The Bible Is God’s Infallible Word

(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw 2 April 2018

The Bible Is God’s Infallible Word

In this day when some churches are turning away from the Bible, it is refreshing to know that many are not. Those who reject the Bible as God’s revelation of Himself to us must have a new concept of God. And where do they get this standard? They must invent it. Often I hear these people say God is like . . ., and they rattle off something. But how do they know God is like whatever they say? And how can we know the details of what God is like unless He tells us? Indeed, how can we know anyone unless that person reveals himself or herself to us?

Many years ago I worked at an investment and insurance firm while I was helping to start a church. The man who hired me claimed to be a Christian, knew the language of Christians, and could pray quite well. (He prayed in order to prey on Christians!) After a short period, I discovered that he was a con man, selling faulty investments to those he could deceive. I and others thought we knew him, but he had not revealed his true self. Likewise, we cannot dream up concepts of God, and say what He is like, for that would be creating a god after our own image. The only way we can know Him is if He reveals Himself to us, and the Bible makes that claim hundreds of times. Of course, in theory the Bible could be wrong in its claim—and that is way beyond this short article—but at least we must see that the Church has also presented the Bible as God’s revelation for 2,000 years, and it has challenged anyone to show its errors.

Then there are those who say the Bible is only infallible in theological matters but not in history, science, and so forth. But like those who invent a concept of god, these people transfer infallibility to themselves, for they assume that they can infallibly discern which portions of the Bible are infallible and which are not. In other words, infallibility does not go away—it only gets moved around.

And what does the Bible say about itself? There are two passages in particular that are key in the Bible’s presentation of inspiration. First, is 2 Peter 1:20-21:

  • 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved [or borne up, carried along] by the Holy Spirit.

There are several points here. Peter is emphatic that God is the source of the holy Scriptures even while men wrote them. Moreover, God used their human personalities of the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles to accomplish an infallible result. In other words, the Bible is both human and divine. Like the Son of God who was both God and man in one person, so the scriptures are both human and divine, yet one, and infallible. Furthermore, Peter says that the scriptures were not “private interpretation,” which means not initiated by men for their own personal doctrines. No, they received them from God Himself. Peter is not saying they were passive pens so that God dictated every word, but that the source was from God. This indicates that the human authors did not originate the message, but rather they were carried along by the Holy Spirit when writing Scripture, receiving the message from Him. They were passive in the message, but active in the writing, using their own vocabulary and personalities.

The second key passage of the Bible regarding its own inspiration is:

  • 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.

The word “inspired” means “God-breathed” in the sense that God is the source. It does not carry an active idea so that Scripture is inspiring (though surely it is!) but the passive sense, meaning “inspired,” a body of truth that is fossilized, delivered, and now unchangeable. Nor does it mean “every Scripture inspired by God is . . .” so that there may be some Scripture not inspired by God. The idea is that every part of the Bible is equally inspired, breathed out from God Almighty, and therefore infallible.

Moreover, Christ agreed that the Bible was infallible when He spoke about the Old Testament.

  • For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matt 5:18).

The word “jot” most likely means “yod,” the smallest Hebrew letter, and “tittle” means part of a Hebrew letter, perhaps the difference between similar letters, like the difference between the number zero “0” and the letter “O” in English. But the Lord’s view was that the Old Testament’s infallibility was clearly down to the very words and letters. For example, in John 10:35, He stated: “The Scripture cannot be broken.” He often rested His final argument on the infallible authority of the Old Testament (see John 5:39; Luke 24:44-45; Matt 22:29; John 7:19; Matt 4:1-11:

  • You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. (Jn. 5:39)
  • 44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (Lk. 24:44-45 NKJ)
  • 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, “You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matt. 4:1-11 NKJ)

Let us confess with our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the Church of all ages, that the Bible is God’s gift to us, that we know God because in its pages is revealed this one, Triune God: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Let us not seek to invent a god who is more palatable to modern people. Let us fear this God, not people who may control our salaries as gospel ministers. AMEN.

 

 

 

How to Interpret the Bible, part 2, or Rescuing 2 Peter 1:20-21 . . .

((c) Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, ThD)

16 Jan 2018

This post is the conclusion from last time. I don’t hope to do an exhaustive course on hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible), but just to make some comments on these two verses that I began last time.

