It Is Written: The Bible’s Trustworthiness and Authority

The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. - Psalm 12:6

In the last post, we affirmed that both the Old and New Testaments testify as the inspired Word of God. There is no higher authority or more truthful testimony than what comes from the mouth of God. Yet in our modern-day thinking, we tend to be relativists, inclined to think that nothing can be absolutely true in the whole sense of the word. Many people today attack the authority of God’s Word. They completely throw out certain passages, and question many others. Society would have us believe the Bible is no more than an old book filled with outdated half-truths. However, in view of science, archaeology, and a vast amount of textual criticism, I would argue that Scripture has, in all reality, withstood the test of time. Can the church trust the Bible today? We can rest assured that God has preserved his Word for the church. Nevertheless, even with real, historical evidence, taking God at his Word requires trust and submission to the truth. 

The issue of whether the Bible can be trusted is vital to our understanding of God’s revelation of himself. Truth is integral to His very nature (Num. 23:19). Because of who God is, and because of what God has done to preserve his Word, we can have confidence that the events described in Scripture are accurate and historical. Because the Bible originated in the mind of God, the ultimate source of Scripture is God himself. Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin said, “The Bible is the Word of God written in the words of men.” Like Christ, the Scriptures are fully divine and fully human.

By the authority of the Bible we mean that the Bible, as the expression of God’s will to us, possesses the right supremely to define what we are to believe and how we are to conduct ourselves.

– Millard Erickson

This doctrinal truth is important because Christianity depends on the historical events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Ultimately, we find meaning and purpose in the the Bible’s overarching narrative of redemptive history. God gave this book to His people. As the voice of God, the Bible is authoritative. The authority of Scripture means every word of Scripture possesses the authority of God and the right to rule. Scripture’s authority doesn’t depend on whether human beings cooperate with it or understand it. Its authority depends on its Author – God himself. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states, “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.” There is no good in trying to understand Scripture if God isn’t its divine author. The Gospel itself would have “no authority” and no power (Michael Horton). Because of Scripture’s inspiration, it possesses divine authority.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. - Heb. 1:3

Oftentimes truth is hard to identify, but we can place confidence in the Word of God as entirely true and always trustworthy. In other words, God speaks through the Bible as the believer’s ultimate, final authority. God also has the right to command our thoughts, desires, beliefs, words, actions, and overall behavior. Authority of the Scriptures means that the Bible possesses every right to instruct in our beliefs and actions because it is the very voice of God. Humility recognizes the supremacy of the Word (2 Tim. 3:10-4:8).

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. - Psalm 119:89

The Word of God in its truthfulness is inerrant and infallible. Though the word inerrancy wasn’t used concerning Scripture until the last century, it has been the historical position of the church. Inerrancy means that the Scriptures do not affirm any errors. Inerrancy is a characteristic of all Scripture. To clearly define inerrancy of Scripture, it is the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake, which safeguards the truth that Scriptures are entirely true and trustworthy in all it proclaims. The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy puts it like this: “Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.” 

If he called them gods to whom the word of God came - and Scripture cannot be broken  - John 10:35

Yes, the Bible is comprehensive, not exhaustive. However, when the Scriptures speak to a particular subject, they are truthful. In stating such a doctrine, however, it is important to qualify the term. Millard Erickson states:

  • Inerrancy pertains to what is affirmed or asserted, rather than what is merely reported. 
  • We must judge the truthfulness of Scripture in terms of its meaning in the cultural setting in which its statements were expressed.
  • The Bible’s assertions are fully true when judged in accordance with the purpose for which they were written. 
  • Reports of historical events and scientific matters are in phenomenal rather than technical language – what appears to the eye rather than scientific explanations.

