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Battlefields of the Church: 3: The Old Testament and the New

By George Kulp

      It seems to us very plain that the promise of Jesus implies that the apostles, in executing their commission, were to be assisted by the illumination and direction of the Spirit, and He places their teaching upon the same plane as His own, making no distinction. "He that heareth you, heareth me, and he that despiseth you despiseth me, and he that despiseth me, despiseth Him that sent me." (Luke 10:16.)

      Paul, who was called of God to preach the Gospel, received it not from man, neither was he taught it, but it came by direct revelation of Jesus Christ from Heaven, and in the Epistle to the Corinthians he says, "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things which are freely given us of God, which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, BUT WHICH THE HOLY GHOST TEACHETH." (1 Cor. 2:10, 12, 13.) "If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." And again he says in the Epistle to the Thessalonians: "The word of God, which ye heard from us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as in truth, THE WORD OF GOD." And Peter, speaking of the Epistles of Paul, says, "Even as our beloved brother Paul also, ACCORDING TO THE WISDOM GIVEN UNTO HIM, hath written unto you." And the beloved disciple John claims inspiration for the other apostles as well as himself, saying, "We are of God; he that knoweth God, heareth us; he that is not of God, heareth not us."

      The apostles placed their own writings upon equal footing with the books of the Old Testament. Paul, speaking of the Holy Scriptures in which Timothy had been instructed (the Old Testament), says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." Peter says of the ancient prophets, "The Spirit of Christ was in them." "Prophecy came not in old time by the will of men, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Pet. 1:21.)

      The quotations of our Lord and His apostles from the books of the Old Testament are often introduced with an expression in which their inspiration is directly asserted: "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias;" "By the mouth of thy servant David thou hast said." (Acts 1:16; 4:25; 28:25.)

      Paul declared the Christians were built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, thus placing the writings of the apostles co-equal with those of Old Testament writings -- a very wrong thing to do if the former were not inspired as well as the latter. And Peter unites in his view, when he writes to the Christians charging them to be "mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us the apostles." And as to the Book of Revelation, the writer asserts directly his personal inspiration, saying that "Jesus sent and signified by His angel to His servant John the things that were to come to pass," and the Divine Person who appeared unto Him when he was in the Spirit commanded him to "write in a book what he saw."

      The early Church received the writings of the apostles as of equal authority with the Old Testament. It is seen from an expression of Peter that already, at the time of his writing, the Epistles of Paul were classed with "THE OTHER SCRIPTURES." (2 Pet. 3:16.) Justin Martyr says that "before the middle of the second century, the memoirs of the apostles and the compositions of the prophets" were read together in the Christian assemblies, and the writings of the apostles were regarded as the infallible standard of faith and practice.

      Let us now define what we mean by inspiration, and that is, that the sacred writers composed their works under so plenary and immediate influence of the Holy Spirit that God may be said to speak by those writers, to man, and not merely that they spoke to man in the name of God, and by His authority, and there is considerable difference in these propositions. Each supposes an authentic revelation from God, but the former view secures the Scriptures from all error, both as to the subjects spoken, and file manner of expressing them. This is the doctrine taught in the Scriptures themselves, which declare not only that the apostles and prophets spoke in the name of God, but that God spoke by them as His instruments. "The Holy Ghost by the MOUTH OF DAVID SPOKE;" "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet." Jesus said to the disciples, "When they bring you into the synagogues, and unto magistrates and powers, take no thought how or what thing ye shall say, for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say; for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." And Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, states very plainly, "Which things we also speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but WHICH THE HOLY GHOST TEACHETH."

      Some one will now object to this view on the ground of the difference of style and manner so natural to each, and so distinct in all. "How about those reasonings, recollections of memory and other indications of the work of the mind of each writer on its own character and temperament?" Let us answer here that an inspiration of words took place either by suggesting those most fit to express the thoughts, or by overruling the selection of such words from the common as if they had been exclusively of divine suggestion, and yet this does not measure up to the force of the passages quoted, which attribute to a divine agency, the store acquired by, and laid up in, the mind of each .writer, which is quite compatible with the fact that a peculiarity and appropriateness of manner might still be left to them separately.

      Watson (upon whom we have drawn largely in this part of the discussion) says: "To suppose that an inspiration of terms as well as thoughts could not take place without producing one uniform style and manner, is to suppose that the minds of the writers would thus become entirely passive under the influence of the Holy Spirit, whereas it is easily conceivable that the verbiage, style and manner of each were not so much displaced, as ELEVATED, ENRICHED and CONTROLLED by the Holy Spirit, and that there was a previous fitness in all these respects, in all the sacred penmen, for which they were chosen to be instruments under the aid and direction of the Holy Spirit, of writing such portions of the general revelation as the wisdom of God assigned unto each of them. On the other hand, while it is so conceivable that the words and manner of each might be appropriated to his own design by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it by no means follows that both were not greatly altered as well as controlled, although they still retained a general similarity to the uninfluenced style and manner of each, and still presented a characteristic variety. As none of their writings on ordinary occasions, and when uninspired, have come down to us, we cannot judge of this degree of difference, and therefore no one can, with any just reason, affirm that their writings are 'the word of God as to the doctrine, but the word of man as to the channel of conveyance."

