Being a Pentecost Christian: The Spirit & Inspiration
What do we mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God? We mean that while it was written by men, it was not the product of their independent and fallible thoughts. It was inspired by God Himself, and specifically one Person of the Godhead: the Holy Spirit. In this book, the eternal God of the universe has spoken authoritatively, thoroughly, and finally.
Many religious texts have been written throughout human history, all claiming to be inspired by a deity or spiritual force. What separates the Bible from these other books? Namely, that its inspiration is of a different character. The legitimacy of the Bible is underscored by the fact that it was revealed not to one individual at a single point in history, but to multiple individuals over the course of thousands of years. It reveals a God who does not merely show up once or twice and then disappear from the scene, but is an active force in history.
The inspiration of scripture has been one of the most important tasks of the Holy Spirit in redemptive history. However, it is not a task He undertakes without regard to the rest of the Trinity. We confess the classic formula that the Father is unbegotten, the Son is eternally begotten, and the Spirit proceeds. The Son is eternally the Word through which all things came into being (John 1:1-3), but what then is the Spirit? He is the very breath of God sent out into the world. The Hebrew and Greek words for spirit (ruach and pneuma) both carry a connotation of wind or breath. Even as the Word creates, so the breath of God gives life, seen symbolically in the creation of Adam (Genesis 2:7) and Job’s words, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4)
The Spirit has worked throughout history to take the Word of God and breathe it into the lives of the saints. He has accomplished this in several ways, the first being the revelation of scripture and prophecies. This is vividly portrayed in the Old Testament, where we see the Spirit entering people and allowing them to prophesy. The prophetic calls of Jeremiah and Ezekiel depict the Lord placing His words in their mouths. (Jeremiah 1:9-10; Ezekiel 2:1-2, 9-10) The New Testament confirms that these prophecies were indeed the very Word of God. As the Apostle Paul said, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers…” (Acts 28:25b)
Then we have the two great New Testament texts about the inspiration of scripture. The first tells us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The Greek word translated as “inspired” actually means “breathed out” and refers to the essential role of the Spirit in the creation of scripture. Second, the Apostle Peter confirmed that prophecy came directly from the Spirit. “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.” (2 Peter 1:16-21) Therefore, the Bible does not simply claim that it contains musings about God, but that it actually is the Word of God, and every bit of it is therefore authoritative.
While the inspiration of scripture occurred at particular points in history, we must also understand the ongoing nature of the Spirit’s work. The Apostle Paul spoke of scripture having a will of its own. (Galatians 3:8, 22) By this, he did not mean the physical pages, but the Spirit who inspired them. The Spirit continues to work in the hearts of believers to illuminate the scriptures. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
It is the Spirit who allows individuals to comprehend the truths of God’s Word and confess them. “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) It is the very Spirit who inspired the scriptures who continues to work through them, not only preserving them but also bringing promises to fruition. “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 13:4)
We must acknowledge the Spirit’s special role in the inspiration of scripture while also acknowledging that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son to reveal the Word of God. As Jesus said, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me…” (John 15:26) This is a precious truth for us to remember: that the Bible we cherish is not a mere book, but a living and active Word that reveals to us the triune God.
Amy Mantravadi holds a B.A. in Biblical Literature from Taylor University. She is an active member of Patterson Park Church in Beavercreek, Ohio. You can read her blog at www.amymantravadi.com or follow her on Twitter @AmyMantravadi.