God’s Words or Man’s Words? Understanding the Doctrine of Inspiration
For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Today’s big question: whose words are these [in the Bible], anyway?
The doctrine of inspiration is the teaching that God has literally breathed the very words of the Scriptures. This comes from 2 Timothy 3:16 where Paul tells us that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The term for “inspiration” here is the Greek term theopneustos (literally, “God-breathed”), and that is quite different from what we typically think of when we think about being inspired today. You see, the writers of the Scriptures were inspired in a wholly different way than a songwriter might feel inspired or an author today might feel inspired. When it comes to the Scriptures, God was actually breathing His words through those writers. Amazing, huh?
But some people then wonder how that works. If the Bible is made up of words that have come from God, why are the writings of the 40 different authors of the various books of the Bible distinct in their style, approach, vocabulary, and perspective?
To give us a better understanding of this, I find it helpful to think of the writers of the Scriptures as functioning as a sort of “box of crayons” with which God has “colored the pictures” related to their own specific books. God is the actual artist, but for each book, He is tapping into that specific box of crayons for that writer. This box of crayons represents the vocabulary, personality, experiences, memories, etc. of each writer.
Thinking in these terms, we see that the Apostle Peter had a rather small “box.” He was not as well educated, which limited him to write with a smaller, simpler vocabulary. The Apostle Paul, on the other hand, had a larger “box” due to the fact that his education and background were so rich and full.
When God wrote through the hand of Peter, He used the vocabulary, experiences, background, etc. of Peter to communicate His message. When He wrote through the hand of Paul, He used more sophisticated language based on Paul’s larger “box of crayons.”
In each case, God used the writers to write from their own background and experiences. However, their writings were ultimately still the Word of God in that God selected precisely what to write from each writer’s “box.”
With this in mind, let us marvel in the wonderful miracle of God in giving us the Scriptures. And let us strive to know His Word better each and every day!
Today’s big idea: God personally crafted the Holy Scriptures for us, so we must put great effort into studying them thoroughly and applying them to our lives.
What to pray: ask God to guide you through His Word and show you any changes in your life that you need to make for Him.
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