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Verbal Inspiration

A. J. Pollock

Alone of all God's creation has man been given powers of reading and writing. It is unthinkable that God should have given these powers unless He intended to use them as channels to His creatures. Many people seem to think that God made this universe as a watchmaker might make a watch endowed with perpetual motion, and, winding it up, thenceforth take no interest or concern in it. Such an idea is perfectly puerile, and if it were not so tragic in its consequences it would be ludicrous to see this attempt of evolutionists and higher critics and modernists to bow the Almighty out of His own universe.

It is obviously reasonable that there should be a Book of God in which man might learn something of God and of his own relation to God, and of that vast eternity to which he is hastening with such speed.

And if there is such a Book it is just as obviously reasonable that it must be inspired of God, for it must in the nature of things contain information beyond man's powers of mind or observation. "Canst thou by searching find out God?" (Job 11:7). "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him" (Isa. 64:4).

How exalted is God's Word is seen when we read, "Thou hast magnified They Word ABOVE all they name" (Ps. 138:2). God's name is inexpressibly blessed, but the making of it known for His creature's blessing is still dearer to His heart, and He makes it known through His Word. So the Lord said in that most wonderful prayer recorded in John 17, "Thy word [whether spoken or written] is truth" (verse 17).

Surely God's Word is kept by Him pure, and is inspired word by word. There must be much that the creature can receive as revelation, but which he can never fathom.

It is reported that Earl Balfour, speaking on the Atonement, said "If it were not too vast for our intellectual comprehension, it would be too narrow for our spiritual need." And this can be said of the whole book. If I could understand its heights and depths it would prove that it was written by a finite mind, whose thoughts, though they might be beyond my initiation, were not beyond my comprehension. It is the greatest satisfaction, the greatest rest intellectually to the renewed mind, that though the Bible bears every mark of having been produced mediately by human instrumentality, yet it is immediately the product of the Divine mind.

The necessity of verbal inspiration can be well illustrated. The head of a firm called his typist into his office and dictated a message as follows: "We regret exceedingly that we have misunderstood your instructions, and we are now proceeding to execute your esteemed order." The typist produced the letter as follows: "We regret exceedingly that we have misunderstood your instructions, and we are not proceeding to execute your esteemed order." (Italics ours). One letter of one word exactly reversed the meaning intended. What need for verbal exactitude! Very especially is this so in the book that deals with our eternal destiny. 1 Peter 1:10-12 tells us that the Old Testament prophets did not themselves understand the import of their own writings - that "it was revealed that NOT unto themselves but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." Here were men living in different centuries, occupying different positions, such as law-giver, shepherd, king herdsman, etc., and they produced books, as it has been well put "without collusion or contradiction" - and in addition they could not know fully the things of which they wrote! Had they not been verbally inspired, the result would have been a hotch-potch of incoherent and contradictory ideas.

It may be asked how verbal inspiration can be maintained without setting aside the personality - the individuality - of the writer. For instance, in reading Isaiah and Amos, Paul and Peter, we are conscious that they are men of different calibres. Paul is analytical, logical, yet withal very human, full of heart and affection. Peter is a man of lesser intellectual force than Paul. One was called from his fishing, the other had graduated at the feet of that great Jewish professor - Gamaliel.

Permit an illustration. Suppose a banquet. A number of jellies are on the tables. Some are plain and some are ornamented with fruits and flowers, some are large and some small. It can be easily seen in what mould the jellies have been shaped. The moulds have given shape to the jellies. Yet how much of the mould is in the jelly? They are pure jelly, with no trace whatever of the mould in them.

The illustration is a pure one, but it serves our purpose. God can and does use the personality and order of mind of the different writers; everything on that line is natural and understandable, yet the original Scriptures are wholly and verbally inspired of God. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim. 3:16), wrote the Apostle Paul, and that without reservation or qualification. A few illustrations will show how full this statement is.

  • Heb.12:27 lays emphasis on a phrase as governing the passage. Verse 26 quotes Haggai 2:6; and verse 27 reiterates and emphasizes the phrase, "Yet once more" as being authoritative because of this Scripture.
  • John 10:34-36 bases an argument on the use of the word "gods," quoting from Psalm 82:6.
  • Gal. 3:16 bases an argument on this use of the singular number and not the plural. In our English bibles it turns on the use of a letter - "seed" and not "seeds," quoting from Gen. 22:18.
  • Gal. 4:9 draws particular attention to the voice of the verb, that it is passive and not active.
  • John 8:58 owes its significance to the use of the present tense in contradistinction to the past tense of the verb - "Before Abraham was, I am". 

Taking these five passages as a whole, we are emphatically taught that "the Scripture cannot be broken," so far as to change a phrase, a word, the number of a noun, the voice or tense of a verb.

It is remarkable that foresight is attributed to the Scriptures, thus identifying them with their Divine Author, who alone could foretell what would happen in the distant future. This is seen in Gal. 3:8.

Gal. 3:22 gives the Scriptures as acting in a universal and judicial way, again identifying them with their Divine Author, who alone is competent to come to this conclusion.

Rome. 9:17 speaks of the Scriptures speaking to Pharaoh the Word of God, whereas it was Moses who thus spoke, and at the time no line of Scripture had been written. God told Moses to utter these words to Pharaoh, and afterwards inspired Moses to give us the record of them, thus again identifying the Scriptures with Himself in a truly remarkable way. No wonder the inspired Psalmist wrote the words: "Thou hast magnified Thy Word ABOVE all Thy name" (Ps. 138:2).

May God bless His Word specially in this day when everything Divine is being called in question, and exalt it in all our hearts, for Christ's name's sake.

A J Pollock