The knowledge of God’s existence, character, and moral law, which comes through creation to all humanity, is often called “general revelation” (because it comes to all people generally).
General revelation is distinct from “special revelation” which refers to God’s words addressed to specific people (Rom. 10:13-17). The bible is necessary for knowing the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but it is not necessary for knowing that God exist or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws.
All the words in scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. In the New Testament a number of passages indicate that all of the Old Testament writings are thought of as God’s words (2 Tim 3:16). For every word of the Old Testament, God is the one who spoke it, although God used human agents to write these words down.
The fact that all the words of scripture are God’s words should not lead us to think that God dictated every word of scripture to the human authors. It must be emphasized that the Bible does not speak of only one type of process or one manner by which God communicated to the biblical authors what he wanted to be said. There are a wide variety of processes God used to bring about the desired result.
We have no inerrant manuscripts; therefore, talk about an inerrant Bible is misleading. Inerrancy means scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. This definition focuses on the question of truthfulness and falsehood in the language of Scripture. The definition in simple terms just means that the Bible always tells the truth, and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. This definition does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true. Inerrancy has to do with truthfulness, not with the degree of precision with which events are reported. The Bible can be Inerrant and still include loose or free quotation.
The Canon of Scripture is the collection of all the books that belong in the Bible. The words of scripture are the words by which we nourish our spiritual lives. The precise determination of the content of the canon of scripture is therefore of the utmost importance if we are to trust and obey God absolutely we must have a collection of words that we are certain are God’s own words to us. Scripture itself bears witness to the historical development of the canon. This collection of absolutely authoritative words from God grew in size throughout the time of Israel’s history.
It is primarily the apostles who are given the ability from the Holy Spirit to recall accurately the words and deeds of Jesus and to interpret them rightly for the generations. Very early in the history of the church the writings of the New Testament began to be accepted as part of the canon. New Testament writings are placed with Old Testament Scriptures as part of the canon of Scripture (2Peter 3:16; 1Tim. 5:17-18).
For a book to belong in the canon, it is absolutely necessary that the book have divine authorship. If the words of the book are God’s words (through human authors), and if the early church, under the direction of the apostles, preserved the book as part of Scripture, then the book belongs in the canon. But if the words of the book are not God’s words, it does not belong in the canon.
Ultimately, we base our confidence in the correctness of our present canon on the faithfulness of God. This is because the ultimate criterion of canonicity is divine authorship, not human or ecclesiastical approval. They need to be doctrinally consistent with the rest of Scripture and to the type of authority they claim for themselves. The church does not make something to be Scripture, but merely recognizes what God has already caused to be written as his own words.