I. Holy Scripture

In all ages and in all places every individual who has ever come to faith in Christ has come to such faith through the inspired Word of the apostles, and every one who ever shall believe in Him until the end of time will be brought to faith in no other way. The Savior tells us so in His high-priestly prayer, John 17:20: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their Word.” This being so, no Christian has ever engaged in any “quest for the historical Jesus” somewhere apart from that apostolic Word which first brought Christ to him and brought him to Christ, as Jesus Christ said that it should do. He knows no Christ but the Christ of the Messianic prophecies, of the Gospels, and of the apostolic Epistles.

Knowing the living and true Son of God, his Savior, from Scripture alone, it does not and cannot occur to a Christian, in so far as he is a true believer in Christ, to derive any Christian doctrine from any other source than the written Word of God, or the Bible. Therefore also the teaching concerning the nature and characteristics of Holy Scripture will be sought nowhere else than in Scripture itself. The Christian will believe what the Bible says concerning itself; and he will not regard this as “reasoning in a circle” any more than he would regard it as “reasoning in a circle” to believe that there is a sun in the heavens because he sees it shining there. By the word of the Gospel in Holy Scripture “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

In John 16:13–15 our Lord directs us to the Holy Spirit, whom He will send from the Father, as the only authoritative Teacher of all Christian doctrine: “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you.”

This divine Teacher is the Author of Holy Scripture. The human penmen — prophets, evangelists, and apostles — did not undertake to write Scripture of their own accord, but were “moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21), and therefore that which they “spake” (which includes what they spake in writing: “prophecy of the Scripture,” v. 20) was from God, whenever they spake by the impulse of the Holy Spirit; He was the real Author of Scripture.

We call Him the real Author because His own Word, in 2 Tim. 3:16, tells us that He gave the words of Holy Scripture, breathing them into the hearts of His penmen: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” To the Christian who takes God at His word the thought will never occur that the writers were “given by inspiration of God,” and that they then produced the wording themselves with some assistance and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who on occasion supplied content and fitting word. This thought will not occur to the Christian, because he knows no more about inspiration than the Bible itself tells him — and the Bible says nothing about inspired men, but only that the Scripture, the writing, which consists of words, was “given by inspiration of God.” In the excellent translation of our English Bible, just as in the Greek original, that which was “given by inspiration” is “Scripture,” — “all Scripture.”

The emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s authorship of the words of the Bible, which is brought out by the word “Scripture” in 2 Tim. 3:16, is even more strongly stressed in 1 Cor. 2:13, where St. Paul says of his (and the other apostles’) inspired speaking and writing: “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.”

St. Paul was undoubtedly a very wise and very eloquent man, and all of this splendid natural endowment the Holy Spirit took into His service and employed it according to His will for the accomplishment of His ends. But when St. Paul preached Christ at Corinth (and elsewhere) he neither proclaimed his own wisdom nor chose his own words, as he asserts in 1 Cor. 2:1–5: “I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Only the divine Word is adequate to produce divine faith, “faith of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12; compare also Eph. 1:19). Those in whom the Holy Spirit through His Word has worked this faith will reject with horror the thought that anything penned by a prophet or apostle in Holy Writ might be just his own idea or at least expressed in language not adequate to the divine thought he was trying to convey. Rather will they who are spiritual acknowledge what the Apostle enjoins upon all his readers in 1 Cor. 14:37: “Let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” The entire Bible, according to its own testimony, which every true Christian accepts at face value, was produced just like the miraculous utterances in other tongues of the apostolic preachers at Pentecost: They spoke “as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

A Christian, in so far as he is a Christian, cannot and will not deny “verbal inspiration” when that term is explained, as in our Catechism (Question 10), to mean “that God the Holy Ghost moved the holy men to write, and put into their minds, the very thoughts which they expressed and the very words which they wrote.” For just this — nothing more and nothing less — is what God’s Word says about itself.

More briefly we may mention the four chief properties or characteristics of Holy Scripture, which will be denied by no one who has acknowledged the Bible to be God’s inspired Word, together with some of the chief proof-passages by which they are established.

That God’s Word carries the divine authority of God Himself, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), claiming full assent to all its teachings as the only infallible and inerrant source and standard of doctrine, is acknowledged by all Christians, as by those at Thessalonica, to whom St. Paul writes: “When ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13). Therefore, as it is written in John 10:35: “The Scripture cannot be broken.”

That the Bible is clear is sufficiently evident from Psalm 119:105: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” If anything in Holy Scripture seems obscure to a Christian he will lay the blame for this not upon God but upon himself, remembering that not God’s light, but the heart into which it shines, is dark; the sure word of prophecy being called (in 2 Peter 1:19) “a light that shineth in a dark place.”

As to the divine effectiveness of God’s Word to accomplish its purpose in our salvation, we need only refer to Rom. 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;” and 2 Tim. 3:15: The Scriptures “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

The perfection or sufficiency of the Bible for all the Christian’s spiritual needs is proclaimed in 2 Tim. 3:16, 17, which declares that Scripture “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Every Christian experiences the truth of our Savior’s words (Luke 11:28): “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it;” and of His blessed promise: “If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:31, 32.