My Thoughts. . .
Monday, October 7, 2019
A good friend brought up a question concerning inspiration and whether or not it closed with the writing of the last New Testament book. That question is best replied to with at least two answers. Neither may be sufficient to cover the depths that an answer would require to adequately supply a full explanation. Hopefully this will be of some benefit?
First, one would need to distinguish between “inspiration” as spoken by Jesus, the apostles, or prophets in the New Testament with today’s definition. Today’s definition is: “1) The act of influencing or suggesting opinions.” One may be of the opinion that he is inspired by Elvis singing “You Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog.” Another person might choose Wes Hampton of the Gaither Vocal Band singing “I’ll Pray For You.” The person who is inspired by Elvis may not enjoy Wes Hampton’s song or vise-versa. Different strokes for different folks. Such inspiration is far removed from the “kind” mentioned in the New Testament. Neither of these receives that inspiration from the Spirit speaking directly from heaven to their mind. Their inspiration is based upon their human choice of singer and song.
On the other hand, Jesus told his apostles, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time, you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20). The apostles would not need a lawyer if arrested. They would not need to prepare a speech to use if they were brought up on trial. God would give them what they needed to say, so no preparation was needed. God would also give them miraculous signs to prove they were God’s spokesmen (Mark 16:17-20).
Some in Corinth denied that Paul was a bonified apostles. He answered that charge that the original membership knew he was because of the miraculous things he did in conjunction with his preaching (1 Corinthians 9:1-2). Those false teachers claimed to have that “power,” but Paul said when he visited, they could prove it rather than only making their claims (4:18-20).
It is true that despite some in Corinth having the gift of prophesy, speaking in different languages, and interpreting, if they listened to the flesh rather than to the Spirit, they could end up believing a teaching false ideas. Although Corinth had inspired prophets and language speakers, they allowed a divisive nature to lead them into confusion until Paul wrote giving them the Spirit’s corrections (1 Corinthians 14:1-33). Today, we have the sword of the Spirit which is the written word. Our advantage over first century saints is that we have the completed New Testament will in print and they did not. Their advantage was that their teaching came directly from heaven and the miraculous gifts would confirm it. Their scriptures were the Old Testament in Greek and Hebrew. The disadvantage to that system was the eunuch did not take all of Philip’s inspired knowledge with him. What he revealed orally about Jesus and his need to be immersed was all he had. The same was true for each congregation created. None had the New covenant in printed form.
If one was capable of removing all biblical knowledge from a person’s memory, how would that individual answer the question, “Where was Jesus born?” His first response would be, “Who is Jesus?” He would be like a modern comedian who was reading from a Gideon Bible from Matthew to the end of John. He had no biblical knowledge. When finished he asked, “Why did they crucify that man four times?” One may impress others with his memorization, but if he uses those passages out of context, he doesn’t actually know his Bible. The devil could quote scripture and did so (Matthew 4:6). Regardless of how smart the devil was, his quote ended up proving his stupidity.
I may be inspired by what I read in scripture, yet that inspiration is not equal to how the apostles and prophets were guided by the Spirit. Another saint may bless me with knowledge he has gleaned from the Bible which I did not know, but he gained his knowledge by reading the inspired text. He is inspired by what he has read. His inspiration did not come straight from heaven. If he or I were inspired directly by the Spirit of God, what we introduced would not have to come from the pages of the New Testament. If we claimed to receive our information directly from God, but it did not harmonize with what Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, the Hebrew writer, or Jude wrote, then its source would be very questionable and riddled with doubt. Gullibility has a strong religious following.
The inspiration I receive comes from the writings of Moses, the judges, the prophets, David, Solomon, and others in the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. I am inspired by the writings of Matthew through Revelation in the New covenant. The Spirit is capable of moving me with those writings because the scriptures are His sword and He is the one who employs it. God speaks to me through that written venue. He uses others who are living by those written precepts to inspire me. I am inspired when I believe others are moved by the Spirit’s written instructions.
Like all others, I have a choice. I may listen and reevaluate my position, or I can ignore them and assume that my assumptions, inferences, and deductions are correct. Just because someone firmly believes he has the miraculous power of the Spirit doesn’t mean I cannot test those convictions. John warned, “Try the spirits” (1 John 4:1). “Try,” I must, even when those who are tried claim my efforts are blaspheming the Holy Spirit!
There were a lot of false teachers in the first century. Inspired individuals warned Christians about them. Some claimed to be apostles and prophets but were not. Until Cornelius showed up ten years after the Acts 2 Pentecost, the entire Jerusalem congregation, with the apostles, would not preach the Good News to them (Acts 10). They had not understood their need to do so even though it was contained in Jesus’ commission. Several years after that, the church had not decided what Gentiles needed to do or not do as far as Jewish circumcision or practicing Jewish worship was concerned (Acts 15). That had not yet been fully understood. Assumptions manufactured by Jewish members kept them from seeing that difference. The circumcision problem continued to influence the church, even putting fear into an apostle, causing him to be hypocritical (Galatians 2). Some wanted to bind “law keeping” on the church and inspiration referred to that movement as “another gospel” and falling “from grace” (Galatians 1:6-9; 5:4). When the New Testament closed there remained imperfect congregations, with imperfect elderships, and imperfect ministers. Each attempted to be faithful to Jesus although some fell away by rejecting him and his salvation (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:25-29).
If one wishes to be inspired today, look to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-3). Scripture is the Spirit’s sword (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). Scripture will encourage you or warn you (John 3:16-21). It will draw you or reject you according to your choices in life (John 6:44; 12:32; 12:48). It will cut you or cuddle you (Hebrews 4:12; Matthew 11:28-30). Your choice!