Bibliology: What is the Word of God?
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD and in His law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2
We begin our discussion of Systematic Theology with the area of Bibliology. As we remember, Bibliology is the study of the doctrine of the Word of God. For us to fully gain an understanding of the Word of God and how it applies to our lives as Christians, we must first get a handle on what the Word of God is. When we study the Scriptures, we will find that the Word of God is described to us in three different forms. The phrase, “the Word of God” can actually have several different meanings attached to it. First we have Jesus Christ who is the Word of God, second we have the Word of God as spoken audibly by Him, and third we have the written Word of God. In these three categories we have to compete revelation of God’s Word.
I. The Word of God in the Person of Jesus Christ. Our first category that describes the Word of God is in the person of Jesus Christ. The passage that comes to mind is John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Later on in verse 14 John gives us confirmation that he is speaking about Christ by saying, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus Christ therefore is described in the Bible as the Word of God. We also see Jesus given this title in Revelation 19:13 which says, “…and His name is called the Word of God.” So how is it that the Word of God is manifested in the person of Jesus Christ?
Well, our understanding of how Christ can be the Word of God comes from a firm and fixed belief that Christ Himself was not only from God (as John describes Him) but also that Christ indeed was God in the flesh. Because Christ was God, He represents the Word of God to man. Every word that He would speak on this earth would in essence be the very Words of God. Therefore it is right and accurate to describe the Son of God as the Word of God because to put it plainly, the Son of God was God Himself!
II. The Word of God as Spoken by God. The Word of God is not only communicated to us through the person of Jesus Christ on this earth, but also through the audible and spoken words of God. The speech of God has come to mankind in various forms and has been communicated and recorded in different ways. The first revelation of the spoken Word of God is given to us through His decrees.
The decrees (or commands) of God are one of the ways in which we have the Words of God recorded for us. God’s decrees are His all-powerful commands that show His supremacy. His decrees are expressly manifest in the creation of this world as He merely speaks the entire universe into being. Decrees such as, “Let there be light”, “Let the earth sprout vegetation”, “Let us make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:3, 11, 26) display the power of the Word of God. As God speaks, so it happens. God’s decrees make things happen through the power of His Word (Heb. 1:3).
Another way in which the Words of God are recorded for us is through His audible personal speech to others. In the Scriptures there are many examples of God speaking and communicating to people in this world. Some examples included God’s spoken word to Adam (Gen. 1:29), Abraham (Gen. 18:17-33), Moses (Ex. 3), and the people of Israel (Matt. 3:17) to name a few. In these instances of speech, God was speaking in audibly, and using actually human language that His hearers would understand and comprehend. The words came directly from God and therefore carried complete authority and were totally trustworthy.
A third way that the words of the Lord come to us are through a mouthpiece such as a prophet who speaks on behalf of the Lord. In the Old Testament this is a very common way in which the Lord communicates to His people. The Lord describes the work of a prophet very clearly in Deuteronomy 18:18-19 saying, “I will raise of a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command Him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.” Clearly the Lord refers to the words that a prophets speaks on His behalf they are, “…My words…”When the Lord speaks through prophets, His word is just as truthful and authoritative as when He speaks Himself. Other examples of God speaking through prophets are found in Exodus 4:12; Jeremiah 1:7; 1 Samuel 15:18 to name a few.
III. The Word of God as written in the Scriptures. The final form in which we have the true words of God is the form of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. The Word of God as recorded in Scripture is just as reliable as the very words of God spoken audibly from heaven. Within the Scriptures we have several instances and examples in which the Word of God was put down in written form. The two stone tablets that had the 10 commandments on them (Ex. 31:18), the book of the Law that was written by Moses (Deut. 31:9-13), the book of God’s Law written by Joshua (Josh. 24:26), and the book written by Isaiah and Jeremiah (Is. 30:8; Jer. 30:2). Moreover both the entire Old and New Testaments in their entirety are the very words of God (Jn. 14:26; 16:12-13).
The apostle Peter records for us in 2 Peter 1:19 the fact that the Scriptures are, “…the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place…” The books of the Bible as recorded and written in our Bibles today can be described in total as, “the Word of God”.
The Words of God do not change just because the instrument that God uses to preach His word changes. Whether it is the words of God spoken by Christ, the decrees of God, the audible voice of God, the words of God spoken through a prophet, or the Word of God as recorded in the Scriptures, God’s Word is always and completely truthful, completely authoritative, and they must be obeyed!
Bibliology – God’s Word is Inspired.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
After introducing ourselves to Bibliology last week and detailing the various ways and forms in which the Word of God comes to us, we are now going to take some time to delve deeply into the different characteristics of the Word of God. The Scriptures are, without a doubt, the very words of God. But what does that mean in regards to theology? What characterizes the Word of God? What authority or importance does the Word of God play in our lives? These questions and many more concerning God’s Word will be answered as we seek to unravel its many mysteries. In our post for today, we will start by looking at the foundational characteristic of the Word of God and how it came to us. This is known as inspiration.
