If every word of Scripture is held to be inspired, how do you account for the foolish reasoning of Eccl. 2: 24?
In answer to this question, we need to establish what we mean by inspiration. The Greek word for inspiration, theopneustos, occurs only in 2 Tim. 3: 16: “Every scripture [is] divinely inspired”. Its simple meaning is “God-breathed” (Theos––God, and pneo––to breathe). The Bible, therefore, is unlike any other book. It did not originate with man, but God. God breathed it. If we turn over to 2 Pet. 1: 21, we learn that this breathing of God is conveyed to us in writing, via the pens of divinely appointed men: “for prophecy was not ever uttered by [the] will of man, but holy men of God spake under the power of [the] Holy Spirit”. The Greek word here for “under the power of” is phero, and means to be born along like a ship is by the wind––impelled by the will of another. Thus the breathing of God caused the human writers to write according to divine instruction.
Now there are many theories as to the extent of inspiration, but the general, modernist trend has been to reduce it almost to non–existence. The Bible can then be disposed of as an authoritative voice. That is why a large swathe of professing Christianity today has no fixed set of values and standards, and is in fact more akin to mysticism. The Scriptures themselves, however, claim an inspiration extending even to the very words used therein. Thus Paul says “we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2: 13). When he came to Corinth, he had preached “not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of [the] Spirit and of power ... communicating spiritual [things] by spiritual [means]” (vs 4, 13). As an apostle, Paul had received revelations from God (Eph. 3: 5), and in conveying those truths to others he spoke (whether literally, or as recorded for us on the written page), in words “taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2: 13), thus ensuring that there was an absolute identification between what he said or wrote to others, and what God had revealed to him. Some tell us that Paul, Peter and John had wonderful ideas given them from God, but they exercised their own wisdom as to how best to express those ideas for the benefit of others. This will not do. You and I have no means of getting at those wonderful thoughts in Paul’s mind except by the words in which he clothed them. The difficulty of putting the simplest and lowest thought into proper and adequate words is notorious, and without inspired words, we have nothing inspired at all, whatever Paul may have had. If human words are to be the proper expression of divine truth those words must be the result of divine choosing.
The passage in 1 Cor. 2 shows us the three steps by which God has chosen to communicate His thoughts to His people. In verses 10 and 11 we have revelation. Revelation is concerned with the transference of truth from the mind of God to the minds, not of every Christian, but of “his holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3: 5), and the Assembly of God is built upon the doctrinal foundation (Eph. 2: 20), with which they were entrusted. Some claim to be apostles today, but they lie (Rev. 2: 2). By definition, a foundation is laid only once––at the beginning. In verse 13 of 1 Cor. 2 there is inspiration. Inspiration is concerned with the transference of the truth from the minds of the apostles and prophets to all the saints, and for this not merely thoughts, but words were needed. In verse 14 we have the idea of appropriation. This is concerned with the reception of the divinely communicated truth by the saints, and to do this they must hear or read the divinely chosen words. There is no revelation without the Holy Spirit, there is no inspiration without the Holy Spirit, and there is no appropriation without the Holy Spirit.
What then of Eccl. 2: 24? The explanation lies in the difference between revelation and inspiration. The Scripture reads “There is nothing good for man, but that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour”. Is this a revelation from God? No, but it is still the divinely inspired record of the extreme folly to which the wisest of men may be led if he listens only to his natural reason and observation. Not all Scripture is direct revelation from God. Some of it is history in which the sayings of all kinds of men, even evil men are recorded. Indeed, we even have the words of Satan himself. All these are nonetheless divinely accurate accounts of what was done or said. Whilst not revelations in themselves, their purpose is to throw into relief revealed truth.