Inspiration and Revelation
November 11th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
INSPIRATION AND REVELATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 7:12
11-11-87 7:30 p.m.
To me this is a most interesting, and elucidating, and enlightening study, and I pray it will be thus to you both the throngs in the sanctuary here in our First Baptist Church of Dallas and to you who listen on radio. The subject is Inspiration and Revelation, and it has to do with the Word of God – the Bible that communicates and reveals to us the presence and the mind of our Lord.
Looking in the seventh chapter of the first Corinthian letter, Paul is writing there concerning marriage and the unmarried, and in verse 6 he says, "But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment" [1 Corinthians 7:6]. In verse 12 he writes, "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord, if any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away" [1 Corinthians 7:12] and then so on. "But the rest speak I, not the Lord." Now in verse 25: "Concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful" [1 Corinthians 7:25]; and the last verse in that chapter, verse 40: "But she is happier if she so abide; after my judgment; and I think also that I have the Spirit of God" [1 Corinthians 7:40].
These are just passages out of that one chapter, and it makes – Paul makes – a terrific distinction between the Word of the Lord – what the Lord says – and what he personally in his judgment avows. So that leads us to the how of the writing of Scripture.
Paul never knew that his writings would become the inerrant Word of God. The letters he writes are like letters that you would write. They were personally addressed to these to whom the epistles were sent. For example, in the sixteenth chapter, the last chapter of the Book of Romans, he sends greetings there to his friends as would any writer in a personal letter.
In 2 Timothy 4 and 13, he writes of personal things. I quote: "The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, Timothy, to visit me, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments" [2 Timothy 4:13] – the scrolls of the Bible.
Was it as the Word of God that he made these requests? Not at all. What he wrote is without error, but it is not a revelation from God. There’s no revelation from God in the request that he bring the cloak that he left at Carpus. There’s no particular revelation from God that he sends greetings to his friends in Rome.
He writes in the light of the soon-coming of Christ. I don’t think there is any doubt at all but that Paul believed in the course of his ministry that Jesus was coming again. He had no idea that the world would last thus so long. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:29 and 30 in this chapter, he writes:
But this I say, brethren, the time is short, it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none,
And they that weep as though they wept not, and they that rejoice as though they rejoice not, and they that buy as though they possess not.
Paul believed, I think, without any doubt, that Jesus was coming in his lifetime.
Now, looking at the Holy Scriptures – at this sacred Bible. The Holy Scriptures are of God and of man – both. They are like Christ himself. Christ is not partly God and partly man. Christ is not only God and only man. Christ was wholly God and wholly man. So with the Bible: it is not written only by God; it is not written only by man; but it is wholly written by God and wholly written by man.
First God – 2 Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" – theopneustos. It is "God-breathed." There is no doubt that the Holy Scriptures are inspired. They are a revelation of the mind of God.
You see that in fulfilled prophecies. In the Bible are things that are declared hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years before they came to pass. I have often said facetiously, "I can tell you how you can be a billionaire if you know what’s going to happen five seconds ahead of you. Buy a stock on the New York Exchange before it goes up and then sell it before it goes down, and you’ll be a billionaire in no length of time at all if you knew what was going to happen five seconds ahead of time." But the Bible will reveal things that are going to come to pass hundreds and hundreds of years in the future.
It has a sublime harmony. It was written over a period of something like 1,500 years by about 42 different authors, and, yet, all of it is one harmonious whole. It has power to regenerate and to transform. It is an authority that speaks innately – in itself. It never defends itself as the Word of God. It just is.
I’ve often wondered why in the Bible there is no presentation of the reality of God. There’s only one sentence in the Bible concerning the revelation, the presence, the reality of God, and that is this: in the fourteenth Psalm in the first verse, it says, "The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’" And that’s all. There’s nothing in the whole Word of God defending the reality of the presence of the great Jehovah Lord.
This is the Bible written by God, but it is also written by man – every syllable of it. Matthew writes as Matthew himself writes. He’s a politician, and he’s writing for the Jew. Mark is a man of action, and he’s writing for the Roman. Luke is a beloved physician writing for humanity, and John is a mystic writing for the contemplative and the meditative. They’re men, and they write according to how they respond to the wonderful message of God written wholly by God, written wholly by man, as our Lord Himself is wholly God and wholly man – a miracle from heaven.
Now, this leads to a word concerning the difference between revelation and inspiration. Revelation is something that God discloses. Paul, for example, received his special gospel message from Christ himself by revelation [Acts 9:1-22, 26:1-20; Galatians 1:11-24.] I do not exaggerate it when I say the gospel that Paul writes is a fifth gospel. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul. He received it as a direct revelation from Christ Himself. Galatians 1, verses 11 and 12:
But I certify you, brethren – I avow to you, my brethren – that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it . . . but by revelation of Jesus Christ.
