By Xi En, United States
The Bible is Christianity’s canon, the foundation for our faith. Since we’ve believed in the Lord, each of us has had a Bible. We read the Bible frequently and cherish it as a treasure. In addition, we follow the words of the Bible as if they are the most important standard in our life and work. Especially when some brothers and sisters read what Paul said: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). This even more makes them think that all scripture is inspired by God. However, in the Bible, there are also the words of Satan and the words that the ass spoke to Balaam. So, can we say that these words are also the words of God? If we say that the words of Satan and animal are the words of God, then are we not blaspheming God? So, is the Bible really given by inspiration of God? Are all the words in the Bible God’s words? With regards to these questions, let’s discuss them together.
Can we treat the words of Paul as the truth?
Many brothers and sisters all believe what Paul said — “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Yet first we should know that Paul’s words are just man’s words and cannot represent God’s words. There are sixty-six books in the entire Bible, but there is no record of God saying that all scripture is inspired by God or that all the words in the Bible are the words of God. Since God didn’t say that, then does Paul’s statement conform with God’s word? Are there words of the Holy Spirit as proof? If this statement by Paul is supported by the words of the Lord Jesus or the Holy Spirit, then we should accept and obey it. This is completely in line with the Lord’s intentions. No matter who he is, as long as his words are not supported by the words of the Lord Jesus or the Holy Spirit, we cannot accept them blindly. We men are only men, are created beings. So, our will cannot represent the Creator’s will. The Lord Jesus we believe in is the Lord of the kingdom of heaven. Only by practicing according to God’s words can we be approved by God.
We all know very clearly that Paul used to resist God and oppose the Lord Jesus. It’s a commonly acknowledged fact that he was the ringleader of the opposition against the Lord Jesus’ work. Even though the Lord Jesus chose Paul as an apostle to spread the gospel, Paul was still a created being. Therefore, his words are undoubtedly the words of a man. The Lord Jesus is God, whereas all of the Lord Jesus’ apostles and disciples were men. They cannot be compared to the Lord Jesus Himself. So, when it comes to the words of man, we cannot accept and obey them blindly. We should seek whether they are in line with God’s will, which is crucial for us to be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.
What is the background of Paul saying the words “all scripture is given by inspiration of God”?
Since people think that all scripture is inspired by God and that all the words in the Bible are the words of God according to 2 Timothy 3:16, let’s first investigate the background of Paul saying these words. As we all know, the words “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” were said by Paul when he wrote letters to Timothy. When he wrote letters, there only existed the Old Testament. The New Testament was just dozens of letters kept in the churches and hadn’t been compiled into a book yet. Not until after 300 A.D. did the New Testament come into being. That is to say, the New Testament came into existence two hundred years later after Paul wrote letters. So, it can be seen that these words of Paul are referring to the Old Testament.
However, the time between Moses writing Genesis and the Lord Jesus coming to work was at least 1,000 years. Paul did not know any of the authors of the Old Testament at all. How could he know that the Old Testament was inspired by God? He couldn’t know that unless the authors of the Old Testament personally told him or the Old Testament clearly said: “The Bible is inspired by God.” But those authors didn’t tell him that and the Old Testament also doesn’t record that the Bible is inspired by God. So what Paul said has no factual basis.
Moreover, if we say that the Bible is entirely given by the inspiration of God and that what is written in the Bible is all the word of God, then what about the words spoken by the serpent when it tempted Eve, the words spoken by Satan when it accused Job, and the words the ass said to Balaam? Can we take them as God’s words? Everyone knows: Satan is the archangel who betrayed God and is God’s enemy; an ass is an animal. If we insist on claiming that their words are God’s words, then we are blaspheming God. This is a serious problem in substance! Thus, it can be seen that the words “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” said by Paul are from his own imagination and are not in line with the truth.
Which words in the Bible are God’s words?
In fact, all words spoken by God are clearly marked in the Bible. The words of the prophets inspired by Jehovah God are always marked with “thus said Jehovah.” For example, Ezekiel 34:11: “For thus said the Lord Jehovah; Behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep, and seek them out,” and Isaiah 1:2–3: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for Jehovah has spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel does not know, My people does not consider.” These show that the prophets were conveying God’s words and were repeating the words personally said by God. The words of the Lord Jesus are marked with “Jesus said to them,” “Jesus answered and said to them” and “Jesus said”; or the scriptures tell us straightforwardly that these are the words that the Lord Jesus spoke, such as Matthew 4:19: “And he said to them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men,” Matthew 5:1–4: “And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came to Him: And he opened His mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted,” and Matthew 18:22: “Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” The words of God in Revelation are also clearly marked with “said the Lord,” “And he that sat on the throne said,” and so on. For example, Revelation 1:8: “I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, said the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty,” and Revelation 21:5: “And He that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said to me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”
From these scriptures, we can see that in the Bible, only the words of Jehovah God, the words that Jehovah spoke to the prophets, the words said by the Lord Jesus Himself, and the words God revealed to John, are God’s words; apart from these words, the other words are some historical facts or man’s personal experiences and knowledge recorded by more than forty authors. Although most of their personal experiences and knowledge came from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, they cannot be equated to God’s words. Just as in the Old Testament, what most of the scriptures document are some historical facts to prove God did work in the Age of Law; besides, there are a few words of Satan, the words of the ass, and so on. In the New Testament, apart from God’s words quoted by the authors, the rest are all man’s knowledge, insights and understandings, such as the letters of Peter, Paul and Timothy. Their letters only represented man’s work and their own experiences and knowledge. They wrote their understanding to help and encourage brothers and sisters in the churches, which was completely out of their burden for the Lord’s commission. Furthermore, they never said their words were God’s words, and at the beginning of their letters they clearly marked their own names. This is a fact.
What is the difference between God’s words and man’s words?
God is the Creator; we humans are created beings. There is a substantial difference between the Creator and the created. They cannot be placed on the same level and cannot be confused with each other. The work and word of God cannot be replaced by any corrupted man’s work and word. In the course of us humans experiencing God’s work, no matter how great our experiences, understanding and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit benefit other people, they cannot be treated as God’s word but can only be used as a reference. Just like Paul, Peter and Matthew at that time, although their letters were beneficial and constructive, they cannot be said to be the words of the Holy Spirit. This is undoubtable! The words of God are the expression of God’s disposition and all that He has and is. They are the reality of positive things and can be man’s life. Words spoken by man that conform with the truth all come from man’s experience and understanding of God’s word and the truth, and just represent the stature of man at the time. The words that conform with the truth can only provide people with a bit of help and benefit. They cannot be man’s life. Even with the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, they are still man’s words, and cannot be compared with God’s word at all.
Through the fellowship above, I believe that we may all understand that the Bible is not inspired by God and that the words in the Bible are not entirely the word of God. When we take man’s words as the words of God, it is the same as treating man as God. This is betraying the truth and blaspheming God. So, we should treat the Bible correctly and cannot worship it blindly. When we read it, we also need to clearly differentiate between God’s words and man’s words. No matter what things come upon us, we should seek and practice according to God’s words, and man’s words can only be used as a reference. If man’s words are in accord with the truth, then we accept them; if not, we refuse them. Only by practicing faith in this way can we act in accordance with the intention of God.