Entirely God-Breathed

2Timothy 3:16

The Reverend Bryn MacPhail / June 30, 2004

 

            I do not mean to be an alarmist when I say that the Christian Church is in crisis.

 

            Admittedly, intramural debates have dogged the Church for her entire history. And it has not been uncommon for schisms to result from these debates. But I would maintain that the crisis of our day is different.

 

Never has the attack against a foundational stone been more sustained than the attack of the last two centuries against the integrity and authority of the Bible.

 

Beloved, if we lose this stone the whole building collapses. It is for good reason that the theologians of Westminster made ‘Holy Scripture’ the first chapter of their Confession. Before we can say any authoritative word about God, we must first identify our authority. And the Westminster divines were simply following in the footsteps of a long line of Christian leaders when they identified the Bible as that infallible authority which outlines everything that is necessary for God’s glory, man’s salvation, faith and life.

 

If one were to carefully investigate what is behind many of the controversial divisions within our denomination, one would find a fundamental division between those who regard the Bible, in its entirety, as the Word of God, and those who would seek to diminish such a statement.

 

The late Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said: “There can be no doubt whatsoever that all the troubles in the Church today, and most of the troubles in the world, are due to a departure from the authority of the Bible.”

 

            Along a similar vein, Arthur Pink has written: “It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the doctrine of the Divine inspiration of Scripture. This is the strategic centre of Christian theology, and must be defended at all costs” (Pink, The Divine Inspiration of the Bible, 5).

 

            Beloved, this eight-week sermon series aims to defend and uphold, the total inspiration, the absolute authority, and the utter sufficiency of Holy Scripture. The health of the Christian Church is at stake, and we must not be shy about our affirming the notion that the Bible is entirely God-breathed.

 

            Unfortunately, less and less people believe this. Perhaps you have heard the argument, ‘It’s all interpretation’; or, maybe you have heard someone say ‘the Bible simply contains the Word of God’. In our postmodern context, the notion of ‘truth’ is treated as something relative.

 

I recently read an example of a seminary professor who taught a relativistic view of truth. This professor was insisting to his class that language has no absolute meaning. ‘What (something) means to you is not necessarily what it means to me’ he told them. One student protested, ‘That’s not right! It is true that language is sometimes ambiguous, but that is why we write dictionaries--to explain what we mean.’

 

Another student gave an example, ‘If you look out the window and see an airplane in the sky and say, 'Look an airplane!' everybody looks up. Why do they do that? It is because the word 'airplane' carries some objective content. It is not an empty term.’

 

The professor did not agree. He kept pressing his point. So, finally, one of the students said, ‘If language is meaningless, then the language we are speaking here is meaningless. And if the language we are speaking here is meaningless, our being here is meaningless.’

 

Then another student asked, ‘Well, if this is meaningless, what are we going to do with the rest of the hour?’

 

‘Let's play squash’ said one of the students. So the whole class got up, went out the door, and left the professor alone in the classroom with his theory.

 

The same illustration can be applied to the Church. If we do not have a sure word from God with objective, absolute, content, then what we are doing in our churches is as meaningless as what that professor was doing in his classroom. If that is true, the most rational thing a congregation can do is get up, and walk out—go play squash, or golf, or work in the garden. Many, in fact, are doing just that.

 

I wonder; I wonder if Christians expected to hear a word from God when they attended worship, whether the temptation to do other things on Wednesday night, or Sunday morning, would be so strong.

 

Beloved, the Bible does not merely contain truth, it IS truth. The apostle Paul, describing the character of Scripture to Timothy, writes,  All Scripture is God-breathed 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” (2Tim. 3:16).

 

The key phrase here is the phrase, "God-breathed". Now some Bibles translate the Greek work to "inspired", but this can be misleading. It can be misleading because we use the word inspiration in a very human way. We think of a poet writing a great poem and we say, ‘He must certainly have been inspired to write that.’ That is not what the Paul is talking about here.

 

Paul's point is that when human beings wrote down the words that constitute what we call the Scriptures, they were writing words breathed out by God.

