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Jude 3 by Robert Dean
Jude’s exhortation to contend earnestly for the faith is a concept packed with vitality, hyper-vigilance and struggle that has internal, external and eternal effects. The battle for inerrancy of scripture, preservation of the faith without dilution, rejection of apostasy, authority of the Bible and identification of false teachers demands an understanding of essentials and nonessentials of the faith. See how the historical emergence of fundamentalism came about to counter the effects of modernism in Christian theology.
Series:Jude (2012)
Duration:59 mins 1 sec

Fundamentals: Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture – Part 3

 

There is an emphasis in Jude 3 that we are to contend earnestly, vigorously, for the faith, i.e. the body of doctrine that was revealed by God to man that is contained within the Scriptures.

 

In the Enlightenment period in the 17 & 1800s was the rise of what became known as historical criticism or sometimes Biblical criticism. There was a couple of positive elements in this movement but mostly it was bad because by criticism they really meant that they were not going to take the Word of God to be what it claims it is, they were going to assume it was just purely a human work just like any other work. Part of that is true. The Bible should be interpreted as literature because it was written by human beings, ultimately God working through them, using normal literary styles. So it should be translated like any other kind of literature. And that stands in contrast to something that had affected both rabbinic interpretation as well as early Christian interpretation that occurred in the second, third and fourth centuries AD with the influence of Greek philosophy upon the whole idea of interpretation. So a text that was a divine text by definition wouldn't be treated like any other human literature. There is nothing in the Bible that says that.

 

That is an artificially developed principle that was then incorporated which shaped interpretation of Scripture. So they saw that God is going top be different and He was going to speak not like men speak but He is going to speak cryptically. So you look not for the literal meaning of the text but beneath the text. You have to probe deeply into the text and find layers of meaning to get to the real spiritual meaning, which may not have anything to do with this surface literal meaning based on the historical, grammatical interpretation. This came into Christianity through men like Origen, later Augustine, and it was known as allegory.

 

The same intellectual influences occurred in Judaism and affected early rabbinic thought, so that their approach to the Bible was that God gave it as almost all dictation, and that it is cryptic, so that we have to look for some secondary meaning. Since that doesn't really work it does produce a flawed theology. There is an overreaction that comes from the Enlightenment that says now we are going to treat it like it is human literature. But they also brought in artificial ideas that weren't part of that and so they assumed that there would be contradictions: if there are forty scholars in a room they are going to disagree with each other, so why expect that the forty writers of Scripture would agree with each other? So they assumed that there was going to be disagreements and that is what they bring to the text. They are not going to let the text itself speak for itself.

 

One classic example of this occurs in Genesis and it has to do with creation. Creation is one of those foundational doctrines to the faith. It is foundational to understanding what is going on both in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. And the way this worked as a result of the application of these artificial principles of biblical criticism (also known as higher criticism) was that they saw Genesis chapter two as having two different accounts of creation. The first account uses the name Elohim because that is the name that is used throughout Genesis chapter one down through the first part of Genesis 2:4. Then in the second part of 2:4 is the statement they would split the sentence at "heavens and the earth when they were created," and then in the second part, "in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven," at which point they would say, 'Ah see, now we have a new name for God. It is "Lord" so we probably have a different author here. So they developed this theory of multiple authors (redactors) of the Scripture. As a result they had one creation account in Genesis 1:1 to 2:4a and another creation account in 2:4b, rather than looking at this and saying the sixth day in the first chapter is merely presenting a summary of the creation of the human race (1:27), and Genesis 2 gives the specifics.

 

We have to be careful to base what we are saying on the text. We look at examples that are given (e.g. Jude 3) on how the Holy Spirit works in and through the writers without completely taking over their personality or without letting them just run free and incorporate error or mistakes in what they are writing.

 

Another problem people have is that this doesn't necessarily man that they are going to have perfect grammar or a perfect understanding of Greek, because of the writers of the New Testament, like Peter, an untrained fisherman for whom Greek was not a first language.

 

Another phrase that is used to describe inspiration is the terminology of verbal, plenary inspiration. We believe that the Scripture in the original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic was inspired verbally and in a plenary manner. The word "verbal" means that the specific words of Scripture are inspired. It doesn't mean dictated, but it means that there is a sovereign oversight from God the Holy Spirit so that a writer was in a sense controlled so that certain words were chosen because other words or synonyms conveyed meanings that were not quite what the Holy Spirit wanted to communicate. So this extends even down to the level of grammar. This shows us that it is not just the ideas that are in the text that are inspired by God but also the specific words themselves. 

 

The word "plenary" has to do with that which is full. It means the fullness of totality of the Scripture is equally inspired. This is a problem with the red letter editions of that are popular in many Bibles where the words of Jesus are in red. What that is implying is that those words in red are somehow more significant than the words in black. If the entirety of the Bible is the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) then every single word in the Bible is the Word of Christ, not just things that appear to be specific quotations.