And he goes on to avow in that same first chapter to the churches at Galatia, verse 15:
When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called my by His grace,
To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the nations,
immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood,
Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
But other apostles saw I none save James the Lord’s brother. Now the things which I write unto you, before God, I lie not.
He says, "I did not receive this message from man. The apostles did not make it known to me. It was made known to me by revelation from Christ Himself," in those three years that he spent alone with the Lord in Arabia. That’s why, so many times when we have the Lord’s Supper here, in beginning that passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23, Paul says, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord – the Lord – when He was betrayed He took bread" [1 Corinthians 11:23]. All of that, Paul says, "I received of the Lord." It was given to him by direct revelation from the Lord Christ Himself.
Now you see that throughout Paul’s writings. For example, in Ephesians 3, verses 2 and 3, Paul – and I quote: ". . . the dispensation of the grace of God given me, how that by revelation God made known to me the mystery . . . which is now revealed by the Spirit" [Ephesians 2:3-5]; and, of course, what he’s speaking there is of the wonderful rapture of the church and the Lord’s coming again. By revelation, it was made known to him; and in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, speaking of the revelation of the rapture, "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord." The Lord said it. "The Lord revealed it to me, and I am making it known unto you." Now that is revelation.
And, of course, we read as a background the marvelous revelation of the Lord resurrected, glorified to the sainted apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, and then the commandment to write the things that followed after [Revelation 1:9-11] – the Revelation of God. Now, that is revelation.
I now speak of inspiration – inspiration. This is not a part of the revelation of Christ. So in these passages I read out of 1 Corinthians 7 such as the twenty-fifth verse, "I have no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my judgment" – all Paul wrote, he wrote by inspiration: all of it without error, infallible. He avows that in 2 Timothy 3:16. 2 Peter 1:21 avows: "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." They speak not by revelation but by inspiration. The Holy Spirit of God is keeping them from error in their writings and in their judgment.
Now, Simon Peter writing in the second epistle, chapter 3, verses 15 and 16, writes about Paul’s letters:
Account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation–even as our beloved brother Paul also proclaimed, according to the wisdom given unto him,
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood . . .
[2 Peter 3:15-16]
And, brother, that’s an understatement. Some of the things that Paul writes about are – oh, you have to study them forever.
. . . which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they also do the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
But you, beloved, you be faithful and steadfast.
[2 Peter 3:16-17]
That’s a remarkable tribute to what Paul has written in his epistles. Simon Peter calls them Scripture. They are by inspiration. They are without error. They are the avowals of the Spirit of God in his own mind and heart as he strove to reveal the Spirit of Christ, but he makes a difference between what is revealed to him from the Lord and what is his own judgment under God [1 Corinthians 7:6, 10, 12, 25, 40].
Now, I hold in my hand here an English Bible. This is the King James Version of the Bible. It’s the Bible that I preach out of – have all my life, will as long as I live – but the Scriptures were not written in English. In the Old Testament, they were written in Hebrew, and about half of Daniel is written in Aramaic, and, of course, the New Testament is written in Greek.
Now, the original manuscripts of the Bible have been lost almost from the beginning. They are not preserved. Why didn’t God preserve those original manuscripts? Why do we not have somewhere the Gospel of Matthew written by Matthew in his own hand, or why do we not have 1 Corinthians written by the hand of Paul? Why do we not? I have a human judgment concerning that. Let me read to you out of 2 Kings 18, verse 4:
King Hezekiah removed the high places and brake the images, and cut down the Asherah and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days did the children of Israel worship it and burn incense to it.
If we had the Gospel of Matthew written by Matthew or the Book of Romans written by [Paul], I would think the same thing that happened to this brazen serpent, raised on a pole by Moses in the midst of the camp [Numbers 21:1-9] and was worshiped by Israel for seven hundred years, I would say the same thing would come to pass if we had those autographs.
Let me give you another instance of that in the Bible. In [1 Kings] 18, verse [36-37] when Elijah is on top of Mount Carmel praying to God for an affirmation of his ministry: "Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the dust, licked up the water that was in the trench" [1 Kings 18:38]. God burned it all. Could you imagine had that altar of Elijah remained? What they had done in worshiping the brazen serpent of Moses, they would have done worshiping the altar of Elijah. So the worship of the scrolls instead of the message that those scrolls would bring to our hearts, and God destroyed them. God did not preserve them. They are in our hands in the words of translation and in the keeping of the scribes.
Now, in a translation – and this is the English translation of those sacred scrolls written by the prophets and the apostles – always in a translation, there is an approximately equal meaning word for word. It is approximate because many words in a language find no equivalent meaning in the words of another language. There’s no such thing as this language and this language being equivalent word for word. There’s just no such thing. The versions are an attempt to translate this language into this language.
