“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” (Joshua 1:8a)
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Proverbs 30:5)
Who has the right to tell you what to do? Think about it. Who do you listen to? In the end, this is a question about authority. As we’ll see, the Bible claims to bear the authority of the Lord Himself, and therefore, has complete authority over every person.
We don’t much like the word “authority” these days. It has negative connotations that imply the person exercising authority as being overbearing, controlling, and even suffocating. We struggle against it and bristle under it as it is so often abused. However, in the hands of our righteous Lord, authority is none of those things. In fact, by His Word, God’s authority is our great shield and refuge (Proverbs 30:5). Authority is a key concept we as Christians must understand and embrace, as our faith and obedience are directly derived from our understanding of God’s authority. A weak understanding of biblical authority will result in a weak faith and a disobedient heart. In order to place ourselves behind His shield, and in the sweet refuge of God’s authority, we must understand it wholly and accurately.
Theologian J.I. Packer has noted, “The problem of authority is the most fundamental problem that the Christian Church ever faces. This is because Christianity is built on truth: that is to say, on the content of a divine revelation.”1 There is so much talk these days about God’s authority, even the authority of Scripture. But, what is authority? For our purposes, in essence, authority means that God has the right to exercise His power and control over all creation. After all, God commanded all things to exist by His word (Gen. 1; Ps. 33:6-9; John 1:3; Heb. 11:3). He is the Author of all that exists, therefore, He bears ultimate authority. But, how does God express His authority to us? It is through His Word.
John MacArthur notes, “The writers of the Old Testament make more than 2,000 direct claims to be speaking the very words of God.”2 For example, the Lord tells Joshua, “Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses” (23:6) since it was authoritative and binding to his conscience; its commands were God’s commands.
When discussing the temporary nature of creation compared to the timeless nature of Scripture, we read in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” As God is eternal, His word is also eternal.
Even Jesus submitted Himself to the authoritative word of God, when He proclaimed, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matt. 5:17-18). Jesus—the Incarnate Word of God (John 1:1-3, 14)—recognized the absolute authority of the written word.
In light of recent controversies in the church, as to whether or not the Bible is simply “nice thoughts about God” or the inspired, direct revelation of God, we read, “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 your believers” (1 Thess. 2:13). Even the first Christians understood that what was being delivered to them through the Scriptures were binding on their hearts, because what they were hearing was coming from the Lord.
How to Apply This
As we strive to live as Christians, we need a voice to guide us through this wicked world. Further, we need a light that can shine in the darkness of our own hearts. God is the One whose voice pierces the darkness and leads us onward (cf. John 10:3-5, 27-28).
When we submit to God’s authority by turning to Scripture as our authoritative manual for life, repenting of sin, and obeying what it says we reap the blessing of the everlasting protection and peace of God’s authority in our lives.
God has chosen to speak to us through His Word, which has come through His Son (Heb. 1:2) and written down in the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:19-21). In short, when Scripture speaks, God speaks. The Bible is the final point of appeal; it is the final authority (Jas. 2:8, 23; 4:5-6). John Frame writes, “To say that God’s Word has authority… is to say that it creates obligations in its hearers: obligations to believe what it says, to do what it commands, to write it on our hearts, and so on.”3 What the Bible tells us to believe, we are to believe. And what it tells us to do, we must do. Plain and simple.
Verses for Meditation:
- Jeremiah 23:29
- Matthew 4:4
- Matthew 5:17-18
Lord, You are the Lord of my heart. I come to You confessing that I don’t always submit to You as the authoritative King of my life. I lack reverence. I lack trust, and I pridefully think my way is best, but it is not. Father, thank you for your authoritative Word, my manual for life. Thank you that I can find peace and refuge behind the trustworthy shield when I follow your way and obey the Bible. Please help me to live in joyful submission under the truth of your Word. For I know it is there I will find refuge and peace. Amen
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