Dear radio friends,
Last week we examined the confession of the psalmist, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” and we noticed that the psalmist believed Scripture to be the Word of God. What did he mean when he called Scripture the Word of God? In what sense is it the Word of God? Is it the word about God? Certainly that is true. Scripture reveals Jehovah God. But even more, and what makes it possible that Scripture is the word about God, is the fact that Scripture is the word that God wrote, that originated with God, the word of which God is the author. That, especially, is what we mean when we call it the word of God.
It is important to understand and believe that God is the author of Scripture, first of all, because when we know the author of a book, we have already an idea of the value of it. That is true of any book we read in everyday life. Knowing various authors and the kind of writing they put out, we can look at a cover and judge the book. Even though we are often advised not to “judge a book by its cover,” there are indeed times when that very thing is possible. So, with Scripture, if we know that God is the author, we already have an idea of the value of the book. Believing that God is the one only true God, and that He speaks truth, we know that this book will speak truth.
Therefore, secondly, it is important to know that God is the author of Scripture because that will give us an understanding of the trustworthiness of the book. When the psalmist spoke of Scripture being a light unto his feet and a lamp upon his pathway, then he spoke of it being a trustworthy and reliable guide. And that it is, because it is the word of God.
What is our starting point today as we speak of Scripture being the word of God and being authored by God? Our starting point is the point of faith. Scripture says it is the word of God and we believe what Scripture says. Generally, we do believe it when a book tells who its author is. Very rarely do we question that the author of the book is, in fact, the person whose name appears in print on the cover. And that is true of us with regard to Scripture, too. We need not question the authorship of Scripture when we are told that God wrote it. However, our faith is not a merely blind faith. We know that God wrote it and that when God said He wrote it He was right, because the things which Scripture prophesies of are coming to pass. No man could have foreseen everything that would happen in time and history. Scripture must be written by God.
This, now, is the teaching of the apostle Peter, by inspiration, in II Peter 1:20, 21 : “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Here Peter teaches us of the authorship of holy Scripture. Notice, first, that he is speaking of the origin of Scripture. “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man.” In old time, prophecies originated already. Centuries ago there were prophecies that were later recorded in Scripture. Prophecy is, of course, a matter of speech, first of all. Peter says that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” But these prophecies were written down. And the word “Scripture” does mean “writings.” So Peter has in mind the coming of Scripture, the origin of Scripture. And not just any one part of Scripture, but he has in mind all of Scripture. Even though it is true that the day in which he wrote, the Scripture was not completed yet, still he has in mind all the Scriptures, the holy writings that the people of God had at that time. “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” He has in mind the whole of Scripture.
Understanding, then, that Peter is speaking of Scripture’s origin, notice, in the second place, that he is very clear on this point: Man was passive in writing the Scriptures. To say that God is the author of Scripture does not require us to deny that men were used to write Scripture. The text says as much. “Holy men of God spake.” And we know ourselves that the apostle Peter, as he writes these words, is writing Scripture. Scripture is clear that David wrote many of the psalms; that Isaiah is the human being through whom the prophecy of Isaiah came; that Paul was the human through whom many of the epistles were written. Most of the books identify the human instrument. We are not denying that men were used to write Scripture when we say that God is the author of Scripture. But what we mean is that the words and ideas of Scripture (notice that — not merely the ideas but the words also) did not originate with men. Verse 20 says, “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” That is our first proof that the words, the ideas, and the impulse to write Scripture did not originate in men. For when Peter says in verse 20 that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, he does not mean (by inspiration, of course) simply to teach that no man may think he understands Scripture and that others do not. It is true, sometimes, that a minority of men have the correct understanding of Scripture. But Peter’s point is that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private explaining, and that no aspect of Scripture is the private idea of the men who wrote it. Do not go to Peter and ask Peter to explain what he meant. Do not go to Isaiah and ask Isaiah to explain what he meant. For the men who wrote these Scriptures, the human instruments, were not giving their own ideas.
The second aspect found in the text that supports the idea that the words, ideas, and impulse to write did not originate with man is that Peter says it in so many words: “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man.” Peter, Paul, and Isaiah did not wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll write a book that God’s people in every age will read and remember.” The writing of Scripture was not due to their will. Just as salvation is not due to the will of man (we read in Romans 9:16 , “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy); just as the sending of Christ into the human flesh was not due to the will of the virgin Mary (God told her what He was going to do, He did not ask her permission or her agreement), so also with Scripture. The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man. The wills of the human instruments were not a factor here.
Then, thirdly, in the text that shows that the words, ideas, and impulse to write were not of man is this sentence: “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Now that word “moved” is used in other Scriptures to refer to a ship being borne on the wind. It is not the will of the ship itself or the pilot of the ship, it is not any activity of the ship that moves that ship along. It is the wind. The ship is passive. So this passage teaches very clearly that though God used human instruments to write His Scriptures, these men were passive in that regard.
