Holy Scripture: (5) Its Infallibility

August 31, 2003 / No. 3165

Dear Radio Friends,

     The child of God must know the Scriptures to be infallible.  Not only inerrant.  That is true too.  Inerrant means there is no error in them.  But also infallible (not capable of having error in them).  That they are infallible explains why they are inerrant.  There is no error, not merely as a coincidence, but because Scripture is unable to have errors in it.

     The reason why Scripture cannot have errors in it is because it is the Word of God and God cannot lie.  It is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:18), which God who cannot lie promised (Tit. 1:2).   God is not a man that He should lie (Num. 23:19).   Because God is a God of light and of truth and of unchanging truth, so in Scripture there are no lies, errors, or deceptions.

     That the Scriptures are infallible, however, does not merely follow from the truth of God’s unchangingness, but is also expressly stated in Scripture itself.  There are a number of passages that imply or teach it to some degree, but the classic text regarding the infallibility of Scripture is John 10:35.   There we read (and it is Jesus who is speaking):  “The scripture cannot be broken.”

     Now, this is a parenthetical statement of Jesus.  It is mentioned in connection with an argument that He is making to the Jews.  Therefore, we must study it in connection with the whole incident and the whole argument.  But there is a benefit in doing that.  For in the context and in light of the argument, Jesus not only says that the Scripture cannot be broken (though clearly He does that), but He also applies and illustrates the doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture.

     Let us examine the words of Jesus, “The Scripture cannot be broken.”

     The occasion for this assertion was that the Jews were ready to stone Jesus, charging Him with blasphemy.  “The Jews took up stones again to stone him,” we read in John 10:31.   And in verse 32, Jesus answered them, “Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?”  The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (v. 33).

     In trying to stone Jesus, the Jews pretend to be zealous for the glory of the name of God, for blasphemy is, indeed, a heinous sin against God.  It is speaking against God or His power or His majesty.  It is attributing to God something evil or denying that He is good.  It is a very terrible sin, and one that you and I must be on our guard against — that we ever deny essential truths about God, deny that His Word is true, deny His goodness and His grace — this, and many other things, would constitute blasphemy.

     In the Old Testament, God prescribes stoning as punishment for blasphemy.  Stoning was a sign of the curse of God — just as Christ’s death on the cross was an accursed death.  The whole congregation was to participate in that stoning to show their hatred of the sin of blasphemy and their love for the Lord.  Therefore, the Jews pretend to have a zeal for the law of God by obeying it in this instance.  Yet, in doing so, they show their blind hatred of Jesus as the Christ.

     What shows their hatred is, first of all, the fact that the manner in which they intended to stone Him was illegal in that day.  Rome now governed Judea, and Rome said the Jews could not put a man to death without the permission of Rome.  There has been, however, no trial by Rome.  The Jews have taken matters into their own hands and they are going to stone Jesus.

     What also shows their hatred is that this was a repeated attempt.  They had tried to stone Him previously.  At that time He escaped from them.  His time was not yet.  But now, having found Him again and not believing His words, they are ready once more to stone Him who has not sinned.  Their justification was that He was a blasphemer, for He claimed to be God.

     But He was God.  And He had demonstrated so many times that He was God.  “Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?”  In changing water into wine, in healing the sick, in feeding the multitudes, in forgiving sinners — in all these things Christ showed He was the Son of God, for He could do things no mere man could do.  But they are blind.  They hate Him and they are going to stone Him.

     In response to their attempt to stone Him, Jesus defends Himself.  Now, being God as to His person, He did not have to defend Himself.  He could have escaped.  Or, He could have caused them to fall down backwards powerless.  But He does defend Himself in order to expose the hardness of their heart and leave them without excuse.  And His defense is clear.  He reminds them then of the works that He has done and how they prove He is the Messiah (vv. 37, 38:  “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.  But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works:  that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him”).  Would it not be strange that a man who casts out devils is not God?  Believe that He is God — only God has power over devils.  That is part of Jesus’ defense — the works He has done show He is the Messiah.

