When I sit down with someone to have a Bible study, most of the time, I will either draw or bring with me a printout of a box. Above the box, I have the Scripture 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Which reads, “All Scriptures is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” I will typically say to the person after I show them the box, “We can have any idea we want to about God, The Bible, Jesus, etc., but the ones that count are the ones we can put a Scripture in the box to support it.” I do this to emphasize that we need to have Biblical authority for all that we do in our work and worship of God. This morning I want us to consider how to establish Biblical authority.
Where Authority Comes From:
Jesus was asked in Mark 11:28, “By what authority do you do these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” It is one of the essential questions we must ask in religion. Because if we do not have God’s authority, then there is no need to proceed further down the wrong path.
Note Jesus’ answer in the text in vv.29-30 “And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men? Answer Me.” Jesus here in His question answer to the chief priests, scribes, and elders reveals the only two sources of authority. God and man. And only one of those two has any real authority, to begin with.
Let us think about this in a little bit more detail. We can see where authority truly comes from when we consider a few facts about the nature of God.
- God is the creator of all. Genesis 1:1
- Christ is the Reigning King. Colossians 2:9-10
- The Holy Spirit is the revealer of the mind of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13
Since God created all things, we are not the creator. Since Christ is reigning and is above all rule and authority, we are not rulers but subjects. And since the Holy Spirit reveals the mind of God, we cannot know what God wants unless we go to what the Holy Spirit has revealed to us (i.e., the Bible). In short, because we humans are God’s creation, we are not in a position of authority. We are wholly dependent upon God to tell us what He expects and wants.
How Communication Works:
This leads us, for a moment, to how communication works. Doy Moyer in Mind Your King: Lessons and Essays on Biblical Authority had this to say:
“There are some basic premises in understanding how God communicates His will or authority. God communicates His will in the same ways we communicate our wills. By understanding how we fundamentally communicate, we will understand more about how God communicates.”
There are three ways we can communicate something to someone. And before you say, “hold up,” try and share something with someone without using one of these three ways. You can:
- Tell someone something.
- Show someone something.
- Imply something to someone.
And the reason why we can say God communicates this way is because as God’s creation, we created in His image (Genesis 1:27). So, our ability to think, reason, use logic, and communicate all comes from God.
God Can Tell Us Something:
We are looking now at this in practice. God can tell us something directly. These are the Thou shall, and Thou shall nots of Scripture. The commands. These are the direct statements we find that either tell us to do something or not to do something.
For example, these statements can be positive. Such as when Jesus told His disciples to eat of the Lord’s Supper in Luke 22:19. Or they can be negative, like in Ephesians 5:7-8, where Paul admonishes the Ephesians not to be partakers of evil.
God can also tell us something in a specific way (the previous two examples, I would say, are specific) or tell us something in a generic way. Matthew 28:19-20 is an example of this. It reads, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The generic command here is the go. The specific is what we are to do when we go. So, we may choose any transportation method, but we have no choice in the mission, making disciples of all nations.
God Can Show Us Something:
God also can show us something. These would be the examples we find in Scripture. And like commands, examples can be negative and positive: things we should emulate and things we should avoid. And, like commands, examples are authoritative for the Apostles. Examples were taught in every church (Philippians 3:17; 4:9; 1 Corinthians 4:16-17).
- The Lord’s supper on the first day of the week. Acts 20:7 (Positive Example)
- Treating Gentiles differently than Jews (showing prejudice). Galatians 2:11-14 (Negative example)
We Can Make Necessary Conclusions from God’s Commands:
We would call these necessary inferences from the text. That is a conclusion that flows naturally and logically from the initial premises that the Scripture is teaching.
Jesus taught using necessary inferences. A great example of this would-be Matthew 22:23-32, where Jesus, based on the tense of the verse He quotes, draws the natural conclusion that God is the God of the living, not the dead, meaning that life continues after death. A few more examples from the Scriptures.
- Acts 8:35-36 – Phillip preached Jesus to him. In the next verse, the Eunuch is exclaiming there’s water, what prevents me from being baptized? A natural conclusion is that preaching baptism was involved somewhere in Phillip preaching Jesus.
- Hebrews 10:25 – If they were not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, that means necessarily there was a central meeting place.
In all that we do in service to and worship of God, we should strive to have Biblical authority. A good practical exercise to use when we are considering a practice, belief, an action that we might take in service to or in the name of God; is to think, could I put a Sculpture in the box to support this?