Years ago I heard someone say, “God is. He spoke. And he didn’t stutter.
I thought that was a pretty succinct way to talk about God and his Word. Someone else might say “a rather simplistic way”. So, I thought it might be interesting to explore with you the inspiration of the scriptures to discuss the last two succinct statements in more detail. If you agree with that, then let’s take a look at God’s ways and methods of presenting His Word.
“All scripture is inspired of God and helpful…” (2 Timothy 3:16).
This is a much quoted verse on the divine origin of Scripture, and it deserves consideration. Paul wrote it to let us know that God communicated with believers by giving them his inspired words. Theologians call it Special Revelation to distinguish the words of God through human authors from other religious works written by people outside of inspiration, and to distinguish His words from His other works in creation, called General Revelation.
Because the English translation above uses the word “inspiration” (from Latin, meaning to breathe), we know it has something to do with God breathing His message into mankind. But hold on to your seats, “God breathed” is actually a more literal translation of the only Greek word used in the text, theopneustos (as presented in English), than “given by inspiration of God” because to inspire means to inspire and the reality of Scripture is that God spoke His message. The Greek word is a compound word combining the roots theos (God) and pnuma (breathed), suggesting “exhaled by God” as the clearest translation.
Think about it, God did not breathe His own words, and the text does not infer that the writers breathed God’s words. Instead, God breathed His words into the minds of the writers. But how did it work? What was his process? Its methodology?
Peter answers these questions in a small Bible book called Second Peter. A quick reminder of who Peter was might be important for people unfamiliar with Christian history. He was a deep-sea net fisherman who made a living by taking his sailboat out to the Sea of Galilee in hopes of catching enough fish to share it fairly among his fellow boaters, feed his own family, and sell to the people on the docks when he returned from a day or night of fishing.
Peter was among the very first men Jesus called to walk with him as a disciple.
Some readers will recall Jesus’ words to Peter and his brother: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
And follow him. Over the next three years, he became one of the main groups of three disciples with whom Jesus dealt more personally and prophetically.
In the weeks following Jesus’ resurrection, Peter, a Jew by birth and practice, rose to prominence as the key leader of the people who would later gather as the first church on the planet. This church, the Church of Jerusalem, was formed within two months of the resurrection.
At some point Peter left Jerusalem to spread the good news of salvation in the risen Christ. He moved to Rome and became its senior pastor; a position then called bishop in Rome. Catholics believe he was the first de facto pope in Rome – some 300 years before the formal formation of the Roman Catholic Church.
Conclusion: Peter had seen and heard amazing things as he followed Jesus, and that brings us to his comments on inspiration that are scattered throughout 2 Peter. One of his main ideas is that inspiration came from “holy prophets” and “apostles” (3:2). This claim is bold in that Peter brings together as one of the many writers of the Jewish Scriptures and the New Testament writers emerge as the human authors of the God-inspired Scriptures. It is enormous !
Another of his big ideas is that Peter referred to Paul as the author of Scripture.
Peter spoke of Paul as “our dear brother” who spoke of salvation “according to the wisdom given him” (3:15), “as he does in all his letters” (v.16).
And then the clincher: Peter equates Paul’s letters with “other scriptures” (also verse 16).
But how do we know Peter was right? This answer brings us to his main teachings on the inspiration of Scripture. In chapter 1, he asserts that he and the evangelists had “the prophetic word” when they taught and wrote about the life and ministry of Jesus (1:16-21). That he included himself alongside the other New Testament writers is seen in the six uses of “we”, when he asserts that he and others wrote prophetically of the words and works of Jesus which they had seen or heard as eyewitnesses.
This is where it gets really interesting. Referring to these prophetic writings, Peter asserts that when they wrote about events they had personally experienced, their words contained no “intelligently devised myths” (v.16), and the things they wrote are, in fact, the “most assured Word of God” (v.19, my translation). Peter was well aware of the power of myth as he grew up in a culture of Greek influence under a Roman system of government. These two cultures were saturated with life-controlling mythologies.
