Posted by: Brad Beaman | July 23, 2010

The Authority of Scripture

 

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Of course Satan would do anything to undermine the authority of God’s Word. When we look at it we see that attacking God’s Word with the attempt to undermine its authority is in fact the oldest trick in the book.

In Genesis 2:17 we read God’s Word, “from any tree of the garden you may eat freely, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” but in Genesis 3:1 we read how the authority of God’s Word was attacked, “Indeed, has God said, ‘you shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The scene that followed was tragic, God’s Word was distorted, sin resulted and man was separated from God.

If we are to bring glory to God, if we are to obey Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations” we must rightly hold to the authority of Scripture.

“Without the Bible world evangelization would not only be impossible but actually inconceivable. It is the Bible that lays upon us the responsibility to evangelize the world, gives us a gospel to proclaim, tells us how to proclaim it, and promises that it is God’s power for salvation to every believer It is moreover, an observable fact of history, both past and contemporary, that the degree of the church’s commitment to world evangelization is commensurate with the degree of its conviction about the authority of the Bible. Whenever Christians lose their confidence in the Bible, they also lose their zeal for evangelism.”1 It is the utmost importance for the Christian to behold a conviction that the Scriptures are authoritative.

Inspiration defined

If we are to defend the divine authority of Scripture it is important that we understand the way scripture was inspired by God. “By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God supernaturally directed the writers of Scripture and without excluding their human intelligence, their individuality, their literary style, their personal feelings or any other human factor, God’s own complete and coherent message to men was recorded in perfect accuracy and the very words of the Bible bear the authority of this divine authorship. This is sometimes referred to as plenary, meaning full and verbal inspiration, meaning that every word is inspired.”2 Many factors support the Bible as the inspired and inerrant Word of God. 

Internal Claim

The Bible itself claims to be the inspired Word of God. “The phrases ‘The Lord said’, The Lord spoke’, the word of the Lord came’, are actually used 3,808 times in the Old Testiment.”3 David claimed inspiration for his writing in 2 Samuel 23:2 when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me.” O Acts 1:16 we see Peter proclaiming David’s prophecies as of the “Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David” The Lord Jesus Christ himself verified this truth. We read his words in Matthew 22:43 “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him Lord.”

The apostles verified the inspiration of the Bible. Paul says 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.” Peter also verifies this truth “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:21)

Continuity

The continuity of the Bible further points to divine inspiration. The Bible was written over a 1,500 year span (40 generations) and by over 40 authors. The authors came from all walks of life and included fishermen, rabbis and kings. The writing of the Bible took place on 3 continents and was written in 3 languages. Although these authors have different cultural experiences, they write with complete harmony on many controversial subjects.

Christ’s View

Because our Christian message stands or falls on the credibility of Christ it is important to know what Christ believed about the authority of Scripture. Those who claim to be Christ’s disciples must believe what he taught about the Authority of Scripture. When we examine Jesus words, “it is written man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God,” (Matthew 4:4) we find that Christ held high the authority of scripture.

Jesus said, It is written,” meaning Christ put honor on the scripture and held it as trustworthy and authoritative. He said “every word,” meaning that the very words are authoritive. Jesus believed every word of scripture has authority not just some of them.  When Chrsist answered the Sadduces (Matthew 22:32) about the resurrection he quoted Exodus 3:6, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The argument for the resurrection was based on the tense of the verb. God said, I am the God,” not I was the God.” Christ believed every word had authority and demonstrated this when he corrected the Sadduces. 

 In Christ’s teaching he made these statements: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me,” ‘until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke will pass away from the law, until it is accomplished,” “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of the letter of the law to fail,” “is this not the reason you are mistaken that you do not understand the scripture , or the power of God?” “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (John 7:16, Matthew 5:18, Luke 16:17, Mark 12:21, Mark 13:31) Christ is the final authority for believers, for this reason Christians are bound to acknowledge the authority of Scripture. Christ unmistakably teaches them to do so.   

“Scripture says” equals “God says”

In his book The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, B. B. Warfield puts forward these thoughts in passages in the Bible that equate God’s speaking and the words of Scripture.4 We see two classes of passages that equate the written word of the Old Testament with the direct utterances of God. In one of these classes of passages the scriptures are spoken of as if they were God: in the other, God is spoken of as if He were the scriptures: in the two together, God and the scriptures are brought into such a conjunction as to show that in point of directness of authority no distinction was made between them. 

