The Bible as Authority

Someone once asked me, ‘Why would I place the Bible, which the first Christians didn’t have, as a higher authority than the Holy Spirit, which they did have?’
While some of us might roll our eyes at the question, it is a legitimate theological concern, and especially relevant to Christians who have been brought up in a community that emphasises reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Others might look at this question and dismiss it as unimportant. Before you ignore it altogether, think about how practically important the answer is to our everyday lives as Christians. If we feel that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us about something that isn’t affirmed by, or even goes against, what is in the Bible, how are we to act? Do we forsake the Bible and follow the pull in our hearts, or do we hold fast to the Bible’s teaching and ignore the feeling?

I know of men and women who have felt absolutely sure that the Holy Spirit was telling them to injure or kill themselves. Some of these people went through with such attempts, because they were so confident it was from God. They were not ‘baby’ Christians. These were men and women who had walked with God for years and were connected in, even leaders, with the church and Christian community. While these are rare and awfully sad cases, and other factors such as mental illness obviously played an effect, the lesson is still there for us to take note of. How can we always distinguish between what is from God and what is from the enemy, from mental illness, or from our own deep desires? The fact is that we are still living in a fallen world, and Christians are not completely immune to attacks from the enemy (as I explored in my last blog post).

Why is the Bible an authority above human leaders? Well, if you believe that the Holy Spirit is powerful and God is in control, then you must believe that it was the Holy Spirit who inspired the writings in and creation of the Bible. If you believe that it was the Holy Spirit who inspired the writings in the Bible, you must believe that the same Spirit wouldn’t tell us to live in a way that is contrary to what He already created. That would cause chaos and tension in the body of Christ – and we can be confident that God would never orchestrate such destruction among His people.

Another example of human weakness is the history of the Protestant Reformation, which happened because the church had given more authority to their leaders than to the Bible, and the result was that those leaders were manipulating and lying to the people in order to indulge themselves.
Adam and Eve knew God better than anyone has. They walked and talked with Him, and they knew Him in a way that was not limited or confused by concepts and understanding. They were living in fullness of life, as God had created, in a world that did not know pain, disease or sin. Yet the enemy was still able to deceive them. How much more will he be able to deceive us now if we do not hold fast to the resource given to us from God Himself?

We are living in times when not only are we fighting against Satan, but we are also at war with our own flesh. Humans cannot be trusted to remain on the path of righteousness if they don’t align themselves with scripture – it is far too easy to make a mistake. In Jesus’ own words, ‘The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.’[1]

This is not to say that context isn’t important. We must learn how to properly apply what is written in the Bible to life today. But we must hold the teaching of the Bible as an authority for Christian life and practise. People have failed us. Our own minds have failed us. But the Word of God will never fail – it will stand forever.

[1] Matthew 7:13

(There is a lot to be unpacked with this topic – the relationship between the Holy Spirit and scripture, the amount of problems the early church faced with no Bible (as we know it today) to guide them, the Old Testament, the Reformation, etc.
However, I cannot explore all of it in one post, so forgive my approach here for being fairly basic.)

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