A Wise Builder
I’m very thankful for the opportunity to contribute a column at Place for Truth, and I pray the Lord will use my contributions for the furthering of His kingdom.
Given the Alliance’s clear emphasis on the subject (coupled with evangelicalism’s increasing murkiness), I can think of no better theme for my first post than this: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Two texts are particularly helpful for understanding what Paul means by this.
The first is Romans 9:17, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up.’” When we turn to Exodus 9:16, we discover that it was actually God who spoke these words to Pharaoh. So why does Paul affirm that the Scripture said it, when—in actual fact—God said it? The answer: “All Scripture is breathed out by God.”
The second text is Matthew 19:4–5, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh?” Upon turning to Genesis 2:4, we learn that God didn’t utter these words. Moses penned them. So why does Jesus affirm that God said it, when—in actual fact—Moses wrote it? The answer: “All Scripture is breathed out by God.”
When we affirm that “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” we mean that the Holy Spirit used the human authors in such a way that what they wrote was His, not theirs. The Scripture, therefore, is indeed God’s Word.
We receive the OT as God-breathed because Jesus authenticated it. How? He received the OT, recognizing as Scripture the Jewish tripartite division of the Law, Prophets, and Psalms (Luke 24:44–45). Moreover, He quoted the OT, employing it to resist trials, silence critics, reveal prophecies, defend truths, and expose needs. Finally, He accepted the OT as historical, referring to specific events (e.g., the first marriage, the flood, the destruction of Sodom, and the burning bush) and individuals (e.g., Adam, Eve, Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, and Jonah).
We receive the NT as God-breathed because Jesus authorized it. How? He declared to His disciples: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). That is to say, Jesus invested His disciples with authority, thereby making them His authorized representatives—the church’s foundation (Ephesians 2:19–22). As such, they gave the NT to the church. As B. B. Warfield explains, “We rest our acceptance of the New Testament Scriptures . . . not on the fact that they are the product of the revelation-age of the church, for so are many other books which we do not thus accept; but on the fact that God’s authoritative agents in founding the church gave them as authoritative to the church which they founded.”
Because Scripture alone is God-breathed, we affirm that Scripture alone is the rule of all truth. “Did God actually say?” was Satan’s question to Eve (Genesis 3:1). His intent was to create doubt in Eve’s mind about the reliability of God’s Word. The battle over the authority and sufficiency of Scripture has raged ever since.
Early in its history, the church confronted Gnosticism and Montanism. At the time of the Reformation, the church again engaged in a major battle over God’s Word. On one front, it resisted Roman Catholicism—the belief that the church’s oral tradition is as authoritative as Scripture. On another front, it resisted Quakerism—the belief that the individual’s “inner light” is as authoritative as Scripture.
The battle continues to rage in our day. At present, the church is engaged in four key conflicts. The first is with rationalism. According to this view, human reason is the measure of all truth, and natural religion must take precedence over revealed religion. Therefore, the Christian faith must be reduced to truths that we can derive from nature.
The second conflict is with incarnationalism, which holds that the process of inspiration is like Christ’s incarnation. In other words, God’s Word comes clothed in human language and culture, and some of this clothing is time-bound and culturally specific. The result is a mixture of God’s truth and cultural myth, meaning we must separate the two in order to arrive at the meaning of Scripture.
The third conflict is with relativism. Proponents of this view believe absolute truth is unknowable; therefore, the original intent of the biblical authors is unknowable, and so they embrace the postmodern concept of the centrality of community. Scripture is interpreted (and truth determined) within specific communities through the ongoing, illuminating work of the Holy Spirit.
The fourth conflict is with mysticism. According to this view, the Holy Spirit speaks directly to individuals. Proponents separate the Holy Spirit’s ministry from the Word and unquestioningly follow their hunches, impulses, intuitions, and feelings—daring to label them God’s voice.
We reject each of these views because they undermine the truth that “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” We affirm that Scripture alone is God’s Word. As such, it stands at the center of the life of the Christian and the church. And we affirm that “a wise builder” stands on this foundation.