Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Authority of Scripture

Recently in Sunday school I have been teaching on the doctrine of Scripture. You can listen to the lessons here. Having looked at the value of natural revelation and the necessity of special revelation (and particularly Scripture, given the cessation of prophecy), I have turned to the authority of Scripture. In addition to what I have written here, you can find the same ideas expressed in chapter one of our confession of faith, which you can read at this link.

What is the Bible? The written word of God. Observe how Scripture is quoted as God's words in places like Hebrews 1, Hebrews 3:7, and Acts 28:25.

How did God write his word? Through the "inspiration" of the Spirit. That is, the Holy Spirit guided the human authors of Scripture in such a way that the words they wrote were God's words. "All Scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Timothy 3:16). Scripture did not come from the will of man, but "men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21). As the early church in Acts 4:24-25 put it, God spoke Scripture through the mouth of the author by the Holy Spirit.

In what languages did God write his word? The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (and a little in Aramaic) and the New Testament was written in Greek. It is inspired in the original languages, though Scripture teaches by its own example that it is is capable of being translated (and ought to be translated into the common language that it might be known by all). The New Testament authors treat the Old Testament as God's word while giving a Greek translation of it. Yet when any doubt or dispute about meaning arises, Scripture in the original language is decisive.

How does God preserve his word? Through his care and providence. Having put his word into writing for its preservation for all generations as a foundation for his church to the end (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 2:20), he will ensure its purity (Matthew 5:18). He uses the work of his people to preserve his word (Romans 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:16). This is contrary to the claims of Mormons and Muslims and others who claim that the corruption of Scripture necessitated new revelation (which is somehow not subject to the forces which supposedly corrupted the original writings).

What did God intend his word to be? The rule of faith and life, that we might be saved and live as his people (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

What is the basis of its authority? Given everything said above, the basis of its authority is God’s authorship. It speaks with God’s authority.

What are some other implications of divine authorship? It also speaks with God’s wisdom, purity, justice, goodness, and truth (Ps. 19, 119). It reflects the attributes of its author. It is infallible truth: it is trustworthy because God does not fail to speak what is true. It is inerrant, without error, correct in everything it asserts (though one must be careful to understand what it means to assert). See Proverbs 30:5 and Titus 1:2. God is true and faithful.

What then is the supreme judge in the church? Holy Scripture, that is, the Holy Spirit who has authored Scripture. He settles all disputes and evaluates all claims. We make our appeal to Scripture and rest in its sentence. See Isaiah 8:19-20, the example of Jesus and the apostles, and the example of the Bereans (Acts 17:11).

The church has authority to define its membership and censure false teachings and immoral behavior. But it must rest its decisions and claims on Scripture, teach the basis for its claims and decisions (rather than demanding blind obedience), and be willing to correct itself according to Scripture.

Everyone has the responsibility to discern what is true and their duty, keeping their conscience bound to God alone. But they must also rest their beliefs and convictions on Scripture, interpret Scripture with the help of the church and its teachers (a help appointed in Scripture, Eph. 4:11-12), and willing to correct themselves according to Scripture.

No comments: