Three Key Terms
“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Ps. 12:6).
Determining whether church tradition or the Bible is the final authority for all of life is one of the most important decisions the people of God will ever make. Because of our sin and finitude we require a final standard to which we can turn for guidance on what we must believe and what we must do. Our reception of the Bible as the final authority for all matters of faith and life rests on three key characteristics of Scripture: inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy.
Inspiration. We discussed inspiration briefly when we studied 2 Timothy 3:16–17 a few days ago. Inspiration refers to the activity that takes place between God and the human authors of the various books of the Bible who are enabled to be vehicles for God’s revelation. Through inspiration, God empowers human agents to give His Word to us perfectly. For the most part, the church has been careful not to define exactly how this is done, although it has said that in inspiration God does not overrule the talents, style, or vocabulary of an individual author but uses them to convey His message truly and completely.
Infallibility. When we speak of Scripture’s infallibility we confess that Scripture is incapable of making mistakes or telling falsehoods. A word of caution, however, is in order. Some schools and churches do not define infallibility in this way and use the term to promote a lower view of Scripture than that of traditional, orthodox Christianity.
Inerrancy. Inerrancy is a necessary consequence of Scripture’s inability to err. When we say the Bible is inerrant we mean that there are no errors of any kind in the original manuscripts of the Bible. Translations may err in the way they convey the original languages, but the autographa, the manuscripts penned by the original authors themselves, contain no errors or deceit. Inerrancy does not mean that the Bible is always grammatically sophisticated or that it always speaks with scientific precision. Truth can be conveyed with average grammar and with the use of round numbers instead of exact figures. Inerrancy simply means that the Bible always communicates the real state of affairs and never affirms anything contrary to fact.
If you agree that one of today’s terms is true of Scripture, then you must agree that all of them are true. If the Bible is inspired, if it is breathed out by God as 2 Timothy 3:16–17 says, then it is necessarily infallible. And if Scripture is infallible, then it is necessarily inerrant. Without an inerrant revelation we could never be sure of God’s will for us. Spend some time studying the trustworthiness of Scripture so that you might be able to defend its inerrancy.
Passages for Further Study
- Num. 23:19
- Prov. 30:5–6
- John 17:17
- Heb. 6:17–18
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