The Inspiration of the Prophets

Lesson 5

January 31, 2009



Memory Text: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16.

  • Quotes on the word Inspiration


  1. Enthusiasm is the inspiration of everything great. Without it no man is to be feared, and with it none despised.”  Christian Nevell Bovee

  2. Inspiration arrives as a packet of material to be delivered. John Updike

  3. Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”  Thomas Alva Edison

  4. In life you need either inspiration or desperation.”  Anthony Robbins

  5. You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”  Jack London

  6. Technique is what you fall back on when you run out of inspiration”  Rudolf Nureyev

  7.  “Method is much, technique is much, but inspiration is even more. Benjamin Cardozo

  8. Most of life is routine - dull and grubby, but routine is the momentum that keeps a man going. If you wait for inspiration you'll be standing on the corner after the parade is a mile down the street. Ben Nicholas

  9. Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask 'how', while others of a more curious nature will ask 'why'. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information. Man Ray

  10. No one was ever great without some portion of divine inspiration.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

  11. Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain Frank Lloyd Wright

  12.  “Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Ned Rorem

  13. Inspiration may be a form of super-consciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness - I wouldn't know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness.”  Aaron Copland

  14. Scholars may quote Plato in their studies, but the hearts of millions will quote the Bible at their daily toil, and draw strength from its inspirations, as the meadows draw it from the brook..”

How was the inspiration of the bible possible?

     "Written in different ages, by men who differed widely in rank and occupation, and in mental and spiritual endowments, the books of the Bible present a wide contrast in style, as well as a diversity in the nature of the subjects unfolded….. And as several writers present a subject under varied aspects and relations, there may appear, to the…. careless, or prejudiced reader, to be discrepancy or contradiction, where the thoughtful, reverent student, with clearer insight, discerns the underlying harmony. {1SM 25.3}

     "One writer is more strongly impressed with one phase of the subject; he grasps those points that harmonize with his experience or with his power of perception and appreciation; another

seizes upon a different phase; and each, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon his own mind--a different aspect of the truth in each, but a perfect harmony through all. And the truths thus revealed unite to form a perfect whole, adapted to meet the wants of men in all the circumstances and experiences of life. {1SM 25.4}

     "God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do His work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, none the less, from Heaven. The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, full of grace and truth." {1SM 26.1} Full of revelation and inspiration—Sunday, Revelation-Inspiration.

  • Sunday


1.         Let us review some synonyms of the words revelation and inspiration.

Revelation: eye opener, disclosure, exposure, discovery, experience, contact, coverage, spotlight, finding, breakthrough, unearthing.

Inspiration: motivation, stimulation, brainwave, flash, insight, encouragement, flicker, spark, burst, blaze.

2.         The bible uses the following texts to define the type of revelation-inspiration this is.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

2 Peter 1:20-21 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. Whether it would be Verbal or Thought Inspiration-Monday


  • Monday

Verbal or Thought Inspiration

1.         Inspiration acts…. on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the Word of God.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21. David wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2, NKJV). This indicates that inspiration not only imparted thoughts but ensured that the Written Word accurately conveyed God’s thoughts.

2.         Two important theories of inspiration are:

Verbal Inspiration. The focus in verbal inspiration is on the words of the Bible rather than on the author. All the words are said to be inspired by God, Who chooses from the vocabulary and educational background of the writer. According to this view, only the original writings of the biblical writers are inspired, not the copies, which might have errors. This view must be distinguished from the dictation theory of inspiration, in which every word in Scripture is dictated by the Holy Spirit without reference to the vocabulary and educational background of the writer.

Thought Inspiration. The focus here is on the writers, not on the words. Primarily the thoughts, not so much the words of the Bible, are inspired (1 Cor. 7:10-12, 39, 40; 1 Thess. 2:13), except when the words of God or an angel are quoted (Jer. 29:30, 31; Rev. 19:9) or when God speaks directly through a prophet (Num. 22:35; 23:1–12, 26). The writer receives the vision, dream, or thought and puts it down in writing in his own words (Isa. 2:1, 2; Rev. 4:1); the Holy Spirit ensures that the words used convey God’s truth correctly. The Bible, therefore, is declared to be the infallible revelation of God’s will.

