The Spirit and Scripture

“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)

What is it to be “inspired?” We regularly hear and read of the term, commonly used in everyday life. Authors are said to be inspiring if they write a page turning novel, or a powerful real life story that motivates or encourages. Political leaders or ordinary members of the public are referred to as inspirational if they show great leadership or courage in the face of adversity. Musicians are referred to as inspiring if they write or perform a beautiful piece of music. In the sporting world we often hear of inspirational substitutions, which changed the course of a game.

What do theologians mean when they say that the Scriptures are inspired? Whilst the Scriptures certainly motivate and encourage, as well as cultivating leadership and courage, whilst the Scriptures are beautiful, leading to transformative change, that is not primarily what we mean by the inspiration of Scripture. What we mean when we say that the Scriptures are inspired is that the Bible is breathed out by God, as He prompted the writers of Scripture, who were moved by the Holy Spirit. “Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The idea is that the Spirit breathed the Word into men’s hearts and minds, so that they wrote exactly what He wanted them to write, and so that they were preserved from error, which would have otherwise been natural to them as sinful men. As they wrote, they recorded God’s own thoughts, as James Bannerman put it, “making the voice of God speak to us in a human accent.”

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