Biblical Authority Requires Authoritative Lives

Biblical Authority Requires Authoritative Lives February 5, 2023

Rembrandt (1606–1669), St. Paul in Prison, 1627, Wikimedia {{PD-US-expired}}

So many people I meet today must be from Missouri, the “Show Me” state. I find that various individuals I encounter rightly hit the pause button on whether to believe someone regardless of whether they hold a position of authority. Of course, this is not universally the case, as we can easily fall prey to taking up residence in the state of gullibility. All it takes in some cases for someone to be hoodwinked is for a person in charge to have a large following and sufficient charm.

I’m not sure the Apostle Paul had a large enough following and sufficient charm to convince a lot of people that he was legit. In considering his words to his disciple Timothy in 2 Timothy 3, I think that a greater number of people were following those ‘posing’ as spiritual authorities than those following Paul (2 Timothy 3:1-9). While the early church grew large in number, it wasn’t because of Paul’s personality or the court of Roman societal opinion or the Roman court of law. 2 Timothy is often deemed Paul’s swan song, the last canonical epistle he drafted, sometime before he endured execution under Emperor Nero. What was his crime? He was one of the main culprits advocating ancient atheism (which was an accusation hoisted on the Christian movement): Paul rejected the Roman pantheon of the gods in his proclamation and obedience to Jesus as the Lord of lords and King of kings.

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul encourages Timothy to continue in the footsteps of those from whom he learned the Christian faith, including Paul (2 Timothy 3:10-11, 14). Paul exhorts fellow believers entrusted to his spiritual care to follow his example, as he follows Jesus (See 1 Corinthians 11:1). That would be an audacious claim for most of us to make, but Paul is confident that his life clearly reflects Jesus’ character and call. In other words, Paul practices what he preaches. He’s smoking what he’s selling rather than smoking or selling the brand of a leading competitor.

In our consumer commodity culture, we rarely find a connection between a worker, their work, and senior management. Alienation and detachment lead to further compartmentalization. Our loyalties bounce about from job to job and with bouncing stocks. Not so with Paul back then or those like Paul today. They will not allow for the compartmentalization of their faith from their practice, the message from the messenger, or the messenger and message from Jesus who is the driving authoritative force of holy love for their entire lives and loyalties.

I have heard it said that if you want to make a million dollars, start your own religion. That may have been the view of those religious leaders who manipulated and abused people to their own advantage and gain, as recorded in 2 Timothy 3:6-9. But it wasn’t Paul’s view or approach as an apostle. As he writes, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12; NIV) For those who claim that the Christian faith is priceless, we must pursue Jesus no matter what it costs us.

Christians should take to heart and obey the authoritative Scriptures, which are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Similarly, we must take to heart, follow, and be examples of faithfulness to Scripture. A position of authority is not enough to win over those skeptical of religious leaders, nor should it be. And while the Scriptures are authoritative regardless of whether we affirm the Bible’s teachings, a cynical age requires that we submit to its authority if people are to take seriously our claims and follow our lead.

Josh McDowell wrote many years ago that the evidence for the Christian faith demands a verdict that Jesus is Lord. So true. Today, in our increasingly cynical age, the verdict that Jesus is Lord demands evidence in our lives that he is Lord, as I argued in New Wine Tastings. Biblical authority requires authoritative lives in every age and in every state (and every state of mind), especially today, and not just Missouri.

About Paul Louis Metzger
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is Professor of Theology & Culture, Multnomah University & Seminary; Director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins; and Author and Editor of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths (Thomas Nelson, 2012) and Beatitudes, Not Platitudes: Jesus' Invitation to the Good Life (Cascade, 2018). You can read more about the author here.
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