The Breath of God - Part 5

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  January 11, 2004
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Well, we're continuing our study of inspiration, looking at what the Scripture has to say about itself. Tonight, I want us to complete that study, and so, let me get right into it, because there's a lot I want to cover. We're looking at, tonight, the lines of argument. When we talk about a defense of inspiration, as I've told you before, we're basically talking about three lines of evidence. The first is the internal arguments, that is, what the Scripture has to say about itself. We've looked in detail at that over a number of weeks, to see that the Bible claims for itself to be the very words of God. And last week, the last couple of weeks, we looked in great detail at what Christ had to say about the Scripture.

Tonight, I want us to look at the next two arguments. The first of those is the external arguments, and finally, the Spirit's authentication. You take those three arguments together, you have a defense of the doctrine of inspiration. That is, that this Word, these books that we hold in our hands in one ancient book of words, is, in fact, the breathed out word of God. It is the revelation of God down to the very words, or as we learned last time, down even to the very letters and the smallest curves of letters.

Now, let's look tonight at the external arguments. When we say "external arguments" (we've looked at what the Scripture says about itself.) When we talk about external arguments, we're talking not about what the Scripture says about itself, but what others say about the Scripture. We're still dealing with the content of Scripture, but now, it's not the Scripture's testimony, but it's others making observation about the Scripture. I'm not going to give you a comprehensive list. If you were to look, as I have, at say ten to fifteen different Systematic Theologies, you would find a sort of smattering of different approaches to this sort of external arguments, those arguments that are someone looking in to the Scripture and making observations about it in some way.

And I'm not going to give you a comprehensive list. I'm going to give you, sort of, my favorite, and you can study it more if you want to. But I'm not going to spend a lot of time on these external arguments. As you can tell, we're going to cover that and the Spirit's authentication tonight. I just want to expose you to it. I want you to see that there are ways to approach the confirmation of Scripture from the outside looking in.

First of all, church history's testimony. There was in the last century, a move away from the inspiration of Scripture and the inerrancy of Scripture in so many institutions and so many different parts of Christianity. You want to read about it, by the way? There's a great book that I would highly recommend to you called Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray. It is a great summary of the downfall, if you will, of evangelical Christianity, both in America and across the sea in Britain. So, I'd strongly encourage you to read that. It's really fascinating history of sort of the attacks that have come on what we believe. If you read that, you'll discover that there was specifically an attack on Scripture, and here's the argument that they used.

This doctrine that you and I believe of the inerrancy of Scripture, that Scripture is without error and that it's inspired of God, well, that's really a Johnny-come-lately idea. That's not what the church through the history of the church has really embraced and believed. Well, church history's testimony is crystal clear. Let me just give you, and I'm not going to give you all that I have, even in my notes, but let me just give you a smattering through the centuries. And you'll see a little bit of what others have to say about the Scripture.

First, the first epistle of Clement. This was written near the end of the first century. Listen to what it says. Now, these are not inspired writings, obviously, but they give us a feel for what people thought about the Scriptures. "Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them" Now, again, this is near the end of the first century. The apostle giant John died in about, oh, the mid 90s probably, at the end of the first century, so we're talking about a document that was essentially contemporary with him.

Let's look at another, Irenaus. This is the early part of the second century. Irenaus was a disciple of Polycarp. Polycarp sat under the apostle John in his ministry, so we're one generation, or one teacher, removed from the apostle John. Listen to what Irenaus says. He says that "Christians should be most properly assured that the Scripture [the Scriptures that should say] are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the word of God and His Spirit". Very clear, from the early days of the church fathers that this is what they believed about the Scripture.

Justin Martyr. Let me back up. I'll give you Justin Martyr without an overhead. Justin Martyr, who lived from 115 to 165 AD, so now we're into the second century. He speaks of "holy men who would present themselves pure to the energy of the divine Spirit in order that the divine spectrum itself, descending from heaven and using righteous men as an instrument like a harp or a lyre, might reveal to us the knowledge of things divine and heavenly." Now, his picture isn't exactly accurate, but he's speaking sort of poetically. He's describing the men of the Scripture, that is, the men who wrote the Scripture, as sort of a string that the Holy Spirit plucked to play the tune He wanted to play. That's essentially how the Scripture was seen. Tertullian, 160 to 230 AD. He spoke of the Bible as "the writings and words of God". Clement of Alexandria said that our faith we have received from God through the Scripture, and so forth.

