Biblical Inspiration

I’m beginning to work toward certification as a biblical counselor through the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC). As part of that effort, I have to respond to a series of theological and counseling questions as if I was explaining them to a counselee. After I finish one, I’ll post them here. Hopefully, you will find these helpful.

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The Bible is spoken of as “inspired.” What does this mean?

The doctrine of biblical inspiration is absolutely essential for orthodox (or right) faith and practice, for growth in Christ-likeness, and joy. At stake is the very nature of the Bible and its authority. Is it actually God’s Word or not? If it is God’s Word, to what extent is it so? There is really no other doctrine that is more important in all of Christianity because every other doctrine is built on top of this one.

Let’s define the term. Inspiration means that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on the Scripture writers which resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God. When we say that the Bible is “inspired”, we basically mean that God spoke the Bible to the world through its human authors. This orthodox understanding of inspiration is called plenary-verbal inspiration. “Plenary” means “all”, and “verbal” points to words. Therefore, plenary-verbal inspiration understands every word of the Bible to be God’s Word. In other terms, what the Bible says, God says.

Many theories have been put forth as to how this actually occurred. In looking at these theories, most can be boiled down to two false extremes. One says the bible is completely a work of man, which ignores any divine influence and undercuts divine authority. The other says the Bible is completely a work of God, which ignores the aspect of active human agency and personality that so clearly exists. The best theory of inspiration takes the middle road. This superlative theory is called the concursive theory of inspiration, which states that God so superintended the process of composing the Scriptures that the end result manifests his divine intention, without overriding the human authors and their intentions. In other words, Paul and the other biblical authors wrote exactly what God wanted, at the same time writing exactly what they wanted.

Plenary-verbal inspiration through concursion places the Scripture in the category of special revelation. Scripture is not something that man found out by observation and his own initiative. God revealed it to mankind, sharing His knowledge with us. Therefore, the Bible is a divine document.

Because there is no authority higher than Scripture, we appeal to Scripture itself as proof of its divine origin. 2 Timothy 3:16 is a key verse, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (NASB). The word translated “inspired” is the Greek word theopneustos, which literally means “God-breathed.” The NIV translates it best: “All Scripture is God-breathed…” The Bible has been spoken from the very mouth of God. Another important passage is 2 Peter 1:20-21, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (NASB). Again, the prophecies contained in the Bible have been spoken from God Himself. This truth squares well with the prophets’ own testimonies. Again and again they declared, “Thus says the Lord.” This fact is evidenced in Micah 4:4, Jeremiah 30:4, Isaiah 8:11, Amos 3:1, and 2 Samuel 23:2, to name a few. The precise role of the Scripture-writer as a prophet is to be the mouthpiece of God to humanity.

The culminating statement on biblical inspiration is this: God worked in such a way through human authors that what the Bible says God says, and we should heed it. To disobey any of it is to disobey God. The truth of inspiration renders the Bible trustworthy and authoritative for all of life.

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Boy & Girls Really Are Different

We are all familiar with the old nursery rhyme describing the differences between boys and girls:

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice, and everything nice,
That’s what little girls are made of.

Sure, it’s not science, but it’s true in so many ways. Yesterday we took our 3-year-old Zachariah to his favorite place—MacDonald’s Playland. Yeah, the food’s terrible, but who really goes there for the food? This playland is a tree house design, and Zach absolutely loves it.

We were there in the late afternoon so we had the playland all to ourselves except for one other family who had two little girls that were probably just a little bit older than Zach. They were playing while he finished up eating. As I watched them, I observed how sweet their play was—a lot of laughing, running, and talking. Zach soon finished up and began to play. He immediately wanted to make friends with them so he goes up to them and begins to pretend that he’s a ninja. Play punches and kicks flew through the air as he made sounds with his mouth. At first, the girls thought he was crazy. They looked at him and kind went their way, but he followed after them and demonstrated his karate skills again. This time they laughed and eventually began punching and kicking too. Zack soon turned around and hollered down from high up in the playland, “Daddy, I’ve made some new friends!” My wife Christy and I just cracked up.

The one thing that was so clear to me as I observed this whole event is the fact that boys and girls really are different. For a few decades now with the rise of feminism and the women’s rights movement, our society has really tried to downplay any gender differences. We would always here that differences are just a matter of nurture—we’ve conditioned boys and girls to act a certain way. But is this really true? Richard Laliberte points out in his article “Differences Between Boys and Girls” which appeared in the March 2006 issue of Parents magazine:

Parents have heard it for decades: Boys play with guns and girls play with dolls because society brainwashes them into rigid sex roles. Oh, really? Anyone who’s raised both boys and girls can tell you how different they seem from the get-go — and there’s not much you can do about it. When my wife and I wouldn’t give our son a toy weapon to play with, he made swords out of fence slats and guns out of Tinkertoys. Our daughter, by contrast, was always too busy managing the intricate social world of toy animals to have the slightest interest in hunting for anything. Was this subconsciously our fault?

Common sense has told us this truth for years, but as Laliberte points out, “It’s hard to argue with science, and evidence is mounting that male and female brains are simply not the same.” It’s not just anecdotal anymore.

Maleness and femaleness are not just flexible aspects of our life that we choose to take on. Rather it goes to the very root of our personhood. In fact, God’s glory is bound up in our different genders. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” We as humans are made in the image of God, and part of the demonstration of this image is masculinity and femininity. We should glory in these differences and not shrink from them.

