The word “inspire” is not foreign to our everyday language. We use it often to refer to a song or movie that fills us with an urge to act. But there is another way the word is used—a way that is fairly unusual. It also means “to breathe in.”
Both of these ideas are accurate, as far as vocabulary is concerned, but they lead us to an inaccurate understanding of the Inspiration of Scripture. This doctrine doesn’t say the Scripture fills us with an urge to act—although it certainly does that at times. Nor does this doctrine say that Scripture is breathed in.
It does, however, say the opposite: Scripture is breathed out.
The idea of Scripture being exhaled comes from 2 Timothy 3:16, where the King James Version of the Bible reads, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” More recent word-for-word translations read as the English Standard Version does: “All Scripture is breathed out by God.”
Here, the Apostle Paul briefly describes the process by which God delivered His revelation to man. He says God breathed it out, or spoke it Himself. The revelation of God was expelled from God’s mouth, so to speak. This is why we refer to the Scripture and the Bible as God’s Word.
The Bible does not disclose the full details about how this process happened, but we can be certain that God did not dictate His messages or control human beings like robots. Rather, He “carried” the writers along, as Peter tells us (2 Peter 1:20-21). This suggests that God brought them along in some mysterious way to be sure they communicated exactly what He wanted, but without brute control.
It teaches that God’s Spirit was the superintendent of the production of Scripture and thereby assures its truthfulness and vitality.
The doctrine settles two truths about Scripture that are necessary for us to know.
- First, it settles the matter of source. Again, Peter explains: “no prophecy of Scripture was ever produced by the will of man” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Scripture comes from God. He is its source, not man.
- Second, it settles the matter of purity. Since God oversaw the writing, He made sure the writings were completed as He desired. So we can be sure Scripture is accurate and true.
In summary, the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture tells us that God is the source and superintendent of Scripture. It gives us assurance that it can be trusted and obeyed.
Verses for Further Reflection
2 Timothy 3:16
2 Peter 1:20-21