What a contrast is the idea of so many men today that there is in Scripture a human element. Not just that God used men to write His Scriptures, but that men had a say in what was written; that man is, perhaps, called rightly the co-author of Scripture; that the substance of Scripture is partly due to God and partly due to man; or that God gave men the ideas to write, but men wrote them in their own words — the substance is God’s and the form is man’s. It does not matter how you explain the idea of a human element. Either way, you end up with this: man is not just used, man was not merely moved by the Spirit, but man was actively involved in the writing of Scripture. That idea the word of God in our text rules out very clearly: “The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
What the text underscores positively, then, is God’s activity in the writing of Scripture. The text makes clear that the speaking of the prophecy of Scripture, and then also the writing of those prophecies, is the work of God alone. For that Holy Ghost who moved the men of God to speak and write is God.
And that this is the work of God is made clear from the fact that there is a very evident shift in emphasis in the original: for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. The text speaks of the wonder of inspiration. We have not used that word before, but it is a very important word and a crucial concept to understand. The word “inspiration” means that God, by the work of the Holy Spirit, guided men so that what they wrote was not their own word but God’s word. That is not the way we use the word inspiration today. We speak of being “inspired” to do something — having the idea or incentive. That is not at all what our text means. We have already shown that man was passive. The word “inspiration” as we use it with application to the writing of Scripture means that the Holy Spirit guided the men of God so that what they wrote was not their word but God’s.
A most important question, then, is, How did this inspiration take place? That is an important question because some here also go wrong. Trying to do justice to the idea that Scripture is entirely the word of God, they might say that the humans who wrote Scripture were merely writing down what God dictated. That is not at all true. We can see from Scripture too that when Paul writes he writes out of his own experiences and in accordance with his own personality. As David wrote Psalm 23 , he was surely not simply writing down what God was dictating in his ear but was writing of his own experience and his confession and what he believed to be true. It is not the case, then, that inspiration took place mechanically.
And yet, at the same time, we have to guard against the ideas of some who say that while David was living, or while Paul was living, God had an idea of some truth He wanted to convey to His people and so He looked around to see who would be the best person to use to convey that truth and decided to pick here a David and there a Paul and there a Peter, using the best means He had at His disposal. Let us not go in that direction either.
How did the Spirit work in men so that what they wrote, while manifesting their own personalities and their own experiences of life, was word-for-word, without error, the word of God? To answer the question, we have to think of the truth of God’s sovereignty. God, from all eternity, sovereignly determined everything that should happen in time and history. He sovereignly determined everything that relates to the salvation of His church. Therefore, He sovereignly determined to write His Scripture, to make Himself known to His people in Jesus Christ by way of the written word. This is the matter of God’s sovereignty.
From all eternity, He determined every part of Scripture that should be written — the sixty-six different books. And He determined that these books would be of a different type — some in the form of a letter to a church, some in the form of recounting history, some poetry. He determined also that these books should be written by different writers in order to emphasize that when written by different writers, yet speaking one and the same truth, the author of this book must be none other than God.
God, having determined that from all eternity, raised up in His providence a David. And in order that David write Psalm 23 , which God had determined from all eternity that David would do, God caused David first to become a shepherd. God determined that He should use a Paul to speak to the church of the suffering that the church will have to endure. In order to prepare and equip Paul to do that, God determined that a Paul should suffer many things of the gospel — including beatings and imprisonment. God raised up, prepared, the men He wanted to write His Scriptures, governed every aspect of their life in order that what they wrote expressed their own personality and followed from their own experiences but was, for all that, the word of God.
How can that be? If to this point you have not been satisfied with the answer, then we have to say it is a miracle! No less is this a miracle (the inspiration of Scripture) than was God sending Christ into our flesh and raising up a virgin Mary to be the instrument He used to that end. No less is this a miracle than God deciding to save us, working His Holy Spirit in our hearts, and yet taking all the credit for the work of salvation. So Scripture, and the inspiration of Scripture, is a wonder and a miracle of God.
Know this first, dear radio listeners, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Know that first. For if you know that first, you will understand why Scripture is absolutely trustworthy. The apostle Peter spoke to the saints of that in verse 19: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” A more sure word of prophecy!
How can the people to whom Peter writes know that he speaks the truth? Peter is warning the church against doctrinal error, including those related to the second coming of Jesus Christ. And he is also warning them against the licentious living, the sinful living, that such errors lead to. How can the people to whom he writes know that his warnings are to be taken to heart? He emphasizes the trustworthiness of what he says, first of all, by saying that he was there on the Mount of Transfiguration when he heard God say of Christ: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” But then Peter says, “Don’t believe what I write just for that reason. We have a more sure word. What I write,” Peter means to be saying to the church, “is in accordance with all of Scripture. And no part of Scripture is the work or the product of the will of man.” Scripture is the word of God. That makes Scripture a faithful guide. And that makes the words that Peter writes by inspiration true for us as well.
Peter exhorts the saints, then, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.” Remember last week we spoke of the need for Scripture as a light to shine on our dark pathway? Peter says, “knowing that Scripture is the word of God, you can trust it reliably to guide you to your destination. You do well to take heed to Scripture.”
May God grant every one of us grace to confess that Scripture is His word alone and to take heed to it.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we pray that by Thy Holy Spirit Thou wilt convict us of the truth of that which Thy word speaks and cause us to give all glory and honor to Thy name for it. Enable us to take heed to those Scriptures and not to turn aside from what they tell us. To the glory of Thy name and for Christ’s sake, Amen.