The Inspired Witness
“For God, who said,‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v. 6).- 2 Corinthians 4:1–6
After listing several of the perfections of the Word of God such as its majesty of style and internal unity and coherence, the Westminster Confession of Faith goes on to say “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts” (1.5). In other words, there are many objective facts about the Bible that testify to its truth, but our subjective conviction that it really is the authoritative Word of God comes ultimately from the Holy Spirit Himself.
This statement from the confession echoes John Calvin’s teaching in his Institutes (1.7–8) where he concludes that apart from the Holy Spirit, people would not receive the Bible as the Word of God. The Bible and other texts of the major world religions all claim to be divine revelation, and the final way by which it is confirmed that only the Old and New Testaments are God’s very Word to us is through the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. We should note, however, that we are not talking about a crass subjectivism whereby we believe the Bible to be the Word of God because it calls itself the Word of God and because we think it is the Word of God in our minds. Like the Westminster Confession, Calvin also gives several objective facts that can prove the credibility of Scripture to human reason. But proof is far different than persuasion. A person may be able to prove to his friend beyond a doubt that two plus two equals four, but if his friend refuses to accept that and wants to believe two plus two equals five, then he has not been persuaded.
Being sinners from the moment of our conception in the womb (Ps. 51:5), we all come into this world with a bias against the things of the Lord and a commitment to suppressing His truth (Rom. 1:18–32). We therefore need the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to what is plain to anyone who is willing to see the truth, namely, that the Bible alone is the Word of God. By His divine power, the Spirit changes our hearts, enabling us to assent to Scripture’s testimony about itself and believe those things that prove it is the creator God’s revelation of Himself.
We need the illumination of the Holy Spirit not only to make us see that the Bible is the Word of God but also to help us understand its teaching. As we study the Scripture, we need to do all we can to avail ourselves of the many fine tools for Bible study available today, but we also need to pray that the Spirit would help us receive and obey the teachings of His Word. Do you pray regularly for the Holy Spirit’s illumination?
Passages for Further Study
1 John 5:20