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Biblical Authority: Scripture’s Claims for Itself

by Dr. David Glesne Pastor, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Fridley, MN

September, 2007

The following was a presentation given to the Twin Cities WordAlone Chapter on September 18th, 2007 and is presented here with gratitude to Dr. Glesne for his permission to publish this publicly.


photo of Dr. GlesneWhat we are going to be considering this evening is the matter of The Authority of the Bible and the question of revelation and inspiration. In my mind, the question of Biblical revelation and inspiration is the theological watershed in the contemporary theological scene.

In August of 2007 the ELCA Assembly in Chicago passed The Book of Faith initiative, a five-year churchwide initiative calling Lutherans back to Scripture. Calling Lutherans back to Scripture is in itself surely an emphasis that we can all enthusiastically embrace.

But as we enter into that initiative, there is one thing it seems to me that is crucial: the scriptures must be allowed to speak for themselves. And that is more difficult than one might expect. The Bible essentially is a clean and simple book. But because the Bible strikes so close to home and raises such basic human issues, we cannot be objective toward it. We read it through the glasses of our preconceived ideas. Therefore, as we come to the Bible, what we must do is remove our glasses. And that is the most difficult of things to do. However difficult, nevertheless, we must make the conscious attempt not to impose our own ideas, our own framework upon the Bible. We must let the Bible speak for itself and listen to it with openness. We must make an effort to hear what the Bible is saying. This is true of all of us. Whether we find ourselves on the more conservative or more liberal end of the theological spectrum, it is true of all of us. No one is neutral or unbiased here. All of us are heavily indoctrinated. It will be a struggle to set aside the glasses. But every time we come to the Bible, we need to make a conscious effort not to sift it through our own grid. We need to remove our glasses.

That is what I want to attempt to do this evening. The central question we are asking is:

  • When the Scriptures are allowed to speak for themselves, what do they tell us about their authority?
  • What do they say about revelation and inspiration?
  • When the Bible is allowed to speak for itself, what are its claims for itself?

If we are truly going to go back to Scripture, then Scripture must be allowed to speak for itself.

N.T. Claims for the O.T.

We are going to focus specifically on what the New Testament claims for the Old Testament. That means that we are going to spend our time tonight in the Scriptures themselves. Now - so that we can move more quickly, I have put all the biblical passages we will be looking at on power point. I trust this will save us time in not having to look them all up in our own Bibles.

A. In looking at what the N.T. claims for the O.T., the first thing we find is that Christ himself presented the O.T. as authoritative.

When in conversation with the Jewish leaders of that day as recorded in John 10, Jesus quotes from the O.T. saying, “It is written…” and when he does, he considers the case closed. “It is written” is his constant usage from the time of his temptation until after his resurrection. Constantly, he quotes from all parts of the O.T.

In John 10:34 he quotes from the Psalms: “Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’.” But just notice the way he says this: “Is it not written…” and then he quotes from the Psalms (82:6) What is so very striking is that he calls the Psalms “your law” and treats it as having binding authority. If he had quoted from the Pentateuch, it would have been something strong. But in speaking of the Psalms this way, it is still stronger. This is your law – and then it is finished in his mind. The discussion is over as far as Jesus is concerned. Why? Because in this setting he has quoted the authority of God.

More than this Jesus rebuked the Jews as foolish and slow of heart when they did not accept all that the prophets had written.

Matthew 12:3 “He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?”

This very expression, “Have you not read…?” This is the exact same mentality as you find in Luther and the Reformers who quoted scripture and then understood that matter to be closed in a sense. You can discuss further but the authority has been stated. This is exactly the mentality of Jesus. You cannot take the mentality of the modern theologians and transpose it into the thinking of Jesus. You do violence to Jesus’ mentality unless you take this posture that has always been taken concerning the scriptures. One smashes many things, but it must be understood one smashes nothing more than the mentality of Christ towards scripture if one does not accept it in this same sense. “Have you not read…?”

In Matthew 22:29 Jesus rebukes them, “Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God’.”

They err because they don’t know the power of God, but they should know better. What is their mistake? Well, their mistake is that they haven’t known the scriptures.

In John 10:35 we see Christ’s whole attitude towards the O.T. “If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ – and the scripture cannot be annulled…” In other words, it’s finished. Has the scripture spoken? Well, then it is final. You can just say it another way, “The scripture can’t be wrong.”

