Scripture and the Unalterable Character of God

Updated: Oct 15

Inspiration and Inerrancy are not only about the veracity of scripture but these theological pillars also affect our view of God. Both reflect truths about the character of God. To understand this connection, we will not begin with a definition of Inspiration or inerrancy, but with a robust understanding of the unchanging character of God and see how that relates to scripture.

There is an indivisible connex between God and the nature of His word. While the word of God is not God, however, it does showcase God's nature and essence. One could say God's nature has left an imprint on the scriptures. In other words, He gave it a certain character, which in turn reflects back on Him.


For instance, the word of God is truth, because God is truth. It is eternal because God is eternal. It is inerrant because God cannot lie. It is unchanging and unchangeable because God is immutable. This is so, because the nature of the word of God is established by the character of God. There is an indissoluble bond between the Divine Author of the scriptures and the scriptures itself. Therefore, since God is eternally unalterable, it stands to reason that His word is too.


Why? The Apostle Paul says that "all scripture is inspired by God and is profitable..." (2 Timothy 3:16). The superlative "all" demonstrates that all of scripture is breathed out by God. Some might argue, well the New Testament (hereafter, NT) is not exactly breathed out by God since Paul is talking about the OT. There are many ways to answer this objection.

  • First, Jesus is God, therefore what Jesus says, he says as God, thus the word Jesus produced (NT), is God produced.

  • Second, the Book of Hebrews, says "God spoke... but now He speaks through His Son". The same God who spoke in the Old Testament (hereafter, OT) is the same God who speaks in the NT, in the person of Jesus.

  • Third, Jesus claims, in similitude to the OT, that His word will endure forever, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Matthew 24:35, authors emphasis). Which means, that Jesus equates the veracity and eternality of His word to the OT.

For this reason, we can make the claim that both the OT and NT are "inspired", or rather, breathed out by God and both have certain characteristics and imbued quality that reflect to some degree its relation to God.

The foundation of this inherent reality which is the nature of the word in its truthfulness, reliability, eternality lies in the fact that God himself breathed out the scriptures. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul states this truth, in the word "inspired".

While our translations are describing the process of inscripturation, the actual word is θεόπνευστος, "Theopneustos". This is a adjective, which is made up from God, "Theos" and breathe "pneustos". It literally means "God-breathed".

It is more than the fact that it comes from God and that God speaks in the scriptures, moreover, God himself breathed out the very words we know as scripture. This marvellous doctrine is the foundation for the existence of the unshakable eternal bond between the scripture and God. This becomes the cornerstone of our understanding of Inspiration and inerrancy. The only reason it is profitable for the man of God is because of its source and essence, furnished by the eternal God.


In other words, God cannot produce a word which is antithetical to Him. He cannot produce a self-testimony that stands in contradistinction to His Divine nature. The Bible must be verbally and plenary inspired in all its parts, because it comes from God. This means that since the character and glory of God are at stake in the word of God, it is, therefore, necessary that there is a total alignment of scripture with its Author. Scripture reflects the nature and essence of Almighty God.


In this blog, we look at two realities that support the notion that God's word is inextricably linked to Him. We will see that the word of God is both eternal and eternally true.


1. God’s Word is Forever Established.

That God is eternal and has no end to His being and existence, is foundational to the eternal nature of the scriptures.




In Psalm 119:89 the author says


Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89, ESV)
Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven(s).” (Psalm 119:89, NASB95)

The eternality of God’s word is expressed in this verse. The word for fixed, settled or established is in a participle form. It conveys a stronger durative nature than the imperfect form in Biblical Hebrew.

It suggests an action that is typically ongoing or progressing. In this case, the sense is that the word by its very nature is ongoing or progressing or characteristically enduring. The word means, “to be in a position", or "to remain standing” (HALOT, (נצב) 715).

This gives the idea of its immovability. It is settled or set to remain standing. The Psalmist intensifies this reality by the noun “forever”. In other words, the word of God, is not just given for our time, but God has established and settled it to exist forever. His word remains forever. There is a correlation between God and His word. God is eternal and the word He gives is, eternal also.


Now, what about the NT? As mentioned some might resist this notion because we think since the NT comes so much later it is definitely not of the same quality as the OT. I already made this point above but it is important to know that this is not just true of the OT but equally valid of the NT.

The process through which we received the NT is through Christ, and by means of the Spirit. The author of Hebrews says, that God is speaking today by means of His Son. This is done through the inspiration of the NT (I made this point in my blog, "why the bible"). Furthermore, Jesus makes the same claim of His own words, as the OT makes concerning the word of God in the OT. Jesus claims that His words have equal veracity and gravitas as the OT.


Thus when the Psalmist declares that the word of God is forever fixed in heaven, it speaks of the eternality and the durative quality of scripture. This is only true because of the One who gave it is eternal.


This is important, because if we discount the veracity and truthfulness of God’s word, then we impugn God's character. The Scriptures not only reveal God but also reflect the very character of God.


