exact we can make arguments that rely on the tense of verbs. But if in fact there could be errors in the writings, no such arguments would be reliable. How would we know what parts are correct and reliable and what parts are incorrect and unreliable?

2 Timothy 3:16,17; John 10:35; Acts 3:22,23; Matthew 28:18-20; John 12:48 - Bible writers said the Scriptures were reliable sources of authority and guidance in religion because they were God's will. They said we must accept all that is taught or stand condemned. They said we will be judged by what is taught. They said we must reject all human doctrines that differ from Scripture (Matt. 15:9; Gal. 1:8,9). But if there may be errors in Scripture, then we should obey only the parts that are true. How can we decide what is true and what is not?

B. We Begin a Course of Continual Rejection of Bible Teachings.

When we conclude that the Bible may be in error on some points, we almost invariably begin to question and deny more and more of what it teaches. People may start out saying they don't believe creation (or the Flood, or some other miracle) occurred the way the Bible describes it . Or they may say they don't believe the Bible is correct in its teaching about women being subject to men, or they reject the writings of Paul.

But such denials leave us with no grounds for believing anything else the Bible says. Disbelief is progressive. Whenever we say, "I know the Bible teaches this but I still cannot accept it as true," we have opened the door for more and more unbelief. The camel's nose is in the tent. We have started down the slippery slope. There is no logical stopping point. Soon we deny more and more miracles or more and more doctrines, etc., because we have undermined the foundation of belief.

C. We Deny the Claims of the Bible Writers, Necessarily Implying They Are Liars or False Teachers.

We have seen that the writers said they did speak from God, they did not speak their own ideas, all they said was from God, and therefore it could not be in error. To deny these claims is to say they were lying or insane. In any case, they were not true teachers of God, but by their own statements they must be false teachers. If so, we should not follow their words as having any authority in religion, but should completely reject them as we do the Koran or the Book of Mormon.

The claims of the Bible writers are such that they will not let us take a middle ground, as modernists try to do. Either we must accept the Bible as completely God's word - it is not the word of men, but every word was given by God with no possible errors - or else we must completely reject it as having no authority in religion at all. In that case we must conclude that the Bible is the product of evil, hypocritical men. We cannot say the Bible is a good book but may teach error sometimes.

D. We Deny that Jesus Is God's Divine Son and Make Him too a False Teacher.

Some want to say they believe in Jesus, but don't necessarily believe that everything in the Bible is true.

But the Bible is the only way to know anything about Jesus' life and teaching - John 5:46,47; 20:30,31; Acts 17:23; 18:28; etc.

How can you know Jesus is God's Son and a true prophet without appealing to Scripture? In fact, what good would it do you to believe in Jesus without the Scriptures, since you would have no idea what He did or did not teach?

We have seen that Jesus claimed the Bible was from God, and that both Old and New Testament writers spoke God's will.

He quoted the Old Testament writers as authoritative, and He said the New Testament writers would be guided by the Holy Spirit. If we say this is not true, then we have rejected Jesus and His teachings just the same as we saw, in the last point, that we are rejecting the Bible writers.

Luke 10:16 - Further, Jesus said that, if we receive His apostles and prophets we receive Him, but if we reject them we reject Him and His Father. Hence, if we say these men may have taught error, then as we have seen, we are rejecting what they said, and therefore rejecting Him.

E. We Bring the Curse of God on Ourselves.

To claim there are errors in Scripture is to reject the claims of the Bible writers and the claims of Jesus Himself. We cannot disbelieve those teachings and yet have the blessings those teachings offer.

Galatians 1:8,9 - If we preach a different gospel, we are accursed. But the gospel says, even in the context of this passage (vv 11,12), that the message is from God not man, therefore it is infallible, etc. If we say this is not so, we preach a different gospel and we are accursed.

1 Thessalonians 4:8 - To reject what the inspired men said is to reject, not men, but God, because God guided the men by the Holy Spirit. The men said what they wrote was God's word, not their own. If this is true and you reject, then you have rejected the word of God Himself.

Conclusion

There is no middle ground. We must accept the Bible as exactly what it claims to be: God's verbally inspired and infallible word. Or else we must reject it completely and give it no weight of authority in our lives at all.

To decide which to believe, we must consider the evidence that it is or is not from God (fulfilled prophecy, unity, miracles, etc.). This is material for another study (see links below). But to compromise and say we believe some of it but not all of it, is to take a position that the teachings of the Bible itself will not allow.

What is your view of Scripture? Do you accept it? If so, have you obeyed it?

Note: We have a number of other articles about the authority of Scripture on our web site. If you would like to study further, please see the related links listed below.

(C) Copyright 1993,2002, David E. Pratte 
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Topics for further Bible study

The Claims of the Bible
Evidences for God, Jesus, & the Bible
What Claims Did Jesus Make?
Bible Validation: How to Test It
Evidence for Jesus' Resurrection
Why So Much Religious Confusion and Disagreement?
Modernism, Miracles, and the Bible
The Preservation of the Bible
The Bible vs. Denominational Creeds
Divine Authority vs. Human Authority in Religion
Can We Understand the Bible?
Authority of Teaching of Apostles & Paul

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