Last week we looked at the canon of scripture and how the various books came to be included in the whole canon. Now the books are there, we will look at the whole subject of ‘authority’. One of the dictionary definitions of authority is “power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behaviour”. (Merriam-Webster dictionary).
In his excellent Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem makes a very strong point about the authority of scripture with implications about the seriousness of ignoring what it says:
“The authority of scripture means that all the words in scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God”. (Wayne Grudem – Systematic Theology pg 73)
So how do we know that the bible is God’s word?
Scripture claims it for itself
The phrase “thus says the Lord” and “the word of the LORD came saying”, along with other similar expressions, appear more than 2,000 times in the Old Testament alone. This is not to say that every word in the bible is God speaking, but rather that God allowed all the words to be included.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”. (2 Timothy 3:16)
“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”. (2 Peter 1:21)
While Moses was the bringer of the law, God was its author according to scripture. In fact the scriptures declare that God wrote on the tablets of stone himself:
“When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18)
The fulfilment of prophecy
Throughout the pages of the bible, various events are predicted many years and sometimes centuries before. When these are fulfilled (many times with astonishing accuracy) it adds validity to the bibles’ claims. In fact God prizes prophetic fulfilment so highly he challenges unbelievers on four separate occasions in the book of Isaiah to match prophetic fulfilment:
“Present your case,” says the Lord. “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King. “Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods.
Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; whoever chooses you is detestable.” (Isaiah 41:21-24)
“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.
See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” (Isaiah 42:8-9)
“This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come— yes, let them foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Isaiah 44:6-8)
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.” (Isaiah 46:9-11)
As Christians we are convinced by reading the bible
The Holy Spirit confirms in our spirits that the words we are reading are God inspired. I have had many instances where the words seem to jump out of the page and I know that God is speaking to me.
“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)
Jesus spoke about this as well, in John 10:27 it says:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
The bible is historically accurate, internally consistent, contains prophecies that were fulfilled hundreds of years after being proclaimed. The bible has continued to radically transform lives throughout history and shows no signs of stopping.
We know that scripture is true because God cannot lie and so His words can be trusted.
“.. in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…”. (Titus 1:2)
“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.” (Hebrews 6:17-18)
“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19)
Therefore we can trust scripture.
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Proverbs 30:5)
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
The word ‘truth’ here is a noun. Not simply that it is ‘true’, but it is ‘the truth’.
God has created for us His book, the bible, because it is His words and His message. It carries the same weight as if God was speaking to us personally. So the next time you pick up your bible, read it expecting the author to speak to you and communicate His will. Read it with faith.