Daily Direction

Biblical Authority

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The Bible is our final authority in more areas than our beliefs. What should I eat? What should I drink? In every decision we make, God’s Word should be “a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105).

A young teacher who was visiting our church confronted me after the worship service. He believed in evolution and thought it foolishness to think otherwise. Beyond that, he actually worshipped the sun and moon, being attracted to ancient pagan religions centered on things he could see. Our conversation naturally drifted into who has authority to determine what we believe and how we live.

I’ve noticed many believers are confused about the same issue, sometimes without realizing it. They make daily decisions without considering who or what is the authority behind those decisions. It is one thing to trust God for salvation through Christ. It is another to live for Him day by day.

God’s will, revealed in His Word, is the decisive authority: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [literally, ‘God-breathed’] and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Scripture tells us what to believe, scolds us when we do not live up to God’s standards, shows us how to correct what is wrong, and disciples us in God’s ways.

When the Bible speaks, God speaks. That is biblical authority. God’s disciples who follow the Bible are “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). No aspect of life is left out, whether marriage, finances, vocation, or even where to live.

This does not mean that obeying the Bible’s moral teachings is easy. No one can hope to live up to them without Christ. It is only by grace that anyone, even Christians, can please God (Romans 8:6–12).

The Bible Before Christ

A thousand years before Christ, the Psalms spoke about the authority of God’s Word for living. The first psalm notes that the happy man, who avoids ungodliness (1:1), is the one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” (1:2). Furthermore, “in His law he meditates day and night.”

Meditation on God’s truth avoids the problems of verse 1 and leads to the fruitful life of verse 3: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” This kind of success cannot be obtained through mere church attendance. It requires a daily commitment to serious meditation and saturation in the Scriptures.

Psalm 19:7 affirms, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Scripture brings us to God and gives wisdom for living. Moreover, by the truth of God’s Word, “Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:11).

Both psalms link avoiding bad choices with rewards for good choices, reminding the reader that God’s Word has authority over all of daily life.

The longest psalm in the Bible, Psalm 119, is devoted entirely to the authority of God’s Word for every step we take. The writer affirms, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v. 105). He prays, “Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live” (v. 116).

Like Psalm 19, this psalm speaks of avoiding wrong things by following God’s Word (vv. 10, 29) and embracing right choices by following that same Word (vv. 30–32).

Does Scripture’s authority mean Christians are bound by Levitical Law? No, Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice fulfilled the Law and established a New Covenant (Hebrews 10:1–10).

All Scripture is “profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16–17), but how it is to be applied to each situation varies. Even if we don’t follow Israelite sacrifices, we can certainly learn wisdom from them—the reality and seriousness of sin, the need for a substitute sacrifice, and God’s gracious provision. However, even if some passages have different applications in various periods in biblical history, the Bible is clear that its authority never changes.

Jesus’ View of Scripture

Jesus Himself clearly treated the Bible as authoritative for every situation. He not only affirmed the truth of Scripture (see Matthew 22:29; John 10:35, 17:17), but He also appealed to its authority when confronting everyday issues.

In the wilderness, Christ quoted Scripture to refute Satan’s temptations. He gave the strongest possible statement of the Bible’s authority for living: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus later said that all of God’s Word is summed up by loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:37–40). The entire Bible is a lens through which we see how to live as God commands.

Whether we read the Law, the Psalms, or the Gospels, the whole Bible is profitable. Its authority is grounded in God’s own wisdom, which never changes or diminishes. There is no more reliable foundation for all choices in life.

Discussion Questions . . .

  • What is your primary authority for making decisions in life? How should we judge various authorities for making choices in life?

Read 2 Timothy 3:16–17.

  • How important is the doctrine of inspiration to the Bible’s authority for living?
  • To what extent is the Bible authoritative for living? Does it cover all issues of everyday life?

Read Matthew 4.

  • What does Jesus teach by word and example concerning the scope of the Bible’s authority?

Read Matthew 22:23–40.

  • How does Jesus respond to questions about both the content of God’s Word and its authority for living?

Read Psalm 1:1–3.

  • Based on this passage, what are the positive and negative aspects of following or ignoring biblical authority in life?
  • If the ways of applying the Bible change throughout time, does this diminish its inherent authority for living? Why or why not?

Dr. Mike Stallard received his PhD at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is a Baptist Bible Seminary professor and dean. He has published several articles and books, including First and Second Thessalonians and Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant.

Answers Magazine

July–September 2015

This issue focuses on five powerful evidences that confirm creation and leave unbelievers without excuse.

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