Question Authority

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Sometimes when speaking of the Bible with a nonbeliever, my conversation with them turns into a question of authority. I, of course, believe that the Bible is entirely inspired by God and his word has ultimate authority over my life, and really, the lives of everyone he has created. The question then becomes, Do we recognize that authority, and if so, do we really obey it?

We see in the Bible that there is a “chain of command” of sorts as far as authority is concerned and it all starts with the creator, God. Jesus, speaking in John 12:48-50 says, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

We see here that even Jesus defers to his source of authority, the Father. But Jesus is not without authority himself. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus spoke saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  God has granted his Son authority and lordship over his creation.

The authority of God is also manifested through his Spirit. In John 16:13-15, we see that the Holy Spirit is given to us, guiding us into a knowledge and understanding of the truth. God has given the Spirit authority to reside within us, teaching and convicting us, creating in us a new heart for God.

The Spirit’s most important job at first was to guide and inspire the writers of the Bible to record God’s word for us after Jesus ascended to heaven. In 2 Peter 1:16-21 we read, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origins in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

All this leads to our job as Christians today. We have the responsibility and authority to teach the word of God to a lost world. If we speak the truth from God’s word written down by God-inspired writers, we have confidence that what we speak is truth.  Just like Jesus before us, we can boldly proclaim the message of God that has been planted in our hearts and bring glory and honor to his holy name.

-Joe

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7 thoughts on “Question Authority

  1. Amen!

    I truly find it refreshing that you reference the Bible as the “inspired word of God” as opposed to the more commonly used “infallible word of God.”

    For someone to assume that the Bible must be “infallible” as opposed to simply “inspired” in order for it to be the ultimate authority over our lives, has made a grave misunderstanding.

    1. Joe Butler

      The verse I quoted in 2 Peter does in fact show the infallibility of God’s word. So does 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The fact that scripture is “God-breathed” implies that if it came from God it is free from error because he is free from error. It would be fair to add that this really applies to the writer’s original writings and manuscripts. Because of translation and interpretation errors over the centuries, we have to be sure that the translation we use is one that derives itself from as many of the original documents or earliest copies as possible. I chose the word inspired because the words were still physically written by a human hand as they were guided by the Spirit of God. So we see different writing styles and certain preferences of topic that were important to the writer that penned them.

  2. I agree, but allow me to clarify:

    My comment was to address the difference between people who believe that the Bible is the “inspired work by [an infallible] God” vs. those who believe the Bible is the “infallible work [inspired by] God.” I’m essentially meaning it’s the difference between interpreting the Bible using hermeneutics vs. literally.

    There is no denying that God is infallible. But even you have pointed out that due to translation and interpretation errors and the preferences of authors demonstrates that the Bible is an inspired work as opposed to an infallible work.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Joe Butler

      I agree but would still consider the bible both an inspired work and an infallible work. While it is obvious that the Bible was inspired thought-for-thought rather than word-for-word especially when we consider the different writing styles of its authors, the message transmitted was exactly what God intended. The message has the unique fingerprints of its writers but is still infallible because God has allowed those words to be so.

      1. I’ll posit it this way, not that you have to agree with me as I understand I am of the vast minority who likely believe this:

        My take on the Bible is that it is the inspired work of the infallible word of God. However, referring to the Bible as an infallible work or infallible word should come with a clear and concise definition of what you mean by “infallible.” I personally prefer the word inspired as it speaks to the creativity more than the need for perfection.

        What I mean by the Bible being the [inspired work] of the infallible word of God. Is to say that the Bible itself is not the infallible word but it speaks of the infallible word. You see, I consider Jesus as the only infallible word of God (c.f., John 1:1). The Bible, in my view was never meant as the infallible word, but merely the inspired work that gives testimony to Jesus [the infallible word].

        When I consider the Bible, I understand it to be a canonized literary work. Aside from it being canonized (which has a potential margin of error in itself), it’s works are comprised of various writing forms (allegorical, poetry, historical, etc.). Which means that not all of the writing forms from the Bible can be measured by some sort of “standardized infallibility test.”

        I feel the term inspired allots room for potential human errors by the writers, translators, or whoever interprets the words written. While at the same time it is still pointing everyone who reads it (by the power of the Holy Spirit) to the infallible word of Jesus Christ, his work on the cross, and God’s plan for humanity.

      2. Joe Butler

        Thank you for your time responding and I greatly appreciate your study on this matter. Your viewpoint on this matter, especially the comments,

        “What I mean by the Bible being the [inspired work] of the infallible word of God. Is to say that the Bible itself is not the infallible word but it speaks of the infallible word. You see, I consider Jesus as the only infallible word of God (c.f., John 1:1). The Bible, in my view was never meant as the infallible word, but merely the inspired work that gives testimony to Jesus [the infallible word].”

        and

        “I feel the term inspired allots room for potential human errors by the writers, translators, or whoever interprets the words written. While at the same time it is still pointing everyone who reads it (by the power of the Holy Spirit) to the infallible word of Jesus Christ, his work on the cross, and God’s plan for humanity.”

        are some things I would like to spend more time studying. I’m currently teaching a bible class series on the Holy Spirit and completely agree that His power is what leads us into an understanding or discernment of the word of God. Again, thank you for your insight on this subject and as always, May God bless you as you seek to serve him in spirit and in truth.

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