There is nothing wrong with different. However, when the contemporary mind hears “different,” it often hears inequality. One must be better than the other, they think. But this notion of difference is not biblical. The biblical idea of gender difference is grounded in complementarity. The root word in this view is the verb “complement,” which means to fill up, complete, or make perfect. The idea is that maleness and femaleness need each other to fulfill God’s goals for humanity. The genders mutually supply each other’s lack so that fullness is experienced.

So what is the purpose of all this talk? My purpose is as follows. Men, I pray that you celebrate your masculinity and strive toward its scriptural standard. Women, I want you to celebrate your femininity and strive toward its scriptural standard. In marriage relationships, I desire that you make every effort to complement each other through the roles God has given each gender in the Bible. Moms and dads, I hope that you work to raise your boys to be men who live out all that God meant for them in their masculinity and your girls to be women who live all that God meant for them in their femininity. In these efforts, we will truly find our happiness and God’s greater glory.

Gender is God’s design and blessing, and we praise the Lord that male and female are different!

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The Last Shall Be First, and the First Last

Every Monday morning I get the privilege of sitting around a table at the Cloverleaf Restaurant in Liberty with a dozen or more pastors from our area. It’s a time of fellowship, devotion, breakfast, and prayer. As we’ve been meeting there over the last several months, we’ve noticed a trend. If the waitress takes your order first, you almost always get your food last. And if you order your food last, you are very likely to get your food first. Inevitably, one of the men will quote Matthew 19:30, which says, “But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

I’ve often taken this verse to mean that many who are greatest, or first, in the world’s eyes will be the least, or last, in the kingdom’s eyes. But as I’m reading this passage again, that’s really not what Jesus is saying at all. Sure, I believe the axiom is true that many who are great by the world’s standards are not great by God’s standards, but Jesus’ statement is pointing to a different truth. How do we know? We know because He illustrates His statement with the Parable of the Laborers in Matthew 20:1-16.

You probably know this parable well. Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hired a group of laborers early in the morning to work in his fields for the rest of the day for one denarius. A denarius was a silver coin in the Roman currency system and was seen as a fair wage for a day’s work in Jesus’ time. The landowner then decided that he didn’t have enough workers so he hired more of them throughout the day–some at 9am, noon, 3pm, and finally at 5pm.

At the end of the work day, the landowner gathered all the workers together to pay them. He began with the last group hired and gave them each one denarius. Naturally, the group that was hired first thought they were going to get much more since they had worked much longer than the last group. However, when it was their turn to be paid, each in the first group received just one denarius also.

Immediately, they began to protest and complain to their employer, basically saying, “This isn’t fair!” To which the landowner replied in essence, “I’ve done nothing wrong. It’s my right to be generous to these other groups if I wish.” And then Jesus finishes up the parable by saying again in v20:16, “So the last shall be first, and the first last.”

In order to really understand this parable, we must lay out what each part in the parable represents. The landowner is God, the vineyard is God’s kingdom, the workers are all believers, and the denarius is eternal salvation. The glorious truth contained in this passage is that all who place their faith in Jesus Christ get the same marvelous gift: eternal salvation. It doesn’t matter if the person was a follower of Jesus for only one day before they died. They still receive the same gift as the person who followed Jesus for 80 years and died a martyr’s death on the mission field. The thief on the cross next to Jesus received the same gift as the Apostle Peter. Isn’t that amazing!

You might not get why this truth is so amazing yet. Here is why it is: the thief didn’t deserve the gift and neither did Peter. This statement and illustration are designed by Jesus to highlight God’s sweet grace. Nobody deserves eternal salvation (in fact, we deserve the opposite, eternal destruction), but God gives it anyway through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Friends, there is no room for self-boasting in the Kingdom of God. As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 1:31, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” May we glory in God’s grace through Jesus Christ and rejoice when another sinner receives it. In relating this truth to my Monday morning pastors’ fellowship, may we just be overjoyed that we are getting breakfast. Praise the Lord He has determined to shower us with grace!

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This, the Power

Not too long ago I was driving back to Crofton from Bowling Green. Christy and Zachariah were snoozing, giving me a few and far between free reign over the radio. I don’t usually listen to music as I drive because it has a tendency to make me drowsy, but I thought I would throw in a CD that I had recently bought: Keith and Kristyn Getty’s “In Christ Alone.”

I’ve long been a fan of the music Keith has produced, but I had never bought a CD. He and his usual co-writer Stuart Townend are known for their hymnic lyric and theological depth. They’re the cream of the crop today! One song on this disc blew me away, and I can’t get it out of my spirit. Maybe it’s familiar to you. It was written in 2005, but I’ve never really heard it. It’s called “The Power of the Cross.” Check it out at Getty Music.

In the first three measures, Keith opens with the melody to “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and then sets the stage for his wife Kristyn to sing these lyrics:

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.
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CHORUS
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath–
We stand forgiven at the cross.
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Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev’ry bitter thought,
Ev’ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.
__________
Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
“Finished!” the vict’ry cry.
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Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.
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FINAL CHORUS
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God–slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross

In a sentence, this song highlights how ugly sin is and how beautiful Christ is. You know, I cannot fathom the true weight of my sin. I can conceptually understand it. It’s a terrible offense to God that evokes wrath and eternally separates me from Him. But to wrap my mind around how awful it actually is, I’m at a loss. As appalling as I understand it to be, I know that it’s much worse.

And the Bible says that Jesus “became” this sin for me and all that He’s redeeming so that we might know the Father and live. As Paul writes, “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21). Jesus took my sin, my ugliness and gave me His righteousness, His beauty. That’s the power of the cross. It’s a stain removal instrument in the Father’s hand. In an instant, “death is crushed to death” and “life is mine to live” because of the work of Christ on the cross.

May you trust in Christ and glory in the cross!

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