Authority Of The Scriptures
Would you agree that there seems to be a lot of misunderstandings, problems, and confusion in the world today when it comes to spiritual matters and moral issues?
I suspect that much (maybe even all) confusion that is so prevalent today is due to a lack of respect for authority… or failure to accept any standard of authority. Think about how much better our world would be if people, in general, had better respect for authority and everyone adhered to the same standard of authority.
So when you think about respecting authority… what do you think about? Do you think about respecting the law and those who enforce the law, such as the police and sheriff? Do you think about respecting the government… maybe legislature, congress, or the President? Who do you believe we should have the greatest respect of authority for? The police, sheriff, congress, the President?
How about God?
In this study, we want to understand biblical authority… or what we might call "Authority of the Scriptures."
This is probably one of the most overlooked (ignored) biblical doctrines and yet one of the most important doctrines in establishing our foundation for Christian living and worship. As Christians, we need to understand why the authority of the Scriptures is essential. We need to understand who has primary authority… or what I would call ultimate authority over everything. We need to know how God's authority is within the Scriptures.
The word translated as "authority" in the Bible is from the Greek word "exousia." In the King James Version, this Greek word is translated as "authority" 28 times, "authorities" 1 time, "power" 61 times, "powers" 1 time, "right" 2 times, and "jurisdiction," "liberty," and "strength" 1 time each. In the New King James Version (NKJV), it is translated "authority" 90 times, replacing the other translations from the KJV. The NKJV uses different manuscript texts for its translation, hence the difference in the number of times the Greek word is used. The point here is the word "authority" has significant use and meaning in the Bible.
1) power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases
1a) leave or permission
2) physical and mental power
2a) the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises
3) the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege)
4) the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed)
4a1) authority over mankind
4b1) the power of judicial decisions
4b2) of authority to manage domestic affairs
4c1) a thing subject to authority or rule
4c2) one who possesses authority
4c2a) a ruler, a human magistrate
4c2b) the leading and more powerful among created beings superior to man, spiritual potentates
4d) a sign of the husband's authority over his wife
4d1) the veil with which propriety required a women to cover herself
4e) the sign of regal authority, a crown
Understanding what the word "authority" means, what exactly is the "Authority of the Scriptures"? What does the Bible tell us about authority?
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Colossians 1:15,16 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.
From these few passages above, we learn that Jesus was the Word and with God in the beginning. He was made flesh as the Son of God. "He is the image of the invisible God." "All things were created through Him and for Him."
God created everything… even the ability for there to be authorities who give authority. It does not matter if it is a religious or secular matter… God has final authority over everything. Thus authority comes from God. No one would have any authority without God allowing that authority; therefore, God has ultimate authority over everything. Consider how Jesus addressed Pilate.
John 19:9-11 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin."
The authority for Pilate to crucify Jesus… to have Him put to death ultimately came from whom? Pilate could do nothing if God did not grant him the choice to do it, right?
Scripture easily proves that authority started with God. On Judgment Day, I don't think anyone will have any doubt about how powerful the authority of God is.
How has God passed down His authority to others?
John 8:25-29 So they said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him." They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him."
John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
The above passages prove that God passed down His authority to Jesus. Jesus was given all authority, period. To whom did Jesus give authority?
Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Notice Jesus states they are to teach all that He commanded them.
Matthew 16:18-19 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
God delegated His authority to His Son, Jesus… and Jesus delegated it to the apostles.
Binding and loosing have to do with deciding what is lawful and unlawful… what has been written in the Scriptures binds us or looses us. It is either lawful for us or unlawful for us. If it is unlawful for us, then it would be what? It would be sin!
Let's consider another passage that shows how Jesus delegated His "authority" to the apostles.
John 17:8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
God gave Jesus the words that He wanted Jesus to speak to the apostles, and they received these words so they could know the truth that came from God. In the following passages, we will learn that Jesus gave specific instructions to the apostles on when they would use these words as authority and that He would give them "power from on high." The power was the baptism of the Holy Spirit; it was the Comforter that Jesus promised them so that they could remember all of these words that He spoke to them.
Luke 24:46-49 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."
Beginning in Jerusalem, the apostles preached the Word of God to all the nations and lands; this was the gospel.
Act 2:1-5 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.
If we read the book of Acts, we learn the actions of the apostles. They traveled the lands and preached what Jesus had taught them as He had commanded them to do (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:46-49). Not only did they preach and teach, but they also wrote letters to various churches of Christ and brothers in Christ. These are the letters (epistles) from Romans to Jude. How do we know they got it right? The Holy Spirit reminded them of the words of Jesus so they could preach, teach and write these words to share with the world. The Holy Spirit also provided them with other words of truth that Jesus did not believe they could bear when He was with them.