An example of the first type of passage is Galatians 3:8, “The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying ‘In thee shall all the nations be blessed’” (Genesis 12:1-3). It was not, however, the Scripture (which did not exist at that time) that spoke these words to Abraham, but God himself. This could be attributed to “scripture” only because Paul identified scripture as God speaking.

  An example of the second type of passage is Matthew 19:5 and (God) said, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and the two shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) It is not God, however, whose moth this saying is placed, but Moses. This could only be attributed to God only through identification with text of scripture and the utterances of God. The two sets of passages show us an identification of “scripture” with the speaking of God.

The New Testament in relation to the Old

J. I. Packer puts forward this proposal about the authority of God based on the Old Testament covenant. 5 The entire New Testament outlook is determined by the conviction that the Old and New dispensations are organically one. The writers see the process which had been going on in Israel for over a millennium, and their writings ask to be read as the compliment and completion of the Old Testament. Christianity was no fresh start, but the finishing of something begun ling before. Christ had already made the point that the relation between the new order and the old one was not of mere substitution, but of fulfillment. “Think not that I come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but fulfill.” The outward differences between the Old and New order were considerable yet the apostles insisted the Christian community was essentially the same as before. The God of Christians was the God of Israel; Jesus, the son of God, was the Christ, Israel’s long awaited messiah; and Christianity itself was no more than Israel’s religion brought to its perfect and final form through the fulfillment of Israel’s hope by Christ’s death and resurrection. 

In light of this professed continuity between the old and new dispensations it is very significant for our enquiry to find that Israel’s religion had always been based on the authority of a written word of God.

 It was on record that when God first entered into covenant with the nation at Sinai and gave them his laws, he inscribed them on tablets of stone, “written with the finger of God” The Biblical concept of written revelation seems to have been directly derived from those tablets. The rest of the Pentateuch, and the later prophetic messages, written down by either the prophets themselves or their associates, were always regarded as no less divine, no less truly words of God, than the words which God had written with his own finger. The fact of their human authorship was never held to affect the reality of their divine authorship. There seems no doubt that the entire contents of the Old Testament was received as abidingly valid “oracles of God,” to be studied, believed and obeyed. “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it for then you will make you way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8)

Contradictions?

If the Bible is inspired and without error then what about those times when the Bible seemingly contradicts itself? Sometimes, supposed contradictory passages can be harmonized by further studying of reference passages. Other Bible difficulties still remain, but we must remember that we may still not posses all possible information about this difficulty. B. H. Carrol said of supposed contradictions “When I was a boy I thought I had found a thousand contradictions in the Bible. I have seen nine hundred and ninety four out of a thousand coalesce and harmonize like two streams mingling, I am disposed to think that if I had more sense I could harmonize the other six” 6 Only the original scripture can claim to be without error, copies and translated versions cannot make this claim. If you hold to this authority the Bible you will not automatically assume an apparent contradiction is an error. “It is one thing to admit a problem remains a problem to you; it is quite a different conclusion to state that a problem passage contains an error. Indeed, such a conclusion is tenuous simply because no one yet possesses all possible information of a problem.” 7

Messianic Prophecies

It was an important aspect of the apostles preaching to show Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. Peter speaks of seeing Christ at the Transfiguration, (2 Peter 1:16) but he goes on to say there is something more sure than witnessing the event. He explains that you can see how Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies down to the slightest detail. The prophecies fulfilled in Jesus not only confirm he is the Messiah, but further testify to the divine inspiration of scripture.

Conclusion

We must remember that the authority of scripture is an important Bible doctrine. It is the bedrock of our faith in Christ. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. 

Bibliography and Footnotes

Campbell, Donald K. We Believe in Literal Interpretation.          Dallas Theological Seminary                                                                                        

Colson, Chuck. Tape # 10 Christian Tape Library Inc.

Lindsell, Harold. The Bible in the Balance.    Zondervon   footnote  6 (page 137)

Loyd-Jones, Dr. Martin. Authority  Inter-Varsity Press    footnote 3 (page 50)

McDowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Here’s Life Publishers   

Packer, J. I. “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God  Inter-Varsity Press    footnote  5 (pages 52-54)

Ryrie, Charles Ryrie’s Concise Guide to the Bible Here’s Life Publishers       footnote 7 (page 37)

Stott, John Perspectives on the World Christian Movement  William Carey Library     footnote 1 (page 3)

Walvoord, John We Believe the Bible    Dallas Theological Seminary        footnote  2 (page 4)

Warfield, B. B. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible  Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing     footnote 4 (page 299-300)

Watson, David C. C.  The Great Brian Robbery  Walter Ltd.

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