Inerrancy and Sufficiency
2 Peter 1:16–21
2 Peter Lesson #032
March 19, 2020
“Our Father, we come together to worship You, the living God. You are God Who is the source of life. We thank You for another day where we have life, where we can serve You, where we can grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You because You are the God Who makes this possible. We live in a day where there is, on the part of some, fear, anxiety because of this virus, because of the unknown, because of the way it has upended our regular schedules, our regular life, our jobs, our families.
“Father, we pray that we might put our focus, our attention upon You for Your Word is sufficient that no matter what happens, You are going to take care of us, You will sustain us, You will provide for us. This is a test for each of us, a test to refocus our priorities upon our own spiritual life, upon our family’s spiritual life, refocusing the way in which we spend our time so that we can make time consistently for Your Word. And that when we come out of this, we can look back and say this was a time that You used to really maximize our spiritual growth and our spiritual life.
“We pray for our missionaries. We pray for those in Kiev, those in Ukraine, those in the Philippines, those down in Brazil, many others that we pray for that You would provide for them, strengthen them, keep them all healthy and strong, Father.
“For us we pray that You might continue to keep us focused upon Your Word and that we might be reminded of it over and over again through each day. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.”
Tonight we’re continuing a study that we began in the last lesson here on 2 Peter, and that is beginning to deal with the issue of the inerrancy of Scripture, the infallibility of Scripture, and the sufficiency of Scripture. This is so critical for today and especially when we are facing the unknown. A lot of the fear, a lot of the panic is just because of the unknown.
Yet in the history of Christianity, it is when the church has been faced with the unknown, with disease, with plagues, with wars, with economic instability, with all kinds of different things that have put pressure on them, it is Christians with the Word of God in their soul that have risen to the surface because of their love and care for one another and corporately their love for those who are not believers.
On the other hand, because unbelievers, the pagan does not have the resources to explain suffering, to explain adversity. That’s why I’m talking about this on Sunday morning. The unbeliever doesn’t have those resources, but the believer does, so we can have a relaxed mental attitude, we can keep our focus on the Lord, and we can have joy, peace, tranquility, contentment as the fruit of the Spirit and this makes a difference.
This is a tremendous opportunity for us to be a witness to others because we know that God controls history and God is in charge. This didn’t surprise Him; it may be a surprise to us. Maybe we haven’t been as prepared as we thought we should be, but it’s no surprise to God, and in His grace, He will sustain us. When we get to Thanksgiving next year, it will be interesting to learn some of the stories from people how God used them, sustained them, and provided for them during this time.
Open your Bibles with me to 2 Peter 1. We’ve been looking at this chapter as the introduction to this epistle. This chapter is going to end at the end of verse 21, but as we come to the end, what we learn is there is a focus more and more on truth, more and more on the truth that God has provided. We go back to 2 Peter 1:12, which is the second part of the introduction where Peter says, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things …”
In times of crisis, we have to hear the promises again and again. We have to be driven back to the Word, we have to be reminded, we have to have the discipline, the self-discipline to open up our laptops, log in and live stream, or if that’s not a convenient time, to watch the videos later. It really is going to call everyone to step up to their spiritual life. It’s not just the habit of going to church and seeing and being seen. It is focusing on the Word.
Peter says, 1 Peter 1:12, “… I’m going to remind you always of these things though you know and are established in the present truth.” That should be translated as I show on the slide: You’re stable by means of the present truth. It is the truth of God’s Word. Truth is under attack. Not things that are true, but the concept of truth, the concept of an overriding truth, of an absolute truth, of an inerrant and infallible truth is under tremendous attack in the world today.
It has been for the last 400 years going back to the early 1600s and the rise of what became known as the period of the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. It was during that period from 1600–1900 that you really have the rise of what is known as modernism. We’ll talk about that a little more.
At least in the age of Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, they thought there was truth. They couldn’t agree as to what it was, they couldn’t agree what the foundation was at least for two thirds of that period, but they agreed that there was some sort of unifying truth.
It wasn’t until after the late 1700s that you have the concept of truth begin to fall apart. By the time it completely implodes at the end of the 19th century, by 1900 you have the rise really of postmodernism. Most people don’t think that came along until after World War II, but its foundations, the shift occurred early in the 20th century. We’ve studied this in the last previous lessons on truth versus fable, truth versus legend, truth versus the fantasies that the unbeliever, the pagan, believes in in order to make his life work, but in times of crisis that falls apart.