John 16:12-15 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
The apostles were nothing more than mere men… humans, weak and imperfect, and they knew this.
Act 10:25,26 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I myself am also a man."
To avoid any mistake or error by the apostles (who were mere men} in receiving and communicating God's will to man, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth.
2 Peter 1:20-21 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
The apostles were the last ones to have authority given to them by the Holy Spirit. Once they died… what happened to authority?
It was set in writing… the Bible is now our final authority… it is God-inspired.
Where did authority start? Authority started with God! Where does authority stop? The apostles wrote it down and ultimately created the words that makeup what we now have as the Bible. Authority does not go any further than the Bible today. The Bible gives us everything we need.
2 Peter 1:2-4 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
The Bible is our final authority from God. It is our official rulebook for life. Can we change the rules? Nope! Why not?
Consider this… we have the game of football, and the rules are firmly established, right? Let's say we have a nuclear holocaust, and only a few people survive… the game of football has been forgotten for 1000 years. People have been too busy rebuilding the world to even consider sports. Football has been forgotten; it is nothing more than an ancient historical sport that hardly anyone mentions. Another 1000 years go by, and the world is finally being slowly pieced back together. Someone finds an old set of rules to the game of football buried in an archeological field. They open up the rulebook, start playing football, and follow the rules exactly as they are written. Did the person who found the rules create a new sport? No… they restored an old and proven sport by following the rules exactly as they were written in the rule book.
Now let's suppose another group of people across the ocean found those same set of rules, just in another location, but instead of following them exactly as they were written, they made some changes; they made up some of their own rules. Because these new rules were more pleasing, they could attract the majority of the people in the world. The changes were more satisfying to the crowds and attracted more people, even though they were not true to the original rules.
Let's suppose these two groups of people that are oceans apart decide to get together and play each other. But then when they get on the field to start to play… there is confusion because they are not playing by the same rules. They start arguing and fighting, and it creates all kinds of chaos. The group that plays by the original rules tries to explain to the other group that they all need to play by the original rules and not be divided. The group playing by the new rules wants to use their new rules because they are more pleasing and they like them better, even if they are not the authentic and original rules. Then another group that has found the same original rules comes along, but they have changed them again to something different from either of the first two groups because their people did not like the original rules. Chaos and confusion erupt to no end. Yet another group comes along that has created rules completely different from any of the other original or new rules being used. No one wants to play by the same rules. The group using the authentic rules attempts to convince the other groups that everyone needs to play by the same rules, and the original rules are sound, proven, and have ultimate authority. Still, the other groups won't listen because those original rules are less satisfying than the new rules.
The reason why we have so much biblical confusion in the world today is because we have too many groups of people who want to change the original rules. There would be less confusion if we were all playing by the same original and authentic set of rules, but men have come up with their own traditions and changed the true meaning of the Bible to please themselves and those who follow them. If they can just change a few things in the Bible, they can attract more people. These changes are not anything God did not expect, and there are severe consequences to changing the rules. Nonetheless… many people do NOT have respect for the authority of the Scriptures. Let's consider the Scriptures showing warnings that this would happen and the consequences for those to dare change the Word.
2 Peter 3:14-18 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
2 Timothy 4:3,4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Romans 16:17,18 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
Proverbs 30:5,6 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.
Galatians 1:6-10 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
These people and these denominations who change the Word to suit themselves ignore the teaching that we must have Bible authority for all we do.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Everything we do, we should do by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His name. Everything we do, we should do by the authority of the Scriptures.
Notice Paul wrote, "whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." To do something in "word" is to "teach." To do something in "deed" is to "practice." Remember the ole saying... "Practice what you preach." But the critical part of this passage is to "do ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus."
These are the three important words in this passage... "word," "deed," and "name." "In the name of" signifies the AUTHORITY by which something is done. It is clear that whatever we teach and whatever we practice is to be done in the name of Christ. Whatever we teach must be by divine authority. Whatever we practice must be by divine authority.
If we do not have authority for a practice, we should not do it. We should be silent when the Bible is silent. If God has not spoken about it, then it is not authorized. We cannot walk by faith if God's Word does not authorize it. We must understand what it means to walk by faith. This ties into the authority of the Scriptures.