Now, the King James Version of 1611 which I hold in my hand: it is an attempt to translate the Hebrew word in the Old Testament and the Greek word in the New Testament. In 1611, forty-seven scholars were appointed by King James, the King of England, and they met in six groups in three universities: in Oxford, in Cambridge, and in Westminster; and each group was entrusted with a part of those ancient manuscripts. Then they compared and compiled the whole. They created an incomparable work. There’s nothing like it in the earth.
For some reasons – one: they lived in the day of Shakespearean language. It is the most beautiful, it is the most expressive, it’s the most meaningful that mankind has ever devised. Shakespearean English is incomparable. Now, good Dr. Merrill, here is another human judgment. I think the King James Version of the Bible is more beautiful than practically all of the Hebrew and the Greek. There are some exceptions to that, but I’m just avowing to you that there’s nothing in human speech as beautiful as Shakespearean English, and this was translated when Shakespearean English was at its very zenith.
All right, a second thing about this translation: it was translated when the Reformation was bringing to the human heart sola Scriptura, not the edicts of Rome, but the Word of God – the authority of the Word of God. And those men and those Christian leaders back there in 1611 were given beyond any way that we could know because they were in the heart of the great Reformation. They were exalting and magnifying the authority of the Word of God.
All right, another observation: the character and the nobility of the translation is beyond anything that the world has ever known. The men who translated it, in their address to the king after the work was done, expresses their sublime dedication. Most of you have never taken time to read this address to King James on the part of those translators. Get you a Bible, the King James Version of the Bible, and read it. It is amazing the devotion and the consecration of those men as they gave themselves to this King James translation of the Word of the Lord.
Let me give you an example that I ran into about a day ago. There was a Hollander who wanted to learn English. He was an infidel. He was an unbeliever. So in order to learn English, he got a parallel Bible. Here was English – the King James Version – and here was that same version expressed in Dutch, and he was marvelously converted. He became a glorious Christian learning English by the Dutch translation of the King James Version of the Bible.
Do you know what I think about the King James Version of the Bible? An enemy accosted one of Julius Caesar’s guards and laughed at his short sword whereupon the guard thrust him through with it. That’d be a pretty good avowal of the strength and power of that sword that the enemy laughed at. The Word of God is like that [Ephesians 6:17]. It has a thrust in it [Isaiah 11:4, :2, 55:11; Jeremiah 23:29; Acts 2:37, 5:33; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23]. It has an authority in it [Revelation 1:16, 2:16, 19:15, 21]. There’s nothing like it in human speech.
Now, I want to make another avowal, and that is this: God did something when the Lord allowed the autographs of the Bible to be destroyed and we do not have them. God did something that is wonderful. The original manuscripts are lost, that’s true; but we can be assured that we possess what those men wrote, what those original manuscripts avow.
We know that through the multiplicity of the copies. If a scribe makes an error you know, copying the Bible, copying the Bible, copying the Bible – hundreds and hundreds of years before typing, typesetting, you know, printing, the scribe wrote them – if a scribe made an error, it is easily seen by comparing the copies. Here’s a copy; here’s a copy; here’s a copy; here’s a copy – and you can easily see where a scribe made an error by comparing those multitudinous copies.
God did something remarkable here – unbelievable here. Now, you listen to this. There is one manuscript of the annals of Tacitus. There is one manuscript of the Greek anthology. There are very few, and those of a very late date, of Sophocles, Thucydides, Euripides, Virgil, and Cicero; but there are thousands of early manuscripts of Holy Scripture.
There are 4,105 ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. There are between 15,000 and 30,000 ancient Latin versions of the Bible, and there are more than 1,000 other ancient versions of the Holy Word. With complete assurance, you can open your Bible and read the infallible Word of God. All you need to do is to compare those thousands and thousands and thousands of ancient manuscripts to know exactly what that original manuscript was. And God did that so that we could read our Holy Bible with wonderful and marvelous assurance.
Well, did you like that? Sweet people, I’d rather study things like this than to eat. I just love to learn and to study things about God and God’s Word and God’s will for us. It is fascinating to me. These are things that I don’t preach on Sunday. I prepare a textual or an expository sermon on Sunday. But in my studying, I come across a thousand, thousand interesting things; and I wouldn’t take time to preach them on Sunday, but they are fascinating to me – like this study – and so meaningful to my heart, and I just love to prepare and to bring them on Wednesday night. And when you get bored with them, why you just come up to me and say, "Pastor, now, enough is enough. Let’s do something else." The Lord be good to us all as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our wonderful Savior.
Now, Doug, we’re going to sing us a song; and in this song, somebody to give himself to Jesus, or a family to come into the fellowship of our precious church, or to answer some call of God in your heart – while we sing this appeal, you come and stand by me. Do it now. Come now. Welcome now while we stand and while we sing.