By Arlie Hoover
The question, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” is found in Luke 6:46. When Jesus asked this question he was criticizing those people, then and now, who try to make a false distinction between his person and his word. Some folks say, “I believe in Jesus so what does it really matter what I think about the Bible?”
But it does matter, say the Churches of Christ. It matters greatly what you believe about the Bible! Jesus himself will not let you make this false distinction between his person and his word. He often quoted the Scriptures as originating with God the Father (Matthew 19:4-5). When the Pharisees tried to replace God’s commandment in the Law of Moses with their own tradition, he accused them of making void the word of God (Mark 7:13).
Jesus’ strongest statement about the complete trustworthiness of the Bible is John 10:35. In a discussion over his divinity he cited Psalm 82:6 and then appended the fateful words, “The Scripture cannot be broken.” Since Scripture cannot be broken, an appeal to Scripture is final; it can’t be challenged or disproved or denied.
Christ’s high view of the Bible comes out clearly in his constant references to the events in the Old Testament. He always treated them as true, actual, and historically reliable. He mentions, for example, the creation, the flood, the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, the destruction of Sodom, the ordeal of Jonah, and many other episodes.
He never used these Old Testament stories as if they were myths or legends. On the contrary, their authenticity was essential to the point he was making. If Adam didn’t really exist, then Christ’s teaching on marriage falls to the ground (Matt. 19:4-6). If David didn’t really eat the shewbread, then Jesus’ defense of his own similar action is left limping (Matt. 12:1-4). If Jonah didn’t really preach and Ninevah really repent, then Christ looks like a fool using this as an illustration of his own coming (Matt. 12:41). Those who have a low view of the Bible make our Lord look naive.
When we refer to the Bible as the inspired Word of God, therefore, it does not at all take away from Jesus’ glory as the living, incarnate Word. In like manner, to call Jesus the Word of God does not at all turn the Bible into an inferior book. Both Jesus and the Bible are the Word of God! Jesus is the personal Word of God and the Bible is the written Word of God.
What do we mean when we say the Bible is the inspired Word of God? We mean simply that God controlled the production of his word. The job was not farmed out to subordinates. We mean that the writers of the Bible had special supernatural supervision when they penned the words of God. We mean that the Holy Spirit preserved them from all kinds of errors, errors of fact, errors of doctrine, and errors of judgment. We mean that the Holy Spirit even influenced their choice of language so that the words they used were the very words of God (1 Corinthians 2:13).
We take our stand, in sum, with all those conservative groups who affirm belief in plenary verbal inspiration.
Peter expressed it well: “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 Pet. 1:20-21 NIV). The literal meaning of the word “moved” in this passage is “carried along,” as an ocean current might carry a ship through the water. Peter is saying that though humans were the necessary instruments of revelation, God himself is the ultimate source.
Paul told Timothy that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The phrase “inspired by God” translates a single Greek word, theopneustos, which literally means, “breathed out by God.” All Scripture is “Godbreathed,” exhaled by the Almighty! Few passages more clearly affirm the divine origin of the Bible.
One must not assume that our belief in plenary, verbal inspiration leads to a “dictation theory,” whereby the Spirit of God used the Bible writers as one might use a tape recorder. Such a view would make the Bible writers into passive tools or robots. If the Scriptures were dictated in this way it would be difficult to explain passages like Luke 1:1-4 where Luke explains his dependence on sources. There is no contradiction between the personal research of the writer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
We actually know very little about the precise method of inspiration. How God did it is not explained in the Bible. The product, not the process, is what is important. However God did it, the result is His Word. What got written down was what He wanted written down.
The Bible, then, is our authority precisely because it is not the word of man but of God, the completely dependable Word of God, the Word of truth (John 17:17). Anyone who says “Jesus is Lord” and yet belittles the Word of God is inconsistent and hypocritical. We can demonstrate our submission to Christ’s lordship only by our absolute, unconditional surrender to the teachings of His Word.
Study the context of John 10:35. Identify the precise issue in the argument between Jesus and the Jews. How did Jesus’ use of Psalm 82:6 settle the issue?
Did Jesus accept the historical accuracy of the Old Testament? Illustrate your answer.
What is meant by “plenary, verbal inspiration”?
Discuss the meaning and the implications of theopneustos in 2 Timothy 3:16.
Criticize the “dictation theory” of inspiration. Is it required by the doctrine of plenary, verbal inspiration? Explain.
What are the dangers of a low view of the Bible?