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Jude 3 by Robert Dean
When Jude exhorts believers to contend for the faith, it is necessary to understand just what it is that warrants such energy and devotion. Do we believe that the Word of God is the validation point from which to proceed in order to persevere in the midst of opposition or are we motivated by man’s Higher Criticism and Darwinism? In order to rely on the Word of God as the control point, we need to understand the Doctrine of Inspiration as the presupposition that supports Truth.
Series:Jude (2012)
Duration:58 mins 45 secs

Fundamentalists: Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture – Part 2.  Jude 3

 

Contending for the faith doesn't mean to contend contentiously, it means to strive to accomplish a task. One great illustration of this from church history comes from Athanasius. He was born in 296 AD in Egypt. He rose to a rank of Bishop of Alexandria at about the time that a tremendous controversy burst upon the scene in the early church. This was a controversy related to the Trinity—first and foremost related to the Lord Jesus Christ and who Jesus Christ was before He was born in relation to His full deity and especially to His eternality. About the time that Athanasius was ordained to the ministry one of the elders or presbyters in the church in Alexandria began to teach a doctrine that there was a time when Christ was not. It was called Arianism after this individual whose name was Arius. It was a precursor to the same doctrine that is taught today by the Jehovah's Witnesses. In Arius's thinking God the Father was eternal but at some point in eternity past He created the second person of the Trinity, so that Jesus Christ is not eternal, which means that Jesus would not have been full deity.

 

Athanasius really understood the issues to this, and this became quite a theological controversy that threatened to divine the church in this new "Christian" Roman empire after Constantine had risen to emperor, legitimised Christianity and decreed that it would be the religion of the Roman empire. He wanted peace in his empire so he convened a council that met in Nicea. He had bishops coming from all over Christendom to meet there to discuss, argue, debate the issues related to the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. As is true in many church councils there were just a few people who understood the issues; most people did not, and didn't have the wherewithal either intellectually or biblically to make decisions. They were swayed emotionally, swayed by the rhetoric and the oratory of the debates; but it was Athanasius and a few bishops that surrounded him who clearly understood that if Jesus isn't fully God and fully eternal then He can't pay the substitutionary price for sin. On the other side there was Arius and his followers who taught that there was a time when Christ was not.

 

In 325 the Council met and they approved the Athanasian position, but this did not end the controversy. So Constantine began to put pressure on Athanasius to back off of his belief in the Trinity, that Jesus was fully God and fully eternal. Constantine ordered him to allow the Arians to join the church and to be full members of the church. This upset Athansius quite a bit and the story is told that he travelled to Constantinople and when Constantine was out in his chariot Athanasius planted himself in front of Constantine's chariot, grabbed the bridles of the horses and demanded that the emperor retract his order. This shows the courage that he had. He was contending for the faith. He contended for it at the Council of Nicea, he is contending for it now although it didn't work. He was deposed from his position as Bishop of Alexandria and he went into exile. This was the first of several exiles that Athanasius experienced.

 

After Constantine's death he returned to Alexandria, but not for long. When he was restored to his position as bishop again the Arians were given power and had him exiled again in 339. This time he spent several years in Rome where his teaching attracted a number of crowds, gathered more support for his position, and again he is restored to his pulpit in 346. He was welcomed, but a few years later he was again deposed and went into exile. This was his third exile. After six or seven years later after he was once again restored to his pulpit he went into a fourth exile. Eventually he returned to his pulpit and died at the age of seventy-seven. Seventeen of his forty-five years of ministry were spent away from his congregation in exile. He is a great example of one who faithfully endured and persevered in the midst of opposition and contended for the faith, that set body of doctrine which has been passed down through the Scriptures from generation to generation.

 

The doctrine of inspiration: what the Bible says about itself, how the Bible was given to us in the process of its origin in the mind of God and how it is revealed in and through fallen human beings from the Old testament to the New Testament by means of God the Holy Spirit so that what was written down originally by the writer of Scripture was without error in everything that it addressed—without claiming that it was a biology text book, a geography text book, a history text book, but when it touches on these matters it is accurate and without error.

 

We start with this assumption, in which case we come to the Word of God and if we see an apparent conflict or what we think is a conflict we say, 'I don't understand enough, this is the Word of God, so there is a resolution to this conflict, I just don't know what it is. I don't know enough about the original circumstances, the situation, the vocabulary, but I am going to presume that there is no conflict; I just don't know enough to be able to give an answer. Those who come from a position of cynicism or scepticism who do not believe presuppositionally that God can reveal Himself supernaturally to man—it is called a bias or presupposition of anti-supernaturalism—so that from the starting point, without ever looking at any evidence, they are looking at texts of Scripture and saying it can't by definition be inerrant because that can't happen, God can't control things in that way. So they have a small view of God and a very large view of man. This small view of God always means that they blow man up to a capability larger than he is, and they end up treating the books of the Bible as basically just the products of human authorship without divine oversight or control. But that is not what the Word of God claims for itself anywhere within the Scripture.

