The Bible is the book Christians live by and follow. It provides guidance about how to live a Godly life in a fallen and corrupt world.
I’ve found the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy to be powerful about the role of the Bible in the lives of Christians. It reads,
“We affirm that the holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God. We deny that the Scriptures receive their authority from the church, tradition, or any other human source.” ~ The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article I.
With that said, let’s take a look at the Bible as the ultimate authority for Christians.
Photo Credit: Ben Onken
Bibliology: The Bible as the Ultimate Authority
I. WHY THE BIBLE IS AUTHORITATIVE AND ACCURATE
I’m not sure about you, but I like to be sure of something before I use it and follow it. When purchasing things I like to research online what is best, ask friends for their feedback, and then make sure I am getting a good product. Anyone who becomes a Christian or is wrestling with the Christian faith should study the Bible and ask, “Why is the Bible authoritative and accurate?” Here are four reasons that I believe the Bible is authoritative and accurate.
A. It’s Breathed out by God
The first reason the Bible is authoritative and accurate is because the Bible contains the words of God. Paul tells us about this in his second letter to Timothy.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NIV, emphasis added)
In my post on the inspiration of Scripture I referenced this same passage. It is important to note that Scripture is “God-breathed.” This means the words are literally the words spoken by God through the writers of the Bible.
“To say that Scripture is inspired is to say that its words are God-breathed (a more literal translation [than the NLT translation of “inspired”]); it is God’s own personal speech breathed out by God (cf. Heb 4:12-13; 2 Peter 1:20-21; also Num 24:2; Hosea 9:7). This does not negate the active involvement of human authors, but it does affirm that God is fully responsible for Scripture, and it is therefore as true, reliable, authoritative, permanent, and powerful as is God himself. It’s message is coherent and consistent, ad it is such in its witness to Jesus Christ (Luke 24:25-27, 44; John 5:39-40; Acts 3:24; 1 Cor 15:3-4)” (Jon Laansma, “2 Timothy” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, vol. 17, 198).
Peter further clarifies that Scripture is from God writing,
“Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20–21, NLT)
I think from these two passages it is safe to say the Bible contains God’s Word. Therefore, a “true conception of what the Bible is must be obtained from the Bible itself. There is no reason to be afraid of going straight to the Bible” (The Speakers Bible, 377).
B. Hundreds of “Thus says the Lord”
The second reason the Bible is authoritative and accurate is because there are hundreds of times in the Old Testament where the Lord directly speaks to prophets and those prophets deliver the messages.
A quick search 1 yields that “thus says the Lord” occurs the following times in the various translations:
- 419 in the New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- 417 in the English Standard Version (ESV)
- 128 in the Lexham English Bible (LEB)
- 10 in the New English Translation (NET)
A quick search 2 yields that “the Lord said” occurs the following times in the various translations:
- 275 in the English Standard Version (ESV)
- 238 in the New English Translation (NET)
- 233 in the New American Standard Version (NASB)
- 19 in the Lexham English Bible (LEB)
In my opinion, God is authoritative and the things he says are authoritative.
C. God Speaks “Through” Prophets
The third reason the Bible is authoritative and accurate is because God speaks through prophets. One example of this is in the book of Jeremiah. The prophet Jeremiah gives prophecies to the nation of Judah that if they do not turn from their sins they will be conquered by a foreign nation and taken away to a foreign land as captives.
In a moment I want to share with you the importance of Jeremiah 37:2. But first, let me give you the context. The context of Jeremiah 37:2 is that the nation of Judah is in the midst of being exiled to the nation of Babylon. In 605 BC the nation of Babylon comes to Judah in Israel and conquers them. Then they return in 597 BC and 586 BC. King Zedekiah reigned in Jerusalem 597-486 BC. He was the last of the line of kings in Judah that had a chance to turn back to God and not be conquered so devastatingly by the Babylonians.
Yet, the people do not listen.
“But neither King Zedekiah nor his attendants nor the people who were left in the land listened to what the Lord said through Jeremiah.” (Jeremiah 37:2, NLT)
This happens numerous other times throughout the Bible (1 Kings 14:18; 16:16, 24; 2 Kings 9:36; 14:25; Zech 7:7, 12).
