Question: "What does it mean that the Bible is inspired?"
Answer: When people speak of the Bible being inspired, they are referring to the fact that God divinely influenced the human authors of the Scriptures in such a way that what they wrote was the very Word of God. In the context of the Scriptures, the word inspiration simply means “God-Breathed.” Inspiration communicates to us the fact the Bible truly is the Word of God, and makes the Bible unique among all other books.
While there are different views as to what extent the Bible is inspired, there can be no doubt that the Bible itself claims that every word, in every part of the Bible, is inspired by God (1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). This view of the Scriptures is often referred to as “verbal plenary” inspiration. What that means is that the inspiration extends to the very words themselves (verbal inspiration), not just concepts or ideas; and that the inspiration extends to all parts of Scripture and all subject matters of Scripture (plenary inspiration). There are some people who believe that only parts of the Bible are inspired, or only the thoughts or concepts that deal with religion are inspired, but these views of inspiration fall short of what the Bible itself claims. Full verbal plenary inspiration is an essential characteristic of the Word of God.
The extent of inspiration can be clearly seen in 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, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This verse tells us that God inspired all Scripture and that it is profitable to us. It is not just the parts of the Bible that deal with religious doctrines that are inspired, but each and every part from Genesis to Revelation is the very Word of God. Because it is inspired by God, the Scriptures are therefore authoritative when it comes to establishing doctrine, and sufficient for teaching man how be in a right relationship with God, “training in righteousness.” The Bible claims not only to be inspired by God, but to also have the ability to change us and make us “complete,” thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Another verse that deals with the inspiration of the Scriptures is 2 Peter 1:21. This verse tells us that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” This verse helps us to understand that although men wrote the Scriptures, the words they wrote were the very words of God. Even though God used men with their distinctive personalities and writing styles, God divinely inspired the very words they wrote. Jesus Himself confirmed the verbal plenary inspiration of the Scriptures when He said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:17-18). In these verses, Jesus is reinforcing the accuracy of the Scriptures down to the smallest detail and the slightest punctuation mark - because it is the very word of God.
Because the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, we can conclude that they are also inerrant and authoritative. A correct view of God will lead one to a correct view of His Word. Because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and completely perfect, His Word will by its very nature have the same characteristics. The same verses that establish the inspiration of the Scriptures also establish that it is both inerrant and authoritative. Without a doubt the Bible is what it claims to be - the undeniable, authoritative, Word of God to humanity.