Doctrine of the Word

What does Inspired Mean?


One hand does not exist without the other. God did not communicate to us without humans, and humans cannot communicate God's words without God's inspiration. 

So, what does Inspired mean?

At Hill City we teach from the Bible every Sunday and encourage individuals and families to open, pray through, and meditate on the scriptures. Why do we do this? We believe that all of Scripture is inspiredtrueauthoritative and sufficient[i]. (See Psalm 19:7–8; Psalm 119:89; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21)

If this is true, and God is truly the author of all of Scripture, then why did God use humans?

We believe that the Scriptures are the very Word of God, breathed out or spoken through the writings of the prophets, scribes and other authors carried along by the Holy Spirit for His Divine Will (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21).

2 Timothy 3:16 gives us the phrase breathed out, which is where the word inspired comes from. In Greek (Gk) the word translated “inspired” is theopneustos (θεόπνευστος) and it only appears once in the entire English translation of scripture. Theologians have pondered this meaning for centuries. They all agree that to breathe out words is to speak them[ii]; so, when we read 2 Timothy 3:16 we know that Inspiration means that God takes the language of human beings and makes it His own, through a beautiful mingling of a Divine and human Word, which is what we have today in our Bible.

Now I know what you’re thinking; if this is true, and God is truly the author of all of Scripture, then why did God use humans? Doesn’t this compromise the trustworthiness of the scriptures?

Many theologians and pastors throughout church history have considered this. Some (like John Calvin) have chosen to think of it like a boss giving “dictation” to his secretary. Others have given analogies such as this one from Athenagoras, a 2nd century church father: “God is like the flute player, and the prophets were like flutes.”[iii]

Whether pencils or instruments, “God appointed the biblical writers to be prophets, apostles, or associates of the apostles... In their writing, their individual human qualities appear vividly but, all of these very different writers were chosen by God to convey His personal word to the world” (Frame, pg. 595).

Pastor and theologian, Wayne Grudem, adds in his Systematic Theology that inspiration or dictation, “does not completely deny human volition or personality in the writing of Scripture, but rather to say that the ultimate source of every prophecy was never a man’s decision about what he wanted to write, but rather the Holy Spirit’s action in the prophet’s life, carried out in various ways” (Grudem, pg. 75). In other words, there is a limited human element to the Scriptures. So what does this mean?

God chose to lower Himself and communicate to us in a way that we could actually understand.

We should take great joy in the fact that God chose to lower Himself and communicate to us in a way that we could actually understand and respond by the Holy Spirit’s prompting. God chose to use (inspire) authors with all kinds of differences. Theologians of church history[v] have referred to this as organic inspiration and to them, these differences across the human writers are not walls for God to break down, but instead, different perspectives by which He brings us His Word.

“Because the writers are diverse in their language, style, culture, education, interests, and abilities, God speaks through them multiperspectivally, to give us many different aspects of the truth” (Grudem, pg. 76).  In other words, in order for us to understand the complexity of His being, God spoke through multiple people -- all with different perspectives. 

As humans, our language contributes a vital piece to our community. We convey a wide variety of content in different tones, emotions and perspectives. God’s language is infinitely more rich, and therefore He must use multiple human authors to communicate it to us. What a wonderful and amazing treasure is the written Word of God!

Understandably, the skeptic’s question always comes back to, “How much of God’s word is inspired then? How much of it is faulty translation or the mysterious political agenda of men seeking to brainwash?” Here it is helpful to understand the full scope and understanding of inspiration.

There’s no brainwashing and there’s no political agenda; no dirty secret.

Inspiration in Scripture is not the same as an artist might be inspired to create a painting today. Inspiration in Scripture means that everything in Scriptures is fully inspired and therefore is God’s Word.

In His Word, God wants to show us many things for the rest of our lives; not just propositions or ideas, but historical events, covenantal promises, feelings and tone. This is why the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity (three in one), had to “carry along” the writers of Scripture, as 2 Peter puts it. The New Testament frequently refers to the Holy Spirit as “governing” the words of prophets and apostles (see Matthew 10:20; 22:43; Acts 1:16).

There’s no brainwashing and there’s no political agenda; no dirty secret. All of this (the Scriptures) has been recorded that we might know what He wants us to know about Him -- what He has done, continues to do, and what He promises to do[vi].

Jesus Christ, our King, says in Luke 24:25-27, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Our Lord has fulfilled all of the Scriptures and has revealed to us the true nature of God as, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14-15)[vii]The inspiration of Scripture is to give us confidence in the Word as made perfect in the Person of Jesus Christ.


“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22


[ii] See John Frame pg. 594 of, Systematic Theology; an Introduction to the Christian Religion
[iii] Athenagoras, Plea on Behalf of Christians
[iv] Hebrews 1:1-3
[v] Most notably here, Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck
[vi] John 20:31; 1 John 5:13
[vii] See also Hebrews 1:1