Approaching Scripture, part 4
Note: This post is part four of a six-part series.
- Part One – Introduction
- Part Two – Inspired
- Part Three – Inerrant and Infallible
- Part Four – Authoritative
- Part Five – Sufficient
- Part Six – Clear and Unified
When I was growing up, an understood rule of the house was this: when Dad spoke, we all listened.
In our home, my father’s words carried weight. When he spoke, we listened (and we obeyed!). By virtue of who he was, and because of who we were as his children, his words were to be heeded, and rightly so. And if that’s true, then how much more should that be true when God speaks?
This week’s post is the natural corollary to the previous two posts. If Scripture is God’s Word to man, without error and incapable of error, then it follows that Scripture is to be heeded as the very word of God. The doctrines of inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture mean that, to quote Wayne Grudem again, “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.”
Because we believe the Bible is God’s Word, we believe that all things that the Scriptures assert come with the full authority of God. Authority is the right to command obedience or belief. And what we’re saying here is that because God has all authority, then his Word is authoritative.
We contend that the Bible is not merely “true” (it is!) but it is “truth.” That is, the Bible is the standard of what is true and what is not true. And we mean this, as 2 Timothy 3:16 states, for all Scripture.
The early church saw it in the same way. Scripture was seen as the foundation of the church, something to which they were to be devoted:
- Ephesians 2:20 – (The church is) “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.”
- Acts 2:42 – “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.”
And, importantly for us today, this extends to all of Scripture, from cover to cover, as Ephesians says, the apostles (the New Testament) and the prophets (the Old Testament). All of it is God’s Word, meaning the red letters are not more authoritative than the black letters. All of it is equally Scripture, equally God’s Word, equally authoritative.
Today there are some notable teachers who would say we should ignore the Old Testament, but we cannot affirm that. To affirm that is to deny the full authority of Scripture. Tom Schreiner rightly says it like this:
“Saying that the old covenant has passed away doesn’t mean the Old Testament is no longer the Word of God. All of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, are the final authority as God’s infallible and inerrant word.“Thomas Schreiner, “The Old Covenant is Over. The Old Testament is Authoritative.”
We may not like that word “authority” today, but it’s for our good. Yes, some authority is abused, but good authority exercised by the right individual is a gift. To see that is as easy as looking at a loving family, where the parents lead and guide and provide for and correct their children, and their children respond by respecting and obeying their parents.
Do you see the authority of God’s Word as a gift to your life? When he says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go,” does your heart desire that? And if so, do you follow him, even in areas where his Word challenges you?
You see, it’s one thing to affirm the authority of Scripture, but it’s another thing to practice it. The question is, are you a hearer only, or also a doer of God’s Word?
James 1:22 – “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
If, when I was growing up, I heard my father’s words, if I could repeat them back to him, if I could turn around and give the instructions of my father to my siblings, and even if I told you how important it was to listen to your parents, but then I didn’t obey my father, could it be said that I really considered his words to possess authority? Could it be said that I really considered him to have authority over me?
Do we hear the words of our Father in heaven, and maybe even affirm that they are authoritative, but then do not follow them? If so, are lives are revealing our true beliefs, and we need to bring our lives in line with the truth that God’s Word is authoritative. Scripture is to be believed and obeyed, because Scripture comes from God.
When we obey God’s authoritative Word, the blessing that is promised is that we will find life.
Psalm 1 proclaims this blessing:
Blessed is the manPsalm 1:1–3, ESV
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
And Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, and a chapter that is centered on God’s Word, begins like this:
Blessed are those whose way is blameless,Psalm 119:1–5, ESV
who walk in the law of the LORD!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
God’s path is the path of life (Psalm 16:11), and that path is traveled by trusting and obeying his Word.
Are these blessings true of you, Christian? Are you walking in faith, trusting in God’s Word, submitting to its authority?
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.