This is what happened in Rome. We’ll talk about this in more detail Sunday morning. You have the Antonine Plague, the Justinian Plague. In the Roman Empire about one-third of the people in Italy died, and so they’re just absolutely devastated. They had incredible economic consequences for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. People put it on their morality.
Actually, what happened is very similar to what is happening in our culture today, happened after World War II, is that because of the plague, you have a loss of your workers. They had to bring in the barbarians to move down into Italy and hire them to do common labor. Just at the end of World War II, the Germans, the whole younger generation—the late teens, 20s, 30s—was wiped out in the war. The same in France. So they brought in labor from Turkey, from the Balkans, from north Africa, and that laid a foundation for the problem we have with Islam in Europe today. But we’ll save most of that for Sunday morning.
Anyway, the issue is truth. Do we believe there is truth or do we believe in some sort of relativism? I covered that last time and talked about the tyranny of relativism.
It’s interesting if you watch some politicians talking about this coronavirus. I heard Governor Cuomo in New York the other day, and it sounded like he had been mugged by reality because what he was saying was accurate, honest, he wasn’t grandstanding, he wasn’t blaming everything on the president. He was talking about factual realities on the ground: what people needed to do, what they didn’t need to do, and what he was doing. At some point, you can’t live on the basis of your fantasy anymore unless you’re completely psychotic and divorced from reality.
In 2 Peter 1:12, we have stability by means of the truth. This is the issue.
I looked at passages like John 8:32 where Jesus says “And you shall know THE TRUTH …” This is a term for Scripture, that which God has revealed, not truth from rationalism or empiricism or mysticism, but the truth, that which is revealed by God, and it is that truth that will make you free.
It will free you in the soul from the penalty of sin, it will free you from slavery to sin, and it will free your thinking so that even if you are a slave, you can think in terms of freedom.
In John 14:17, we see that the Spirit of THE TRUTH is the phrase in the Greek. It has the article, and the Holy Spirit is the Member of the Trinity responsible for revelation
John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of THE TRUTH, has come, He will guide you into all THE TRUTH.” This is for the disciples, He would give them the revelation they needed, much of which was inscripturated.
Then in Jesus’ high priestly prayer, John 17:17 and 19, He prays to the Father, “Sanctify them by means of THE TRUTH. Your word is TRUTH.” It is the truth, “and for their sakes—He prays—I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by means of TRUTH.” Even though those last two uses do not have an article in the Greek, it refers to the word with the article in John 17:17, so they’re all speaking of a definite concept.
How do we know it is true?
1) Because it is the revealed Word of God. That’s what Peter argues.
2) Because God confirmed it through what they saw and what they heard.
What they see and what they hear—rationalism and empiricism—are subordinated to revelation. Revelation comes first, and it is not contrary, it does not go against reason or empiricism. But reason and empiricism must be subordinate to divine revelation.
I’ll just briefly review this chart.
1) In revelation, we know it originates from the one true, living God, the voice of Heaven in 2 Peter 1:17, not from the will of man. The Holy Spirit moved the writers of Scripture in 2 Peter 1:20.
2) It’s objective light, so that there is objective truth, there is objective knowledge. This is what was rejected starting with Immanuel Kant at the end of the Enlightenment Period, at the end of the 1700s.
3) There is confirmatory evidence which conforms to revelation. It has a confirmatory value. God always confirms that.
4) Revelation is linear.
1) All pagan myth, all false ideas come along as a result of suppressing truth in unrighteousness. It originates solely from human thought, fantasy, or legends. We could add to that, it can originate from satanic or demonic influence as well.
2) It is shaped by irrational concepts which are identified in literature. Some of the literature is “true myth”, or it’s also called factitious. Christian scholars pick up those terms and use that to describe the first 11 chapters of Genesis, as well as some of the miracles that occurred during the life of Christ.
3) Myth is polytheistic, instead of monotheistic. You may say we’re not polytheistic; we’re atheistic. What you’re worshiping are the many different aspects of God’s creation still, and you’re worshiping the many different idols of the mind, the abstract idols of the mind. Even though you may be an atheist, you’re still worshiping something, and you’re still polytheistic.
