written by: Lehman Strauss
It was our privilege to have Lehman Strauss on a number of occasions at Sherwood. Lehman was a gifted Bible teacher and author. Most of his material is now out of print. If you find one of his books or commentaries, pick it up. It will be a valuable addition to your library.
Across the street from our campus, we own a guest house, ‘The Strauss House’ for our visiting ministers. We have named it in his honor as we believe that churches should honor the traveling minister. It is where Dr. Strauss wrote his last book.
I hope you will enjoy this four part article from Dr. Strauss. He loved and cherished his Bible. It was evident in his preaching, teaching and writing. It is my prayer that these articles will encourage you to stand true to the Word of God.
The Inspiration Of The Bible
The Meaning of Inspiration. There are teachers among us who seem too willing to surrender the time-honored Biblical meaning of inspiration. Their new attitude toward the Bible grew out of their demand for a new doctrine of inspiration. Neo-orthodoxy would have all Christians abandon the Scriptural teaching about inspiration and accept its new theology. But if we do this we will then be judging the Bible on the basis of what certain “scientists” and “scholars” have said concerning it. This I am not ready to do, and I am *quite aware that my position is not a popular one among some religious leaders of our day.
Now where should one begin in his quest for the meaning of inspiration? I do not hesitate in insisting that the first place where one must go to learn the meaning of the inspiration of the Bible is to the Bible itself. We cannot accept merely what is acceptable to modem man. Our generation has witnessed the growing exaltation of man-and his intellectual powers to the degree that some men are looked upon as knowing more than God. Let us come back to the Bible and accept the concept of inspiration which is based solely upon the teaching of the Bible. When the Biblical meaning of inspiration is accepted, there can be no mistaken identity.
Someone might raise the objection that it is “circular” to appeal to the Bible for its own authentication and vindication, meaning that to appeal to Scripture in support of Scripture is to argue in a circle. Any court will recognize that a man has a right to testify in his own behalf. Now we know that it is possible for every man to lie, or to deceive, or to be prejudiced. But because the Bible is the Word of God, and God, because of Who He is, cannot lie (Titus 1:2), most certainly the Bible’s witness to its inspiration ought, therefore, to be accepted as trustworthy.
One of the great doctrinal passages in the Bible is the well-known word from Paul to Timothy. The King James Version reads as follows: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness? (II Timothy 3:16). Take notice of that word “inspiration. ” I believe there are only two appearances of this word in the English Bible, one in the Old Testament (Job 32:8) and one in the New. The passage which for our purpose is of supreme importance is the one in the New Testament.
The five words, “given by inspiration of God,” are the translation of the one Greek word theopneustos. It is a compound, consisting of thee (God) and pneusror (breathed). The true meaning is “that which is breathed out by God.” It is a strange figure, but a strong one. Used only here in the entire New Testament, it is designed to make the reader aware of the fact that all Scripture, every writing to which the name Scripture could be given, was actually breathed out by God, and consequently bears the stamp of Divine origin and authority. When man speaks, his words might be said to be man-breathed; when God spoke, his words might be said to be man-breathed; when God spoke, His words were God-breathed. It can be said metaphorically that the Scriptures are God’s breath. How much of the Scriptures have gone out of the mouth of God? All Scripture! The Scriptures came into being because they were breathed out by God Himself. Modern theories of inspiration would have us give the larger role to man and the lesser to God, as though God is not necessary to inspiration. But be certain that the Scriptures are the product of the Divine breath because they have their origin in God. And since the inspiration of the Bible is the focal point of conflict, we assert with firmness and finality that this greatest Book of all books owes its very existence to the direct creative work of God Himself.
The Lord Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). He is merely stating that God had spoken, and that the words came from His mouth, they had been breathed out by God. On another occasion He said to the Jews, “. . . the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). The precise point of our Lord’s statement here is that the Scripture cannot be fragmentized; the Scripture as a whole cannot be annulled or set aside. He was attributing to all the Scriptures an authoritative character. His was an appeal to the unity and totality of Scripture, namely, all of Scripture must be inspired or none of it can be. The Bible claims for itself total inspiration. All Scripture is the product of the breathing of God Who is the first and final cause of Scripture and of all things. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6). “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4). This graphic figure of speech tells us that God employed the same movement in the creation of the universe, man and the Scriptures, namely, the activity of His Spirit or Breath. When the three American astronauts were circling the moon, the first humans ever to do so, they alternated reading aloud the divinely inspired record of creation as found in Genesis, chapter one. In so doing they were paying the same reverence and respect to the Scriptures that they attributed to God and His vast creation. And rightly so, because both the universe and the Scriptures proceeded from Him.
