Header Graphic
TIME FOR TRUTH
THE BIBLE > CHAPTER 16

Spiritual Authority

C. S. Lewis once said, “Odd, the way the less the Bible is read the more it is translated.” Whereas there is no shortage of Bible translations in today’s English-speaking world, there is a serious shortage of Bible readers. 
 
According to a recent survey, millions of Americans believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife and Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. What is even more disconcerting, the survey also revealed that one out of five churchgoers believes that there are many ways to Heaven and one out of three believes that Harry Potter is a Biblical story. Such Biblical illiteracy among modern-day churchgoers becomes understandable when one considers that forty percent confess to reading the Bible no more than once or twice a month and that one out of five admit they never read the Bible at all.
 
Charles Haddon Spurgeon once bemoaned the Biblical illiteracy of his day. He spoke of how the saints made “slow advances in the divine life,” despite the fact they heard “many sermons.” He attributed this prevalent spiritual stagnancy to the saints’ unwillingness to personally study the Scripture. He spoke of Christians who claim to love the wheat, but will not grind it; who have the corn, but do not go forth into the fields to gather it; who have the fruit hanging upon the tree, but will not pluck it; and, who have the water flowing at their feet, but will not stoop down to drink it. 
 
Spurgeon concluded that the saints’ inattentiveness to Scripture could be chalked up to their underestimation of its importance. “From such folly,” Spurgeon earnestly prayed, as should we, “deliver us, O Lord.”
 
According to Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., “We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs.” How important is it then for us to know and believe the Bible? After all, if we don’t know it, we can’t believe it, and if we don’t believe it, we won’t live by it. Truly, there is no possibility of progress in the spiritual life apart from proficiency in the Scripture.
 
Our study and grasp of Scripture is also essential to our ability to effectively defend our Christian Faith, something the Bible admonishes all Christians to do. 
  • “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)
  • “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3)   
If we are not well versed in the cardinal doctrines of our Christian Faith, as a result of our serious study of Scripture, how can we defend our faith from attack and answer questions posed about it by others? Truly, our ignorance of God’s Word will render us incapable of even defining our faith, much less defending it, since an undefined faith is indefensible. Indeed, how does one even determine when an undefined faith is under attack?
 
The only appearance of the word “success” in the King James Version of the Bible is in Joshua 1:8. Here, in this unique verse, we are taught that to be a success in God’s eyes is a mere matter of learning and living by His Word. This is, after all, as Jesus taught, the divine intention behind our creation, that we should live “by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”1 Truly, to know the Bible is the greatest knowledge and to obey its teachings is the greatest achievement.
 
As essential as the Bible is to our defense of the Christian Faith, as well as to our own spiritual progress and success, nowhere is its importance more clearly seen than in the matter of spiritual authority. Everyone, whether they realize it or not, has a spiritual authority. Everyone has something or someone by which they determine what to believe and how to behave. 
 
How do you decide what is right and wrong? How do you decide what is true and false? How do you decide what you should and shouldn’t do? The answer to these questions will reveal to you your spiritual authority; that is, who it is or what it is that determines your beliefs and behavior.
 
Your spiritual authority may be a man-made religion, a human philosophy, or a political ideology. Like growing numbers of people in these politically correct times, you may have adopted public opinion as your spiritual authority. You, like millions of others, may be so concerned with winning public approval that you permit your personal beliefs and behavior to be policed by public opinion. Most likely, however, you, like the majority of mankind, have made yourself your own spiritual authority by enthroning your personal opinion over your personal beliefs and behavior.
 
To opt for anything other than the Bible as your spiritual authority is to elevate human reason over divine revelation in your life. It makes no difference if it is personal opinion, public opinion, or the opinion of others; such as religionists, philosophers, or politicians, the bottom line is still the same. You have decided to live by your wit—what you think—rather than God’s Word—what the Bible teaches. Consequently, you have committed the same sin Adam and Eve committed in the shade beneath the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. You have usurped the place of God in your life by making yourself rather than God the final arbiter of good—what is right—and evil—what is wrong.
 
Christians, unlike unbelievers and an unredeemed world, look to the Bible alone as their spiritual authority. The Bible is the Christian’s standard for faith and practice. Right beliefs and right behavior are simply determined by whether or not they are in accordance with what the Bible teaches. If they are, they are right; if not, they are wrong.    
 
Your life in the here-and-now and your eternal destiny in the hereafter will be determined by your answer to this all-important question of spiritual authority. Do you believe the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God? Do you believe it is God’s authoritative and final Word, from which there is no appeal and by which you will be judged? Do you believe, as the Apostle John taught, that to disagree with the Bible is to call God’s Word into question, as well as to call God Himself a liar?2 If you answer “yes” to all of these questions, then your life can be built on a sure foundation and your eternal destiny assured in the here-and-now.
 