4) It’s cyclical. All non-Christian influence views of history are just endless cycles, repetition, and they’re not linear, whereas, biblically God is taking history in a specific direction.
The result is that relativists MUST hate and despise those that hold to the absolutes because they are truth suppressors, so they’re going to hate us because they hate the truth. We stand for the truth. We stand for God. Therefore, we are the object of their scorn. We are the object of their hatred. They do not like what we believe, and they seek to destroy it. This is the tyranny of relativism.
We started with the topic of what the Bible teaches about inspiration, infallibility, and the sufficiency of Scripture. A lot of what I am teaching on this, I’ve taught this before. In fact, if you go back to 1 Peter starting in lessons #35 and following, there’s a much more detailed approach to this dealing with a lot of different aspects related to the importance of inerrancy, inspiration, and infallibility.
Here I’m going to reorganize a little bit, and I want us to think in terms of what are the three key verses that help us to understand how God revealed Himself to us. These three key verses provide the foundation for this whole doctrine of inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility. There are many other verses that relate, but these are the three foundational ones, so just try to get that in your mind.
The first one, of course, is the passage we’re in—1 Peter 1:20–21. We ended there last time, but I want to review it. This is a passage that tells us that all Scripture originated in the mind of God, not in the mind of man. This is not something that man came up with. When it talks about no private interpretation, it means no individual interpretation. It doesn’t mean they originated this.
It is that God the Holy Spirit is the One who put this into their minds. We get into the use of the phrase inspiration, the breathing in of something. Scripture is really breathed out by the writers of Scripture, but the words, the ideas, the guidance is breathed into them by God the Holy Spirit.
Let’s just read the verse. 2 Peter 1:20, “knowing this first …” This would be translated as a causal participle. Because you know this—this is the foundation for his exhortations in the previous verses. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation …” 2 Peter 1:21, “ … for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
That second verse that prophecy never came by the will of man means it was never originated by man. It originated from the Holy Spirit. In 2 Peter 1:20 where it says “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,” private interpretation is explained by 2 Peter 1:21 as not originating with them but originating with the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning of 2 Peter 1:20, it says “knowing this first.” This is a Greek word which is used in the logic to describe the primary, unprovable, but the solid propositions on which something is built. We build everything on the Scripture. Without inspiration and infallibility, there is no biblical Christianity. Once you throw that out, you don’t know what is true or not.
You’re going to take this verse is true or that verse is true. I like this verse, but let’s scratch out that clause. That’s what a lot of people do with a lot of different social issues. But once you take one clause, one phrase, one sentence, one verse out, then you are redefining God, and that is a form of rebellion against God and a form of idolatry, self-idolatry, making yourself out to be God.
In the Old Testament, the way this Greek word was used in translating the Septuagint is “this is what precedes everything else.” It is the foundation, it is the presupposition, and it is what everything else is built upon. The New Testament uses that word in the same way. It focuses us on the authority of Scripture, not Scripture plus tradition. That’s Greek Orthodoxy, that’s Roman Catholicism, that’s not biblical Christianity.
It is the Scripture and Scripture alone that is our source of authority. As soon as some people reject inspiration, reject inerrancy, and they say, “I believe in the authority of Scripture.” What does that mean for them? They are really putting the authority of the interpretation of Scripture on their church tradition. When you say you believe in the authority of Scripture, you’re saying you believe in the One Who gave it, and that is God, and if it is God, then it is going to be without error. This is the first thing that we see.
The second thing that we see in 2 Peter 1:20 is that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” In the Greek, it’s convoluted in terms of English. Literally it says, “every prophecy of Scripture does not originate from man.” We switch it around to say that “prophecy is not of any private interpretation.” It doesn’t originate, derive, come into being from an individual’s own opinions, own interpretation.
The words that are used here are the words PHERO. 2 Peter 1:21, “… holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The first way it is used never came. That is the word PHERO as an aorist passive indicative—“it never came by the will of man, but the men of God spoke as they were moved.” This is a present passive participle, so both of them as passives indicate that the individuals are receiving this. They’re not doing it themselves. They are passive to the work of God the Holy Spirit.
