Is the Bible Authoritative?
At Grace Bible Church of Boerne we teach that the Bible is God’s written revelation to man, and thus the 66 books of the Bible given to us by the Holy Spirit constitute the plenary (inspired equally in all parts) Word of God.
What does “inspired” mean?
When the Bible is spoken of as being “inspired”, this means that it is breathed out by God through the hands of men that were borne along by the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures themselves make the claim to be inspired in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be equipped for every good work.” The underlying Greek word for “inspired” is theopnuestos, which actually means “God breathed.”
Therefore, when speaking of the inspiration of Scripture, one could also use the word “expiration”, meaning to breathe out, as the ESV Bible does. Another text that proves the inspiration of Scripture through the hand of men is 2 Peter 1:21, which says, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In this verse we see that the Bible was not written by the inspiration of men, but rather through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which moved them to write what they did.
Because the Bible is the word of God breathed out to man, we teach that the Bible is authoritative in our lives and constitutes the only infallible rule of faith and practice.
What is the relationship between infallibility and authority?
The Bible is authoritative because it is the word of God, and God Himself is the ultimate authority in all of existence. As already discussed above, both 2 Tim 3:16-17 and 2 Pet. 1:21 both show that the Scriptures are inspired directly by God. Therefore, since the Bible is inspired by God and God is the ultimate authority, God’s Word (the Bible) is also our ultimate authority for all matters in life. Psalm 12:6 speaks of the Bible’s authority when David writes, “the words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” Psalm 119:140 also says, “Your word is very pure.”
The Bible is infallible because it has been given by divine inspiration and is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses, and will never mislead us. If the Bible is breathed out by God and the very word of God, we must also conclude that the Scriptures are inerrant. The term “inerrancy” means that the Bible is without error in its original writings and never contradicts itself. If there is a perceived error by the reader, it is in the reader’s interpretation, not in the original text. For God to say his Word is pure, and then to allow error to be written in the original copy, would be equivalent to God lying. Yet we know that God does not lie (Tit. 1:2) because he is not like men who speak untruths (Num. 23:19). Even Jesus Himself uses the argument that the Scriptures are inerrant and infallible when He says “the Scriptures cannot be broken” (Jo. 10:35).
What is the Bible’s authority on theological controversies?
The Bible is the ultimate and final authority on all theological controversies. This is the doctrine that the Reformers called “sola scriptura”, which is Latin for “the bible alone.” The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments are the final authority in all matters they address and are necessary for salvation and holy living before God (2 Tim. 3:16). This means that we are to exclude Rome, the Pope, denominations, doctrinetradition, personal experience, human logic, and science as having the final authority in theological matters. Instead of being subject to these things, Scripture is held up as judge over them. Throughout Jesus’ ministry He relied on the Scriptures as the final authority. He resisted Satan’s testing by answering with Scripture three times. Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders of His day for “not knowing the Scriptures” and “invalidating the word of God by” their own tradition (Matt. 22:29; Mark 7:13).
What About General Revelation?
The Bible, as God’s word to His people, is considered “special” or “specific” revelation. While there were other types of non-written special revelation like God speaking with Adam in the garden and prophesying mentioned in the Bible, today we only have the Bible as special revelation. Special revelation is necessary for salvation (Rom. 10:13-17), for a life of godliness (Matt. 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:23-25), and for knowing God’s will (Deut. 29:29). Special revelation has the ultimate authority on all things that it speaks on, and therefore can always be trusted. A believer has the Holy Spirit as his guide to properly interpret the Holy Scriptures, and with diligence and study can discern the proper interpretation of this special revelation.
The other category of revelation that God has given us is called “general” revelation. This is the knowledge that God exists revealed through His creation. Speaking of the Gentiles, the apostle Paul states, “that which is known about God is evident within them; because God made it evident to them” (Rom. 1:19). He goes on to say that the unbelievers are without excuse because God’s attributes, power and divine nature are clearly seen in His creation (1:20). God has also put a moral conscience in all men’s hearts so that they may know right from wrong, even if they have never been exposed to special revelation (Rom. 2:14-15). But general revelation can never lead to a knowledge of saving faith in Christ without special revelation, otherwise Paul’s statement about sending out preachers in Rom. 10:13-17 would be pointless.
Regarding authority, special revelation is always superior and of a higher priority than general revelation. General revelation can easily be misinterpreted and misunderstood, and the will of God in it cannot be properly understood because He has not revealed his purposes concerning it. On the other hand, special revelation is very clear within itself that it is for to know God’s purpose and will for believers (Jo. 6:40; Rom. 12:2; 1 Thess. 4:3; 5:18; 1 Pet. 2:15; 1 Jo. 5:13).