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 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