The Bible’s authority in our lives is our choice. To be clear the Bible is authoritative in itself. It is bedrock. No other document is required for support. It is the Word of God. But the degree to which it is authoritative in our lives is entirely up to us. How do we approach the Bible? What do we do with what we read? How carefully do we handle its words? How easily do we discount what does not fit our views? In truth, what we do with the Bible is more important than we often think. What we do reveals its true level of authority for us.
How do you see the Bible? Is it simply an example of Ancient Near East literature? Is the Bible a kind of handbook which provides suggestions for a good life? Or is the Bible a kind of spell book describing ways to motivate God to bless our lives? Is it a book of law which requires slavish obedience? While there may be nuggets of truth in some of those they all miss the mark.
The authority of the Bible is bound up in God. Its pages reveal God’s revelation of Himself. Some have called it God’s love letter to humanity. Perhaps the closest analogy is that of a diary which reveals the heart of the writer. God inspired human beings to pen the words but through those words, He reveals His heart. God’s power and grace are revealed as we hear Him speaking directly to us through those ancient words.
Real Christianity, authenticly following Jesus, is found in the rhythm of hearing and responding. We begin our journey by hearing God’s word. Whether it was spoken by someone, read it in a book, or discovered in a Bible left on a park bench. Somehow we heard a glimmer of God speaking to us; nudging our hearts. That glimmer sparked something. Paul wrote in Romans, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, NASB95) Our response began a journey of faith. This rhythm of hearing and doing continues, but at any time we can refuse, we can ignore, we can simply become religious; hearing without doing – doing without hearing.
How we handle the challenging parts of the Bible also reveals something of its authority. The Gospel of John records a moment when Jesus taught some challenging truths in a difficult way. “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” (John 6:53, NASB95) The entire discussion can be found in John 6:41-71. These are difficult words since the disciples had neither the historical context of the Last Supper or the death of Jesus by which to understand them.
John continues, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66–69, NASB95) We likewise must decide whether to follow or walk away when the Bible speaks a truth which challenges our thoughts. We may not walk away from the faith, but do we walk away from the Bible’s authority for us. This is difficult at times, especially when the Bible goes against the tide of current culture.
Yes, the Bible is authoritative, it is God’s word. Some will abuse its power, using it to manipulate and control instead of humbly following Jesus. Some will twist those precious words to fit their desires instead of changing their heart. Others may use God’s word to judge and thereby usurp the work of the Holy Spirit. Some may use the Bible in a bid to gain wealth and power; wolves in sheep’s clothing. All these things do happen. While they may tarnish the Bible’s image they cannot undo its power and authority in the lives of believers.
This concludes this section of The Basics. Yet, it is not complete. There is much concerning reading and understanding the Bible that we did not cover. Our goal was not to provide a complete tool chest but to provide some basic tools needed to stay on the right path. In our next section of The Basics, we consider Jesus. In truth, the whole of God’s word is understood through Him who is the Word – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NASB95) Through Jesus, we understand all that came before and all that came after and glimpse what is yet to be.