The Magnitude of Inspiration. How high a view of inspiration can we hold? Is the inspiration of the Bible plenary, that is, is it totally, fully inspired? Is it verbally inspired, or merely thought-inspired? We believe that the inspiration of the Bible extends to the very words because the Bible itself teaches this. The neo-orthodox position, in its quest for a new approach to the doctrine of inspiration, rejects the plenary and verbal inspiration of the Bible. When one reads what some modem “scholars” have written on the subject he sees in some instances a mind that is hostile toward the idea of verbal inspiration. Some opponents of verbal inspiration go so far as to misrepresent us by falsely claiming that verbal inspiration is synonymous with mechanical dictation. We will leave the mode of inspiration for later discussion. The late Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas wrote, “In Scripture we do not have mechanical dictation, but inspiration; and whether we call it verbal or plenary, the phrase is not intended to say how God does it, but how far it has gone.” The magnitude of inspiration reaches the words of Scripture as well as the thoughts. How can we know God’s thoughts if we do not have God’s words? It is illogical reasoning for a person to expect to find inspiration in one’s thoughts without the words of the person who thinks those thoughts. Surely inspiration cannot mean a collection of uninspired words supposed to convey inspired thoughts. For myself, I am forced to the conclusion that it would be just as impossible to divorce the thoughts of the Bible from its words as it would be to divorce my thoughts from my words. Why would any professing Christian consider it an incredible thing that God should speak in words? The Bible itself claims to be the Word of God, and must therefore be written in the words of God. I am not suggesting that there is no disclosure from God apart from the Bible. It is not necessary to use words to impart revelation. We know that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handi-work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:1-3). But this first or primary disclosure of God in His works falls far short of the knowledge we receive through the fuller revelation in His words. The former discloses His power, while the latter reaches beyond to the revelation of His purpose and future plans. The Bible is not merely a work of God, it is the record of His words.
The writers whom God raised up recorded His words, not their own. When we say that God revealed His word to the prophets, we are saying that He revealed His words to them. Since the Bible is God’s word, it consists of God’s words. In this way the writers were inspired of God, for He said, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him” (Deuteronomy 18: 18). Moses said, “And God spake all these words” (Exodus 20: 1), and “These are the words which the LORD hath commanded” (Exodus 35:l). David said, “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and His word (not his thought) was in my tongue” (II Samuel 23:2). When God called Jeremiah, He assured His servant, “Behold, I have put my words (not thoughts) in thy mouth” (Jeremiah 1:9). Perish the thought that the sovereign, almighty God, Who created the universe and man, was indifferent about the details of His written revelation! David prayed, “. . . Thou hast magnified Thy word above Thy name” (Psalm 138:2).
In 1940 the editor of The Challenger magazine asked this writer to send him a statement of his belief about inspiration. As a young pastor in my first church, I prepared and submitted the following, quoted here only in part: “Inspiration extends to the very words of Scripture, so that by inspiration is meant verbal inspiration. By this I am not suggesting that God dictated every word, but rather that He guided the writers in the choice of their words. The Bible is fully inspired, in all parts and respects. I believe in the plenary inspiration of every word of the original text of Holy Scripture. The writers were infallibly guided by God in their choice of subject matter and the words used to record their subjects. Words are necessary to express thoughts, therefore inspiration includes words as well as thoughts and concepts. Such guidance of the Holy Spirit over the human penmen does not extend to other writings, but rather excludes al1 other writings as uninspired. Of the Bible it must be said that ‘all’ is thus inspired (II Timothy 3:16), including ‘the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets’ (II Peter 3:2), the letters (Galatians 3:16 : noticing the absence of the letter ‘s’), the ‘jot’ (the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet) and the ‘tittle’ (the small ornamental mark in that alphabet distinguishing one letter from another) (Matthew 5:18). The Bible is the only God-given, authoritative revelation which gives to man an infallible rule of faith and practice.” And now thirty-two years later (1972), I am prepared to say that my convictions about inspiration, as expressed above, are stronger than when they were first written.
