Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Authority and Inerrancy of Scripture

The authority and inerrancy of Holy Scripture are the bedrock upon which true Christianity stands. We depend upon Scripture’s witness for all that we hold true concerning God, man, and the way of salvation in Christ. The great events of redemptive history, such as the incarnation of the Son of God in the person of Jesus Christ, His atoning death, His glorious resurrection, and His ascension into heaven, are recorded only in Scripture. If the witness of Scripture is not reliable and compelling, then we have no basis for our faith and nothing to command our obedience.

Scripture has authority because it is the Word of God. God is first revealed as the Creator who speaks with compelling authority to call creation into being out of nothing (Gen. 1). That creative word was executed by the Holy Spirit, who secured the result intended by the words that were spoken. From that time until Christ came, God continued to speak through His servants, the prophets. In the person of His Son, God has spoken His final word, offering grace, forgiveness, and eternal life to all who believe in Christ (Heb. 1:1–3).

Moved by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, Christians confess that God’s Word is true and trustworthy in all that it affirms. If the basic tenets of our faith are challenged by anyone, our reply must be, “Thus saith the LORD.” This is equally so whether it concerns what man is to believe concerning God or what duty God requires of man. As a rule or authority for faith and life, Scripture has no equal or rival, but stands alone and supreme.

This authority extends equally to all sixty-six books of Scripture. Though revealed “at sundry times and in diverse manners” (Heb. 1:1) and mediated through an astonishing array of human writers, “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). It comes forth from God as breath proceeds from the body. Scripture is the product of one divine mind and speaks with one divine voice: “Prophecy of old came not by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

The authority of Scripture implies its inerrancy. As the Word of “God that cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), it cannot err or stray from the path of truth: “Thy word is true from the beginning” (Ps. 119:160). Such was the faith of the church of the Old Testament, and zealous care was taken by her scribes to preserve every word and letter of the text of Scripture. Christ Himself confessed, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

A vain attempt has been made to distinguish inerrancy from infallibility by those who wish to maintain the authority of Scripture while granting the claim of unbelieving scholars that Scripture contains many errors by the writers of the books and those who transmitted the text. This attempt fails because the two words are synonymous, and because if the Bible errs at any point, it may err at every point and cannot be trusted.

While affirming the infallibility and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, we do not attribute either quality to mere human beings whose task it is to read, translate, or expound them. There is no office in the church high enough to confer infallibility on the man who holds it. There is no degree of learning in the languages of Scripture and the history of their interpretation sufficient to ensure inerrancy on the part of the church’s Bible scholars and teachers, much less their secular counterparts. No translation of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures is absolutely perfect as a representation of the inspired Word of God; none is so good that it cannot be improved. Because our understanding is limited in so many ways, reading and interpreting the Bible must be an enterprise of faith. We must trust in Christ as our Chief Prophet to open our eyes to the wondrous things taught in Scripture and to lead us to a right understanding and faithful application of them.