We come to Augustine. Augustine lived from 354 to 430. I just want you to get a flow, that this is what men throughout the history of the church said about the Scriptures. Augustine, in a letter to Jerome, who translated the Latin Vulgate, wrote this,

I believe most firmly that not one of those authors had erred in writing anything at all. If I do find anything in those books which seems contrary to truth, here's how I respond. I decide that either the text is corrupt (that is, the copier who was copying the document, making a copy for him somehow misfired in writing a letter), or the translator did not follow what was really said. Or that I failed to understand it.

Those are the only three options, Augustine says. The canonical books are entirely free from falsehood. Again, crystal clear in terms of what the Scriptures are, that they are inspired of God. Augustine also wrote, in his treatise on the Trinity "do not be willing to yield to my writings as to the canonical Scriptures. But in these (that is, in the canonical Scriptures) when you have discovered even what you did not previously believe, believe it unhesitatingly." Listen, if you come to the Scripture, and you discover something you never saw before, you don't have to hesitate to believe it, because this is the inspired Word of God.

Now, let's jump ahead, past the medieval times to the reformation, when the Scripture and the principle of Sola Scriptura was recovered. Notice what Luther says.

I beg, and faithfully warn every pious Christian not to be offended by the simplicity of the language in the stories that will often meet him here. Let him not doubt that however simple they may seem, they are the very words, works, judgments, and deeds of the high majesty, power, and wisdom of God. [Luther also writes] the Scriptures, although they were written by men, are not of men nor from men, but from God. [I like this quote. Luther also wrote this. He said] we must make a great difference between God's Word and the word of men. A man's word is a little sound that flies into the air and soon vanishes. The Word of God is greater than heaven and earth. Yea, greater than death and hell, for it forms part of the power of God, and endures everlastingly.

You see the respect with which men throughout the history of the church have held the word of God. They held it to be, in fact, the very words of God. John Calvin writes this, in commenting on 2 Timothy 3:16.

This is the principle that distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God has spoken to us and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak of themselves, but as an organ of the Holy Spirit, utter only that which they have been commissioned from heaven to declare. All those who wish to profit from the Scripture must first accept this as a settled principle, that the law and the prophets are not teachings handed on at the pleasure of men, or produced by men's mind as their source, but are dictated by the Holy Spirit.

Now, he's not there arguing for a form of inspiration that the writers of Scripture were just keyboards on which God banged out the text of Scripture. That's just a figure of speech. They were dictated, or given, by the Holy Spirit. Going to a different branch of the church, John Wesley. He writes, "the Scripture, therefore, is a rule sufficient in itself, and was by men divinely inspired at once delivered to the world. If there be any mistakes in the Bible there may well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth." This whole idea that what we believe about inspiration, and particularly the inerrancy of Scripture as a new idea concocted by twentieth century Christianity, is an absolute ridiculous notion.

Looking at a summary of, representing the entire reformation, the Second Helvetic Confession says this, "The canonical Scriptures are the true word of God." Or one that may be a little more familiar to you, the Westminster Confession, in it's larger catechism, says this, "The authority of the Holy Scripture for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God, who is truth itself, the author thereof. And therefore, it is to be received, because it is the Word of God."

What I want you to see is that the consistent testimony of the church is clear. Not only does the Scripture itself claim to be the word of God, but throughout the history of the church, this is what people like you and I have believed. This is not a new doctrine. So, when we look at external arguments, we can look at church history and say it's absolutely clear. And again, there are so many other quotes that I could bolster this argument, but I won't bore you with more. I just want you to get a flavor, that it's unresoundingly the same as what we've been studying and teaching together.

Secondly, another external argument that's often presented is: the word's supernatural character: its uniqueness, its superiority, its majestic beauty, its profound depth being unmatched by any other literature. Thomas Watson writes, and I won't quote it, but essentially, he says this. He says, who do you think would write the Bible if it wasn't God? He said, bad men wouldn't write it. I mean, why would they write something that's so self-indicting? Why would they write something with the beauty and profundity that it has when they don't have that within their own character? Good men aren't going to write it. What good man is going to write something and say "this is what God said" when God hasn't spoken. So basically, Watson's arguing that when you look at the majesty and the superiority of the text, when you look at it's sort of supernatural character, you see that there's no way that men could have written it, because it comes from God.