The Media of Inspiration. At this point it is necessary to make the distinction between inspiration and revelation. Inspiration is that activity of God whereby He imparted certain information to certain men of His own choosing for the express purpose of committing that information to writing. He superintended each writer of the Scriptures in order that those Scriptures would possess Divine authority and be free from error. Revelation, while closely related to inspiration, is essentially the communication of that information and has to do more with the mode or method of presenting and preserving the imparted know-ledge. Revelation is the act or process of imparting knowledge; inspiration guarantees its veracity.
Most appropriate for our purpose is an examination of II Peter 1:20, 21: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came 8 not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake / as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:20, 21). These words make it clear that the Scriptures are not the result I of any man’s personal and private investigation. Peter is stating here that the knowledge contained in the Scriptures is not to be found in man. The Scriptures are not the product of human search and reason, not of human origin. This is how the Bible did not come to us, and on this point there can be no misunderstanding. The teaching in these verses is both negative and positive.
Negatively, the Scriptures do not owe their origin to human initiative, investigation or imagination. How wonderfully the Holy Spirit anticipated the scoffers and critics in their claims that men concocted the Bible! He first disposes of such a notion. Never, at any time, did any part of Scripture come through the will of man.
Positively, human instrumentality is fully recognized, for “holy (set-apart) men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” First, observe the kind of men God selected for the task of writing the Scriptures. They were “holy men,” meaning men set apart by God Himself. The human penmen did not choose writing as a career. As a matter of fact, Peter, who penned the passage we are presently considering, was an unlettered fisherman. Yet, for reasons known only to Himself, God set apart Peter to pen two Epistles. Jeremiah was a writing prophet, and God said to him, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 15). Jeremiah was a holy (set-apart) man, selected by God to receive the inspired word from God. Paul testified, “. . . It pleased God, who separated me (set me apart) from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me. . .” (Galatians 1:15, 16). For this reason the Apostle could say, concerning the gospel he preached, “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). All of the writers of Scripture were men set-apart by God to be the media of inspiration, the human penmen to whom God could reveal His thoughts.
Upon a closer examination of Peter’s words, we learn how God controlled their minds as they received and wrote the message. They are said to have been “moved by the Holy Ghost,” meaning that they were controlled and carried along by the Spirit. Without this special work of the Holy Spirit, the revelation from God could never be known by the natural man. When Moses wrote, for example, of the creation of the heavens and the earth, what he wrote would have to be an inspired writing He was not present at the time of creation, nor was any other man. No human eye saw it and no human mind could have conceived it. The case of Moses and his account of creation illustrates the idea of revelation, the fact that God set apart a man to reveal a truth that only God knew. Inspiration has to do with the keeping of the writings from error and mistakes in the process of transmission.
Human writers were the media of inspiration, penning not their thoughts and words, but the utterances of God as they were lifted up and carried along by the Holy Spirit. The writers were not mere passive automata whose own gifts and abilities lay dormant. Man, unaided by God, could not have written the Bible, yet God did call certain men and control them by His Spirit to do His writing. There is definitely the human side of the Scriptures, but the Scriptures themselves are from God. Paul knew this great fact when he wrote, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (I Corinthians 2: 13). Paul could not take credit for the “words” which he spoke because he knew that the Holy Spirit gave them to him.
The Divine-human combination in the matter of inspiration may be illustrated from a statement made by our Lord. We must look at it in the parallel passages as recorded by Mark and Luke:
“For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, the LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool”. (Mark 12:36) “And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool”. (Luke 20:42, 43)
Look carefully at these two verses, and what do you see? In Luke’s account the quotation is attributed to David, but Mark’s account includes the fact that David spoke “by the Holy Ghost.” Both are correct. The words that David spoke were God’s words because they originated with God and He alone is their Author. On the other hand, God spoke them by the mouth of His servant David. When Peter and John quoted the Second Psalm in their prayer, they said to God, “Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said. . .” (Acts 4:25, cf. Psalm 2:l). In like manner Zacharias said, “He (God) spake by the mouth of His holy prophets…” (Luke 1:70). Jeremiah said, “Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jeremiah 1:9). The Bible is not a record of the thoughts and experiences of the human writers, but it is itself the very Word of God as God revealed Himself to those men. Jesus said to Peter, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).
There are doubtless many questions about inspiration which arise in our minds and which we cannot answer now. All that God requires of us is that we accept humbly the truth He has given. The media of inspiration have not in any way robbed the Word of God of its perfection.
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