Biblical Authority: What Weight Does the Bible Carry?
One of the most challenging subjects when it comes to the Bible is the authority on which it is written. What weight does it carry? For a moment, channel your inner rebellious teenage angst with me, and let’s ask the prevalent question, “so what?” We might even go so far as to reject the Bible’s authority since it was written so long ago and the subjects in the Bible are just too ancient. But if there is one thing that I want you, the reader of this article, to understand it is this: the stakes couldn’t be higher when discussing the authority of the Bible. That’s because, if you believe as I do that the Bible is the Word of God, then disobeying the Bible means disobeying God himself.
That may seem like a harsh way to start this topic but not only is that what the Bible says, but God in the personhood of Jesus clearly believed that the Bible was inspired by God (Matthew 22:31-32). After all, the best place to start when examining the authority of the Bible and its importance is with, of course, the Bible.
Biblical Authority As God’s Word
The Bible tells us it is God’s Word. Such a claim may seem unsurprising coming from a book that is full of stories about God, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. The Bible says that every word in it is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and that it is divinely inspired. This is not to say that God said and did everything in the Bible, but rather that his stamp of approval is on everything that was written by those he called to write.
The Bible instructs, even begs us in Proverbs, to listen to what it says and take it to heart for our benefit. Proverbs 1:7, which says “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,” should encourage everyone to read what he has to say if only to avoid the righteous wrath of God. However, the idea that we would read the Bible because we are “fulfilling our Christian duty” or something like that is missing the mark of the two points on either side of this passage.
The first point of the passage talks about fear, which may seem like an odd thing when we hear so often about God’s love for the world in the sacrifice of Jesus. Why would we fear a God who literally died for us? The answer can be found in many places, but one of them is Ephesians 2:1 that tells us we “were dead in [our] trespasses and sins.” In the presence of God, we are deserving of the death sentence. But, just a few verses later, in Ephesians 2:4-5 we learn that God grants us righteousness and gives us life, despite our sinfulness, through the death and resurrection of Christ. The second point of Proverbs 1:7 is that God is the source of all knowledge and truth. Everything that claims to be truth that does not come from God and his Word is a lie, which is Satan’s primary tool.
Biblical Authority As God’s Tool
If you read the Bible and have ever thought to yourself, “that sounds like a great idea, but I don’t think I could ever do that,” you are not alone. We all feel like the things the Bible says to do or not do (I’m looking at you Proverbs) are such lofty expectations that we would get frustrated trying to do them sometimes. But there is good news.
One of the most confusing passages in the Bible, if only for its train of thought, is Romans 7:15-20. It is humorously known as the “do-do” passage because it is full of Paul saying how he cannot do what he wants to do but can only do what he wishes he wouldn’t do. In any version of the Bible, it is a tough passage to read. Paul’s point in writing those lines, however, is to express his frustration at not being able to achieve the perfection that is required of him by God. It’s clear what Paul should and shouldn’t be doing, but Paul falls back into sin over and over again. And if Paul, the spiritual giant who Jesus literally appeared to in the flesh was having a hard time keeping himself from sinning, then God’s grace is sufficient for us too (2 Corinthians 12:9).
With that said, God still hates sin enough to place that punishment upon his son, so how do we use the Bible to change our lives? The Bible has to be our source of absolute truth. Without the Bible, there is no such thing as ethics, and what was said about the state of affairs in Judges 17:6 where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” would be the norm. When we allow the Bible to change our perspective on how we should live—for example, loving your enemy instead of hating them—it makes us more like Jesus, the only person who could accomplish the perfection required.
Biblical Authority As God’s Reminder
It is easy to say that the Bible is our ultimate authority, but it is much harder to allow it to operate in our lives as such. Emotions will run our lives if we allow them, which is why the Bible encourages us to discipline ourselves in the study of it. It serves as an anchor when life seems like a tempest, and we are being tossed around by the waves (Ephesians 4:12-16).
We likely all know one person that seems like they have no world outside of the church. Their entire existence seems dominated by all things pure and holy. They listen strictly to Christian music, dress modestly, always dot their i’s and cross their t’s, and so on. When we look at those people, we may feel a slight twinge of guilt that we don’t feel that deep conviction. In a way, we may tend to feel bitter towards such a person for looking like such a good Christian, judging them. But, in all honesty, that is exactly what the Bible should look like to us. In fact, it should be worse because the Bible makes a habit of pointing out the flaws of God’s followers and laying bare their shortcomings, and, if we let it, our own flaws and shortcomings.
The Bible is also the greatest source of hope because it tells us that we were never expected to attain perfection. We were always expected to come to God with our imperfection for his help and, ultimately, for a savior like Jesus. Devote your time to reading the Bible daily, and you will be helpless to its transforming power on your life. Make it the greatest authority in your life, above what anyone else says, and let it speak truth into your life.
Benjamin Murray graduated from Grand Canyon University with a BA in Christian Studies with an emphasis in Biblical Studies. Since high school, Benjamin has had a discipline for learning and passion for God's Word and his Church.