So listen carefully to his words. Peter actually affirms the miracles that are recorded in the Gospels as historically real events, not as myths. His claim includes everything from Jesus changing washing water at a wedding feast into delicious wine, to seven miracles of Jesus (in the Gospel of John) that fulfilled specific prophecies about the coming of the Saviour, until Jesus revealed some of his essential glory, and finally to include the physical resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his crucifixion. None of these things were a myth. All of these things were real. They have been supported by multiple eyewitnesses, written by contemporaries of Jesus in peer-reviewed documents, and included in Scripture as the most assured Word of God.
Peter’s assertion against “intelligently crafted myths” certainly goes back in time to include all the miracles observed and recorded by the Old Testament prophets. These were also real and not mythical, starting with the burning bush, and including the 10 plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, food and water for 40 years in the desert, the walls of Jericho s collapsing, the contest between God and the false gods on Mount Carmel, the three men kept in the fiery furnace, and many others.
Then, in a teaching that solidifies the “myth-free” claim, Peter states that God’s prophecies do not include any “private interpretation” of these historically observed events and were not initiated or driven by “the will of God.” ‘man’ (vs .20b and 21a). This is significant in that Peter clearly states that the human writers of Scripture did not interpret events to fit their own accounts. And neither initiated their own ideas as truth.
Instead, and this is where we learn about God’s inspired methodology, Peter informs us that the prophecies of Scripture were written by men “prompted by” or “dragged by” the Holy Spirit. (v. 21b). The idea that men are “moved by” the Holy Spirit is instructive as to the divine method of inspiration in Scripture as opposed to other religious writings.
Peter, the former boat fisherman from Galilee, seems to have borrowed the words “moved by” from his fishing past and the world of sailing. By analogy, he proposes that God’s method of inspiration is similar to how a sailing ship arrives at its intended destination. The sails are trimmed correctly by the captain, allowing the wind to guide the vessel to its fishing spot or intended port – the idea being that the hearts and minds of the human writers of scripture were, at the time of the inspiration, rightly regulated by the Holy Spirit that He might move them forward, like the wind in a sail, with the breath of God to ensure that they write the very words intended by God.
Have you seen this? It was the breath of God that gave birth to the written words, just as it was the breath of God that gave life to Adam at the time of his creation. The “moved by” of Peter is the methodology behind the “exhaled by God” or “inspired by God” in the verse at the top of this article. This shows a solidarity of understanding on the part of Peter and Paul about inspiration.
God used many platforms to inspire ancient prophets and church apostles. Sometimes he used his own voice. There are many times when the scriptures proclaim: “And God said” followed by the very words heard by the author. Other times God sent the “angel of the Lord” himself or, occasionally, the angel Gabriel to communicate a direct message or prophecy. And then, too, there are God-inspired dreams, visions, poems, and revelations (including John’s Apocalypse about Jesus and the end times). Each of them illustrates times when the writers were moved by the Holy Spirit. The same is true of the direct inspiration that led to the theological writings of the New Testament.
Other means used by God include when He spoke through the mouth of a prophet’s donkey. And when He spoke to Moses from a burning bush. Many know the time on Mount Sinai when Moses watched God carve 10 Laws on two stone tablets, and some might remember that centuries later God wrote a prophetic message on a wall so that Daniel could warn a distant potentate of an impending disaster.
Exceptionally, God “prompted” Moses to write a story that he had not personally observed: the creation, the flood, the covenant given to Abraham, the events surrounding Joseph and the famine in Egypt; thus, forever correcting the conflicting oral traditions of the age of Moses with a mythless and surer word of God (in Genesis) than the myths and fables of the older Mesopotamian, Syrian, and Egyptian cultures.
How creative our God is! Regardless of the various means he used to communicate, God’s methodology is that he worked through the lives of each of the human writers to tune their minds and hearts in such a way as to enable them to receive and register the exact message he intended to read. and applied by the readers of Scripture.
Yes, God has spoken, and He has spoken clearly – through a man raised in an Egyptian palace (Moses), a physician who became a biblical historian (Luke) and a scholar trained in the best Hebrew academy (Paul). But also, through a shepherd who became King (David), a fisherman who became an Apostle (Peter), a tax collector who became a disciple (Matthew), a fig picker who became a Prophet (Amos), and a few dozen more real people who were moved by the Spirit to receive the breath of God in order to write the Word of God.
Just think what might happen if we care enough to read what God cares enough to inspire.
Dr. Mike Womack is a retired pastor and public health educator from McMinn County.