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The Bible. Scripture. The Good Book. It used to be so blatantly self-evident that God’s written Word was the foundation and standard for the Christian faith that it was assumed. A given. You learned, “I stand alone on the word of God- the B-I-B-L-E,” when you were three or four years old, you believed it, and you moved on.
But take a look at the Westernized version of Christianity these days. The fruit of abandoning the authority of Scripture is chilling. From the demonic tremoring and barking antics of New Apostolic Reformation “churches” to the rebellion of female “pastors” to the “gay Christian” movement to “Christian” abortion doctors, it’s clear that an astounding number of self-professed Christians and churches don’t submit to Scripture’s mandates for their beliefs and practices.
“Whew,” you might be thinking, “my church and I must be OK. We call homosexuality sin. We’re pro-life. Our pastor is male. And the wildest our congregation gets is when Brother Joe bellows a good, hearty ‘Amen!’ during the sermon.”
Those are all good, biblical things and I don’t want to minimize them. But is it good enough? Are there other, more subtle ways you or your church aren’t submitting to the authority of Scripture? And what does it mean that the Bible is our authority, anyway?
Have you ever played Monopoly? If you have, you know that you’re supposed to use a Monopoly board, two dice, the and the game pieces and Chance and Community Chest cards that come with the game. You also know that there is a standard set of Monopoly rules that are supposed to be followed.
Suppose a friend invited you to play Monopoly but wanted to use a checker board instead of a Monopoly board. Or wanted to create a new rule that you would get $500 for passing Go instead of $200. Or that you could get out of jail without rolling doubles.
Monopoly was created in 1903 by a lady named Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips. Magie created the game to teach people the consequences of having large or valuable tracts of land controlled by private monopolies¹. Each piece of the game and each rule was created with that teaching goal in mind. To alter the rules of the game is to, at best, be out of alignment with Magie’s intentions and purposes, and, at worst, to not be playing Monopoly at all. If you want to truly play Monopoly, learn the fullest extent of the lesson Magie was trying to teach, and respect Magie as the creator of the game, you’ve got to play by her rules. All of them. Even the ones you don’t like or particularly understand.
Many of the same principles apply to Christianity. God set Christianity up a certain way with His own intentions and purposes. If we alter His rules, we’re, at best, not lined up with those intentions and purposes, and, at worst, not practicing Christianity at all. If we really want to honor God, grow in Christ to the greatest extent and truly be practicing biblical Christianity, we’ve got to play by His rules. All of them. Even the ones we don’t particularly like or understand.
But what many Christians are doing today is taking their “Monopoly game” of Christianity and assuming it’s for their own entertainment, better quality of life, or positive feelings. And because they’re largely ignorant of the Creator of the “game” and His purposes and intentions behind said game, the players start tossing out His rules whenever those rules don’t fit the purposes and intentions of the players.
God created you and me and the world and Christianity and the church for His glory. He gets to make the rules. We follow the rule book (the Bible), not because those rules will make us personally happy or successful, but – simply and ultimately – because they are given by God and glorify Him. What He says goes, and we honor Him by our obedience. We need to remember that our role in the game is player, not Creator. Players submit to the authority of the Creator.
When the Creator says…
I created the world in six literal days and here’s how I did it, we don’t dishonor His word by trying to cram evolution in there and make it fit. We believe Him, and we teach what His word says.
When the Creator says…
Ladies, I don’t want you to preach, teach Scripture to men, or hold authority over men in the church, we don’t search for loopholes. We search for ways we can humble ourselves and serve God in ways that please Him, not ourselves.
When the Creator says…
Pastor, I want you to preach the Word, that means pastors preach rightly handled, in context Scripture- not a stand up comedy routine, not the storyline of the latest blockbuster movie, not a half hour of jokes and personal anecdotes, not their own opinions and self-styled doctrines.
When the Creator says…
I want you to stay away from people who teach false doctrine, it doesn’t matter how much we like that teacher, how good she makes us feel, how much we think she’s helping us in our walk with the Lord, or that we’d rather “chew up the meat and spit out the bones.” We reject her, and her teaching, and listen to those who teach sound biblical doctrine instead.
We bow the knee to what God’s word says. Period.
Ladies, if you don’t want to cripple your growth in Christ, one of the worst phrases you can utter about Christian beliefs and practices is, “Well, I just think…” followed by your own personal feelings or opinions. You don’t write the rules.
The Bible says:
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a
…you…have become slaves of God…
If you’re a genuinely regenerated believer, you are the slave of Christ. That means you don’t get to hold, or live by, your own feelings or opinions any more. That’s what lost people do. You are only entitled to God’s opinions as set down in His written Word. Your opinions don’t matter.
When it comes to Christian beliefs and practices, your experiences don’t matter either. It doesn’t matter what kind of so-called supernatural experience you had where you babbled incoherently or “heard God speak” or saw a “vision” or whatever. If your interpretation of your experience conflicts with the written word of God, your interpretation of your experience is wrong. Something may have happened, but it wasn’t God. (And if something supernatural happened and the Bible says God doesn’t work that way, there’s only one other option.)
When you decide what you’re going to believe and do based on your own opinions, feelings, and subjective personal experiences rather than the written word of God, what you’re doing is saying, “I know better than the almighty, all-knowing God of the universe.” You’re setting yourself up as judge over Scripture. You’re in charge, not God. Doesn’t sound much like a slave, does it?
That’s because Scripture says those who truly belong to Christ will have a heart to keep His word. We will stumble and fall along the way. We will sometimes mistakenly believe things we shouldn’t. But one of the hallmarks of a Christian is that she loves and strives to obey God’s word. Because, as Christians, the Bible is our authority.
For the Authority of Scripture by Dr. John MacArthur
Divine Authorship and Authority at Ligonier
The Authority of the Bible by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones