The authority of the Scripture by Raul Enyedi
The authority of the Scripture
So far we have seen that the Scripture is amazing, fascinating, unique book, and that what we can be sure that what we read today represents indeed what was written in those times.
But how are we supposed to relate to this book? Is its message relevant today, does it speak to us, does it answer to our questions and the problems we cope with? Is the Scripture the final authority in what it concerns us, in the things we believe and do in life? Can we trust that what it says as being good is good indeed, that what is warns as being bad is bad indeed and that its promises will be fulfilled?
What does “The final authority of the Bible” mean?
Floyd Barackman defines it as it follows:
The authority of the Biblie has been described as the feature the Scripture has to require faith in all its statements and submission to these statements. Being the Word of God, the Scripture has the intrinsic right to command and impose to the people, both to the saved and the unsaved ones, submission to God’s will. This right means the authority of the Bible.
In order for the Bible to be the final authority that we appeal to, it has to be the Word of God, it has to originate in God. And in order to be the Word of God, it has to be directly inspired by God in its entirety, not just in some parts of it. And if the Bible is the final authority, then some other things will result from this: it is inerrant and infallible (it does not contain errors); and, since the writing of the Bible is ended, God’s special revelation has ended. And if it has ended, then God told us all He meant to say and does not add anything to what is written. This means that the Scripture is sufficient for all our needs and relevant for our generation, as well.
- I. Inspiration
The inspiration of the Scripture is the crucial argument for its authority. If the Scripture is not inspired by God, then it can not be God’s Word and can not be the final authority for what we believe and practice.
We will bring few proofs in the favor of the inspiration of the Scripture. The first category of proofs regards the features of the book, while the second treats its claims.
- The scientific testimony. The Bible is a treatise of science, but it is important to know that it is accurate scientifically in all the fields it touches. The historical, geographical, astronomical, etc. information is all correct and so far none of it has been proved as being scientifically erroneous. The Jewish archaeologist Nelson Glueck stated:
No archaeological discovery has ever contradicted the narratives of the Bible. There have been made a lot of archaeological discoveries that confirm under every aspect and with accuracy the data from the historical field of the Bible.
2. The proof of the prophecies. The Bible contains hundreds of prophecies that have been fulfilled with accuracy. Only in the Person of Lord Jesus Christ there have been fulfilled 300 prophecies. Some of them were so detailed that the critics tried to claim that the books containing them were written hundreds of years after the consumming of the events they were speaking about. Daniel, speaking about the Macedonian Empire, Isaia, speaking about king Cyrus long before his birth, the prophecies about the fall of the city of Babylon to the Medo-Persians, the fall of Tyre and many such prophecies are remarkable and impossible to explain by a certain power of anticipation their author had.
3. The unity of the Scripture testifies for its inspiration. Even though it was written by 40 authors during a period of 1,500 years, it is a unitary book, as it was written by just one author. It has no inconsistencies or errors, which would be perfectly normal if it were a simple human product. The late authors do not contradict the early ones, but complete them.
Each revelation contains the germs of the one that comes after it and, accordingly, receives its explanation by it.
Even if the early revelations were incomplete, they were not wrong, but each one of them was true, like its Giver. Each one would admit expansion, but not rectification.
4. Its unusual accuracy supports its divine inspiration. The vocabulary it uses is a precise one. Its words and synonyms are utilized consistently by all authors. This is why there are concordances of the Scripture, while there are very few concordances for the Greek classical literature, for example.
5. Its doctrinal and ethical superiority to every other book is another proof.
6. The preservation of the Scripture and its transmission to us is another proof. No other book has had so many enemies. Numberless attempts to destroy it have failed and no attempt to discredit it has succeeded.
7. The huge power the Bible has to transform lives is unique. The Scripture has the power clearly proved to change even the most evil person.
8. The promises of the Bible, fulfilled toward the ones who believe and study it is another proof. The Bible promises a life changed from the foundations, peace to the ones in sorrow; it promises that God will meet the material, physical and spiritual needs of His children; it promises to be food for the soul. The Scripture always fulfills its promises, due to its intrinsic power.
These are just few of the external arguments in favor of the inspiration of the Bible. But we need to be aware that all the arguments that could be invoked are insufficient for determining an unbeliever to recognize unconditionally the divine inspiration of the Bible. Despite the proofs brought, there are many who reject the Scripture as being inspired by God. We have to realize that in order to accept the divine origine of the Scripture we need to accept certain premises. If the premises are wrong, then the conclusions reached at are wrong, too. An axiom of logics says that “The truth of a conclusion depends on the truth of its premises”.
Which are the premises that, if we accept, we will come to accept the inspiration of the Scripture? The two premises are the existence and the sovereignity of God. If God exists, then we can expect that He would make His presence known or would reveal Himself. If He is sovereign, then he represents the supreme authority and, accordingly, the revelation of Self he gives is an authoritative, infallible communication.
An unbeliever will refuse to accept these premises and will accept us of circular logic. This is how he would perceive our argument: God must exist because the Bible says He exists. And the Bible must be inspired because the Bible claims it is inspired.
What is our answer? The objection brought to us applies to every philosophical system, and not only. It is applied even to geometry:
Each system of organised propositions depends on the necessity of some unprovable premises, and each system must try to explain how these premises have come to be accepted.
Why does the unbeliever refuse to accept our explanations? Or what could determine him to accept them? Not the erudition, the rhetoric or the education could convince him. The decisive proof that the Scripture is inspired by God is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. In the second Baptist Confession of Faith from London, 1689, in the chapter “Of the Holy Scriptures” it is declared:
We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
Indeed, the Spirit of God must give birth to this faith within the mind of the man, nothing else will make him believe the premises that would bring him to the conclusion of the authority of the Scripture. Conrad Grebel would say: „Not the schooling, but God’s grace gave me power to put my faith in God’s Word.”
But it is not only the confessed unbelievers who reject the inspiration of the Scripture. Many of those who call themselves “believers” do not believe it any more. The theological streams known as being “modernists”, who run the most important theological seminaries in the world do not recognize the Bible as the infallible Word of God.
We must be aware that attacking the inspiration of the Scripture is attacking the foundations of the Christian faith. We appeal to the Scripture in order to prove our teachings and practices, but this is relevant just if the Scripture is true and inspired by God. If the foundation crumbles, the whole edifice falls apart. Losing the assurance of the inspiration of the Scriptures means being exposed to any wind of teaching (Ephesians 4:14). The consequences will be chaos in doctrine, abuses in practice, the appearance of fals churches and throngs of people deceived, the weakening of the testimony of the Gospel and the mocking of the name of Christ in the world. Denying the inspiration means denying the authority of the Scripture, and in this case its precepts can be tresspassed safely. No wonder that passing beyond what was written is the first sign of apostasy!
Deny the inspiration of the Bible and you will have an irrelevant book in the midst of the doctrinal anarchy and the spiritual darkness. „Admit that the Bible is infallible and you will reach the place in which the study of its contents is not only accesible, but also useful.”
Therefore, keeping these in mind, let us pass on to the next proof of inspiration: the claim of the Scripture that it is inspired by God. This claim is not to be neglected at all, for if there were no place in the Scripture that would assert the divine inspiration of its contents, and we upheld it, it could be rightfully objected to us that we passed way beyond the proofs the Scripture offered.
So, what does the Scripture say?
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
II Timothy 3:16,17.
In this part we will see what “inspiration” means and how the Scripture is “profitable”, while the next message will be dedicated to the question “How can we know what is Scripture and what not?”
So then, what is inspiration? There are some who say that the authors of the Scripture are inspired, in the sense that Shakespeare or Eminescu or other great authors are called inspired. When we speak about the inspiration of the Scripture, we refer to something else. The product of the human genius can be evaluated on a scale. In this sense, a work of genius can be surpassed by another work of genius. But the type of inspiration the Scripture claims to have is not the same as the human genius, nor even as the illumination of the Christian, by which he comes to understand a passage he studies.
