This series of Biblical studies is based on
notes written by Rev. A. Donald Magaw over 50 years of his ministry, and were
compiled and edited by Rev. Donald A. Magaw.
These are the topics we will be discussing in the next several lessons and this what we believe to be true, and is the basis of the doctrinal stand of our church.
The inspiration of the Bible, both the Old and New Testament.
The creation of man by the direct act of God;
The incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;
His identification as the Son of God;
His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross;
The resurrection of His body from the tomb;
His power to save men from sin;
The new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit;
The gift of eternal life, by the grace of God.
C.I. Scofield said that the Bible is the most widely circulated of books, and at once it provokes and baffles study. But even the non-believer realizes that it is almost total ignorance not to know something about the Bible.
First, the Bible is one book. Seven great marks attest this unity. 1) From Genesis on the Bible bears witness to one God. Whenever He speaks or acts, He is consistent with Himself, and with the total revelation concerning Him 2) The Bible forms one continuous story—the story of humanity in relation to God. 3) The Bible hazards to most unlikely predictions concerning the future, and when centuries have brought round the appointed time, record their fulfillment. 4) The Bible is progressive in unfolding the truth. Nothing is told all at once and once for all. Without the possibility of collusion, often with centuries between, one writer of Scripture takes up and earlier revelation, adds to it, lays down the pen, and in due time another man moved by the Holy Spirit, and another, and another, add new details till the whole is complete. 5) From beginning to end, the Bible testifies to one redemption. 6) From beginning to end the Bible has one great theme—the person and work of Christ. 7) And finally, these writers, some 44 in number, writing through twenty centuries, have produced a perfect harmony of doctrine in progressive unfolding. This is, to every candid mind, the unanswerable proof of the Divine inspiration of the Bible.
Second, the Bible is a book of books. 66 books all of which are complete in itself, and have its own theme and analysis.
Third, The books of the Bible fall into groups: Preparation, Manifestation, Propagation, Explanation and Consummation.
Fourth. The Bible also tells the human story.
Fifth. The central theme of the entire Bible is Christ.
As far as the inspiration of the Bible is concerned, if you undermine faith in the infallibility, its authority, its divine inspiration you have the problem that the whole house will crumble because His Word is the foundation upon which everything else rests. All we know about sin and salvation, heaven and hell, eternal life and death, the plan and purpose of God, and about His will for our lives is revealed in no other place than in the Word of God. If one does not believe that the Bible actually is God’s Word, then we might as well close up the church and join the Elks or some other lodge for our times of happiness.
There are six basic theories of inspiration held by men today. They are natural inspiration, universal Christian illumination, thought inspiration, partial inspiration, mechanical inspiration and Plenary-verbal inspiration.
Natural inspiration is not acceptable because the writer would be no more inspired than any modern author, making the Bible no more infallible than any other book,
Universal Christian illumination is not acceptable because it makes all Christians inspired equally as much as Paul and Moses. This means that we could write our own Bible. If this is the case, the question arises, why no new books since the Canon was closed?
Thought inspiration is not acceptable because it states that only the thoughts were inspired. But how can you express the right thoughts without the right words?
Partial inspiration is not acceptable because it states that the Bible only contains the Word of G0d. This would give any man the right to write his own Bible.
Mechanical inspiration is very unreasonable because it states that the men were machines in the hand of God, but this does not account for the differences in style and in vocabulary.
The only satisfactory theory is the theory of plenary-verbal inspiration. This states that all Scripture is equally inspired, extending to the words themselves. It also states that all Scripture is without error.
What is inspiration?
Inspiration is the extraordinary supernatural influence exerted by the Holy Ghost on the writers of our Sacred Books, by which their words were rendered also the words of God, and therefore, perfectly infallible.
Dr. Pardington has defined inspiration as: the divine influence which renders a speaker or writer infallible in the communication of truth, whether previously known or not,
Strong defines inspiration as follows: by the inspiration of Scriptures we mean that special divine influence upon the minds of the Scripture writers in virtue of which their productions, apart from errors of transcription and when rightly interpreted, together constitute an infallible rule of faith and practice.
Plenary inspiration states that inspiration extends to every part of the Scripture, including history, poetry, prophecy, doctrine and all other ideas whether they are revealed or known or copied, and that it caused the writers to write just what God wanted written and to write it accurately. This means that inspiration is full, complete, entire, extending to every part.
