Peter Didn’t Understand Inspiration’s
Most Important Point
And That Made Him Vulnerable To Failure
The meaning of inspiration as it relates to the production of the Bible and how it actually worked is not the topic of this post.
It’s an interesting topic and I’ll say enough to establish the basics but the discussion can and has filled volumes. Google it and you’ll get endless pages of search results.
Sadly, most discussions focus so heavily on the process, they fail to develop the most important point:
If the Bible is inspired, it stands alone and needs no help from human ideology.
It’s finished. You can accept it, you can’t change it. It’s God’s Word and His alone.
The Bible is NOT intended to tell us what we already know and it wasn’t provided as a proof text to endorse our pet ideologies.
And God makes that point very succinctly:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)
That idea is the motivation of this post.
“Inspiration” Not The Best Word
It should at least be mentioned that the word “inspiration’ is probably not the best word to describe how the Bible came to be.
The English word has roots in Latin, inspirare, which means “to breathe or blow into” but that doesn’t correspond exactly with the New Testament Greek or with what we understand about how the Bible was written.
More to the point, the word has also taken on new meanings totally unrelated to the Bible. These new meanings have broadened sufficiently to eclipse its biblical meaning.
The Greek word that denotes this process is theopneustos. It is a compound word from “theo” (God) and “pnuema” (spirit) and literally means “God-spirited.” Modern translations, however, are opting for God-breathed instead of Inspiration or God-spirited for obvious reasons.
Inspiration is not a bad word, but with the new connotations, it is no longer the most precise word.
Spiriting isn’t how we express words so God-breathed is a little more relatable to the average person.
However, Inspiration is the word most often used when discussing the concept theologically and I haven’t abandoned the use of it in this post.
Inspiration Is Mentioned In The Bible
If you’re wondering, the word can be found in 2 Timothy 3:16:
All Scripture is God-breathed (inspired, given by inspiration, theopneustos) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness…
Both translations mean essentially the same thing and refer to the same process, God moving in human authors’ lives, using their backgrounds, educational experiences, writing styles, and personalities to produce His message in written form.
The Inspired Message Is Closed
The most important point of all is that this message is closed and human opinions, thoughts, feelings, knowledge, or preferences made no contributions to what was written and have no bearing on the meaning of the text.
The Bible’s purpose isn’t:
- To tell us what we already know
- To affirm how we feel on any given matter
- Or elicit our thoughts on how we think things should be.
It is open to acceptance but never to alteration and the more complicated interpretations become the more likely it is that alteration has occurred.
In a previouis post, I said there are two ways to abuse the Bible. One is by taking things away from the Bible and the other is by adding things to the Bible.
Both approaches are wrong for the same reason.
Neither allows God to speak for Himself.
Your thoughts and opinions may be valid on a human level but God didn’t give us the Bible to endorse our ideas. The Bible is God telling us what we don’t know and the best way to approach it is humbly, without assumptions.
We must allow the inspired text to say what it says. You cannot expand on the Bible. The Bible is open to everyone but allows no expansion.
Words Can’t Be Extended
Because the Bible says ALL Scripture is inspired, we believe every word is included. That makes each word very important. Words convey meaning but we must be careful not to over define or extend the meanings of these words. We must understand each one as it was intended without adopting the semantic changes that naturally occur over time.
What the word means is what the word means. No more, no less.
Take the word Holy for example. It’s a great word and is used often in the Bible. The simple definition is:
Religionists, however, have expanded on that. Say the word Holy and it evokes images of priestly perfection: hands folded over the chest, clerical robes flowing, angelic facial expressions, and so on.
None of that is accurate.
Holy does not mean:
The toilet brush in our house is holy, not because it is sanitized, purified, or sterilized but because it is dedicated to serving one purpose, cleaning the toilet. It is fully committed to that purpose and is designed well (sanctified) to function effectively.
