The Bible Is Authoritative

By:
Kristie Anyabwile
Perspective:
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In an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of the characters was an AI life form named Data. In one episode, Data decided to pursue a romantic relationship with a human colleague to explore human intimacy. His new girlfriend says to Data, “You give me so much. You spend time with me when I’m lonely. You encourage me when I’m down. No man has ever been kinder to me.” It’s obvious she’s developed feelings for him. However, Data’s programming doesn’t give him the capacity for romantic love. He decides to create a program with a specific “subroutine” devoted specifically to the development of this relationship.[1] Regardless of how hard he tried, Data’s advances toward his new girlfriend could only be artificially contrived.

Data’s attempts are nothing like a relationship with God. Though we can’t see Him, God is not robotic in His relationships with His people. Yes, He rules creation and all life, but He does so out of an abundance of love. He’s not programming ideals but pouring out His perfect love into our imperfect hearts, giving us the ability to receive His love by faith in the Lord Jesus. Nothing Data’s love interest could do would elicit emotion from Data, but God rejoices over us with singing! God gives, loves, gets angry, and more—yet He rules over His beloved with grace and mercy. Therefore, we should believe and obey His Word as the fullest revelation of God to humanity. Jesus Himself says that all the Scriptures speak of Him—the Old Testament law, the prophetic books, the psalms—and all that Scripture says about Him must be fulfilled (Luke 24:27, 44), including His suffering, death, and resurrection.

How Is the Bible Our Authority?

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible describes biblical authority as the idea that the Bible is the Word of God and as such should be believed and obeyed. Our society resists and challenges the idea of authority. Many people’s deep reaction is that “no one is the boss of me.” Baker goes on to say that since the concept of authority is generally challenged in our society, it leaves us with the question, “Who has the power and right to require submission?”[2] God alone has this right. Too often in Christian circles, we have abandoned God’s authority and the authority of His Word. Instead, we’ve delegated it to trusted pastors, theologians, and teachers, who themselves have abandoned God’s authority and have set themselves up as the sole trusted ruler over God’s people, misleading and deceiving many to such an extent that Christians lose the ability to discern and hear the voice of God. As a result, some believers can only hear the narrative handed down by human leaders rather than by God through His Word. Lord, help us! This must stop.

“The Bible is our authority because it was breathed out by the God who made us in His image to reflect His glory in the earth.”

God has given us His Word as our authority, so we have the responsibility to believe, obey, and submit ourselves, in the words of the old saints, to “what saith the Lord.” The focus of this book is to help us understand the Bible literarily and while this literary understanding will serve as a guardrail to help us yield to the authority of God’s Word, we must also take time to understand the Bible in its cultural and historical contexts as well. A literary approach helps with this because the literary features of the text will help us make appropriate historical and cultural connections. No one likes to be told what to do. At one point in Data’s new relationship, he tests out human emotion. His girlfriend challenges his behavior and says he’s behaving foolishly. He taps into his “anger,” points at her, and says “You don’t tell me how to behave. You’re not my mother!” When someone tells us to do something we don’t want to do, or to behave in ways that rub against our natural tendencies, or when instructions are unclear or undesirable, or when we feel we’re already doing everything right yet we’re still challenged to change, we can often respond like Data, pointing our finger defiantly at God. We can erroneously assume there must be something wrong with God rather than accept His authority and submit to it.

How do we know the Bible is our authority? God tells us so. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). It’s through the Scriptures that we learn about Christ (John 5:39–48). The Scriptures bear witness about Christ, and it is through Christ that we have eternal life. In Christ, we live and move and exist (Acts 17:28). The Bible is our authority because it was breathed out by the God who made us in His image to reflect His glory in the earth.

God’s Authority Is Loving

At a recent conference for teen girls, I asked a young teen what she was learning at the conference. She told me she was learning about authority. She said, “I always thought authority was mean, so I thought God was mean. I learned that God’s authority is based on love. He’s not barking orders at me to obey because He is mean. He’s in the tunnel with me, guiding me in love.” Most people don’t connect authority and love as well as this teen girl. They see authority as punitive. Jonathan Leeman, in his book The Rule of Love, says, “God is love, but God is also King. His authority is a gift; and his gift of authority to people, when used for its creational or redemptive purposes, is an action of love. . . . Good authority strengthens and grows. It nourishes and draws out.”[3]

God’s authority given to us in the Word does provide rules and guidelines for us. These rules are not rigid and intended to punish; rather, they are guides that tell us all we need to know, believe, and observe for salvation. On just about any holiday, weekend, or Friday night entertainment, families and friends gather to play games. It’s customary when playing any game that you play by “house rules.” There are general rules that everyone agrees are standard to the game, but in a particular household some aspects of the rules can be added or changed according to the rules of that house. So, in the card game of Spades, the highest cards in the deck, called trump cards, are all the spades and sometimes the Jokers. However, in my house, the two of diamonds is also a trump card, and the two of diamonds and the two of spades become the third and fourth highest cards in the game, after the Jokers. Of course, if you are not familiar with this set of house rules, playing will take some adjustment. Players might decide to revert back to the general rules in future games. This is not how rules work with God. There are no “house rules” subject to each person’s discretion to adjust as they see fit. No, all of God’s words are to be obeyed by all of God’s people. He is the authority. He is the “house.”

God’s rules guide us in knowing Him personally, understanding forgiveness of sin and the gift of salvation, living godly lives, and obeying Him. The unfolding of God’s Word provides us with light and understanding (Psalm 119:130). This understanding comes to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot understand spiritual realities apart from the help of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). God Himself must reveal to us His Word in words and ways we can understand (Romans 1:19). Speaking the truth of His Word to us in story and letter and proverb and prophecy is one way the Lord helps us to understand supernatural realities and truths that would otherwise be lost on us.


[1] Gene Roddenberry et al., Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 4, episode 25 (California, Paramount Pictures, 2007).

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Karry J. Beitzel, “Ahasuerus,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), 40.

[3] Jonathan Leeman, The Rule of Love (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 23.

For Further Reading:

Literarily

by Kristie Anyabwile

Don’t just read the Bible literally—read it Literarily. A lot of times, we treat Scripture like it’s all the same from Genesis...

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