     The second part of Jesus’ defense is His appeal to the Scriptures of the Old Testament.  Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods:  If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken:  say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (vv. 35, 36).  Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6.   That psalm is speaking of earthly judges and of God judging earthly judges.  We read in verse 1:  “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods,” and then in verses 6 and 7:  “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.  But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.”  In this psalm God, by the inspired psalmist, is telling the earthly judges that, although they are gods (not in the sense of being divine in their nature or essence but in the sense that to them has been entrusted the divine prerogative of judgment), yet they are merely men and will die like men and will, one day, have to answer to the Judge of the judges, God Himself.  Psalm 82, therefore, reminds all earthly judges to judge righteously.

     But now Jesus appeals to that psalm in which God called men, mere mortal sinful humans, gods because of the divine prerogative that had been entrusted to them, that of earthly judgment.  “If God called men gods, then why do you hate Me, you Jews, when I have done no sin but only good and thereby have testified that I am truly God?” asks Jesus.  It is in that connection that He says, “And the scripture cannot be broken.”  There is the clinching of the argument — the infallibility of Scripture.

     When Jesus says in verse 35 of John 10, “And the scripture cannot be broken,” He does not mean only that Psalm 82 cannot be broken — that we must take Psalm 82 for what it says — but He has in mind all of Scripture.  Scripture cannot be broken and, therefore, no part of Scripture can be broken.  To break Scripture is to deprive it of its authority.  Scripture cannot be broken because its authority is given from God.  No man can take that authority away.  It is true that men act as though Scripture has no authority, that they disregard it and break its laws.  But that does not mean the authority of Scripture has been truly broken.  Just as when a child rebels against his parents and acts as though his parents have no authority, the parent still does have authority and the child will be judged for his refusing to acknowledge it.

Scripture cannot be broken

because its authority is given from God.

     The reason why the authority of Scripture is not broken is that it cannot be broken.  You must understand that in our text the word “cannot” means “is not able to be.”  So, the reason why Scripture has no error is that it is not able to be broken.  It is authoritative.  Its words stand.

     Now, in our day and age, many people do not agree with this word of Jesus, and they consider Scripture to be fallible, that is, to contain errors.  Some say, All of Scripture is fallible; none of it is trustworthy.  Others say, Parts of Scripture are fallible.  Those parts that teach us about salvation in Jesus Christ have no errors, but many other parts of Scripture not closely connected to the teaching of salvation in Christ are erroneous.  For example, men might point out that in parallel passages of Scripture there are discrepancies.  We have four gospel accounts.  They do not in every respect seem to agree in all the details of the history even when they treat the same historical event.  The books of Samuel and Kings have a parallel account in the books of Chronicles.  There, too, there are, some allege, discrepancies.  Another sort of error that some say is found in Scripture is that the New Testament writers quote the Old Testament writers in free style.  Sometimes they get the quote “wrong”; sometimes they even seem to ascribe it to the wrong source.  Matthew, in one instance, seems to quote Zechariah, but says he quotes Jeremiah.  A third instance of errors in Scripture, some would say, are those in which the teachings of Scripture contradict findings of science and history.  The Bible, they say, speaks of a flat earth; science tells us it is a sphere.  The Bible speaks of a six 24-hour day creation; science indicates the world evolved.  These are examples of some ways in which people say the Scriptures have errors in them.

     What lies behind one’s thinking that there are errors in Scripture?  Really, the answer must be that they view Scripture as not being the Word of God alone, but the word of man.  And men make mistakes.  Men write out of their own culture.  Men’s writings reflect their own limitations.  God is not the author, but men.  We have already shown from Scripture, however, that God is the author of Scripture.  And God cannot lie.

     Others, perhaps, are prone to say that Scripture has errors because they desire to appear as learned men before the world.  They would find themselves embarrassed by the so-called errors of Scripture and so, rather than trying to hold to these so-called errors as being factual truth, they call them errors to try to earn the respect of the world.

     To all of which, the response of the child of God is these words of Jesus:  “And the scripture cannot be broken.”

     Because Jesus said it, we are going to assert it, and we are going to do so as a matter of faith.  Scripture is the Word of God.  We know our God and we love our God and we know He cannot lie; therefore we say, “Scripture cannot be broken.”  Should it be that we cannot finally reconcile these supposed discrepancies found in Scripture, or should it be that we cannot fully explain Scripture when it appears to contradict itself or when it appears to contradict the findings of science, we are not going to say that because we cannot explain these differences therefore Scripture has error.  But instead, our starting point is to say, though we cannot explain it, Scripture is right.  There is no error in Scripture.