Sanctification, by the way, is the same thing as Consecration. Both words share a common meaning with the word Holy: set apart.
Our toilet brush is set apart from every other possible use to serve one purpose. Clean the toilet.
And the process of “setting ourselves apart” involves developing skills and abilities necessary to serve the purpose for which we are set apart. If your field of service is medicine, there is a period of learning and practice required before you qualify. That too is a part of the sanctification process.
Like the toilet brush, we are to be set apart for God’s purpose and when you focus on that purpose, your time and energies will be so engaged in doing the required things, you will be less vulnerable to wrong things, although that possibility is never entirely eliminated.
The toilet brush becomes unholy only if we attempt to use it for a different purpose, like brushing teeth or hair, or sweeping the floor, or scrubbing a person’s back.
A dedicated person is holy even if he or she isn’t perfect. Accept that definition. You can’t improve on it.
Events Are God Chosen
For some, the Bible seems like a large book but when you consider the time span covered in the Bible – from creation to the end of the first century CE – it is minimal at best. It is miraculous that God’s complete message to humanity covers such a long period of time and yet was done with so few words.
The Gospel of John even states that the events included were far fewer than they could have been but were selected specifically to stimulate belief:
There are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25
If every detail had been disclosed it would take a lifetime to get through it all.
Events Require Close Observation
Events are different from words, though. There’s no dictionary for events.
We take words as they come but events need close observation in order to extract the meaning entirely.
Peter’s denial of Jesus is a good example. It is an event that should capture the attention of every sincere believer. Not only is Peter’s denial not what we expect from believers generally, but it is also exactly the opposite of what Peter said he would do.
The timing was interesting too.
Peter’s denial came in the middle of an eight-day period known as Passion Week. It was an important time for several reasons.
- It included Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
- It represented the last few days of Jesus’ public ministry.
- 33% of all Gospel content comes from this eight-day period.
That last point is huge. Each of the four Gospels gives significant coverage to the events and words of this eight-day period. John’s Gospel, for example, dedicates almost nine chapters to this time frame.
That means that a third of all Gospel content comes from less than 1% of Jesus’ public ministry. It deserves careful consideration.
No event is more important than any other but it is fair to say that there must be special meanings residing in this content. God isn’t trying to entertain us with His storytelling ability here, He is trying to tell us something very important.
We must be sure to get His message without adding anything to it or leaving anything out.
What we have so far are words and events. Both are important. Both are equally inspired but each must be managed a little differently.
Only Inaccessible Essentials Were Inspired
The Bible isn’t telling us everything. It is providing only the information we couldn’t find on our own.
The message of the Bible is universally needed, not universally intuited.
Many things in the Bible are familiar to us: food, weather, marriage, housing, and more but the Bible mentions these familiar things to establish context and make a point that we otherwise could never know.
The periodic table of the elements is a good example. The information contained in the table is essential but you won’t find the elements listed on any page in the Bible. Why? God created the world so it could be discovered (including the elements) and us with the ability to discover it.
When God set out to communicate with us, He planned on leaving out anything we already knew or could find on our own. That means you can’t allow your thoughts, feelings, opinions, expectations, and personal codes to change God’s message.
We all have opinions! Anyone who doesn’t is probably not breathing.
It isn’t easy to do but when we read the Bible, we must set opinions aside and look for what we do not already know, not for a text to validate our opinions.
Inspiration Highlights Extraordinary
Inspiration highlights the fact that the Bible is extraordinary on two counts.
It was provided miraculously.
It contains what we would never have otherwise.
Peter Missed Inspirations Most Important Point
A misunderstanding about inspiration led to Peter’s denial of Jesus. Peter knew what Jesus said would happen and anything Jesus said was as good as inspiration. It actually became a part of the inspired text, but Peter missed that point.
Peter didn’t like what Jesus taught and decided to aim for something different. In a previous post, I showed that Peter’s ideas were entirely wrong but according to Jesus, it was worse. They were completely evil.