We affirm that the sole authority for the Church is the Bible, verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible, and totally sufficient and trustworthy.
We deny that the Bible is a mere witness to the divine revelation, or that any portion of Scripture is marked by error or the effects of human sinfulness.Article II
We affirm that the authority and sufficiency of Scripture extends to the entire Bible, and therefore that the Bible is our final authority for all doctrine and practice.
We deny that any portion of the Bible is to be used in an effort to deny the truthfulness or trustworthiness of any other portion. We further deny any effort to identify a canon within the canon or, for example, to set the words of Jesus against the writings of Paul.
Well, today we finally get into the meat of the Together for the Gospel statement which, if you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to read in full it is available as a pdf or Google’s HTML version.
This post is part of an ongoing bloggers challenge I have set to encourage us all to work through this statement systematically thanks to Crossway for donating five copies of God is the Gospel to encourage your participation!
There is no more important matter to consider than the one before us today that of the authority, reliability, and sufficiency of Scripture. I believe that these concepts cannot be separated for you cannot have one without the other. That is why I have chosen to take both articles together.
If the Bible is not reliable, then we are the ones with authority, for inevitably we must sit in judgment over it, deciding which bits are without error and can therefore teach us doctrine, and which are human and fallible and can therefore be rejected and ignored.
In my church life, when I meet new people, I don’t tend to examine their doctrines very carefully initially. What I am eager to find in the early stages of a growing friendship is evidence of a certain humble attitude towards the Bible. For if someone humbly accepts the Bible, but has come to different conclusions than I have, I can live with that. Sadly, all too many of the people I interact with online and offline quite simply do not see the Bible the way I do.
On issue after issue, people twist or ignore basic Bible verses which categorically teach the opposite to what they believe. I am determined to avoid the issues of feminism and complementarianism for now, but suffice it to say, I do think that Lig is right when he says:
“The gymnastics required to get from I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man in the Bible to I do allow a woman to teach and to exercise authority over a man . . . are devastating to the functional authority of the Scripture.”
I have not yet met anyone who holds to and proclaims an egalitarian position that also believes in an inerrant view of the Bible.
In this week’s MLJ Monday the Doctor explained that God needs to take the initiative in revealing himself to us, but that unless we want to create our own gods, we need a standard that is external to ourselves of which we can be sure. That standard is the Bible. As Lloyd-Jones said:
This is the beginning of the matter, the foundation, the base minimum, the absolute. We either take everything from this, or we have no authority at all. You either submit completely to it, or else one man’s opinion is as good as another’s and that means that you have no authority at all. Before you can ever succeed in girding your loins about with truth, you have to come to God’s Word as a little child, or, to use the stronger word that Paul uses, you have got to come to it as a fool.
A common criticism of the view of Scripture which insists that in order for it to be authoritative it must be inerrant is that this is a relatively recent view. Matthew Sims expertly demolishes this view with one quote from Augustine:
For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it. As to all other writings, in reading them, however, great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of in truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason. I believe, my brother, that this is your own opinion as well as mine. I do not need to say that I do not suppose you to wish your books to be read like those of prophets or of apostles, concerning which it would be wrong to doubt that they are free from error. Far be such arrogance from that humble piety and just estimate of yourself which I know you to have, and without which assuredly you would not have said, ‘Would that I could receive your embrace, and that by converse we might aid each other in learning!
As Sims puts it, “Augustine appears to say that he and Jerome believe the original autographs of Scripture were inspired, but scribal errors have crept into the MSS they now possess.
What about those things the Bible itself has to say about its own reliability?
Jesus himself had some interesting things to say about the Bible:
Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35)
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18)
It is hard to see how anything short of an inspired, inerrant, and infallible view of Scripture is consistent with these words of Christ. Indeed the problem with these words is they seem to claim more than even the most ardent evangelical contends is the case Jesus seems to say that the texts themselves will be perfectly preserved.
Perhaps we will discover more and more manuscripts in the coming years and get to the point where we are 100 per cent sure that we have the intact text down to the last dot and iota. The truth is, we are not so very far from such a pos
ition today in all honesty the areas where we are uncertain of the original Bible text are miniscule in the extreme. Certainly we can be more confident that we have the very words of the Bible today than for any other piece of ancient literature.
Let’s just look at a few verses that demonstrate clearly that it does:
. . . knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20)
Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Proverbs 30:5)
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
What is to be considered as Scripture ?
But what of the extent of Scripture, and the notion in the second article that some might seek to divide the Bible into competing bits? The Bible itself is clear that Scripture extends beyond the Old Testament to the New Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:18:
For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain, and, “The laborer deserves his wages.
Now, the first phrase is a reference to an Old Testament Scripture, but the second is only found in one of the New Testament Gospels Luke 10:7. Thus, by the time Paul wrote 1 Timothy it is abundantly clear that the Gospel of Luke was already considered as Scripture.
By the time Peter wrote his second epistle, he casually assumes that his readers understand that Paul’s letters, although hard to understand, are as much as the other Scriptures to be considered a part of the Christian’s Bible:
. . . our beloved brother, Paul, also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:16)
The Bible itself is also clear about how it should be used.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)
It is interesting that the Jews are commended for this search of the Old Testament Scriptures to confirm what the Apostles are saying to them the Apostles certainly do not claim an ability to contradict the Old, and argue instead that their words are consistent with the Scriptures already given. This consistency with previous revelation led the Thessalonians to a remarkable conclusion’that what the Apostles were saying to them was itself the Word of God.
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
Thus, if even apostolic teaching must be compared to and weighed by Scripture, how much more our own today?
The Bible is intended to instruct us and encourage us. Let’s not rob ourselves of the confidence we need to have in it in order for it to do its job!
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
This is vital for a Christian, for the Bible is clear that it is the Word of God itself that leads to our salvation:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
. . . you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:23-25 )
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
What of those who abuse the Bible?
Paul is very clear about the unity of the Bible, and its consistent message, from which we must not deviate:
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1-4)
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)
Today we are far too tolerant of differing perspectives and viewpoints of the Bible. If these words are to be considered true and reliable, we should expect a clear theology to emerge from them. I believe that on all important points of Christian doctrine, it does.
Again I say, I am looking for those who have such a humble attitude towards the Bible that they are willing for it to shape them, rather than the other way round, and who say, “Show me where I am wrong from this Book and I will change my position.
Personally, I am so anxious to respect the very words of the Bible in light of all we have said that I will always stand by the need to use more literal translations of the Bible such as the ESV. It is not surprising that a high view of Scripture seems to have a direct relationship to the version of the Bible we use.
The Bible is not merely the rough impression of what God was trying to say it is the exact and precise WORD of God to us today! Without confidence in its infallibility we will never build our doctrine on it. Once we believe it is 100 per cent true and reliable, how can we do anything else but submit ourselves to its teaching, even if it does not seem culturally relevant in places?
Perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible about the function of the Scriptures is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. I will end this post with those words:
. . . from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)