Now there is a unity which is understood in the usage of the words THE SCRIPTURES. We think of the remarkable unity of the O.T.

  • The numerous cross references in the O.T.
  • The perfect relationship of theme and historical fact
  • Also, the unit as preserved in the rigid Jewish list of canonical books

But Christ (and we see later also with the apostles) also clearly recognizes this unity of the canonical books of the O.T. He clearly treats the O.T. as a unit. Here in John 10 Jesus is saying – you err not knowing the scriptures. The scriptures cannot be broken. Jesus speaks with the definite article – THE Scriptures – as we will see he continues to do as we move on. There is a unity here and a total unity. It can’t be wrong. And as soon as we deal with another mentality, it’s the mentality of Jesus toward the Scriptures that is smashed. No matter how sophisticated we become, it is his attitude we have smashed most of all. The Scripture cannot be wrong. This is Jesus attitude.

Fulfillment of Prophecy

A number of times our Lord emphatically states that the Scriptures must be fulfilled. This, of course, is another way of saying it cannot be broken. He says this of the O.T. prophets as well as other portions. This would remind us of Daniel’s view toward the Book of Jeremiah. (Dan. 9:11-12) In the midst of the Babylonian Captivity, Daniel says we (Israel) are in this situation for a simple reason as Jeremiah prophesied, we have not kept the Law of God. Jesus takes this same view. Has it been prophesied? Well, then, it will happen – don’t worry – its final.

In Matthew 5:17-18 we notice how Jesus puts the Law and the Prophets together in exactly the same way as we find to be the common practice of the O.T. Daniel, why did the Jews go into exile? We broke Moses’ Law and the Prophets. Jesus says the same thing: (v. 17a) Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets…” His very usage here shows an affinity to the O.T. and a continuing of the structure we see in the O.T.’s claims for itself. (v. 17-18) Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” Is there anything God has spoken – said? “Seventy years and the Jews will go back?” Well, they went back. Are there portions that are yet not fulfilled” Don’t worry, says Jesus, they will be fulfilled. Nothing can be broken – changed. The Scripture cannot be wrong.

Luke 24:25-27. This is now after the resurrection and is very striking indeed. “Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures.”

It seems to me that just these three verses is enough for anybody who gives any credence at all to the knowledge and authority of Christ. If you accept anything of authority here, one must say, this would be enough. (v. 25a) “Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish your are…” (v. 27a) “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets…” Notice the unity here of the things concerning himself. Why are you surprised? Didn’t the prophets say this would happen?

Just a few verses later – Luke 24:44. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled”.

Now what is important to see here is that these are the technical three sections of the O.T. Scriptures. So when Jesus speaks of the three parts – Moses, Prophets, Psalms – he was referring to exactly what the Jews referred to as THE SCRIPTURES. Jesus is speaking of the total unity of the total O.T. Verse 45: “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures…” THE Scriptures with the definite article are equated with Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms. Verse 46a: “…and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written…” It seems to me this would be total in itself: “Moses, the Prophets, Psalms – THE Scriptures – It is written” that’s it. Verse 46: “…and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day…” And we would say, “Why, of course, its what God said in the Scriptures.”

So it seems to me this passage after the resurrection is just tightly knit in its structure. Its exactly the same as today. If someone said they believed the Bible and suddenly they were surprised because Jesus came back tonight. Surely God would say, “Why are you surprised? Isn’t it written in the prophecies? What did you expect? Isn’t it settled?” Well, that is exactly the same attitude as Jesus’ attitude concerning this. And you notice how he hearkens back to the fact and says, “When I was yet with you, didn’t I say this, that all things must be fulfilled?” So you have a total structure here.

Once, Jesus hung his argument with the religious leaders of that day on a single word.

Matthew 22:45: “If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” The argument here turns on the use of one word.

Matthew 22:36-40: “‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second it like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

The intriguing thing here is that the first part (v. 37) is a quotation from Deut. 6:4. But the second part (v. 39) is Leviticus 19:18. Now I think this has great strength. Jesus just reaches back and just puts them together because they are both equal. It is true that they are both from the Pentateuch. But nevertheless they are both equal. Leviticus – Deuteronomy – it doesn’t make any difference. This can be quoted as the law of God.

