In our preceding article we were discussing the truth of plenary inspiration. Plenary means “full, complete.” Plenary inspiration is opposed to partial inspiration. Plenary inspiration does not mean that these holy writers were imbued with plenary knowledge of all things, so that they were thoroughly acquainted with science, philosophy, history, astronomy, etc; it does mean, however, that, as they spoke or wrote concerning God as the God of our salvation in Jesus Christ, they were fully and completely inspired. And it also means that they were fully inspired in whatever they were moved by the Spirit of God to write. They spoke and wrote without error. The apostle Paul, then, could not err in anything he taught, although he could not recollect how many persons he had baptized in the church at Corinth. Besides, the sacred writers also undoubtedly differed as to insight into the truths they taught. Divine inspiration does not necessarily mean that the writers understood all that they wrote. In this connection, we may call attention to the Scriptural expression with respect to the calling of the Lord. The Word of God informs us that the Lord is coming quickly, and that He standeth before the door. Some have concluded from this expression that the apostles erred in their expectation of this coming of the Lord. The objection is voiced that they thought that the Lord was coming in their day, and that subsequent history has conclusively proved that they erred in their expectation. The Lord must still come upon the clouds of heaven, and from this it is evident that the sacred writers were wrong in their presentation of this coming of the Saviour. However, in the first place, we can hardly believe that the apostles believed that Christ would come in their day. In the light of the many signs that must precede this coming of the Lord, and that the apostles were aware of these signs, it is surely difficult to believe that they should have believed that Christ would come in their day. But, in the second place, what difference would it make what the apostles personally may have thought of the time of this coming? The question is not what the sacred writers may have believed personally, but what did the Holy Spirit mean when He inspired these writers to write that the Lord standeth before the door and that He is coming quickly. And concerning this there cannot possibly be any doubt. Indeed, plenary inspiration surely means that the sacred writers spoke and wrote unerringly. And, of course, we also understand that divine inspiration does not mean that these writers were free from errors or sins in their conduct. They were holy only in principle. David committed grievous sins. He could have been electrocuted had he lived today. And Peter surely erred in his conduct at Antioch (see Galatians 2). Notice what we read in verses 11~15 of that chapter. Paul withstood the apostle Peter to the face, because he was to be blamed. Whereas he in times past had eaten with the Gentiles, now he separated himself from the Gentiles because he feared them who were of the circumcision. This means that Peter was guilty of hypocrisy. Indeed, that the writers of Holy Writ wrote unerringly does not mean that they were blameless in all their life and conduct. It only means that they were inspired in all their speaking and writing, and only then when they wrote and spoke officially, as in office.
This thought of plenary inspiration leads us to another very interesting observation. Plenary inspiration means that the holy writers were inspired in all what they wrote. Some think that inspiration is only generally and partially true. The inspired Word of God is in the Bible as a babe is in its crib. God, for example, simply told the apostle Paul to write on the subject of “The Righteousness of God” in his epistle to the Romans, but He left it to the apostle to write on it and develop it as he might please and see fit. The Lord, then, gave the apostle some general ideas, perhaps a broad outline, but He did not inspire him, word for word and letter for letter. Assuming this to be true, what, think ye, would have happened to the truth hid it been left to man to develop it? Would, in that case, Ps. 137:8-9 have been written: “O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” We understand that some object to reading this passage of the Word of God in their homes in the presence of their little children. They are of the opinion that this should not be read in their presence. What would have happened to a passage of this nature had it been left to man to write what he would please to write. Then, there is a passage such as Romans 9. I quote from that chapter the following: “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated . . . . . For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.. . .Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make, His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that ,He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” To be sure, they attempt to explain Romans 9:22, “What if God; willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” as if this longsuffering of God must be understood as having for its object the vessels of wrath.’ But the meaning of the apostle is surely that the Lord endured the vessels of wrath with much longsuffering toward His people. Is it not true that the attempt is made today to explain Romans 9:13 as if that passage must be understood as meaning: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I loved less”? Where do the Scriptures speak of a love or hatred of the Lord in .a greater and lesser degree? Would such passages, as quoted above, ever have been written had the writing of the Bible been left to man in any sense of the word? Indeed, the Lord could not afford to take any “chances.” Man would surely distort and corrupt the truth. So, inspiration is and must surely be plenary. And this is also clearly stated in II Tim. 3:16 and II Peter 1:19-21, passages which we have already quoted.
