If not for the Holy Spirit there would be no Bible

The Apostle Paul stated unequivocally that the source of all scripture is God. No exceptions. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 he wrote, “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” In other words, the Bible we have so readily available in every conceivable format imaginable is our ultimate owner’s manual. It’s immaculately designed to teach us everything we need to know about how to maintain our fragile flesh and blood machines and how to transform our minds into vehicles God can use to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the masses. When Paul said the scriptures are “inspired” he used a Greek word that literally means “God-breathed,” inferring that, as God breathed life and wisdom into Adam, making him a living soul, he also breathed life and wisdom into the written Word. If what Paul said is true (and I believe it is with all my being as should all Christians) then there’s no book more important to the spiritual welfare of mankind in existence. Therefore to not read it, not consult it and not absorb it as often as possible is to deny oneself a constant fountain of faith, guidance and encouragement that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.

Of course, faith is very involved because, by their nature, the scriptures are self-authenticating. If you believe in the God who revealed Himself to Moses as the Great I AM then it follows that you must accept His Holy Word as being the genuine article. If you trust in God the Father, the Son and the Spirit but don’t trust in the Bible then you’ve got a major problem on your hands in that you’ve severed your spiritual umbilical cord. There are hundreds of Scriptures indicating either directly or indirectly that the Holy Ghost inspired the men who wrote the Bible. How He did that, exactly, will remain a mystery because, as 2 Peter 1:20-21 states, “No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” And the Spirit’s timing was always perfect. Each book came into being due to a particular need that had arisen. And yet, at the same time, He was making sure the message conveyed would have relevance in the future. In some cases, as in the 55th chapter of Isaiah wherein the agony Jesus endured on the cross was described in detail 700 years before His crucifixion, the human author may not have fully comprehended the long-term significance of what he was writing but obediently put pen to parchment nonetheless. 1 Peter 1:10-11 says, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who predicted the grace that would come to you searched and investigated carefully. They probed into what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified beforehand about the sufferings appointed for Christ and his subsequent glory.”

As you study the Old and New Testaments you’ll find boatloads of evidence that the Bible came into being via the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. David confessed in 2 Samuel 23:2 that “The Lord’s spirit spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.” Jeremiah 31:33-34 confidently states: “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people. People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,” says the Lord. “For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.” It’s fair to say that Jeremiah would’ve had to be a megalomaniac to claim that he had come up with those lines on his own and nothing we read about him suggests he was an egotist. Ezekiel’s another example. He succinctly wrote, “The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Go shut yourself in your house.” (Ezekiel 3:24) Peter mentioned Jesus as being “This one heaven must receive until the time all things are restored, which God declared from times long ago through his holy prophets.” (Acts 3:21) In the book of Hebrews the writer quotes from the Law, the prophets and the Psalms and proclaims all were authored by the Holy Spirit. Christ Himself assured the disciples that the Holy Ghost would tell them what to commit to paper. In John 14:26 He says, “But the advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.” That verse covers the four Gospels while His statement in the opening of John 16:13, “But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth…,” applies more appropriately to what’s found in Acts through Jude. Accordingly the latter part of that same Scripture, “…For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come,” describes what’s in Revelation. Thus the Bible can accurately be called, as many scholars do, “literature indwelt by the Spirit of God.”

Taken a step further, if one concedes the Holy Spirit’s behind every sentence in the Bible then it’s logical to assume He was instrumental in the process of selecting the 66 books that comprise the official canon. While some may claim they were chosen by a group of prejudiced, self-aggrandizing priests there’s really no solid evidence to back that accusation up. To believe that the Holy Spirit would be the driving force behind God’s Word being expressed and preserved for centuries and then allow a bunch of politically-driven, robe-wearing snobs decide what’s in and what’s out is preposterous. It’s more reasonable to opine that the Holy Spirit was as much at work in the Spirit-filled believers who put the Bible together in one tome as He was in those who authored the very books in question. Plus, the final conclusions about what to include and exclude in the Holy Word were achieved after centuries of passionate debate and heartfelt prayer by Godly men who took their job seriously. Billy Graham said, “The Holy Spirit in His work did not bypass the human process, but instead, He worked through them.”

So, is the Bible the inerrant Word of God or not? Few questions have spawned more controversy. Ever since the snake challenged Eve with “Are you sure God really said…?” folks have attacked the veracity of the Scriptures. Yet history has shown that every time its teachings have been ignored – whether in individual lives, nations (like ancient Israel) or in the Church – things have tended to go steadily south, resulting in a period of spiritual decline. Once that dubious trend sets in idolatry, immorality and tyranny aren’t far behind. The problem is too many Christians find it hard to believe the God of the universe would use somewhat ordinary Joes to communicate His will to us. They want to know precisely how He pulled off that trick but it’s not something He deems necessary to tell us. What we do know is that He employed mortal human minds to achieve His goal, guiding their thoughts in accordance with His divine purposes. He inspired them and, as any creative sort will tell you, inspiration is everything. Only inspired words can inspire those who read them.

Here’s another thing to consider. If the Old Testament’s more difficult passages were the products of gross misunderstandings on the part of those who jotted them down wouldn’t Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have gone out of His way to correct those mistakes? On the contrary, He accepted the stories of Jonah and the big fish, Noah and the ark and the account of Adam & Eve as factual happenings, not myths. His quoting of Scripture is well documented. Thusly, since He took them at face value then so should we. Yet another criticism of the Bible is that the myriad of translations and dialects it appears in today render it so susceptible to subjective interpretation it’s become an unreliable document. Some insist that unless you can read it in its original Greek or Hebrew form you’re just getting someone’s biased slant on the true meaning of the texts. But that’s basically hogwash. The majority of scholars who’ve spent their lives poring over the Scriptures agree that most translations, even with their variations, still efficiently convey the fundamentals, in particular the parts dealing with salvation and moral Christian living. If anything, the more translations you consult the better cognizance you’ll have about what the Word is telling you.

