Bible Authority


i. Attitudes among our denominational friends have shifted in recent decades. The hamlets of America were once alive with religious debate and members of the churches of Christ were always able to find sectarian preachers and members ready to defend their practices as scriptural. Today, when confronted with possible religious error, most will beg not to be judged and wonder aloud why Bible authority for our actions should matter anyway.

ii. Thus, the question of Bible authority becomes as important to the Christian who would share the gospel as "What must I do to be saved?".

iii. In this morning's lesson, we shall briefly study the subject of Bible authority with the hope of establishing why it is important.


I. What Is Bible Authority?

A. The Church Belongs to Christ

1. an often overlooked fact is that the church belongs to Christ, and as such, ownership gives Christ the prerogative to direct its affairs

a. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:22-23 that Christ is the head of the church, which places him in unquestioned authority and makes his will paramount in the body

b. he obtained this church, not by hostile takeover or inheritance, but by purchase, using his own shed blood to fund the buy

c. you see, Jesus has something invested in the church as well as being its director

d. when the owner of a store or any kind of business walks in, there is usually an immediate change in the atmosphere of the place‹everyone tries a little harder to look a little better, for they fear and respect the man who makes their livelihoods possible

e. this is the kind of respect that is always due Jesus, for he is an owner who is always present among us

2. in other illustrations, we see the church described in its kingdom role, with Jesus sitting upon her throne as monarch

a. the redeemed are conveyed into this kingdom (Col. 1:13), which claims Christ as its blessed and only Potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15)

b. again, this position defines his power, for "all authority has been given to [him] in heaven and on Earth" (Matt. 28:18)

c. we are his subjects, the elders his delegates and we are bound to obey his will and forbidden to venture beyond it, under penalty of eternal loss: 2 John 7-11

3. in yet another illustration, we are redeemed slaves, bought back by Jesus from servitude to the devil and sin, redeemed not to feign allegiance to Jesus while executing our own will, but to glorify him as our Master: Rom. 6:15-19

a. as Jacob would surely have paid any price to redeem Joseph from the slavery into which his brothers sold him, and as God did redeem all Israel from Egyptian bondage, so Jesus did come to Earth to lead captivity captive‹out of the clutches of the devil and into the benevolent mastery of Christ

b. therefore, we owe Jesus a debt of gratitude, which can never fully be repaid, but which deserves constant devotion

c. trampling on his will as we substitute our opinions for his doctrines is like begging to return to the leeks and onions of Egypt after one has tasted true freedom

B. Old Testament Bible Authority

1. under the Old Testament , men discovered divine authority in the law of Moses and found that rebellion proved fatal

2. consider the matter of transporting the ark of the covenant, to be done lawfully by inserting two poles through portions of it and carrying it by hand: 2 Sam. 6:1-8

a. David failed his leadership by allowing that new cart to be used in place of the less convenient but more lawful poles

b. Uzzah was the unfortunate man whose intentions, while pious, were misguided and actually a violation of God's spoken will

c. this case well illustrates the condition of denominationalism today

1. men and women attempting to do good works through methods that go beyond God's will

2. otherwise innocent people violating God's will despite having the best of intentions

3. every good work that we desire to do can be done lawfully, if it is not congregationally approved, it can likely be individually done

C. New Testament Bible Authority

1. Jesus set the tone for the expression of authority during his gospel ministry

a. understand that his followers were mainly Jews who were living under the law of Moses and thus accustomed to looking to a religious code to direct their behavior

b. the Lord's teaching showed that the law of Moses would be fulfilled and that his doctrine would would reign (Matt. 5:17)

2. in the sermon on the mount, he established his doctrine on a wide variety of moral issues, exposing the error that was then taught and planning a removal of the Mosaic allowance for divorce and remarriage for any cause

a. when he sat down, the people were astonished at his teaching, not necessarily for its eloquence or revolutionary concepts, but because he taught them as if he had the authority vested in himself by himself, not delegated from God or the Sanhedrin (Matt. 7:28-29)

b. it is here that man begins to look past Moses to Christ

3. the passing of the torch continues on the Mount of Transfiguration: Matt. 17:1-8

a. Moses, representing the law, and Elijah, representing the prophets, appear with Jesus to illustrate the fulfillment of the Old and establishment of the new

b. when all is said and done, the authority of the old will disappear and the power of Christ will alone remain

4. his death and resurrection fulfilled the prophecies and nailed the law of Moses to his cross; his ascension back into heaven placed him upon the throne of David over his kingdom, the church of Christ

a. Ephesians and Colossians are parallel letters, covering much the same material in slightly different language, and allowing each to serve as an inspired commentary on the other: Eph. 2:14-16 and Col. 2:13-14

b. thus there is no doubt that Paul is describing the end of the Mosaic age and the law that ruled it

c. the age of Christ dawns with Jesus upon the throne of David: Acts 2:29-32

d. when God talked about raising up the Christ to sit on David's throne, he was describing in prophecy the resurrection of Jesus from Hadean Paradise and his ascension into heaven

e. as much as the law of Moses ruled in men's hearts before, so now must the law of Christ reign in glory

II. Law and Love Demand It

A. Law Demands It

1. in Romans 6:14, Paul tells us that we are not under law, but grace in this age

a. some take this to mean that all law has been abolished and that every man can do what seems right in his own eyes

b. the context, however, argues against that conclusion: Rom. 6:1

1. for sin to be a possibility, there must be some law in existence: Rom. 4:15b

2. Paul then merely means that we are not under the law of Moses now, but the grace of Christ, which has the components of law‹commandments, prohibitions, rewards and consequences

3. moreover, we are told to "fulfill the law of Christ" in Galatians 6:2 and that of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:2

2. the potential to commit sin means that some law is in place and that law could only be communicated through the New Testament, for the Old Testament has been ruled obsolete (Heb. 8:13)

a. divine authority is not vested in this contradictory creeds of men or the oral traditions of the oldest apostasy, but "if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11)

b. Col. 3:17

c. by his words will we be judged (John 12:48)

B. Love Demands It

1. John 14:15: "If you love me, keep my commandments."

2. not "glorify me by rejecting my words and the revelation of the Holy Spirit and going your own way" or by creating modern worship forms that please your senses or by adopting more convenient ways of doing what you want to do

3. if you love me, obey me: 1 John 2:3-6

a. even a religious zeal and the best of intentions will not make up for going beyond the doctrine of Christ in the New Testament

b. if you love Jesus and know him, you will submit to him

C. How To Establish It

1. we establish divine authority for our individual or congregational actions the same way we understand any authority

2. to illustrate: my mother used to drive me to the grocery store with a list of things she wanted and a handful of coins

a. by that written decree, I had positive knowledge of what I was supposed to do

b. because I had seen her purchase things before, I had an example of ordering and paying

c. and although she never specifically told me how to get from the deli counter to the register, I would necessarily infer that I was allowed to walk between the two

d. I would not however feel authorized to purchase candy unless it was on the list

e. I would not feel authorized to steal, for I had no such example

3. we establish Bible authority not by some arbitrary rule but as Bible characters did‹through heeding commands or prohibitions, by being limited to approved examples like the one in Acts 20:7 and by making only those inferences that are necessary to obeying the command, like having a meeting place in order to assemble (Heb. 10:25)

a. we object to the construction of family life centers and the like for they are without command or example and are not necessary to fulfill any command God gave the church

b. we object to the sponsoring church arrangement for it is without command, violates New Testament example and is an unnecessary inference


Bible authority is a subject we hope to say more about in the future, God willing, for it is clearly misunderstood today.

by J.S. Smith Fort Worth, Texas

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