D. New Testament Authors Cite Old Testament Verses as Authoritative 3
The fourth reason the Bible is authoritative and accurate is because the New Testament authors cite the Old Testament as authoritative. While there are probably 100 times in the New Testament that the authors cite the Old Testament as authoritative, I would like to highlight some of the clearest examples below.
As Matthew begins his Gospel he describes the birth of Jesus and concludes the section by quoting the fulfillment of Scripture
“All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”‘” (Matthew 1:22–23, NLT)
Other examples of Matthew quoting Old Testament Scripture as authoritative can be seen when Jesus quotes Scripture to counter Satan during Jesus’s temptations in the desert (Matt 4:4, 7, 10 quotes Deuteronomy) and when Jesus quotes how a man leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife (Matt 19:5 quotes Gen 2:24). Also see Matt 26:24.
Some of the Pharisees and teachers were watching Jesus and judging him for not following all of the established religious practices of the people at that time. So, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and teachers saying:
“You [the Pharisees and teachers] skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” (Mark 7:9–13, NLT, emphasis added)
In this figurative punch at the Pharisees and teachers Jesus quotes with authority Exod 20:12; Lev 20:9; and Deut 5:16. Furthermore, I like how Jesus calls these three quotes the “word of God” near the end of the passage.
In the Gospel of Luke
I like these two references to Scripture in Luke because they are not direct quotes, but instead seem to assume that the readers know and understand that the Old Testament predicted Jesus coming to die for the world.
Luke quotes Zechariah’s prophecy which reads,
“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.” (Luke 1:68–70, NLT)
Later in Luke’s Gospel Jesus died, resurrected and was walking to Emmaus with two men when he told them,
“You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25, NLT)
Luke records both of these sections from a position where he thinks people knew about the Old Testament and saw it as authoritative.
In the Book of Acts
Luke records many examples in the book of Acts of people citing the Old Testament as authoritative for the newly established church. The point seems to be clear: the church which was created when the Holy Spirit came to earth (Acts 2:1-13) had not replaced the Old Testament. The Old Testament was still God’s Word and was needed to help guide believers in the first-century church. Examples of this are seen when an explanation was given for Judas’s death (Acts 1:16 cites Pss 41:9), Peter quotes from the prophet Joel to explain the Holy Spirit’s coming to earth (Acts 2:16-17 quotes Joel 2:28-32), an explanation for why Jesus had to suffer (Acts 3:18 references Pss 22; 41:9; 69:4, 21; Isa 50:6; 53:4-11; Zech 12:12; 13:7), and lastly after Peter and John are freed from prison and return to the other believers, the believers sing a song that quoted several Old Testament passages (Acts 4:25-26 quotes Exod 20:11; Pss 2:1-2; 146:6).
A few other examples of Luke citing the Old Testament as authoritative you might want to check out in the books of Acts are in 13:47; 28:25.
In John 5 Jesus was getting harassed by some Jewish leaders, so Jesus gave them a piece of his mind. Towards the end of this speech to them, he appeals to the Jewish leaders’ familiarity with Moses and what Moses had accomplished by saying,
“Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” (John 5:45–47, NLT)
Again, like with Luke’s passages above, Jesus doesn’t have to introduce who Moses was or what Moses did or why Moses was important. The presupposition that Jesus makes is that these men heavily relied on the Old Testament as Scripture in their lives, and the apostle John records this as Scripture.
In one of the longest and most thorough letters we have from Paul, he launches straight into an argument by relying on the Old Testament. He starts out his letter to the Romans saying,
“God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.” (Romans 1:2, NLT)
One of the sharpest men of the first century bases his letter to the Romans on something not revealed first with Jesus Christ or the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), but instead on what was written in the Old Testament. You can see Paul rely on the Old Testament in Rom 3:2; 9:17; and 1 Cor 9:8-10.
In Peter’s second letter he’s talking about the future return of Jesus Christ and tells his readers,
“I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.” (2 Peter 3:2, NLT)
Peter references what the apostles were teaching, what Jesus had said, and what the Old Testament prophets had spoken about the return of Christ.