Verbal inspiration is the work of God through the Holy Spirit so directing men in the choice of the subject matter and in their choice of words that their writing contain, written accurately, exactly what God desired, and all that He desired them to contain. It is the doctrine of superintendence, or guidance; that is, God so guided in the writing of the books of the Bible that words are His words in the style of the writers. This statement when simplified says that the Holy Spirit spoke to the writers of our Scriptures and told them what to write and what to say, thus giving us the Scriptures exactly as God would have us to have them.
Clement of Rome, who lived about 90 AD, said that the Scriptures are the true words of the Holy Ghost. Augustine also contended for the Scriptures when he said that they were infallible and accurate in every word. It has also been said the Scriptures are guaranteed by God even in their very language.
The dean of Westminster in an address delivered in Westminster Abbey on December 3, 1904, said “If the Bible was not inspired by a Divine Spirit, how could it record what did not actually take place? If an element of human misconception and mistake was to be recognized in the Bible, how could we regard it any longer as an inspired book, or use it as an infallible guide of life?”
And then after speaking of some of the Bible difficulties, he said, “behind and beneath the Bible, above and beyond the Bible, was the God of the Bible. Herein lies the true and only explanation of the mystery of inspiration.
It is strange to note that in 1870, at the Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church declared the Scriptures a revelation without error, which was written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and that they have God as their author; this was in spite of their inconsistent attitude toward the Bible. This was also declared at the Council of Trent.
We have seen what plenary inspiration and verbal inspiration is by citing various scholars as to their definitions. When we combine the two into plenary-verbal inspiration, we have a joint definition. Plenary-verbal inspiration means that every word in every part of the original manuscripts of the Bible is given by inspiration of God, or given by God through the Spirit…this applies to the Bible in the original language, Hebrew and Greek; not the various translations.
What does the theory of plenary-verbal inspiration teach? This theory teaches that only the original text of the Old Testament and the New Testament are inspired and that no copies or translations, which were made, are inspired. Although we do not have the original manuscripts, scholars say that the copies, which we have, are so very close to the original that no important doctrine is affected because we do not have the originals.
Plenary-verbal inspiration does not hold God accountable for all that is said. This means that although the words are inspired, it does not mean that God agrees with all that is said. There are instances recorded that tell us the men as David sinned; now because it is inspired it does not mean that sin is all right. But inspiration simply means that the Bible is God’s words along with the events that God saw fit to relate to us, not that God agrees with all that is said and done.
With inspiration God always gave the words, but He did not always give the thoughts! This is quite evident in I Peter 1:10-11; Daniel 12:8-9 and Psalm 22:16-18. I Peter states that the prophets searched what the Spirit of Christ did signify in them, not understanding exactly what they wrote. In Daniel, when Daniel says that he heard but understood not. Finally in Psalm 22, where the Psalmist talks about the parting of Christ’s garments, I do not believe that he could have completely understood exactly what he wrote. These are only three of many examples of God giving the words but not the thoughts.
It is interesting to note that the effect of inspiration on the writers did not help them in other things. It did not keep them from error in their lives, nor did it make them the smartest men in the world; it did not make them of equal understanding, nor did it cause them to live sinless lives.
Our Holy Scriptures were not actually written by the hand of God, but on two occasions and only two (excluding the writing on Belshazzar’s wall), we read of the Deity writing: once in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament. The first example is the Ten Commandments and the second a case of special grave when Jesus stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground (John 8:6-8).
There are some parts of the Bible that are the exact words of God. Some of the examples of these are Exodus 24:12, Deuteronomy 10:2 and Mark 1:11. There are other parts of the Scriptures that are the words of God put into the writer’s mouth. Two examples of this may be found in Jeremiah 30:1-2, and
I Corinthians 14:37. Some parts of the Bible are the thoughts of God in the words of the writers. These can be seen the Matthew 3:17 and Luke 1:1-14.
With the various ways that the word and thoughts are recorded it is to be said, however, that all Scripture is inspired. In II Timothy 3:16 we read, all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. This verse says that the Scriptures are for reproof but it also says that it is for correction. How can an incorrect book be expected to correct us? This is one of the many problems raised by those who would deny verbal inspiration.
There are many factors, which prove the doctrine of plenary-verbal inspiration. Pardington has stated, “There are nine external proofs of inspiration. These are: questions of introduction, attested miracles, fulfilled prophecy, the spread of the Gospel, the existence of the Christian church, the testimony of Christian experience, and the testimony of archeology.”
