Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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The Doctrine of Scripture

Rev. Angus Stewart

(Slightly modified from an article first published in the British Reformed Journal)


The doctrine of Scripture is vitally important to all Christians, for it is through the instrumentality of the Word (preached and read) that God saves us and causes us to grow in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Only through the Scriptures do we have the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ.


  • If the Old Testament is not true, neither is the New (Heb. 1:1-2).

  • If the Bible is fallible, God is fallible.

  • If the written Word of God is a sham, so is the Incarnate Word of God.

  • If the Scriptural faith (Jude 3) is spurious, so is yours.

We shall now consider what the Bible claims for itself.


(I) The Bible is the revelation of God

(1) Is revelation possible?

Those who believe that it is not, argue that:

(a) God would not want to reveal Himself to man.

But why then did God create man? Before the fall the Lord God revealed Himself to, and communed with, man in the Garden of Eden. Thus from the beginning God showed that He delighted in revealing Himself. Now God’s written revelation to us is the Scriptures.

(b) Man could not possibly understand the revelation of God.

It is true that no man will, or can, understand God in His entirety (Job 11:7), for then he would be God, which is absurd. But it must be said that no man (nor angel) knows anything in its entirety. Just because knowledge is not complete, it does not mean it is not true knowledge. Moreover, that we can understand the revelation of God appears from the infinite wisdom of God. He has willed to reveal Himself and knows how to communicate even with finite man whom He created. We can easily understand that adults can manage to explain things to children. God’s being infinitely superior in wisdom to man, rather than being a barrier to His being able to reveal Himself, actually enables it.

(2) Is revelation necessary?

Yes. God must reveal Himself or He will never be known. If He chose to hide Himself who could ever find Him? Furthermore, since the fall, man is sinful and cannot know God by his own searching or his own theories. It is therefore necessary that God reveal Himself.


(II) The Bible is inspired by God

The word "inspired" (cf. II Tim. 3:16) means, literally, "God-breathed." God breathed out the Holy Scriptures as His Word.

(1) Inspiration is plenary. Scripture does not admit of different qualities of inspiration. Not all parts are of equal value for edification but all parts are equally inspired. When Christ or His apostles quoted from the Older Testament they made no distinction between the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) or the Prophets or any of the other books as having different degrees of authority, for they were all the Word of God. Since "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (II Tim. 3:16), biblical teaching concerning history, geography and science are included and not merely "theology." If God cannot give us the truth regarding earthly things, how can we trust Him when He tells us of heavenly things (cf. John 3:12)? And if parts of the Bible are not inspired who is to tell us what parts they are?

(2) Inspiration is verbal. Every word of the autographs (the original manuscripts) is inspired. This is so of necessity, for God’s written revelation consists of propositions that are communicated by means of words. It also follows from an intelligent consideration of New Testament quotations of the Old Testament. In Matthew 22:32, Christ’s argument rests on the fact that God’s words in Exodus 3:6 are not in the past tense. In Galatians 3:16, Paul proves his point by pointing out that Genesis 12:7 speaks of "seed" (singular) and not "seeds" (plural). Some argue that God merely inspires the author’s thoughts, but the Scripture speaks of the "words" (Matt. 4:4; II Peter 3:2; Jude 17). Anyway how can these ideas be transmitted to us, but by words?

(3) Inspiration is organic. God used humans to write Scripture but not mechanically (as we might use a typewriter) but as men with predetermined gifts and abilities. II Peter 1:21 tells us that the apostles and prophets (with their God-given talents and styles) wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit. Therefore, those things they wrote were God’s, directed by His will. Thus God did not allow the will of sinful man to alter His message or erroneously record it.


(III) The Bible is inerrant

The original manuscripts are without error. This must be so since:

(1) The Bible is God’s Word. If it contains errors, God makes mistakes in His speech. Then God is not perfect, which is absurd.

(2) The Bible is the revelation of God. The God of heaven reveals Himself in Scripture. It is an affront to His wisdom to think He could make a mistake, and to His veracity that He could tell a lie (cf. Titus 1:2).

(3) The Bible claims to be perfect (Ps. 19:7). Jesus said, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). He Himself was the truth (John 14:6) and told no lies. Since the Bible is perfect, it is without error. Christ teaches in John 10:35—"the scripture cannot be broken"—that it is impossible that the Scripture could be wrong.


(IV) The Bible has the authority of God

(1) That the Bible is of divine authority follows from a logical consideration of (I), (II) and (III).

(2) That the Bible is of divine authority is proved from the following syllogism: God has all authority. The Scriptures are God-breathed. Therefore the Bible is the authoritative Word of God.

(3) That the Bible is of divine authority is taught by express biblical references. Isaiah 1:2 declares, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken" (cf. Micah 1:2). It is also seen in the declaration: "Thus saith the Lord," and Christ’s words: "Verily, I say unto you."

