This article is part of our series on the Great Doctrines of the Bible. You can find all the articles in this series here.
Christians are Bible people. The Bible is God’s word.
The Bible Claims to be God’s Word
When we read the prophets declare, “thus says the LORD” they are telling us that what they are about to say is not their words but God’s. Since the Bible is God’s word what is true about the Bible? What does the Bible say about the Bible?
The Bible is Inspired by God
Inspired might not be the best word for this truth. In 2 Timothy 3:16, we read that the Bible is “breathed out by God.” I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word inspired I think of a speech that inspires me to do something. It is something from the outside affecting me, inspiring me.
The Bible is not inspired when it inspires me, rather God breathed out the words of the Bible. Paul’s words and God’s words are the same because God caused Paul to write them and Paul wrote exactly what God wanted. Scripture finds its source and origin in and from God. Therefore, it is God’s word.
The Bible is Inerrant and Infallible
“Inerrancy means that the Bible is true.” Or another way of putting it is that Scripture “makes good on its claims.” It is inerrant in everything it teaches, not just matters relating to faith and salvation.
Inspiration is the foundation for the other truths about the Bible. If the Bible does not come directly from God there is no reason to trust its claims. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God and worthy of our trust.
To say the Bible is inerrant means it does not make any errors. Scripture being from God has the same characteristics God does. God is holy, His word is holy. God is love, His words to us our loving. God is true, His word is true. God does not make errors, His word does not make any errors.
Not only can we deduce inerrancy from inspiration but the Bible also claims to be inerrant.
- 2 Samuel 7:28, “And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true.”
- Psalm 18:30, This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
Some claim that the Bible is infallible but not inerrant. This is a misunderstanding of the word infallible.
Saying the Bible is infallible says more than inerrancy. To say that the Bible is infallible means the Bible cannot contain any errors because it does not have the ability to err. “To confess that the Bible is infallible is to confess that the Scriptures are incapable of teaching any error.”
This is true of God. God does not make any errors or mistakes because He does not possess the ability to make a mistake or error. The perfect one can never do anything imperfect. Therefore His word cannot err.
The Bible is Sufficient
Scripture gives us all the divine words needed for life. Kevin DeYoung writes, “The Scriptures contain everything we need for knowledge of salvation and godly living.” Everything we need to live a life that pleases God is found in Scripture.
It is important to not be simplistic in how we understand the sufficiency of Scripture. Sufficiency does not mean the Bible is a how-to manual for customer service, for example. It tells me to love my neighbor but it is not a manual on customer service. It tells me to love my neighbor as I serve them.
Our main text on inspiration helps with sufficiency also. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete. According to Paul the word of God is sufficient for us to be complete. Scripture equips us for every good work. It does not equip us for some good work but for every good work.
The Bible is Clear
The Westminster Confession of Faith says this, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”
This is sometimes called the perspicuity of Scripture which is a very unclear word to say that something is clear. The clarity, clearness of Scripture does not mean everything in the Bible is easy to understand.
2 Peter 3:15-17, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.”
Peter admits there are some things in the letters of Paul that are hard to understand as there are in the other Scriptures. But this does not keep Peter from exhorting his readers and us to not be carried away with the error of lawless people and therefore lose our own stability.
Why can he encourage his readers to this yet admit that some things are hard to understand? He can do so because Scripture is clear. God revealed Himself in such a way that with the help of the Holy Spirit we can understand and apply the Bible to our lives to be more like Christ.
In Deuteronomy 30 we read, But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” The commandment is not far off therefore it can be understood. It is not in heaven therefore Israel could hear it and obey it. The word was near them and in their heart. God’s commands were clear so they could obey it.
The Bible is Authoritative
Since the Bible is God’s Word it carries with it His authority. The Bible is the authority over our lives because it is God’s word.
John MacArthur explains the authority of Scripture this way “Known truths: (a) Scripture claims to be the Word of God; (b) God is authoritative. Conclusion: Scripture is authoritative.” You cannot divorce God from His word.
2 Tim. 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
We Need the Bible
John Frame has a way of getting to the heart of the matter, “To say that Scripture is necessary is simply to say that we need it.” In John 6 Jesus teaches some very hard things and many who were following left Him. He turned to His twelve disciples and asked them, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter knew there was nowhere else to find words of eternal life. They had to follow Jesus to find eternal life. Jesus’ words were necessary.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith opens with these words on Scripture, “The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule for saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” We need the Bible to know God and the salvation He accomplished in Christ. Without it we have no hope and direction. We could never know God. Salvation only happens through His word.
The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible, sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary word of God. What the Bible says, God, says. The foundation of what we know to be true about the Bible is the inspiration or expiration of Scripture. It comes to us from God.
Additional Passages for Study
- Psalm 19
- What comparisons does the Psalmist make?
- How can we know God?
- Psalm 119
- What terms are used to describe God’s word?
- What life circumstance does the text tell us the author was in?
- 2 Timothy 3:16-4:4
- What does Paul want Timothy to know about Scripture?
- What actions must Timothy take?
- 2 Peter 1:20-21
- Why can no prophecy come from someone’s interpretation?
- Who inspired the authors of Scripture?