The Inspiration And The Canonization Of The Bible

(All the contents of this article is adapted or gleaned from the book, How To Get The Most From God’s Word by Dr John MacArthur, Jr.)

Revelation And Inspiration

Revelation is the message from God and Inspiration was the primary method of delivering that message to mankind.  Inspiration is the act of the Holy Spirit in revealing to human writers the message that God intended to comprise the Bible.  The inspiration was not only in concepts and in thoughts but also in the very words.

1 Cor 2:13.  We also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches.

1 Pet 1:10-11 NLT.  10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.

From 1 Pet 1:10,11,  it is amazing to note that when the apostles received the prophecy from God, they did not understand and they simply recorded what they were told.

How can the Bible be the Word of God and at the same time, for example, the words of Paul ?  God formed the personality of the writer.  God made Paul into the man He wanted him to be.  God controlled his heredity and his environment. When the writer reached the point that God intended, God directed and controlled the free choice of the man so that he wrote down the very words of God. God literally selected the words out of each author’s own life, out of his personality, his vocabulary, and his emotions.  The words were man’s words, but that man’s life had been so framed by God that they were God’s words as well.  So we can say that Paul wrote Romans, and we can say God wrote it. Both statements are correct.  2 Sam 23:2.

2 Tim 3:16. ESV.  16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  Just like how God spoke out of His mouth and breathed the universe into existence (Psalms 33:6),  God breathed the Bible into existence.


The word Canon means measuring rod or standard.  It was Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria who referred to the completed NT in AD 350 as the canon.  The final choice of the 27 NT books were held up by Athanasius and other early church fathers.

The following were the tests used by the early church fathers in deciding the final canon of the NT.

  1. Was the book authored by an apostle or someone close to the apostle ?
  2. Did the content square off with apostolic doctrine ?
  3. Was the book widely read and used in the churches ?
  4. Was the book recognized and used by the next generations after the early church ? (Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius,  Athanasius, Jerome and Augustine.)

As for the OT,  Jewish tradition holds that the final compilers of the OT canon were part of the Great Synagogue, that school of scribes founded by Ezra after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon. There were some apocryphal books not added into the OT canon because :

  1. They were written long after the canon was completed about 400 BC.
  2. None of these apocryphal books claim divine inspiration and some even openly disclaim it.
  3. They contain errors of fact and teach questionable ethics and doctrines. For example, the writings justify suicide and assassination and also teach praying for the dead.

Infallibility, Inerrancy And Authoritativeness

The Chicago Statement, drafted at a summit conference called in October 1978 by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy to affirm the authority of Scripture, explained well with this statement :

“Infallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable rule and guide in all matters.  Similarly, inerrant signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguard the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.”

If the Bible is infallible and inerrant, it must be the final word – the highest standard of authority – because it is God’s very Word.

Envy And Jealousy

James 3:16

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

Prov 3:31-32

Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways,  for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence.

Prov 6:34-35

For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge.   He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts.

Prov 14:30

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

Prov 23:17-18

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Prov 24:1-2,19,20

Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them, for their hearts devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble…Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.

Prov 27:4

Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

Two of the terrible grinds in life are envy and jealousy.   They rob us of peace.  We often pray for the much coveted blessings of peace and joy from God, yet ironically we chase these blessings away through our own sinful desires.

There is a difference between Envy and Jealousy. Envy is like a man with his hands empty of achievements or possessions that he desires and he finds it hard to swallow about people who have what he does not have at the moment. Jealousy is like a man having full of achievements or possessions in his hands, yet he worries about losing out to others who are fast “catching up”, or he is not happy with others having more than him.

The jealous guy will always occupy his position without giving up.  He will always strive to have more.  He will always strive to stay ahead with a very competitive attitude.  He will grind himself into a nervous wreck without pausing to learn to enjoy all the intangible things like relationship, friendship, nature and arts.

The envious guy will curse, not bless, others hoping in his or her heart that others will lose their possessions one day.   He will strive to attain these achievements or possessions in the shortest possible time. He is so sewn up with himself because he feels bitter towards all who have what he does not have (unlike the jealous guy who only has that sour taste in his mouth with few in his circle).

Sadly we see envy and jealousy even in Christian ministry today.

When a brother is wise, he invites irrational backbiting.

When a brother is capable in his ministry, he invites undermining.

When a brother shares his testimony of receiving God’s amazing providence in his life, he invites disbelief.

There is no meaningful ministry for a believer consumed by envy and jealousy for a Christian knows to be the greatest in God’s kingdom, he has to be the least and servant of all.

Envy and jealousy eat away at one’s soul. Our Lord Jesus has exhorted in so many parables to be rich towards God and not towards things, and to store treasure in heaven rather than accumulate perishable treasure on earth.  True peace and joy is only found in our Lord.   Rom 14:17.

One who succumbs to envy and jealousy and pursue the world is at enmity with God.  He cannot be a true disciple who has to surrender all idols to God and let God reign in his life.

Contentment with godliness is the only antidote. 1 Tim 6:6-10.  Contentment freeds us from greed which will consume us and anxiety which will torment us.