When it comes to views of Scripture we live in a skeptical age. While there have always been those who questioned the authority and authenticity of God’s Word, the church itself was not home to doubters and skeptics. The staunch anti-authority trend we see among professing believers today began in the eighteenth century and the post-Reformation Enlightenment—during the ascendancy of human reason—when skeptics and critics brought the legitimacy of God’s Word under widespread attack. Today, we’re dealing with the devastating destruction that has accumulated in just a few centuries due to viewing the Bible as something less than the inerrant, authoritative Word of God.
The authority and inerrancy of Scripture are fundamental doctrines, yet we have an entire generation of professing Christians who are neither committed to those dogmas nor able to fight to defend them. Most could not articulate a case for biblical authority or defend why every word of God is true—whether internally from the text of Scripture, or externally from the validations of fulfilled prophecy and reason. Many cannot give a clear defense of why it is necessary to have an inerrant, authoritative Scripture in order for the Holy Spirit to do His work of saving and sanctifying. Though these are foundational realities, too many Christians seem indifferent to these essentials.
Congregations sit listening to sermons from pastors who have been conditioned to elevate methodology, cultural cues, and entertainment in order to attract a crowd rather than to serve an assembly of true worshipers who are able to understand, articulate, and defend the truth of God revealed in Scripture. While a focus on methodology does not necessarily deny the authority of Scripture, there is a de facto denial of Scripture’s supremacy when it is set aside for other means and methods. The Bible is regularly treated superficially and routinely taken out of context, resulting in a generation that has no expectation that the preacher would handle the Word of God accurately. Rather, people are trained to treat the Bible like a book that they are free to manipulate for their own ends, which ultimately both exposes and perpetuates their low view of Scripture.
But the Bible isn’t a book full of ideas, opinions, and principles awaiting our consideration. Everything God’s Word says carries authority because of Who authored it. That is why all believers must embrace and submit to the authority of Scripture. God’s Word is the final authority in His church—no pastor or pope sits in judgment of it. Peter refers to Scripture as the “utterances of God” (1 Peter 4:11), meaning it is the very words from the mouth of God. Paul says that believers “have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). That isn’t some kind of gnostic higher knowledge, attained through mystical or subjective means. It means the mind of Christ is displayed for us in the pages of God’s Word. If anyone wants to know what the Lord thinks about anything, he simply needs to open the Bible. All the insight we need has been delivered to us in the authoritative Word of God. As Charles Spurgeon rightly explained, there is no other reliable source of truth to which we can cling.
“Thus saith the Lord” is the only authority in God’s Church. When the tabernacle was pitched in the wilderness, what was the authority for its length and breadth? Why was the altar of incense to be placed here, and the brazen laver there? Why so many lambs or bullocks to be offered on a certain day? Why must the passover be roasted whole and not sodden? Simply and only because God had shown all these things to Moses in the holy mount; and thus had Jehovah spoken, “Look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount.” It is even so in the Church at the present day; true servants of God demand to see for all Church ordinances and doctrines the express authority of the Church’s only Teacher and Lord. They remember that the Lord Jesus bade the apostles to teach believers to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them, but he neither gave to them nor to any men power to alter his own commands. The Holy Ghost revealed much of precious truth and holy precept by the apostles, and to his teaching we would give earnest heed; but when men cite the authority of fathers, and councils, and bishops, we give place for subjection, no, not for an hour. They may quote Irenaeus or Cyprian, Augustine or Chrysostom; they may remind us of the dogmas of Luther or Calvin; they may find authority in Simeon, or Wesley, or Gill—we will listen to the opinions of these great men with the respect which they deserve as men, but having so done, we deny that we have anything to do with these men as authorities in the Church of God, for there nothing has any authority, but “Thus saith the Lord of hosts.” Yea, if you shall bring us the concurrent consent of all tradition—if you shall quote precedents venerable with fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen centuries of antiquity, we burn the whole as so much worthless lumber, unless you put your finger upon the passage of Holy Writ which warrants the matter to be of God. You may further plead, in addition to all this venerable authority, the beauty of the ceremony and its usefulness to those who partake therein, but this is all foreign to the point, for to the true Church of God the only question is this, is there a “Thus saith the Lord” for it? And if divine authority be not forthcoming, faithful men thrust forth the intruder as the cunning craftiness of men. 
The only one who has the right to speak to His people with authority is God. The Father called sinners out of the darkness of sin and fitted them for the work of His kingdom. Christ purchased the church with His own blood. He is the head of the church, and the head of the church mediates His authority through His Word. And through the Word, the Holy Spirit does His work of sanctification in every believer’s life. God’s people need to faithfully submit to the final authority of His written Word.
This post was first published during November 2019. –ed.
Used by permission from John MacArthur.
Used with permission from John MacArthur.