Robots. To the unilluminated mind, that’s what we are under the control of a sovereign God—just mindless automatons executing divine orders for His pleasure. And while the Lord could control and direct His creations that way, He doesn’t—instead He works through our wills, our intellects, and our personalities to accomplish His sovereign ends.
Nowhere are God’s methods more obvious than in the writing of Scripture. God could have simply dictated His Word through one man, or maintained a consistent tone and vocabulary across several human authors. Instead, as we’ll see today, He worked through a diverse collection of authors and personalities to deliver His Word to His people, without sacrificing the continuity or character of Scripture.
What Inspiration Is
Last time we considered several common misconceptions about how the Lord inspired His Word. Today we’re going to consider what the Bible says about its own inspired quality.
Two passages of Scripture—2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21—tell us what inspiration really is. Many versions of 2 Timothy 3:16 say something like, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (KJV, emphasis added). The English Standard Version is more accurate, however, when it translates the verse, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” The Greek expression used here is pasa grafe theopneustos. Let us take a closer look at the meaning of these three crucial words.
Theopneustos is a combination of the Greek word theos (God) and pneu (breath). We get such English words as pneumatic and pneumonia from the Greek root pneu. Theopneustos then literally means “God-breathed.” The key to understanding the concept of “God-breathed” really comes out of the Old Testament. In Psalm 33:6 we read: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.” In other words, God breathed the universe into existence. In the same way, God breathed into existence His Word, the Bible. When Scripture speaks, God speaks. Romans 3:2 tells us that the Scriptures are the “oracles of God”—His very words.
In the first chapter of Jeremiah, that prophet writes, “The word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations’” (Jeremiah 1:4-5). A few verses later, Jeremiah reports, “Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth’” (Jeremiah 1:9). God has always worked through words, not merely thoughts. He has put His words in the mouth of the writers of Scripture.
The second point from 2 Timothy 3:16 concerns how much of Scripture is God-breathed. Paul uses the Greek word pasa, which can be translated “all” or “every.” Paul is saying that all Scripture—every bit of it—is inspired.
One argument used by critics of the Bible is that 2 Timothy 3:16 can refer only to the Old Testament because that’s all of the Scripture Paul had at the time. The New Testament canon was not officially approved by the organized church until sometime in the fourth century. This, however, does not alter the fact of New Testament inspiration. What God inspired, He inspired (including 2 Timothy 3:16). James Packer says,
The church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity. God gave us gravity, by His work of creation, and similarly He gave us the New Testament canon, by inspiring the individual books that make it up.  J.I. Packer, God Has Spoken: Revelation and the Bible (London: Hodden and Stoughton, 1965), 81.
Dr. William Hendriksen adds,
Though the history of the recognition, review, and ratification of the canon was somewhat complicated . . . what should be emphasized . . . is that not because the church, upon a certain date, long ago, made an official decision (the decision of the Council of Hippo, 393 A.D.; of Carthage, 397 A.D.), do these books constitute the inspired Bible; on the contrary, the sixty-six books, by their very contents, immediately attest themselves to the hearts of all Spirit-indwelt men as being the living oracles of God.  William Hendriksen, First and Second Timothy and Titus, New Testament Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1957), 301-302.
The church only recognized this reality.
What does all this have to do with what Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16? Just this: To say all Scripture is God-breathed doesn’t necessarily mean just all past Scripture. I believe 2 Timothy 3:16 refers to the entire Scripture—that which had been written, that which was being written, and that which was yet to be written.
As for the third point from 2 Timothy 3:16, we need to ask just what is Scripture? And here we have the other Greek word—graphe. This is the word from which we get graphite—the material that is used for making pencils. Graphe simply means “writing.” Did Paul mean that all kinds of writing were inspired? Obviously not, and we can go back to 2 Timothy 3:15 to see just what he did mean. Paul tells Timothy, “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” So Paul is talking about holy writing. It is the holy Scripture that is God-breathed.
God’s Word Through Human Authors
Technically speaking, the writers of Scripture are never referred to as inspired. Paul is referring to their writings and he says that they are God-breathed. So when we sometimes say that Paul was inspired as he wrote certain books of the Bible, this is not technically correct. Paul was not inspired. The epistle to the Romans is inspired, as are the letters to the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Ephesians, and so on. It is not the men who wrote Scripture that are inspired; it is the message. Some writers of Scripture wrote only one brief book or letter and never wrote another “inspired” thing in their entire lives.
What then was the condition of a biblical writer at the time he wrote inspired Scripture? What was the difference between the way Paul felt and wrote when he penned Romans and all those other letters and when he simply wrote out supply lists for his next missionary journey?
We find the answer in the other text that refers to Scripture being inspired or God-breathed—2 Peter 1:20-21. Here we read, “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.” Peter is saying that no part of the Bible was of any private origin. No Scripture ever simply came out of a man’s mind. There was a special condition for the writing of Scripture and Peter refers to it as being “moved by the Holy Spirit.”
Gordon R. Lewis, professor of systematic theology at Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, writes,
The human writers were not autonomous, but lived and moved and had their being in the all-wise Lord of All. Created with a capacity for self-transcendence in the image of God, they could receive changeless truths by revelation. Providentially prepared by God in their unique personalities they also had characteristics common to all other human beings in all times and cultures. Their teaching originated, however, not with their own wills, but God’s and came to them through a variety of means. In all the human writing processes, they were supernaturally overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, not in a way analogous to mechanical or unworthy human relationships, but as one loving person effectually influences another. What stands written, therefore, in human language is not merely human, but also divine. What the human sentences teach, God teaches.  Gordon R. Lewis, “The Human Authorship of Inspired Scripture,” Summit Papers, International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (1978).
In succinct terms, then, inspiration is God’s revelation communicated to us through writers who use their own minds, their own words, and yet God had so arranged their lives and their thoughts and their vocabularies, that the words they chose out of their own minds were the very words that God determined from eternity past that they would use to write His truths.
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