The word “inspired” comes from Latin, from the Vulgata translation of the Bible, where Jerome translated the verse II Timothy 3:16 “omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata”, “All Scripture is God-inspired”. But the word Jerome used is not the best choice, for in Greek it means something else: theopneustos means “breathed by God” and conveys more the idea of expiration than inspiration. The Scripture comes from God, it is His breath. In this sense, there can not be degrees of inspiration. A book from the Scripture can not be more inspired than another. It either has its source in God, or not. B.B. Warfield explains it this way:
The Greek term has nothing to do with the inspiration. What the Scripture wants to say is not that it is “breathed-in by God” or that it is the result of the divine “breathing in” the human authors, but that it is actually accomplished by God… Then, when Paul says that “All Scripture” or “each Scripture” is the product of the divine breathing, he says this with the same force he uses in saying the Scripture is the result of a divine concrete work.
The verse does not state that the authors were inspired, but that the writing was God’s breath. The human authors are not even mentioned in this passage, for the emphasis is on the writing, not on the author. The original Source is God, He is its rightful Author.
How much from the Scripture is inspired or breathed in this way by God? The Greek text from II Timothy 3:16 says: pasa graphe theopneustos. The word pasa may be translated by “all”, but also by “each”. Each writing (Scripture) is breathed by God. Thus, the inspiration extends on each part of the Scripture. In the theological language, this is called “plenary inspiration”. All Scripture comes from God, each part of it. Therefore, the Scripture is not mixed up, partly of human opinions, partly divine revelation. The Scripture does not contain God’s inspired Word, it is God’s inspired Word.
God’s inspiration would extend on each wrod of the Scripture. The writers have been inspired, not generally speaking, but in the smallest detail, at the level of word. We call this verbal inspiration. This is seen from the fact that Paul builds his argument in Galatians 3:16 on the foundation of just one word:
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say “And to seeds”, as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed”, who is Christ.
For Paul each word from the Scripture is important, being breathed in by God. Lord Jesus says:
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.
The jot and the tittle were the smallest graphic signs from the Hebrew alphabet. Lor Jesus brings us an indirect proof in favor of the inspiration that extends to the level of letter. We have to open a parenthesis to state that when we refer to Scripture as being inspired, we refer to the autographs or the original manuscripts, not to translations. We need to know that God sees after His Word, so that it would remain forever (I Pet. 1:23-25).
About the authors: God used people for writing the words He wanted to be transmitted. Even if the authors were fallible and sometimes have made serious mistakes in their presonal lives, when they wrote God’s inspired Scripture they were preserved from making mistakes, due to the following facts: 1. The impulse of writing would come from God; 2. Their understanding would be enlightened by the Holy Spirit, so that their writings were free from material errors; 3. They have been divinely guarded in selecting the materials, so that nothing was omitted or added against God’Scripture will; 4. They received special divine assistance in order to complete their work with accuracy.
The people who wrote the Scriptures were fully aware of what they were doing. They were not in a trance, nor “possessed” by the personality of a spirit. They were conscious and reasonable. They were no robots writing after a mechanical dictation. Still, they would not always understand the meaning and the importance of the things they said or wrote (I Peter 1:10-12). People did speak, but “being moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:21). The word used in Greek is the same used by Luke to describe the ship driven by the tempest, in the book of Acts, 27:15. The ship still remeined a ship, but was at the discretion of the tempest.
In the Pentateuch the expressions “God said” (or its variants) occur more than 700 times. In the prophetic books the number reaches over 400 times. The Lord tells Jeremiah: “Behold, I have put my words into your mouth” (Jer. 1:9). David confesses that the Spirit of the Lord speaks through him (II Sam. 23:2), and this is admitted by Lord Jesus and the primitive community of believers (Mark 12:36; Acts 4:25). Expressions as “Thus saith the Lord” or “The word of the Lord came to me” appear in all the prophetic books (almost 350 times only in Ezekiel).
