THE MEANS OF INSPIRATION
by Dr. Phil Stringer
From a sermon preached October 1998 at the 30th. Anniversary Conference of THE Graceway Bible Society

IS SAUL ALSO AMONG THE PROPHETS?

1 Samuel 10: 9-12 "And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?"

Before this incident no one even knew that Saul was a prophet! The phrase, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" became an expression of astonishment in Israel. I don't believe that even Saul knew that he was a prophet. He came to this situation and the Holy Spirit took control of him. The Holy Spirit began to speak through him and he began to prophesy.

I Samuel 19:23-24 "And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the Prophets?"

This incident took place much later in Saul's life. Saul was as backslidden and out of fellowship with God as a man can get. He is jealous of David and seeking to kill him. He has turned his back on God's instructions and gotten himself in deep trouble with God. He has run as far away from God as a man can get, and yet at this moment the Holy Spirit came over him and he began to prophesy. He was overwhelmed, he fell down and he prophesied all day long. He did not prophesy because he was a godly man but because the Holy Spirit took him over. He did not prophesy because he had planned or prepared to, but because the Holy Spirit took control of him. I believe that if you understand what happened to Saul, some important things about the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture can become clear.

INSPIRATION

2 Timothy 3:16-17

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profit-able for doctrine, for reproof, for correction. For instruction in righteous-ness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."

It is important to focus on that phrase "by inspiration of God." The word inspiration did not exist before God invented it for the New Testament. God took two different Greek words, one describing God and one describing the process of breathing, and He put the two words together. Later Greek writers took this word and gave it all different kinds of meanings. Some of these definitions were deeply heretical, but when God wanted to describe the means of inspiration He chose to call it "God-breathed." When men wrote Scripture, God literally took them over and overwhelmed them. He began to control them so that it was no longer their natural breathing that was taking place. The Holy Spirit of God was literally breathing through them. Saul was not trying to prophesy. God simply took him over and for a while the Holy Spirit simply breathed Sauls' breath for him. Human speech is formed by the interaction between man's breath, his lips, tongue, and teeth. Sauls' words, when he was prophesying, were not formed by his breath but by the breath of the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:20~21 "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 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."

Do you remember the definition of inspiration by Dr. Hodge? He said that it was important that men be willing instruments. But 2 Peter 1:20-21 says that inspiration did not come by the will of man. No one prayed and said Lord I'm ready! Let me prophesy today." Nobody said, "Lord I've done my preparation and my homework. I've done my research and my study. I'm ready to write scripture today." No one was qualified by their experience to write Scripture. It didn't happen that way. It didn't come by the will of man. "But holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." The Holy Spirit took over and they became simply the passive organs and instruments that the Holy Spirit used to give Scripture.

Acts 1:16 "Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus."

This passage makes reference back to Psalm 69 and Psalm 109. ft is clear that the words involved came from the mouth of David. But it was the Holy Spirit who spoke those words through David's mouth. The words were God breathed. Even though David's mouth was being used these weren't David's words. 2 Samuel 23:2 "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." Mark 12:36 "For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The Lord said to my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool."

THE STORY OF BALAAM

I think the whole process of inspiration becomes clear when you look at the story of Balaam. Balaam was a prophet. Some people have called him a false prophet but I don't think so. The Holy Spirit of God comes over him. He wasn't a false prophet but he was a backslidden prophet! He was out of the will of God. He wasn't putting what God wanted first.

The children of Israel began to travel through Moab. The king of Moab wanted to rally his people against the children of Israel. He summoned Balaam, a prophet of the Creator God, because he wanted Balaam to curse the children of Israel. This would create the image that the Creator God was against the children of Israel. The king of Moab thought this would be good politics. He would get the message across that God was opposed to these people.

Numbers 22:18 "And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more"

Balaam answered the king of Moab that he could not control what he prophesied. It wasn't that Balaam was concerned about doing right. Later he helped the king of Moab to corrupt the children of Israel, (Jude 11). Balaam was as backslidden as you can get, but he knew something about inspiration. He knew he couldn't control his words when the Lord came over him. They were not his words. They were God's.

The King of Moab put Balaam on a mountain so that he could curse Israel. The Holy Spirit of God came on him. He opened his mouth and out of his mouth came a prophecy of blessing. This was exactly the opposite of what Balak, the King of Moab and Balaam wanted. They were God's words and not Balaam's. Balak was frustrated. He moved Balaam to another mountain as if that would make the difference.