To walk by faith is to act according to what God has spoken… and He as spoken through His Word. The Old Testament has some excellent examples of how God expects us to walk by faith. These examples show us how we should do nothing more and nothing less than what He has spoken.
We are not bound by the Old Testament today... but consider what the apostle Paul wrote.
Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Paul was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures because the New Testament had not been finished at the time of his writing this to the Romans. Paul wrote that these Old Testament writings were "written for our learning." Remember that Paul also wrote to Timothy and told Timothy that "All Scripture" is profitable for learning.
2 Timothy 3:16,17 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.
All Scripture means the entire Bible, not just part of it, but every word of it. How do we know this? Remember that God used the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles to speak and write what He wanted everyone to know. God knew the Scriptures would eventually be complete and thus inspired Paul to write what he wrote to Timothy. Therefore let's consider a few things we can "learn" from the Old Testament. Let's consider a few examples of how God shows how all we need is His Word… nothing less and nothing more; just what He says is all we need.
Leviticus 10:1-3 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.' " So Aaron held his peace.
Notice how Nadab and Abihu "offered profaned fire (strange fire) before the LORD, which He had not commanded them." Then God sent fire down to consume them. Nadab and Abihu were not walking by faith (by God's instructions... His very words); therefore, God condemned them. They had their own ideas of what God would want, but God did not ask for what they brought (the strange fire). God did not need their ideas. God gave instructions, and He expected them to be followed exactly as He has spoken. You see, all Nadab and Abihu needed were the words of God, nothing more and nothing less.
Consider the story of Saul.
1 Samuel 15:1-3 Samuel also said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'"
The Lord sent the prophet Samuel to Saul to tell him he had been made king over Israel. Samuel explains to Saul that he is to listen to God's words. God instructed Saul to go and completely destroy Amalek and everything to do with Amalek. What did Saul do?
1 Samuel 15:4-9 So Saul gathered the people together and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, "Go, depart, get down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt." So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
Did Saul do as the Lord instructed... did he follow God's word, or did he change the words? This is a very interesting story if you will take the time to read it.
1Samuel 15:10-23 Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments." And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night. So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, "Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal." Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, "Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD." But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" And Saul said, "They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed." Then Samuel said to Saul, "Be quiet! And I will tell you what the LORD said to me last night." And he said to him, "Speak on." So Samuel said, "When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.' Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?" And Saul said to Samuel, "But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal." So Samuel said: "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king."
We learn that Saul did not do exactly what God instructed him to do; he did not follow the words of God. Saul thought sparing the best to sacrifice to God would be pleasing to God, but God did not ask for any such sacrifice. We also learn that to obey God is better than to sacrifice. You see... just like Nadab and Abihu, all Saul needed were the words of God, nothing more and nothing less.
2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
Think about all that we have studied thus far. Consider how God has spoken to us today… through His Word… the Bible. Are we doing exactly what God has instructed us… or are we leaving out something or adding more to it? When we try to take away from God's Word by doing less than He asks us to do… and when we try to add to God's Word by doing more than He has authorized us to do, we are rejecting His Word. Either we can choose to listen to the Word of God and do it, or we can reject it. Think about what we do in our daily lives, and think about what we do in our worship to God. Everything (leaving out nothing) that we do in word and deed must be authorized by God according to His Word, as we have learned from Colossians 3:17 and the examples we have to learn from that are in the Bible.
Again, altering His Word even in the slightest, taking away from His Word, adding to His Word, or speaking where the Bible does not speak, is to reject His Word.
John 12:47-50 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak."
If we reject the Word of God, those very words will judge us to condemnation on the Day of Judgment.
Luke 6:46 "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?"
Authority started with God; He passed it on to His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus passed it on to the apostles, and the apostles ultimately wrote it all down in the form of the Scriptures. God's authority ended with the Scriptures… the Bible. Therefore the Bible is our final authority in all things. It does not matter if it is a religious or secular matter… God has absolute authority over everything.
We know that the Bible is all truth because God, through the Holy Spirit, guided the apostles in all they wrote down. Even the Old Testament Scriptures were not from man but God.
2 Peter 1:16-21 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
We considered how confusing spiritual matters are today because many people are not playing by the same rules… people lack respect for authority. We see from the Bible how people have changed things within the Scriptures to suit their own desires. We have learned that we should speak only where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.
1 Peter 4:11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
If God is silent (has not spoken), we too should be silent. In other words, let us be sure not to claim something as truth if God has not also claimed it as truth. It is better to trust God than man.
Psalms 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man.
Acts 5:29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men."
Let us respect what the Bible says and respect the authority of the Scriptures!
God bless you!