In the New Testament, too, the apostles would transmit God’Scripture Word, firstly by word of mouth, then by writing, as the Old Testament prophets did. Paul names his message “The Word of God, not the word of men” (I Thess. 2:13) and “words which the Holy Spirit teaches” (I Cor. 2:13). To the Corinthians he said that what he had written was the commandments of the Lord (I Cor. 14:37).
If Moses and the prophets were in error when they claimed that what they were saying were the words of the Lord, and if the apostles were also led astray, and if Lord Jesus understood wrongly the inspiration, then what certainty can anyone have regarding the other notions these all wrote or spoke about? Could we suppose that people who were in total error concerning their source of inspiration did have a superior depth and a correct knowledge about the relationship between God and man?…
2. The Scripture – The Word of God
The fact that the Scripture is the Word of God means that God is the Origin of the words we read in the Scripture, these have been inspired by Him. So then, what we read in the Scripture does not represent opinions or commandments of man, but the words of God Himself.
That’s why the Scripture is called “The Word of God”. Lord Jesus Himself calls it so in Matthew 15:6, quoting from Exodus 20:12 and 21:17, saying in verse 4 “God commanded”. The Lord teaches us that what is written in the passages from Exodus are actually the words of God.
The apostle Paul calls the Scriptures of the Old Testament “the sayings of God” (Romans, 3:2). He does the same in Romans 9:6, saying that the Word of God has not taken no effect. He refers to the whole of the Old Testament, continuing to quote from the Law and the Prophets (Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Hosea). Moreover, the Old Testament is thus personified in Romans 9:17: „For the Scripture says the Pharaoh…”. This is extremely important not only because when God speaks Paul says that the Scripture speaks, but also because in Pharaoh’s times there was no part of the Scripture. James 2:23 does the same.
All these facts can be attributed to the “Scripture” only as a result of the identification accomplished in the mind of the writer of the text of the Scripture with the God who speaks…
James M. Boice.
From the standpoint of the authority, in the mind of Lord Jesus and Paul there is no difference between the Scripture and God. Other examples: Galatians 3:8: “The Scripture foreseeing”; Hebrews 3:7, where the words of Psalm 95:7 are attribuited to the Holy Spirit. In the same way, the book of Acts 4:24,25, attributes the words of Psalm 2:1 to God.
Another category of passages which attribute the words of the Scripture to God is Hebrews 1:6-9. But here it not God who is speaking, but these words are addressed to God by people (Ps. 104:4; Ps. 45:6). Such associations could not be possible if in the mind of the author the words of the Scriptures were not the words of God, indeed.
Numerous passages confer God’s attributes to the Scripture: Ps. 19:7 (perfection), Ps. 119:43, John 17:17 (truth); Ps. 119:86 (faithfulness); I Pet. 1:25 (eternality). The Scripture takes part in God’s works (John 5:45, 12:48; II Tim. 3:15; I Pet. 1:23).
Therefore, the Scripture claims it is the Word of God, not the word of men, and exactly because it is inspired, the Scripture is perfect, infallible, true and eternal.
3. The authority of the Scripture
From the truth about the inspiration of the Bible there flows the truth about its authority. These two truths interweave: if the Scripture is not the Word of God, it means it does not have the authority of God in matters of faith and conduct. But, because it is the Word of God, it has an intrinsic authority, for God Himself speaks in it.
The time has come for us to examine the testimony of Lord Jesus about the Scriptures. For all the followers of Jesus, the way in which He regarded the Scripture is essential for the way we look at it.
The first registered use of the Scripture by Lord Jesus was at the Temptation. Both the Lord and Satan considered the declarations of the Scripture as offering an undeniable answer to any challenge, and this is a testimony in favor of its final authority. Each time Lord Jesus would answer to the temptation with the expression “It is written”. In the New Testament, this expression occurs about 80 times. This expression has a special strength. The judges use it in connection with the the statutary law. The executors use it for the authority they by which they interpret the legal contracts. They take into consideration the meaning of the words and try to understand and put them into practice. If there are different interpretations regarding a clause, it is appealed to what it is written. The statutary law is the highest authority. When the expression is invoked with reference to the Scripture, that means that the Scripture is the supreme authority.
