January 9 - 15
What Inspiration Is
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Cor. 2:10-14; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; Rev. 1:1-3; Eph. 3:3-6; John 14:26; 16:12, 13.
MEMORY TEXT: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).
KEY THOUGHT: God has revealed His character and His will for us in the Bible. Yet, the Bible actually was written by people. How can we have the assurance that the Bible accurately expresses God's thoughts? The production of the Old and New Testament Scriptures was supervised by God in such a way that we can accept what was written as the authoritative and infallible expression of Divine revelation.
THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE. The authority of Scripture is determined by the fact that it is the inspired Word of God. His Word is authoritative because He is authoritative. Through His Word God Himself reveals His wise plan and loving will for us. He who is our Creator and Redeemer continues to speak to us through His Word. Bible writers were chosen, inspired, and guided by God Himself. "When we come to the Bible, reason must acknowledge an authority superior to itself, and heart and intellect must bow to the great I AM."Steps to Christ, p. 110.
WORD FOR THE WEEK: Inspiration. The Greek word translated inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16 literally means "God-breathed." God moved and enabled His chosen writers to grasp and communicate that which He revealed to them in a trustworthy and authoritative fashion.
How much of the Scripture is inspired, and what Divine agency moved upon those chosen to express God's ideas? 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21.
Inspiration refers to the means by which God safeguarded the production and preservation of the Bible in order for it to become an infallible and sufficient guide to salvation.
Inspiration acts on the writer. "The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen....
"It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God."Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21.
"But the Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' John 1:14....
"He [God] guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, nonetheless, from Heaven. The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God. . . ."The Great Controversy, pp. vi, vii.
In what ways does the Holy Spirit work with us to help us understand the Inspired Word? 1 Cor. 2:10-14.
The Adventist position on inspiration strengthens the church. "Our unequivocal, historic emphasis upon the divine inspiration and trustworthiness of Scripture has strengthened our church. It has helped us resist the error of treating some parts of Scripture as God's Word, while ignoring or rejecting other parts. If we accept it as God's Word, we must accept it all, whether or not we like what it says. To us the Scriptures should be the ultimate revelation of God's will for our lives."Robert Folkenberg, "Standing on Solid GroundThe Bible," Adventist Review (August 3, 1995), vol. 172, no. 36, p. 22.
Whom did God use to "testify against Israel"? 2 Kings 17:13.
What are the implications of the following statement in regard to the inspiration of the Old Testament?
"The Bible writers testify that their messages come directly from God. It is 'the word of the Lord' that came to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and others (Jer. 1:1, 2, 9; Eze. 1:3; Hos. 1:1; Joel 1:1; Jonah 1:1). As messengers of the Lord (Haggai 1: 13; 2 Chron. 36:16), God's prophets were commanded to speak in His name, saying 'Thus says the Lord' (Eze. 2:4; cf. Isa. 7:7). His words constitute their divine credentials and authority."Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . . , ed. The Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventhday Adventists (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988), pp. 11, 12
Expressions such as the word of the Lord, thus saith the Lord, or their equivalent appear more than 3,800 times in the Old Testament. David claimed: "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue" (2 Sam. 23:2).
Job and Genesis were inspired accounts written by Moses. The first words in our Bible tell us that "in the beginning God created . . ." (Gen. 1:1). During Moses' forty years in the desert of Midian, "under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote the book of Genesis and also the book of Job."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 1140.
The first part of Genesis has been likened to a primer that not only tells us about how God created but step-by-step introduces us to the God of Creation. In the book of Job, which may have been the first book he wrote, Moses demonstrates how one human being came to know God better through intense and seemingly unreasonable suffering. Although the book takes us behind the scenes of the great controversy to show us why God allows those who serve Him to suffer trial and affliction, it is fascinating that, as far as we know, Job never was given this insight, but Moses was.
|Thought question: Since Moses was not present at Creation and probably did not know Job personally, how was he able to write authoritative accounts of what occurred during Creation and what took place in the life of Job?|
What was Jesus' attitude toward the authority of the Scriptures? Matt. 4:4-10; Luke 20:17; Mark 7:7-9.
Jesus recognized that, as the authoritative Word of God, the Bible was above all human traditions. He pointed to the prophecies of the Old Testament as confirming His role as the Messiah (see Mark 1:15; Luke 4:21).
What did Jesus mean when He told the Jews that "the scripture cannot be broken"? John 10:35, 36.
The New English Bible translates this text "Scripture cannot be set aside." The Jews who received the law acknowledged that it was impossible to break, annul, or cancel what the Scriptures taught.
"Throughout His ministry, Jesus stressed the authority of the Scriptures. When tempted by Satan or battling His opponents, 'It is written' was His defense and offense (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; Luke 20:17)....
"So, without reservation Christ accepted the Holy Scriptures as the authoritative revelation of God's will for the human race. He saw the Scriptures as a body of truth, an objective revelation, given to lead humanity out of the darkness of faulty traditions and myths into the true light of a saving knowledge. "Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . . , p. 12.
This is what Paul claims about his teachings: "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God . . . " (1 Thess. 2:13, NKJV; see also 4:2). Compare 2 Peter 3:15, 16.
What did John the revelator state about the source of his messages? Rev. 1:1-3.
|Thought question: In what way was the human personality of the writers preserved through the process of inspiration as described in the Scriptures? Give some illustrations from both the Old and New Testaments. For example, in what way did Moses' personality show through his writing? Identify what made his style of writing different from Daniel's or David's.|
"These two pursuits of the Holy spirit, namely, revelation and inspiration, are so closely intertwined that it is difficult to separate them. Not only is it difficult, but fruitless as well, it seems, to try to know where one ends and the other starts. One may want to distinguish between them for the sake of clarity, but they should never be separated . . ." Raoul Dederen, "The Revelation-Inspiration Phenomenon According to the Bible Writer," Issues in Revelation and Inspiration, Frank Holbrook and Leo Van Dolson, eds. (Berrien Springs, Mich.: A.T.S. Publications, 1992), p. 18.
"Do not let any living man come to you and begin to dissect God's Word, telling what is revelation, what is inspiration and what is not, without a rebuke. Tell all such they simply do not know.... What we want is to inspire faith. We want no one to say, 'This I will reject, and this will I receive,' but we want to have implicit faith in the Bible as a whole and as it is."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 919.
What does Paul teach about the Holy Spirit's part in the revelations he received? Eph. 3:3-6.
Read Isaiah 42:1; 61:1; and Micah 3:8. How do these texts demonstrate that the Old Testament writers were dependent on the same Source?
"With enormous courage and amid great danger for their personal lives, God's prophets delivered their messages, guided by the Holy Spirit. Not often with great success, however.
"Zechariah, among others, deplored that his contemporaries turned a stubborn ear to his proclamation, refusing as well 'the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets' (Zech. 7:12). 'Many years thou didst bear with them, and didst warn them by thy Spirit through thy prophets,' explains Nehemiah (9:30). These messages were conveyed through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, so that their statements, oral or written ... were an authentic expression of the divine revelation. God enabled His servants to express in a fully dependable manner what He had disclosed to them."Dederen, Issues in Revelation, p. 16.
|Imagine that you were living in Israel when the prophets were led by the Holy Spirit to present God's messages. Would you have responded differently to them from the way the children of Israel responded?|
Revelation is not a distinct process that can be separated from inspiration. The two go hand in hand. In both, God is personally and directly active. He revealed Himself and enabled His chosen writers to receive and communicate His will in a trustworthy and authoritative manner.
What characteristic of Christ's transmission of God's Word contrasted markedly with that of the scribes and Pharisees? Matt. 7:29. (Compare Mark 1:22.)
"The scribes' teaching was dogmatic, and based on the traditions of the elders. There was life-giving power in the method of Christ's presentation, as well as in the truths he set forth in contrast with the dead formalism of the teaching of the scribes."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 360.
To what extent did the Bible writers understand their messages to be the faithful and inspired transmission of revelations given by God? 2 Pet. 1:20, 21.
"What Peter emphasizes here ... is that the prophets spoke because they were 'moved by the Holy Spirit.' None of their prophetic messages came 'by the impulse of man.' In other words, their statements were in no case the result of their own meditation, nor of their later reflection on an allegedly silent encounter with God. This, explains Peter, is of first importance and must be clearly understood. Being moved by the Spirit, the prophets of old spoke for God. This work of the Spirit is what we refer to as 'inspiration.' A supernatural quality all its own marks the prophetic ministry. Inspiration enables the Bible writers to grasp and to convey in a trustworthy and authoritative manner what God had revealed to them. Inspiration is an enabling work which counterbalances, so to speak, the shortcomings of the prophets and the sinful tendencies of their human nature. Though the term 'inspiration' itself hardly appears in Scripture, the content ... is firmly embedded in the Scripture's teaching."Dederen, Issues in Revelation, pp. 16, 17.
|For reflection: What sort of Bible teaching have I experienced? How can my church become closer to the life-giving power of Christ's instruction? How can I avoid the dead formalism of the scribes in teaching? How can I help my church improve in this area?|
FURTHER STUDY: Written by a large number of God's inspired writers over a lengthy period of time, the Bible is rich in variety. Yet it harmoniously brings us the revealed will of God. One of the reasons that God gave us this rich difference in background and in ways of expression used by the writers is because of our diversity in understanding and background. This way God is able to speak to people throughout the ages in the various circumstances in which they find themselves and to meet the needs of all who study what He has revealed. Choose three writers from different backgrounds (such as Moses, Jonah, and John) who lived at widely separated points in history, listing some of their differences and showing how they speak to your particular needs today.
SUMMARY: "The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God's acts in history.Fundamental Belief, 1."Quoted in Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . . , p. 4.
Nakhichevan is a scrap of land tucked between Iran, Turkey, and Armenia. Its name means "Noah was here." Mount Ararat looms on the horizon. But the saving knowledge of Jesus is virtually unknown among the predominantly Muslim population.
ADRA is working in this isolated region of Azerbaijan, where war and boycotts have cut off the people from the outside world and hunger and poverty stalk the countryside. ADRA workers cannot openly evangelize, but their silent witness has made an impact on the people in the land of Noah.
Nineteen-year-old Aygun noticed the difference in these Christian workers and began asking questions. Soon she began visiting the tiny Adventist worship services. When her father learned of her interest in Christianity, he forbade her to come, but she continued to attend. Her mother decided to see for herself what her daughter was learning and began attending as well. Aygun was thrilled when she received a Russian Bible. She even slept holding her Bible tight against her chest. She accepted Jesus as her Saviour.
Aygun began translating in the children's Sabbath School and eventually learned to lead out. She and a Muslim friend now tell stories from the Bible and pray with the children.
She continued studying her Bible and praying earnestly that she could be baptized. But her father would not allow her. He forbade her to read her Bible and other Christian literature. Aygun refused to give up her Bible and challenged him to read the Christian books before she did. "If you find any wrong teachings for health and happiness, then you may forbid me to read these books."
Her father accepted her appeal and began reading her books and literature. The Holy Spirit worked on his heart, and he found himself enjoying the books! Finally he gave his permission for her to be baptized. Today Aygun witnesses to her Muslim relatives and classmates at school. Pray that God will empower and encourage her each day in her Christian witness in the land of Noah.
Aygun (left). Mike Feldbush served with ADRA on a short-term project in Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan.
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