Biblical Inspiration and Authority
Today we’re talking about the inspiration and authority of the Bible. I was going to include interpretation and application this week, but we wouldn’t be able to beat the Baptists to the buffet, so I’ll take two weeks for this extremely important topic.
I heard of a teacher who quizzed a group of college-bound high school juniors and seniors on the Bible. The quiz preceded a Bible-as-literature course he planned to teach at the Newton (Massachusetts) High School, generally considered one of the best public schools in the nation. Among the most astounding findings he got from the students were:
Sodom and Gomorrah were lovers.
Jezebel was Ahab’s donkey.
The four horsemen appeared on the Acropolis.
The New Testament Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luther, and John.
Eve was created from an apple.
Jesus was baptized by Moses.
The answer that took the cake was given by a fellow who was in the top 5 percent of the graduating class, academically.
The question: What was Golgotha?
The answer: Golgotha was the name of the giant who slew the apostle David.
What we believe about the Bible and from the Bible perhaps impacts how we approach life and ministry more than anything else in our lives.
If we believe the Bible is just a bunch of made-up stories written by mostly men with a middle-school or less education by modern standards (which a friend of mine does believe) then it really has less bearing on our lives than most elementary school textbooks. If we believe it is the final authority on everything necessary for life and godliness through the power of God’s Holy Spirit that rules and guides our lives, how we live, think, and behave will be vastly different.
One set of statistics from in the Holland Sentinel from 2012 says, On average, 85 percent of U.S. households own a Bible; the average number of Bibles per household is 4.3. 36 percent of Americans read the Bible less than once a year or never while 33 percent read the Bible once a week or more. Apr 19, 2012
Between then and 2021, those statistics have not changed much,
The 2021 report is, as you might expect, a mixed bag. For churchgoing folk, there are encouraging findings. Twenty-four percent of Americans increased their Bible reading in this past COVID-pandemic year, while only 9 percent cut back. And 16 percent of Americans read the Bible at least four times a week, up from 12 percent the year before.
With all that said, within this church, within our denomination, and I personally ascribe to this statement from our Churches of God General Conference Statement of Faith.
“We believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” From the CGGC Statement of Faith.
Isn’t that a bit naïve though? Most of the world doesn’t see the Bible in this way, why does a relatively well-educated man like myself, along with millions of far better educated people like me believe that this is the truth of the power and authority that should be given to a simple book?
Well, part of the reason is, it is far from a simple book…
I’d like to first share some math with you, admittedly not my best subject…
Let me explain my arithmetic to you…
- 3 original languages,
- 40 identified authors plus anonymous,
- 66 canonized books or letters,
- over 1,500 years in the process of writing
- including complete translations in 704 languages plus the New Testament alone into 1,551 additional languages plus or minus 60 separate versions or unique translations in English alone
- which results in one unified text with the unique ability to transmit the will and ways of one Creator to his creation.
Seriously, wow. Absolutely no other book or document on the planet can make that kind of boast. No “holy” book, no book of prophecy, no news article, constitution, proclamation, meme, tweet, post, or snap can rival it.
In addition to that, 100% of every specific foretelling or prophecy contained within it has either come true as predicted or is yet to happen.
If we consider a bare minimum of 48 prophecies (and there are over 300) regarding the birth, life, teaching, death, burial, and resurrection of one Man, the prophesied Jewish Messiah or in Greek Christ meaning ‘anointed one’, Jesus son of Joseph son of God from Nazareth have all come true. The odds of that alone are 1 in 10157. That number is so large and the odds so small, Mathematician Peter Stoner describes it as a man trying to find one electron in a mass solid ball of electrons, extending in all directions to the distance of six billion light-years 6 x 1028 times with an electron microscope.
Those are just the prophecies concerning Jesus, if we include everything else in the Bible predicts and teaches denying the inspiration of the Bible Stoner says is, “rejecting evidence so overwhelming that no human mind can make any start at comprehending the definiteness of it.”
If we start with all those wonderful facts and statistics about the inspiration of the Bible, then we tie those to whether the one or ones who wrote it have the authority to dictate how we live our lives. The Bible itself says,
‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV
The NET translation says,
‘Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.’
2 Timothy 3:16-17
The word translated God-breathed or inspired, is pneuma. Elsewhere in the Greek language this word is translated WIND, and both in the New Testament and in the Greek translation of the Old Testament is translated spirit and ghost. The Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, the wind that moved over the waters of Creation is the same word as referred to as writing the Scriptures.
Peter says it this way,
‘Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.’
2 Peter 1:20-21
That’s a big batch of mumbo jumbo to say that yes, the Bible should be able to dictate how we live our lives and how we function within the context of life together and ministry to the community and world that we are a part of. Since you’re here in the first place, I hope that gives you some confidence to stand on your faith in what you believe and what has been written. We believe that not only the words of scripture are inspired, also the intent of what was written is as well in their original languages and historical context.
Now on to the second part of today’s message, sorry, not time for lunch yet…
Why did I say in their original languages and historical context? Let’s dig deeper…
Do you know the Bible says in Psalm 53, there is no god?
Let’s look at it,
‘Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.” They sin and commit evil deeds; none of them does what is right.’
Oops, what mistake did I make? I pulled four words out of context, right?
But the Bible also says there is no resurrection, Matthew 22:23, Luke 20:27, and Mark 12:18 in the Gospels, Acts 23:8 and also twice in 1 Corinthians 15:12-13; we have corroboration from six sources of scripture that say there is no resurrection. That’s more than enough to build doctrine, right?
The Gospels and Acts all are recording the fact that the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, not confirming it as true.
The most important truth, in fact one at the heart of the Gospel is the 1 Corinthians 15 passage.
‘Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him.’
1 Corinthians 15:12-23
The lesson here is this: we can make the Bible say practically anything we want if we pull words, verses, and passages out of the greater context of the inspired scriptures that begin with Genesis and end in Revelation.
The same problem exists with some words or phrases, one of my favorite examples is the word, love, because it is so foundational to the Christian faith.
If you’ve been following our Facebook page, you’ll know that dictionary.com has 22 definitions for the word, LOVE.
If we look at some of the more popular uses of the word in English we get examples like…
I love smoked bbq ribs. I love racquetball, golf, and fishing. I love my mom and dad. I made love to my wife. I love my kids. I love watching my bobber on a quiet morning fishing. I love Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek and the Middle Earth movies, and 90s alternative music, but I love contemporary Christian too. “Love is love” is a popular phrase in our culture today.
When the Bible says, love the Lord, love your neighbor, love fellow believers, husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and God so loved the world he gave his one and only son; None of the ways I used the word love apply to the Greek word, AGAPE, that is used in those passages. AGAPE is the unconditional, sacrificial, perfect love that Christ displayed on the cross to bring us into relationship with God. AGAPE love is the heart of the Gospel. Not the way I love ribs, racquetball, and movies.
The Greek uses different words in those different contexts, not like us using English. That is why, we have helps that we will talk about next week when we talk about interpretation and application.
If we can mostly agree that the Bible as written in its original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek is inspired by God and its writing was directed by his Holy Spirit in the work of the men who did the writing, and we can agree that since it was written by God the supreme Creator and the only one with any real and eternal authority to speak into our lives, then next week, we can address how we read, interpret, and apply the Bible’s precepts and teaching into our lives and ministry.