The NET Bible translates it, “for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” My translation “for no prophecy was ever carried along.” I like that use—not carried along by the will of man, but men spoke from God when they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. It ought to be translated with the same verbiage both places. It makes more sense and gets across the Holy Spirit’s idea.
In Acts 27:17, we have the word used in its literal sense related to a ship. This is the shipwreck that Paul was on. They were grounded and they ran aground on the Syrtis Sands, and then they struck sail, so they were carried along just by the currents. That’s the idea that these men of God were carried along by the Holy Spirit. They were not originating these ideas from themselves.
One of the things that’s interesting that I ran across. It’s a summary from a series of commentaries called Exegetical Summary by Strange. He says, “The writer’s aim was to deny that the prophets themselves were the source from which their message originated.” That’s the Word Biblical Commentary. What this exegetical summary series does, it summarizes the different views that are presented in the commentaries and so it lists those.
I found this interesting. Word Biblical Commentary says the aim here is to deny that the prophets were the source of their message. Then according to the NET translation, he says “Prophecies came from God, they were not inventions of the prophets themselves.” Then he says, “The author denies the charge that the prophets gave their own human interpretations to the signs, dreams, and visions they received.” I’m not sure what the Hb refers to; there are so many different works that describes. The Word Biblical Commentary states that as well. Then the fourth is “No scriptural prophecy was ever the result of a prophet first conceiving what he wanted the interpretation to be and then framing his prophecy accordingly.” That’s from a conservative Lutheran, Lenski’s Commentary on the New Testament.
In the early part of the 20th century, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was the head of the Theology Department at Princeton University. Princeton was the fortress that defended the doctrine of Scripture, the doctrine of bibliology, of infallibility, inspiration and inerrancy. He was the chief theologian at Princeton, and he’s quoted quite a bit in Chafer’s Systematic Theology. One of the reasons Chafer has so many quotes in his theology—some of you have read parts of it—is because he’s showing that dispensational premillennialism is not heretical, and so he is showing that we believe the same thing in every other area of Scripture as these men. Where we differ is on the distinction between Israel and the church, on a grace salvation, and, of course, on dispensationalism.
Warfield said “In this singularly precise and pregnant statement there are several things which require to be carefully observed. There is, first of all, the emphatic denial that prophecy—that is to say, on the hypothesis upon which we are working. Scripture—owes its origin to human initiative: ‘No prophecy ever was brought—“came” is the word used in the English Version text, with “was brought” in the Revised Version margin—by the will of man.’ ”
“Then, there is the equally emphatic assertion that its source lies in God.” He is making two points. First of all, the emphatic denial that Scripture owes its origin to human initiative and then the equally emphatic assertion that its source lies in God. “It was spoken by men, indeed, but the men who spoke it ‘spake from God.’ ”
“And a remarkable clause is here inserted, and thrown forward in the sentence that stress may fall on it, which tells us how it could be that men, in speaking, should speak not from themselves, but from God: it was ‘as borne’—it is the same word which was rendered ‘was brought’ above, and might possibly be rendered ‘brought’ here—‘by the Holy Spirit.’ ” Strong statement.
Let’s sum it up. 2 Peter 1:20–21 states that God the Holy Spirit is the Agent of revealing Scripture, not man. It doesn’t originate with man. It has nothing to do with the individual’s personal opinions. It all comes from God the Holy Spirit, and He used human beings to give us a completely truthful Bible.
1 Corinthians 2:10 tells us “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” I can go through quote after quote to back that up. Many times you have psalms that are written by David that are quoted in the New Testament and attributed to God the Holy Spirit. “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit—the them in this verse is Old Testament Scripture.—For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”
Passages you could look at: 2 Samuel 23:2–3; Mark 12:36; John 14:26; Acts 1:16; Acts 28:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Look those up. Since everybody seems to be at home now, you can talk those over with your kids, with your wife, read those together in the Scripture.
Zechariah 7:12. It’s Old Testament teaching as well. “Yes, they made their hearts like flint,” talking about the Israelites. They hardened their hearts against God, rejected what God said, disobeyed the Law, brought divine discipline on themselves. “Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts.” The Holy Spirit spoke through His prophets.
