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We Believe

The Authority of the Bible

Rev. Dr Gavin Perkins

May 2024

Our culture is changing radically, and the speed of that change seems to only be intensifying. Living the Christian life and speaking up for Jesus today might seem a little bit like you are all of sudden driving on the wrong side of the road. We have not changed, but it seems that the cultural flow of our society has changed so that we are now living more and more against the direction of our society.

In the not too distant past the structures of our society, although they were not explicitly Christian, were in many ways consistent with Christianity. This was true in the areas of law, education, and medicine. The views of a typical Australian on the ethics of sexuality, life and death had largely been shaped by Christianity. In all those areas, people in our culture were broadly of a similar mind to Christians, and if they were not, they knew that they were the ones out of step. But now the traffic has reversed; our culture and our position in culture has reversed and sharing the gospel is now harder.

If we are going to hold firmly to God’s Word and speak it to others we need clear convictions about the authority of God’s word.

In Matthew 28:18 the risen Lord Jesus spoke to his disciples saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” It’s a staggering claim: all authority in heaven and on earth, a universal and absolute authority. How does Jesus at the right hand of God in power exercise his authority? By telling his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The Apostles did that and the result for us is the New Testament.

The way we experience the authority of Jesus today is through His Word. As John said, “We [apostles] are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognise the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (1 John 4:6). The Bible is the way that Jesus exercises his lordship. The Apostolic word carries the authority of Jesus, and so how you respond to the Bible is how you respond to the Lord Jesus.

This means that the Bible interprets, critiques, and supersedes every other source of authority. Other authorities like reason, tradition, and experience are useful, but all these sources of authority need to be put under the Bible. If our institutions or traditions teach something, but the Bible disagrees then the tradition has to go. If we feel led in a particular direction, or if we feel like our experience validates something, but the Bible points us in another direction, then we follow God’s Word. If our reason leads us to think that one thing makes sense, but the Bible teaches the opposite, then we side with the Word against our own individual reason.

This submission to the authority of the Bible is really a submission to Jesus’ authority and in fact brings true joy and freedom. Jesus’ authority exercised through the Scriptures is wonderful and for our good.

This submission also means we are not enslaved to our own opinions or those of our culture. We can grow because we can genuinely be challenged, rebuked and corrected. If we put the Bible underneath our own reason, institution or experience we empty God’s Word of its power. Only if you have a God who can say things in his Word that outrage you and make you struggle, do you know that you truly believe in a real God who is not a figment of your imagination.

The Bible is the Word of the King and so submission to the Scriptures will fill us with confidence and courage to advance with the gospel rather than retreating into hiding.