THE BELGIC CONFESSION – ARTICLE 3 (The Written Word of God)

“We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but that men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says; and that afterwards God, from a special care which He has for us and our salvation, commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed word to writing; and He Himself wrote with His own finger the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.” (The Belgic Confession, Article 3)

Article 3 of the Belgic Confession deals with the written Word of God. It answers the following questions: How are we to view the Scriptures? What is their source – are they from man or from God?

The Inspiration of Scripture

This article expands upon what was said in the previous article about God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture (special revelation). The primary thing that this article affirms and teaches is the inspiration of the Scriptures. Notice that in doing so the writer of the Confession borrows the language of 1 Peter 1:19-21 (specifically v.21):

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (ESV)

The passage in 2 Peter (above) more or less describes the process involved in the inspiration of the Scriptures – it was not the product of “the will of man,” but rather “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (v.21). Men (the prophets and apostles) spoke or even wrote from God as they were moved or “carried along” by the Holy Spirit.

We get the word “inspiration” (or “breathed out”) from 2 Timothy 3:16, where the Apostle Paul writes,

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness . . . .” (ESV)

To say that all Scripture is “inspired” (or “given by inspiration of God” – NKJV) does not mean that the writers of Scripture were simply inspired the way an artist might speak of feeling inspired by a sunset or something like that. Rather, to say that the Scriptures are “God-breathed” means that God Himself is ultimately and primarily the one doing the speaking in the Scriptures. In other words, the Scriptures are the very Word of God!

Not only that, but the Apostles clearly viewed each other’s writings as Scripture. For example,  the Apostle Peter writes,

“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15-16, ESV)

So the Apostle Peter speaks of the letters of the Apostle Paul being included in the Scriptures. For Peter to say this so early on in the history of the church shows that the apostles were self-aware of what God was doing in speaking & writing through them.

Having established the inspiration of the Scriptures in this Article, the Confession next goes on to deal with the canon of Scripture (Article 4), the authority of the Scriptures (Article 5), the Apocrypha or non-canonical books (Article 6), and the sufficiency of Scripture (Article 7).

Of course, it is the inspiration of the Scriptures that sets them apart from all other writings, gives them divine authority as the very Word of God, and assures us of their sufficiency for our faith and life.

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