According To The Confessions
The French or Gallican Confession of Faith has the following on this subject. In Chapter IV we read: “We know these books to be canonical, and the sure rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the Church, as by the testimony and inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to distinguish them from other ecclesiastical books upon which, however useful, we can not found any articles of faith.” And in Chapter V we read: “We believe that the Word contained in these books has proceeded from God, and receives its authority from him alone, and not from men. And inasmuch as it is the rule of all truth, containing all that is necessary for the service of God and for our salvation, it is not lawful for men, nor even for angels to add to it, to take away from it, or to change it. Whence it follows that no authority, whether of antiquity, or custom, or numbers, or human wisdom, or judgments, or proclamations, or edicts, or decrees, or councils, or visions, or miracles, should be opposed to these Holy Scriptures, but, on the contrary, all things should be examined, regulated, and reformed according to them. And therefore we confess the three creeds, to wit: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian, because they are in accordance with the Word of God.”
Our Belgic Confession, or the Thirty-Seven Articles, also has something on this subject. In fact, our Belgic Confession devotes as many as six articles to the Scriptures. This, we understand, is because of the time when it was composed. The question of the Scriptures, whether the Bible is the only rule for doctrine and life, was a burning issue in that day. The Roman Catholic Church views Tradition as of equal authority with the written Word of God. In fact, that Church has proclaimed the infallibility of the pope, and this means that the pope is, in the final analysis, the only one who determines the only rule for faith and life. Who will or can quote from Tradition, if not the pope? If, indeed, he can! And the pope, because he is inspired, is the only one who can interpret the Scriptures. Years ago, a person would be burned at the stake because he had a Bible in his home. But, essentially, times have not changed. Today, although laymen may read the Bible, none has the right to interpret it. It is, therefore, understandable that our Fathers should devote as many as six articles to the doctrine involving the written Word of God. In Art. III we read: “We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but that holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, as the Apostle Peter saith. And that afterwards God, from a special care which he has for us and our salvation, commanded his servants, the Prophets and Apostles, to commit his revealed Word to writing; and he himself wrote with his own finger the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.” In Art. V we read: “We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; believing, without any doubt, all things contained in them, not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Ghost witnesseth in our hearts that they are from God, whereof they carry the evidence in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things fore told in them are, fulfilling.” It is plain from this fifth article, as well as from the seventh article which we will quote presently, that the Belgic Confession was formulated after the French or Gallican Confession. Article VII reads as follows: “We believe that these Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein. For since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an Apostle, to teach otherwise than we are not taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the Apostle Paul saith. For since it is forbidden to add unto or take away any thing from the Word of God, it doth thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects. Neither may we compare any writings of men, though ever so holy, with those divine Scriptures; nor ought we to compare custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times or persons, or councils, decrees, or statutes, with the truth of God, for the truth is above all: for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore we reject with all our hearts whatsoever doth not agree with this infallible rule, which the Apostles have taught us, saying, “Try the spirits whether they are of God; likewise, If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house.” That our Fathers in this article have the Romish Church in mind is plain from this article; and it is also very plain that they set forth the doctrine that the written Word of God is complete and wholly sufficient unto our salvation.
And from the Westminster Confession of Faith we quote the following. Art. III reads: “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of the Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.” And in Art. IV we read: “The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.”
From all these articles of the Confessions, it is evident that the Reformed Fathers have maintained the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. In clear and undeniable language they have set forth that the Word of God is the sole and only rule for all life and doctrine, and that they are quite sufficient unto our salvation. Other books may be useful, much may be learned from Tradition and the decrees of councils, etc., but nothing can possibly compare with the Word of God. All other writings must continually be examined in the light of the Bible; the Bible, however, is authoritative in itself. This is the language of the Fathers.
Meaning Of Divine Inspiration
First, we can distinguish between inspiration and revelation. All inspiration is necessarily revelation, but all revelation is not inspiration. God always reveals when He inspires, but He does not always inspire when He reveals. Inspiration is an operation of the Holy Spirit within men, whereas revelation is an operation of God upon man. Inspiration means that God, by His Holy Spirit, infallibly leads men to write His Word. That we can distinguish between inspiration and revelation is evident from the fact that there was revelation long before inspiration. Inspiration began with Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible. This means that there was no inspired Word of the Lord until some twenty-five hundred years after the fall of man. It is rather difficult for us to understand that there was no Bible at all during the world’s first twenty-five hundred years of its existence. But there was revelation from the beginning of time. God’s people were never without Divine revelation. The Lord revealed Himself to man in various ways: dreams, visions, the angel of Jehovah, etc. It is evident from the Scriptures that this “Angel of Jehovah” was God Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity. This appears from the fact that often this “Angel of Jehovah” is worshipped and that He receives this worship and adoration.
Secondly, Divine inspiration is plenary. Plenary means “full, complete.” Concerning this plenary inspiration, Hodge writes as follows (Vol. I, 165-166): “The view presented above is known as the doctrine of plenary inspiration. Plenary is opposed to partial. The Church doctrine denies that inspiration is confined to parts of the Bible; and affirms that it applies to all the books of the sacred canon. It denies that the sacred writers were merely partially inspired, it asserts that they were fully inspired as to all that they teach, whether of doctrine or fact. This of course does not imply that the sacred writers were infallible except for the special purpose for which they were employed. They were not imbued with plenary knowledge. As to all matters of science, philosophy, and history, they stood on the same level with their contemporaries. They were infallible only as teachers, and when acting as the spokesmen of God. Their inspiration no more made them astronomers than it made them agriculturists. Isaiah was infallible in his predictions, although he shared with his countrymen the views then prevalent as to the mechanism of the universe. Paul could not err in anything he taught, although he could not recollect how many persons he had baptized in Corinth. The sacred writers also, doubtless, differed as to insight into the truths which they taught. The Apostle Peter intimates that the prophets searched diligently into the meaning of their own predictions. When David said God had put ‘all things’ under the feet of man, he probably little thought that ‘all things’ meant the whole universe (Heb. 2:8). And Moses, when he recorded the promise that childless Abraham was to be the father ‘of many nations,’ little thought that it meant the whole world (Rom. 4:13). Nor does the Scriptural doctrine on this subject imply that the sacred writers were free from errors in conduct. Their infallibility did not arise from their holiness, nor did inspiration render them. holy. Balaam was inspired, and Saul was among the prophets. David committed many crimes, although inspired to write psalms. Peter erred in conduct at Antioch; but this does not prove that he erred in teaching. The influence which preserved him from mistakes in teaching was not designed to preserve him from mistakes in conduct.”
Divine inspiration is plenary. A beautiful example of plenary inspiration is Gal. 3:16, and we quote: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Here, if you please, the apostle bases his argument upon a single letter, the singular “seed” rather than the plural “seeds.” Plenary inspiration is opposed to partial inspiration. Some believe that only parts of the Bible are inspired, that the Word of God is in the Bible as a baby lies in a cradle. But, if this were true, how would we determine what belongs and does not belong to the Word of God? How could we know the word of God in distinction from that which is of man. Indeed, inspiration is plenary. The sacred writers were fully inspired in all that they spoke and wrote, officially, and as apostles. They were not always inspired. They were inspired only when they acted as in office, and then, as in office, they were always inspired. They were inspired, not only when they wrote the several epistles, but also when they preached to the Church of God. And that they were inspired surely means that they spoke, wrote and taught without error, not only as far as the content of their instruction was concerned, but also in the grammatical sense of the word.