Bible Class Curricula - First Principles - Lesson #3 - Bible Authority
Bible authority and its understanding is crucial to proper Bible study and rightfully dividing the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus has all authority, and we must submit to Him and His Word (Matthew 28:18; John 12:48; Luke 6:46). Everything we do in word or deed must be done in "the name" of Jesus (Colossians 3:17). In the name simply means “by the power or authority” (Acts 4:9-11). Thayer’s Bible dictionary defines authority as: "the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed)" (p. 225). Therefore, authority deals with submission to God and permission from God. Bible authority has lost its meaning in our society because the false, philosophical winds have carried many minds away from the truth (Colossians 2:8; Ephesians 4:14). Many today teach that there is no such concept as absolute truth – which in and of itself is a self-defeating view because it states its position as if it were an absolute truth. A person who does not believe in or accepts the concept of absolute truth will automatically reject the Bible because the Bible claims to be the religious authority and standard in faith and practice (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Because the vast majority has rejected Bible authority in our culture, many continue down a long, slippery slope of rejecting any true standard. The mental rejection of the principle of authority has certainly impacted Christianity and has done a great deal of spiritual damage to the souls of men and women who sadly have permitted unlawful practices to be brought into the worship and life of the church (2 Chron. 18:13). What is the solution to this great problem that has wreaked havoc in our society as well as the church? The answer has remained the same and has never changed since the creation: Listen attentively and only abide in what the word of God teaches and authorizes (Genesis 3:11; 2 Chron. 18:13; 1 Peter 4:11). Adam and Eve were the first human beings to reject the principle of authority because they listened, trusted, and obeyed the word of Satan rather than the word of God. Let us learn from their mistake and make sure we are abiding in God’s authority.
The Bible Is Our Standard
God has clearly demonstrated in His word that He is the sole authority for everything we must do in faith and practice (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Romans 12:2; Matthew 7:21; Ephesians 5:10). Since God is the Creator of this universe (Genesis 1:1) and man is the crown of His creation (Genesis 1:26-27), man must realize that God has the right to command and determine the standard. God created man as a free moral agent to choose whether or not to obey Him (Genesis 3:2-3; Josh. 24:15). From the beginning of time, humans have had the same two choices presented to them. They can either love and be loyal to God or hate and despise God (Matthew 6:24; John 14:15). He has established a written form of communication in which He reveals His authority (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; Colossians 3:17). He reveals this in what we know as the Holy Bible.
There were four scientists who established a research station in Antarctica and stayed for a couple of weeks, learning the layout of the area. One day, two of the scientists decided to go on a short expedition to conduct scientific research. They gathered all the equipment they needed to get to their destination and back. Shortly after they started heading out, a huge blizzard came and caused them to turn in all sorts of directions so much so that they could not determine where they started. Fortunately, one of the scientists brought an orange flag, placed it on a small pole, and hammered it into the ground so that if they got turned around they could head back to the flagpole and then try another route. The Bible is our spiritual flagpole. The blizzards of change will keep sweeping over us, trying their best to get us to go in a wrong direction, but we must always depend on God’s word to be our guide, helping us to stay or return to the strait and narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14; Ephesians 4:14-15; James 1:21-25).
The Method of Communication
God has clearly revealed in His Word the method in which He chose to establish His communication to mankind throughout the ages (Hebrews 1:1-2). Under the Old Testament, God revealed to Israel what came to be known as the Old Law. He did this through inspired prophets such as Moses, Jeremiah, Daniel, David, Ezekiel, etc. This law was only given to Israel (Deuteronomy 5:1-3; Jeremiah 31:31-34). It came to be known as "the law of Moses and the prophets" (Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Romans 3:21; etc.). It is also described as "the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms" (Luke 24:44). Today, we are living under a greater and better covenant known as the New Testament or the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:1-13; 9:15-17; Colossians 2:14-17; Ephesians 2:14-18).
