Two words are sometimes used to explain the extent of biblical inerrancy: Plenary and verbal. Plenary comes from the Latin plenus, which means “full,” and refers to the fact that Scripture in every part is God-given.
“Verbal” comes from the Latin verbum, which means “word,” and emphasizes that even the words of Scripture are God-given. Plenary and verbal inspiration means the Bible is God-given (and therefore without error) in every part (doctrine, history, geography, dates, names) and every single word.
The Old Testament and the Inspiration of Scripture
The Old Testament writers saw their message as God-breathed and utterly reliable. God promises Moses He would eventually send another prophet (Jesus Christ) who would also speak God’s words as Moses had done (Deuteronomy 18:18.) Jeremiah was told at the beginning of his ministry; he would speak for God (Jeremiah 1:9).
The New Testament and Inspiration
Similarly, Paul accepted Isaiah’s words as God Himself speaking to men: “And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet” (Acts 28:25).
So convinced were the New Testament writers that all the Old Testament Scripture words were God’s actual words that they even claimed “Scripture says” when the words quoted came directly from God.
Two examples are Romans 9:17 and Galatians 3:8, where Paul, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand. In Hebrews 1, many of the Old Testament passages quoted were addressed to God by the Psalmist, yet the writer to the Hebrews refers to them as God’s words.
In John 10:34, Jesus quoted from Psalm 82:6 and based His teaching upon a single phrase. In other words, Jesus proclaimed that the words of this Psalm were the words of God. Similarly, in Matthew 22:31-32, He claimed the words of Exodus 3:6 were given to them by God.
Jesus and the Inspiration of Scripture
In a confrontation with the Sadducees over the doctrine of the resurrection, which they denied, Jesus silenced His opposition, arguing the entire resurrection belief on the tense of a simple verb, “to be” (Matthew 22:32).
Jehovah had told Moses at the burning bush, “I am the God of Abraham,” but as Jesus taught, Abraham had been dead 480 years when the statement was made. Arguing that God was the God of the living, not the dead, Jesus claimed life after death to be true.
Jesus used the tense of a verb to prove Abraham was not merely physically dead but was living in the presence of God. The fact that Jesus used a word and a certain tense, demonstrates His deep confidence in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
God Has Spoken in His Word
God spoke by His Spirit through man, which theologians called the “dual authorship” of Scripture. Second Peter 1:21 discusses this when it says, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
When theologians speak of this vital aspect of the doctrine of Scripture, they emphasize how God spoke to man by His Spirit while simultaneously using the writer’s personality, gifts, and talents. God revealed the subject matter and supervised its writing so that it was free from error.
God allowed the human author latitude in his own diction, idioms, and logic. The result of dual authorship is that while each human author wrote in a unique style, the end product was exactly what God wanted, communicated, and written without error.
God has always used ordinary people in extraordinary ways. The men who recorded His Word were ordinary men whom He used in an amazing way to record His divinely inspired Word.
Standing on the Doctrine of Scripture
During his ministry, Charles Spurgeon faced attacks on the doctrine of Scripture on every front but stood firm for the complete trustworthiness of the Word of God. Spurgeon’s example is instructive for evangelicals and evangelicalism at large.
If Church history has taught us anything, it should be that when a high view (the biblical view) of the Word of God is upheld, then Jesus will be brought glory.
Spurgeon’s example is especially important in this regard as he had a high view of God’s Word and His Son, Jesus Christ. Spurgeon proclaimed the Word of God in a time when the truth was under attack, much like today, but did not compromise.
Spurgeon continues to make an impact even though he’s been dead a long time now because he did not compromise on the gospel or the Word of God, because he was a man aflame with the glory of the grace of God.
Spurgeon made an impact because of his passion for and stance on evangelical truth, which he contended for, defended, and proclaimed with all of his might to the glory of God.
Men and women of passion and conviction are needed in evangelicalism today who will contend, defend and proclaim the truth of substitutionary atonement, the authority and inspiration of Scripture, the eternal punishment for unbelievers, original sin, and the absoluteness of Christianity.
Every generation of Christians must determine if they are going to stand for biblical truth or lay down their swords and accept the lie of liberalism.
Many others are questioning the authority of the Word of God either through how they use the Bible, what they think about Adam as a historical person or their stance on gender roles.
This generation of believers will have to decide — as did Spurgeon — if they will stand on the Truth of the Word of God and lift up Jesus Christ among the nations, or whether they will lay down their sword and succumb to the error of theological liberalism.
Spurgeon in An All-Around Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students was right, “believers must never adjust the Bible to the age, but the age to the Bible.” Christians have been given the Word of God not to speculate on but to study, meditate upon, contend, defend and proclaim to the nations.
The Word of God always stands in judgment of men never do men stand in judgment of it. This fact reveals the fundamental problem going on inside and outside the church by exposing, as Spurgeon knew in his time, that today’s issues are rooted in an age-old challenge — on who’s authority, God or man.
As with every generation before and every one after it, the Truth of God’s Word will remain authoritative, unchanging, and unrelenting as it seeks to lift high the name and glory of Jesus among the nations.
As the Word of God did its work in Spurgeon’s time, so today, evangelicals can be encouraged that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is the means God uses by His Spirit.
Evangelicals today need to stand firm in the grace of God and the Word and be encouraged that God, by His grace, is still working to bring people to Himself and build His church for His glory.
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Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and is the Host for the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Parler, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.