God Speaks in the Scriptures

Dr. Brian Allison

If I were to ask you, "What did God speak to you this past week," what would you say? Some would say, "Well, to be quite honest, God did not speak anything to me this past week." Others would say, "Well..., I think God said such and such to me this past week." And still others would say, "God definitely spoke such and such to me this past week." If you opened and read your Bible this past week, then God spoke to you. Some will retort, "Well, I opened my Bible this past week, and I read and meditated on it, but quite frankly, God did not speak to me. In fact, to be honest, it was dry. I was bored. I was not challenged. My heart was not stirred; and I was not changed." Nonetheless, if you opened your Bible this past week, regardless of what you felt, regardless of your subjective experience, God spoke to you. The problem may have been that you were not aware of it or that you were not listening.

I make such a claim because the Bible itself consists of God's own words, and so God spoke to you this past week, if you read your Bible. The reality of His speaking is not dependent upon, nor determined by, the nature of your subjective experience. This past week, I received a letter from a Christian leader; and quite frankly, it was a boring letter. I was uninspired while reading it. I was neither challenged, nor changed. But nonetheless, that Christian leader spoke to me, regardless of what I felt and of what I experienced, because that letter which I read contained his personal words.

Maybe you affirm that the Bible is indeed God's Word, but do you appreciate that truth? Affirming and appreciating the Bible as consisting of God's own words really is a question of faith and attitude. When we talk about God speaking in the Bible to us, we are talking about the Scriptural speaking of God. The Scriptural speaking of God is the logical result of the prophetic speaking of God. The prophetic speaking of God was God speaking into the hearts of prophets and apostles who, in turn, declared that which God had first spoken to them.

In this message, we will consider the Scriptural speaking of God. 2 Peter 1:19-21 is particularly relevant and helpful in this regard, "And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." 'The prophetic word' (v. 19) is simply the word of divine revelation. It is the communication of God's thoughts. God was pleased to disclose objective truth. God directly spoke to the prophets, prophetesses, and apostles, and with this divine revelation being received, it was, in turn, made known publicly. It was made known by the spoken word, as well as by the written word. Now, the emphasis in our passage is on the written word of God, the recorded prophecies of Scripture (a point to which we will return). And so verse 20 reads, "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation."

Prophecies comprise the content of Scripture. When we think of prophecy, we must keep in mind that we are not only considering the matter of the foretelling of God, but we are also considering the matter of the forth-telling of God, with the latter usage of the meaning of prophecy being the predominant one in Scripture. When the prophet or apostle received divine revelation from God, they prophesied or pronounced God's Word. So it is the prophecies which comprise the content of Scripture, that is, the objective word of God.

The Scriptures are God's permanent words

The Scriptural speaking of God is a firm word – "And so we have the prophetic word made more sure." Now, the alternative marginal reading of this statement reads, "And we have the even surer prophetic word," which is the literal rendering of the original Greek; and which I believe is the proper translation. It seems to me that with the former translation – "And so we have the prophetic word made more sure," we have an attempt by the translators to deal with the difficulty of having a word more sure than God's spoken word (with which this verse stands in comparison; and so the translators apparently want to emphasize, not the comparison with God's spoken word, but rather the history and validity of the prophetic word). With the rendering, "an even sure prophetic word," it admittedly is puzzling, and even contradictory, when this statement is compared with God's spoken word in the previous verses; and such a comparison, of course, is nonsense because the prophetic word is God's word. For instance, you can do a math problem in your head or with a calculator. You may arrive at the right answer in your head; you may arrive at the right answer with a calculator; but one answer is not more right than the other, one is not more true than the other. Comparative language, such as 'more right' or 'more sure', would be inapplicable and nonsense. Yet, as we look at this passage, there does seem to be a comparison. Consider the wider context: "For when He [Jesus] received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased'" (1:17). Again, we have here a statement of the declarative speaking of God – God identified and owned Jesus as His Son; He affirmed His approval of His Son. We further read, "And we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain" (1:18). Peter attested that he was one of the witnesses when God thundered this affirmation of approval. And thus we come to verse 19, "And so we have the even surer prophetic word." Now, how are we to understand this comparative language? How can we have an 'even surer prophetic word' when the prophetic word itself is God's own word, similar in quality or status to His declarative word which He uttered on the Mount of Transfiguration?

