This is an adaptation of a Commencement Address given at Arrowhead Bible College on April 26, 2013.
When you are traveling in unfamiliar terrain, a reliable compass is invaluable. It will always point you in the right direction regardless of where you are. If you have a trustworthy compass, it will set you on the right trajectory. We need such a compass for life.
A pastor of a church I attended a good number of years ago would often say, "What you believe about the Bible determines everything." That statement contains great amount of wisdom. Nothing will determine the direction and shape of your more than what you believe about the Bible. Nothing will have a greater impact on your faithfulness to Jesus Christ and his mission than what you believe about the Bible. We must place ourselves under the authority of Scripture and give ourselves fully to it because it is the very word of God.
The authority of the Bible is a derived authority. It is not due to a choice that we make, in the sense that there are many religious books and we just so happen to pick the Bible. The Bible is our authority because in the Bible God has spoken; it is the very words of God to us. In the Bible God has intentionally revealed to us everything that we need to know him and follow him. Therefore, the only appropriate response is to wholeheartedly submit to its authority.
The Bible is the Standard of Truth
Since God has spoken in the Bible, it is our authority by definition. It is not as if we have some external standard of truth that we use to evaluate the Bible and determine that it is truthful according to that standard of truth. If that would be the case the external standard of truth would be our highest authority because we would be placing that standard above the Bible. But there is no other standard that stands above the Bible as the Supreme Court. It is not as if the Bible is a defendant before another Supreme Court and just happens to win its case. The Bible is the Supreme Court. The Bible does not just conform to some outside standard of truth. It is by definition truth—it sets and determines the truth. We hear this from Jesus when he prays to his Father in John 17:17: "Your word is truth." Do you see that? Not "your word is true," as if it passes some test outside of itself. "Your word is truth." It defines truth, it is the highest authority because it comes from God. Our Lord Jesus epitomizes and personifies and embodies truth because, as he says in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life."
Our posture towards the Bible is important because it reveals our stance towards Jesus. There is a direct and absolute connection between our posture towards a person and our posture towards his or her words. For example, I cannot claim to love my wife well if I disrespect or minimize her words to me. If I don't honor and cherish her words, I do not honor or cherish her because words are at the very heart of relationships.
It is the same with Jesus. Often people look down on the Bible or diminish the Bible, as if it is dry and dull book. They claim they want something more alive (contra Hebrews 4:12), they want something more spiritual. But there is nothing more spiritual than the word of God; the Bible comes straight from God himself and God is Spirit (John 4:24). We can claim to have a humble posture towards Jesus but yet have an unsubmissive attitude towards his word, but if we do this, our claim rings hollow. Our attitude towards God's word reveals the actual posture of our heart. As Wayne Grudem puts it, "To disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God."i Wanting something more spiritual than the Bible does not arise from spirituality but from pride. This is probably why the Lord says, "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66:2).
Denying the Great Doctrines of the Bibles
There are two main ways that we can deny the full authority of the Bible. The first is blatant and explicit, the second is much more subtle. The first is to deny the doctrinal affirmations about the Bible. This is denying outright that the Bible is the authoritative word of God. This is when a person explicitly adopts a position on the Bible that undermines its full authority, when the great doctrines of the word of God are given up. This is often done with a great deal of intellectual arrogance, as a person wrongly argues that God's word somehow cannot stand up to the supposed challenges of the contemporary world. But who says that the contemporary world gets the final say? Don't forget Isaiah 40:8: "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever." The Lord does not have any reason to take that back, nor will he ever. There are no current or future challenges that will ever arise that will catch God off-guard. God never has any reason to say "uh oh."
But the great doctrinal affirmations about the Bible get denied. Rather than submitting to the Authority of Scripture, people submit to some other, lesser authority, usually themselves. Rather than heeding the Clarity of Scripture, that the Bible is clear in all that God intends to communicate, some try to escape from the Bible's authority by obscuring what it clearly says. Rather than holding to the Necessity of Scripture, that the Bible is essential and necessary for us to know God and his ways, some hold that fallen human reason and fallen human speculation are adequate on their own. Rather than trusting the Sufficiency of Scripture, that in the Bible God has given us all that we need in order to know him and follow him, some look to other places as if the Bible is not enough, as if God has left out something that was essential for us to know. And rather than remaining steadfast to the Inerrancy of Scripture, that the Bible is true and trustworthy in all that it teaches, some place themselves over the Bible as if they are an appropriate judge. But in that case, they place themselves as their ultimate authority, not the Bible. Plus, they deny what God himself has told us about his word. In Psalm 19:7 God tells us that "The law of the LORD is perfect . . . [and] the testimony of the LORD is sure." In Proverbs 30:5 he tells us that "Every word of God proves true." Every word. Do we really believe that or not? Ultimately, it comes down to whether we trust him?
i Systematic Theology, p. 90.