Jesus doesn’t say he is making a new law. He just reaches back into two locations – picks these out – quotes them and says this is the law, the 1st and the 2nd commandments are the law. This has terrific strength. It shows the same kind of concept a Bible-believing person today would have – or which the 16th C. Reformers had – i.e. you can reach where you will as long as you put it together properly in the context and in the historical-grammatical exegesis. You can just string it together because it is the same authority. It is the law of God. This is exactly Jesus’ use of it here.

To continue then, Christ quoted all parts of the Scripture alike: The Law – the Prophets – and the Writings as the Word of God. He didn’t just quote from one section and leave out the others, but he quoted from the three great sections as equally the Word of God. Points especially contested and attacked in modern times are given by Christ as accepted without question. These include:

  • the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch including Leviticus
  • the creation
  • the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai
  • the flood
  • the history of Abraham and God’s Covenant with him
  • the prophecy of Daniel
  • the historical books
  • that Jonah spent three days in the great fish

All these in modern negative criticism have especially been challenged. Jesus just quotes from them gently, as though he is saying, “Don’t you remember yesterday? Don’t you remember what happened when we walked along the road and I stopped and picked a flower?” It’s just this way. Jesus quotes from these books with complete quietness. “Don’t you remember how yesterday we stopped by so and so’s house?” In just the same way, “Don’t you understand, ‘it is written’. That’s the way it was, because it is written.” In short, Christ accepted the whole O.T. on the basis upon which the Jews of the time accepted it.

In Luke 16:29-31 Christ directly teaches the finality of the O.T. “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham: but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent,’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, nether will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

In Luke 16:29-31 Christ directly teaches the finality of the O.T. “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham: but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent,’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, nether will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

For Christ, the authority of the O.T. is final. His conclusion in this section is: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead. Remember, this was put in Moses’ mouth but Jesus takes the authority for it. It is his authority it rests on. Notice again he puts Moses and the prophets together. The very same thing we have seen in other places with Jesus. Here he says it, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

A few times in our lifetime, I think it is very worthwhile doing the kind of thing we are doing here tonight, i.e. going down these many details, looking at these many passages. Because when you begin to put it all together, the fabric of the thing becomes so overwhelmingly certain and strong. You just add and add and add and begin to think – how could anyone take a different view? Now, of course, some people may throw the whole Bible out and that‘s a different thing. But that’s not the kind of people I’m talking about.

John 5:46-47: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

Now Jesus is not saying that you would have believed on me. That’s very different. If you would have believed Moses, if you had accepted the propositional statement of Moses, you would have accepted my propositional statement, because he wrote of me.

This is tied back into v. 39: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.” Then vv. 46-47_____. Now, of course, speaking to the Jews, the Jews would have accepted Moses. But Jesus is equating his words with Moses and that would have shocked them.

But in our generation, of course, it would be entirely turned around. People today say they accept Jesus’ authority in some sense, but Jesus equates his authority to Moses’ authority. So in Christ’s day this would have moved in one direction and in ours it moves in another. But it is equal. “Does Moses have authority?” Then mine is equal. Then Jesus would just shout to the men of our generation: “You say you take my word as something? Then Moses’ word is equal.” (v. 47) “But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” Christ equates the O.T. with his own teaching.

Historical Events

Although it may not be quite as striking, it is nevertheless intriguing how Christ deals with the historical events. And so let’s look more closely at some of these sections. Now as to order, rather than just running through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I’ll look at these historical events as chronology would indicate.

Luke 11:51: “…from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation.”

Jesus reaches all the way back to Abel and he just says, “Here it is. Don’t you remember? Sure, you weren’t there, but isn’t it written? Didn’t Abel die?” The blood of Abel, this historical detail, it’s just like this.

Luke 17:26-27: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them.”

So the detail of the flood. It is just stated this way. Well, it is just going to be this way when I come back again. We are not talking about the prophetic side here at this point. He is just saying, “Do you remember what it was like in the days of Noah?” Or he could have said, “Do you remember what it was like yesterday?” Or he could have said, “Do you remember what it was like when the flood came?” And he expects them to have the same certainty of historic space-timeness. It’s just this off-handedness that is so strong here.

John 8:56: “Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

We come to Abraham now. This says much more, of course, but what we are looking at now is – Abraham, remember him?

Matthew 10:15: “Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

Now again, in a way this isn’t so startling, but in another way it is stronger. He is dealing with a little detail and he just mentions Sodom and Gomorrah as an historic situation. It’s the very meekness of it in a sense, and yet the certainty of it. It just shows his attitude, his mentality (Europe) toward the Scripture.

Luke 17:28: “Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building…”

Just before this verse he had said, “Do you remember how it was in the day of Noah?” Well, now, remember how it was in the day of Lot – both are historic events. One is as historic as the other. Just as it was in that space-time situation, that’s the way it is going to be when I come back in that future space-time situation.

Matthew 8:11: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

So here you have Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – just the same. “You remember these men.” And always see the setting. “You remember that man we saw on the road yesterday that had a very strange staff. You remember him.” Well, there is no difference in this. “Do you remember Abraham – Isaac – Jacob?” It’s just the same. It is exactly the same mentality.

John 7:19: “Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?”

Now we have come to Moses.

I would say this is Jesus methodology, his attitude concerning the Scriptures. Christ’s methodology is completely contrary to the modern negative criticism of most theological seminaries of today. They have one methodology. Jesus’ methodology is quite a different methodology. Jesus says, “Moses gave you the law – it is written” and that an historic space-time situation that you just use as an absolute base for talking on very gently.

John 6:31: “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (Ex. 16:4,15)

John 3:14: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…”

It’s just as though he is choosing these minute details just to give you the feel of the framework. Now, I’m sure that is not the reason he is doing it. It is because each one leads on to what he wants to say and yet his methodology – mentality is this. It doesn’t matter. He just reaches back to whatever it is. Abel – serpent in the wilderness – all is history.

Matthew 12:3: “He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?”

In some ways this isn’t so startling as some of his great statements we’ve looked at, but in another way it is more complete. Here is David.

Luke 4:25: “But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land…”

It’s as though he is doing this deliberately. Of course, I think God did it deliberately. I think it is all wrapped up, “If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen to my word.” I think this is exactly it. So it isn’t just chance. This is surely meant and inspired by God to make a fabric, which if you don’t treat it honestly and just overlook the methodology and mentality of Jesus in regard to this, you must smash the whole. “But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land…” “Do you remember Elijah?” It isn’t just a name back there that as a misty memory. “But don’t you remember one day there was this widow woman and don’t you remember at that particular time what was going on during that 3 year – 6 month period? There was a famine. Don’t you remember?”

Luke 4:27: “There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

This is Elisha. Don’t you remember about Naaman when he came?

Luke 11:51: “…from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary.”

But, of course, the blood of Zechariah was very late. But it’s the same.

This is the first point then: Christ himself presented the O.T. as authoritative.

B. Secondly, the apostles and other N.T. writers hold the same high view of the O.T.


I Corinthians 14:21: “In the law it is written, ‘By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people; yet even then they will not listen to me’.”

This is quoted from Isaiah 28:11. Here he calls Isaiah the law. Notice it isn’t the Pentateuch. It’s Isaiah. So here for Paul the term “the law” is the Scripture. You have here the same mentality – methodology – approach – feel as was the case with Christ. Thus Paul, as did Christ, designates the prophets as legal authority – as well as the Pentateuch. He does the same concerning the Psalms and Romans. So it isn’t just the Pentateuch which is legal authority for Paul: Isaiah, the Psalms – it’s the same.

Galatians 3:16: “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say ‘And to offsprings, as of many; but it says, ‘And to your offspring, that is, to one person, who is Christ’.”

Here Paul’s high view of Scripture extends to the very words. He bases his argument on a single word just as does Jesus.

Other N.T. Writers

We find other N.T. writers referring to the N.T. history as fulfilling O.T. prophecy. This must work on the assumption that the O.T. prophecy is authoritative – or it is meaningless.

Matthew 1:21-23: “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us’.”

Here is a quote from Isaiah and it was done to fulfill the law spoken by this prophet. This is meaningless unless it is seen that the writer here assumes that Isaiah is total authority. It’s exactly the same kind of situation you find in Daniel with Jeremiah.

Matthew 2:14-15: “Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son’.”

Here you have Hosea being quoted.

Remember, all I’m doing now is showing that the writing would be meaningless except in the total framework that these writers acted as if this had a total authority. I’m not trying to exegete these verses in detail.

John 12:38: “This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed’?”

The same thing again. This is Isaiah 53. It is interesting because this would be what moderns would call Second Isaiah. He is called Isaiah and taken as totally authoritative.

