23 October 2016

A Sunday School Lesson: Revelation Through Inspiration

In addition to divine revelation through dreams and visions, Christians claim that God communicates also through the less spectacular method of inspiration. They do not use this word in the same way as when we say some artist was inspired in their creativity or that some athlete exhibited an inspired performance on the field. The Greek word is theopneustros. It means “god-breathed.” The expression may derive from that fact that according the Christian dogma, the Holy Spirit empowers this kind of revelation. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma, which means breath or wind.

No account in the Bible attempts to explain revelation by inspiration. God's spirit indwells believers and God somehow moves some to write down what he wants them to know. It is not divine dictation, however. According to Christians, God preserves the rhetorical styles and vocabulary of the medium through which he works.

The biblical text teaching inspiration of scripture a letter Paul wrote to a disciple named Timothy that is is: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). The passage refers chiefly to writings of what is commonly called the Old Covenant, since at the time that Paul wrote this letter, the writings commonly called the New Covenant had not even been recorded, much less collected and organized.

In a similar passage, Peter attributes Old Testament writings to God's inspiration though the Holy Spirit: 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 (2 Peter 1:21).

These holy men introduced their proclamation with “Thus saith the Lord.” That phrase appears over 400 times in the Bible. Most of the time the message came not through dreams or visions, but by means of inspiration through prophets or seers.

These New Testament writers claimed that their writings, too, contained divine revelation. Paul warned his church in Corinth that “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord ( 1 Cor. 14:37).Warning may seem a harsh word, but apparently some other itinerant religious teachers challenged Paul's authority. And this brings up one problem with claims of divine revelation. It is easy to claim divine inspiration since it would be a private, subjective experience that occurs in the prophet's mind that no one can verify. When religious teachers assert competing claims of divine revelation, how do followers arrange a "theological throw-down" to decide who is God's mouthpiece?

Most Christians today belief that God has completed his inspired written word, Some Christians, however, believe that God still provides inspired revelation by means of something called a “word of knowledge,” The Bible contains this expression just once in a list of spiritual gifts and is nowhere explained. For some reason, however, these Christians who receive a “word of knowledge” never write it down to be incorporated in the Bible. I wonder why not.

The next few posts will feature God giving “words of knowledge.”

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