A few days ago, we started digging into this question of inerrancy—the idea that the Bible is completely and totally truthful in all that it says. This doctrine is one of the most critical, but is tied to a larger issue, one of authority.
If the Bible truly is inerrant, then it’s authority over how we think and live cannot be questioned (even if we are uncertain as to how we should interpret some of what it says). But why would it have such total authority—where does this authority come from? The answer is a simple and complicated one:
The Bible’s authority is derived from the character and authority of God.
Of all the ways God is described, as being merciful, faithful, full of steadfast love, there is one description that encompasses and controls all these: His holiness. God is completely and utterly perfect in all He says and does—and in His being.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” the angels sing. “The whole earth is filled with His glory!” (Isa. 6: 3) This holiness, this perfection, undergirds everything else that is true about God.
His love is a holy love.
His wrath is a holy wrath.
His truth is a holy truth.
And because God is holy, everything He says and does will always be completely and totally truthful.
The claim of God’s complete and total truthfulness is not something that is tucked away in an obscure part of the Bible, but rather it permeates the entire thing. It’s rare to find a book that doesn’t make an appeal to the truthfulness of God in some fashion. Some are more obvious, such as in Numbers 23:19, which boldly declares, “God is not man, that he should lie.” Likewise, as Paul reminds Titus of the assuredness of the hope of eternal life, he does so by appealing to the truth that God “never lies” (Titus 1:2). Again and again, the claim is made:
“This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true.” (2 Sam. 22:31; Psa. 18:30)
“Every word of God proves true…” (Prov. 30:5)
“The rules of the Lord are true…” (Psa. 19:9)
“…all your commandments are true.” (Psa. 119:51)
“The sum of your word is truth…” (Psa. 119:160)
“…the word of the Lord in your [Elijah’s] mouth is truth.” (1 Kings 17:24)
“…your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
These are but a few of the places where we are repeatedly and emphatically told that all that God says is truth. So, the question is, can God’s Word declare something untrue?
No. Because He is holy, He can be nothing less than perfect. Because He is perfect, He can be nothing less that completely truthful. It would be against His character to be anything less.
So we have to be really careful as we consider this question of inerrancy. Because God so strongly identifies with His written word (cf. Psa. 119:42; John 17:17), we risk impugning His character by suggesting that Scripture errs (even if we suggest that it is still infallible—a subject for a future post). And God identifies strongly with His written Word, not simply because He has ordained it be His method for revealing His character, but because He was intimately involved in it’s writing and continues to use it as His means of saving and sanctifying His people.
Scripture is “God-breathed,” says 2 Tim. 3:16, as God the Holy Spirit worked through the unique personalities of every author to set forth the exact message He intended for humanity. It “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). God’s Word—His written Word—has power unlike any other book ever written.
The question for us, then, is what do we do with it? Do we continue suppress the truth in our unrighteousness—do we risk impugning the character of God by suggesting that He could err? Or do we, like the Thessalonians, accept it, “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13)?