This phrase, "We have the even surer prophetic word," implies (as already mentioned) the recorded or inscripturated word, and thus is a word that one may, in effect, personally possess or appropriate. On the one hand, God bore witness to His Son on the Mount of Transfiguration – God declared Jesus' divine identity, status, and standing; on the other hand, God also bore witness to His Son, and spoke the truth concerning Him, to the prophets and apostles who, in turn, recorded that word in readable form; and thus cast God's revelation, His word, in permanent form. Hence, we now have an even more firm prophetic word, in that this word is objectively accessible and verifiable.

Now, Peter of course, was writing from his own present perspective. What Peter heard on the Mount of Transfiguration, by his reference to it here in writing about it, has also become the 'prophetic word'; and has assumed permanent form. But Peter was not necessarily thinking in that way when he recorded his experience and made the comparison that he did. Peter is not contradicting himself. He is not necessarily anticipating that his writing would also become Holy Scripture. The comparison is thus a valid one. The prophetic word, the written revelation, to which Peter and others had access, because of its enduring nature, is more sure than the mere spoken revelation, to which only a select few had access.

In regard to the permanency and accessibility of the prophetic word, consider 1 Peter 1:10,11, "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow." Now, the question is this: How are we to understand that the prophets made careful search and inquiry – careful search and inquiry into what? Again, we are to understand this language in terms of the prophetic word [of the Scriptures]. Accordingly, in John 5:39, we have similar language as we find in 1 Peter 1:10,11. Jesus announced to the Jews, "You search the Scriptures [same idea], because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me." As you study the Old Testament, you find occasions where the prophets actually made careful search and diligent inquiry into the prophetic word of Scripture (e.g. Daniel 9:2).

Now, you may say, "So what? What is the big deal that we have God's recorded 'prophetic word'?" There are some who say (and maybe you have said), "Well, if only I could hear God speak audibly, then I would be spiritually stabilized, grounded, in my faith." Have you ever said something like that? Or, there are some who say, "If only God would reveal Himself personally to me, then I would have greater spiritual confidence and fewer doubts." Have you ever said something like that? Peter personally heard God speak. On the Mount of Transfiguration, he heard the audible voice of God; and yet Peter writes, "And we have the even surer prophetic word [of the Scriptures]." The Bible is God's Word; it is His personal Word to us, just as if God Himself were to speak directly and personally to us; and it never changes. We do not need another communication; we do not need an appearance of God in order to be assured of the truth. No, we have God's own Word in permanent form; that is all we need. The Bible, the objective Word, is sufficient.

When I was attending seminary in Toronto, my wife was living in London, Ontario. I would write her regularly. She received my written words in the mail. Now, she did not need to talk to me on the phone, and hear my voice, nor did she need to see me in person, and hear my voice, in order to really know the true expressions of my heart. My words on paper were the true expressions of what I felt and thought, and they were sufficient. She would have received nothing more true in hearing my voice; and so it is with the Word of God. My brothers and sisters, His words, as recorded, should be enough for our faith. God's Word is sure. Every time you read, every time you hear, the truth of Scripture, God Himself is speaking, regardless of how you feel.

The Scriptures are of divine origin

Now, the natural question is: How can we be assured that we have God's own Word? Isn't it true that people actually wrote the Bible? Peter addressed this very point. Again, we read, "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will" (1:20). The first thing that we can learn from this verse is this: the Scriptures are of divine origin. The emphasis is clear. The term 'interpretation' does not refer to the notion of explaining, but to the notion of producing. What Peter means is this: no prophecy is according to human intellectual creation and skill. Prophecy has not come as a result of intellectual reflection and creativity. But rather, the prophecies of Scripture are wholly divine in nature and character.

In this regard, we read in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, "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. All Scripture is inspired [i.e., God-breathed] by God and [as a result is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." Paul affirms that every Scripture finds its source in God. Every Scripture has been spiritually spoken by God, and that is why it is spiritually profitable. Now, if that is the case, you are not to personally judge or criticize anything that you find in the Scriptures (this is not to say that you cannot humbly and genuinely question in order to gain understanding; however, you are not to sit as an arbitrator). If every word of Scripture is God-breathed, which makes it wholly divine, then it is a serious offense to challenge and reject the integrity and truth of the Scripture. Rather, you should sit under the judgement and criticism of it.

Further, if every word of Scripture is God-breathed, and it is not a matter of human intellectual creation and skill, then you cannot pick and choose what you will accept and what you will not accept. When I taught at a Bible College, I had some students who contended with me concerning the nature and relevancy of the contents of the Scriptures. One of the criticisms which I received was that the apostle Paul was a male chauvinist. Apparently, the apostle's writings were an anachronism and an offense to feminism and women of the nineties. Have you ever said something like that? Have you reduced the Scriptures to a mere human creation or work?