The implication of Scripture’s inerrancy is its infallibility. Infallibility has to do with possibilities, and it means that the Word of God is incapable of erring. Infallibility means that Scripture is not liable to failure, and always accomplishes the purpose for which God intends it (Isaiah 55:11). To define infallibility, it is the quality of neither misleading or being misled which safeguards the truth that scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable guide in all matters. Simply put, God not only does not, but He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). When we know God’s character, we also know we can trust His voice. If the Bible was fallible, it would obviously not be authoritative. But we know that Jesus viewed the Scriptures as authoritative and without error, including His own teaching (Matt. 5:18-44). The doctrine of truthfulness and inerrancy is present in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Bible is truth: We can trust it! It was true when it was written, it is true today, and it will be true forever. Christ’s church is responsible to guard this truth: “the Church is the guardian of the truth, the citadel of the truth, and the defender of the truth over against all the enemies of the Kingdom of God” (Louis Berkhof). 

Christians understand that the Bible is what the reformers termed as “self-authenticating.” This term means that the Scriptures are not only divinely inspired but they are alive and when we begin to read, the Scriptures read us. The Bible begins to encourage us, change us, renew us, inspire us. The Bible is shown to be God’s Word not just by what it is but by what it does in the life of the Christian. So maybe more than anything, this is why Christians have concluded the Bible is not only trustworthy but it is also the means God uses to speak to the church.

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account. - Heb. 4:12-13

Accepting authority means the Word of God always stands over us; we never stand over the Word of God. The implications are that when we reject His authority, we place ourselves in judgment over God’s Word. In that case, we deny the complete trustworthiness of the Scriptures. Yet, today, it seems almost everyone wants to “hear” from God. It’s become popular for influential Christians to make claims of a fresh encounter of sorts. Many times their theology places subjective, personal experience in a position of authority over the objective truth of the Bible. Whether or not they are respected as such, the Scriptures are the voice of God. Charles Spurgeon wisely wrote, “I have little confidence in those persons who speak of having received direct revelations from the Lord, as though he appeared otherwise than by and through the gospel. His word is so full, so perfect, that for God to make any fresh revelation to you or me is quite needless. To do so would be to put a dishonour upon the perfection of that word.” Take note: “a word of prophecy” or “a word of knowledge” from God apart from the Bible is a direct attack on the sufficiency and authority of Scripture.

Furthermore, when we experience feelings that conflict with God’s Word, we must go with the Bible’s authority over our guts. Our emotions do not drive truth. Truth should drive our emotions. The people of God must be devoted to the Scriptures, knowing it is where we hear from God today (Deut. 6:4-9). Christians are to believe God’s commands with a call to obedience. Bluntly spoken, disrespecting the Scriptures is disrespecting God. God is so intertwined in Scripture, so invested in it, that “whatever someone does to God’s word (whether it is to obey or disobey) they do directly to God himself” (Timothy Ward). God cannot lie, so neither can His word. God’s Word is trustworthy in delivering what is true, and in demanding what is right. Competing voices would call us to firstly trust human reason and subjective experience, but it’s important we not fall into this trap.

If we claim our Lord and Savior to be Jesus Christ, and that Jesus himself affirmed the inerrancy of Scripture, we must also embrace the Scriptures as true and right. Regardless of what we believe about Christ or His Word, one day we’ll all stand before Him and answer for how we submitted (or didn’t submit) to Him and His Word. How do you personally rely on the truth of the Bible to know and rejoice in God? If we believe the Scriptures are the ultimate authority for our life and doctrine, we will want to understand what the Bible says. We will affirm that as God’s voice, the Bible is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. - John 17:17

Have your eyes been opened to the beauty of the Scriptures? For centuries, Christians have believed, worshipped, and lived the Word of God. The authority of Scripture is rooted in our view of God Himself. The Scriptures themselves tell us what God is like, how creation works and how sinners can be reconciled to a holy God. But ultimately, our faith in the Bible’s trustworthiness comes from knowing we have a faithful, gracious, and sovereign God who wants to be known. We can delight in God as He draws near to us in the reading of the Scriptures.

Where is this Truth Found in the Bible?

Deuteronomy 30:15–18; Matthew 5:17–18; 1 Corinthians 2:10–13; 14:37; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 4:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:14; 2 Peter 3:15–16; Numbers 23:19; Psalms 12:6; 18:30; 19:8; Proverbs 30:5; John 10:35; 14:26; 16:13; 17:17; Hebrews 6:18

O how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible.

– John Piper

For further study, I recommend reading from my sources for this series that are found in the intro post, It is Written: An Eight Part Theological Series.