 

Other words that are used when talking about the nature of the Bible are the words "infallible" and "inerrant." Infallible has the idea that every word is equally authoritative and equally correct. Early on in the church history, in the 1600 and 1700s, if you said that you believed the Bible was the Word of God that meant you believed in what today is referred to as verbal, plenary, infallible, inerrant Word of God. As man has become more sophisticated in his thinking he finds ways to get around these definitions. So he can say the Bible is the Word of God but what they mean is the Bible contains the Word of God, so not every word is the Word of God. Another way people get around an orthodox view of inerrancy and inspiration is to say that the Bible is inspired in all matters of faith and practice. That is a great statement; it in not what it says that is wrong, it is what it doesn't say. It doesn't say that the Bible is inerrant and infallible when it speaks of historical events, events related to creation, or events related to government; only that in matters of faith and practice is the Bible inerrant. So theologians come up with sophisticated ways of sliding around these doctrines because they are uncomfortable with the complete authority of Scripture.

 

A word that has been added in recent years has been "inerrancy," i.e. without error. This only applies to the original autographs, the original writings. We don't have those, but it is a lot easier to reconstruct an original that is without error than it is to reconstruct an original that was filled with errors, because then you never know what is erroneous and what is not. So inerrancy means that no error existed in the original autographs or the original writings of Scripture, and some today have decided that we need to insert the word "unlimited inerrancy." That seems to be redundant but unfortunately we have those today who have come up with this doctrine of limited inerrancy. That is just another way of saying that you believe the Bible is inerrant in all matters of faith and practice. It is a limited inerrancy; it is not that you believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture.

The mechanics of inspiration: a few high points. We believe that as 2 Timothy 3:16 states all Scripture is breathed out by God. God is the ultimate source of Scripture and He is very much involved in that whole process of communicating the Word, moving from His mind through the mind of the human writer of Scripture down to the page so that He could guarantee the final product was exactly what He wanted and was free from error. One of the key elements from 2 Timothy 3:17, "that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work," is that this relates to what we call the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, i.e. the Bible gives us everything we need to solve all the problems in life and to understand who God is and who man is. It may not tell us everything we want to know, there may be questions that we can't answer, but that will give us something to learn when we are in heaven. Sufficient is a word that means as much as needed, something that is ample, satisfactory; something that gives us everything we need to accomplish a specific task. When this verse states that all Scripture is inspired by God it is not saying, as some translations have put it, "all Scripture inspired by God." That would imply that maybe some Scripture isn't inspired by God.

 

What we see is that the writers of Scripture do give us specific clues and ideas of how inerrancy worked, their understanding of inerrancy and what books were authoritative and what books are not. For example, in 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul introduces two Scripture quotations by saying, "For the Scripture says." By using that phrase he is going to link and Old Testament Torah Scripture with a gospel Scripture, and he is going to connect them together as being equally authoritative. He says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," and that is a quote from Deuteronomy 5:4. Then he ties it to a passage in the Gospels, "The laborer is worthy of his wages," and that is in Luke 10:7.

 

This is an important verse for a couple of reasons. One is that it tells us that the Gospel of Luke was written by the time Paul wrote 1 Timothy. So if He wrote 1 Timothy during his first imprisonment, which is what most scholars believe, sometime around 60-63 AD, then the Gospel of Luke was written by then. This is an important fact because when you read certain higher critical writers, or books that are based on higher criticism, this is the type of conclusions you will see. They will say, well the writers of Scripture wrote somewhere between 60 and 100 years after the events of Jesus' life. That statement is really saying a) the people we think wrote it didn't write it because they would have been dead, especially if it was 100 years after Jesus' crucifixion, and b) they are also challenging the accuracy of what is written by those writers. They base it pretty much on conjecture on their part related to a number of different factors that are pure speculation. They are not based on any hard evidence. The contention of the writers in the early church, going back to the early second century, is that Matthew, Mark and John were the writers of the four Gospels and that they were written before the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70.

 

There is contention. If people choose to date the Gospels to the late 60s or into the 70s or 80s of the first century even that has implications for how they are going to interpret Scripture. For one thing, in Luke 21 and Matthew 24 when Jesus is predicting the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the underlying contention is that Matthew and Luke were really written after the destruction of the temple so that is not predicted prophecy, they are just writing that as history, they are putting those words into Jesus' mouth to make it look like He could predict prophecy; so all these are just subtle attack on the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. But Paul writes to Timothy during his first imprisonment, and if he is connecting Deuteronomy and Luke together as Scripture then even by 62 or 63 AD the Christian community is coming to understand that at least they had one Gospel (Luke) and probably had three Gospels by that point (Matthew, Mark and Luke), and they are viewed as having equal authority to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament.