It is wrong for you to say, "Well, that was Paul's opinion." No, it is the Holy Spirit's opinion, communicated through the apostle Paul. Every prophecy of Scripture is of divine interpretation; God gives the language meaning simply because God Himself spoke it. And if you should say that it was Paul's interpretation, that his views are now obsolete, that is nothing less than self-justification and spiritual rebellion. The Bible is God's Word. (Now, someone will retort, "But we do not have the original writings, but only translations." Correct. But we have thousands of manuscripts, different bodies of manuscripts, and through the science of textual criticism, we know exactly (with a minuscule margin of difference with respect to the different bodies of manuscripts) what the original writings said. Excuses for rejecting the Bible as God's Word reveal, at root, a spiritual problem, not an intellectual one. If you fail to accept and embrace what you read in the Bible, you are not rejecting the word of man, but the Word of God; and you will give an account for that.

Since the Scriptures are God's own Word, your only response should be one of absolute obedience and submission. Now, some may say (another excuse), "Well, you pointed to 2 Timothy 3:15-17 as support for accepting even the writings of Paul as Scripture, but it seems to me that we have here a reference to the Old Testament writings." The 'sacred writings' of verse 15 is a reference to the Old Testament Scripture, but the 'Scripture' of verse 16 is a reference, not only to Old Testament prophecies, but also to New Testament prophecies. Are the writings of Paul ever identified as Scripture? Absolutely. The apostle Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:15, "And regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." The inclusion of Paul's letters in the Scriptures is undeniable, as understood by Peter. Peter clearly accredits Scriptural status authority to Paul's writings.

The Scriptures were produced by the Holy Spirit

How is it possible that the Scriptures are divine in origin, though written by men? Again, we read, "For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (1:21). The Holy Spirit is the Agent of the Scriptures. Prophets and apostles were merely human instruments who were guided and superintended by the Holy Spirit. Their words were God's words. Now, admittedly, we are ultimately faced with a mystery, and the mystery is this: the mental faculties of these prophets and apostles were neither violated or neglected. The process of how God produced the Scriptures through human instrumentality is ultimately inexplicable, but true nonetheless. In the writings of the prophets and apostles, we recognize the peculiar writing styles, the stamp of the individual personalities; and yet, what they wrote, God wanted to be written. They revealed God's mind.

Because the Spirit guided and superintended men in a powerful, inexplicable way, therefore what they wrote is accurate. The Scripture is an infallible and inerrant record because it was really written by God the Spirit. There are those who turn to the Scriptures and impugn, "That is wrong, and that is wrong; here is a contradiction, and there is a problem." Such critics clearly evidence a low view of Scripture. Such talk is really making a statement about the integrity of God. Yet, God cannot lie. He cannot make a mistake; and if the Spirit actually carried along these human instruments so that they would indeed record the revelation of God, then, of necessity, what they recorded is accurate and infallible. Christian, that is your confidence. We have a sure foundation of faith in the Word of God.

Now, because the Word of God is infallible and inerrant, it is, of necessity, authoritative. Do you see the Word of God as your final and ultimate authority; that it is the last word on all issues of faith and practice. Does the Bible determine how you live, and how you behave, and what you do? Indeed, such a book demands a particular moral response. Again, we read, "And so we have the prophetic word [the permanent word, the firm word, the verifiable word, the prophecies of Scripture]...to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts" (1:19). We are exhorted to obey the holy Word that we possess, and to follow it diligently and completely. It is a Word that dispels darkness and brings light, that gives understanding and direction, that makes the path of life straight, clear, and plain; and we ought to give ourselves to this Word. If we give ourselves to God's Word, and obey it consistently and constantly, we will spiritually grow and develop, culminating in moral and spiritual perfection.

So, I end where I began. What did God speak to you this past week? I hope you opened your Bible this past week; and that you read and meditated on it. What you read was what God spoke to you, whether you felt anything or not; whether you were stirred up or not; whether you were challenged and changed or not. And what you read, you are responsible for. You will be held accountable for your response (as well as your lack of response) to what you read. Now, to be sure, the same Spirit Who inspired the Word, must also give understanding of the Word; and that is what we must pray for when we read the Word. We are wholly dependent upon the Spirit's illumination. We are to pray, "Lord, open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your Law" (Ps. 119:18).