The doctrine of Scripture is inseparably joined to the doctrine of God. Whatever a person believes regarding God will affect his view of Scripture.
Two affirmations of God's character which especially influence the doctrine of Scripture:
God is perfect in His power.
God is perfect in His character.
Both of these categories provide insight for the believer who is in search of a deeper understanding of the role of the Bible in his spiritual life.
The conviction that God is powerful gives the Christian an assurance of the sufficiency and reliability of the Bible. God, the one who calls the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), is able to bring to pass all that He says. The inspiration of Scripture is actually a consideration of the sovereignty of God.
The same Lord who can call the world to exist out of nothing should have no problem in communicating what He wills in the manner He wills.
Of all the areas in which the Christian relates the doctrine of God to the sacred text, none is more glorious than the wondrous greatness of God. God is praiseworthy; as creatures before the Creator, His people should glory in His revelation of Himself. The Bible should be read with a reverent and worshipful attitude as is appropriate considering the God who is its source and content. Once Scripture is seen in this light, all questions of a flawed revelation become untenable for a Christian. To say the Bible contains untruths is to impugn the character of God.
Jesus unquestionably regarded the Old Testament as a divine revelation, and as such He used it as His final authority. The Scriptures formed the basis of His rejection of the temptations offered by the devil in the wilderness; each temptation was countered by Christ with the formula "it is written" (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13).
This emphasis on Scripture continued throughout the preaching of Jesus and in dialogues with His Jewish adversaries. On one occasion Christ reminded the Jews that "scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35), and on another He described religious error as springing from an ignorance of the sacred text (Matthew 22:29). In the period after the resurrection and prior to the ascension, as Jesus closed His earthly ministry, He taught His auditors on the Emmaus road to regard "all the scriptures" as an authoritative source for doctrine (Luke 24:27).
The Apostles followed their Lord in reverence for the Old Testament. Indicative of this view are the words of Peter:
"But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (II Peter 1:20,21)
God is here described as the source of Scripture, initiating the content and guiding the writers. Paul was in complete agreement with Peter at this point, as he wrote to Timothy:
"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (II Timothy 3:14ff)
Thus, the source of divine instruction is found in scripture which is God-breathed and, thus, sufficient in every way.
In addition to this reverence for the Old Testament, Christ and the Apostles viewed their own teachings as binding and authoritative. "Heaven and earth will pass away," Christ warned, "but my words will not pass away." (Luke 21:33) Paul asserts to the church at Corinth "...what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized." (II Corithians 14:37,38) The New Testament, no less than the Old, provided the first century Christians with a complete text for worship and study.
In the era immediately following the days of Christ and the apostles, Christians continued to write and teach. However, they saw their work as different in kind from the work of the Apostles. Notice what Polycarp of Smyrna wrote to the Philippians:
"For I am not, nor are any of my peers capable of competing with the wisdom of the blessed and eminent Paul, who solidly and exactly taught the word of truth when he was with you as a contemporary."
Polycarp is representative of the writers of the Post-Apostolic age in his respect for the teachings of Scripture. The Bible provided the rule of faith and final court of appeal for the early church.
The Bible, thus understood as divinely inspired, was considered trustworthy in every sense.
The early church emphatically did not view Scripture as being prone to error in matters of fact. The feeling is demonstratively universal, almost to the point of being monolithic, in the first centuries of the church: the Bible was held to be God's authoritative statement of truth.
The reverent acceptance of Scripture as God's message for all time, then, is the only course in harmony with the early practice of the Lord's church and the only course which does justice to the greatness of God. True theology must spring from the text of Scripture and forever lead God's people back to this source of truth.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by THE LOCKMAN FOUNDATION. Used by permission.
(c) 1997 The Fishinger & Kenny Roads Church of Christ,
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