The method of inspiration used, revealed sometimes radical Visions and Physical Phenomenas—Tuesday.

  • Tuesday

Visions and Physical Phenomena

1.         Daniel 10:17-18 "For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me." Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me.

2.         Acts 9:3-5. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."

3.         To stand in the presence of a heavenly being can be a powerful experience. Daniel, Saul (Paul), and John all fell to the ground when they received a heavenly vision. Daniel wrote, “no strength remained in me” (NKJV), and John said, “I fell at his feet as dead.”

4.         Ellen White describes her experience with these words: “As inquiries are frequently made as to my state in vision, and after I come out, I would say that when the Lord sees fit to give a vision, I am taken into the presence of Jesus and angels, and am entirely lost to earthly things. I can see no farther than the angel directs me.”—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 36.

5.          At times I am carried far ahead into the future and shown what is to take place. Then again I am shown things as they have occurred in the past. After I come out of vision I do not at once remember all that I have seen, and the matter is not so clear before me until I write, then the scene rises before me as was presented in vision, and I can write with freedom. Sometimes the things which I have seen are hid from me after I come out of vision, and I cannot call them to mind until I am brought before a company where that vision applies, then the things which I have seen come to my mind with force. I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision. It is impossible for me to (p. 37) call up things which have been shown me unless the Lord brings them before me at the time that He is pleased to have me relate or write them.--Spiritual Gifts (1860), vol. 2, pp. 292, 293. {1SM 36.4}

6.         In 1868 her husband, James White, gave the following description of her physical appearance while in vision: “1. She is utterly unconscious of everything transpiring around her; 2. She does not breathe. . . . [This] has been repeatedly proved by pressing upon the chest, and by closing the mouth and nostrils; 3. Immediately on entering vision, her muscles become rigid, and joints fixed, so far as any external force can influence them; . . . 4. On coming out of vision, whether in the daytime or a well-lighted room at night, all is total darkness. Her power to distinguish even the most brilliant objects, held within a few inches of the eyes, returns but gradually.”—Life Incidents (Battle Creek, Mich.: Steam Press, 1868), p. 272.

What ultimately must be the final test of Ellen White’s prophetic calling? Does having Literary Assistants make a difference?

  • Wednesday

Inspiration and Literary Assistants

1.         From Old Testament, writers used literary assistants or scribes to write down the messages God had given them. Jeremiah 36:4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah; and Baruch wrote on a scroll of a book, at the instruction of Jeremiah, all the words of the LORD which He had spoken to him.

2.         From New Testament times we know that at times scribes used a wax tablet to take down the gist of what the author wanted to say before they wrote a good copy of the letter. Prior to sending it, the author would go over the letter to make sure it conveyed to the reader what he wanted to say.

Romans 16:22 NKJV 22 I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.

Colossians 4:18 This salutation by my own hand--Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen

      3. Ellen White also used literary helpers. Here’s why:

a.)  With formal schooling ending at age 9, she recognized her own limitations as a writer. “I am not a grammarian. I will try, if the Lord will help me, at forty-five years old to become a scholar in the science. God will help me. I believe He will.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 3, p. 90. Thus, some of her assistants functioned as her copy editors.

b.)  The great demand for her writings made it necessary for her to have literary help. “After my husband's death, faithful helpers joined me, who labored untiringly in the work of copying the testimonies and preparing articles for publication.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 50.

c.)  Because most of her books were not written as books, but were put together from previously written material, she needed special assistance in their production. Marian Davis was Ellen White’s bookmaker. “She takes my articles which are published in the papers, and pastes them in blank books. She also has a copy of all the letters I write. In preparing a chapter for a book, Marian remembers that I have written something on that special point, which may make the matter more forcible. She begins to search for this, and if when she finds it, she sees that it will make the chapter more clear, she adds it. The books are not Marian's productions, but my own, gathered from all my writings.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 3, p. 91.

