For one to have a genuine Christian walk, there are several sources of guidance for them, but the main one is Scripture. Scripture refers to words captured in the Old and New Testaments, the Bible, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We believe, as blood-washed believers, that these words inspired by God have the very power of God in them, hence authoritative in every way.
Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology defines this teaching of the Authority of Scripture in this way: “The Authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith helpfully states, “The Authority of the Holy Scripture, for which has ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received because it is the word of God.”
John Frame comments on this by saying, “Divine authorship is the ultimate reason why Scripture is authoritative. Its Authority is absolute because God’s Authority is absolute, and Scripture is His Word to us.” So, what grounds do we have to vouch for the Authority of Scripture?
All the words in Scripture are God’s Words. This may sound absurd to some because one may ask if the words spoken by characters in the scriptures still qualify as God’s words. Well, those who wrote under inspiration gave narratives about the happenings around them, be it the prophets, the priests, the kings, or whoever else. Some of it was reported, as was said by somebody, even with the explanations, as the Spirit of God interpreted it. Either way, the Spirit of God inspired those who wrote these words down: Moses, David, writers of the Psalms, prophets, and apostles (2 Peter 1:19-21).
In his exhortation to young Timothy, Paul, by way of affirmation, especially on this matter, tells Timothy that all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and helps rebuke, correct, and train for righteousness. Timothy needed to know that he could fully trust the scriptures he would use for the pastoral calling on his life. Paul wanted him to have confidence in Scripture. We should draw confidence from Paul’s words and see the scriptures as authoritative as the very voice of God because they are words from God.
Contrary to popular opinion, the unity of Scripture, the agreement, and the overlapping congruence across writers from different times in history prove divine inspiration in the Scriptures. It couldn’t all pan out as a human plan. It is God’s work. It is God’s Word.
The Truthfulness of Scripture
Secondly, the Scriptures are true. Moses said of God’s character that He is not a man to lie and change His mind (Titus 1:2). Since the giver of the Scriptures is truthful, it goes without saying that the Scriptures are also true. The Law came directly from the presence of God in the wilderness (Exodus 24:1-18) through Moses, and the rest of the nation heard the voice of the LORD. We can trust these words. God spoke to the prophets directly as they served God among the people. Ultimately, God spoke through His Son (Hebrews 1:1), Jesus Christ, when he came and dwelt among men in human form (John 1:3). He lived and walked with the apostles whom he taught and shared many things regarding the kingdom of heaven. The apostles, in return, captured these words from the Son of God and made them available for posterity’s sake.
Jesus is not a figment of a white man’s imagination but the true Son of God. John says of Christ that in him was grace and truth (John 1:17). By His Spirit, Christ ministered to the apostle who also wrote letters to the churches that have become consequential to practical Christian living. The letters to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, etc., convict our lives, leading us to godliness and the fear of God. Thus, we are to think of the Bible as the ultimate standard of truth, the reference point by which every other claim to truthfulness is to be measured. It can be summed up as the assertions that conform to Scripture are “true,” while those that do not conform to Scripture are not true. What, then, is truth? Truth is what God says, and we have what God says (accurately but not exhaustively) in the Bible.
The Inerrancy of Scripture
The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. In simple terms, the Bible always tells the truth about everything it talks about. This statement doesn’t mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject. However, it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true. We can affirm that Scripture is inerrant because of its purity (Psalm 12:6), perfection (Psalm 119:96), and truthfulness (Proverbs 30:5). All parts of Scripture are reliable without question and profitable for us today (2 Timothy 3:16, Luke 24:25, Romans 15:4).
Secondly, that the writers of the New Testament referred to Old Testament texts in their writings is proof of this errancy. The following texts are examples: David ate the bread of the Presence (Matthew 12:3–4); Jonah in the belly of the fish (Matthew 12:40); the men of Nineveh repented (Matthew 12:41); the queen of the South came to hear Solomon (Matthew 12:42); Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:25–26); Naaman the Syrian was cleansed of leprosy (Luke 4:27); on the day Lot left Sodom fire and brimstone rained from heaven (Luke 17:29; cf. v. 32 with its reference to Lot’s wife who turned to salt); Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14); Jacob gave a field to Joseph (John 4:5); many details of the history of Israel (Acts 13:17–23); Abraham believed and received the promise before he was circumcised (Romans 4:10); Abraham was about one hundred years old (Romans 4:19); God told Rebekah before her children were born that the elder child would serve the younger (Romans 9:10–12); Elijah spoke with God (Romans 11:2–4); the people of Israel passed through the sea, ate and drank spiritual food and drink, desired evil, sat down to drink, rose up to dance, indulged in immorality, grumbled, and were destroyed (1 Corinthians 10:11); Abraham gave a tenth of everything to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1–2); the Old Testament tabernacle had a specific and detailed design (Hebrews 9:1–5); Moses sprinkled the people and the tabernacle vessels with blood and water, using scarlet wool and hyssop (Hebrews 9:19– 21); the world was created by the Word of God (Hebrews 11:3);3 many details of the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, and others (Hebrews 11, passim); Esau sold his birthright for a single meal and later sought it back with tears (Hebrews 12:16–17); Rahab received the spies and sent them out another way (James 2:25); eight persons were saved in the ark (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5); God turned Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes but saved Lot (2 Peter 2:6–7); Balaam’s donkey spoke (2 Peter 2:16). This list indicates that the New Testament writers were willing to rely on the truthfulness of any part of the historical narratives of the Old Testament.
Wayne Grudem gives four challenges that come with rejecting the inerrancy of Scripture.
- If we deny inerrancy, a severe moral problem confronts us: May we imitate God and intentionally lie in small Matters also?
- If inerrancy is denied, we begin to wonder if we can really trust God in anything he says.
- If we deny inerrancy, we essentially make our own human minds a higher standard of truth than God’s Word.
- If we deny inerrancy, then we must also say that the Bible is wrong not only in minor details but in some of its doctrines.
For a better engagement of this matter, please read the book Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.
Scripture can be and ought to be trusted because everything written therein brings conviction of sin, life transformation, and eternal joy. We have the evidence of many changed lives around such that a denial of its Authority beckons us to deny the reality of these transformed lives.
The Doctrine of the Word of God, p 165