7. Author of Hebrews
Whoever the author of Hebrews was certainly knew his or her Old Testament very well. The book of Hebrews is full of quotes, references, and allusions to Old Testament Scripture. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that the Old Testament was from God by writing,
“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1–2, NLT)
Like Paul in Rom 1:2, the author of Hebrews does not start his or her letter by referencing current events or logic, but instead starts the letter with a clear reference to the Old Testament. Then, the author of Hebrews goes on to quote lots of Old Testament Scripture (Heb 1:5-14; 2:6-8; 3:7-11; 4:3, 7; 5:5-6; 6:14; 7:17, 21; 8:8-12; 10:5-7, 30; 12:5-6; 13:5-6, 19-21).
II. THREE REASONS WE TRUST GOD’S WORD AS THE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY
“We affirm that the holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God. We deny that the Scriptures receive their authority from the church, tradition, or any other human source” (Chicago Statement on Biblical Innerrancy, Article I).
A. God Never Lies
For God to speak in Scripture and not speak the truth would be against God’s holy and perfect character.
“For you are God, O Sovereign Lord. Your words are truth, and you have promised these good things to your servant.” (2 Samuel 7:28, NLT)
“This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began.” (Titus 1:2, NLT)
“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.” (Hebrews 6:18, NLT)
These verses seem to make it clear that God’s words are truth (2 Sam 7:28), that God does not lie (Titus 1:2), and that it is impossible for God to lie (Heb 6:18).
B. God’s Words Are True and Without Error
Numerous times throughout the Bible we learn that God’s Words are true and without error. The fact that his words are true is one of the many reasons that people worked so hard to preserve the Bible and protect it through difficult times in history.
“Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89, NLT)
“Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit.” (Psalm 119:96, NLT)
“God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” (Numbers 23:19, NLT)
God speaks to us true words that are without error. That’s why Christians strongly adhere to the doctrine of inerrancy. Also take a look at Pss 12:6; Prov 30:5; Matt 24:35.
C. God’s Words Are the Ultimate Standard of Truth
After three years of ministry on earth Jesus turns to God the Father in heaven and prays to for his disciples on earth by saying,
“Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.” (John 17:17, NLT)
As Jesus was about to be arrested and killed he asked the Father to teach his disciples the Word–which is truth–and that Word will make them holy.
Commenting on this passage Warren Wiersbe writes, “We must never take God’s Word for granted, for those who are overcomers know the Word and how to use it in daily life” (Wiersbe, Be Transformed, 96).
Scripture is God’s inspired Word to Christians and it is the ultimate authority in our lives.
III. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
A. When faced with a tough decision, the Bible gets final say in my life.
With this post I hope to have given you a strong case that the Bible is the ultimate and final authority in the life of believers. While it is good to read books, seek advice from friends, and have mentors to guide our lives, the ultimate authority is the Bible. We go to the Bible for the final standard of what we should do in life.
B. Because the Bible is the ultimate authority I will read, study, and meditate on it daily.
Since the Bible is the authority that Christians follow we should make a habit of reading it, studying it, and meditating on it daily.
1. Read It
Christians can read the Bible in various ways. You can read the entire Bible in a year, you can read a chapter a day like my wife, or simply read small sections with a devotional like Daily Bread or something else.
2. Study It
Christians can study the Bible in a small group or by themselves. I encourage our small groups at church to use the Warren Wiersbe Bible study guides. They are fantastic! And, they come with a complimentary commentary that helps to deepen your understanding of the text.
3. Meditate On It
Christians can meditate on Scripture by memorizing it. When you memorize Scripture you can meditate on it throughout the day regardless of where you are or what you are doing.
C. When someone hears a “word” from the Lord, I will evaluate it against God’s “Word.”
My theology comes from a position that does not endorse common and public “words from God” given to modern prophets and pastors. I believe God spoke in a special way so that those words could be recorded in the Bible. So, when someone claims to have heard a “word” from the Lord, you should open your Bible and evaluate that “word” in light of what Scripture teaches. Does what he or she says match up to what you understand the Bible to teach? Ultimately, the Bible is our authority and guidebook as Christians, so we should not rely on the divine words given to people or their interpretations given to us.
- Logos Bible Software ↩
- Logos Bible Software ↩
- My intention for this section is not to show every exact time that a New Testament author quotes or references the Old Testament. To do that would be such a large blog post I can’t imagine how many words it would require. Instead, I simply want to show how often and how many different writers of books of the New Testament affirm that the Old Testament and New Testament are Scripture and authoritative for life in the church ↩