 

The Bible presents itself as the Word of God without error: "Thus saith the Lord." It is that statement used again and again and again in the Old Testament that gives us the confidence that this is God's Word, not man's word about God. Those are essentially the two positions. We either believe that this is the inerrant, infallible Word that God revealed to us through human agents, or we believe that somehow this is nothing more than human beings writing about their experiences with God. There may be some variations between those two poles but they are basically the two positions.

 

Definition of inspiration

 

The word "inspiration" is not really the best word. Sometimes someone may speak of William Shakespeare as being inspired as he wrote poetry or drama. We may think of someone who is a brilliant architect, for example Christopher Wren, and say he must have been inspired when he designed St. Paul's Cathedral in London. That is not what we mean when we are talking about the Scripture, so this is not the best word. The Greek word is theopneustos [qeopneustoj]—theos = God; pneustos = the word for spirit, breath or wind—and it has the idea of God breathing. God, therefore, is the subject or the actor, the one who is acting in this process and the one who is breathing into and through man. So it is not from man, not from man's ability or intellect or his own innovative skills; it is that God exhales through the human writers of Scripture who in a sense inhale from God and then exhale it through their writings. This concept of breathing helps us to understand a little about the dynamics. But the whole process we understand is overseen by God the Holy Spirit. This is clear from 2 Peter 1:21.  

 

Definition: We believe that God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human writers of Scripture that without waiving their human intelligence, vocabulary, individuality, literary style, personality, personal feelings, or any other human factor, His complete and coherent message to mankind was recorded with perfect accuracy in the original languages of Scripture, the very words bearing the authority of divine authorship.

2 Timothy 3:16 NASB "All Scripture is inspired [breathed out] by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; [17] so that the man of God may be adequate [sufficient], equipped for every good work." There are a couple of corollaries that go along with this and one is that the Word of God is sufficient. It doesn't miss anything. There is not some issue, some problem in life that the Word of God doesn't address. But one of the things we see here when Paul wrote "All Scripture" is that he is primarily thinking in terms of the Old Testament. But by this time, the time he is writing (maybe 65 or 66 AD) most other New Testament Scripture has been written, but not all. But this would apply to any Scripture, any holy writing that has its origin in God.  

2 Timothy 3:15 NASB "and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." Those scared writings are the Scriptures, and at the time Timothy was a child there was no New Testament yet. So context tells us that the primary focus that Paul has on "all Scripture" is Old Testament Scripture. But he is making a universal statement here so it doesn't exclude New Testament Scripture.

 

When we look at the definition and break it down we realise that it starts off with just the statement that all Scripture is inspired or is breathed out by God. The term "God" here is used in a generic sense that speaks of deity, and it would speak of the entire Trinity; and indeed all members of the Trinity are involved in some way in the process of giving Scripture. Remember Jesus is called the logos, the Word of God. John 1:1-3 cf. John 1:14. God the Son is the physical logos comparable to the written logos. But it is specifically the responsibility of God the Holy Spirit in the process of inspiration.

We see this in 2 Peter 1:20, 21 NASB "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is {a matter} of one's own interpretation…" We look at the word "interpretation" and think of the process where we come to read Scripture and are determining what it means. The way Peter is using it here is that when there was a prophecy in the Scripture this was not something that originated within the thought framework of the individual writer. It wasn't something privately developed or originated from the writer of Scripture. [21] "for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." So no legitimate prophecy is generated within the individual writer of Scripture, it had an external source. The word translated "moved" is the same Greek word used at the end of Acts when Paul is on the ship on his journey to Rome and it talks about the wind blowing upon the sails of the vessel and the ship being moved across the water. So it is an unseen power that is directing the writers of Scripture.

This is like the example of Jude, that he intended to write one thing but there is the compulsion, necessity put upon him to write about something else. This is that unseen force of God the Holy Spirit who is working upon the writers of Scripture. This tells us that there are two authors of every passage of Scripture. There is the human author, but behind him working in and through him is the divine author who is God the Holy Spirit. This is the primary role of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity. He is to reveal God's plan to man.

