The Authority of Scripture

by Mike Ratliff

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.  (Proverbs 14:12 ESV) 

I have yet to encounter a person who has a problem with the gospel, the sovereignty of God, election, the exclusivity of genuine discipleship, et cetera who does not also force a man-centered perspective on God’s Word in one form or another. These same people lean towards a form of Christianity that is almost all experiential. Since their view of how the gospel works and how God works with Man is wrongly focused and the Word of God contains clear teachings about the sovereignty of God, these people conceive of their entire “Christian” paradigm from a philosophical and existential base rather than on the authority of Sacred Scripture.

The Christian principle of the authority of Sacred Scripture is centered on the truth that God is its author and He has given it to direct the belief and behavior of His people. Instead of conceiving of God, His ways, and our conduct from a man-made, philosophical base, these understandings should be measured, tested, corrected, and enlarged according to God’s Word. The sad state of the 21st Century Church did not come from God’s people diligently adhering to this principle. No, the man-focused free-for-all we see all around us now with the doctrines of demons being preached from pulpits of very large churches, is the product of this principle being largely and deliberately ignored.

The main reason this has taken place is that the church leadership has been deceived with the lie that God’s word does not have the right to command. Part of this delusion came from the philosophies of men, which teach that there is no absolute truth. When these leaders threw off the yoke of adhering to God’s Word as the ultimate authority they instead took on the yoke of the social gospel as they gleefully proclaimed the mantra of liberal theology, which is that Christianity is all about the person rather than all about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit-their glory, their honor, not the glorification of Man.

My brethren, God has chosen to exercise His rule over us through His written Word, which is the embodiment of His truth and wisdom. Sacred Scripture is the instrument of Christ’s lordship over the Church. We see a working example of this principle in Revelation 2 & 3, which are the seven letters to the seven churches. Each letter starts with a command from the Lord Himself directing John to write the Lord’s words to that specific church. Then our Lord dictated each letter to John who faithfully obeyed His Lord. Here we have God’s Word being spoken by our Lord directly to John for each specific church.

Church history contains some very sad chapters. Prior to the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church had compromised its unique authority by combining God’s Word the tradition of the Church. In fact, they still hold to this, but prior to the Reformation it held the official policy that only it could interpret Sacred Scripture in light of Church Tradition so common people were forbidden to read it. This led to the Reformation. A large part of this movement was to print as many Bibles in the vernacular as possible and put them into the hands of the common people. Why? The reformers were working diligently in the task of recovering the Doctrine of Justification by Faith and they knew that when people could read the Bible for themselves combined with godly and Biblically sound preaching that the Church would be strengthened and become what God intended for it to be.

Our enemy, Satan and his seed, hate this. They have never stopped attacking the authority of Sacred Scripture. These attacks come from every conceivable direction and, sadly, from many theologians who should know better. One such attack, which I have dealt with many times, is the one in which the Bible’s authority is not attacked directly, but it is subtly changed so that its authority is understood to reside in subject matter or in the experience and insights of the human authors. This subtle attack assumes that the Bible is fundamentally a human book and not divinely inspired. They view the Bible as a guidebook for one’s religious experience, but it is only one of many that they use. These people will view things such as political movements and social forces to have at least as much, if not more, influence than God’s Word.  Those in the midst of this deception often consider themselves to be Christian and view those of us who hold to the authority of Sacred Scripture to be unenlightened.

This battle is crucial. Historic Protestantism holds that Sacred Scripture is the only written revelation of God. It was “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). He inspired it. Because of this, Sacred Scripture is infallible and true in all it affirms. God’s Word contains all there is necessary to know for salvation and eternal life. God’s people can read His Word and come to a clear understanding of what God requires without the necessity of a human interpreter because each believer has the Holy Spirit. God’s Word is sufficient and clear. When I encounter very well educated people with degrees in theology that cannot understand scripture it makes we wonder. As I attempt to clarify God’s Word for them, they become even more mystified. When this happens we must conclude that they have not the Holy Spirit. Their hearts are darkened and hardened to the light of God’s Word.

Sacred Scripture is the voice of God in the world. It is authoritative in that it has the right to command because its author is God Himself. God’s people walk the difficult, narrow path, which takes them to meet their Saviour face-to-face in eternity, by submitting their thoughts and moral standards to God’s Word. Many Reformers lost their lives because they labored to get the printed Word of God into the hands of their people. In our day we take the Word of God for granted and, as we said earlier, many so-called Christian leaders today actually denigrate it in the eyes of those they lead. The Reformers recognized that the Bible cannot be subject to any person or group, even an exalted church denomination. In and through this recognition, the Reformers freed their consciences from human traditions and authorities.

