Understanding Bible Authority

Why are there so many different religious beliefs in the world today? We can walk down the street of any town in America and find several “churches” where people come together to “worship” God. Why do people feel that there is a need for so many “churches?” Though it may seem like an oversimplification of the situation, the answer comes down to one point. People differ in their opinions over the importance of Bible authority. They differ on how much emphasis needs to be placed on the teachings of the Bible, and how closely they need to follow those teachings. Because of these differences, men “denominate,” or split apart, from one another.

As we begin this study, we need to take a moment to define the term “Bible authority.” What is meant by this phrase? This phrase means just what it sounds like. There is a need for mankind to recognize that the text of the Bible holds some amount of authority. Most people, at least those that claim to be religious, recognize that the Bible does possess some authority—that is, it has the right to tell us what to do! But, many people differ on the extent of that authority. Do we have to do the things that are found within the pages of the Bible? Or, is the Bible just a book of suggestions that we can “take or leave?” If we accept the Bible as being a book from God, then we have a responsibility to examine it, and see to what extent we must submit to it. We will proceed with the assumption that the reader accepts that the Bible is God’s revealed will.

When we consider the differences among men, we must ask a couple of questions. First, what does God expect of people today? Second, are we living up to His expectations?

What does God expect today?

Questions of Bible authority ultimately come down to this very question. What exactly does God expect of people today? The truth is, God’s expectation for mankind has not changed since the very beginning of time. We can read the account of the first man and first woman in the book of Genesis. God placed the man (Adam) and his wife (Eve) in the perfect environment. However, He did not leave them without his “revealed will.” God told Adam and Eve that they were not to eat of the tree that grew in the midst of the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16-17). What did God expect of Adam and Eve at this point? Could they take this as simple advice from God, and then do what they wanted without any consequences? Of course not. This was a command from God. When God gave them this command, He expected them to abide by it!

To show them that He meant just what He said, God instituted a penalty for disobedience. He told them that if they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would “surely die.” If you continue to read the story of Adam and Eve, you will find that they chose to disobey God’s command. In response to their choice, they “surely died.” “But,” you might say, “they didn’t die—they lived long lives on earth after that point, having many children, and beginning the process of populating the earth!” The death they suffered “on the day” that they ate the forbidden fruit was a spiritual death. Adam and Eve were separated from God because of their disobedience. This was, in fact, the first sin! James tells us in James 1:15 that sin brings forth death. Similarly, Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death. Sin is what keeps us from having a relationship with God, and it is what will lead to eternal punishment if we do not correct our lives before Him! (Matthew 25:31-46)

God expects obedience from us today. Even Jesus, while on this earth, made it a point to tell His disciples and others He taught that He was only doing the will of the Father in Heaven. He did only what God the Father had commanded Him to do. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) In John 5:30, we see that Jesus said that He did not seek His own will, but rather the will of the Father. Jesus emphasized this point once again in John 6:35-40. If Jesus had to be so concerned with doing the will of the Father, and not His own will, then shouldn’t we, too, be concerned? There are a lot of people who think that they are “serving God,” but they are refusing to be obedient to the will of God. They do a lot in the “name of religion,” but, unfortunately for them, they are not doing the things that God demands! Jesus warned of this very situation in Matthew 7:21-23:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

How can we know what to do?

The only way that we can know what God wants us to do is for Him to reveal it to us. We cannot read His mind, nor can we guess at what God wants from us. There is no chance that we could figure it out in that way. We cannot possibly think on the same plane as God. Consider what the apostle Paul had to say about this very idea in 1 Corinthians 2:10-16:

10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

We can know what God wants us to do because He chose to reveal His will to us by way of inspiration. He sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles to reveal His will to us! Those apostles wrote down the will of God and delivered it to the saints. Jude 3 tells us that this “faith” was delivered once for all men. That means that God delivered all that He wanted men to have by the hands of these inspired men in the first century. There is no more revelation. There is no more inspiration today. We can have confidence that the word of God is complete—it has all that we need to come to salvation. James says that the word of God is the “perfect law of liberty.” The word “perfect” does not mean “without flaw,” though that is certainly true of the word of God as well. The word “perfect” in this context means “brought to its end, finished.”

God’s Word is the only source of Authority!

Since the word of God (the Bible) is complete, and it has all that we need for salvation, it can be the only source of our authority. If God did not tell us to do something, then we should not be doing it! This is what is known as “positive Bible authority.” This means that we only do things (of a religious nature) that we find in the pages of the Bible. We will be looking at this idea in a little more depth in some future articles. We must know how to use God’s word the way that He expects us to. We have to make sure that we do not misuse his will!

Revelation 22:18-19

18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

by Kris Brewer

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