There are many indirect proofs of inspiration in the Scriptures themselves. These are the supernatural character of the Bible, the supernatural character of Christ, the unity of the Scripture, the number of the Scripture, the chronology of the Scripture, and the wonderful knowledge of the Scripture: light before sun, firmament, music of sphere, circulation of blood, gravity, number of stars, order of creation, revolution of the earth and the weight of the atmosphere. Dr. Lee’s Inspiration says, “Matters of science and geographical details, mentioned in the Bible, are stated with infallible accuracy,”
One of the previously mentioned proofs of inspiration is the character of Christ. His testimony implies that the Bible is inspired. In the following verses this fact can be seen: Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; Luke 21:22 and Luke 24:44. The verse in Luke 24 speaks of the prophecy, which concerned Christ.
One of the best proofs of inspiration is the Scripture’s own testimony, there are no less than 33 prophecies in the Old Testament which center in the person of the Messiah—every one of which, relating to his earthly life, has been fulfilled to the letter. It has been mentioned that Scripture proves itself, II Timothy and II Peter 1:20-21. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” **(see follow-up note at the end of these notes) Because of these two verses, we see that the Scripture plainly teaches that it is the inspired Word of God.
The expression “thus saith the Lord,” occurs in the Bible over 3800 times. This shows that the Lord God spoke to the authors and told them exactly what to write or tell the people. The expression “it is written” occurs in Matthew 4:7; Galatians 3:10; Hebrews 10:7; II Peter 3:2, 15-16 and Revelation 2:7, showing that the New Testament writers believed that the Old Testament was inspired and therefore, infallible.
Another proof of inspiration is the way in which Christ and the apostles treated the Old Testament. This is seen in John 10:35 and also in Matthew 8:16-17 where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law; verse 17 says that it might be fulfilled which the prophet spoke that “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sickness” showing that another prophecy of the Scripture is being fulfilled.
Other passages of Scripture which witness to inspiration are II Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 1:7-9; Ezekiel 3:4; Matthew 1:22; 2:15; Mark 12:36, Luke 1:70 and Acts 1:16.
The final major proof of inspiration is the testimony of the archaeologists. For all recent discoveries in Egypt and other Bible lands that have any relation to the Bible, speak with one united voice that testifies to the accuracy of the statements of the Bible. One of the prime examples of this is the treasure city of Pithon, which was built for Rameses II by the Hebrews during the time of their bondage in Egypt. At this site it has been discovered that the walls of the houses were found to be made of sun-bakes bricks, some with straw and some without straw, exactly in accordance with Exodus 5:7, written 3,500 years ago “Ye shall not more give the people straw to make bricks, as heretofore.” This finding thus proves the accuracy of this passage. There have been many other similar findings in the Bible land to prove the accuracy of Scripture.
It should never be forgotten, that, in spite of all the critics have said, no error or contradiction of any kind has ever been proved to exist in the Scriptures as originally given by God.
S.T. Coleridge has said, “Whatever finds me bears witness that is has preceded from the Holy Spirit; in the bible, there is more that finds me than I have experienced in all other books put together.”
Some additional thoughts on inspiration:
It is fashionable today, to say that the Bible contains the Word of God. Beware of anyone who says that. The Bible does not merely contain the Word of God; it is the Word of God. To say that It contains the Word of God means that there may be parts of It that are not His Words (or things God wants us to know, i.e. The sins of men) In these cases man sets his puny mind to decide what is and what is not truth, what is and what is not God’s Word. He makes his mind judge the Book, whereas the Book is supposed to judge his thoughts. The person or group who does not believe in the inspiration of the Bible has no right to claim to be a Christian; for all we know of Christ and Christianity is revealed in this Book, God’s holy and inspired Word. When someone says that It only contains the Word of God, he is either untaught, or he is unsound in his faith. No Bible believing Christian would make such a statement. If the Bible is not the Word of God, then why are we here? Why do we even have a church?
Men wrote the books of the Bible; sometimes the words were given to them exactly. Sometimes they used words and thoughts relative to their own understanding. These men came from various backgrounds. The prophets, the kings, the tax collector, the physician, the Roman citizen, and many others all wrote as they were led of the Holy Spirit.
