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“Holding forth the Word of Life” Philippians 2:16
“Holding fast the Faithful Word” Titus 1:9
It is important that we regard God’s Word rightly. How well we excel in our Christian life is very much dependent upon how we esteem the Scripture. God spoke through Joshua that, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Our blessings are directly related to our respect for every teaching of the Bible.
Since the Bible is the record of God’s own words, the authority of God is inherent in the Bible. In the Bible, we hear God speaking with all His sovereign authority. If we accept God’s authority, then we must also acknowledge the authority of each and every word which He has recorded in the Bible.
The following facts ascertain the supreme authority of the Bible in believers' lives.
Every word of the Bible is to be taken with utmost reverence. We are commanded not to diminish or expand, subtract from or add to that which God has already revealed in the Bible. God does not allow any change to His Word, because such an action is against His own authority.
God said in Deuteronomy 4:2 – “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”
In Deuteronomy 12:32, the Lord reminds us again, “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”
In Revelation 22:18–19, the Lord said, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Here God warns us that altering God’s Word would simply result in not having a place in heaven.
No king would allow His commands or declarations to be altered, because it is challenging the authority of the king. When God commanded us not to alter His Word, He was stressing the importance of honouring His authority manifested in it. God seriously views how a man regards His Word. If any one approaches the Bible with carelessness and insubmissiveness, the Lord shall deal with him severely. God will hold the person who distorts His Word guilty on the day of judgement.
God has clearly expressed the authority of His Word when He pronounced blessings upon all those who obey His Word and curses upon those who disobey it. Because God has given supreme authority to the Bible, He expects all men to come with submission to its teachings. We are told, “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee” (Deuteronomy 6:17).
God’s blessings are extended to only those who obey Him. Read the following passages from God’s Word.
“Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess” (Deuteronomy 5:32–33).
God told the Israelites, “And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 30:9–10).
Besides, God’s curse is pronounced upon those who disregard the authority of God’s Law, the Bible.
“Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen” (Deuteronomy 27:26).
“Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant” (Jeremiah 11:3).
Startling indeed! If any one does not do “all the words of this law”, he is cursed. That is absolute authority.
The writers of the Bible often cited one another as authoritative evidence for what they wrote. While they were citing other parts of the Scripture, they often used the phrase “it is written.” The phrase “it is written” is used about 80 times to refer to other parts of the Scripture as God’s authoritative Word. This expression in the Bible is equivalent to the phrase “The Lord has said” or “Thus saith the Lord.” If any one is said to be disobeying that which is written, it actually means he is not obeying that which God has commanded. For example, in 2 Kings 14:6 the books of the Bible written by Moses are referred to as “...that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the LORD commanded...”
In short, the Bible regards every portion of it as God’s authoritative Word.
Jesus often quoted the Old Testament as God’s authoritative Word. One classic example of Jesus asserting the authority of the Scripture is seen when He used the Scripture to ward off the temptations of Satan (cf. Matthew 4:3–10). Jesus cited verses from Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16, and 6:13; 10:20. Jesus’ citations of the Scripture in His preaching and in His spiritual battle prove to us that He considered the Scripture as authoritative.
Like Jesus, the apostles also acknowledged the Old Testament as God’s authoritative Word. (See the underlined parts of the following verse which indicate the apostles’ belief that the Scripture is the authoritative Word of God given by the Holy Spirit.)
While explaining the death of Judas who betrayed Christ, Peter saw the fulfilment of a verse in Psalm and he acknowledged it as authoritative – “Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus” (Acts 1:16).
The New Testament writers recognised their own writings as from God. Moreover, the first Christians acknowledged their writings as God’s authoritative Word. In his epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote that “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). Likewise we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:2 – “For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.”
The New Testament writers regarded each other’s writings as authoritative words from God. For example:
In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul prefaced his statement with “the Scripture says,” and then quoted from Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 – “For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, the labourer is worthy of his reward.” In quoting from both the Old and New Testaments, Paul regarded them as equal in authority.
In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter equated Paul’s writing with “the rest of the Scriptures.” Peter wrote: “As also in all his (Paul’s) epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”
In 2 Peter 3:2, the Apostle Peter affirmed the authority of both the Old and New Testaments, saying, “That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.”
God expects every believer to esteem His Word very highly. The authority of the Bible is affirmed by the following facts which we have already noted in detail:
The last book of the Bible also exhorts us to regard His Word rightly – “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3).
The Lord spoke through Jeremiah about the miserable and hopeless situation of the Jews who left God for idols and counsels of other religions and that of the world – “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). When the Jews left God’s authoritative and powerful Word, they actually left the very source of a satisfying and meaningful life. Whatever they had accepted in place of God’s Word was useless, like a broken cup which cannot hold water. Their thirst for a purposeful and blessed life was not quenched by other sources. What God requires of us is not to look for other sources, but to search into what He has already revealed in the Bible for help and blessings.
Acknowledging the authority of God’s Word is like recognising the right source of the ‘springs of life.’ Submission to the authority of the Bible is like drawing from the right source of happiness and blessings.
Rev. Prabhudas Koshy is the pastor of Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church and he also lectures at the Far Eastern Bible College.
– Published in Bible Witness, July – September 2001