What Inspiration is not: When we begin to describe the Word of God, the best place to start is with its inspiration. The Word of God is unlike any other book in this world. The Word of God is a divine book, it is an inspired book. Unfortunately, describing the word as ‘inspired’ can cause some confusion to what Biblical ‘inspiration’ actually is. When we picture the word inspiration in today’s culture we often think of a poet or a song writer looking out a window into the great unknown searching for “inspiration” on what to write about. This is not what we mean when we say that God’s Word is ‘inspired’. Because of this, there are several misconceptions about inspiration that must be straightened out for us to truly understand what it means for God’s Word to be inspired by Him.
Biblical inspiration does not mean that the authors were merely smart academics or geniuses. For the Scriptures to be inspired does not mean that they are merely a piece of literature that was well-written or famous. It does not mean that they are mere works of men who were one day ‘inspired’ to write the Scriptures and therefore recorded their thoughts. To have this view of inspiration would place the Word of God on the same plane of the works of man such as The Book of Mormon or the Koran. The person and work of Jesus Christ could never have been imagined simply by the thoughts of mankind.
Biblical inspiration does not mean that God gave man general ideas to write about Him. Inspiration was not a mere thought of God placed in the mind of man by God. This view of inspiration can be called the ‘thought’ or ‘concept’ view of inspiration. This would be described as God putting thoughts into man’s mind about Him but then they write out their interpretation of those thoughts in their own words. By no means is this an accurate view of inspiration.
Biblical inspiration does not mean that God mechanically dictated the Words of Scripture to mankind. The writers of the Word of God were not people who merely wrote down what God dictated to them in some mechanical way. They were not people who merely copied the voice of God word for word on paper. Each writer of Scripture has his own unique style and personality that bleeds through the text making it distinctly theirs. Yet at the same time, the words they wrote were directly inspired by the Lord.
What Inspiration is: Now that we know what inspiration is not, it is time for us to look at what true biblical inspiration actually is. There are two key passages of Scripture that address the topic of Biblical inspiration. These passages are 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20. We will take a look at both these passages to have a greater understanding of what the Bible actually teaches about inspiration.
2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” As the apostle Paul writes to Timothy concerning the importance of the Word of God he describes God’s Word as inspired. The word inspired though, was probably not the best word for translator to use to describe what Paul was conveying. Literally the word inspired means, ‘god –breathed’ or ‘produced by the Spirit of God’. For the Word of God to be inspired means that it literally came forth from the Holy Spirit of God as air is expelled from someone’s lungs.
If we look at Psalm 33:6 we read, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth.” Just as God breathed the universe into existence so too the Word of God was ‘breathed’ into existence. The Word of God was given by God to its authors as the Spirit filled them and directed them to write the Holy Scriptures.
It is also important to note that not merely are some of the Scriptures God-breathed, but Paul says that all Scripture is. That means that there is not one part, or word that has been given to us by anyone else but the Lord Himself. Man has no right to pick and choose what sections and passages of Scripture that He wants inspired or relevant to Himself.
The only accurate view of the inspiration of the Scriptures is called verbal plenary inspiration. What this means is that every word of the Scriptures are inspired by God, therefore carrying His complete authority. In other words one could say that, all Scripture ever recorded, the 66 books of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, every book, every chapter, every verse, and every word is totally and completely inspired and breathed-out by God. This is what it means for the Word of God to be inspired by God.1
2 Peter 1:20-21: “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.” Once we know that the Scriptures are inspired by God, perhaps the next most obvious and pressing question is, “How did God then work through the writers of Scripture to get it recorded?” Our answer to this question in found here in 1 Peter chapter 1.
Peter says that Scripture is not just something flowing out of the mind of random men. It is not just someone’s imagination or feelings about who God is, not at all. Instead, the Scriptures were written by men who were moved by the Holy Spirit. What then does this mean? Well, the words for “moved” means, ‘to move along while one is being sustained, to bring; bear; carry’. Peter is saying that these men were carried by the Holy Spirit. To be carried by the Spirit means that these men were writing the very words of God from their own personality and their own perspectives, yet because they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, their teaching came from Him not from themselves. In a supernatural way these men were guided by the Holy Spirit to record the words of God, not through dictation nor mechanically, but as influenced by the inward working the Spirit in their heart and mind.
John MacArthur gives an excellent summary definition of the inspiration of Scripture. He writes, “Inspiration is God’s revelation communicated to us through writers who use their own minds, their own words, and yet God had so arranged their lives and their thoughts and their vocabularies, that the words they chose out of their own minds were the very words that God determined from eternity past that they would use to write His truths.”2
It is important to note that it is the words of God that are inspired and not the writers themselves.
John MacArthur, Why Believe the Bible? Pg. 56.