Why it Matters – The Authority of Scripture
This is the second piece in our “Why It Matters” series where we take a look at the important, immovable, “oak tree” beliefs of Christianity. (Check out the first post here – Why It Matters – The Trinity) These blogs aren’t exhaustive theological treatments, but are intended instead to introduce us to core Christian beliefs and a reason for why it matters.
The Authority of Scripture – What It Is
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to Timothy, a pastor in training:
“You have been taught by the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
There are plenty of books, talks and sermons available to help people understand that the Bible is authoritative. Every year, writers and preachers articulate the Bible’s historicity, the authenticity of the Bible authors and witnesses, and its track record of accurately fulfilled prophecies. Each of these points is substantial and important, but they are not the most compelling reasons for me. The best evidence I have for the power and authority of Scripture is my life.
I know the Bible is authoritative because everything it claims God can and will do in my life, he has done. In my life, I’ve found all of God’s Biblical promises of transformation, peace, freedom, hope, courage, love, and intimacy with himself to be true. What Scripture says about God, about me and about life has been proven true. In community with other Christians, our lives bear witness daily to the truth of the Bible – what it says God will do, he does. This is what it means to believe Scripture is authoritative.
In his book Theology for the Community of God, Stanley Grenz writes,
“We must keep in mind that it is ultimately not the book itself which we are affirming. Rather, we are confessing faith in the Spirit who speaks his revelatory message to us through the pages of Scripture.”
Scripture is life-changing and authoritative because it is the message of God.
Believing Scripture is authoritative means the Bible is not just a book of good stories or moral teachings, but is actually God’s word to us, and by the power of the Holy Spirit it carries God’s authoritative and life-changing voice. The words of Scripture introduce us to God, and the Holy Spirit uses these words, unlike any others, to change us into the people we were intended to be.
The Authority of Scripture – Why It Matters
In the dictionary there is a subtle but important difference between the words authority and authoritative. Authority is the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. To be authoritative is to be trusted as accurate, true, and reliable.
While the world has seen many men who are given authority but have not proven themselves authoritative (they’re called dictators!), there is only one being who, in his pure holiness, carries perfectly the power of authority and the trustworthiness to be authoritative: God, who has chosen to reveal himself in Jesus Christ (John 14:6-11). For those of us who weren’t around to meet him, the Bible is our definitive source document about Jesus.
Here’s a real-life example: my grandmother and grandfather were married for over 50 years. After my grandmother’s passing we discovered some love letters my grandparents had written to one another during their courtship and during my grandfather’s overseas military service. They narrated the beginning moments of a beautiful family story that has culminated in a tight-knit, faithful, loving family. These letters mean a lot to our family, but they’re only meaningful because they’re accurate and reliable. If they aren’t the actual letters written by my grandmother and grandfather, then they’re meaningless to us.
After all, thousands of military couples around the globe have written love letters. Many of them probably even sound similar to those written by my grandparents. But if these are actually my grandparent’s letters – if they really tell their story in her unique vocabulary and his distinctive handwriting – then they authoritatively tell a real part of our story and they will forever mean the world to my family.
So it is with Scripture. If a book is going to claim to introduce us to God – the God who created us, loves us, and keeps the universe working by the sheer power of his will – then it better be reliable, accurate and trustworthy. There is no greater life-changing question than “is there a God,” and there is no greater and life-changing opportunity than to actually meet God. Because this is the claim of Scripture – that by it you can meet and know God personally – then nothing matters more than its authoritativeness.
The theologian Stanley Grenz writes, “Only the Bible directs our attention to God in Christ, thereby bringing us face-to-face with the loving, Savior God.”
If the Bible is authoritative, we can really know God and know ourselves, and that matters in our lives. The Bible promises to introduce us to our Creator and explain the world we live in – do you believe that it does?
The Authority of Scripture: Scripture Verses
Here are some key scripture passages about the authority of Scripture.
The Authority of Scripture: Read About It
Want to learn more? Here are some recommended book titles about the authority of Scripture.
- Shaped by the Word – M. Robert Mulholland
- Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today – N.T. Wright
- Theology for the Community of God – Stanley Grenz
- You Can Trust the Bible – John Stott