4.   Refuting Reports of Changes in the Writings.-- My copyists you have seen. They do not change my language. It stands as I write it. . . . {3SM 90.3} My work has been in the field since 1845. Ever since then I have labored with pen and voice. Increased light has come to me as I have imparted the light given me. I have very much more light on the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which I shall present to our people.-- Letter 61a, 1900. {3SM 90.4}  I read over all that is copied, to see that everything is as it should be. I read all the book manuscript before it is sent to the printer. So you can see that my time must be fully occupied. Besides writing, I am called upon to speak to the different churches and to attend important meetings. I could not do this work unless the Lord helped me.--Letter 133, 1902. {3SM 90.6}

Just like God helped prophets of ancient history--Luke 

  • Thursday

Inspiration and the Book of Luke

1.         Luke 1:1-4 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

2.         In writing his Gospel, Luke doesn’t seem to have relied on dreams or visions. Neither was he an eyewitness to the events he describes. Instead, he worked from what he had learned from others, all, no doubt, under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, which ensured that what he wrote down was in harmony with the historical events and God’s will.

3.          In our Bible, we might ask, Why need Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Gospels, why need the Acts of the Apostles, and the variety of writers in the Epistles, go over the same thing? {1SM 21.4}

The Lord gave His word in just the way He wanted it to come. He gave it through different writers, each having his own individuality, though going over the same history. Their testimonies are brought together in one Book, and are like the testimonies in a social meeting. They do not represent things in just the same style. Each has an experience of his own, and this diversity broadens and deepens the knowledge that is brought out to meet the necessities of varied minds. The thoughts expressed have not a set uniformity, as if cast in an iron mold, making the very hearing monotonous. In such uniformity there would be a loss of grace and distinctive beauty. . . . {1SM 21.5}

  • Conclusion

“….Many of you declare it to be merely the opinion of Sister White. You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God. You know how the Lord has manifested Himself through the Spirit of prophecy. Past, present, and future have passed before me. I have been shown faces that I had never seen, and years afterward I knew them when I saw them. I have been aroused from my sleep with a vivid sense of subjects previously presented to my mind and I have written, at midnight, letters that have gone across the continent, and arriving at a crisis, have saved great disaster to the cause of God. This has been my work for many years. A power has impelled me to reprove and rebuke wrongs that I had not thought of. Is this work of the last thirty-six years from above or from beneath? In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper, expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision—the precious rays of light shining from the throne.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 27.

 The Lord Speaks in Imperfect Speech The Lord speaks to human beings in imperfect speech, in order that the degenerate senses, the dull, earthly perception, of earthly beings may comprehend His words. Thus is shown God's condescension. He meets fallen human beings where they are. The Bible, perfect as it is in its simplicity, does not answer to the great ideas of God; for infinite ideas cannot be perfectly embodied in finite vehicles of thought. Instead of the expressions of the Bible being exaggerated, as many people suppose, the strong expressions break down before the magnificence of the thought, though the penman selected the most expressive language through which to convey the truths of higher education. Sinful beings can only bear to look upon a shadow of the brightness of heaven's glory.--Letter 121, 1901. (P.23

 {1SM 22.3} No Man to Pronounce Judgment on God's Word

 "What voice will you acknowledge as the voice of God? What power has the Lord in reserve to correct your (p. 28) errors and show you your course as it is? What power to work in the church? If you refuse to believe until every shadow of uncertainty and every possibility of doubt is removed, you will never believe. The doubt that demands perfect knowledge will never yield to faith. Faith rests upon evidence, not demonstration. The Lord requires us to obey the voice of duty, when there are other voices all around us urging us to pursue an opposite course. It requires earnest attention from us to distinguish the voice which speaks from God. We must resist and conquer inclination, and obey the voice of conscience without parleying or compromise, lest its promptings cease, and will and impulse control. {1SM 27.3}

We should not “….despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good” 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21, our memory text for next week. Lesson 6  is called “Testing the Prophet.”



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