The Doctrine of Scripture
Rev. Angus Stewart
(Slightly modified from an article first published in
the British Reformed Journal)
The doctrine of Scripture is vitally important to all
Christians, for it is through the instrumentality of the Word (preached
and read) that God saves us and causes us to grow in the grace that is
in Christ Jesus. Only through the Scriptures do we have the knowledge of
God in Jesus Christ.
If the Old Testament is not true, neither is the
New (Heb. 1:1-2).
If the Bible is fallible, God is fallible.
If the written Word of God is a sham, so is the
Incarnate Word of God.
If the Scriptural faith (Jude 3) is spurious, so
We shall now consider what the Bible claims for
(I) The Bible is the revelation of God
(1) Is revelation possible?
Those who believe that it is not, argue that:
(a) God would not want to reveal Himself to man.
But why then did God create man? Before the fall the
Lord God revealed Himself to, and communed with, man in the Garden of
Eden. Thus from the beginning God showed that He delighted in revealing
Himself. Now God’s written revelation to us is the Scriptures.
(b) Man could not possibly understand the revelation
It is true that no man will, or can, understand God
in His entirety (Job 11:7), for then he would be God, which is absurd.
But it must be said that no man (nor angel) knows anything in its
entirety. Just because knowledge is not complete, it does not mean it is
not true knowledge. Moreover, that we can understand the revelation of
God appears from the infinite wisdom of God. He has willed to reveal
Himself and knows how to communicate even with finite man whom He
created. We can easily understand that adults can manage to explain
things to children. God’s being infinitely superior in wisdom to man,
rather than being a barrier to His being able to reveal Himself,
actually enables it.
(2) Is revelation necessary?
Yes. God must reveal Himself or He will never be
known. If He chose to hide Himself who could ever find Him? Furthermore,
since the fall, man is sinful and cannot know God by his own searching
or his own theories. It is therefore necessary that God reveal Himself.
(II) The Bible is inspired by God
The word "inspired" (cf. II Tim. 3:16) means,
literally, "God-breathed." God breathed out the Holy Scriptures as His
(1) Inspiration is plenary. Scripture does not
admit of different qualities of inspiration. Not all parts are of equal
value for edification but all parts are equally inspired. When Christ or
His apostles quoted from the Older Testament they made no distinction
between the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) or the Prophets or any of
the other books as having different degrees of authority, for they were
all the Word of God. Since "All Scripture is given by inspiration of
God" (II Tim. 3:16), biblical teaching concerning history, geography and
science are included and not merely "theology." If God cannot give us
the truth regarding earthly things, how can we trust Him when He tells
us of heavenly things (cf. John 3:12)? And if parts of the Bible are not
inspired who is to tell us what parts they are?
(2) Inspiration is verbal. Every word of the
autographs (the original manuscripts) is inspired. This is so of
necessity, for God’s written revelation consists of propositions that
are communicated by means of words. It also follows from an intelligent
consideration of New Testament quotations of the Old Testament. In
Matthew 22:32, Christ’s argument rests on the fact that God’s words in
Exodus 3:6 are not in the past tense. In Galatians 3:16, Paul proves his
point by pointing out that Genesis 12:7 speaks of "seed" (singular) and
not "seeds" (plural). Some argue that God merely inspires the author’s
thoughts, but the Scripture speaks of the "words" (Matt. 4:4; II Peter
3:2; Jude 17). Anyway how can these ideas be transmitted to us, but by
(3) Inspiration is organic. God used humans to
write Scripture but not mechanically (as we might use a typewriter) but
as men with predetermined gifts and abilities. II Peter 1:21 tells us
that the apostles and prophets (with their God-given talents and styles)
wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit. Therefore, those things they
wrote were God’s, directed by His will. Thus God did not allow the will
of sinful man to alter His message or erroneously record it.
(III) The Bible is inerrant
The original manuscripts are without error. This must
be so since:
(1) The Bible is God’s Word. If it contains errors,
God makes mistakes in His speech. Then God is not perfect, which is
(2) The Bible is the revelation of God. The God of
heaven reveals Himself in Scripture. It is an affront to His wisdom to
think He could make a mistake, and to His veracity that He could tell a
lie (cf. Titus 1:2).
(3) The Bible claims to be perfect (Ps. 19:7). Jesus
said, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). He Himself was the truth (John
14:6) and told no lies. Since the Bible is perfect, it is without error.
Christ teaches in John 10:35—"the scripture cannot be broken"—that it is
impossible that the Scripture could be wrong.
(IV) The Bible has the authority of God
(1) That the Bible is of divine authority follows
from a logical consideration of (I), (II) and (III).
(2) That the Bible is of divine authority is proved
from the following syllogism: God has all authority. The Scriptures are
God-breathed. Therefore the Bible is the authoritative Word of God.
(3) That the Bible is of divine authority is taught
by express biblical references. Isaiah 1:2 declares, "Hear, O heavens,
and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken" (cf. Micah 1:2). It is
also seen in the declaration: "Thus saith the Lord," and Christ’s words:
"Verily, I say unto you."