Balaam really wanted to earn the gold and silver that Balak had promised. But when the Holy Ghost came over him, he was not in control of what he said. He was passive. God was not just superintending him, He was controlling him. God began to breathe through him. The Holy Spirit began to work his lungs, to breathe through his throat and nose to position his tongue and to make words with his breath. Again he blessed Israel. The words weren't his, they were God's. The Moabites moved him to another mountain and decided to try again. Again the Holy Spirit came over him, breathed through his lungs and formed his words. For a third time there comes out a blessing on the children of Israel.

When God gave Scripture to Balaam, Balaam was passive. I think it would be really hard to dispute that. However, in the course of this story one event makes the truth of mechanical dictation even clearer. At one point God takes over Balaam's donkey and begins to speak through him. Let me ask you, was the donkey active or passive? Was God using the experiences, education, training, and willing heart of the donkey? No!, God just took over the donkey, breathed through his lungs, held his tongue in just the right position and spoke His words through that donkey's lips. God could speak through that animal just as easily as He could through a human being. The issue never was the human mind. The issue was and is God. The issue was not the mind of the donkey. The issue was the mind of God.

Have you ever wondered why all the words of the prophets and apostles weren't written down as Scripture. It is simply because God was not always breathing through them. When the Holy Spirit took control of them they could tell it and so could those around them. Ezekiel 2:2 "And the Spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me." The crowd could tell that Saul was taken over by the Holy Spirit and they cried out, "Is Saul also among the prophets?"

MOSES THE MEEK

God used the man Moses to write the book of Numbers. I want you to look at what he had Moses write in Numbers 12:3. "(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)"

Now think about that for a minute. Who, humanly speaking, is writing that. Moses is! If I wrote you a letter and said, "By the way, I am the most humble acher on the face of the earth. I want you to know I've studied the issue and that is my opinion of myself" Tell me, would you be impressed with my humil-ity? It reminds me of the old joke we used to tell about the famous preacher who was going to write two books, Humility and How I Obtained It and God's Ten Most Humble Servants and How I Trained the Other Nine. You wouldn't pay any attention to someone who said things like that, but God used Moses to write about his own humility.

God wasn't using Moses' willing heart - God was controlling him. I believe that Moses face turned red when he wrote that. I think he was embarrassed at these words. It is the last thing he would have said if he had any choice. The Holy Spirit took over and began to move his hand and write out those words. The Holy Spirit chose to tell the people of the world that Moses was the meekest man on the face of the earth, and as embarrassed as Moses would have been, there was nothing Moses could do about it.

A lot of flindamentalists seem embarrassed about giving God recognition for exercising the kind of power involved in mechanical dictation, but it is clear that Satan and his demons exercise that kind of power. Satan spoke through a serpent. Many false religions and cults are based on materials produced by spirit writing. According to Mohammed, the Koran was dictated to him by "angels." According to Richard Bach, the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull was dictated to him by spirits.

I once had a debate with a man who was teaching what he called the new Bible, a book called Oahsbe. Oahsbe is a strange book of several thousand pages.

According to the human writer of Oahsbe. it was dictated to him by spirits. According to John Newborough, he set down at his typewriter and the spirits used his fingers to type the words. No doubt, someone will soon come up with a book that they claim was dictated to them by spirits through their computer. In the occult world it is commonly believed that spirits dictate messages through human beings.

Back when I was a youth pastor, I visited a home from which two teenagers were visiting our church. One of the men of the church was with me and we visited with the mother of the teenagers. She claimed that a spirit, which she called Felicia, lived in the home with the three of them. The teenagers confirmed that this was true. The mother claimed that the spirit would take her over and write out messages through her. She let me read some of them. They were full of blasphemy, obscenities, and attacks on the Lord Jesus. My visitation partner and I both became convinced that a spirit was really writing through her.

My point is simple, Satan and demon spirits have the power to dictate their messages. The Lord has more power than they do.

THE PROPHETS DIDN'T ALWAYS UNDERSTAND

I Corinthians 2:9-13 "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God: that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which Things also we speak not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth: comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

This passage is very clear. The words of Scripture were not produced by man's wisdom. The words of Scripture are the very words of the Holy Ghost.

I Peter 1:10-12 "Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven: which things the angels desire to look unto."

Have you ever read the Old Testament and had trouble figuring out how to put all the pieces together. Go through the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and see how ofien the subject changes. Read the minor prophets and see how many different things are discussed. When I pastored, I taught through all 66 chapters of the book of Isaiah. It took about a year and a half Teaching Isaiah was quite an experience. It jumps from passages about the coming of the Messiah, to passages about the death of Christ, to passages about the Second Coming, to passages about the Millennium. Yet many passages are about the events of Isaiah's own time. It wasn't always easy to understand which passages were about which subjects. That is the challenge of rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

It bothered me for a while that it was so easy for me to get conflised. Then I realized that even the prophets got confused about their message. The message wasn't revealed unto them. It was the message of the Spirit of Christ. The mes-sage wasn't the words of the prophets - it was the words of the Holy Spirit.