Here again is my translation of 2 Peter 1:20-21:

Knowing this first,

that no                  prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own [private] interpretation,

                             for prophecy never came by the will of man,

BUT

                       holy men of God spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

  1. By “no prophecy of Scripture” that  I mean the written revelation as given in Holy Scripture.
  2. Moreover, “from one’s own” by which I mean no one conjours up revelation from his imagination. I understand “own” to mean “private”. In other words, a reader or one who imagines is not allowed to invent Scripture. How many times have I had someone tell me, “This is what this passage means to me [then follows some interpretation]; what does it mean to you.” Peter is telling us that a passage ripped from its context is not really Holy Scripture, but someone’s imagination. As one friend of mine often quotes another scholar:

    “A wrong interpretation of Scripture is not Scripture; 

     … only the TRUE meaning of the Bible can properly be called the Bible.” 

    Once I was managing a Christian bookstore in Memphis, TN when a lady came in to shop. She kept saying that the Lord had told her such and such (don’t recall now what it was). Finally, I said, “The Lord told me the opposite.” She looked stunned.  One must never challenge another’s “revelation” or “word of knowledge.” She said something like “How can you say that?” I walked over to our Bible section of the book store, picked up a Bible, and read her a few verses that said the opposite of what she was claiming. She said something like, “Well, this is what it MEANS TO ME.” I replied that God the Holy Spirit was not into relativism. To show how objective she was, she never came back. By her will or imagination, she was inventing a meaning that was not in the text of the Bible; it was a private interpretation.

  3. There is one Greek word for “as they were carried along,” which is a present tense, passive voice, participle, masculine, plural, indicating continuous action. In this context, “they” refers to “holy men” of God. Passive voice refers to the Holy Spirit superintending one’s thought processes to enable him to give divine revelation. It does not mean the person just sat down one day and said something like, “I’m gonna write me some Scripture.” No, God the Holy Spirit was in charge. Present tense means an ongoing process, at least at that time. Now that revelation is complete, there is no more scripture being written.
  4. To the lady mentioned above, the Bible was a wax nose to be molded to fit her “private interpretation.” As for the finality of the Bible, I have a chapter on that in my book, Man as God: The Word of Faith Movement, in which I point out that the Bible says of itself that very thing; namely, it is final in its now current form.
  5. “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other”. (1 Cor. 4:6 NKJ)
  6. “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (Jas. 4:12 NKJ)
  7. “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8:20 NKJ) We are always to listen and obey former revelation.
  8. One of the great problems with today’s new revelations, or word of knowledge, is that these “new” prophets separate the Holy Spirit from the written word, which is what Peter does not allow: “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21 NKJ) Peter does not allow new revelation based on one’s own imagination.
  9. We must recognize whether the Bible IS the word of God, CONTAINS the word of God, or BECOMES the word of God. We can see these three ideas in a plate umpire calling balls and strikes. A father yells at the umpire when his son is at bat, (1) “That was no strike. Did you get new glasses yet?” To which the ump says, “I call them as they are.” This means there is objective truth in the pitch. He does not make up his own “private interpretation.” (2) Another father yells at another ump, “What’s the matter with your eyes?” The ump yells back, “I call them as I see them.” This means his interpretation is the eye of the beholder.  (3) Finally, another father screams, “O come on, you can’t be serious. You’re blind as a bat and twice as ugly.” With equal fervor the ump yells, “They are not balls or strikes until I call them.” This is no truth here, just perspective, and the ump has the final respective. This is the problem with much of Christianity in the USA. Some really seek to understand and apply Holy Scripture as given. Others think each person can make up his own mind. And finally,  with others there is no truth, but let’s just play the game.
  10. In the first case, the ump sees truth as it is. In the second case, another ump sees truth as somewhere in the situation. Finally, in the third case, truth becomes what the ump wants it to be. We are in the third stage in the churches in the USA.

AMEN

How to Interpret the Bible, Part 1

© The Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th. D., 2017

We live in one of the worst times of church history: it seems that every few years there is a new movement and a new interpretation of the Bible. And there is a new study Bible published every few years to promote this new “private interpretation.”

