What is the source of the Christian’s authority? The classical Protestant answer is the revealed Word of God, the Bible. –James Montgomery Boice ((Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology, p. 47.))
The scriptures are our authority for life and faith. They are our authority because they are the very words of God. Theologian Wayne Grudem defines the authority of scripture this way:
“The authority of scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.” ((Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine, p. 73.))
Grudem’s definition makes sense. It makes sense that God’s words are authoritative because He is God. The question then becomes whether the scriptures are in fact His words. If we investigate the scriptures, we will find the biblical writers believe the scriptures are God’s words.
Saint Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). This verse is sometimes translated “inspired by God.” But the term “inspired” is not technically accurate, and it has been diluted over the years besides. It is not technically accurate because scripture is not in-spired, but in the Greek, it says scripture is literally God-breathed, or God-spired. Inspired is also too overused to be clear. We say an artist’s work was inspired or that a performance was inspired. This is not what Paul meant by the term theopnuestos, God-breathed.
So what exactly does it mean that scripture is God-breathed? How does that work? Saint Peter gives us some help here. Peter writes, “No prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet. 1:21). In this verse, Peter captures two descriptive features of inspiration, namely, that it is a divine process and it is a human process.
To the latter, Peter notes that “men…spoke.” They were real, living-breathing men who “wrote out of their own experience. They used their own vocabulary. The literary polish of their writings varies. They sometimes use secular sources. They are selective. In many ways the books of the Bible bear evidence of having been written by people who were very human and very much people of their time.” ((Boice, ibid, p. 41)) They used a particular language with a particular set of grammatical rules. They used idioms of their day, contemporary writing conventions, and so forth. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God spoke by the prophets “in many and various ways” (Heb. 1:1), and this seems to be reflected throughout the Old and New Testaments. We can conclude the writing of scripture was undoubtedly a human endeavor, but it was not merely a human endeavor.
Peter says the writers did not write according to their own will but were moved by the Holy Spirit and that they spoke from God. James M. Boice points out that the Greek word for “moved by” (phero) is the same word used in Acts 27:15 to describe a ship “driven” by a storm. Boice concludes:
“Luke (who wrote Acts) was saying that the ship was at the mercy of the storm. It did not cease to be a ship, but it did cease to have control over its course and destination. Similarly, Peter teaches that the writers of the Bible were borne along in their writing to produce the words which God intended to be recorded. They wrote as people, but as people moved by the Holy Spirit. The result was the revelation of God.” ((Boice, ibid, pp. 41-42))
As we see the divine direction and control of scripture emerge, we see also its authority rise. As its authority rises so its use and usefulness begins to shine. It then makes sense that Paul would follow up the statement “All Scripture is breathed out by God” with “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Of course! If it is God’s word, then we should teach it! We should herald it from the roof tops. If it is God’s word, then it becomes the standard by which everything is measured, the source of reproof and correction. If it is God’s word, then of course it is useful for training in righteousness because it was written by the One who made us and knows how we work best.
May we then lash ourselves to the mast of Scripture and say with Martin Luther, “My conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God.”