      Certain it is that a vast difference may be remarked between the writings of the apostles and those of the most eminent Fathers of the times nearest to them, and that not only as to the precision and strength of thought, but also as to the language. This circumstance is at least strongly presumptive, that, although the style of inspired men was not stripped of the characteristic peculiarity of the writers, it was greatly exalted and influenced.

      It is not likely that the same force of inspiration, so to speak, was exerted upon each of the sacred writers, or upon the same writer throughout his writings, whatever might be his subject. There is no necessity that we should so state the ease, in order to maintain what is essential to our faith -- the plenary inspiration of the sacred writers. In miracles there was no needless application of divine power. Traditional history and written chronicles, facts of known occurrence, and opinions which were received by all, are often inserted or referred to by the sacred writers. There needed no miraculous operation upon the memory to recall what the memory was furnished with, or to recall a fact which the writers perfectly and personally knew. But their plenary inspiration consisted in this, that they were kept from all lapses of memory, or inadequate conceptions, even on these subjects, and on all others the degree of communication and influence, both as to doctrine, facts, and the terms in which they were to be recorded for the edification of the Church, was proportioned to the necessity of the case, but so that the whole was authenticated by the Holy Spirit with so full an influence that it became truth without any admixture of error, expressed in such terms as He Himself suggested or ruled. This, then, seems the true notion of plenary inspiration, that for the revelation, insertion, and adequate enunciation of truth, it was full and complete.

      Dr. Woods, in speaking of this subject, says very forcibly, "One argument which has been urged against the supposition that divine inspiration had a respect to language, is that the language used by the inspired writers exhibits no marks of a divine interference, but is perfectly conformed to the genius and taste of the writers. The fact here alleged is admitted, but how does it support those who allege it? Is it not evident that God may exercise a perfect superintendency over inspired writers as to the language they shall use, and yet that each of them shall write in his own style, and in all respects according to his own taste? May not God give such aid to His servants, that, while using their own style, they will be certainly secured against all mistakes, and exhibit the truth with perfect propriety? Is it unquestionable, that Isaiah and St. Paul and St. John might be under the entire direction of the Spirit even as to language, and at the same time each one of them write in his own manner, and that the peculiar manner of each might be adapted to answer an important end, and that the variety of style thus introduced into the sacred volume might be suited to excite a livelier interest in the minds of men, and to secure to them a far greater amount of good than could ever have been derived from any ONE mode of writing? The great variety existing among men as to their natural talents, and their peculiar manner of thinking and writing, may in this way, be turned to account in the work of revelation, as well as in the concerns of common life. Is it not clearly a matter of fact that God has made use of this variety, and given the Holy Spirit to men, differing widely from each other in regard to natural endowments, and knowledge and style, and employed them with all their various gifts, as agents in writing the Holy Scriptures? And what color of reason can we have to suppose, that the language which they used was less under the divine direction on account of this variety, than if it had been perfectly uniform throughout?

      "To prove that divine inspiration bad no respect to language of the sacred writers, it is alleged by some that even the same doctrine is taught, and the same events described, in a different manner by different writers. This we also admit. But how does it prove that inspiration had no respect to language? Is not the variety alleged a manifest advantage as to the impression to be made upon the minds of men? Is not testimony which is substantially the same always considered as entitled to higher credit when it is given by different witnesses in different language and in a different order? Is it not reasonable to suppose that in making a revelation God would have respect unto the common principles of human nature and human society, and would exert His influence over inspired men in such a manner that, by exhibiting the same facts and doctrines in different ways, they should make a more salutary impression, and should more effectually compass the ends of a great revelation? Give thought and attention to these two positions:

      "1. The variety of manner apparent among different writers, even when treating of the same subjects, is far better suited to promote the object of divine revelation than a perfect uniformity.

      "2. It is agreeable to our worthiest conception of God and His administration, that he should make use of the best means for the accomplishment of His designs, and, of course, that He should impart the gift of inspiration to men of different tastes and habits as to language, and should lead them, while writing the Scriptures, to exhibit all the variety of manner naturally arising from the diversified character of their minds.

      "The one point we think it specially important to maintain is this -- the sacred writers had such direction of the Holy Spirit that they were secured against ALL liability to error, and enabled to write just what God pleased, so that what they wrote is in truth the Word of God, and can never be subject to any charge of mistake either as to matter or form.

      "Whether this perfect correctness and propriety as to language resulted from the Divine guidance directly or indirectly, is a question of no particular importance. If the Spirit of God directs the minds of inspired men, and gives them just conceptions relative to the subjects on which they are to write, and if He constitutes and maintains a connection, true and invariable, between their conceptions and the language they employ to express them, the language must in this way be as infallible and as worthy of God, as though it were dictated directly by the Holy Spirit. But to assert that the sacred writers used such language as they chose, or such as was natural to them, without any special divine superintendence, and that in respect to style, they are to be regarded in the same light, and equally liable to mistake as other writers, is plainly contrary to the representations which they themselves make, and is suited to diminish our confidence in the Word of God. For how could we have entire confidence in the representations of Scripture, if after God had instructed the minds of the sacred writers in the truth to be communicated, He gave them up to all the inadvertencies and errors to which human nature in general is exposed, and took no effectual care that their manner of writing should be according to His will."

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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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