Several years ago, I had lunch with a young man who was on a quest. He was studying the Bible by himself and teaching others his views. Toward the end of a long conversation, I asked him what church he attended, and he said “None.” I strongly advised him to find a good gospel church to attend, and he indicated he would not. He has no Bible training, no training of Hebrew and Greek, no training in theology, no training in church history, especially regarding the heretics down through the centuries; in other words, he would be a law unto himself. Mark it down that those who think they can go it alone are sure to repeat the errors and heresies of the past. Here we have one who may start another Christian cult. This young man is teaching that there is no hell and that all will be saved, everyone who has ever lived. Now this young man has quit his job, and is studying the Bible at home. He has a wife and children. His idea of sola scriptura is just the Bible and me.

The history of the church must be taken into consideration when we study the Bible and theology. It is tragic that some who think so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to them, think so little of what He has revealed to others. The interpretation of the Bible belongs to the Church and has been ongoing for 3,500 years, going back to Moses. We must not divorce ourselves from the church’s history.

Sola Scriptura was a watchword for the protestant Reformers, but they did not mean “just the Bible and me.” In other words, the Bible was the ultimate authority but not the only authority. Even the great protestant Presbyterian Charles Hodge stated: “If the Bible be the only infallible rule of faith and practice; and if . . . the Spirit guides the people of God . . . into the knowledge of the truth, then the presumption is invincible that what all true Christians believe to be the sense of Scripture is its sense” (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:437).

Or, as R. C. Sproul has said: “Although tradition does not rule our interpretation, it does guide it. If, upon reading a particular passage, you have come up with an interpretation that has escaped the notice of every other Christian for two thousand years, or has been championed by universally recognized heretics, chances are pretty good that you had better abandon your interpretation.” (Dr. R.C. Sproul, The Agony of Deceit, pp. 34, 35)

In other words, Hodge and Sproul are saying that there must be some closure to Christian truth, not begin again with each new generation. So what doctrines should be final? We see those doctrines in the three creeds of the Church, especially the Nicene Creed. Indeed, all branches of Christianity (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism) hold to the Nicene Creed formally, and most confess it in their worship services. The Apostles’ Creed is also broadly used, and the third creed, The Athanasian Creed is confessed in the West by Rome, Anglicanism and others.

If one reads the doctrinal statements of independent churches who naively say “no creed but Christ”, one can see that they really hold to the Apostles’ Creed. In fact, it is quite impossible not to have a creed, for that is just what one believes. Better to be in line with all Christians than to reinvent the wheel. Can you imagine a young man wanting to enter medicine, and he says he does not believe any of the research of others before but that only he has the truth? Would you want him to do heart surgery on you? That is precisely what is happening with new movements, such as the word-faith movement, and with this young man who quit his job. He is ignoring all who have gone before, cast aside their wisdom and biblical understanding, and is now wanting to do spiritual heart surgery on others. He first needs to learn from others more qualified than himself and be approved by them. In other words, he needs to submit to their authority, learn from their approved studies, and only then have the seal of approval on them.

Here is an example. When I was starting a church in TX, a young man and his new family were attending worship. We had a liturgical worship, which he very much appreciated. After attending several times, I asked him and his wife to dinner after church. Toward the end of lunch he asked me this question: “May we join the church if we are preterist?” Now preterism has several forms. It can mean that all the passages in the New Testament on the Second Coming were fulfilled in AD 70. Another view is that most of the passages in the New Testament were fulfilled in AD 70, but some await His return. I asked him which view he held. He said he held the first view, that basically the Second Coming was over since AD 70. I said, “You may not join because the Church has spoken over the millennia that the Second Coming is yet in the future. I don’t care if you’re amil, premil, postmil, but you can’t deny the Second Coming.” His response was, “I can show you good reasons for my position.” I responded, “No you can’t, but if you are really interested in how the Church has understood those passages, I’ll be glad to meet with you. For now I request that you get some good modern, conservative commentaries and restudy the issue.” He did restudy, and became a member, and the whole process was about three months. He and his family never gave us any trouble and made excellent members.

Basically, I brought the authority of Christ through His Church to bear on him, and he responded in a godly way. We are not to be a law unto ourselves or to be autonomous individuals, thinking sola scripture means just the Bible and me. So how do we interpret the Bible? From a covenantal position of being under authority.