Our struggle is not dissimilar. There are many very loud voices today attempting to make believers ashamed of God’s Word and the Gospel by continually working to disesteem it in our hearts. When we submit to the authority of Sacred Scripture we are not going to find ourselves in the mainstream. No, we will be in the minority. Each stand we take in the face of the cry to compromise will raise the ire of our enemy and his seed. This will lead to some form of persecution. 

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13 ESV)

We must not let this dissuade us or discourage us from having a clear and clean conscious before the Lord as we submit to the authority of His Word in obedience and spirit-filled humility. We are living in a time of clarification. The line is being drawn between those truly in Christ and those who only profess that they are, but are not. This line divides those who compromise God’s truth from those who do not. I pray that each one reading this will repent of what God has revealed in their heart that is not of Him. In any case, I pray for the Lord to return soon and find us ready.

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “The Authority of Scripture

  1. Amen Mike.
    It is a sad day we find ourselves in when Christians are being taught from the pulpit not to trust the Word of God, but rather to listen to their leaders for their teaching, that the Bible is old-fashioned and outdated, that there is no absoute Truth, that new man-written bibles are all the rage and palatable. Gay bibles, and green bibles and bibles with watered down doctrine. Bibles that no longer call Jesus Lord, but Master. Bibles with all the wrath and cross and blood removed, because they offend…

    I find this all so heart-breaking because the Real Gospel is the Power of God unto Salvation for those who are being saved, and foolishness to those who are perishing. 1 Corinthians 1:18
    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    Oh that we might pray for them that they might be granted repentance!
    2 Timothy 2:23-28 (New King James Version)
    23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
    Bless you brother

  2. Mike:
    Excellent post. The undermining of Biblical authority coupled with Biblical illiteracy among professing Christians is one of the greatest tragedies in the modern church. How sad it is that those who name the name of Christ are so neglectful to learn and obey His Word. Grateful for His grace…

  3. Mike, good post. I want to add something if I might. I have been having several deep conversations with a friend who “prayed the prayer” once upon a time and was told at that time they were saved. But now they are struggling with whether or not they are saved. One of the problems that they have now is that they’ve been going to reformed churches for the last few years. These churches have been hard-hitting on the doctrine of election and so this person now is wondering “what if I am not one of the elect?” they have become bogged down in this fear, and can’t seem to get beyond it.

    Although I am reformed in my doctrine, I don’t push it on people. I can even see now why God lets many of us begin with Arminianism, so that unlike my friend, we come to the Lord based on the free offer of the gospel, and not according to any belief that we are the elect. It was later on in my Christian life that I came to understand the doctrines of grace. I had no trouble with them by then because as I had studied the scriptures, I had gained a biblical view of God. I loved and trusted His wise handling of the universe, including man’s salvation.

    Having said that though, you are right that the problem for so many is that they begin with man, and not with God. I see this too when I witness. People have made God in their own image, or they want to think of him as a mere human, and they “pass judgment” on him and on his ways. so it is difficult to talk with baby Christians and with the unsaved and help them have a biblical and balanced view of God. Yes He is Love, but He is also a Judge. Yes He is compassionate, gracious, loving and forgiving. But He also is all holy, wise and all-knowing. Yes He is good but he does allow evil for a time. Yes the gospel goes out and all are to hear it and urged to repent and believe, but only the elect will savingly respond.

  4. Amen Julie. I would love to talk with your friend. We cannot worry nor can we place a burden on anyone concerning election. It is out of our hands. Instead we must offer the Gospel freely and preach that those who respond to it by receiving salvation through the exercising of a regenerate faith are saved. Evidence that validates it will soon be obvious. This evidence is a repentant, obedient life. This is where we need to place the emphasis instead of election. God will save those who are His, but we don’t know who they are so all we can do is preach the gospel and help those who respond to it to pray for God to save them as they repent and believe. Then we help them to see how to walk this walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. If a person is unable to and unwilling to do this then they are not saved. On the other hand, those who are new believers must learn to walk just as a baby does. No one is perfect, but genuine Christians walk this walk in repentance.

    Here is an article I wrote back in 2006 that addresses this.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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