Thursday, July 27, 2017

Scripture: Authority

Scripture: Authority
   The authority of Scripture is grounded in the very being of God. Because of who God is, he substantiates everything written in the Bible. This includes every doctrine, promise, statement, and command. In other words, the word of God is authoritative because God is its author and it is his communication to his creation. God and his word is definitive and man is subordinate. God is sovereign, man is submissive. This means that God and his word is the standard by which we are to live. If the word of the almighty God is the standard, that means that man is not. Our feelings, thoughts, desires, ambitions, preferences, dreams, goals, etc. are subject to God's word and must be secondary. We must submit to the authoritative word of God. This also means that we as believers do not compare ourselves to others. This is often a temptation, to measure ourselves and our “spirituality” in comparison to another's life, ministry, gifts, sin, etc. No, God and his word is to be our standard.
   Since the Bible is authoritative, it must be believed, obeyed, treasured, taught, preached, read, memorized, trusted, and submitted to. If a person does not submit to the word of God, it is sin and rebellion. Why? Because the Bible is the authoritative word of God. Scripture claims this authority. You read of phrases such as: “Thus says the Lord” (Is. 7:7; Jer. 2:2; Amos 1:3), “It is written” (Matt. 4:4; Jn. 6:45; 1Cor. 9:10), and “Scripture says” along with “According to the scriptures” (Jn. 7:38; Rom. 9:17; 1Cor. 15:4).
   The Lord spoke to the prophets and through them. His words were authoritative and to be obeyed (1Kgs. 14:18; 2Kgs. 9:36; Jer. 37:2; Zech. 7:7). Throughout the New Testament, writings are called “Scripture” or “commands from God” and are therefore, authoritative. Peter equates Paul's writings with Scripture. He wrote, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2Pet. 2:15-16).
   Paul quotes the words of Jesus and refers to them as Scripture (this should be obvious since the Lord Jesus is God in the flesh; his words are the words of God and are therefore, Scripture). Paul wrote, “ For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,' and, 'The laborer deserves his wages.'” This is a reference, in part, to Luke 10:7 where Jesus said, “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.”
   And Paul wrote and revealed that what he wrote were commands from the Lord. This appears in 1 Corinthians 14:37 when he wrote, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.”
   The personal experiences of believers testify to the authority of Scripture. We have experienced the Spirit working through the word and in our souls. We have submitted to the word of God, sat under the preaching of the word, prayed the scriptures, sung hymns inspired by the Bible, and have planted the word deep within our hearts. And because of this, because we submit to the authority of the word, we have grown, been blessed, been used by God to minister to others, have proclaimed the gospel, have gone on mission trips, have seen lives transformed, have been forgiven, etc.
   The Bible is replete with examples that testify to its authority:
  • God reveals his truth through the Spirit- “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 'For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ.” (1Cor. 2:10-16)
  • Sheep hear the voice of Christ- “ My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn. 10:27)
  • Faith comes from hearing the word of Christ- “ But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, 'Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!' But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?' So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:8-17)
  • Sinners are born again through the living word- “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. (1Pet. 1:22-23)
  • Believers have hope because of the word- “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4)
  • Believers gain assurance from the word- “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1Jn. 5:13)
  • The Spirit works in the hearts of believers and testifies to the authority of the word- “ He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (Jn. 16:14-15)

   The word of God is authoritative. It is authoritative because God is the Supreme Authority. We are mere creatures. God's word is the standard and rule of our lives. Everything must fall into submission to God and his word. There is great joy in this. The Lord has placed it in our hearts to desire him and his word. And not only desire his word, but to obey and submit to it. It gives us great pleasure to honor the Lord and to have our lives governed by his word. We stand in need of his word to correct, convict, challenge, convince, and cleanse us. So, submit to the authoritative word of the almighty God. Trust and obey. Honor and glorify.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Scripture: Sufficiency

Scripture: Sufficiency
   The word of God, the Bible, is sufficient. It is the perfect standard of spiritual truth for life and faith. This is because the Bible is God's exhaled word. It reveals everything necessary for salvation and to glorify God. There is nothing lacking. There is nothing missing. Scripture is sufficient; it is enough. We do not need anything else. Scripture is sufficient for the believer to live and honor God. There is nothing more needed in the church.
   Scripture is sufficient to: feed the sheep, call the lost, sanctify the believer, disciple the follower, heal the wounded, guide the wayward, encourage the disheartened, open the eyes of the blind, satisfy the thirsty, praise the Lord, strengthen the weak, combat the enemy, warn the offender, comfort the anguishing, give hope to the suffering, instruct the listening, and enrapture the faithful. Scripture is sufficient for preaching, teaching, evangelizing, and discipling- the four ministries of the body of Christ.
   In fact, it is when people do not understand or believe that Scripture is sufficient, that trouble comes. What usually happens is that something else is added to the word of God (or key doctrines or teachings are removed or ignored). Someone adds their words or teachings to that of Scripture. Most cults and false teachers do this very thing. The sufficiency of Scripture guards against this tendency.
2 Timothy 3:15-17 teaches the sufficiency of Scripture. [H]ow from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
   Scripture is sufficient for salvation- “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” It is sufficient to be our authority- “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” It is sufficient to profit believers- “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” And Scripture is sufficient to equip believers to do good works in order to glorify God- “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
   That is not all. Scripture is sufficient to: sanctify (Jn. 17:17), aid believers in resisting temptations (Matt. 4:4), be blessed (Lk. 11:28), save without supernatural affirmation or miracles (Lk. 16:27-31), penetrate our deepest parts (Heb. 4:12), liberate and fulfill (Jms. 1:25), and cause growth and maturity (1Pet. 2:2). Scripture is sufficient for the discovery of everything a believer ought to think, do, believe, and know.
   The sufficiency of Scripture warns us to never add anything to the Bible or hold other writings as its equal. Since the word of God is sufficient, we are not to believe anything about God or his salvation that is not found within its pages. Again, we have everything we need. We are to trust that the Lord has revealed and given us what is necessary.
   The sufficiency of Scripture teaches us that nothing is sin that is not prohibited in the Bible explicitly by implication or by principle. This guards against legalism or the “I have to” attitude. We as Christians do not “have to” do anything, but we “get to.” We get to read the word, pray, go to church, etc. It is extremely easy to manufacture a list of rules and abide by them. It is also equally easy to measure others according to that list and look down on those who do not measure up to our standards. Often, these man-made lists are viewed as proof of holiness or godliness. Man's lists are not Scripture, nor are they a test of holiness.
   Christians have certain freedoms in Christ. If something is not prohibited in Scripture, than believers can have freedom to enjoy that while exercising wisdom and discernment. For example, cards, movies, bingo, etc. are obviously not mentioned in Scripture. There are no principles within the Bible that teaches that these things are wrong. They can, however, be abused or sinful just like anything else. Notwithstanding, believers are not sinning by going to a movie or playing cards. Godly wisdom and discretion must be used, but Christians have freedom.
   The sufficiency of Scripture also teaches that nothing is required of believers by God that is not found in the Bible explicitly, either by implication or by principle. If the word of God does not command it or suggest it, then believers do not have to do it- regardless of what others may say. The word of God is our sufficient authority, not the words of man.
   Believers are reminded by the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture to be content with what God has revealed in his word. Beware of overemphasizing doctrinal or ethical teachings to an unscriptural level. Trust that the Lord has given us exactly what he willed and knew that we needed. We do not need the words or wisdom of man- we posses the very words of God!