God sent Jesus in human flesh so that He could die for the sins of mankind (John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 10:1-10). When Jesus was buried, He rose again from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). He ascended back into heaven (Acts 1:9-11) to show that He completed the work that the heavenly Father had sent Him to do (Acts 1:9-11). He then sat down at the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews 1:1-4). Afterward, Jesus immersed the apostles with miraculous power when He baptized them in the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18; 16:13-15; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4). One of the main purposes of miracles was to confirm the word of God that the inspired men were preaching and writing (Mark 16:16-20; Hebrews 2:1-3). Since Jesus promised that these inspired men would be led into all truth, all inspired writing was completed and delivered by the first century (John 16:13; Jude 3; 2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, in summarizing how we received the New Testament, the Father sent the Son who then sent the Holy Spirit to guide His apostles into all truth (John 12:48; 16:13; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Ephesians 3:1-7; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:12). Through the inspired apostles, we have the completed New Testament (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Jude 3).
We have established that there is one right standard of authority (the Bible). We have also established how God gave us the Bible. Now, we will look at several wrong standards of authority that individuals often use in determining what is right and wrong.
First, we cannot allow our feelings and emotions to be our guide (Proverbs 18:2; 3:5-6; Jeremiah 10:23). Have you ever heard someone say: "I feel that this passage is saying…" or "I just got this feeling deep down inside that this passage is stating…"? Some things may seem right to us, but really they are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12; 16:2). We would become fools to trust our own hearts because our own hearts can deceive us (Proverbs 28:26; Jeremiah 17:9).
Second, we cannot allow our conscience to be our guide. Saul’s conscience did not bother him when he was killing Christians (Acts 23:1; 26:9). We can have a weak conscience (1 Corinthians 8:7). We can have a defiled conscience (Titus 1:15). We can sear our conscience (1 Timothy 4:2). We must not rely on our conscience because it is not the proper guide.
Third, we cannot allow the traditions of men to be our guide (Mark 7:6-7). There are many people who are not willing to become a Christian because they have held onto the doctrines that their preacher or other spiritual leader taught them. A false teaching is still a false teaching no matter how many years it has been taught and implemented. Many people in the religious world have been taught the false doctrine known as the “Sinner’s Prayer.” It is the idea that all a person has to do to be saved is to recognize himself as a sinner and ask God in prayer to come into his heart to forgive him of his sins. Read the New Testament and you will find that such a popular doctrine is not found anywhere. The Samaritan woman at the well had been following the Samaritan traditions for a long time. She was not right because she was the following the traditions of her ancestors (John 4:20-22). Paul the Apostle emphasized that we are only to follow the traditions inspired by God (1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15).
Fourth, we cannot allow human reasoning alone (rationalism) to be our guide. We as human beings do not know everything there is to know in the universe. We are finite. That is why we are not to direct ourselves (Jeremiah 10:23). The Gentiles trusted in their own wisdom and sinned as a result (Romans 1:22). The gospel was foolishness to the Greeks because it did not fit into their own reasoning (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). Solomon teaches us that we are not to lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we use our own reasoning, we are not wise because we are using self as our standard (2 Corinthians 10:12). Just because we may not completely understand the reason behind the way God wants it done does not mean we are to disregard it as a command of God and consider it irrelevant. For example, in 2 Kings 5, Naaman did not completely understand why he had to go to the river Jordan and dip seven times in order to have his leprosy cleansed. What does the river Jordan and baptizing oneself seven times have to do with cleansing leprosy? Yet, the power was not in human reasoning or science but in the divine power and will of God’s authoritative word or command. God has revealed to us what we need to know and do (2 Peter 1:3). We do not need to try to speculate the secret things of God (Deuteronomy 29:29).
We must follow God and allow His Word (the Bible) to be our only standard (1 Timothy 1:3). We cannot allow our emotions, traditions, or consciences to get in the way of doing that which we know is right. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 that only those who do "the will" of God will go to heaven. God has revealed His will to us in the Bible (Ephesians 3:1-5). We must constantly study His will so that we will know how to rightfully divide and ascertain truth (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 5:14).
- What is Bible authority?
- Why is it important that we understand authority?
- Where must we go to determine the standard of living?
- Explain the method by which God has given us His Word.
- Why can’t we rely on our emotions or consciences to be our guide?
- Explain some other false ways people may try to justify sin.
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