There are other things that must be considered also, such as knowing the Old Testament language of Hebrew, the New Testament language of Greek, the cultural background, knowing the whole Bible, and many other things. But this is enough for this short blog.

Next time, Lord willing, I shall rescue 2 Peter 1:16-21 from false interpretations, but for now here is my translation:

 

knowing this first,

that no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own private interpretation,

                             for prophecy never came by the will of man,

BUT

                       holy men of God spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

 

We shall look at this next time, Lord wiling.

AMEN.Ω

 

 

 

 

Interesting Bible Facts

BIBLE                                                  THEME                       ISAIAH   (divided into)

39 Books in the Old Testament           JUDGMENT              chs 1-39     (First 39 chapters on judgment)

27 Books in the New Testament          GRACE                         chs 40-66   (Last 27 chapters on grace)

 

  1. Shortest chapter in the Bible: Psalm 117 (2 vs)
  2. Longest chapter in the Bible: Psalm 119 (176 vss, 8 vss for each Hebrew letter)
  3. Middle chapter in the Bible: Psalm 118

 

  1. 594 chs before Psalm 118
  2. 594 chs after Psalm 118
  3. Total = 1188 chs, not counting Psalm 118
  4. Middle verse = Psalm 118:8

 

  1. Ten Commandments

10 x 2 = 20, and the “2” is the second book of the Bible, Exodus, and chapter 20 where

Ten Commandments occur

10 ˜ 2 ÷ 5, fifth book of the Bible, Deuteronomy chapter 5, where the Ten Commandments

occur again.

AMEN.

 

Holy Scripture Is Enough

(c) 2017 Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

Anglicans are people of two books, the Book of Common Prayer, which we use for private and public worship, and the Bible, which is the only infallible standard for salvation and life. The Book of Common Prayer quotes the Bible about 70% of the time, and the rest of the time, it summarizes or alludes to the Bible.

But what is the Bible? It is God’s revelation to us through His prophets and apostles, which means it is supernatural in origin. At one time in the USA, to win a dispute one need only quote the Bible, but today there is no authority but what the culture thinks at the moment.

The Bible is the only infallible standard for God and morality in the world. We know it is accurate because it has predicted the future, such as the birth, death, and especially the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The bodily resurrection of Christ is historically accurate and can be easily proved.

The Bible is everlasting in duration. People have tried to burn it, destroy it, deny it, make fun of it, but it is still the number one best seller each year.

The Bible is sufficient for salvation, which means it is all we need to know God and receive the free gift of forgiveness of sins. In other words, the Bible is not only necessary, it is enough. As The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion states, which is the doctrinal standard for Anglicans (or should be), “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”

The Bible is Christological in subject, meaning that the Lord Jesus Christ is the main theme of the whole Bible. We come to know Him through the pages of holy writ. Again, The Thirty-Nine Articles states, “They also are to be accursed that presume to say, ‘That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professes, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to the Law and Light of Nature.’ For the Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ whereby men must be saved” (Acts 3:12).

The Bible is personal in application, which means we can rely on it not only for our salvation but also for everyday living. God has given us the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions, and these are imminently practical.

The Bible is inspired in its totality, which means that every part is equally infallible. One passage of Holy Scripture cannot contradict another passage, so that we use Scripture to interpret Scripture.

The Church is the custodian of the Bible, protecting it from corruption, though today we have been very derelict in our duty. But The Thirty-Nine Articles states that “the Church be a witness and keeper of Holy Writ.” But that does not mean that the Church has authority over the Bible; rather, the Bible holds the Church accountable. Again, The Thirty-Nine Articles proclaims: “. . . it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither to so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” The Bible stands in judgment not only over the Church but also over culture.

In our day, both the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible have been sorely compromised. There used to be basically just one Book of Common Prayer, but today there are many versions, some that do not have the confession of sins in the worship or that compromise the prayer of consecration for Holy Communion. Then the Bible has been watered down by so many translations that are not true to the original Hebrew or Greek that many people are confused. Is it any wonder that few people take a Bible to church when most churches have not settled on a translation, or if they do use one version, it is often paraphrased. We must be of the opinion that when the Bible declares something, let all the earth keep silence, for God has spoken. AMEN.