The word "revelation" is central to what we are talking about. It is a word that means to unveil, to disclose or to uncover something that is previously unknown. There are different ways in which we come to know things. We come to know things by observation, by contemplating things that we do know and extrapolating conclusions from the things that we know, moving in the direction of things we did not know through the use of logic (rationalism or the use of reason), when we look at experience and sense information (empiricism). But that is not the only way we come to know things. We come to know things because people also tell us things (revelation). Revelation is not contradictory or antagonistic to empiricism or rationalism, yet that is how the human viewpoint systems all work because instead of talking about revelation as revelation they talk about faith. So then they say faith is one thing and science is something else, and the juxtapose those. But the reality is that empiricism, rationalism and revelation all presuppose faith—faith in human ability, faith in some ultimate authority, whether it is the human mind to understand and analyse and accept something as true, or maybe it is the faith in the person who tells us something. Faith either has its object in man and man's ability—either rationalism or empiricism as well as in mysticism—or faith the revelation of someone who tells us something, which is Scripture is God.

A perfect example of this is Adam and Eve in the garden. There are many things that they could extrapolate and develop through the use of logic as they studied the trees and the environment in the garden of Eden. But there is one thing they could only know through revelation, and that was that if they ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die. They couldn't learn that through empiricism, rationalism or mysticism; they could only learn that if God spoke to them and told them. It was that one piece of information that was necessary to correctly order and organise all of the other data that they learned through rationalism or empiricism. Understanding revelation helps us, then, to properly interpret the date that comes from rationalism and empiricism. So if we negate revelation (which is what human viewpoint does) it really casts a person adrift upon a sea of subjectivity, and if truth is discovered it is accidental.

Another facet of revelation is that it is propositional. That term just means that it is stated in verbal sentences. It is not through images, not through impressions; it is through sentence structure, specific statements. There are various kinds of sentences. In logic they are called propositions because they can be validated or invalidated; they can be proved to be true or false. That is what we mean when we say that revelation is propositional. It means that God's Word is expressed through normal sentences using human vocabulary to express concepts that can be validated or invalidated, but they can clearly be understood through the use of the intellect that God has given us. He has designed us with a mind that is on His wave length so that He can communicate to us and we can respond to Him.

We learn from studying the Scripture that the Holy Spirit is the author of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Passages such as 2 Samuel 23:2, 3; Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; 28:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 12, 14 are just some which emphasise authorship of God the Holy Spirit. Also the Holy Spirit is the one who in the church age helps us to understand the Word of God, but He doesn't understand it for us. He enables us but He we have to think about it, study it.

The human writers of Scripture came from a wide variety of different backgrounds, various walks of life and different cultures. We believe that from Adam to Moses different key people wrote down certain things that were sources Moses used under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to pull together that part of the Pentateuch that he was not an eyewitness to. Then there was Job who wrote at the same time and probably earlier than Moses. Then there was Joseph who was a former slave and who rose to be the right hand man of Pharaoh and was the chief administrator in the Egyptian empire. There was Joshua who rose to the rank of general and human leader of the armies of Israel. Amos who was a herdsman, Peter was a fisherman, Paul was trained as a rabbi, Daniel was prime minister, Isaiah and Jeremiah were prophets—Isaiah came out of the royal family and was an aristocrat. Ezra was a priest, Luke was a physician, and so we have many different backgrounds. So there are 40 different writers who write over a period of 1600 years with no contradictions, they write with one mind. What unifies them is God the Holy Spirit who is the ultimate writer of Scripture.

Scripture tells us that the words are inspired by God. Every single word is chosen by God the Holy Spirit. That means we pay attention to why this synonym is used instead of that synonym. And it is not just a stylistic difference but has something to do with what the Holy Spirit is communicating. The forms of the words, the tenses, whether they are plural or singular; all have a significance and we need to meditate on the passage until we can understand that significance. There are some things done that are stylistic in the original language. For example, there are passages in the Gospels where one writer will include a definite article with the proper name of a person. He will say, "The Joseph," and "the Mary." In other passages it is just "Joseph" and "Mary." We don't really believe there is any distinction between those two and there have been those who have spent their lifetime studying the use or non-use of the article in Greek and can't answer that particular question. 

It is a message to mankind. It is not written to angels, to animals, any of the creatures; it is addressed to the human race. And it is recorded with perfect accuracy in the original languages. This gets into another issue because we don't have the original, a copy of the original, and we don't have a copy of a copy of a copy of the original. But, especially when we look at the New Testament, we have hundreds if not thousands of copies. They are maybe not complete New Testaments but we also have quotations from the church fathers going back to the end of the first century. By comparing these we can see that the text really didn't change. There is nothing to indicate that there was a change.