By the way, if you're interested in doing a comparison of the Word of God with that of other religions, you might enjoy reading Augustus Strong's Systematic Theology, and I'll even give you the pages numbers, pages 180 - 186, where he shows the comparison of the different religions of the world to the majesty and superiority of the Scripture. In the interest of time, I won't take you there, but you'll enjoy reading it if you'd like to study some more.

Thirdly, another external argument for the inspiration of Scripture is: the Word's internal unity. Its internal consistency and extraordinary unity. Think about it. Sixty books, written over a period of 1500 years, fifteen hundred years. That means if we were using contemporary figures, we would go back to the 1850s. I'm sorry, to 500 AD. Five hundred AD to now, that's the time period over which the Bible was written. From 1444 BC, when Moses penned the first book of the Pentateuch, to 90 AD when John penned the last words of Revelation. Over 40 different human authors, 40, very different from each other. They came from various levels of society and diverse backgrounds. There were kings. There were statesmen. There were prophets. There was a tax collector, a doctor, shepherds, a tentmaker, and fishermen.

If you were to bring such a unique group together today and ask them about any topic, you would get a wide diversity of opinions. But imagine if you could go back from 500 AD to today, and gather that collection of men, and ask them to agree on anything. It wouldn't happen. Yet, when I think about that, I'm reminded of my own family. I'm the last of ten children. When we get together, everybody has an opinion about everything, and usually, there are at least eight different opinions, and often there are ten different opinions, and that's flesh and blood. We grew up together. Yet together, these forty-plus writers of Scripture produced one book of unsurpassed internal consistency. How do you explain that kind of unity? Behind those forty-plus writers was one great sovereign mind, the mind of the Holy Spirit. That's an argument for inspiration.

Uncommon accuracy. I was reminded, this afternoon of something I thought you might enjoy. Some of you've probably done some reading about the dead sea scrolls. They were discovered, and some of you probably had the opportunity to visit there where the Qumran community used to be, near the Dead Sea, as I have. It's a wonderful experience. The first discovery was made by three Bedouin, whose names I won't try to pronounce, who by chance, came upon what was later to be known as cave one, and discovered a number of jars, some containing manuscripts—old texts. It was probably toward the end of 1946 or early 1947. We don't know exactly. In March of 1947 the scrolls were offered by these men to an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem. But he didn't buy them. There's the greatest mistake of the century.

In April, the scrolls were taken to a man who is referred to as Kando, a shoemaker and antiquities dealer in Bethlehem. He went back and forth on whether to buy them, but in July of that year, he purchased scrolls from the Bedouin, and then he turned around and sold the scrolls to St. Mark's Monastery for 24 Palestinian pounds. In other words, $97.20. In addition to the four scrolls that Kando sold, three others were sold, also to an antiquities dealer, by another group who had found some. This antiquities dealer paid seven Palestinian pounds--$28.35 for the scrolls, and twenty piasters—about $.80 each for the two jars. Don't you wish you could come across a deal like that? Those manuscripts were the first that came into academic hands because they were sold to the Hebrew University. And even there, they didn't initially discover their real value.

What's the significance of those scrolls? Well, there are a number of things we could talk about, but my favorite, and I had the opportunity to see it in Israel, is the Isaiah scroll, the Isaiah scroll. Basically, the Isaiah scroll is a complete copy. It came from cave one, and it's a complete copy of the book of Isaiah, known to scholars that it's very well preserved. It comprised fifty-four columns of clearly written Hebrew script, inscribed on seventeen sheets of leather that had been stitched end-to-end. When unrolled, it measured about twenty-four feet in length, and about one foot wide. So, imagine twenty-four length, a foot wide, the entire book of Isaiah. What's the significance of it?

Well, prior to the discovery of the dead sea scrolls, our evidence of the Old Testament and its textual history only dated to about the tenth century AD. In other words, the oldest manuscript evidence that we had for the majority of the Old Testament, dated only to 1000 AD. But when they found these scrolls, they found a number of things, including this complete Isaiah scroll that dated BC, before Christ. And there were almost no differences. The differences were some minor differences in how consonants were written, and some other orthography. But basically, they were identical. Over 1000 years between what we had and what we discovered in the dead sea scrolls, and they were identical. Uncommon accuracy in their being kept and preserved.

