CRSA Bibliology: Session 6 – The Authority of the Bible

Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason (I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other), my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe… Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.

These are the words of Martin Luther when he stood against the clergy and statesmen in the Diet (Assembly) of Worms (1521), refusing to repudiate his writings as he submit to the authority of the Scriptures over the church. In this lesson we have a burden. It is to show that the writers of the Old Testament, our Lord Himself and the apostles all believed quite firmly that they spoke with the authority of God.

The Claim of the Old Testament

#1 The Prophets’ claim to divine authority

The prophets knew themselves to be governed by the Spirit of God. Nearly 4,000 times (500 times in the Pentateuch), we read such expressions as “The Lord spoke,” “The Lord commanded,” or “The Lord said (Micah 3:8; Zechariah 7:12).

#2 Their experience of receiving the message from God

The prophets claim that the message that they deliver to God’s people and to other nations is the is from, hence, it has a divine imprint.

The word of the LORD was put in the mouth of the prophets. Deuteronomy 18:18 found its fulfillment in Christ alone. Though Islam claims that this refers to Mohammad, but this claim is readily debunked by the very words of the passage when it says that he will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. Jesus descended from Israel, Mohammad did not.

In 2 Samuel 23:2-3, the prophet of old humbly claims that the words didn’t originate from him but from the Spirit. The OT prophets received the words of God in a special manner (Eze 3:4), as they saw the words of the LORD; that’s why the prophets were called “seers“. See also (Ezekiel 13:2, Jeremiah 1:9, Isaiah 51:16; 59:21, Isaiah 2:1; Amos 1:1; Micah 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Revelation 1:19 7.1 Samuel 9:9; Amos 7:12; 1 Chronicles 26:28).

#3 Their responsibility to speak only the words of God.

They cannot speak beyond the words God gave them (Amos 3:7-8). They were regulated by the revelation of God. Even the false prophets are restricted to not to speak their own minds (Nu 24:13). He cursed Israel in His hearts according to Deuteronomy 23:5. See also (Amos 3:7-8 3.Num. 24:13; Is. 1:10; Jer. 10:1; Micah 6:1 4.Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6, Isaiah 1:10).

This also means that no one is allowed to add anything to God’s word. Adding anything to it would add curses upon them. In God’s wisdom, He gave this warning at the beginning (Deuteronomy 4:2), middle (Proverbs 30:6), and end (Revelation 22:18) of the Bible to tell us that it must be taken seriously and the Word of God includes the entirety of the Bible.

#4 The Authority of the Words

The passive use in Proverbs 30 means that the words have been tested and proved true; because of the agency of the Holy Spirit any flaw, impurity, has been taken out (Proverbs 30:5-6). In Psalm 119:160, the writer says that the sum of your word is truth. Truthfulness is ascribed to God’s word because He is the truth. When He speaks, it must be treated with reverence as it comes to us with the stamp of Kingly authority.

The Claim of the New Testament

We strongly affirm that the New Testament has the same authority claimed by the Old Testament writers.

#1 The claim of the writers to divine authority.

They are well aware that what they speak and write are by the Holy Spirit and with the authority of God (1 Cor. 2:13).

2 Peter 3:2 says that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. Peter was putting the NT writers at par with the words of the Lord and the prophets. They spoke with the voice of the Lord Himself. Actually, in Greek, it should be read as the commandment of the Lord’s apostles. Peter also declared that the Lord revealed His commands by the apostles. It is clear that what the Spirit was with the prophet is the same as what He is with the NT writers. They were writing with the authority of God.

In 1 Cor 14:37-38, Paul confidently speaks that what he preaches is from the LORD. 1Th 4:2 – Paul’s command is from the LORD. It is God’s words indeed when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God (1Th 2:13).

In 1 Cor 7:10, 12, 25, Paul writes …not I, but the Lord (v.10) …I, not the Lord (v.12). He then rendered his judgment in equal putting with the Lord (v.25). Christ has nothing direct to say. Christ had already spoken on the subject during his earthly ministry (Matt. 19:1-9). Paul’s command displays the wisdom of apostolic authority received from the LORD. See also 1 Peter 1:11, 12. Revelation 22:6,1 Cor. 14:37-38; 1 Thess. 4:2; 2:13, Gal. 1:6-12; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14; Eph. 3:3.

#2 How their letters were to be received

The writers of the NT expected their letters to be read and received as carrying great authority (Colossians 4:16). In 1 Thessalonians 5:27, Paul put the Thessalonians under oath (Greek) or charged them by Lord (KJV) to emphasize that they are accountable to have his letter be read to the brothers. For John, to read the words of the revelation of Jesus Christ given to him equals blessedness. Reading the scriptures written by the apostles is to be regarded as a high privilege (Revelations 1:3).