Finally, inspiration is organic. We believe in organic inspiration: What is organic inspiration? Generally speaking, organic inspiration is understood to mean that the Lord did not use the holy writers of His Word as machines, as we use our typewriters or pens, or as mere amanuenses, as an office employer employs his stenographers, but as living and thinking men and without suppressing or annulling their own personal individualities and characteristics. Now it is, of course, true that the Lord, when using these men to write His Word, did not destroy their personal individualities. The writers differ from each, also as far as each one’s personal characteristics and style are concerned. Isaiah writes as Isaiah, John writes as John; and Jeremiah was, also as far as his personal characteristics were concerned, the lamenting prophet. However, this conception of organic inspiration can also lead to a very dangerous error. The error, then, is that they speak of a divine and a human factor in the composition of the Scriptures. God and man wrote the Bible. Man co-labored with the Lord to write the Scriptures. And this is dangerous because, although the divine element is above error and criticism, the human element is certainly subject to criticism. What God wrote stands unchallenged, but what man wrote is certainly fallible. And, whereas we do not know just what God wrote and what man wrote, one may criticize the Word of God at will and as he pleases. It would be certainly impossible to distinguish the divine from the human. And we need have no doubts what would happen then to the Word of God. Think of what is happening to the Word of God today, to passages such as Gen. 1-3, and this in spite of the fact that the Church has always clung to the infallible inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.
What, then, is organic inspiration? God and man did not write the Bible. We speak of the Primary Author and secondary authors of the Bible. The Primary Author of the Bible is the Holy Spirit. God wrote the Bible. Only He wrote the Bible through men. And these men wrote exactly what the Lord wanted them to write. In God’s eternal counsel, the Lord conceived of His people as an organism, a whole, a unity, with Christ as their Head and His people as the individual members of His body. This people He forms, by His irresistible grace, to be a people unto Himself, unto the glory and praise of His Name and grace. They constitute a wonder-work of God. They can never be explained except in the light of God’s wonderful grace. This is expressed literally in the Scriptures, as we read it inIsaiah 43:21: “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall shew My praise.” They can never be explained evolutionistically, are never the products of themselves, cannot attribute their existence to themselves in any sense of the word, are always the wonder-work of God, called, into existence by the power of His almighty promise and grace. This is clearly set forth in the birth of Isaac in the Old Dispensation, inasmuch as we read in the Scriptures that both Abraham and Sarah had died, as far as the power is concerned to bring forth children, and this is also clearly set forth in Christ’s conversation with Nicedemus, in which the Lord informs the learned doctor of the Jews that a man must be born again to enter into the Kingdom of God and of Heaven. And as that wonder people of the Lord, they also appear, antithetically, in the midst of the world. They have a fight to fight, the good fight of faith. They must be God’s party in the world, shining as lights in the midst of the darkness, walk in the light even as the Lord is in the light, and that in the midst of and over against a world that always walks in darkness. For that people the Lord has willed and designed a Bible that will be a lamp before their feet and a light upon their path. And that Bible, too, is an organic unity, a whole. Christ, or the God of our salvation in Christ, is its central theme. All the lines in the Word of God converge upon Him. And even as the people of God are called into existence and grow organically, so also the Bible is given by God to His people organically. God’s revelation to His people grows and advances through the ages. Ever more clearly does the Lord reveal Himself to His own as the God of their salvation. And this Bible comes into existence through the various organs whom the Lord has eternally willed to write. They are God’s organs of inspiration: Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, all the major and minor prophets, Matthew and Mark and Luke and John, Paul, Peter and the rest of the holy writers. This is what we mean when we speak of organic inspiration. More can be said of this wonderful work of God. And to this we will call attention, the Lord willing, in our following article.