What does it mean to affirm the Bible as the inspired, truthful and authoritative Word of God—and to live our lives accordingly?
Both the Old and New Testaments view the words of Scripture as God’s own words. The Bible contains many examples of God’s words spoken directly to His people, God’s words spoken by His people and God’s words written through His prophets and apostles.
Psalm 119 exemplifies the reverence God’s people hold for His Word. God’s Word serves as a guide for godly living (verses 9–11), provides strength for the weary (verse 28), gives instruction (verse 33) and understanding (verse 34), brings renewal to life (verse 40) and leads to joy and delight (verses 35, 111). When God reveals Himself, He does so at least in part by revealing information about Himself. Indeed, it is only by His revelation that we know God.
God has preserved that revelation by the Holy Spirit’s work of inspiration. By inspiration, we mean that God’s Spirit exerted a superintending influence on the writers of Scripture so that God’s revelation has been recorded as He intended. Thus, the writings of the prophets and apostles carry the same authority and effect as if God Himself were speaking to us directly.
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The primary claim of the Bible to its own inspiration is found in 2 Timothy 3:16–17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
God’s Spirit was involved both in revealing specific messages to the prophets (Jeremiah 1:1–9) and in guiding the authors of the historical sections in their research (Luke 1:1–4). Because the Holy Spirit was active in all aspects of the process, the Bible can be regarded as both the words of the human writers and the very Word of God. We affirm the Bible’s full inspiration, meaning that the Spirit’s work influences even the choice of words by the human authors.
Truthfulness and Reliability
Because of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, the Bible—even though it was written by humans in varying times and places—actually speaks with equal authority to people in all times, languages and cultures. Today, our cultural background and context are considerably different from those who penned the Scriptures. But the human condition has not changed! The unity of the Biblical message speaks authoritatively to our condition as men and women who are created in the image of God yet fallen.
Even with cultural advancements and scientific progress, our need for a right standing and a right relationship with God remains unchanged. All people, in all ages, face the same basic problem of how sinful human beings may approach a holy God and live in relationship with Him. So the Bible’s divinely inspired teaching about God and about matters relating to His acts and purposes is binding for us today in the contemporary church.
Because the Bible was authored by human beings in specific contexts, certain passages may be contextually limited. But because they are divinely inspired, the underlying principles remain authoritative and applicable for the church in every age. When we approach the Bible in this way, we can discover truth and its ramifications for the answers to life’s ultimate questions, as well as guidelines and principles for faithful living in our contemporary world.
It is important to confess the importance of Scripture in all ages and cultures. But we also want to confess the truthfulness and reliability of Scripture, not because that is essential for personal salvation, but because it is necessary to maintain an orthodox and Biblical confession of salvation and other primary doctrines of our faith.
Our affirmation of the Bible’s truthfulness and inerrancy follows directly from the fact that the Bible is inspired by God. Any teaching that purports to be Christian but is not built on a reliable view of Scripture is relying on mere human concepts, with no solid anchor of God’s timeless truth. A renewed commitment to the truthfulness and dependability of Scripture would be the first step toward healing the sickness found in some of today’s theological trends. We believe that the Bible is inspired and true. We joyfully and confidently commit our lives to its message and gladly proclaim this truth to others.
A view that affirms the Bible’s divine inspiration and total truthfulness is of little value if we do not also have a commitment to the Bible’s complete and absolute authority in our lives. And any discussion of Biblical authority must begin with God Himself, for all authority is located in God.
God has made Himself known in the Scriptures. Truly, revelation and authority are two sides of the same reality. God declares His authority in His revelation—His inspired Word—and God alone is the ultimate source of authority.
Thus, the Spirit of God has inspired the writings of the prophets and apostles, and the Scriptures become the recognized authority to communicate God’s truth—which is to be taught, believed and obeyed. The Bible is truly the Book of God’s truth. Because it is completely truthful, it must be wholly trustworthy in its affirmations. Because it is truthful and trustworthy, it is our final authority in all things that pertain to life and godliness.
So, we confess that God has revealed Himself to us. His revelation has been preserved for us in Scripture by the Holy Spirit’s work of inspiration. We confess our belief in the divine inspiration, total truthfulness and complete authority of the Bible.
And even beyond this affirmation, with willing spirits and open minds and hearts, we joyfully dedicate ourselves anew to the authority of Holy Scripture, knowing that we can place our complete confidence in God’s truthful and reliable Word. ©2017 David S. Dockery
The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
David S. Dockery, Ph.D., is president of Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. This article is a brief overview of thoughts presented in Dockery’s book Christian Scripture: An Evangelical Perspective on Inspiration, Authority, and Interpretation. For more on this topic, Dockery recommends “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God by J.I. Packer, and Biblical Authority by John D. Woodbridge.