#3 The Words of Christ equal with the Old Testament

Let us read 1 Timothy 5:18, Deuteronomy 25:4 & Luke 10:4. Notice that Paul calls Deuteronomy written by Moses, and Jesus Christ’s words in Luke as Scripture (See also 1 Corinthians 9:9, 14). Albert Barnes testifies that ‘It would seem probable, therefore, that he had seen the Gospel by Matthew or by Luke, and that he quoted this as a part of Scripture, and regarded the Book from which he made the quotation as of the same authority as the Old Testament. If so, then this may be regarded as an attestation of the apostle to the inspiration of the “Gospel” in which it was found.’ (Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:18).

#4 The writings of the Apostles as Scripture

Peter gave Paul’s letter the same authority as the OT Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16) when he said referring to Paul’s letter that there are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. Therefore, when we refer the “All Scripture” in 2 Tim. 3:16 to both OT & NT, we are only doing what the apostles themselves had begun to do before the close of the NT.

#5 The authority Christ gave to His disciples

In Matt. 16:18-19; 18:18, the binding & loosing have nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins. That is referred to in John 20:23, but not here. When we understand the Jewish background to this verse, it presents little difficulty.

The scribes of Israel were thought of as stewards of the treasures of divine wisdom (Matt. 13:52), and when admitted to this office, a scribe received, as a symbol, a key of knowledge (Luke 11:52). The duty of the scribe was to interpret the law of God in particular cases. He would inform a man whether a certain law applied to him or not. Therefore, when the scribes bound a man they placed him under the obligation of the Scriptures. He was prohibited from doing something. When they loosed a man, they released him from the obligation.

Our Lord had been training his disciples to be stewards of the treasure of the new covenant, the gospel. In this promise in Mat. 16:19, He is referring to their future writing and preaching. Their future preaching and writing will have the authority of God’s law. They will be the true scribes of the New Covenant. They are to fulfill it through the Holy Spirit alone who will teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had said to them (John 14:26; John 16:13; Revelations 22:6).

It is consistent with what Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:20 that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.

Another observation that is worth noting is the Greek words used behind the binding and loosing. Robert L. Reymond in his book, the Reformation’s Conflict with Rome maintains,

The “shall have been bound” and the “shall have been loosed” in my translation of the Greek text of Matthew 16:19 (and 18:18) reflect the fact that underlying both is a verbal construction known as the future perfect passive periphrastic …the translations I have urged above are not only warranted but also really the only English translations which capture the force of the Greek. Thus if the binding and loosing about which Jesus speaks here pertain respectively to “retaining” and “forgiving” men’s sins (see John 20:23; see Rev 1:5), this can only mean, in my opinion, that those whom the church through the proclamation of the gospel brings to faith are those who are already God’s elect and those who finally spurn the church’s message or who are finally excommunicated by the church are those who are already the non-elect. (Chapter on the Papacy and Papal Infallibility, footnote 45)

The context of the verses above is church discipline. The church’s decision should be aligned with what is already bound in heaven.

For the Roman Catholic Church, they are the cause and heaven should follow. In this regard, Robert Reymond in the same book comments, Jesus was not instituting the current Roman Catholic priestly practice of absolution when he granted to the original disciples the authority to “bind” or “loose” men’s sins. If he was, we must conclude that the disciples just did not get it, for nowhere in Acts or in the New Testament epistles do we find them hearing confessions and absolving the penitent of their sins by requiring of them acts of penance. (Chapter on the Papacy and Papal Infallibility, footnote 45)

#6 The authority of Christ Himself

Our Lord saw His own teaching as holding a position of authority no less than that of the OT prophets. Since He is the Lord of glory and the God incarnate, His authority in heaven and on earth is supreme and universal (Jn. 17:8, Luke 9:35, Mat. 5:18; 24:35). That is why the prime minister of the Netherlands and the Dutch Reformed Theologian Abraham Kuyper can boldly proclaim, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

In 1632 the Italian scientist Galileo published a book in which he supported the view of Copernicus a century earlier that the earth is round and that the sun is the center of our solar system.

The church authorities disagreed and his book was banned. Galileo was forced to change his views under the threat of death by the infamous Inquisition. In fact, Galileo was right and he knew he was right. Merely declaring him to be in error and forcing him to change his views altered nothing of the truth. Today, any schoolchildren who learn about Galileo know what the great mathematician and astronomer really believed.

Like the authorities in Italy who punished Galileo for telling the truth, men may not like what the Bible says about itself.

Ignorance or fear of acting the claims of the Bible can never change the truth of them. The Scripture (both the Old and the New) claims divine authority as the Word of God and we must subject to advance the work of reformation. The Scripture is the norming norm. The Reformation motto Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda must still be upheld even today. That is the Reformed church is always reforming.

The Bible is the Word of God in such a way that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.1


*This blog post is based on our notes on Bibliology provided by our pastor. 

1 B.B. Warfield. Read more on this in his book, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible.

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

3 thoughts on “CRSA Bibliology: Session 6 – The Authority of the Bible

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