John 15:25: “It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause’.”

This is from the Psalms (35:19). These quotations are taken from all over the O.T. with the assumption, “Well, this is the way it is going to be. Why? Because of where it is taken from. The O.T. is authoritative.”

Acts 1:16: “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus…”

And he quotes from Psalm 41. Here we find Peter, as recorded by Luke, repeating the often stated words of Christ that the Scripture must be fulfilled.

In Acts 26:22-29 Paul is on trial.

Verse 22: “To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place:”

So here in making his defense he says, “What do you expect? The prophets and Moses have said it. What?

Verse 23: “that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles. So, don’t be surprised that I was sent to the Gentiles”.

Doesn’t that refer back to the O.T.?

Verse 24-27a: “While he was making this defense, Festus exclaimed, ‘You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane! But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely: for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?”

So you see how everything turns? Don’t you believe the prophets as authoritative?

Verse 27-28: “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.’ Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?’

On what basis? On the basis of the O.T. authority. Otherwise it is meaningless. You have here one of the most striking things. Here, on the basis of his knowledge of the O.T. prophets, Paul appeals and says, “You know what the O.T. says.”

Verse 29: “Paul replied, ‘Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am – except for these chains’.”

The flow of it is with tremendous strength. What are you trying me for? Why does anybody think it surprising that there would be a resurrection. Why is it surprising that God would say something to the Gentiles? What do the O.T. prophets say?

Again verse 28: “Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?’ On the basis of his knowledge of the O.T. prophets and acceptance of them as authoritative. Paul says, “OK then, what do you expect?” So it seems to me that this shows the whole mentality not only of the Jewish mind but the mind of the early church. It’s parallel to Jesus on the Emmaus Road it seems to me.

So the writers of the N.T. also with Christ make no distinction between the various parts of the O.T. They quote from all sections and all classes of events giving each as authoritative without debate. Each is referred to with simplicity and confidence and it is totally final. It’s a kind of complete and total mentality and framework of somebody who says, “Well, my father said it was so, so that’s it.” Or one honest man speaking to another and saying, “Well yesterday Jim told me.” That’s the structure of Jesus’ method and that of the apostles and N.T. writers. You feel confidence – finality in this whole structure.

Now remember what we are doing. We are considering what the N.T. claims for the O.T. Christ himself presented the O.T. as completely authoritative. The apostles and other writers of the N.T. held the same high view of the O.T.

“God” and “Scripture” are Interchangeable

Another reality we find in the N.T. The word “God” and the word “Scripture” are so closely identified that the writers easily slip from one to the other using the words “Scripture” and “God” inter-changeably.

It is all these rather small points, it seems to me, and the way they all fit together which shows an attitude, a total claim, a mentality of complete and total authority.

Galatians 3:8: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying ‘All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you’.”

This is from Genesis 12:3. Now notice what it says here. “The Scripture…preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham.” Now of course, it is God who did the speaking, but it just shows, as far as Paul is concerned ( and surely remember the Holy Spirit is behind Paul here in the N.T.) the word “God” and “Scripture” can be treated in this sense as synonymous – in the sense that the one has the authority of the other. The scripture has the authority of God. So it is God who spoke in Genesis 12:1-3, but that doesn’t change it saying, “The scripture…preached.”

Romans 9:17: “For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth’.”

“The scripture said…” This refers to Exodus 9:16 and it was God himself saying these things. And yet the habitual connection between scripture and God were given in this form.

Now the intriguing thing is that in both of these cases – Abraham, the time of Pharaoh – the scripture was not yet in existence. This is very striking! In neither case have the books of Moses been written. And yet that doesn’t change anything. You can still say, “Scripture says: because there is this mentality involved. Thus we can clearly say that for the N.T. writers, scripture says equals God says. Otherwise this is a meaningless situation.

Jesus’ lofty titles for the O.T.

In thinking about what the N.T. claims for the O.T., we must also consider the lofty titles of Jesus concerning it. These titles are:

  • Scripture
  • These Scriptures
  • The oracles of God

“Scripture” and “Scriptures” are used over 50x in the N.T. in reference to the O.T. And the use of the definite article is very overwhelming in these situations, just the way the article is used. It is not just some writing somewhere. But it is those things called ‘these Scriptures”. There are two things involved in this usage in the minds of the writers of the N.T:

  • this usage shows there is a unity to the whole. It is not like an amoeba with just indefinite boundaries. It is not this. “These Scriptures” shows a unity.
  • it shows a uniqueness vs. everything else.

