“That Book in Your Hand”
As we continue the study on Bibliology (the study of what the Scriptures are, and how they came to us), I want to look at how God worked in the lives of the human writers to equip them to write His Word.
The first sermon in this series was on the inspiration of the Scriptures, their divine nature, from II Timothy 3:16 (summarised discussion with links here). The second sermon, about which I’ve been writing for the last week, is on how that divine nature came into being, their divine origin. II Peter 1:19-21:
19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Moved by the Spirit
The Holy Spirit “moved” the human authors so that they would write that which He intended — thus, the Scriptures are indeed the Word of God (part one). This original act of God in giving us the Bible is sometimes called “immediate inspiration” or “inscripturation” (definitions). In part two, we saw that God’s work in giving the Scriptures extended to placing divine authority in the very choice of words used. In part three, we looked at how God worked in the development of the languages so that they would be fitting tools in the hand of the Lord for revealing His truth.
The Spirit Moved in the Human Authors Used
1. Amos. Amos 7:12-15:
12 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:
13 But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.
14 Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
15 And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
Amos prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, when the kingdom was divided after the reign of Solomon. Jeroboam I had brought idolatry into the Northern Kingdom, making golden calves and telling the people to worship them. One golden calf was in Bethel. The idolatry perhaps was at its worst in the Baal-worship during the time of Ahab. Jehu drove out Baal-worship, but never stopped the worship of the golden calves. Amos prophesied in the reign of Jeroboam II, the great-grandson of Jehu.
In Amos 7, Amaziah (priest of Bethel) tells Amos to stop prophesying. “Bethel” meant “House of God,” but for Amaziah it belonged not to God but to Jeroboam — the king’s chapel, the king’s court. In trying to silence Amos, he first said he would be paid better as a prophet in Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Second, he claimed that King Jeroboam was the authority in Bethel, so Amos had no right to prophesy there.
The brief autobiography of Amos in this passage shows how perfectly he was fitted for his message. Jeroboam was failing to be a shepherd to the people, and God sent him a shepherd as a prophet. Amos was not a prophet by trade, so Amaziah’s evil view of prophecy as something to be driven by money was rebuked. Amos’ direct calling from God also negated Amaziah’s claim of authority — God is the only authority in matters of prophecy.
God sovereignly worked in the life of Amos so his trade and life experiences made him perfectly equipped for the message God gave him.
2. Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1:4-5:
4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
The Lord chose Jeremiah as His prophet before he was even conceived in his mother’s womb. The hatred of the people of his hometown (Jeremiah 11:21) was not an accident or something that just happened, it was part of God’s plan to reveal His message. That passage still provides comfort to believers today who face persecution in their hometown. God planned the circumstances of Jeremiah’s extended family (Jeremiah 32) as a means to declare His own faithfulness, despite the sins of His people, to keep His promises and bring them back to the land.
God sovereignly worked in the life of Jeremiah, his family, and his neighbours, from before the time he was born, to make Jeremiah perfectly equipped to deliver the truths of God’s Word.
3. Paul. Philippians 3:4-9:
4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
In these verses, we see that Paul’s life experiences perfectly equipped him to deliver the message: human endeavour for righteousness is worthless. He could say, “Been there, done that.” He knew his own righteousness did not satisfy God’s requirements. The only righteousness that would do any good was the righteousness of God which comes by faith in Jesus Christ.
God could have saved Paul sooner. He could have intervened in Paul’s life earlier, so that he would not have persecuted the church. In Galatians 1:13-16, we see that the timing of Paul’s conversion was when it pleased God, and after he had persecuted the church — part of the testimony God wanted him to have in Philippians 3. God was sovereignly working in Paul’s life, even before his conversion, to give him life experiences to prepare him as a human author of the Scriptures.
God sovereignly worked in the life of Paul from before the time he was saved to perfectly equip him as God’s messenger of Scripture truth.
4. Writing Styles. When I was 12, I had a Bible teacher who challenged the class that he could tell us from which book in the Bible a verse came just by the style. He asked us to choose and read a verse, and he would tell us who wrote it. Now, I would know how to stump him :), but back then he went through about ten of our verses without fail.
Isaiah’s writing style differs from Jeremiah’s, and both differed from Moses. Luke’s style is different from Paul’s, which differs from Peter’s or John’s. Isaiah’s majestic style fits well with his message, which so often deals with the majesty of a sovereign God. Paul’s logical and analytical style is fitting for the one used by God to lay out the doctrinal foundations of the New Testament. Peter’s urgency in personality and style was well designed for writing a letter to a persecuted church.
God sovereignly worked in the lives of human writers so that their personalities and writing styles were the perfect utensils in the hand of the Holy Spirit as He crafted the Scriptures.
We should not see the moving of God the Holy Spirit in giving us the Word of God as limited to the actual time and act in which He moved on the human authors to write the words. Rather, He was working in their lives and in the lives of those around them, even before their birth, to equip them as fitting tools in His hand for giving us His Holy Word.
God the Holy Spirit “moved” sovereignly in the lives, personalities, and writing styles of the human writers of the Scriptures, so they would be just what He wanted to use to communicate His Word.
Update: Main article.