Also, uncommon accuracy in the history they record. There are so many things we could talk about here. My favorite, and I mentioned this to you a few months ago when I was here candidating, is Belshazzar. There's a man who was not known until about 125 years ago. The Bible has talked about him since the canon (the Old Testament canon) was complete. And yet, history said there was no such man. The last king of Babylon was not Belshazzar. Well, as I mentioned to you then, when I was here, basically, we've discovered that, in fact, Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, wanted to be an archeologist. And so, he left his kingdom in the hands of his son, Belshazzar. Belshazzar and Nabonidus ruled as co-regents. We now know that because it was found through archeology that that's exactly what the Bible recorded. And that's what this argument says. If you go back, and you trace what can be uncovered, you will discover in the Scriptures an uncommon accuracy, both in its preservation as well as in its history and its content.

The next argument is: fulfilled prophecy. And we could spend so much time here, fulfilled prophecy. Let me just give you a couple of lines of argument. Take for example, the first coming of Christ. There are several prophecies that we could pick about His first coming. Let me just give you a handful. Isaiah 53, the entire chapter. Micah 5:2, Daniel 9:25 - 27, Jeremiah 23: 5 and 6, and Psalm 16:8 - 11. If you take those five prophecies, this is what you'll learn. You have predictions of the coming king of Israel. We're told the exact time when He would come, the exact place of His birth, the family to which He would be born, the condition of the family at the time of His birth, the manner of His reception by the people He came to, the fact, method, and details regarding His death with specific circumstances regarding His burial including the kind of tomb He'd be buried in, and the person who would own it, or the kind of person who would own it. His resurrection is described, and His victory after His resurrection. All of those were fulfilled in those five prophecies about the first advent of Christ.

E. English writes (he was one of the editors of several study Bibles). He wrote "more than twenty Old Testament predictions relating to events that would surround the death of Christ, words written centuries before His first advent, were fulfilled with precision within a twenty-four-hour period at the time of His crucifixion." Twenty Old Testament prophecies about Christ were fulfilled in the minutest detail in a twenty-four-hour period of His life. Compare that to the prophecies of some modern seers, like Nostradamus. There's this sort of vague thing that you can read anything into it you want to read into it, and see fulfillment. But the Old Testament prophecies weren't like that.

Consider Israel's dispersion. I don't have time to go here, but let me just remind you that it was prophesied that Samaria would be destroyed, that Judah would survive. It was prophesied that Judah and Jerusalem would be rescued from the Assyrians but would fall to the Babylonians. This is before it all happened. It was prophesied that Jerusalem would be restored, and even the name of the restorer was given. You've got to see this. I get excited about it. Turn to Isaiah, Isaiah 44. This is one of my favorites. That's why I'm going to take you here, even though I don't have time. Isaiah 44, notice verse 28. Now this is a hundred years before this man will be born.

"It is I who says of Cyrus, He is My shepherd!

And he will perform all My desire.

And he declares of Jerusalem, She will be built,

And of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid.'"

Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed,

Whom I have taken by the right hand,

To subdue nations before him

And to loose the loins of kings;

To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:"

He says, verse 3,

"I will give you the treasures of darkness

And hidden wealth of secret places,

So that you may know that it is I,

The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name,

For the sake of Jacob My servant,

And Israel My chosen one,

I have also called you by your name;"

In this prophecy, a hundred years before the man named Cyrus was born, God prophesied that it would be Cyrus, notice verse 28 of chapter 44, who would declare that Jerusalem would be built and the temple foundation would be laid. And that's exactly the way it happens, we find out in historical books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

So many amazing prophecies. Another favorite, (and you can read this on your own, and you'll be amazed at the absolute precision) is the conflict, after the dividing of Alexander the Great's kingdom, the conflict between Syria and Egypt. It's described in Daniel 11 in the minutest detail, and it is utterly offensive to liberals. In fact, it is so crystal clear in the details of the historical struggle that happened between these two nations after the death of Alexander the Great. His kingdom was divided. And it's so clear and has so much detail that the liberals absolutely will not believe it was written until after the events. But it shows the principle of fulfilled prophecy. And again, there're so many prophecies that we could look at. But let's move on.

Another argument is that of: the witnesses' character. The witnesses' character. This argument goes this way. If you look at the character of the witnesses, that is, the men who wrote the Scripture, they were competent witnesses. In many cases, they were eye-witnesses. For example, take the life of Christ. Matthew, John, and Peter were all eyewitnesses. Matthew and John wrote gospels. According to one of the early church fathers, Mark was the interpreter of Peter and wrote down exactly what Peter had taught him. Luke wrote his gospel. He was the companion of Paul, and according to Irenaus, he wrote down the gospel Paul preached. He also did his own research, we're told in the first four verses of his gospel. Paul was directly called by Christ and accepted by the eye-witnesses as a credible witness. James and Jude who wrote the books that bear their names were half-brothers of Jesus.