(4) That the Bible is of divine authority is proved
from New Testament quotations of Old Testament passages as the words of
the Holy Ghost (Heb. 3:7; cf. Ps. 95:7; and Heb. 10:15; cf. Jer. 31:33).
As God, the Holy Spirit speaks with divine authority.
(5) That the Bible is of divine authority is proved
from New Testament quotations where God’s speech is cited as Scripture
speaking (Gal. 3:8; cf. Gen. 12:3; and Rom. 9:17; cf. Ex. 9:16).
Scripture (which did not then exist) did not speak to Abraham, but God
Himself did (Gen. 12:3). Similarly God, through Moses, made this
announcement to Pharaoh (Ex. 9:16). From Paul’s quotations (Gal. 3:8;
Rom. 9:17) of both these texts (Gen. 12:3; Ex. 9:16), we see that he
habitually identified the text of Scripture as God speaking.
(6) That the Bible is of divine authority is proved
from New Testament quotations where God is spoken of as if He were the
Scriptures (Matt. 19:4-5; cf. Gen. 2:24; and Acts 4:25-26; cf. Ps.
2:1-2). Christ (Matt. 19:4-5) and Peter (Acts 4:25-26) quote words from
the Old Testament as being "said" by God, but it is not God in whose
mouth these sayings are placed, in the text of the Old Testament. Thus
the words of Scripture are God’s words possessing the authority of God
(7) That the Bible is of divine authority is seen by
the finality with which Christ quoted Scripture. The Lord Jesus used the
Scriptures as authoritative. He continually said, "It is written" (Matt.
4:4, 7, 10; 21:13; 26:31; Mark 7:6; 9:13; John 6:31, 45; 10:34), and so
did the apostles (Acts 1:20; 7:42; 15:15; 23:5; I Cor. 1:19; I Peter
1:16). The verdict of the Scriptures is final; it is not to be
questioned; "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).
Since "the Bible is none other than the voice of Him
that sitteth upon the throne" (Dean Burgon), it is the rule for what we
must believe and how we must live (II Tim. 3:15-17; Ps. 19:7-9).
(V) The Bible has been specially preserved of God
The God of heaven has specially preserved His book
which records the truth of salvation through His Son (John 20:31). From
the preaching of Christ we see that:
(1) The Old Testament text in common use amongst the
Jews during Christ’s earthly ministry was entirely trustworthy. Jesus
said, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no
wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18). "And it is
easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to
fail" (Luke 16:17).
(2) The same divine providence that preserved the Old
Testament will preserve the New Testament. Implied in the "great
commission," which has application to Christ’s church throughout this
age, is the promise that the church will always be in possession of an
infallible record of Jesus’ words and works. Christ declared, "Heaven
and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt.
24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).
(VI) The Bible has many other excellent
(1) The Bible is eternal. The Scriptures were
written during definite historical periods, but they had their origin in
the eternal mind of God. "Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in
heaven" (Ps. 119:89). Thus it is relevant to every age and people.
(2) The Bible is perspicuous. The Scriptures
are clear and we are able to understand them. They are likened to light
(Ps. 119:105) and can be understood even by children (II Tim. 3:15).
This does not mean that there are no difficult parts in the Bible (cf.
II Peter 3:16), but rather that Scripture’s meaning be grasped by due
use of the ordinary means. Since God has given us His Word, which we can
understand, Christ can command us to study the Scriptures that we would
know Him more fully (John 5:39). We must also pray that God would
quicken our minds in our understanding of His Word (Ps. 119:18, 27, 34).
(3) The Bible is pure. Like the God who gave
them, the Scriptures are pure. As David says, "The words of the Lord are
pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times"
(4) The Bible is purifying. The Scriptures, as
the pure Word of God, have a purifying effect on Christians. They are
the means by which God purifies the church. Accordingly Christ prays,
"Sanctify them by thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17).
(5) The Bible is sufficient. All that is
necessary for our salvation is revealed in the Bible (John 20:30-31; II
Tim. 3:15-17). The all-wise God has given to us His Word and no new
book(s) or alleged "revelations of the Spirit" or anything else can be
added to it or placed as equal with it (Rev. 22:18).
(6) The Bible is one. Both the Older and the
Newer Testaments are the one Word of God. Moses, David, the prophets,
Peter, Paul and John wrote of the same God (Heb. 12:29; cf. Deut 4:24)
and the same way of salvation (cf. Rom. 4). Thus Christ could say, "in
the volume of the book it is written of me" (Ps. 40:7; Heb. 10:7) and
"the scriptures … are they which testify of me" (John 5:39). We, like
the two on the Emmaus road, by the illumination of the Spirit, can see
the one Christ in all of the Bible.
(7) The Bible is self-authenticating.
Christians know that what the Word of God teaches us of ourselves, of
fallen mankind, of the world, etc. is true. The agreement and harmony of
the different books, the sublime doctrines and its overall end—to give
all the glory to God—evinces it to be the very Word of God. The
believer’s certitude that the Scriptures are from God comes from the
inward testimony of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with His Word
in our hearts (I Cor. 2:4-5). This assurance is enjoyed in the way of
obedience to the Father’s commands in Scripture, for as Christ said, "If
any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be
of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).