 

Peter, who also writes before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, wrote about Paul's writings. This is also an indication that Paul had written most of his epistles by the time Peter writes this. In 2 Peter 3:16, talking about Paul, he says, "as also in all {his} letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand …" Then he says, "…which the untaught and unstable distort, as {they do} also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." The implication there is that Paul's writings are part of the Scriptures. So Peter is treating the Pauline writings as Scripture by the mid-60s, because he clearly writes before he was executed in Rome, which was before the destruction of the temple when Nero was still emperor. By that time Paul's writings were already being collected and viewed as Scripture.

 

We know when we look at 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 which states that the purpose for the inspiration of Scripture was that "man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." That word translated "adequate" is the Greek word artios [a)rtioj], which means that we may be qualified or proficient or competent in accomplishing a task. The idea of equipping is the word exartizo [e)cartizw] related to another form of that word that is used to refer to a pastoral ministry: that the role of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. It is the same root in both cases with different prefixes. So we are equipped or trained for every good work, and it is on the basis of the Word of God. This is why we believe that the role of the pastor is to teach, to exegete the Word of God. It is only through the Word of God that we are equipped for every good work.

 

Then next point has to do with understanding inspiration and inerrancy based on a syllogism, based on using the Scripture as our foundation of logic where we are putting together a couple of different premises from the Scripture. Our first premise is that God is absolute veracity/truth. As Paul states in Romans 3:14 NASB "…let God be found true, though every man {be found} a liar, as it is written, "THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED." God is absolute truth and cannot lie. Then we put that together with our second principle, that God is the source of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16) and we can only conclude that the Scriptures therefore must be absolute truth. If God is the source of Scripture and God cannot lie, then that which He produces cannot be a lie. This is why Jesus refers to God's Word as absolute truth in John 17:17 NASB "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."

 

A rule of logic is that if your premises are correct and the conclusion is stated accurately from the premises, then your conclusion must be correct. Since both of our premises are true—God is absolute truth; God is the source of Scripture—then the conclusion must be true that the Scriptures are without error and are absolutely true.

 

At this point, just to address the issue of human involvement, this is a similar issue to the incarnation of the living Word. Jesus is called the logos, the Word, in John 1:1-4. So we have the living Word that enters into human history through a human means and is preserved free from sin. If God is able to do that then God is able to take His written Word, His spoken Word, and preserve it through a human means and preserve it from error. The writers of Scripture as moved by the Holy Spirit are prevented from writing error. It doesn't mean that they are sinless, it just means that in what they wrote at that time under the inspiration of Scripture is without error. The word that is translated "moved"—men were moved by the Holy Spirit of God—is a word that is used of the movement of a sailing vessel across the water. Cf. Acts 27:15, 17 – a ship that is blown by the wind and the wind controls the action of the ship, and the ship can only go where the wind blows it. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate agent of revelation, 2 Peter 1:20, 21, and the content originates basically from Him. The content does not originate with the human authors of Scripture and God prevents their sin nature from diverting, misdirecting, confusing or erroneously recording His message. 

Next, what Jesus said about Scripture. One of the things He said was that inspiration, the authority, the infallibility of Scripture extends down to every detail of Scripture. Matthew 5:17, 18 NASB "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." When He uses the phrase "Law or the Prophets," this is one of the ways that the Jews talked about the Old Testament. He explains it further in verse 18, "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." Actually what this says is not a jot or a tittle shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished. What Jesus is saying is that inspiration extends down to parts of a letter or a word. This shows us that every detail in the text matters. The smallest letter was a "jot," referring to a yodh, and "tittle" is a part of a letter.

There are several corollaries that we should make to the doctrine of inspiration and infallibility.

1.  Though every word is equally infallible and authoritative, not every word is applicable to every believer. There are clearly statements in the Mosaic Law that have no applicability to present day believers other than a very general sense of providing us with a framework for understanding Scripture. They are equally authoritative but are in a document connected to a specific people at a specific time in history.

2.  If every word is breathed out by God then it is the responsibility of the pastor-teacher to investigate and exegete every word. The entire counsel of God from Genesis to Revelation, every book in the Scripture, should be taught to the believer because they are all profitable (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), to the end that we can think biblically.

3.  If every word is breathed out by God then the Bible is absolutely and totally sufficient for salvation, for spiritual growth and problem-solving. That means that every problem can be solved from the Word of God. 2 Peter 1:3, 4 NASB "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of {the} divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." How do we get this? "Through the true knowledge of Him who called us." So it is based on knowledge of Him. The only way to know Him is through His Word.

4.  If every word is from God to us, nothing should be more important in our life than learning and applying His Word. Nothing is more important than the complete mastery of the Bible.