Theologians have frequently appealed to the internal testimony of Scripture as a substantiating proof of its divine authorship. For instance, B.B. Warfield, in his article “‘It says;’ ‘Scripture says;’ ‘God says,'” takes note of the divine authorship of Scripture from the consistent way in which the New Testament introduces its Old Testament citations. Others have pointed out the way in which the Apostle Peter acknowledged that the Apostle Paul’s writing was to be classified along with “other Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Peter also spoke of his own revelation as “the prophetic word more fully confirmed,” while explaining that “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:19-21). The Apostle Paul explained that the Holy Spirit was the source of both divine revelation and illumination in 1 Cor. 2:6-16. There are many other places to which one might turn in order to substantiate the Scripture’s own testimony to itself; however, I have long believed that the teaching of 1 and 2 Thessalonians is among the most overlooked and under-appreciated in this regard. A brief consideration of its teaching bolsters the confidence of believers regarding the divine truth of the apostolic word.
In his New Testament Biblical Theology, G.K. Beale notes the significant place that 1 and 2 Thessalonians hold in regard to the doctrine of divinely inspired and authoritative revelation. He writes,
“In 1 Thess. 2:13 he says that when the Thessalonians “received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” In 2 Thess. 3:1 he prays “that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, just as it did also with you.” It is evident that Paul’s authoritative oral message is also expressed in authoritative written form: “So, he who rejects this [the instructions in Paul’s letter] is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thess. 4:8); “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thess. 5:27); “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us” (2 Thess. 2:15); “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame” (2 Thess. 3:14).”1
John Murray, in his article “The Attestation of Scripture,” wrote,
“In the first epistle to the Thessalonians Paul again refers to the power and confidence with which he and his colleagues preached the gospel at Thessalonica. “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and much assurance” (I Thess. 1:5). In this text the reference to power and assurance appears to apply to the power and confidence with which Paul and Silvanus and Timothy proclaimed, the Word rather than to the conviction with which it was received by the Thessalonians. The gospel came in the Holy Spirit and therefore with power and assurance. But we must not dissociate the reception of the Word on the part of the Thessalonians from this power and confidence wrought by the Spirit. For Paul proceeds, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit” (vs. 6). The resulting faith on the part of the Thessalonians must be regarded as proceeding from this activity of the Holy Spirit in virtue of which the gospel was proclaimed “in power and in the Holy Spirit and much assurance.” That the Thessalonians became imitators of the Lord and received the Word with joy is due to the fact that the gospel came not in word only, and it came not in word only because it came in the power of the Holy Spirit. Their faith therefore finds its source in this demonstration of the Spirit, just as the joy with which they received the Word is the joy wrought by the Spirit.”2
It is passages such as those in 1 and 2 Thessalonians that led the members of the Westminster Assembly to pen the following words in the opening chapter of the Confession of Faith:
“The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God” (WCF 1.4).
The Holy Spirit is the agent of convincing and convicting sinners of the truthfulness of God’s word, but it is the subjective application of the objective truth as already revealed in Scripture. Murray concludes,
“The objective witness [of Scripture] furnishes us with a conception of Scripture that provides the proper basis for the ever-active sealing operation of the Spirit of truth. The internal testimony [of the Spirit] insures that this objective witness elicits the proper response in the human consciousness.”3
As we consider these truths, we should enter into 2020 with an eager desire to read, meditate upon, memorize, and–by God’s grace–believe and seek to obey everything He has revealed in Scripture. Whether it is those portions of Scripture that bring us comfort, or those that leave us unsettled, we are to appropriate into our own hearts all that God has revealed. Whether it is those sections of God’s word that fit within our already developed framework; or those which challenge us to reassess our propensity to allow culture or our subjective preferences to color our reading of God’s truth, we must subject ourselves to the whole counsel of God “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thess. 2:13).
1. G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 831.