When we think of the term biblical authority, many of us may think of the authoritative nature of the Bible’s text itself. We think in terms of its inerrancy and infallibility, meaning that the Bible does not have any errors and does not have the capacity to deceive.
How do we know that the Bible text itself is authentic? Where does its authority come from?
Based on this understanding of biblical authority, we build our understanding of salvation and true life in Christ. We also look at the world around us—rocks and fossils and living things—through the lens of biblical authority, and interpret every observation from this starting point (or at least we should). But how do we know that the Bible text itself is authentic? Where does its authority come from?
We must start with the very character of God.
The Bible is truly authoritative, not because human theologians insist that it is, or because textual criticism validates its authenticity, or even because it claims to be authoritative. The Bible is truly authoritative because of Who it comes from. It is the Word of God. Any flaw in God’s character would render the Bible unable to claim such commanding authority. God is the true source of the Bible, so His character determines the credibility of the whole Book.
The next logical question is: What do we know about God’s character?
The Creator’s Character
God’s first words to us are “In the beginning God created. . . .” The Bible also tells us that humanity was created in the image of God. Being created in His image, we would certainly expect to share common attributes with Him, and we do. God is loving, patient, kind, just, merciful, gracious, joyful, creative, generous—even jealous and wrathful—and the list goes on.
We see these attributes of God all through Scripture. In man, these attributes are corrupted and imperfect, but in God, we see them in perfect and unlimited form. That is the great difference between God and fallen, sinful mankind.
This difference sheds light on the authenticity of God’s authority. For example, consider jealousy. In humans, jealousy is typically ugly and sinful because we seek control over something to which we have no right. God, on the other hand, has every right to us. His jealousy expresses His great love for His people (see Zechariah 8:1–3). He wants what is best for His dearly loved possessions, so He is jealous for us to reflect His awesome glory in our return love for Him.
This is the case even though we have sinned and rejected His authority. God’s jealousy is part of His unblemished character; it reflects His zeal to demand what is good and right and to display His own glory. We can see how we share all of these character traits with God only as we see how they fit within His perfect plan laid out for us in His Word.
Just as we can see how some of God’s perfect attributes share some commonality with humanity, we also would expect to see attributes that are foreign or uncommon to humanity. If God is Creator and the ultimate authority, we would expect Him to live beyond the dimensions of His own creation. As we look at the expanse and wonder of His creation, we can only marvel at His unlimited power that can create out of nothing.
The Bible tells us that God is independent (Isaiah 40:13–14). God doesn’t require instruction or teaching. No person can add knowledge or understanding that He doesn’t already have, and no one is His counselor. The Bible tells us that God is unchanging (Psalm 102:26–27). While constant change is an inescapable part of our lives, God is unchanging. He doesn’t age, His character never changes, and His purpose never wavers. Because of God’s unchanging nature, we can be confident in the security of our salvation.
The Bible tells us that God is infinite (Revelation 1:8). To be unlimited in power, presence, and knowledge is something that humanity cannot comprehend. As finite beings worshiping an infinite Creator, we can only stand in awe of our unlimited God.
The Bible also tells us that God is timeless (Psalm 90:2). God is the eternal, self-existent God. He has always been and will always be, and He is outside the confines of time.
As we read through Scripture and see the character and perfection of a limitless God, we begin to understand His absolute authority and the authority of His Word. God is the God of the Bible and the God of salvation. He is the starting point of biblical authority because He is the only limitless One and the only One who has always been, with full control of past, present, and future. He is the only true and living Creator of all. Biblical authority starts, continues, and finishes with God.
- Genesis 1:1 reveals several characteristics of God. Which ones are reflected in human characteristics? Which ones are solely God’s divine attributes?
- Skeptics often demand proof of God’s existence. Read Psalm 53:1 and Romans 1:18–20. How would God respond to such demands for evidences of His character and authority? How does the very first verse of the Bible reveal this same response to human demands for evidence?
- At first it may seem strange to see jealousy as an expression of love. Read Ezekiel 36:1–15. How is God’s love for the children of Israel expressed through His jealousy?
- Read the rest of Ezekiel 36. What is God jealous for?
- Some of God’s character qualities are unlovely when exhibited by human beings. Why are attitudes like jealousy and anger usually unacceptable for mankind but fully justified for God? Read 2 Corinthians 11:2. Is it ever right for us to be jealous or angry?
- Read Revelation 1:8 and Psalm 19. What do these passages reveal about God’s attitude toward the human tendency to question His authority?
- Meditate on Psalm 8. How does God’s authority relate to man’s authority? How should we respond to His authority?