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Don Stewart :: What Mistakes Do Bible-Believers Make in the Area of the Authority of Scripture?

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Don Stewart

There are those who do not accept the Bible as the final rule of all matters of faith and practice. For them, there is no ultimate source of authority in the Scriptures. However those who accept the Bible as the final source of authority sometimes make their own mistakes when it comes to the matter of final authority. The problems come in the following areas.

1. Church Creeds

Church creeds are summarized statements of belief - they state what Christians believe. While creeds can be helpful, they are sometimes placed ahead of the authority of the Bible. Creeds should never be considered infallible and should always be open to being rewritten. Unfortunately many Christians pay more attention to church creeds than to what the Bible actually says.

2. Tradition

While giving lip-service to the Bible as the final authority, some groups, for all intents and purposes, have put some sort of tradition as their authority. The Bible does tell believers to submit to church authority.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. . . Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:7,17)

Although the church should set guidelines, these guidelines are not infallible.

3. Religious Experience (Mysticism)

Many Christians place their own personal experience above what is revealed in Scripture. This is also known as mysticism. While they insist that the Bible alone is their final authority, their personal experience often determines truth. This is very dangerous because experience can be misleading. There needs to be a standard by which the experience is tested. Christian experience is a witness to the truth but it does not determine truth.

How can anyone we know when the Lord is "leading" them? Upon what basis can we evaluate our own experience or that of someone else? The only firm foundation for evaluating Christian experience is the teaching of Scripture.

There Is A True Mysticism

There is, however, a form of true mysticism. God still speaks to His people today through the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit illuminates the minds of believers to allow them to understand the truth of the Bible.

Those who are mystics in the biblical sense of the term accept the Scripture as the final authority on all matters. They seek to judge their own personal experience by the Bible. They do not allow personal experience to take precedence over the Bible nor do they judge the Scripture by their own experience. Scripture always has the last word.

4. Religious Systems

Some Bible-believers place religious systems ahead of the teachings of Scripture. Everything they read and study is understood in light of their pre-determined religious system. While it is helpful to systematize the truths of Scripture, the problem is that the Bible will not so easily fit into these systems. When there is a conflict, it is the Bible that bends to the system, rather than the system to the Bible.

This is not the way that it should be done. We have no right to twist the meaning of Scripture to fit some preconceived system.

5. Popular Bible Teachers

A mistake that is often made in Christian circles is to elevate the teachings of a popular Bible teacher to the same level as Scripture. While great Bible teachers may provide wonderful insight into the Scriptures, every thing that they say should be tested. No one, no matter how learned, has all the answers. That is why the Scripture tells us to test the spirits. John wrote.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).

6. The New Testament Only

Some groups reject any teaching from the Old Testament. Although they claim to recognize the entire Bible as authoritative, in reality, they will accept nothing from the Old Testament as having any authority, no matter what the context. This approach is in contradiction to Paul's statement to Timothy.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

7. Only The Things That Are Culturally Relevant

There is also the position that the Bible should only be considered authoritative in those places where it is culturally relevant. This position rejects any part of Scripture that has no relevance for modern humanity. The problem with this view is that each believer decides for himself or herself what is relevant and what is not. This takes the authority away from God and puts it into the hands of sinful humanity.

8. Only The Things They Like

There is also the tendency of believers to ignore commands that they do not like. Instead of accepting the entire Bible as binding they pick and choose what parts they will obey and what parts they will ignore. This robs the Bible of its authority and gives each individual believer the final say on what is from God and what is not.

Not Add Or Take Away

When Christians do anything other than accept the entire Scripture as the authoritative word of God they are violating what the Bible says about itself. The Book of Revelation says.

And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:19).


Bible-believing Christians sometimes fall into the trap of allowing something apart from the entire Bible to be their ultimate source of authority. Whether it may be church creeds, tradition, a religious experience, a religious system, the doctrine of a popular Bible teacher, the New Testament only, only the things that are culturally relevant or only the things they like. None of these should replace the entire Scripture as the ultimate source of authority. The Bible repeatedly commands believers to make their own decisions about spiritual things by searching the Scriptures.

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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