I asked some university students to define “inspiration.” While some gave the correct answers, others were just confused. Some said that inspiration is what enables you to write a beautiful poem or paint a memorable portrait. Others thought it was what happened to you when you hear powerful music and you are lifted higher by the chords and harmonies. I guess some of that is true – at least in our present culture – but the word is much more important than that.
It is very important for the Christian to understand and, as much as possible, fully appreciate the meaning of inspiration in Scripture because it is the underlying foundation of all Scripture.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16).
We need to take a moment and drink in this verse because it teaches an incredibly important lesson. In fact, until you understand what Paul says here you will never fully appreciate the vast importance of the Bible.
2 Timothy 3:16
Paul is making a declarative statement. He is stating a fact concerning Scripture. He is not here talking about poetry written in schools of learning. He isn’t speaking of the writings of Plato or other ancient writers. Paul is speaking only about the Bible. ((I realize that the Bible as we have it was not fully present in Paul’s day. For purposes of my discussion here however, I am talking about the 66 books that comprise the Christian Bible today. The discussion of the assembly of the canon is for another series of posts. God gave his word to inspired men, it was written down and later the church acknowledged what was already given as the Bible. Whether the church gave it imprimatur on the inspired works is irrelevant as they were inspired whether anyone believed it or not)) He says that Scripture is inspired. This word is a combination of two Greek words. One means “God” and the other means “breath.” Together they mean “God breathed.” ((Some translations like the ESV actually translate the word as “God breathed out”.)) So what Paul is actually saying is that the very words of the Bible were uttered or breathed by God. They are not the product of someone else, they are solely the product of our God.
When one considers that the words of the Bible came from God he cannot help but be humbled by those words.
But someone will argue that the Bible is actually written by men and therefore is no more reliable and no more authoritative than any other human book. However this is the beauty and power of inspiration. In some miraculous way, God took his own words and thoughts and transmitted them to men by men without corruption. Hence our definition of inspiration:
Inspiration is the transmission of truth from the mind of God to men through other men.
The argument here is very simple yet terribly profound. God has given truth to men.
But more than some vague, wispy, philosophic mantra God has given us useful information that equips us, trains us and even disciplines us for his service. Truth that matters is inspiration.
The Expectation of Clear Communication
Stop and think for a moment. If God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), wouldn’t you expect to hear something from him? Doesn’t it seem reasonable that the Creator would communicate with the creation? In fact, does it not seem completely unreasonable that God would create this great expanse and fail to speak to us? Certainly! Our own minds tells us to listen for God. In 1960 a researcher at Cornell University began searching for evidence of extraterrestrial lifeforms (aliens) by listening to radio signals coming from space. Today almost a million people are using over two million computers to analyze that data. Wouldn’t it be great if those people were all listening for God as well!
A second important point is that if we expect God to communicate with his creation, we would also expect God to be able to communicate with us clearly and in an understandable way. If the Creator can craft the complex network of neurons within our yet to be understood brains, could he not also make his message understandable to those neurons? If the Creator can craft together the tiny, delicate three bones that enable us to hear, could he not speak in such a way as to be heard plainly? If God could produce the crystal clear lens of the human eye and the matrix of cones and rods that convert light into nerve impulses, could he not also cause his words to be readable? The obvious answers are always yes.
Why do we then always complain that the Bible is so hard to understand? Why is it that there are so many different denominations all teaching significantly different doctrines? Why do people proudly declare that one interpretation of the Bible is just as good as another? That is just plain ridiculous. There are innumerable. interpretations and denominations not because of God but because of people! We are the problem, not God. Inspiration ensures that truth is available and understandable. But our own prejudices stand in the way of understanding.
The Clear Truth Is Uncomfortable
We do not always want to hear what God has to say. I am absolutely convinced that this is the root reason why so many people latch on to the so-called science of humanistic evolution. Both the Bible and humanistic evolution cannot be true. It is, at least at this stage of evolutionary understanding, and either/or proposition. If a man accepts that the world has an all powerful creator then he must expect that creator to communicate and he must entertain the idea that what he says will be uncomfortable.
The truth of the Bible is that man has, does and will sin. The truth of the Bible is that we are deserving of eternal death and punishment because of that sin. The truth of the Bible is that men must change (repent) and submit to God if they are to be saved from eternal punishment. The truth of the world is that men do not want to be told what to do and will go to great lengths to avoid submitting to anyone.
There is another truth which remains uncomfortable even to believers. The truth of the Bible is that the present state of the Christ-believing world is sinful because of the rank sectarianism, denominationalism and division that now marks us. It is wrong to be divided as we are and we must come together again like we were in the beginning of the church. We can only do so upon the inspired Word of God. Watch for a coming article on that topic.
I am a Christian, at least in part, because of the beautiful inspiration of the Bible.
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