This is great for us when we’re in any kind of difficulty personally. It can be a personal crisis or it can be a difficult challenge. It can be the result of a disaster, which we’re used to here on the Gulf Coast, a hurricane. It can be a blizzard in the north. It can be any number of things—a financial collapse. We’re going to have a number of different things that come into our lives as a result of this, but God is stable. God stabilizes us, and God through His Spirit has given us eternal truth that was just as vital 2,000, 3,000 years ago as it is today. Just as true.
The first passage was 2 Peter 1:20–21. The second key passage is 2 Timothy 3:16–17. I put verse 15 in here for the context. This is Paul’s last epistle, his last letter that we know of to Timothy. He is about to die. It was interesting last week at the Chafer Conference when Andy Woods was going through various things. He made the point that 2 Timothy, 2 Peter both are the last letters of those apostles. In both of them they deal with truth. In both of them they deal with the truth of the Scripture. In both of them they warned of coming false teachers. We are in an era where we have a lot of false teachers.
Paul tells Timothy and reminds him of his childhood because his mother and his grandmother were quite devout. They were believers, and they taught him the Scripture from youth. Now folks, I know there are a lot of parents, there are a lot of grandparents that are listening. There are a lot of folks in the church. This is a critical thing, a critical time for you to make sure all of your children are saved. Take time in the coming week to talk to them about the gospel. Make sure every one of your kids understands the gospel and continuously talk to them. Maybe they are a little young, but tell them. Even if they’re just babies tell them that God loves them and Jesus died for their sins. You’re shaping that message into their brain. Teach them over and over again, remind them of that.
I far as I can remember and put together, I was going to church when I was six years old, and we moved to a new building on Mother’s Day of 1959. I was six, about to turn seven. I can pretty much peg where we were living because a couple of weeks later we moved. It was Sunday, and the pastor gave a Mother’s Day message, which he rarely did. Somewhere in that message, he must have emphasized what I just did, the importance of parents continuously teaching the gospel to their kids, making sure they understand it even when you think they’re too young to understand. I’ve known of two-year-olds who have understood the gospel because they’ve heard it so much from their mother or their dad. But give them the gospel. Make sure they’re saved.
My parents gave me the gospel that Sunday after church, and I trusted in Christ as my Savior. I couldn’t wait to tell my best friend down the street. I ran down there to play that afternoon and gave him the gospel, told him how he could have eternal life. I encourage you, make sure you tell the gospel to your kids. That will do wonders in helping them handle and learn the Word and handle what’s coming in this situation. We don’t know it’s coming, but we should prepare for the worst, because then if it doesn’t occur, it’s all much, much better.
2 Timothy 3:15, “And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Great summary of the gospel, faith in Christ. Then he says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture …” Now what was the Scripture that his mother and his grandmother relied on? Was it the New Testament? No, it was the Old Testament Scriptures. It was the Tanakh, the Torah, the Nevi’im, Ketuvim, the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets. Paul says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for” four things:
- For teaching—that is instruction
- For reproof—telling you that’s wrong, you have a wrong idea
- For correction—get rid of the wrong idea and replace it with the truth
- For training, discipline in righteousness—in living experientially righteous living in obedience to the Word of God
The result of this is that the man of God—and that doesn’t exclude women, it’s not a sexist phrase—any person who is godly may be adequate. That’s a weak word, but it is that he will have everything he needs. This is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture: adequate, equipped, thoroughly equipped for every good work, not some good works, not most, but every good work. It’s the Word of God that equips us. It is not the Word of God plus psychology, it is not the Word of God plus sociology, it is not the Word of God plus motivational teaching. It is the Word of God.
Today we live in a world where, as Dr. Woods pointed out last week, you have people like Andy Stanley, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and the son of a great Baptist expositor, Charles Stanley, who teaches that you don’t need to teach verse-by-verse. That’s just a copout for people who can’t really preach and can’t really teach about current things, that it’s too easy to just go verse-by-verse. Well, God revealed Himself verse-by-verse ,so to understand Him, we need to go verse-by-verse. Andy Stanley is one of the great false teachers of our generation, and we need to be warned about them. That’s what Peter is about to warn us of in the next chapter.
