First, the knowledge of God is our chief good. Second, God has revealed in nature certain truths about himself to everyone. But third, people have rejected this revelation and have substituted false gods in place of the Creator.
Awareness of the true God is conveyed to us externally, in all that we see, and internally through the workings of our own minds and hearts. But we have denied our awareness of God, changing the knowledge we do have into superstition. As a result, the world, for all its wisdom, does not know God and so lacks knowledge of itself also.
What is to be done?
It is obvious from what has already been said that men and women can do nothing themselves.
But the good news of the Christian religion is that although we can do nothing, God has done something. He has done what needs to be done. He has communicated with us. In other words, in addition to the general but limited revelation of himself in nature, God has provided a special revelation designed to lead those who did not know God and did not want to know God to a saving knowledge of him.
This special revelation has three stages. First, there is redemption in history. This centres in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He died in the place of sinners and rose as proof of their divine justification.
Second, there is a revelation in writing. This is the Bible. God has provided interpretive records of what he has done for our redemption. Finally, there is the application of these truths to the mind and heart of the individual by the Holy Spirit. As a result, the individual is born again, receives the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, and is enabled to follow him faithfully until life’s end.
It is evident, however, that in this three stage special revelation the Bible is of critical importance. In the Bible alone we learn of God’s redemption of sinners in Christ; through the Bible the Spirit speaks to individuals. Therefore, as Calvin says, “Our wisdom ought to be nothing else than to embrace with humble ‘teachableness’, and at least without finding fault, whatever is taught in Sacred Scripture.”
Without the Scriptures our imagined wisdom runs to foolishness. With the Scriptures and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we are able to learn who God is, what he has done for us, and how we can respond to him and live our lives in fellowship with him.
The importance of the Bible lies in its being the Word of God, written. And the first reason for believing the Bible to be this is the Bible’s own teaching about itself.
That is where all people and particularly Christians should start. Many appeal to the Scriptures in defense of basic doctrines: the doctrine of God, the deity of Christ, the atonement, the resurrection, the nature of the church, the work of the Holy Spirit, the final judgment and many other points of theology. They do so rightly. But if the Bible is authoritative and accurate in these matters. There is no reason why it should not be authoritative and accurate when speaking about itself.
When we take this approach, the first verse to look at is 2 Timothy 3:16.
Here the New Testament speaks of the Old Testament, noting that “all scripture is inspired by God.” The English phrase “is inspired by” (RSV) or “is given by inspiration of” (KJV) translates only one Greek word. This word, very distinctly does not mean inspired of God. That English phrase has come down to us from the Latin Vulgate divinitus inspirata.
But the Greek word literally means “God-breathed.” This word has never been correctly translated by any English version until the publication of the New International Version: New Testament.
The Greek word is literally “theopneustos,” which means “God-breathed”. It combines the word for “God” (theos) and the word for “breath” or “spirit” (pneustos). In English we have the word for God preserved in the words theology, theophany, monotheism, atheist, and in the names Dorothy, Theodore and others. “Pneuma” is preserved in the words pneumatic and pneumonia. Together the words teach that the Scriptures are the direct result of the breathing out of God.
The Greek term has nothing to say of inspiring or of inspiration but it speaks only of a “spiring” or “spiration.”
What it says of Scripture is, not that it is “breathed into by God” or that it is the product of the Divine “inbreathing” into its human authors, but that it is breathed out by God.
When Paul declares, then, that “every scripture,” or “all scripture” is the product of the Divine breath, “is God breathed,” he asserts with as much energy as he could employ that Scripture is the product of a specifically Divine operation.
Some things recorded in the Bible, of course, are merely the words of weak and erring men. But when that is the case, the words are identified as such, and the divine teaching in the passages involved are that such views are indeed weak and erring. To give one extreme example, in the early chapters of the book of Job we read, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life” (Job 2:4). But that is not true, at least not in all cases. How is this to be explained? When we read the chapter carefully we see that the words were spoken by the devil, who is elsewhere described as the father of all falsehood (John 8:44). Similarly, in the rest of the book we find long chapters filled with the vain and sometimes faulty advice of Job’s comforters. But their words are not fully true, and suddenly God breaks into the nonsense to ask, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). Here God specifically exposes the false opinions of Job’s counselors.
The Bible carries absolute authority as to the factualness of the narratives, and whenever God speaks either directly or through one of his prophets there is not only perfect accuracy but absolute authority as well. It has been noted that in the Pentateuch alone the words “the LORD said” occur almost eight hundred times and that the words “Thus saith the LORD” are a recurring refrain throughout the prophets.
“It Says”/”God Says”
Next to the verse from 2 Timothy may be placed a double series of passages showing clearly that the New Testament writers identified the Bible which they possessed, the Old Testament, with the living voice of God. In one of these classes of passages the Scriptures are spoken of as if they were God; in the other, God is spoken of as if he were the Scriptures: in the two together, God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that in point of directness of authority no distinction was made between them. The sensitive reader of the Bible can only conclude that the unique and divine character of the sacred books was by no means an invented or abstract affirmation of the biblical writers, but rather a basic assumption behind all that they taught or wrote.
Examples of a class of passages are such as these: Galatians 3:8, “The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed” (Gen. 12:1 3); Romans 9:17, “The scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up (Ex. 9:16). It was not, however, the Scripture which did not exist at the time that, foreseeing God’s purposes of grace in the future, spoke these precious words to Abraham, but God himself in his own person: it was not the not yet existent Scripture that made this announcement to Pharaoh, but God himself through the mouth of his prophet Moses. These acts could be attributed to “Scripture” only as the result of such a habitual identification, in the mind of the writer, of the text of Scripture with God as speaking, that it became natural to use the term “Scripture says,” when what was really intended was “God, as recorded in Scripture, said. James Boice