Today we conclude our brief study of the authority of Scripture. To do so, we will look at three of the qualities of Scripture that are inherent to its being the authoritative Word of God. These qualities, or characteristics, give us confidence that the Bible is what it claims to be, and they provide a solid ground for receiving Scripture as the final authority for all of life.
First, we will consider inspiration. A few days ago, we briefly studied 2 Timothy 3:16–17, which is probably the most important single biblical text on the inspiration of Scripture. There we read that the words of Scripture have been breathed out by the Lord but not to the exclusion of human instrumentality. In other words, God made use of men in revealing His Word, empowering them to receive His truth and protecting them as they wrote so that they would give us exactly what He wants us to have. Throughout church history, theologians have refrained from going into too much detail about the process by which this inspiration occurred, but they have been fairly clear that apart from a few sections of the Bible, the Lord did not give us His Word by dictation. Instead, the process has been seen as organic, wherein God does not override the talents, style, vocabulary, or grammar of the author to give us His message. He worked in and through these things to give us a book that is varied in its content and style but unified in its teaching.
A second important characteristic of Scripture is its infallibility. To confess that the Bible is infallible is to confess that the Scriptures are incapable of teaching any error. Taken in itself, this is a term that strongly presents the perfection of Scripture. The prophets and apostles not only did not err—they could not err when writing Scripture. Regrettably, some theologians in recent years have redefined the concept of infallibility in order to promote a lower view of the Bible, so it is important to ask people what they mean when they say the Scriptures are infallible.
Finally, there is the inerrancy of Scripture. Inerrancy is a natural outflow of infallibility in the traditional, orthodox sense. Since the authors could not err when writing Scripture, the Bible contains no affirmations of anything that is contrary to fact. Inerrancy is a quality of the original text of the Bible. Translations may err, but the original manuscripts penned by the prophets and Apostles do not.