These were competent witnesses. That's the point that this argument makes. These were not wild-eyed men. These were men who had a part in the events that transpired. They were also very honest. They don't portray themselves as some mythological heroes. As we saw this morning, they're arguing, proud, fearful, unbelieving, thickheaded, slow to understand. They desert Christ, and they turn to fishing after the crucifixion. Who writes a biography about himself and says that? Have you ever looked at some of the auto-biographies that are written now. You know, it kills me. These people who are 28 years old writing an autobiography. But if you read them, you won't find—you'll find a hint here and there of sort of a demeaning of their character--but they basically hold themselves up. But you find the writers of Scripture do not do that. They portray themselves honestly. So, that's the way this argument goes.

Another is: the historical results the Scripture has produced, including not only nations, but changed lives. For example, one argument goes this way. Look at the meteoric expansion of Christianity. Think about this. Fifty years after the death of Christ, there were churches in all the principle cities of the Roman empire. Fifty years after His death. Pliny writes to Trajan (this is in the end of the first century) that Christians "have pervaded not merely the cities, but the villages and country places so that the temples are nearly deserted." Tertullian, writing in the end of the second century writes this "We are but of yesterday, and yet we have filled all your places: your cities, your islands, your castles, your towns, your council houses, even your camps, your tribes, your senate, your forum. We have left you nothing but your temples."

By the time of the emperor Valerian (now we're in the fourth century, excuse me the third century) Christians constituted half the population of Rome. And of course, by the early 300s when Constantine converted to Christianity, the entire Roman Empire came under the influence of Christianity, less than three hundred years after the death of Christ. And that's all because of the influence of the Word of God. Augustus Strong writes this, that "paganism should have been, in three centuries, supplanted by Christianity is an acknowledged wonder of history." This is the way this argument goes. Look at the power of the Word of God as it was unleashed. It was like a lion, and everywhere it went it converted people to Christ.

You could also look at: the influence it has on civilizations. Sheila and I were talking about this this morning. We were reminding ourselves of the fact that with the Iran earthquake there in Bam where so many people were killed—up to 30,000 people were killed. This is a nation that's been our enemies, and yet because America has been so heavily influenced (although certainly not a Christian nation) it's been so heavily influenced by things Christian and by the love even of one's enemies, we mobilized to send aid to one of our enemies. That's very uncommon. That's how this argument goes. If you look at the power of the Word of God, including on civilizations, it affirms it.

But you can also look at: its power to change individual lives. I was telling someone earlier today that I hope, in the coming year to take a message here and there, maybe one or two this year, on a biography. A biography of some great man in the history of the church and just look together at how God has providentially worked in that person's life. I'm reminded of several that are examples of the power of the Word of God. There's Augustine. Here's a man that was absolutely enslaved to sexual sin, by his own admission. He lived for fifteen years with a mistress, but then one day, he heard the Word of God. He picked up the Word of God, and he read a verse from Romans, I believe, and as a result of reading that verse, his entire life was transformed. He became a preacher of the gospel. You look at the power of Scripture.

Look at Luther. Here's a man who was a monk, but he said, I hated God. I hated God because of His high righteous standard, and there was no way I could live up to it. But he said, I came to Romans 1, Romans 1:17, and I (I love the way he says this), He says I beat upon that text to try to learn what Paul intended. And I came to understand that it talked not about God's righteousness as a standard I must meet, but God's righteousness as a gift that He would give me. And he said, when I saw that it's as if the gates of paradise swung open, and I walked through them into the Lord's arms. That's the power of the Word of God. And each of us, sitting here tonight who are in Christ, can attest to its power, its power to change lives.

The Bible's preservation. This is something I hope to look at in the next couple of weeks, how the Bible has been preserved. But this is an argument that's presented to defend the inspiration of Scripture. Now, all those external arguments, and others that we could have listed are very encouraging. And the internal arguments that we looked at, I think, are utterly compelling, what the Scripture says about itself. And it's okay to present both the internal arguments and the external arguments to an unbeliever to sort of knock the props out from under what he believes. But not one person (listen to this) not one person will ever believe the truth of Scripture or the inspiration of Scripture because of these external arguments.