(4) That the Bible is of divine authority is proved from New Testament quotations of Old Testament passages as the words of the Holy Ghost (Heb. 3:7; cf. Ps. 95:7; and Heb. 10:15; cf. Jer. 31:33). As God, the Holy Spirit speaks with divine authority.

(5) That the Bible is of divine authority is proved from New Testament quotations where God’s speech is cited as Scripture speaking (Gal. 3:8; cf. Gen. 12:3; and Rom. 9:17; cf. Ex. 9:16). Scripture (which did not then exist) did not speak to Abraham, but God Himself did (Gen. 12:3). Similarly God, through Moses, made this announcement to Pharaoh (Ex. 9:16). From Paul’s quotations (Gal. 3:8; Rom. 9:17) of both these texts (Gen. 12:3; Ex. 9:16), we see that he habitually identified the text of Scripture as God speaking.

(6) That the Bible is of divine authority is proved from New Testament quotations where God is spoken of as if He were the Scriptures (Matt. 19:4-5; cf. Gen. 2:24; and Acts 4:25-26; cf. Ps. 2:1-2). Christ (Matt. 19:4-5) and Peter (Acts 4:25-26) quote words from the Old Testament as being "said" by God, but it is not God in whose mouth these sayings are placed, in the text of the Old Testament. Thus the words of Scripture are God’s words possessing the authority of God Himself.

(7) That the Bible is of divine authority is seen by the finality with which Christ quoted Scripture. The Lord Jesus used the Scriptures as authoritative. He continually said, "It is written" (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; 21:13; 26:31; Mark 7:6; 9:13; John 6:31, 45; 10:34), and so did the apostles (Acts 1:20; 7:42; 15:15; 23:5; I Cor. 1:19; I Peter 1:16). The verdict of the Scriptures is final; it is not to be questioned; "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).

Since "the Bible is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth upon the throne" (Dean Burgon), it is the rule for what we must believe and how we must live (II Tim. 3:15-17; Ps. 19:7-9).


(V) The Bible has been specially preserved of God

The God of heaven has specially preserved His book which records the truth of salvation through His Son (John 20:31). From the preaching of Christ we see that:

(1) The Old Testament text in common use amongst the Jews during Christ’s earthly ministry was entirely trustworthy. Jesus said, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18). "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:17).

(2) The same divine providence that preserved the Old Testament will preserve the New Testament. Implied in the "great commission," which has application to Christ’s church throughout this age, is the promise that the church will always be in possession of an infallible record of Jesus’ words and works. Christ declared, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).


(VI) The Bible has many other excellent characteristics

(1) The Bible is eternal. The Scriptures were written during definite historical periods, but they had their origin in the eternal mind of God. "Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven" (Ps. 119:89). Thus it is relevant to every age and people.

(2) The Bible is perspicuous. The Scriptures are clear and we are able to understand them. They are likened to light (Ps. 119:105) and can be understood even by children (II Tim. 3:15). This does not mean that there are no difficult parts in the Bible (cf. II Peter 3:16), but rather that Scripture’s meaning be grasped by due use of the ordinary means. Since God has given us His Word, which we can understand, Christ can command us to study the Scriptures that we would know Him more fully (John 5:39). We must also pray that God would quicken our minds in our understanding of His Word (Ps. 119:18, 27, 34).

(3) The Bible is pure. Like the God who gave them, the Scriptures are pure. As David says, "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" (Ps. 12:6).

(4) The Bible is purifying. The Scriptures, as the pure Word of God, have a purifying effect on Christians. They are the means by which God purifies the church. Accordingly Christ prays, "Sanctify them by thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17).

(5) The Bible is sufficient. All that is necessary for our salvation is revealed in the Bible (John 20:30-31; II Tim. 3:15-17). The all-wise God has given to us His Word and no new book(s) or alleged "revelations of the Spirit" or anything else can be added to it or placed as equal with it (Rev. 22:18).

(6) The Bible is one. Both the Older and the Newer Testaments are the one Word of God. Moses, David, the prophets, Peter, Paul and John wrote of the same God (Heb. 12:29; cf. Deut 4:24) and the same way of salvation (cf. Rom. 4). Thus Christ could say, "in the volume of the book it is written of me" (Ps. 40:7; Heb. 10:7) and "the scriptures … are they which testify of me" (John 5:39). We, like the two on the Emmaus road, by the illumination of the Spirit, can see the one Christ in all of the Bible.

(7) The Bible is self-authenticating. Christians know that what the Word of God teaches us of ourselves, of fallen mankind, of the world, etc. is true. The agreement and harmony of the different books, the sublime doctrines and its overall end—to give all the glory to God—evinces it to be the very Word of God. The believer’s certitude that the Scriptures are from God comes from the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with His Word in our hearts (I Cor. 2:4-5). This assurance is enjoyed in the way of obedience to the Father’s commands in Scripture, for as Christ said, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).