What authority over your life do you acknowledge? What is it that determines what you believe about God, about the world, and about yourself? What regulates your behavior? What standard do you have for your behavior in marriage? What guide do you follow in the rearing of your children; or, if you are a child, what guide do you follow in your relationships with your parents?
There are many people who would reply: “I do not recognize any authority over me or over my life. I am free!” In fact, however, these people are saying that they themselves are their own lords. Their own will and their own wishes govern their lives.
There are other people who might reply to our questions with a question of their own: Is there any authority? Is there any safe and sure and clear guide for human life?” They despair of any such authoritative rule and standard.
The one authority over man’s life, the one rule of man’s faith and behavior, is the Bible. The Bible has this authority because it is inspired of God. This is what the Bible says of itself in II Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God. . . .” This tells us the origin of the Bible. The Bible did not originate from men, even though God used men to write the Bible. The origin of the Bible is God; God has breathed forth the Bible. The Bible came into being because God moved men to write down those things that are in the Bible. As they wrote, God worked within them, by the Holy Spirit, so that they wrote exactly what He wanted them to write and exactly how He wanted it written. Because the Bible is inspired of God, the Bible is the Word of God. All of the Bible is the Word of God, for “all scripture is inspired of God.” No part of the Bible is man’s word. For this reason, II Timothy 3:15 calls the Bible “holy”: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures.” God is holy, and God’s Word is also holy. Of no other book is this true.
Since the Bible is the very Word of God, the authority of the Bible is the authority of God Himself. Whoever recognizes and submits to the authority of the Bible is actually bowing to the authority of God. Whoever refuses to acknowledge the authority of the Bible is, by virtue of this fact, denying the right of God to rule over him. Then, he sets up another authority, another god, and that other authority is man, perhaps himself, perhaps some other man.
As the inspired Word of God, the Bible is reliable. It is infallible—it contains no errors. It does not lie or deceive. It records no history that is merely a myth. It makes no promises that go unfulfilled. It gives no direction for human life that is mistaken and that leads one into bitter disappointment. We can safely trust the Bible, as is possible only with the Word of the God Who cannot lie.
The Bible alone is sufficient for man’s salvation. Everything that a man needs to know for his salvation, the Bible contains. Everything that a man needs to know so that he may behave himself in a way that pleases God, the Bible teaches. It is complete; it requires no supplement. This is plainly the teaching of the passage quoted before. It says of “holy scriptures” that “they are able to make thee wise unto salvation.” The Bible is able to do this, the Bible all by itself. If this were not the case, if the Bible were incomplete, that other thing would be an authority alongside the Bible. But the Bible is the only authority over men, whether that be the Church or the individual. God alone rules over the Church and over the individual child of God by His Word, and both the Church and the child of God must submit themselves to this Word.
None of this would be of any benefit to us if the Bible were not clear. The Bible teaches what we need to believe and how we should live, clearly and plainly. The Bible is not a deep, dark book that only a few, learned theologians and ministers are able to understand. The Bible is understandable for the common, ordinary man. Even a child can easily understand the Bible. This is what the apostle Paul said in II Timothy 3:15 to the young minister, Timothy: “from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures.” From the time that Timothy was a very young child, of a few years, he knew the Bible, understood its teachings, and grasped its message.
A young child is able to read and understand Genesis 1and Genesis 2, the simple account of God’s creation of the world, and thus that young child knows the great truth of the origin of all things. A young child is able to read and understand Genesis 3, the simple record of the fall of the first man and woman into sin, and thus that young child knows the great truth of the entrance of sin and death into our world. A young child is able to read and understand the gospels, the record of the birth and work and death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, and thus that young child knows the great truth of God’s gracious salvation of His people through His Son come into the flesh.
