Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 14 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes or so we’re going to be looking at the authoritative word, in this case the Bible.
When you Google the word authoritative you end up with four definitions, the two that sum it up that we're concerned with are:
(of a text) considered to be the best of its kind and unlikely to be improved upon.
proceeding from an official source and requiring compliance or obedience.
Most people would fall into two categories in response to this definition where the Bible and Christianity are concerned:
You believe this definition accurately describes the Bible and Christianity.
You believe that Christians believe statement number one.
In this episode we’re going to look at the claim that the Bible is an authoritative text according to definition number one of the word authoritative, and next week we’ll look at definition number two concerning Christianity.
OK, that definition was “(of a text) considered to be the best of its kind and unlikely to be improved upon.” Let’s start with Ephesians 3:8-9, “This grace was given to me — the least of all the saints — to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ, and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” Here Paul describes this whole thing of Christ as an incalculable mystery. Notice how he didn’t make the claim that what he was preaching or writing, or what any Christian for that matter was preaching or writing, the whole of everything there was to know about Christ, God, or the grand scheme of time and the universe was contained therein.
On the contrary, in 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 Paul, who wrote ⅓ of the New Testament writes, “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end.” And in verse 12, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror darkly lit, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.”
“For we know in part…” “We see only a reflection as in a mirror darkly lit…” These aren’t statements of knowing it all or having it all figured out. These are the statements of a man that recognizes that there is so much more to God, Christ, and the whole wide spiritual universe, that it would likely take multiple lifetimes just to be told everything, let alone to understand it.
Put yourself into that statement Paul makes there in 1 Corinthians 13. You’re blindfolded and placed in front of a mirror in a dimly lit room that you’ve never been in before but have heard others speak of. The blindfold is removed, and the mirror is not like the ones we have today with their near perfect reflection. It’s just a well polished piece of metal that even under well lit conditions creates a poor reflection. In the mirror, over your shoulder, across the room you see something by the far wall. Try as you might to describe this item that you’ve never actually seen before and are having to squint to make out; you never really could. Not only would your description be lacking, but you’re only seeing a small portion of the room and have no idea what else may be there. This, my friends, is Paul grasping with trying to define Divine Inspiration. It’s not so much God leaning over the shoulder whispering in the ear as it is squinting and struggling to make out shapes dimly lit reflected in a poor mirror.
We also have to take into account that these letters that have made their way into the Bible weren’t written as submissions to be included in some Holy work, they were just letters; Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 2 & 3 John, and Jude. Or do you think that in 2 Timothy 4:13 when Paul wrote, “When you come, bring the cloak I left in Troas with Carpus, as well as the scrolls, especially the parchments,” that He was teaching some spiritual concept worthy of being considered Holy text? No, he was just writing a letter.
The problem, as I see it, is that we’ve taken the Jewish bible (What Paul refers to as Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16), tacked on some eye witness accounts of Christ’s life and the Acts of the Apostles, included some letters written to some churches and other ministers, wrapped it up with a pretty, little apocalyptic ribbon at the end and declared it more than the sum of its parts. The problem as I see it is that the Bible for a staggeringly large number of Christians and churches has become an idol. Modern Christianity and the modern church have an idolatry problem.
1 John 2:27 says, “As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in Him.” “…you don’t need anyone to teach you…” That’s a pretty condemning statement against the Bible if I’ve ever heard one. Should we do away with the Bible altogether then? This thing that’s become an idol, that epitomizes the teaching from one man to another that even the Bible itself says you don’t need that. God forbid! The problem isn’t in the collection of the writings together, the problem is in declaring it more than what it is and elevating this creation to a point of worship in our lives. We cling to the Bible because It’s what we have, because it’s precepts and its insights have stood against the scrutiny of generation upon generation of skeptic and scholar alike. However, at the same time I fear as culture, and I see evidence that, we’ve let the surety of the words we find in the Bible replace the Faith in Christ that salvation requires.
The Bible isn’t authoritative except in that we use it that way, we’ve worshipped it as an idol and used it to bash people over the head. What the Bible should be is;
An inspiration to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul.
A constant reminder to love your neighbor how you want to be loved.
A litmus test to make sure your theology and doctrine haven’t gone wackadoo.
A source of basic study to turn your heart, mind, and soul God-ward.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”