To see the significance of this usage, we have only to think of the common way we call the bible “the Book”. There are many books in the world but THE Book stands out as definite in content and as unique. So were also the Scripture, the Writings – to Christ and to the writers of the N.T. To them the written O.T. was self-evidently God’s Word and that is what gave them their total authority.

“The Scriptures” simply mean “the Writings”. To them it is the written O.T. that can be spoken of with this sense of unity and uniqueness. To Christ and the N.T. writers the written O.T. was self-evidently God’s Word.

The N.T. ascribes the O.T. to the Holy Spirit or God

Then, of course, we must think of those passages in the N.T. which directly ascribe the O.T. to the Holy Spirit or to God.

Mark 12:35-36: “While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David: David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’.”

This is from Psalm 110:1. What does this mean? Jesus is saying that David didn’t speak of himself. That is, Ps. 110:1 was not finally by David but rather, he spoke it by the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:16: “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus…”

We have come now past Jesus and we are in the earliest portion of the Church. Here we find something prior to Pentecost. Peter is speaking and saying exactly the same as Christ has said. Then he quotes from Psalm 41. It is an interesting thing that Jesus’ quotation and Peter’s are both from the Psalms.

Acts 28:25: “So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: ‘The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah…” So the interesting thing is at this crucial moment Paul turns from the Jews and says, “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah…” and then he just gives a quotation. So just as Christ and Peter have designated that David spoke by the Holy Spirit, so also the prophet Isaiah spoke by the Holy Spirit. He is quoting here from Isaiah 6:9-10.

Acts 4:24-25: “When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant…”

Here is a very strong thing. I put the first three together because they each say “the Holy Spirit’. Here now is God. ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant…” This is really overwhelming. You have here the whole O.T. thing of what a prophet is. It is God speaking through David. Then the quote from Psalm 2.

So in the first three it is:

  • “David himself said by the Holy Spirit”
  • “The Holy Spirit by the mouth of David spoke”
  • “Thus spoke the Holy Spirit by Isaiah”

and now here it is...

  • “Sovereign Lord, who by the mouth of thy servant David”

So both are used: The Holy Spirit and the word God.

[[Hebrews 9:7-8: “But only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing.” ]]

Hebrews 10:14-16: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those wo are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts and I will write them on their minds…”

Here he is quoting from Jeremiah 31:33-34. So just as the writer to Hebrews can use this expression toward Exodus, he can likewise use it toward Jeremiah.

Hebrews 3:7: “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice…”

A very striking thing again. Here is a quote from Psalm 95. Here it expressly says that it is the Holy Spirit who speaks the written words of Scripture. This is parallel to the section we saw before where “Scripture says” or “God say”. Here it says, “The Holy Spirit says” and then is given what the O.T. Scripture says. The Holy Spirit is the speaker of the written words of Scripture.

Now remember our point. We are looking at passages in the N.T. which directly ascribe the O.T. to the Holy Spirit or God.

God’s Word but not quotations of God

But what is more significant is that the N.T. gives as God’s Word that which in the O.T. are not quotations of God. There are these passages which say, “This is the Word of God” and it isn’t a quotation of what God said at all. It is simply just what the Scripture said.

Matthew 19:4-5: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

Now in this setting of seeing the subjectless “he said” – this is undoubtedly God. So you have 4a___ and 5a___. These both are as from God. The reading – the saying, these are equated. But on the other end what is striking is that one of these is from Genesis 2:24 and the other is Genesis 1:27. So what is bound together is Genesis 1 & 2. God said them both. You have a tremendous unity here. And if you look back into Genesis 2:24, it isn’t a quotation from God. It is just the Scriptures saying this, which equals God says.

Hebrews 4:4: “For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works’.”

God didn’t say this as a direct quote. Its rather that the Scriptures said it. It doesn’t make any difference. What Scripture says, God says.

Hebrews 10:30: “For we know the one who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’. And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people’.”

