God’s Word for You
2 Peter 1:20-21 Divine Inspiration
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, July 3, 2022
20 Above all you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by anyone’s personal interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried by the Holy Spirit.
Verse 20 can be summed up by a simple truth: Scripture interprets Scripture. If there is a matter in Scripture that is not clear by using the other Scriptures to give it light, then it would be better to say, “I don’t know what this means,” than to say, “This is what I say it means.” As Luther says here: “The Holy Spirit himself must expound Scripture, otherwise it must remain unexpounded.”
Verse 21 takes us from the matter of interpretation back into the realm of the origin of the Scriptures themselves: The words of the Bible did not come from anyone’s will or intention. This is how the Holy Scriptures came about: “Men spoke from God as they were carried by the Holy Spirit.” This is the doctrine of divine inspiration, which Paul calls “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Holy Spirit clearly allowed various authors to use their own words and style of writing and experiences, but the message that their vocabulary and style delivered was in each case God’s message, delivered to the church and accepted by the church. Moses was commanded to write the message for the people. God said, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered” (Exodus 17:14), and he “set before them all the words” (Exodus 19:7). Jeremiah was ordered: “Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you” (Jeremiah 30:2). And the other prophets were given similar commands or messages of visions to record (Isaiah 1:1; Ezekiel 1:3; Hosea 1:1; Habakkuk 2:2, and so on).
That the Bible is the Word of God is the claim made by the Bible itself, not just by those who believe in Jesus or who love the Bible, but by the Bible. It is clear that the ancient church accepted the writings of the apostles and these were not disputed. But Paul talks about false apostles, 2 Corinthians 11:12, and often signs his letters so that his handwriting and “large letters” could be recognized in 1 Corinthians 16:21 and other places (Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Philemon 1:19). Peter wants Christians everywhere to accept Paul’s letters along with “the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). And Paul also quotes from Luke’s gospel as Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18, where he quotes from Luke 10:7. The writings of the Lord’s brothers James and Jude were only rarely contested and have been accepted universally by the church.
Finally, the purpose of the Scriptures is explained within the text: “All Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). And John pins the central theme with perfect clarity: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
The doctrine of inspiration is today being rejected by modern and revisionist theology. This is not only an attack on certain teachings of the church, but it is an attack on the saving acts of Christ himself. As a doctrine, inspiration must be upheld as an absolute. According to Scripture, we emphasize these points especially:
1, The holy writers wrote at the impulse of the Holy Spirit. This means the impulse and initiation of the Spirit, and therefore we must reject the idea that the Holy Spirit merely assisted the writers. The text of the Scriptures is without error, it is inerrant, and this is impossible for any human operation. This is attested by our verse above and by Paul’s statement that the Scriptures are “the very words of God” (Romans 3:2).
2, Scripture declares the inspiration of the facts presented in the text, saying that “giving” (Matthew 10:19) and “teaching” (Luke 12:12) are the same thing. Being taught by God is to be given the truth from the hand and mouth of God. Paul described the act in this way: “God has freely given (it) to us. And this is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). The whole content of Scripture is given by God.
3, 1 Corinthians 2 also declares that the very words of the text are the words of God. In Galatians 3:16, Paul carefully and precisely analyzes the word choice of Moses in Genesis 22:18, explaining that “seeds” means many people, but “seed” means only one person, Jesus Christ. So Paul stresses not only the very word, but the form of the word given in Hebrew and then, by Paul, matched in the Greek text. The precision of the grammar is upheld as crucial to our understanding of the text.
4, By using the word God-breathed (theopneustos, θεόπνευστος), the Holy Spirit does not appear as the principal author only, but as the true author. What has been recorded in the Bible is truly God’s holy word.
5, Scripture says explicitly that the Holy Spirit is the one speaking in Scripture. There are many passages such as, “The Holy Spirit says” (Hebrews 3:7). And especially we have the word in Hebrews 10:17 which says that while the Lord commanded Jeremiah to write, it was the Holy Spirit who said the things that were written (Hebrews 10:15-17; Jeremiah 31:34). Furthermore, it would be no easy count, even with mechanical assistance, to accurately say, this is how often the Bible says, “This is what the Lord says” and similar things.
So this is our confidence: Every matter, every account, every list, every story, every historical event, and every single word in the Bible, as well as the grammar, is in the Bible for our benefit, given and taught to us by God. By comparison, we see that the word and the water that come to us in our baptism is for our benefit, not just some of it, but all of it, given by God and at God’s command, although a minister’s hand scooped and poured the water and although that minister’s voice spoke the words. If his hand dropped some of the water, it was still given for our benefit, and we praise God that the full intention of the sacrament is not diminished because of drops spilled. But with the written word of Scripture, we also have the glorious and reassuring passage in Samuel that God is with our preaching and teaching, so that “none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19).
All of Scripture is breathed, inspired, taught, and given by God for our spiritual contemplation and spiritual good, from the six days of creation to the ten commandments, from the cruel shouts around the cross to the glorious songs sung in paradise. Our God wants us to know about him, to be thrilled by his forgiveness, to put our trust in him, and to be brought out of the grave and safely home to heaven. This is God’s word for us all.
Pastor Timothy Smith