Because Jesus said it, we are going to assert it,

and we are going to do so as a matter of faith.

     At the same time, we must understand that many of these so-called errors can be understood rightly when Scripture is understood rightly.  Scripture interprets Scripture.  When a New Testament writer seems to quote an Old Testament writer but not accurately, we must understand that God, by inspiration, is causing that New Testament writer to shed some light on the Old Testament prophecy or passage that the Old Testament writer himself did not have.  And the church of Christ, in order to understand the Old Testament better, is given the New Testament, and quotes of the Old Testament are written in the New Testament.  Remember that, if you think that the New Testament writers err in quoting the Old Testament.

     Scripture is not always to be interpreted literally.  In that way also we can resolve some of the supposed discrepancies of Scripture.  That there are four corners of the earth is a poetic device.  There is some element of truth in that.  But the expression that the earth has four corners is not intended to be scientific.  However, when in Genesis 1 we read that the world was created in six days limited by morning and evening and, therefore, days of twenty-four hours, we must not say, “Scripture is being figurative here.”  But we can say rather that God has created the world in such a wonderful way that He has to tell us just how it is lest we be deceived by the findings of science.  By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.

     Now I have only given general ways in which some of the supposed errors fall away.  We cannot go into them in detail.  We cannot explain every one of them.  But the child of God takes as a starting point, in faith, the words of Christ and accepts them at their face value, “The scripture cannot be broken.”

     Now Christ’s use of the doctrine applies it and illustrates it.  For He refers to the Old Testament.  “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?”  Someone will say immediately, “Look, Jesus says He quotes from the law, but in fact He quotes from the psalms.”  We must understand that the word “law” is used to refer to the whole Old Testament.  Jesus speaks of the “law and the prophets.”  Jesus is not intending to say here that this statement is taken from the books Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy.  But the point is that in the Old Testament Scriptures the statement is found.

The child of God takes as a starting point, in faith,

the words of Christ and accepts them

at their face value, “The scripture cannot be broken.”

     Furthermore, Christ’s use of the doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture illustrates it because His quote makes more clear that which we find in the Old Testament.  The quote as we find it in Psalm 82:6 says, “I have said, Ye are gods.”  Who is the “I” who said this?  The psalmist, perhaps.  Maybe that is the answer, for back in verse 1 we read, “He judgeth among the gods.”  Is it the psalmist then who, by inspiration, is telling the Jews, “I said earlier you are gods.  I am going to explain here what I mean”?  No.  Jesus makes clear in His quote of that text that the “I” is God Himself.  “Is it not written in your laws, I said, Ye are gods?  If He called them gods unto whom the word of God came….”  He called them gods.  That is, Jesus is making clear here that it is Jehovah God who is the “I” of Psalm 82:6.   Therefore, in two different ways we see that Christ’s use of the doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture also illustrates it.

     This is the ground, now, that Jesus used to prove that He has the right to claim to be the Son of God.  His works demonstrate it and Scripture permits it.  Let not the Jews accuse Him of blasphemy.

     This argument we must take to heart, first of all, by taking at face value that which Scripture teaches.  When it teaches that He is the Messiah, we must believe it.  Then, when it teaches that the Scriptures cannot be broken, we must believe it.  If the Scriptures could be broken, they could not be our guide, our trustworthy guide for all of life.  If they cannot be broken, they are our guide and will always be able to be our guide.  And you have, dear radio listeners, not my word but the word of Jesus on it:  The Scriptures cannot be broken.  In them is no error.  Bow before it and live.

     Let us pray.

     Heavenly Father, we pray that if we might ever have thought that Scripture had errors in it, Thou wilt work faith in our hearts that it does not and cannot.  Whether we understand how Scripture in every aspect speaks the truth or whether we still have questions about what Scripture means, nevertheless, cause us to believe that Thy Word is truth and to bow before it and in that way experience Thy blessing.  For Jesus’ sake, Amen.