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Battlefields of the Church: 4: Verbal Inspiration

By George Kulp

      We will now briefly examine the subject as it is presented in the Holy Scriptures, and see whether we find sufficient reason to affirm that inspiration had no relation whatever to language.

      1. The apostles were the subject of such a divine inspiration as enabled them to speak with "OTHER TONGUES." Here INSPIRATION REFERRED DIRECTLY TO LANGUAGE.

      2. It is the opinion of some thinkers that in some instances, inspired men had not in their own minds a clear understanding of the things of which they spake or wrote. An instance of this is the case of Daniel, who heard and repeated what the angel said, though he did not understand it. (Dan. 12:7-9.) This is thought to be in some measure the case with the prophets referred to in 1 Peter 1:10-12. Is there not also reason to think this may have been the case with many of the prophetic representations contained in the Psalms, and many of the symbolical rites of the Mosaic institute? Various matters are found in the Old Testament which were not intended so much for their benefit of the writers or their contemporaries as for the benefit of future ages. And this might have been a sufficient reason why they should be left without a clear understanding of the things which they wrote. In such cases, if the opinion above stated is correct, inspired men were led to make use of expressions the meaning of which they did not fully understand. And according to this view, it would seem that the teaching of the Spirit, which they enjoyed, must have related TO THE WORDS rather than to the sense.

      3. Those who deny that the divine influence afforded to the sacred writers had any respect to language, can find no support in the texts which most directly relate to the subject of inspiration, and it is surely in such texts, if anywhere, that we should suppose that they would find support. The passage 2 Peter 1:21 is a remarkable one. It asserts that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." There is surely nothing here which limits the divine influence to the conception of their minds. They were moved by the Holy Ghost to speak or write. "All Scripture is divinely inspired." (2 Tim. 3:16.) Does this text afford any proof that the divine influence granted to the inspired penmen was confined to their inward conceptions, and had no respect whatever to the manner in which they expressed their conceptions? What is Scripture? Is it divine truth conceived in the mind, OR DIVINE TRUTH WRITTEN? In Hebrews 1:1 it is said that GOD SPAKE TO THE FATHERS BY THE PROPHETS. Does this afford any proof that the divine guidance which the prophets enjoyed related exclusively to the conceptions of their own mind, and had no respect unto the manner in which they communicated those conceptions? Must we not rather think the meaning to be, that God influenced the prophets to utter or make known important truths? And how could they do this except by the use of proper words?

      Again, when Jesus said to the apostles (Matt. 10:19, 20), "When they shall deliver you up, take no thought HOW or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in the same hour what ye shall speak, For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you." This promise implies that divine assistance should extend not only to what they should say, but to the manner in which they should say it. It is not, however, to be understood as implying that the apostles were not rational and voluntary agents in the discharge of their office, but it implies that in consequence of the influence of the Spirit to be exercised over them, they should say what God would have them say -- without any liability to mistake, either as to matter or manner.

      From the above-cited promise, taken in connection with the instances of its accomplishment which are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, it becomes evident that God may exert His highest influence upon His servants so as completely to guide them in thought and utterance in regard to subjects which lie chiefly in the province of their natural faculties. For in those speeches of the apostles which are left on record, we find that most of the things which they declared, were things which, for aught that appears, they might have known and might have expressed to others in the natural exercise of their own faculties. This principle being kept in view will relieve of many difficulties in regard to the doctrine of inspiration. The passage 1 Corinthians 2:12, 13 is proof of the inspiration of the apostles and is far from favoring the opinion that inspiration had nothing to do with language, or that it related exclusively to their thoughts. "WHICH THINGS WE SPEAK not IN THE WORDS which man's wisdom teacheth, but WHICH THE HOLY GHOST TEACHETH."