We look at the keywords here. 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” It really means “it’s breathed out by God.” Often we talk about Shakespeare being inspired. We think of Milton and his magnum opus Paradise Lost. He was blind by that time, and he just had it all put together inside of his brain and dictated it. It’s massive, and the edition I have is 250 pages long. He just quoted that, just read it out, just absolutely brilliant. He was inspired, but this is different.
This is God as the source breathing out His Word through the writers of Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,—God breathed—and is profitable …” It will give you value. It will give value to your spiritual life, your whole life because you will be able to face challenges and handle them and solve problems and difficulties. You will understand what’s really going on in the world. You will not fear, you will not lose your peace, you will not be unstable because you understand the truth of God’s Word.
It is for the purpose of being complete. That’s the word on the lower left ARTIOS, fully qualified. Notice the word on the right. It’s EXARTIZO. That ARTI in the middle of that word comes from the word on the left. It has a prepositional prefix EX and the ending of a verb on the right.
We are fully complete, we are fully qualified, fully equipped for most good works. No. Some good works. No. Every good work. That’s the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, that the Scripture is all we need. Just as it is not Christ plus something, faith plus something, the Bible plus something. It is the Bible alone.
The rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation was “sola scriptura”, Latin for “only the Scripture” or “the Scripture alone”, because they understood this concept of the sufficiency of Scripture. We just need to know the Bible and believe it and apply it, folks, and God can solve whatever the problems are. We can have victory over our sin nature, we can have victory over the world, we can have victory over whatever plagues us. We can go through the storms of life with peace, tranquility, and happiness because God is in control.
What we see from all these verses about the inspiration of Scripture is:
1) God is absolute veracity or truth in Romans 3:4 where Paul says “May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, ‘That thou mightest be justified in Thy words, and mightest prevail when Thou art judged.’ ” God is true. That’s our starting point.
2) God is the Source of the Scriptures. 1 Timothy 3:16. It is breathed out by God. The source of the Scripture is absolute truth, that which comes out from Him must also be absolute truth.
3) Therefore, conclusion, the Scriptures are absolute truth. John 17:17, where Jesus prays “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.”
The rule is if the premises of the syllogism are correct—that’s #1 and #2. Major premise in #1—God is absolute truth. The minor premise—God is the Source of the Scriptures. The conclusion—the Scriptures are absolute truth. If the premises are correct, then the conclusion must be correct. If that’s correct, it must shape our lives so that nothing is more important to us than internalizing the Word of God into our lives.
Often people want the easy route. God didn’t give us a systematic theology; He didn’t give us a question and answer book. God gave us the Bible in a format that would be accessible to every language, every culture, young and old, but we have to read it and think about it to derive our answers. It’s a lifetime process and involves learning Bible study methods. I suggest that you take the time to go listen to the Bible Study Methods series that’s on the website. We study, and the more we study, the more we learn. It corrects some earlier ideas that we may have had, but it takes time.
Recently I was asked by somebody “How do you know you’re right?” It has taken a lifetime of study. Sometimes I change on this little thing or that little thing, but generally my framework was set many, many years ago as a result of tens of thousands of hours of study. It wasn’t just because I took some pastor’s word for it or some theologian’s word for it, because many times I found when I got into the Scripture and did proper exegesis, that they were wrong. They might have not been far off. They weren’t heretical, but maybe that wasn’t quite the best way to interpret the passage or maybe that wasn’t quite on target. That’s true for all of us.
We grow and we change and we mature in our understanding of these things.
We’re not changing radically. We may mend a hole in the furniture here or there. We may decide that we want this little color change from a dark brown to medium brown. Modifications like that. But generally speaking, we have the framework down.
So often people want God to speak to them. Just give them the answers. I love this cartoon; Andy used it last week at the conference. You have a man praying, “Lord, please talk to me” and so God hands him a Bible.
I love what Elbert said a few months ago when he said if you want to listen to what God has to say to you, open the Bible and read it out loud. That’s it. Don’t look for new revelation from people.