Here you notice an interesting thing. Here God is actually spoken of in the 3rd person: ‘The Lord will judge his people”

It is the same as Hebrews 4:4 where God is spoken of in the 3rd person but that doesn’t stop it from saying “God said” – “He said”. Here in Hebrews 10:30 you have the same thing. V. 30a___ and then a quote from Deuteronomy 32:35. But then you can add to that v. 30b___ which comes from Deuteronomy 32:36 in which God is spoken of in the 3rd person. But that is no conflict at all for the writer of the Hebrews. God has said this because the Scripture has said it, even though God is spoken of in the 3rd person. It is very striking.

Mark 7:9-10: “The he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and , ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die’.”

So Moses said a commandment of God. Moses said, but it was God’s commandment. It doesn’t make any difference.

Hebrews 1:10: “And, ‘In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands:”

In these previous sections we have seen where God is spoken of in the 3rd person. But this now adds one more step because here God is addressed. And yet if you read this it is clearly on the authority of God, this entire section going back to v. 7. Verse 10 is included in the structure of “He says.” But that doesn’t stop it from being equated with the authority of God. Whether its in the 3rd person or directly addressed, it really doesn’t matter.

Thus, the whole of the O.T. is the Word of God to the writers of the N.T.

The Writing of the N.T.

C. Let me just say a word about the N.T.

Because Jesus put his stamp of approval on the same O.T. that we have today, we therefore can be confident that the 39 books of the O.T. are authoritative. Jesus considers them authoritative and so that is final for us. But when we come to the N.T., it is a very different thing. The N.T. is the recordings of the deeds of Jesus and an elaboration of his teaching. One would expect that there would be such a writing that would be on par with the O.T. But in addition, Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit who would be the Teacher to the apostles and that this Holy Spirit would guide them into all the Truth.

In John 16:12 – 15 we read: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that ware to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

So in the ministry of Christ, we have sort of a looking forward to the N.T. where the Holy Spirit would guide apostles to write authoritative books and it would be on par with the O.T.

When we look at the N.T. writings themselves, we find the same thing as we find in the O.T., that that the writers were conscious of what they were doing.

I Corinthians 15:3: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures…”

Paul is conscious of passing on an authoritative message which he himself has received from the Lord. It is authoritative then, not merely because Paul speaks it, but because it is from God.

I Corinthians 14:37: “Anyone who claims to be a prophet, or to have spiritual powers, must acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.”

Paul knew that what he writes is actually from God.

I Thessalonians 5:27: “I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them.”

Paul imposes this letter upon the Church. Why? Because he understands that it is from the Lord. He knows what he is doing.

II Thessalonians 3:14: “Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter: have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed.”

Why such a harsh word? Because Paul realizes he is not just writing friendly letters. The reason for Paul’s hard words here is because what he is writing it God’s Word. He is asserting his authority here.

I Peter 5:12: “Through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God, Stand fast in it.”

Peter again asserts his apostolic authority. He knows that he is writing the true grace of God.

Revelation 22:18: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.”

The book is not merely human, but has God’s authority behind it.

So the evidence is there in the N.T. as well – although not as exhaustive. We have Paul, Peter, and John speaking and writing. We have Luke, who wrote as Paul’s secretary in a way and Mark, who wrote in a way as Peter’s secretary. But a large part of the N.T. is represented by these three men, each of who is conscious of what he is doing. They were conscious that what they were writing was not merely their own word, but the Word of God.

Did God’s people recognize the N.T. writings as authoritative early on? Without time to go into this in detail, we look just at two passages that would indicate that questions should be answered in the affirmative.

I Timothy 5:18: Now I am not using scripture to prove its own authority. Here is Paul in about 62 A.D. and I am just using Paul as an early Christian. “For the scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The laborer deserves to be paid’.” Paul quotes first from the Pentateuch – from Deuteronomy 24:14-15. Then secondly, he quotes the words of Christ in Luke 10:7. Paul quotes them side by side and says, “For the scripture says…”

To Paul, Deuteronomy and Luke were equally scripture. (Luke written A.D. 65-60)

II Peter 3:15-16: “So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” (Peter A.D. 64)

To Peter, the epistles of Paul were scripture just as were the O.T. writings – “other” scripture here referring to the O.T.

Two Didactive Statements

Then, finally, there are the two didactic statements (i.e. intended to teach) affirming the inspiration of the O.T. Now I’ve deliberately left these until the end, because they are usually put first. The simple truth of the matter is, you don’t need these two didactic statements. With all we have seen of the N.T.’s attitude toward the O.T., if those who follow the negative criticism could totally destroy – which they have not done incidently – but if they could totally destroy these two didactic statements – nothing would change. Absolutely nothing because the points we have been making tonight would be enough. But we do have the two didactic statements and so we look at them here.

II Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

This speaks of the nature of Scripture and the value of the bible, namely, that its being profitable for teaching etc. is connected with its source, i.e. that it is inspired by God. The operative word in this verse is the word “inspired by God”. But the English word “inspired” can be misleading because it is capable of many different meanings. It is not used here in the sense of an ‘inspired performance; as though the writers are really high - really inspired. It is not as though when I read the bible, I get a lift. Now that ought to be true, but it is not the primary meaning. It is not an inspiring book in this sense.

Literally, the word is “God-breathed”. Again when we say all Scripture is God-breathed, we don’t mean that it was somehow there and then God breathed upon it or God breathed into it making it a Spirit-filled book. We could say this of a lot of good Christian books that the author was really led of God in this writing and that God really breathed into the book. We means something much stronger. When the Scripture asserts that it is “God-breathed” it means that it is the product of the creative breath of God.

All through the Scripture, the breath of God is a figure for God’s creative agency.

  • In the O.T. God created man by forming him from the dust of the earth and then breathing into him the breath of life. It was a creative act.
  • Or in Psalm 33, speaking of creation, v. 6 says, “By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made. And by the breath of his mouth all their host.” This is always the figure for God immediately and directly creating something.

So when we say that all Scripture is “God-breathed” it is an assertion that the whole Scripture is a created product of the divine mind. The Scripture as a whole owes its existence to an activity of God. It is in the highest and truest sense – His creation. This is the strongest summary statement on the nature of the Bible.

As to the quality and extent of that inspiration, we have seen this evening what Christ and the N.T. writers say concerning this. Jesus you remember said, “The Scripture cannot be broken…” His mentality, and what is being stated here, is that the Bible down to its smallest detail is reliable. We have seen that the N.T. writers have the same mentality regarding the extent of inspiration.

II Peter 1:20-21: “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

This is the strongest summary statement we have on the mode of inspiration, that is, exactly ‘how’ the Scripture was inspired. The Greek word translated here “moved” means “borne along” or “carried along”. Men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. If you want to think of this visually, one could think of a little cart carrying along somebody. “Men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” They were borne along by Him as they spoke. The passivity of the prophets is stressed here. They are not the movers but were moved. It didn’t come by the will of man. They were borne along and spoke – in contrast to their own will. So what is being said is that the Holy Spirit so led the human authors, that when they wrote down what they wrote down, it was exactly what God wanted them to write down. In all their unique personality, vocabulary, writing style which comes through in their writings, they were carried along in their writing.

Now if we were to look at the O.T.’s claims for itself like we have looked at the N.T. claims for the O.T. this evening, we would see in the O.T. that this is exactly what occurred. It wasn’t their own will. What we would see there in the O.T. could not be described better than the picture of them being carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Now all too often, unhappily, people try to prove this point only by quoting this as a proof text. And it kind of sticks out all by itself. But we have not approached it this way. I am using it here as a sort of summary statement of all that we have studied.

What does the O.T. say about itself? What does the N.T. say about the O.T.? There is nothing in II Timothy 1:21 that the O.T. doesn’t claim for itself or the N.T. for the O.T. It exactly expressed what is claimed. It says it beautifully. They were not the movers but the moved. It isn’t man groping upward. It is something very different. It is a verbalized communication. It is as specially chosen holy men of God spoke. You have verbalized, propositional communication. They “spoke” as his mouthpieces as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

It is nice that the proof text is there. But you don’t need it. And if you use the proof text without feeling the force of how beautifully it sends up all these things we have already seen, then people sort of shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, there are only these two verses.” That just isn’t true. There aren’t just these two verses. It’s the whole structure of what the O.T. claims for itself and what the N.T. claims for the O.T.

I would conclude by repeating two of the statements of Christ. We have looked at them previously but I want to leave them with you as the conclusion.

Luke 16:29-31: “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent’. He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’.”

This is exactly the whole structure of the O.T.’s claims for itself and the N.T.’s claims for the O.T.

John 5:46-47: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

This is then what the O.T. claims for itself and what the N.T. claims for the O.T. How strange then to accept parts of the Bible as significant or normative in our lives, if it is a book which claims such things for itself and they are not true.