Scripture has authority because it comes from God, but the corollary to this is that since God is authoritative, it stand to reason that scripture is also authoritative. God's authority is invested in the scriptures because God speaks in the pages of scripture.


Richard Mayhue confirms this reality in saying:


God’s authority in Scripture can thus be described as original, unalterable, exclusive, permanent, ultimate, obligatory, and consequential. Scripture is to be authoritatively preached and submissively obeyed since the Author of and the authority within will reward righteous obedience and condemn those who disregard and disobey His authority in Scripture. The concept of authority is thoroughly woven into the fabric of Scripture. (Mayhue, R. L. (2004). The Authority of Scripture. Master’s Seminary Journal, 15(2), 225.)

In other words, we cannot separate the authority of scripture from the authority of the Author of scripture. There is invested authority. Dr. Mayhue goes on to say:


Thus, the very nature of God and God’s Word is not determined inductively by human reason but deductively from the testimony of Scripture (cf. Ps 119:89; Isa 40:8). (Mayhue, R. L. (2004). The Authority of Scripture. Master’s Seminary Journal, 15(2), 233.)

In other words, the character of God is seen and can be exposited from His word. This implies or can be deduced that there is a connection between the nature of the word and the nature of God. Thus, when the Bible speaks, it speaks authoritatively because the author speaks authoritatively.

The truth of God is not invested in the church, people, the preacher or popular opinion but rather, it is invested and stems from the very nature of God. For this reason, when scripture asserts that it is established forever, it is making a claim of the eternality of God's word. Therefore, God's word is eternally inviolable, unalterable and unchangeable because God himself is eternally inviolable, unalterable and unchangeable.


2. God’s Word is Eternally True


The same point can be stressed for the eternality of the truthfulness of God's word. God is true and He is eternal, therefore, the entirety of His word is true and eternal.


The author of Psalm 119 says “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160, ESV).


The use of the word “sum”, in Biblical Hebrew רֹאשׁ־ (rōʾšh) is interesting. This word is generally used to mean "head" such as the “head of a person or animal” (HALAOT, (רֹאשׁ־) 1165). This can be seen in Genesis 3:15 in the protoevangelium, where God pronounces that the seed of the woman will come and “He shall bruise your head” (3:15). This is the same word as in Psalm 119:160.

However, it can also be used to refer to the whole person, as in Joshua 2:19 “his blood shall be on his own head, inferring that the entire person would bear the consequences of his actions. Similarly, when it is used as an abstract, with the sense of the value or total sum of a whole thing, then it means the "entirety" or the "sum total".

In Psalm 139:17(a) the author says, that God’s thoughts are precious to him, then in describing the nature of these thoughts he says “how vast is the sum (total) of them” (139:17b).


The same word "sum" is used here to define the total or entirety of God’s thoughts. With this in mind, when the Psalmist says that the "sum total" of your words is truth, he is saying that the entirety, the whole, that is, every part is true eternally.


The word “true” is not an adjective, but a noun, it is not being used attributively but it is in a predicate relationship with “your word”. This means that it is saying “Your word is truth” not truthful (while correct), but instead, it means that scripture, by its very nature is wholly true. Its quality is defined by its essence. The sense is the entire scope of God's word is by its essential nature and quality, perfectly and consistently true. Jesus, in John 17:17, says "Your word is true". That is the same meaning and essence here.


Why is this important? Because of who God is.


In the self-proclamation of God to Moses, we find that God makes this astounding claim. “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6).


The word for "faithfulness" is the word "true" or truth, which means that God is eternally true He abounds in covenant loyalty and truth forever. Therefore, whatever God speaks must and will always be true.

This can also be proved from Psalm 31:5 where David says, “You have redeemed me, O Yahweh, God of truth”.

God and truth are in a construct relationship which means that "truth" is somehow related or expressing a quality of the noun to which it is connected. In this case, God=true, must be translated as “God of truth” in the sense that truth comes from God or God is the definition of truth itself.


The word of God is true because God by His very nature is true. This sets the stage for the point that I am making, that God’s word is eternally true. It is not just true, but eternally true.


This is what the Psalmist is after when he declares, “your righteous rules endures forever” (Psalm 119:160).


What is meant by righteous rules or ordinances? This word is where we get the word “judgments” from.


It can be used in the legal sense of pronouncement, but it essentially related to a "standard, a rule" or "the one who acts as a ruler." This word is used of God’s exercise of Sovereign rulership over all the earth (Genesis 18:25). It relates to God as judge and ruler, or one who sets the rules.


In using this word, the Psalmist notes that these judgments, these ordinances or rules which God gives, will last forever. Why? because of who God is.

God is eternal and the truthfulness of His word is inextricably linked to His divine nature.


This point can be made throughout the Bible.


God declares His word to be "standing", or "continue to stand" throughout eternity.


The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand (in perpetuity) forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, ESV)

Jesus made this claim about His own words. While this is not definitive proof of the deity of Christ, it does point to the reality that Jesus makes His words equal to the OT and therefore God the father. Therefore, whatever He says, will remain and is beyond contestation forever.


Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, ESV)

This is an emphatic negation, the sense here is it will surely or most definitely not pass away.


The Apostle Peter makes the same connection when he quotes the prophet Isaiah and claims that this word is living and enduring. Both these participles give a sense of ongoing, continuous reality. The idea is that it is ever-living and ever-enduring. He says,


but the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:25, ESV)

The word "Lord" is Yahweh. Since God is eternal, the word He gives is therefore eternal as well. This means, that there is no end to its authority and truthfulness.

Why? because of who God is. There is an unbreakable connection and union between God and His word. It is eternally true because God is eternally true. If the word fails and is not inerrant, that would imply that God fails and is errant. One cannot remove the nature and essence of the Bible from the source of the Bible.


2 Timothy 3:16 says, that "all scripture is breathed out by God". That means God spoke it. This is the testimony of Hebrews, "God who spoke to our forefathers..." It does not say, nor does it mean that God breathed into the words, but that every word, is plenary, and wholly, comprehensively, breathed out by God and therefore, God speaks in every single word of scripture.


Just as we will not remove the contents of modern books from their authors today, so we should not remove the content of scripture from its Author, who is God. For instance, we might claim "Shakespeare said", or we will say, "this author claims". While it is merely a book, we naturally link the words of the book to the author, while there were editors, translators, proofreaders, publishers and many other copies made, we still say, the author says. Why? because we understand, that the words and content of the book are the words and content of the author, no matter who got involved in the production of the book. Likewise, with the process of inspiration, it does not matter that God used frail, sinful, humans to be the earthly authors of the scripture, because ultimately scriptures, that is, all of scripture comes from God.


While it was written by 40 different authors, over 1600 years yet it still remains the word of God. Therefore, since God's nature, character and essence are unalterable, it stands to reason, that His word, which reflects His nature, character and essence, must also be unalterable.


Moses says that this is the word of Yahweh, you shall not take away or add to these words.


This is repeated in many passages throughout the Bible.


"You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you." Deuteronomy 4:2

“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it." Deuteronomy 12:32

"Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar." Proverbs 30: 5-6

"I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book." Revelation 22:18-19

"Do not add or take away". That is pretty clear. Why do we not have the freedom to amend the word of God? Two reasons, 1) because of who He is 2) because it is eternally established.


Moses claims that the scriptures are Yahweh's word. The covenant-keeping God who is faithful, gracious and steadfast in lovingkindness, gave mankind a self-testimony and for this reason, no one has the right to amend it. He expects that His word is kept from generation to generation because it will endure from generation to generation.


The word of God is not removed from God. It is His self-revelation and must be treated as such. God's word cannot be altered, because God's nature is unalterable.** see footnote.


For this reason, we can trust that it is true today as it was at the time it was written. We can firmly believe that what God says and prophecies will come true. We can trust that His word will endure, it will remain, and while the shifting shades of time may come and go, the word of the Lord will endure forever, because He endures forever.


For Further Reflection

  • God is unchanging = unchanging word (Luke 21:33) - an argument made above.

  • God is truth = word of truth (2 Samuel 7:28; John 17:17, 1 Kings 17:24)

  • God does not lie (ever) = inerrant word (forever) [deducible: Psalm 119:160a; Romans 3:4; Hebrew 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:13; 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21, etc.]


Footnote.

**It is true that not every aspect of God's character or perfection is equal to scripture, while in certain cases it can be logically argued, for instance, God's omniscience [His divine ability to know all things] may be reflected in that scripture speaks prophetically of what God will do, revealing His omniscience.

In addition, His omnipresence, [God's capacity to be everywhere at the same time, in the fullness of Deity] is not true of scripture, while some have suggested that scripture has reached around the world, which is certainly not the same as omnipresence.

God's omnipotence, [revealing His divine unmatched and unchallenged power to do all things in accordance with His own will] cannot be said of scripture, even though scripture speaks of it.

It is important to state those realities of God's word in relation to God's character only as far as Scripture itself testifies to it.


Consulted Resources


Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Enns, Paul P. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989.

Frame, John M. Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006.


Geisler, Norman L., and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Rev. and expanded. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986.


Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000.

MacArthur, John, and Richard Mayhue, eds. Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017.

Mayhue, Richard L. “The Authority of Scripture.” Master’s Seminary Journal 15, no. 2 (2004): 225–236.

Ockenga, Harold John. "The Word of the Lord." The Campbell Morgan Memorial Bible Lectureship, No. 3. Westminster Chapel, Buckingham Gate, London, S.W.1, 1951. (https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_word_ockenga.html)


Pettegrew, Larry D. “The Perspicuity of Scripture.” Master’s Seminary Journal 15, no. 2 (2004): 207–225.

Sproul, R. C. (2009). Can I Trust the Bible?


Zemek, George J. The Word of God in the Child of God: Exegetical, Theological, and Homiletical Reflections from the 119th Psalm. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2005.



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