The Bible, as you well know, is the most precious treasure (Ps 119:72). Yes, all 66 books of the divine Word are inspired, inerrant, and authoritative! This, I confess with joy. My Bible comes to me from God, is without error, and is the final word on all matters of life. My Bible provides all that I need to glorify God (did I mention it is also sufficient?).
Confessing the Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Authority of Scripture
Inspiration of Scripture
These convictions we have codified into confessions. When using the term inspiration, theologians are referring to the divine origin of Scripture. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired (lit. ‘God-breathed’ or ‘breathed out by God’; see 2 Tim 3:16) by God.” Peter said, “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private origin, but holy men of God wrote as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:20). The practical application of this doctrine is this: when the Scripture speaks, God speaks; likewise, when the Scripture is silent, God is silent.
Inerrancy of Scripture
But confessing evangelicals do not stop with confessing the inspiration of Scripture. We go further to confess the inerrancy of Scripture—the necessary consequence of its inspiration. It is because the Scripture comes to us from God Himself that we know with utmost confidence (even certainty) that the Scripture is absolutely true and reliable in everything it says. “God cannot lie,” Paul asserts in Titus 1:2. Similarly, the Psalmist declares, “The summation (all of it added together) of Your Word is truth” (Ps 119:160).
The best definition of inerrancy I have seen comes from Charles Feinburg, who states “inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences” (Paul Feinberg, “The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, edited by Norman L. Geisler [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979], 294). “Right on,” you say, “that’s what I believe!”
Authority of Scripture
And not to be found lightweight in our confessions, we go one step further and confess the byproduct of inerrancy—authority. The authority of Scripture is the derivative of its inspiration and inerrancy. Because the Bible comes from God (inspiration) and is without error (inerrancy), we confess, it therefore comes to us with divine authority. Yes, we are the only people on the planet today who still believe that the Bible still has the right to tell us what to do.
The Westminster confession states this clearly: “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.” Paul commended the Thessalonian believers for receiving the Word of God “not as the word of men but for what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess 2:13).
To sum up our confessions then, it is because the Bible is of divine origin (inspiration) that we know with blessed assurance of its truthfulness (inerrancy), and it is because of its truthfulness that we submit to its directives (authority), or at least we confess that we do.
Our Interaction with These Confessions
I think Christians joyfully embrace these vigorous confessions, at least on paper. “Why, of course I do, Pastor” would be the said answer to the church membership interview question, “Do you believe in the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture?” Yet I wonder how well these confessions carry over to the street where you live. How closely do you cling to the authority of Scripture when you don’t get what you want? Or your plans go haywire because some suffering has moved into the home to stay a while?
I suppose you would agree that it is easy to make big confessions at a cerebral level as long as they are safely detached from your perfectly ordered plan for your life. But when life happens, it is another thing to deliberately live what is true in the valleys of the life God has in mind for us.
Putting Confessions to Work in Daily Living
Permit me share a story with you. Just two weeks ago, I was excited to put some task managing tools to work for myself (I had been reading Do More Better by Tim Challies) when I was removed from my desk by an urgent need. My sweet Annette (aka my wife to everyone else) was having a relapse of unexpected intercostals muscle cramps, which knocked her over in agony. Instantly, everything changed. God obviously had another task in mind for me, which, as you can imagine, did not look anything like the task management tools from Challies. Admittedly, when I see an opportunity to drop my plan for the hour to fulfill God’s (like looking after my wife and five kids in the middle of a work day), the right choice is not always met by a grateful embrace.
Of course, I know what the Bible says. I know how I should respond. Really, I do. I am a pastor, after all. I love the Bible. I have spent the last twenty years or so as its student. I confessed the Bible to be inspired and all of that…remember? But why the disheartening disconnect sometimes? There are times when my big confessions and I are so disconnected that I feel utterly wretched inside! Thank God, I am not alone (see Paul’s confession of his personal wretchedness in Romans 7:24 and don’t miss the context of 7:14-25).
So, what do the workings of providence and how we respond to them have to do with how we think about our confessions? Fair question. For this is where the authority of Scripture and real life collide. Paul instructs the Thessalonian believers to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:17). Similarly, he instructs the Christians in Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say rejoice. Let your gentle reasonableness be known to all, for the Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5). These attitudinal commands were written for us as well. Both verses show how we are to live “in Christ Jesus” (or in union with Him) knowing that “He is near.”
Do I respond in accordance with the book that I confess has authority over me when the Lord providentially throws a curve ball at me? Have I learned to practice the Word (Jas 1:22) to the extent that I am intentionally under God in my living (Eph 5:18), such that thankfulness and joy are two overflowing fountains in my heart in all circumstances in Christ Jesus? Am I at least pursuing this?
I love what Michael Riccardi says in his book Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-given Holiness (26) concerning the necessity of trial, “Every experience we have [in life] is a minister of providence designed to make us more like Christ” (Rom 8:28-29). He then explains for us what a humble response under the authority of Christ will look like. He writes, “Lord, your word says you are working all things for my sanctification. Show me how to grow to be more like Christ through this experience” (26). Surely, this is what life to the glory of God looks like, isn’t it? It is when we joyfully embrace doing good for others (Gal 6:10; Mt 5:16), in every circumstance in Christ, that we reveal what place God actually has in our lives.
How about you?
How about you, friend? How are you doing? Think about your life for a moment. Can the people closest to you easily see what place your big confessions have in your everyday life in Christ? Does your life “shine” (Mt 5:16) your confessions through good deeds consistent with these, or do you have some other confessing to do (hint: 1 Jn 1:9)?
Now I have some good news for you, dear Christian. The cross of Jesus was the tomb for all of your sins—past, present, and future (Col 2:14). You need not fear God’s condemnation, rejection, or wrath because you fail to live perfectly what you say you believe. No, God is not angry with you. And you have Jesus to thank for this.
Jesus, your eternal friend, stood right in the place where your sin was punished! He was condemned by God (Gal 3:13) that you might never be (Rom 8:1), He was abandoned by God (Mk 15:34) so that you will never be (Heb 13:5), and He drank every last drop of divine wrath (Mk 14:36) that you might never know its bitter taste (1 Thess 1:10). Hallelujah, praise the Lamb! I pray that you, dear Christian, would soak up the truths of the gospel when you stumble, and therein be moved inwardly, by grace, to go forward living for His glory by doing good for others with joy.
This is where other confessions—those we don’t normally think about—come in. I may stumble, but I know this: God is not finished with this saint (1 Pet 1:8-9). This is when I need to put my theology to work for me and remind myself of “someday.” Someday? Someday is the day when, in eternity, I will embrace God’s will gratefully, joyfully, and perfectly. Someday I will be complete (Phil 1:6) with no disconnection between me and my biblical confessions. In fact, I won’t even need to have them anymore. Someday, believe it or not, it will be I who, in Christ-like perfection, will find myself standing before God’s glorious presence “blameless with great joy” (Jude 24)! Wow! Looking forward to someday, Christian (Rm 8:19-25)?
Lord, may I always be glorifying You by doing good for others with joy. Help me to “hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Ps 119:60). Help me to remember that Romans 8:28 is true all the time, even when my plans spiral into the abyss. When I am tempted to distrust your providential working in my life when things do not go my way, may I never forget that You (not me) are in control of things and You have done “all things well” (Mk 7:37). To You is the glory forever and ever. Amen.