      The Apostle avoided the style and the manner of teaching which prevailed among the wise men of Greece, and made use of a style which corresponded to the nature of his subject and the end he had in view. And this he tells us he did under the GUIDANCE OF THE SPIRIT. His language, or manner of teaching, was the thing to which the divine influence imparted to him particularly, referred. Several noted writers give this interpretation of this text. Paul, they say, asserts that the doctrines of Christianity were revealed to him by the almighty agency of God Himself, and finally that the inspiration of the divine Spirit extended even to his words and to all his exhibitions of revealed truths. They add, that Paul clearly distinguishes between the doctrine itself and the manner in which it WAS COMMUNICATED.

      Let me here quote Dr. Whitby, an author to whom Adam Clarke refers frequently.

      "It was necessary an apostle should have seen the Lord, as a witness of his resurrection from the dead -- hence he says, 'Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord?' (1 Cor. 9:1), and for an apostle 'not of man, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ' (Gal. 1:1) and to receive his message FROM THE LORD JESUS IMMEDIATELY. (Acts 26:16.) 'I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister, and a witness, both of those things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.' Which words contain a promise of immediate instruction from Christ, in his apostolic function." The Apostle declares, confirming his declaration with an oath, "The Gospel which was preached by me was not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught (by man) BUT BY THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST." (Gal. 1:11, 12.) He therefore had his message from Christ, as Moses had from God, Christ speaking to him, mouth to mouth. (See Num. 12:7, 8.) And he further admits, "The promise made by our Lord that the Holy Spirit should bring ALL THINGS to their remembrance, all things which He had said unto them (John 14:20), does fairly plead for this exactness in what they have delivered of our Savior's sermons, it being scarcely imaginable that their memory, without Divine assistance, should exactly give us all that was spoken in such long discourses." The Doctor admits that Paul declares he "spake the things WHICH WERE GIVEN OF GOD, IN THE WORDS WHICH THE HOLY GHOST TEACHETH." (1 Cor. 2:13.)

      Let me now call your attention to the thought of Dr. Grey of the Moody Institute on this very important subject. He writes very pertinently:

      "No human genius of whom we ever heard introduced his writings with the formula, 'THUS SAITH THE LORD,' or words to that effect, and yet such is the common utterance of the Bible authors." And again: "When we speak of the Holy Spirit coming upon the men in order to the composition of the books, it should be further understood that the object is not the inspiration of the men, BUT THE BOOKS; not the writers, BUT THE WRITINGS. To illustrate: Moses, David, Paul, and John were not always and everywhere inspired, for then always and everywhere they would have been infallible and inerrant, which was not the case. They sometimes made mistakes in thought and erred in conduct. But however fallible and errant they may have been, as men compassed with infirmity like ourselves, such fallibility or errancy was never under any circumstance communicated to their sacred writings."

      Ecclesiastes is a case in point, which, on the supposition of its Solomonic authorship, is giving a history of his search for happiness under the sun. Some statements in that book are only partially true, while others are altogether false, therefore it cannot mean that Solomon was inspired as he tried this or that experiment to find what no man has been able to find outside of God. But it means that his language is inspired as he records the various feelings and opinions which possessed him in the pursuit.

      Dr. Grey very pertinently asks this question, "In the last analysis, it is the Bible itself, of course, which must settle the question of its inspiration and the extent of it, but we may be allowed to ask a final question: CAN EVEN GOD HIMSELF GIVE A THOUGHT TO A MAN WITHOUT THE WORDS THAT CLOTHE IT? Are not the two inseparable, as much so as a sum and its figures, or a tune and its notes?"

      In other words, as Dr. A. J. Gordon expresses it, "To deny that the Holy Spirit speaks in Scripture is an intelligible proposition, but to admit that He speaks, it is impossible TO KNOW WHAT HE SAYS, EXCEPT AS WE HAVE HIS WORDS."

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See Also:
   1: The Word of God
   2: The Holy Spirit the Author
   3: The Old Testament and the New
   4: Verbal Inspiration
   5: Thus Saith the Lord
   6: Testimony of the Fathers
   7: Witnesses to the Truth


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