Lord Jesus appealed to the Scriptures of the Old Testament as final authority: Mat. 5:17; 26:53-54 – how the Scriptures will be fulfilled; Luke 20:34-37 – about the resurection; 24:25-27 – His work as the fulfillment of the Scripture; John 5:39, 45-47 – search the Scriptures; John 10:35 – the Scripture can not be broken.)
Lord Jesus testified in favor of the historical character of the Old Testament. Lord Jesus considered the historical events registered in the OT as real: the creation (Mat. 19:4), Noah and the flood (Luke 17:26-28), Jonah (Mat. 12:41). There are many today who call themselves Christians but say that the narrative of the creation or the Flood are not real. You can not believe in Jesus and reject what He asserted as true. If He was wrong about the Genesis, then Jesus is not God, but a man subjected to error.
Lord Jesus testified for the divine inspiration of the words of the Scripture: Mat. 22:31 cf. with Mark 7:10 and about the insuflation of David: Mark 12:36.
The apostles testified for the inspiration of the Scripture: Matthew 1:22; Acts 3:21, 22; 26:22, 27; 28:23.
Every time Christ or His disciples refer to the Scripture, they use such a language that it would imply in the strongest possible way the divine authority and inspiration the Scripture held.”
What does the authority of the Scripture mean for us? It means that the Scripture is “the breath of God”, that it comes from the Holy Spirit as an answer to all our questions and needs. Each word from it comes from God and is profitable, that is, useful. It means it is the supreme standard according to which we judge all the teachings and the practices of the people, both ours and other people’s. It means that the Scripture has the last word and solves the differences among people. Even Satan kept silence when the Scripture was quoted to him, admitting its authority. The one who has the Bible on his side is right, and the one who believes or does something contrary to the Scripture needs to change.
He who pays attention to what the Scripture teaches always has near him a guide, a counsellor, a light in the darkness (II Pet. 1:19; Jos. 1:7-8). The Scripture was left to us in order to reveal to us the way of salvation of the soul (John 20; II Tim. 3:15) and to equip the spirit and soul in order to live according to God’s will. When we do not knopw which decision is the good and right one, it teaches us; when we make mistakes, it admonishes us; when we make wrong decisions, it corrects us, it gives us wisdom on the path of the righteousness and it equips us to lead a fruitful, useful life, full of meaning and happiness, enjoying God’s blessing and approval.
The Bible is not only for the scholars, theologians or a certain clergy. You do not need schools of theology, shelves full of commentaries, prophets or professors to tell one what one needs to believe and what the Bible says. The Bible was written in a simple language, in the vernacular language of the common people. If you are a child of God, then you have in yourself the Spirit of God, the same God who is the author of the Scripture. The Bible is written for you! All that you need to know for salvation is in the Scripture! All that God requires you to believe is in the Scripture! All the principles you have to lead your life by are in the Scripture! The words you read in the Scripture are the words God tell you!
In order to be the final authority, the Bible needs to contain all we need to know concerning the doctrine and the practice, both individually, and as a congregation. It does not allow for additions or eliminations from its contents, and its authority requires us to lead our lives in harmony with it. This conformation to the Scripture does not happen suddenly, but is a process that each one of us has to carry on, both in the private life, and as a congregation. When we meet something in our lives or in the doctrine and the practice of the congregation that is not according to the Bible, we are set in front of a choice, to give up at what is contrary to it, or to deny the final authority of the Scripture. We can not continue both to practice something contraru to the Bible and to uphold „Sola Scriptura”.
Spurgeon said: „Do never be afraid of your Bibles. If there is a text in the Scripture that you are afraid to deal with, humble yourself till you are able to approach it. If your belief and the Scripture do not agree, cut your belief asunder and make it agree with this Book. And if there is anything in the church you belong to that is contrary to the inspired Word, leave that church.”