Some books were written to give us history, some to sing praises, and some to give us prophecy, some to gives us the rules for Christian living. The book of Ecclesiastes was not given to teach us doctrine, but to show us how life looks to a wise and thoughtful man.
Sinners do not like to read the Bible because they find in it a picture of themselves; and it is never a good picture. I know that this is God’s Word…. only God could have written it.
This book makes known God’s plan, God’s revelation of Himself, God’s picture of man, and God’s judgment that awaits the sin of man. It sets down the will of God for men, the plan of God for men, the message of God for men, and the method to be employed in presenting the message. This Book is the very foundation of our faith. If it is not God’s Word, then we might as well close up shop right now for all our doctrine is found in this Book.
Christians may not always agree on how to interpret the Bible, but there is no contradiction therein. If you read something in the Bible that seems to be contradicting something else, you can be very sure of one of two things: either you do not understand the Word of God, or what you think is a contradiction is not a contradiction but a difference made in translation or something else. There are many words in the Greek and Hebrew that we really do not have an English equivalent or maybe we do not even know how a word is applied. In English there are words today that have changed in meaning over the years. (For example: Gay used to mean happy, now it means something else) There are no contradictions in the Word of God, because God will not contradict himself.
Some would like to say that Paul and James contradict each other. Paul said, you are saved by faith…not works. James said, faith without works is dead. Not a contradiction, but a further explanation. James is really saying if you have faith, you WILL show it with your works. In other words, a Christian cannot just sit around on his duff and not live the life Christ has shown us as necessary.
Men of the Bible had disagreements. Peter and Paul argued at Antioch. And Galatians 2 is a record of that argument
We do not worship the Book; we worship the God of the Book.
When God speaks, He always speaks the truth. Today, there are those who would say that the Bible is old fashioned, that it is out of touch with reality. We are told that things have changed. Maybe so, but God has not changed. For example, this idea of same-sex marriage…God did not create Adam and Steve…he created Adam and Eve. And we are warned that in the last days, men and women will turn to the unnatural use of their bodies. God still calls it sin. Man does not want to hear it. After all, who even in this world wants to be told that they are wrong? I love it when I hear that a person is born gay due to his genetic make-up. In one sense they are partially right, all men are born unto sin due to the fact that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve.
The Bible has had many translations. The thing to remember when deciding which translation to use, is who were the people doing the translating. Was the translation done by Bible scholars or by a group of English professors? It will make a difference in how the Word is recognized. There are several good translations and there are a few to avoid, the Revised Standard Version is one that teaches that Christ was born of a young woman, not a virgin as Scripture is correctly translated.
There are many false groups out there. Christian Scientists, who are neither Christian nor scientists. Jehovah Witnesses…. and even some of the TV/Radio/Internet preachers who are in it for the money. What is this junk about sending $10 and they will send you a prayer cloth? Or be ordained for $25 (on the back of a magazine or matchbook cover)?
Satan is not only attacking the church of Christ in the world…. he is attacking the church from within. Read II Timothy and Jude.
** (Follow-up note: Critics have claimed that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” This is correct, we must use other Scriptures to see what the prophet was trying to convey. However, that passage by itself is out of context because in the next verse we are told that the prophets spoke, not of their own will but as “they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” This means that the prophets wrote what they were told to write and the ideas were not their own. Most theologians interpret this passage of Scripture to mean that the prophets did not write “private ideas” but that the prophecy was the actual Word of God as given to the prophets by the Holy Spirit.
Any good lawyer will tell you that if a witness gives any part of his testimony that is false or incorrect, then the whole testimony is subject to being discounted. If any part of the Word of God is incorrect, then the whole of the Bible is useless. Through-out the centuries, critics have tried to disprove the Bible through archeology…and have failed miserably as every effort to disprove Scriptures has resulted in the Bible being vindicated 100%.
There have been many theories to discount or explain away the various events of the Bible, but each of them have more problems that are created instead of believing through faith. For example, critics would say that the Israelites crossed the Reid Sea and not the Red Sea. The Reid Sea average depth is only 6 inches of water….so how do you explain that the army and horses of the Egyptians drowned in 6 inches of water? It is a lot easier to accept the Biblical account than it is to rationalize what the critics have suggested.
Another example is evolution…first evolution is only a theory. If evolution is correct then explain why it cannot be reproduced by science. If evolution is correct, things should be getting better, not worse…illness would not happen. If evolution is correct, then men would become smarter…it is obvious with many people that their brain has never evolved!