The Bible is unique; there is nothing like it. Sixty-six separate books written by multiple authors over a span of 1,500 years, the Bible is ultimately one book with one Author, God Himself. The Scriptures, therefore, are not what ancient men thought about God or divine matters; they are the very words of God expressing and revealing His mind. By a supernatural operation referred to as inspiration, God breathed out His words (2 Tim. 3:16) to holy men who were carried along in the writing process by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). The Bible is God’s Word because it claims to be God’s Word, and faith believes it. That may seem to be circular reasoning, and perhaps it is, but it is reason that rests on God who is incapable of lying (Titus 1:2).
When we view the Scriptures through faith, we do so with a set of beliefs that we take for granted to be true. These presuppositions are essential and inevitable. It is absolutely impossible to come to the Bible with an open mind.1In our discussion hitherto we have approached the Bible as the Word of God and consequently, as perfectly trustworthy in all that is says. Behind this approach lies the assumption that there is a God, even the one living and true Creator of heaven and earth. It is He in whose very hand is our life and breath, and to whom we owe our existence. Undergirding the entire argument, therefore, is the presupposition of Christian theism: God is, and God has spoken’ (E. J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1972], p. 185). Liberal scholars often claim they approach Scripture with an open mind in order to evaluate the Word of God and judge its accuracy. In reality they come with the presupposition that human reason is superior to divine revelation. That is not an open mind; it is a closed heart that evidences a mindset predisposed against God and truth. Man cannot stand as the judge of Scripture; Scripture stands as the judge of man. As believers, we must come with an open and receptive heart to receive and believe what God says. The mindset of a believer every time he opens the Bible must be the conviction that whatever the Bible says is true. The believer may not completely comprehend all that he reads, but he does not doubt its truth. We cannot trust our reason to determine what is true or false, right or wrong. By faith we believe in the inspiration of the Bible, and therefore we affirm its authority, infallibility, sufficiency, and effectiveness from cover to cover. Each of these corollaries to inspiration are topics for thorough treatises, but for now simple definition will suffice.2In our discussion hitherto we have approached the Bible as the Word of God and consequently, as perfectly trustworthy in all that is says. Behind this approach lies the assumption that there is a God, even the one living and true Creator of heaven and earth. It is He in whose very hand is our life and breath, and to whom we owe our existence. Undergirding the entire argument, therefore, is the presupposition of Christian theism: God is, and God has spoken’ (E. J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1972], p. 185).
By authority, we mean that the Word of God is the absolute standard of truth (matters of faith) and the absolute rule for living (matters of practice).3For Jesus, it was enough simply to say, “It is written ….” He understood Scripture to be nothing less than God’s Word of self-revelation. Because it was breathed out by God, it is flawless, beyond all contradiction, and to be obeyed immediately, not hesitatingly; absolutely, not selectively’ (John MacArthur, ed., The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2016], p. 84). The Westminster Larger Catechism summarizes well: ‘The holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience’ (Q. 3).
By infallibility, we mean that the Bible is free from error.4When God speaks, what he says is expressive of his character and is by implication therefore inerrant …. This divine testimony bears its own divine character, namely, inerrancy. Men and women may lie to the Holy Spirit, and do so. But he does not lie to them’ (MacArthur, ed., The Inerrant Word, p. 273). Truth is absolute, and all truth has its ultimate source in God, who is Truth and the revealer of truth. Infallibility extends to every statement of Scripture, including matters of history and science as well as matters of theology.5An inerrant Scripture cannot contain falsehood, fraud, or deceit in its teachings or assertions. The denial explicitly rejects the tendency of some to limit infallibility and inerrancy to specific segments of the biblical message, such as spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, excluding assertions from the fields of history or science’ (R. C. Sproul, Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine [Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R, 2005], p. 151). For sure, the Bible is not intended to be a textbook for history or science, but that does not mean it is inaccurate when touching on those matters. The Bible is the standard by which all matters of theology, history, and science are to be judged. The simple fact is that whenever or wherever something disagrees with the Bible, that thing is wrong.
By sufficiency, we mean that the Bible is all we need to direct us in how to know God and please Him. It is all that we need to direct us safely and surely through this life and to the life to come.6In sum, the God-breathed Word is “useful” for all of life, all doctrine and all duty, all creed and all conduct – everything!’ (Hughes, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, p. 239). The Psalmist declared that ‘the law of the Lord is perfect’ (Ps. 19:7). The word law refers here to the whole body of God’s revealed instruction, the whole of special revelation. The word perfect refers especially to its completeness or wholeness. In simple terms, God’s Word is complete. According to His infinite wisdom and good purpose, God has revealed all that we need for the welfare of our souls.7The word “law” is the Hebrew word torah. Sometimes this refers specifically to the Law of Moses, but here it refers to all Scripture. God’s Word is perfect, complete, blameless, and without blemish. There is nothing missing from God’s Word – it is completely sufficient’ (James Johnston, Psalms 1–41: Rejoice, the Lord is King, Preaching the Word, The Psalms, Volume 1 [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2015], p. 208). Therefore, the Psalmist concludes that this complete Word converts the soul; that is, it has a restoring and revitalizing impact on the whole man. There is no need for humanly defined philosophy, psychology, opinion, or experience to supplement the Bible. It may sound trite, but it is true: if God said it, that settles it.
By effectiveness, we mean that there is an inherent power in God’s Word to accomplish what it says. The Lord Himself declared, ‘So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it’ (Isa. 55:11). The Word of God is the hammer that in judgment breaks rocks into pieces (Jer. 23:29); it is the means of grace whereby God communicates the message of the gospel that saves all who believe (Rom. 10:17).
The bottom line is that every time we open the Scripture, we must do so with awe and reverence generated by the certain knowledge that the Bible is not an ordinary book but the very Word of the eternal God, whose veracity is beyond question or doubt. The Bible is not what men define it to be; it is what God declares it to be. Men can believe that or deny that, but they cannot alter that. The premise that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, infallible, sufficient, and effective Word of God should be the foundation for the study of Scripture. All truth has its source in God and, consequently, His truth is universal and timeless. Although times change, truth is changeless. Although applications of truth can vary, truth is constant. This is good reason to make the Bible a subject for study.
A Radical Comprehensive Call to Holiness
By Joel Beeke and Michael Barrett