 

This is precisely what the apostle Peter asserts in his second epistle, “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” (2Peter 1:20, 21).

 

Some people assert that since the Bible has human authors, explaining a message using human words, it must have errors. Their reasoning is that ‘to err is human.’ But, that reasoning presupposes at least two things.

 

First, this view presupposes that it is impossible for a fallible human being to produce an infallible document. Take, for example, somebody whose job it is to produce a manual for operating a DVD player. The author of the manual takes great care explaining every button and function. Connecting the DVD player to other devices is meticulously explained and every conceivable problem is anticipated in the troubleshooting section. While the author of this document is prone to err in many things, this does not necessarily mean that there will be an error within the manual. It is quite possible that a fallible human being can produce an infallible document.

 

Secondly, the view that human authorship necessitates error presupposes that man’s will is independent of God’s will. No, we don’t imagine God pinning down the biblical authors saying, ‘Write this or you will be in big trouble!’ No, we are simply asserting what we find in Scripture—that God’s sovereignty enables Him to ensure that every word that appears in the pages of Scripture is according to His design.

 

How else could you explain the Bible's unity? The Bible is comprised of 66 different books, written over a period of about 1500 years by about 40 different authors. The authors ranged from kings to fisherman to tax collectors. If asked about any particular subject, these writers would have had views as diverse as the opinions of people living today. Yet together they produced a work united in its doctrines, historical viewpoints, ethics, and future expectations.

 

The Bible is a united, error-free piece of work because God breathed it out . . . all of it. This is what Paul asserts: “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable” (2Tim. 3:16).

 

I realize that such a statement is no longer palatable in our postmodern context. Yet, we must not shrink from such statements simply because they have become unpopular. The view that all of Scripture is God-breathed—that is, perfect, infallible, and true—has been the common view of the Christian Church for nearly two thousand years. That view is now under attack; it is under attack in our churches, to be sure, but perhaps the fiercest attacks to this view are taking place in Christian seminaries. The late principal of Knox College, William Caven, warned us of these attacks (see The Fundamentals, volume I, chapter X). And, unfortunately, we have lost ground in the very context from which Caven sounded his warning cry many years ago.

 

In our current context, we are left with a choice regarding who is to judge whom. Are we to be the judge of Scripture? Is it appropriate for us to exalt ourselves above Scripture by subjecting it to our rational processes?

 

Or, is Scripture to judge us? As followers of Jesus, do we submit ourselves; do we subject ourselves, to the written Word of God?

 

Beloved, it is inevitable that we occupy one of these two positions.

 

If we judge Scripture we stand against the historical position of the Christian Church. If we stand above Scripture to disassemble the whole and to dismiss its parts, we stand against the apostles who regarded the Scriptures as the product of God the Holy Spirit.

 

If Arthur Pink is correct, if the Divine inspiration of Scripture is indeed the strategic centre of Christian theology, then he is also correct in demanding that it be defended at all costs.

 

There is another reason why the subject of Divine inspiration is such a critical one and, perhaps, I can best explain that reason by illustration.

 

Many of you know that I was born and raised in Niagara Falls. Of course, when I was growing up there were no casinos there, and so those who visited Niagara Falls came primarily, if not, exclusively to see the Falls. I’m sure you are aware that, at night, the Falls are illuminated by massive floodlights.

 

So you visit the Falls as night: what are you there for? Are you there to see these massive floodlights, or are you there to see the beauty of Niagara Falls?

 

Silly question. We do not go to look at floodlights, but we go to see the thing illuminated by the floodlights. In the same way, when we elevate the importance of the Bible, we do not do so in order to make it an object of worship. Our affection for the Bible; the value of the Bible is related to that which it illuminates. The value of the Bible is connected to the fact that the Bible illuminates Jesus Christ.

 

And so if the thing we trust for illumination is dismantled or discarded, our ability to effectively illuminate Christ is hampered, if not, altogether compromised.

 

Beloved, this is no intramural debate. Our clarity in preaching Christ is at stake. The notion that the Bible is entirely God-breathed is a notion to be defended at all costs. Amen.