#19 THE SPIRIT AND THE WORD

We have already seen in an earlier meditation that the Holy Spirit is intimately involved in getting us saved: Peter referred to ‘the sanctifying work of the Spirit’ [1:2] by which the Holy Spirit set us apart to be God’s special possession, obedient to Jesus Christ and saved by his blood.

Now in verses 10-12 Peter refers to two other aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit:

It was the Spirit of Christ who moved the Old Testament prophets to speak and to write about Christ, his sufferings and the glorious salvation that would result.
The apostles who preached the gospel did so informed, empowered and enabled by that same Holy Spirit.

Both of these are important in our twenty-first century context where the authenticity of the Scripture as the Word of God is questioned and often disbelieved even by many in the church.

In 1Peter 1:10-11 Peter affirms the deliberate and active involvement of the Spirit in the words written by the Old Testament writers. We must not let his reference to ‘prophets’ limit this to those books we recognize as ‘prophets’. The whole of the Old Testament, not just the books of the prophets, are prophetic of Christ, whether it be the fall narrative [Genesis 3:16], or personal history [Genesis 22], or ritual regulation [Leviticus 16], or song [Psalm 22], or prophetic word [Isaiah 53] – all of these words about Christ, his suffering and the salvation that follows, were inspired and informed by the Spirit of Christ, who was ‘in’ the writers.

Peter further affirms this revelatory work of the Spirit in 2Peter 1:19-21. Just as he indicates in 1:10-11 that the prophets had no idea what they were writing about when they predicted the sufferings of Christ, so here in his second letter he states ‘no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man...’ The Old Testament is simply not a collection of human ideas, of human interpretation of life and reality, of human wishful thinking about the future.

No, says Peter. Rather, ‘men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’. The word translated ‘were carried along’ refers to an action like that of the wind in a sail. Without the wind the sail, the ship, is powerless, motionless. But when the wind comes, the ship is borne along by the power of the wind. The sail, the ship, is but a passive object empowered by a force not its own. This is how the Scripture came into existence. This is how men spoke the word of God. The Holy Spirit empowered them not just to speak or to write, but to speak and to write the very words of God.

In 1Peter 1:12 Peter affirms the involvement of the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the gospel. The apostles preached the gospel ‘by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven’. Peter was present when Jesus promised to send the Spirit who would teach them all things and remind them of everything he had said to them [John 14:26]. Peter was one of those few upon whom the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, empowering them to boldly proclaim Jesus Christ as the all-powerful and divine risen Lord [Acts 2]. The message of the apostles, thus proclaimed and committed to writing by themselves and their close associates, became known as the ‘New Testament’.

The question ‘Can we trust the Bible?’ actually becomes the question ‘Do we trust God?’ Do we trust that the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, empowered and oversaw these writings of men so that what they wrote is indeed God’s self-revelation, God speaking to us?

If we do not trust the Spirit of Christ here in this question of the authenticity and trustworthiness of the Bible then we really cannot trust him anywhere, and that plummets us into an intolerable position because:

It is the Spirit of God who brings us to new birth [John 3:1-8].

It is the Spirit who sets us apart as God’s possession and unites us to Christ [1Peter 1:2].

It is the Spirit who seals us and guarantees our eternal redemption [Ephesians 1:13,14; 2Corinthians 1:22; 5:5].

It is the Spirit who testifies that we are God’s children [Romans 8:15,16; Galatians 4:6].

This Holy Spirit who works the miracle of salvation within us, uniting us to Christ and restoring us to a right relationship with God, is the same Spirit who empowered, directed and administered the written record of God’s revelation which we call ‘the Bible’.

If we trust him with our salvation then we ought also trust him in his act of revelation. But if we question his act of revelation then we have no basis for confidence in his work of salvation.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2017