We’ve considered the issue of the Bible’s inspiration. Now let’s tackle its authoritativeness. It’s one thing to deem it inspired, another to label it God’s binding revelation of supreme truth to us. The bottom line is this: if one accepts it was given to humanity by the great I AM then one must submit to its teachings or live in denial of its authority. A Christian who shuns the Bible ain’t really a Christian at all. Dr. John R. W. Stott wrote, “To reject the authority of either the Old Testament or the New Testament is to reject the authority of Christ. Submission to Scripture is fundamental to everyday Christian living, for without it Christian discipleship, Christian integrity, Christian freedom and Christian witness are all seriously damaged if not actually destroyed.” Every generation, including the current one, has been guilty of picking and choosing the parts of the Bible that conveniently fit into their collective concept of how things should be but that was never God’s intent. The Scriptures, as a whole, are a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. Society’s standards fluctuate, God’s don’t. Timothy Keller said, “Our grandchildren will find many of our views outmoded. Wouldn’t it be tragic if we threw the Bible away over a belief that will soon look pretty weak or wrong? To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God He wouldn’t have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense?” Not at all. Yet many people want to worship and follow a God who always agrees with them but that’s a dead end street. We humans need a spiritual gravitational center that’ll keep our feet on the ground and I think that’s why the Bible exists.

Having said these things about God’s Word I feel obligated to justify my strong opinions to those who’ll question what they consider my “blind faith.” I answer thusly: There’s a long list of reasons for my having confidence in the Bible’s authenticity but at some point the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit must be acknowledged. The miracle is that the same Holy Ghost who masterminded the writing of the Scriptures, utilizing the talents of various human personalities, also works in each of us to convince us the Bible is the infallible Word of God, worthy of our complete trust. The Holy Spirit must be involved in the deal or we won’t get it. And that’s something non-believers fail to understand because you can’t “get” what you don’t have. I’m no Calvinist per se but what he said about this issue is spot on: “The same Spirit who has spoken through the mouths of the prophets must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that they faithfully proclaimed what had been divinely commanded. Until He illuminates their minds, they ever waver among many doubts! Those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. The certainty it deserves with us is attained by the testimony of the Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit.” Calvin went on to express that, due to the Holy Spirit’s abiding in us, we don’t need to rely on another human being’s judgment or even our own as to whether or not the Bible is from God Himself. Christians don’t require earthly reassurances or heaven-sent signs of endorsement to anchor their faith in it. We consider the Word beyond mortal analysis. Calvin added, “This we do, not as persons accustomed to seize upon some unknown thing, which, under closer scrutiny, displeases them, but fully conscious that we hold the unassailable truth!”

The gist is the Holy Ghost not only inspired the authors of the Bible but continues to inspire its readers so what’s expressed can speak directly to their hearts. That’s why spending time daily in the Word is essential to my ongoing spiritual health whether I fully comprehend what I’m reading or not. The Scriptures are packed with power and I can’t be a productive follower of Christ without it. I don’t see electricity transferring into my cellphone’s battery when I plug it in but I know the device will be useless for my needs if I don’t take the time to recharge it. Similarly, the Spirit energizes our intellects through the Word. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:12, “We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God.” There’s something intangible yet extraordinary about the Bible that I’ve not experienced with any other book (and I’ve read a bunch in my time). I’ve found that many of my Christian brothers and sisters share something in common with me when it comes to reading our Bibles. We’ll open it up and, although we’re positive we’ve perused a particular passage many times before, it’ll be as if we’d never read those sentences in our lives and the words will jump out at us dramatically. It’s because the Word of God is a living Word and the bond between the Holy Spirit and the Bible cannot be broken. When we witness to others it’s vital that we employ Scripture because it’s not our impressive communication skills that open the door for the Spirit to do His work, it’s the power inherent in God’s Word.

Don’t overlook what reading the Bible does for us on a personal level. Specifically, it convicts us when we need to be convicted. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.” I’m terrible at memorization and always have been but, by summoning stubborn determination, I’ve forced myself to cram a few selected verses into my brain. Especially those that affected me greatly when I was making the decision to surrender my life to my Lord and Savior. To be able to recall them during times of depression or anxiety is a blessing I wouldn’t have if I didn’t stick my head into the Bible every morning. It’s a blessing I share with thousands of God’s suffering saints that’ve come and gone before me, those who found their dark nights lightened and their tortured souls strengthened because they found encouragement issuing forth from the Spirit residing in the Word of God. We’ll need it, too. As we Christians draw nearer to the end of this age we must remind ourselves that religious persecution will gradually intensify. Dr. Graham preached, “The Scriptures you memorize now and the teachings of the Word of God you learn now will sustain you in that hour! – if you are called on to suffer physically and mentally for the name of Christ!”

The most tangible evidence for the existence of the Holy Spirit can be discovered only by devouring what God conveys to you, in one-on-one fashion, off the pages of the Bible, facilitated by making your reading of it a consistent, every-single-day priority. You’re going to feel quite foolish if you stand before the great I AM and ask Him, “Where were you when I needed you?” and He answers with “I was sitting there, gathering dust on your bookshelf the whole time! I reckon you were just too busy to spend a few moments with the book I wrote just for you…” Imagine the heartbreak it’d be to hear that.

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