AUTHORITY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Howard Hughes was a very successful American businessman. He made it big in the fields of engineering, aviation, and film making in the mid-1900s. Towards the end of his life, due to physical and mental issues, he became an eccentric and reclusive. Unbeknownst to Hughes, a journalist and novelist named Clifton Irving secured a contract with a large advance from a publishing house to write his autobiography. Irving claimed that he had exclusive interviews with Hughes, which was not true. At the last moment, Hughes and his lawyers stepped forward and exposed the whole thing as a fraud. Some people think that the Bible is nothing but a well-crafted and elaborate fraud on God perpetuated by the church to fleece the masses. In fact, here are some of the questions that you sent regarding the Bible: “Doesn’t the Bible have errors?” “What about all those books that did not make it into the Bible?” “What makes the Bible more special over other religious books?” “Aren’t all the copies of the New Testament corrupt?” “Why do the various translations disagree?” “Aren’t the biblical accounts similar to ancient myths?” It may seem like these questions regarding the Bible are all over the place, but, in reality, they are all connected to the issue of the Authority of the Bible. Main Point: The Bible is unlike any book in the world. It is the word of God without any errors, and it claims authority over our individual lives, church, and world. In fact, submission to scriptures is submission to God, more specifically to Jesus Christ.
Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
Context: The first assault that Satan made against human beings in their relationship with God was regarding the Authority of the Word of God – “Has God indeed said…”That question had 2 implications: first, are you sure that’s what God said; second, are you sure you have to obey him. The first implication has to do with Revelation. The second has to do with Application. Both are a challenge to the Authority of God’s Word. To understand why the Bible is Authoritative and why we have to Obey it, we need to understand some of the other terms connected to the doctrine of Scripture. If you grew up in church, especially in evangelical circles, I’m sure you have heard a lot of big words regarding the Bible: Inerrancy, Inspiration, Revelation, Authority, Canon, Interpretation, Infallibility, and Application. What do they all mean and how are they connected? To begin with, the key word in all these words is Authority. J. I. Packer (famous evangelical theologian who authored “Knowing God”) wrote, “Authority is the basic theological issue into which discussions of biblical revelation, inspiration, and interpretation finally run.” I have come up with the following chart. It’s not perfect, but it helps us to understand how all the terms connect to Authority and to each other:
- The Bible has to be obeyed (Application) because it is Authoritative.
- Before you can properly apply, you have to correctly interpret it (Interpretation).
- The Authority only extends to the Canonical books because they alone were recognized by the church.
- They alone were recognized by the church as Canonical because they alone were Inspired.
- Because they are Inspired, they are Inerrant.
- They are Inspired and Inerrant because they were Revealed by God through the Holy Spirit to his people.
Let’s start at the beginning:
1. Revelation: This is God making himself known to human beings. There are 2 kinds –
i. Nature – Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”
ii. History – Daniel 2:21 “And He changes the times and the seasons; he removes kings and raises up kings.”
iii. Human Nature – Romans 2:14 “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.” This is only about right and wrong, not salvation.
B. Special – We need more specific information in order to be saved. Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This is where the 66 books of the Bible come in. The information in them is Personal, Anthropic, and Analogical. They come as historical acts (Abraham and Isaac; Babylonian exile), divine speech (“The word of the Lord came to me…”) and the incarnation of Jesus.
2. Inspiration: This is the process by which revelation is recorded and communicated to God’s people. More specifically, “the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on selected individuals which rendered them the instruments of God for the infallible communication of his mind and will” (Charles Hodge). 2 Timothy 3 16 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, (theopneustos = God-breathed) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” It is verbal (very words and not just concepts and subjects) and plenary (all is equally inspired even if certain parts are more beneficial than others). Also, it has both the human and divine elements (differences between the styles of the prophets and the writings of the gospels). 2 Peter 1:21 “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
3. Inerrancy: “[Inerrancy] is a corollary of the doctrine of full inspiration of the Bible. The view of the Bible held and taught by the writers of Scripture implies the full truthfulness of the Bible” (Millard Erickson). Here’s the best definition: “When all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.” (Paul D. Feinberg)
Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
Matthew 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
Note: Infallible – usually used by those who allow for the possibility that the Bible may not be fully free from error. They limit inerrancy to matters of faith and practice, especially salvation.
4. Authority – Here’s the definition of the “authority of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem – “The authority of Scripture means that 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.” The Bible has both bestowed and inherent authority. Because of its content that points to the living true God, it has bestowed authority. Because it is inspired and inerrant, it has inherent authority. It has authority over individual lives, church, and culture. Submission to scriptures is submission to God, more specifically Jesus Christ.
Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
1 Thessalonians 2:13 “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
5. Canon: Here “canon” refers to the list of authoritative books. It is often falsely alleged by the skeptics of Christianity that the church picked those books that fit their socio-political agenda. This is sensational history repeated in novels like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. That’s just not true! The canon was providentially set by the Holy Spirit and the church councils in the third century simply affirmed those books. The true evidence is seen in their use by God’s people from the first century. Very early on, they made lists of books that were deemed authoritative. Yes, there are certain Bibles that have extra books in the Old Testament. We will discuss that in the weeks ahead, but this is not so in the New Testament. Most of the extra-canonical books are Gnostic in origin.
6. Application: Ever since the end of the seventeenth century, there has been a growing shift in the western culture regarding the word authority. Prior to the coming of modernism, authority was looked upon as a benefit. Since then, it is looked upon as a hindrance to the free inquiry of truth. Authority is considered to be the opposite of truth. Obeying the Bible is seen as optional and even detrimental to freedom. We have to once again recognize that the Scriptures are not only authoritative as a top down authority, but they are very beneficial to us because they truly know us and can help us. Hebrews 4 12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
7. Interpretation: In order to obey, scriptures have to be properly interpreted. We have to use all the possible methods that will help us get to the heart of what God is saying and what he is expecting of us. Does the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart guarantee accurate interpretation? How can two people taught by the Holy Spirit have conflicting views on a passage? Does the Holy Spirit give us deeper meaning that cannot be reached by a normal study of a passage? In what way does the Holy Spirit guide our understanding in the study of God’s Word? Only the saved can be enabled by the Holy Spirit to truly appreciate and apply the Word (I Corinthians 2:14; I Thessalonians 1:6).
We began with Satan’s challenge to the Authority of God’s Word in the lives of Adam and Eve. I want to close with his similar challenge in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Matthew 4 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Invitation: How much Authority does the Word of God have in your life? Ultimately, the Bible is God’s rescue manual to save you. Are you saved?