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Inspiration and the Writer of Scripture | Theology Matters

  • April 2011 Issue
Practical Theology

Luke’s introduction to his Gospel helps us to understand the unique relationship between the Holy Spirit and the writers of Scripture. Other passages of Scripture emphasize the Holy Spirit’s control. For example, Paul describes the words of the Bible as “God breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). He pictures the words of Scripture as words breathed out by God. Peter wrote that those who spoke for God were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). But Luke emphasizes the human dimension of the process of inspiration.

The Holy Spirit’s control did not blot out the writer’s initiative. Luke was one of several who wrote about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He undertook this task because “it seemed good” to him (Luke 1:3). In addition, Luke relied upon others for information. He “carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” This investigation may have included comparing other written records of the words and works of Jesus and probably involved interviews with eyewitnesses. Many believe that Luke’s description of the birth of Jesus drew heavily on Mary’s personal recollection of those events.

Luke also exercised a measure of editorial control over the arrangement of his material. The fact that his aim was to write an “orderly account” of Jesus’ ministry not only says something about his own intention but also sheds light on the other Gospels. Luke’s intention was to write a chronological account. This implies that other accounts were arranged differently. Other Gospels arrange their material by theme or topic.

Each of the Gospels has its own emphasis, style, and vocabulary. Luke uses a refined writing style that reflects not only the sources from which he drew but also his theological perspective. Commentator C. Marvin Pate has observed that Luke’s literary style matches his theological interests. The early chapters are Semitic in flavor, evidence of the roots of the gospel in Israel’s ancient story. The later chapters are more Hellenistic, in anticipation of the gospel’s eventual movement from a Jewish to a Gentile audience.

The human authorship of Luke’s Gospel does not detract from its status as fully inspired Scripture. Yet God used the vocabulary, authorial intent, and style of Luke to communicate His Word. The control of the Holy Spirit, whose ministry guaranteed that Luke would record only what God wanted written, certifies the Gospel as the infallible Word of God.

For Further Reading
To learn more about the inspiration and authority of Scripture read Scripture: Its Meaning. Its Power. Its Authority by Robert Saucy (Nelson).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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