That brings us to our final defense of inspiration, and that is: the Spirit's authentication, the Spirit's authentication. We've looked at what the Scripture says about itself. We've looked very briefly at what others say about the Scripture and its power and its inspiration. Now, let's look at what the Spirit says about Scripture and how He says it. There's a sense in which the Spirit's authentication is not something outside of us, but it is within us. It's within the reader. It's not an argument. It's without an argument. The Spirit makes the Scripture self-authenticating in the heart of those of us who accept and believe it.

You see, ultimately the reason each of us believes that the Bible is the Word of God is because God Himself has confirmed this through what theologians call the inner witness or testimony of the Spirit. When you think about it, and we're going to look at some Scriptures that deal with this. But when you think about it, if the Bible is so obviously (from all the arguments we've looked at) the Word of God, why doesn't everyone just bow down before it and say, this is God's Word; we accept it? Why is that? It's because of the darkness of the human heart.

I remember when my family got its first television. You know, it was one of those old black and white things, and about the size of my computer screen here, maybe a little larger. And there was no cable. There was no satellite, and so, instead, you had this funky looking thing that sat on top looking like rabbit ears, and you sort of twisted it around, and if you really wanted to super set your TV, then you'd put some aluminum foil on the top of those. And then you'd try to hold your mouth just right and (I'm dating myself here I know). Some of you are younger. You get your mouth just right, and you turn that thing and you look at the signal. Maybe you get one of your siblings to stand up there and do it and you'd say, no, no, a little left, and you'd try to get that signal just right. Well, the problem was that even with all the mouth holding, and all of the adjustments, rarely could I see my favorite program, Gunsmoke, very clearly.

But the problem wasn't with the radio station's signal. It was with the set in our living room. In the same way, there's nothing wrong with the signal that the Scripture is sending out. It obviously confirms itself to be the Word of God. The problem is not with the transmitter, but the problem lies in the receiver, the human heart. The human heart (every human heart) is like that television set in my living room. It's trying to get the signal. But it's not very good at picking up the signal. And because of that, God has to intervene because we don't get the signal. We don't get the clear transmission that this is in fact the word of God. God by the Holy Spirit has to intervene to help us understand it.

Turn to 1 Corinthians 2. We've looked here before, but I want us to look at it in this context. First Corinthians 2. Notice verse 13. But the "… things we also speak, [are] not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." You remember, as we looked at this, we discovered that not merely the ideas that are in the Bible, are God's, but the words themselves come from the Spirit. The Spirit taught the writers of Scripture how to combine spiritual thoughts with spiritual words so that the very words themselves are the words of God. Notice verse 14. That seems clear, right. There's the transmitter. Verse 13 is the transmitter. The station is beaming out the signal. It's there. It's this revelation from God. It's this message from God that's clear, that should be understood by everyone.

Verse 14, here's the problem. It's with the receiver. "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." or examined. You see, apart from the work of the Spirit of God, a person will not accept the truth that's taught in a particular passage, and he will not accept the Scripture in its entirety as the Word of God because his receiver is all distorted and messed up.

In a perfect world, one without sin, the Bible, in and of itself, would convince everyone that it is God's Word. But because sin distorts reality, most people in our world do not recognize the Bible for what it really is. Because of this distorted perception, the Holy Spirit must overcome the effects of sin and persuade the sinner that the Bible is indeed God's Word and that its claims are true. How does this happen? Turn to 2 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 4:4. Let's start at verse 1.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness, or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

He's saying, listen, we are transmitting, we are transmitters of the Word of God. We're holding the Word of God out there to every man's conscience, but there's a problem. Verse 3, "… if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing." Again, here's the problem. The problem's with the receiver, not with the transmitter. It's veiled to those who are perishing. Why? Here's the reason it's veiled. Here's the reason it's distorted, v erse 4,

in whose case the god of this world [that's Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves [as we saw in this verse this morning] but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. [Now watch verse 6. This is crucial. So how, exactly does someone who's blind to the truth of God's word and the gospel specifically, and the glory of Christ, how does someone who's blind come to see?] Verse 6, For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," [when was that said? At creation, in other words, the God who saw the darkness" and said let light shine,] "is the" [same] "One" [verse 6,] "who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of [Jesus] Christ.