On the other hand, if you answer “no” to the questions above, then your life is built on shifting sands and your eternal destiny is most precarious. You have left yourself standing in the here-and-now and staking your eternal destiny in the hereafter on mutable and ephemeral personal or public opinion rather than on the immutable and eternal oracles of God.3 
 
To crown human reason over divine revelation as your spiritual authority is to partake of the forbidden fruit of Eden. It is to make the same fatal mistake as Adam and Eve, which resulted in the forfeiture of eternal life, the Fall of the human race, and the corruption of the world. Make no mistake about it; no usurper of God who deep-sixes the Scripture and obstinately insists upon living forever on his or her own terms will be permitted into God’s paradise to partake of the tree of life in order to live forever.4
 
Choosing to live by your wit rather than God’s Word is a most serious affront to the Almighty. To prefer your own fickle and fallible thinking over the infinite and infallible truths of God’s Word is not only to deify yourself; that is, make yourself your own god,5 but also to defame, as well as profane the one and only true God. In addition to such sacrilege, choosing subjective human opinion over God’s objective Word is also the height of folly. 
 
God’s Word is infallible, immutable, and forever settled in Heaven.6 Its doctrines are unequivocal and its duration unending. On the other hand, human opinion, both personal and public, is always in a constant state of flux. It is ever-changing because it is ever-found fallacious. What greater folly, then, could a man commit than to spurn the one sure foundation of divine objectivity to stake his future, not to mention his eternity, on the ever-shifting sand of human subjectivity, something easily exposed as specious under the least little bit of scrutiny?
 
The Bible is the final and ultimate spiritual authority by which all men will be judged by God. This solemn truth was confirmed by none other than our Lord Himself. During His earthly sojourn, Jesus said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”7 Christ’s Word, the Bible, is the scale upon which we will be weighed and the ruler by which we will be measured when we stand before God on the day of judgment. No wonder Oswald Chambers said, “To silence the Voice of God is damnation in time!” In other words, to silence the Scripture is not only to cut ourselves off from God in the here-and-now, but to assure ourselves of eternal separation from God in the hereafter.
 
Unbeknownst to people today, our present-day world’s slide into perversion and debauchery is in direct correlation with the scrapping of the sacred Scriptures by fallen humanity. Having brushed-off the Bible as an antiquated old relic without modern-day relevance, we’ve set ourselves adrift on a raging sea of human subjectivism. Right and wrong have been reduced to a mere matter of personal opinion, which relegates every man to relativity—the right to do whatever is right in his own eyes. Humanity is left without any moral moorings or compass, since we’ve thoughtlessly tossed overboard the only objective standard—the Bible—by which true morality may be truly known. The tragic consequences, as are becoming appallingly apparent in this time of moral turpitude, are certainly catastrophic. We suddenly find ourselves bogged down in the man-made mire of moral madness, which inevitably occurs when man trumps the precepts of divine revelation with the presumptions of human reason.
 
Did you know that there is no such thing as true morality apart from Christianity? While non-Christians may do moral things, they have no true basis for morality, having rejected the Bible, the sole God-given standard by which right and wrong are determined. Granted, God-given conscience may steer us away from wrongdoing or leave us smitten with guilt for doing wrong. Still, conscience is not an objective standard by which right and wrong may always be determined by all men at all times and in all situations. 
 
To adopt some “holy book” of a false religion, the tenets of a political manifesto, some man-made philosophy, or human opinion—whether personal or public—as one’s spiritual authority is to subject oneself to the sovereignty of human subjectivism. It is to draw errant and erasable tightropes to walk across moral pitfalls. It is to adopt a speculative and ever-shifting standard for faith and practice. It is to seek reconciliation and acceptance with God on the man-made terms of human reason rather than the God-given terms of divine revelation. And it is to structure one’s life on a tumbledown foundation and to seek eternal security on temporal flooring.
 
Although many today, especially acknowledged atheists, argue for the possibility of morality apart from Bible-believing Christianity, their argument is easily debunked. For instance, there is no such thing as a moral atheist. Atheism cannot have morals because it has no God. Without an ultimate spiritual authority—a final arbitrator between right and wrong to whom all men must answer—atheism is robbed of an objective standard by which morality may be determined. Therefore, morality among atheists is reduced to nothing more than a mere matter of personal and particular opinions. Whereas each atheist must determine what is right and wrong for himself, none have the right to dictate his opinion on the matter to others, since the opinion of others is just as authoritative as his own. Granted, atheists may do moral things, but they have no basis for morality, since they have no objective standard by which good and evil may be determined.
 
1 Matthew 4:4
2 1 John 1:10
Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11
Genesis 3:22-24
5 Genesis 3:5
6 Psalm 119:89
7 John 12:48