People who say “Well, I have a word from God” are heretics and false teachers. People who say “God spoke to me” are liars. People who say “I have a message for you from God” are people that you should show the front door to. We have too many people in our culture, because of no teaching, because of sloppy teaching, because of heretical theology, think all of this is just fine and good and makes them seem a lot holier. Know your Bible, read the Scripture. 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Concluding summary on 2 Timothy 3:16–17. All Scripture, the entire Bible, is inspired and profitable, every verse, and that includes the genealogies, that includes the real estate section in Judges where you see the allotments of land to all of the different tribes, that includes all of the genealogical lists at the beginning of 1 Chronicles. All of these have a purpose. It’s not all related to your spiritual life, but it’s related to understand God’s plan and purposes in Israel, God’s plan and purposes for the church, to understand the whole counsel of God. We as pastors are to teach the whole counsel of God, not just the Epistles of Paul, not just the New Testament, not just Psalms and Proverbs and parts of the Pentateuch. We are to teach the whole counsel of God. They all have a role.
If Paul told Timothy that all the Old Testament is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness, he wasn’t talking about something that hadn’t been written yet, although that’s included. He was talking about the value of the Old Testament. That was another thing Andy Stanley came out with that the church needs to divorce itself from the Old Testament; we don’t need to know it. This is making a lot of us sick. This is terrible. We have to watch out for these false teachers.
Second, the entire Bible is God breathed. All of it is God breathed.
Third, all Scripture prepares the believer and equips them for every situation in life, every situation. You can’t come up with a situation, a problem, a difficulty that the Bible doesn’t give you the framework for handling. It almost always starts with prayer. Prayer for wisdom, James 1:5, that you can handle it, that you can understand it.
First passage: 2 Peter 1:20–21. Second passage: 2 Timothy 3:16–17.
Third passage: Matthew 5:17–18. Jesus is the one Who is speaking here. He is speaking in the Sermon on the Mount. He says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” He’s not destroying Scripture, but he is fulfilling the Scripture and then will give new revelation. He says, “For truly I say to you.” He is speaking here to His disciples; He is not talking to the Pharisees or the others. He is explaining His mission.
“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter ...” That in the Hebrew is called a yodh. It looks like an apostrophe; it’s translated as a Y. “… not the smallest letter or stroke.” That’s called a tittle. If you have some translations, they’ll actually use the correct verbiage. “… or tittle shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.” Because a small letter is important, or a small part of a letter changes the letter completely and changes the word and changes the meaning of the word.
This is what Jesus is saying here. Now a yodh here looks like an apostrophe. It’s the smallest letter in Hebrew; it’s transliterated as a Y. Then you have two other letters right here: on the left is the hey and on the right is the chet. You can see that there’s a little gap between the left leg of the hey and the top of the hey, and that gap is closed in the chet. That little stroke that closes it is a tittle. Now that can make a huge difference.
In English, we might say that the difference between the o and p is a tittle, just a little stroke. If you have a p instead of an o, it changes the whole meaning of a word. The difference between a b and a d. You have words like bog and dog. The difference is just which way the b or the d faces, but it changes the whole meaning of the word, and thus the sentence that it’s in. Or Rug and Pug—that leg on the R is left off of the uppercase P.
You have words like lit, hit, and bit. The difference between the lowercase l and the lowercase h is a stroke. That’s the tittle. There’s a lot of difference between something that is lit and something that is hit and something that is bit. That all makes a difference. A difference between a lowercase c and a lowercase o is a small stroke. It’s the difference between the word cat and the word oat. I want to get up in the morning and have catmeal for breakfast, or do you want to get up in the morning and have oatmeal for breakfast?
See that little stroke changes the entire concept. The word Fun. Add a stroke it’s Pun; add another stroke it’s Run; add another stroke it’s Bun. These little strokes make a huge, huge difference.
What we’re saying here is that inspiration extends down to the smallest letters. The smallest stroke changes the meaning of the word, changes the focus of the word. I’ve given many examples in some of my studies on messianic prophecy of how the later Masoretes added vowels to certain words that changed the meaning of the word so that it destroyed the messianic significance of that prophecy.
This is the idea Jesus is saying—every letter makes a difference because it makes a difference in the word, and it makes a difference in terms of interpretation. For example, in the midst of one of the great conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus makes the statement in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” Underneath that I have the Greek word EGO, which is EGO KAI HO PATER HEN ESMEN. But the HEN is a neuter singular, “are one.” It’s not HEIS, which is the masculine singular that means one.