The Bible is clear and bright, as clear and bright as the sun is in the heavens. The trouble is that men’s minds are darkened and their spiritual eyes are blinded by sin. Therefore, men do not see that the Bible is God’s Word, as it very plainly shows itself to be. Nor do they understand its teachings, although those teachings are plain. The fault is not in the Bible, but in us; just as the reason why a blind man does not see the sun is not some deficiency of the sun but the blindness of the man himself. Therefore, before any man can see the clarity of the Bible, God must work in that man to open the eyes of his heart and to enlighten his mind. Christ must open the Scripture to our understanding and must open our understanding to the Scripture (Luke 24:32, 45). The Holy Spirit must give us faith.
This already indicates what our answer is to those who challenge us to prove all that we confess about the Bible. “How do you know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God? How do you know that it is the only authority over man’s life? You can say all these things, but prove it!”
The proof that the Bible is the Word of God and, therefore, the only authority, is the Bible itself. The authority of the Bible does not depend on anything besides itself, not even the testimony of the Church. The Bible proves itself! This does not embarrass us. We must not secretly wish that there were some evidence apart from the Bible that would conclusively prove that the Bible is the Word of God. It stands in the very nature of the case that the Bible is its own conclusive witness. For the Bible is the Word of God, and the Word of God substantiates and bears witness to itself. It no more needs, or allows, something else to prove it than God needs, or allows, something else to prove Himself.
But if the question intends to ask concerning the possibility of knowing beyond any doubt that the. Bible is God’s Word, the answer is this: “The Holy Spirit has testified, of this in my heart and has given me perfect assurance that the Bible is what it claims to be.” One of the creeds-in which Reformed people confess their faith, the Belgic Confession, says this: “We receive all these books (of the Bible) and these only, as holy . . . for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; believing without any doubt, all things contained in them, not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Ghost witnesseth in our hearts, that they are from God, whereof they carry the evidence in themselves” (Article V).
The doctrine of the Bible, that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, without errors, reliable in everything it teaches, sufficient, clear, the only authority over the Church and the believer, is absolutely basic for the Christian faith, for the Church, and for the individual child of God. Upon the Word of God, everything depends. The attacks made upon the Bible in our day, the denial of its inspiration, the questioning of its reliability, the obscuring of its clarity, and the challenge to its authority, are attempts of Satan to destroy the very foundation of the Christian faith, the Christian Church, and the Christian life. These attacks represent the height of human pride: Man dares to criticize God’s Word.
The consequences of rejecting the authority of the Word of God are disastrous, as is evident on every hand. Without the scriptures no one becomes wise unto salvation through faith in Christ. Men remain foolish—ignorant both of their own desperate plight and of God’s Savior. Without the light that the Bible shines on his life, a man wanders blindly in darkness. He does not know whence he has come, why he exists, or where he is going. Neither does he know how to behave himself on the way. This is a wretched condition, and men feel it. Especially the young people are quick to note that, without any authoritative Word of God, our life is without meaning and, purpose. Everything, then, is up for grabs: marriage, government, work, the authority of parents and teachers, concern for the neighbor, even health and physical life. To the question, “How shall a young man, or young woman, regulate his, or her, life?” there is no calm, sure, authoritative answer. Therefore, the youth are exposed to every misery. What a contrast to the upbringing of children and young people according to the standard of the Bible! In the sphere of Holy Scripture, when the question is raised, the vital question,
“How shall the young direct their way?
What light shall be their perfect guide?”
the answer is given:
“Thy Word, O Lord, will safely lead,
If in its wisdom they confide.”
The confession of the authority of the Bible as the Word of God, made in faith, will have great and delightful benefits for the congregation and for the child of God. The scriptures will make men wise unto salvation and will prove themselves “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:15-17)
A question often raised today is: What version of the Bible should I use? We are gravely concerned about the modem versions of the Bible which become so popular, e.g., The Living Bible. In a pamphlet called “Modern Bible Versions,” we tell why we are concerned, and we give our answer to the question, which version. We invite you to write us for free copies of this pamphlet in care of the business manager ofThe Standard Bearer.