Daniel was concerned that he could not understand what the Lord was writing through him. Daniel 12:8-9 "And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, 0 my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end."

God told Daniel not to be concerned that he couldn't understand. After all, Daniel was just the pen.

ETERNAL WORD OF GOD

There are great promises in the Scripture concerning the eternal nature of the Word of God. Psalm 119:52 "I remember thy judgments of old, 0 Lord: and have comforted myself." Psalm 119:89 "For ever, 0 Lord, thy word is settled in heaven." In David's time the word of God was already settled forever in heaven. But all the Scriptures hadn't been given to man yet. John and Daniel and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Matthew hadn't been born yet. But the Scripture was settled already.

Long before God ever gave man the instructions for a tabernacle on Earth there was a tabernacle in Heaven. The earthly objects were simply a copy of that which existed already in Heaven.

I want to suggest to you that before John was ever born, the book of John was written in Heaven. Before David was ever born, the Psalms were written in Heaven. When Jeremiah and Paul and Matthew were born, God brought certain experiences into their life so that God could use them to reveal His Word to us. The issue was never those men, their intelligence, their willing heart or their understanding. The wording of the Scriptures was simply settled in Heaven.

God used Solomon in the book of Proverbs to write warnings about wicked women. Yet, in his own personal life Solomon collected wicked women in his harem. His personal example was not the issue in the book of Proverbs. The words of Proverbs are simply the words that the Holy Ghost wrote through Solomon.

SUPERINTENDENCE AND PRESERVATION

This is more than just a doctrinal exercise. Even when men hold to a good doctrinal position on the Scriptures, they sometimes make it sound like man had an important part in producing the Bible. The great challenge of our day is getting men to bow their hearts to the authority of Scripture. The great challenge is to get men and women to live as if they believed the Bible was really the Word of God. Maybe this problem is made worse when we repeatedly describe the Scriptures as the work of men, when we make issues of their intellect or of their will.

It is important that we learn not to treat the Bible as any other book. The Scripture is binding on us. It is totally and absolutely to be obeyed. It should be interpreted literally.

People talk about the Bible as if it were any other book. They debate the preservation of the Bible as if they were debating the preservation of any other book. They debate the translation of the Bible as if they were debating the trans-lation of any other book. But the Scriptures are not just any book. The Scriptures have the power of God and the promises of God upon them. They are the very Word of God.

The Bible is the only authority for faith, doctrine, and practice. Please understand that one of the Baptist distinctives is that the Bible is more than the final authority; it is the sole authority. It was given supernaturally. It is preserved supernaturally.

Because I believe that the King James Bible is the preserved Word of God in the English language, I am sometimes asked if I believe in double inspiration. I don't believe in double inspiration but I do believe in divine preservation: Psalm 12:6-7 "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, 0 Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." Isaiah 59:21 "As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever." Matthew 24:35 "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Isaiah 40:6-8 "The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever."

I believe that the Scriptures were given in supernatural fashion. The writers were passive. The words of God were dictated through them. But something supernatural also has to take place for God's promise concerning preservation to be kept.

It is in the matter of translation and copying the Scripture that I believe God's superintendence takes place. The translators are active and God does superintend the work of certain translators. God uses their intellect, training, and preparation. Ml translations of the Scripture are not superintended but God must work in this way at times if His promises about preservation are to be kept.

I believe that God has superintended among some copyists and some translators so that the Word of God is preserved.

The Lord Jesus frequently quoted the Old Testament Scriptures from the Aramaic. He did not have the originals in front of Him, yet He referred to faithfiil copies as the Scripture. He had a faithful translation in front of Him and He referred to it as the Scripture. Luke 4:16-21 "And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round abouL And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of alL And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recover-ing to sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."

It was the goal of the King James translators to produce "one more exact translation" in the English language. I believe that God took their incredible academic accomplishments, their willing and devoted hearts, their prayers and superintended their work. Since there are so many translations the question naturally arises, "How can I recognize a translation that has God's hand on it?" When God's Word is faithfiilly translated into a language, the power of God is seen through that translation in the lives of people and great works are done for God. Great works of God have been sparked by the Old Italic Bible, the Walden-sian Bibles and the King James Bible for example.

When we become clear about how God's Word is originally given, perhaps it will become easier to become clear about how it is preserved. The Scripture was supernaturally given as God breathed out His words through men. The Scripture is supernaturally preserved as God superintends the activities of faithfiil copyists and translators. I Thessalonians 2:13 "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."

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