He is talking about this important concept. We are not one individual; We are one in unity. If He used the masculine, He would’ve said “We are the same person” but by using the neuter, He is saying something different—we’re one in essence. That’s why it is important to know Greek to understand these things.
In Galatians 3:16, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ ” He’s quoting here from a passage in Genesis 22, where God makes the statement about Abraham’s descendants. Interesting if you read it in the English, you don’t catch this, but if you read the Genesis 22 passage in the Hebrew, there is a question.
Seed is one of those words that can be a collective. It always appears as a singular. Sometimes it refers to many; sometimes it refers to one. What happens in that verse in Genesis 22 is it’s referred to by a singular pronoun. That tells you that apart from all the other uses of the word zera for seed in that surrounding context.
Here it’s talking not about the descendants of Abraham; it’s talking about this one descendant. Paul picks up on that. That distinction tells us that it’s talking about Christ and not about the Jewish people.
We have some corollaries.
1) To the principle of inerrancy and infallibility. “Though every word is equally infallible and authoritative, not every word is equally applicable to every believer.”
If you need to go down to the River Parbar, that’s not going to be applicable to you, but the context is going to have implications for one’s relationship with God in understanding God’s plan and purposes in history. Every word is equally infallible but not equally applicable.
When Jesus tells Moses to go up on the mountain, it doesn’t apply to anybody but him But it has an implication for everyone because what’s going to happen on the mountain is Moses is going to worship. There’s a difference between application, which is what God tells one person or one group of people to do, and the implication, which is a broader construct which helps us understand how it relates to our thinking.
2) “If every word is breathed out by God, then it is the responsibility of the pastor-teacher to investigate and exegete every word.” That means pastor-teachers need to know the original languages well. Well. They need to study and study. Some guys can’t do it; I understand that. They’re dependent upon the work of others. I have many who are dependent upon what I do, but you need to keep trying to learn the languages. Those who give up on the languages have failed. That is not what a pastor should do. Always pursue learning until the day the Lord takes us home.
I tell young guys if you don’t like reading, if you don’t like studying, go dig ditches, go build houses, go be a doctor. But if you’re going to be a pastor-teacher, you have to spend time reading and studying and knowing what’s going on and knowing your Scripture, and it needs to dominate your life. It is your passion. It is what God has called you to do, and you must always pursue excellence.
Vince Lombardi has a great quote that says, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” That should be emblazoned over the door of every pastor-teacher to remind us that we are here to serve the Lord, to glorify Him, and that is the pursuit of excellence. We’ll never be perfect, but we need to excel.
3) “If every word is breathed out by God, then the Bible is absolutely and totally sufficient for salvation, spiritual growth, and problem solving.” Whatever we face, the Bible is sufficient. You may have to dig into it. You might have to read it a lot. You might have to study it. You might have to listen to a lot of lessons on the Bible to be able to get to where you can comprehend it, but it’s there. It is sufficient.
2 Peter 1:3 says, “Seeing that His divine power—we’ve studied this already in our study of 2 Peter—has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” It’s His omnipotence that granted us by way of grace everything—not something, not most things, everything related to life and godliness. That relates to our physical life and our spiritual life.
2 Peter 1:4, “For by these—that is, by His essence, His glory, and His excellence—He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises.” Memorize promises. This is a great time. If people are at home, make up games, teach your kids. “… in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature,—that is to reflect the character of God, the essence of God, being conformed to the image of Christ—having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
4) “If every word is from God to us, nothing should be more important than learning and applying His Word.” That should be the passion of our lives. That is our vocation. That is what we are called to. Some people have other callings. Some are called to be doctors, some are called to be teachers, some are called to be stay-at-home mothers, some are called to many, many different vocations. But the ultimate vocation, every believer’s call to, is to know the Word, apply the Word, and pursue spiritual maturity.
“Father, we thank You for all You’ve taught us. We thank You that Your Word is sufficient that even when we don’t know what’s going on, even when we are surrounded by uncertainty, even when everything we hear is contradicted the next day, we know that we just live one day at a time, trusting in You, fulfilling the mission that Jesus gave us, being a witness and testimony to others of Your grace, communicating the gospel, teaching them about what the Bible says—everyone of us is given that commission.
“Father, we pray that You would comfort us, strengthen us with Your Word that we may be a light in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”