The same God who made real light, that is the light we see with our eyes shine out of darkness in creation must declare light to be, in the human heart, in the blinded heart of a man. And that light comes by beholding the truth. In this case, specifically the truth about Jesus. You see how it works? Here's a blinded man: can't see, can't get the signal. The signal's transmitting. The Word of God should be believed for what it is, but he can't see it. He can't understand it. It doesn't make sense to him. He doesn't grasp its glory and its grandeur and its power and its beauty. He doesn't get it at all. And so, the same God who said, "let light shine" and the sun was created in the sky, is the same God who then speaks into the human heart and says, let the light shine. Let him see the truth.

Christ puts it a different way in John 10, John 10:27. Let's start at verse 26, or verse 25.

Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe [here's this spiritual blindness again and here's this problem. They're not getting it. The receiver is not picking it up.] because you are not of My sheep." Verse 27, "My sheep hear My voice…."

In other words, I have given My sheep a new receiver. They get it. They understand it. "I know them and they follow Me…." You see, those who are Christ's sheep hear the words of their great Shepherd as they read the words of Scripture, and they are convinced that these words are in fact the words of their Lord. It's like tasting honey. You don't need an argument to be convinced that honey is sweet. You taste it, and you know it's sweet. It's like seeing the sun and knowing it's light and not dark. You don't need a string of logical arguments. You know it. It's obvious. It's clear. There's an immediate direct apprehension.

Now let me stop here, because some of the enemies of our faith cry, "wait a minute, foul, foul, that's circular reasoning". You're saying something like this. We believe that the Scripture is God's Word because it claims to be. And we believe its claims because it's God's Word. We believe it's God's Word because it claims to be, and so forth. They say that's circular reasoning. There is a sense in which it's true. It is a kind of circular reasoning, but listen carefully. When we're talking about the ultimate source of authority, there will always without exception be a kind of circular argument. Why? Listen carefully. Because you must appeal ultimately to that authority whatever you believe to be your ultimate authority. If you were to cite another authority to prove it, then the thing you cited becomes your new highest authority. Does that make sense? Let me give you an example.

Let's say that I appeal to science to prove the Bible. And I say, let me bring some scientists up here and they, by their experiments, are going to prove to you the Bible is true. For all intents and purposes, if I do that, I have said that not the Bible but science is my highest authority. It's the rule by which I'll measure everything else. So, if you can't appeal to anything else to prove your absolute authority, you have to appeal to your absolute authority to prove it. Sometimes people say they don't use circular reasoning. They hide it either by assuming their circular reasoning without proof, or by burying it beneath some lengthy discussion. They just don't make their circular arguments explicit. By the way, if you're interested in reading a little more about this, John Frame made this point very well in a book called God's Inerrant Word edited by John Warwick Montgomery, where he makes the point that ultimately everyone has to appeal to their authority to prove their authority, their ultimate authority to prove it. Wayne Grudem puts it this way.

The findings of human sensory experiences are the ultimate authority for discovering what is real and what is not, because our human senses have never discovered anything else. Thus, human experience tells me that my principle is true.

You see how he's illustrating that sort of circular reasoning. Ultimately that's always true. And so, we do appeal to the Scripture to prove the Scripture because there is no higher authority to make the point that it is the Scripture.

Now, this work of the Spirit, the Spirit's authentication. How does it work? Well, it's not like illumination. What's illumination? We'll talk about this someday. This is very important to understand. Illumination is what the Spirit of God does when you're sitting in a service like this, or this morning and you hear the Word of God taught, the Holy Spirit opens your mind to grasp the depth, the profundity, the richness of what is being taught so that you grasp it in all of its beauty and grandeur.

I use the illustration that illumination is like driving past a stained-glass window or going into a building with a stained-glass window at night. You can look at that window, and you can make out everything that's there. You can see the images, the shapes, and you can even see the colors. It looks nice. But illumination is like coming back the next day when the brilliance of the sun is shining through it. It's like turning on the light. That's illumination.

You can (a person who is not experiencing illumination can) read the Bible and understand what it says. But when the Spirit of God takes that and makes it come alive and makes you understand it in all of its brilliance and brightness and beauty, that's illumination. That is not the Spirit's authentication. It doesn't mean, either, that you get some sort of new revelation, that God sort of speaks to you. It's not like you're sitting in your room one day at your desk, and the Spirit says, "you see that Bible sitting on your desk? That is the Word of God." That's not how this works.

