What is inspiration?

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It is known for centuries that God inspires people in an astonishing way through His Spirit. But how does this function? There were some who have tried to buy this knowledge or bend it towards their will. But they have found that this isn’t the way it functions. What has become clear however is that it makes His acts and His people invincible through it. What is written about it in the Bible?

Inspiration (from a Latin word) means ‘inclination of a spirit’. Since ancient times it is seen as proof that a spirit or spirits exist outside of men. However, since the Enlightenment (18th century) this ‘spirit’ is only recognized as the human spirit [1]; the cognitive, reasoning and thinking part of men [2]. This human inspiration is seen as passion, motivation or having a better, sharp insight. It is what gives creativity and new energy. This definition, however, doesn’t address the ‘super-human’ inspiration by which some people have experienced it in a way that cannot be denied [3].

Word study
The word ‘inspiration’ cannot be found in the Bible [4]. However, what the word represents is mentioned in it. For example, with the Hebrew words ‘ja‘er panajw – He will make His countenance shine’ (Nm 6:25; Is 60:1), which means that God ‘will shine light’ from His will on a believer. In this case ‘light’ represents something [5] from God that is being transferred for a specific purpose (Is 2:3). Also the word ‘tavoen – insight’ is used elsewhere in the Bible, which stems from the root bien – understand/comprehend. Then the word combinations ‘beqirbam – in their midst’ and ‘al-libam – to their heart’ are used (Jr 31:33).

In the New testament (NT) the Greek word combination ‘hupomnesei – making aware of’ (Jh 14:26) is used or ‘marturesei – testify/declare under oath’ about the Biblical truth (Jh 15:26). Also the word ‘theopneustos – reminded by God’ (2 Tim 3:16). A special revelation given to a believer.

Human inspiration
This is inspiration that doesn’t come from outside a man, but from man itself. It is supposed to originate from the human spirit. But since man is from birth only matter [6] this ‘spirit’ is also only just matter and then the word ‘inspiration’ is used wrongly. Words like ‘inclination – neighing towards’ or ‘ignition – fired up’ would be more appropriate. The genius, the artistic intellect which makes humans capable to imagine and discover; the inclination to investigate. But without outside help this would always be limited to the physical. It would take ages to get any significant progress based solely on the human genius. How then is the rather high advancement of developments and discoveries of man to be explained?

In ancient times humans were much more aware of the existence of all kinds of good and evil spirits outside man who seemed much more powerful then them. However the ‘Enlightened’ man has abandoned that ‘superstition’. It explains modern prophecies, like those of Einstein, as ‘foresight’ or ‘logically reasoned expectation’. Things have to happen as they do or come to reveal it since most processes are supposedly fixed. Because not all these processes are yet scientifically understood these are classified as ‘human inspiration’. All is supposed to depend on the fragile, uncertain and constantly self doubting man.

In the Bible human thinking, reasoning and considering is however sharply rejected as corrupt. All humans, including believers, are declined as useless, inadequate, vain and evil (Ps 14:3; 53:3 (4); Rm 3:12).

Inspiration from God
In Biblical sense inspiration only comes from God, since only He initiates it and has a purpose with it. Due to the above mentioned human corruption [7], even the inspiration from God in humans shall always be partial, limited [8] or ‘mixed’ [9]. It is a miracle, but also God’s great mercy that He inspires humans and in that way makes them part of His works. He also wants that believers through it will trust each other but also will test inspiration. Still, human inspiration by God remains such that not every revelation is always as clear, comprehensive and encompassing as one would like [10]. This is, by the way, also a fact for the direct revelation; the Bible [11].

Reasons for inspiration
Originally God lived upon the earth (Gn 3:8) and that made divine inspiration unnecessary. He however withdrew Himself to heaven when man became apostate and evil. After that He then sometimes appeared [12] to believers and spoke to them directly with His Voice (Nm 7:89) [13]. God also send angels and prophets to the believers to tell them a message [14]. But due to the enormous distance [15] between God and believers divine inspiration became more and more important [16]. Through divine inspiration God began to work by way and in the midst of believers. Within them.

But with the coming of the Lord Jesus the distance is made smaller. After His return to the Father the Holy Spirit could come again [17] to the believers [18]. The redemption of the power of satan could then be shared with the believers [19]. Through it divine inspiration made a breakthrough [20] like never before [21].

Inspiration and God’s Spirit
Divine inspiration is given by the Holy Spirit. Through that Spirit God gives something in a believer [22] (Ex 31:3; 36:1). God will not depart from heaven before the set time [23]. The Holy Spirit was however allowed to depart from heaven. His descending (and ascending) overlaps with the angels of God who also do so (Gn 28:12) [24] and they are also spirits (Hb 1:14). The difference is however that only the Holy Spirit is allowed and able to do things which angels may not and cannot [25].

Divine inspiration also has to do with the characteristics of the Holy Spirit. One of them is to seek out (Ps 139:3; 1 Cor 2:10). This is therefore what inspiration then also does in believers (1 Chr 28:8; Jm 1:25). Another characteristic is distinguishing. This was also a typical function of the kohaniem (the Israelite priests of God; Lv 11:47) and of prophets; teaching the instructions of God (Torah) and judgment. But this distinguishing was hardly welcomed by humans, but often rejected and avoided. It represents struggle, dispute and an obligation to change. Distinguishing reveals recalcitrance, sins and evilness (Jh 16:8). It shows the fallen state of man. But it doesn’t leave it with that. Distinguishing also shows a way to recover, spiritual growth and the shalom of God (prosperity/receiving favor from God).

Then there is another characteristic to make humans change in a way God wants. Being empowered by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this happens to believers in a way that even they cannot control [26]. This is not a state of being ‘possessed’, but receiving the power, zeal and courage of God to do things they normally could never do themselves. Inspiration from God can set humans up to do ‘superhuman’ things and wonders. Also, to understand and do signs. These prove by themselves that they come from God [27]. Even unbelievers or recalcitrant people can receive inspiration from God. For example, the Pharaoh whose hart was hardened by God, so He could show what His will was (Ex 7:3-5), or king Koresh (Cyrus), who did things which were well pleasing to God (Is 45:1).

Necessity of inspiration
The necessity of inspiration of His people becomes clear from the history of Israel. If God didn’t act then Israel would have fallen away in apostasy and recalcitrance. That God sometimes not acted for Israel was not always because of a lack of Israel. God sometimes acted when they were on the good Way (Torah). His acts were not always only meant to keep them ‘on the tracks’. Sometimes He acted to show them further continuation, the higher path (Jh 9:3). The Lord Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would bring the thru spiritual life which the physical man needed to really be of use to God (Jh 6:63) [28].

The word of God (the Bible) is of crucial importance for believers, but without the inspiration of God ineffective [29]. However, through inspiration of each generation the word of God will achieve what it suppose to for each generation (Hb 4:12). That inspiration needs the word of God and only works within its framework. It is also the word of God itself that will instigate inspiration and prayer for it (Ps 13:3; 19:8).

But inspiration doesn’t stand on itself. It has a use, a purpose and its own distinguishing properties. That gives it authority. God will confirm it, not just by blessing it, but also by making it ‘catching’. Inspiration may not be limited to the believer that received it, but must move others in the people of God and change them [30], so that through it God will be more and more honored and served.

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[1] Assuming that every human has a ‘spirit’.
[2] Complementing feeling/the will (the ‘soul’).
[3] That form of inspiration shows that the Enlightenment ignores a reality or doesn’t recognize it.
[4] Latin is not a language used by the Bible writers.
[5] This can be all kinds of things, like insight, counsel or knowledge, but not a blessing in general.
[6] That man nowadays is like this (unspiritual), doesn’t mean that man was like that from the beginning.
[7] This is not caused by a certain evil or criminal mindset of humans, but is caused by its damaged, sickly and limited state as inherent quality.
[8] Not completely or explicit, but revelations are often just in general terms or a distant outlook.
[9] Partly from God and partly from man. The latter often caused by the divine inspiration or from general knowledge or insight in the order of God. Paul speaks about the inspiration from God and about his own opinion (1 Cor 7:25, 40).
[10] God reveals things only when He finds that it is necessary. Sometimes a partial revelation can stay partial for ages and only just then will be further revealed when He decides that it is time. This confirms that God is directed involved in the spiritual life of humans.
[11] This shows that inspiration gives different kinds of revelation from God (patchwork). Sometimes even about the same subject. Also there is an hierarchy in the revelations from God.
[12] This makes inspiration unnecessary.
[13] This is not inspiration, but acclamation from God.
[14] This is not inspiration from God.
[15] Some have called that, quite rightly, the darkening of God. Although the word ‘darkening’ represents the reality of God wrongly. Actually it is Him ‘withdrawing’ from the physical Creation.
[16] This is also how the Scriptures of the Old Testament (OT) originated.
[17] In the way man became again the spiritual being which God had intended. Therefore it was no longer possible that other spirits could take hold of them. An enormous problem for any man without the Spirit (believers or not; Mt 12:43-45).
[18] But the Messiah hasn’t come yet. The salvation plan of God hasn’t ended with the works of the Lord Jesus.
[19] Baptized in the Holy Spirit or rebirth; man is spiritually reborn. Its ‘dead spirit’ is revived.
[20] With that inspiration the NT originated.
[21] When inspiration remains necessary, the distance between God and the believers remains. This shows the limited state of being unfulfilled of the things of God. However the distance between Creator and creature will always remain.
[22] Inspiration is limited to a person.
[23] As long as Creation is not renewed (Is 33:5; Rev 21:3).
[24] There is also overlap with the work of the Lord Jesus.
[25] Satan and his demons distribute divine qualities with the purpose of getting power over humans. Due to this severe trespassing of the authorizations of angels they heap up guilt towards God. But God mostly doesn’t prevent and hinder their activities but on occasion makes use of these. So, there is no guarantee that every ‘inspiration’ comes from God. It has to be scrutinized.
[26] Normally believers can resist inspiration.
[27] Although humans tend to connect inspiration with the mystical world.
[28] Humans would get His Spirit again, which they originally possessed (Gn 1:7).
[29] This is quite an important statement, since inspiration often is understood in connection with Biblical Theology (the divine inspiration of Bible authors and God’s commitment towards His words). To understand the word of God and to apply it inspiration is again needed. Without inspiration in the now it would be useless and meaningless to have given inspired words in the past.
[30] Thru inspiration in one believer shall eventually be useful to (a large community) of believers.