Instead, the Spirit uses the words of Scripture itself, as you read. As you read you hear God's voice speaking through the words of Scripture. That's an important difference, by the way. Because if the Spirit whispered in your ear, then that whispered message would be the final authority about God's Word. And you'd have to somehow get that whisper authenticated, that it was in fact from God. I think Berkhof puts it the clearest. Listen to this.

The testimony of the Holy Spirit [that's what we're talking about here, the Spirit's authentication] is simply the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the sinner by which He removes the blindness of sin so that the blind man who had no eyes for the sublime character of the word of God now clearly sees and appreciates the marks of its divine nature and receives immediate certainty respecting the divine origin of Scripture….

There it is. That's what the Spirit does, and no one ever comes to believe the Scripture without that work of the Spirit of God, because a natural man cannot understand it. The god of this world has blinded his mind, and so the Holy Spirit comes, just like on the day of creation, and says "let the light shine". And immediately you grasp the Word of God to be the Word of God through the words as you read them.

So, in the end, the Scripture is self-authenticating through the work of the Holy Spirit. By the way, there's a great implication in evangelism here. Don't think that you can argue someone into truth. Don't pray that God would give them some special message about God and the gospel. Just have them look at the Christ of the Bible. Just look at the gospel. Just show them the Scripture, and explain it to them like Philip did in Acts 8, and pray that the Holy Spirit will turn on the light, the Holy Spirit will remove the blindness. That God the Holy Spirit will say let the light shine, and they'll grasp it, they'll get it.

What are the implications of all that we've talked about concerning inspiration, this great doctrine of inspiration? We've looked at the arguments, the defense, but what does it matter? What does it matter to you? Well, there are so many things we could say, but let me just give you four. Very briefly.

Number one: all pulpits should be committed to expository preaching. If we believe in inspiration, if we believe that what's here are the very words of God, if these are the thoughts and the very words of God presented in the exact form and order in each book that He intended, then we can do nothing to improve it. It is the highest form of arrogance to pull verses and phrases out of their context and to make them say what God did not originally intend for them to say. Inspiration demands expositional teaching.

Secondly: we must seek to harmonize the teaching of Scripture to systematize it. Since it all came from one divine mind, it is not sixty-six books, it is one. It is one message to be systematized and understood as one message.

Thirdly: and this is where the rubber meets the road. We must read and study it, not for academic knowledge, but for the spiritual application the author intended. Turn to Romans 15, Romans 15, and notice verse 4. Paul is speaking of the Old Testament here, but it applies to all the Scripture for us because it's all now been written. "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." Listen, folks, this is not an academic study that we're doing. The Holy Spirit did not write the Bible so that seminaries could be formed. Seminaries are a great tool and a great resource, and they ought to be tools that we, the church, uses.

But the reason the Holy Spirit inspired this word, the reason He gave us the very words of God, is that so that you as an individual Christian would take this Word, that you would read it, that you would study it, that you would imbibe it, that you would absolutely delight and immerse yourself in it, and that you would be changed as a result, even as the song that we're going to sing in a moment. Second Timothy 3:16, we've looked at it in terms of the doctrine of inspiration, and we should, but 2 Timothy 3:16 was not written simply to form doctrine. It was a very practical message to a young pastor, and it's a very practical message to us as well. All Scripture is breathed out by God and therefore, here's the point, it's 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. It's intended to be used and applied.

And finally, the fourth application, or implication, of the doctrine of inspiration is that: we should use the Scripture to evangelize. We should use the Scripture because that's the tool that the Spirit of God uses to authenticate this message. Here's how it happens. It happened to you this way. Some day you're taking the Word of God, and you're sharing it with a friend, a family member, a co-worker. And those words seem like dead words. Ancient words that mean nothing, because they're blind. But as they read a verse, as they hear you recite it, as they think about it, the same God who commanded light to shine in creation commands light to shine in their hearts, and the light comes on, and they get it. They see its majesty. They see its beauty. They grasp its truth, and they're transformed. Those are the implications of the doctrine of inspiration. There are others, but those are the ones that challenge me, and I use to challenge you.

Let's pray together.

Father, we could never begin to adequately thank You that You did not leave us as orphans in the world, that You've given us Your Word, and You've given us Your Spirit.

God, help us to be students of the Word. Help us to be eager, to delight in Your Word, to meditate in it day and night. Forgive us for how readily we neglect it for trash.

In Jesus name, Amen.