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What Is Your Final Authority?

As we live our lives we all have a final authority for the way we live them. For some the final authority is themselves. For some it is their church or religion. For some it is someone who is highly respected. For the true New Testament Baptist it is the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. What we choose to make our authority determines the way we live our lives.

Even though many Christians give lip service to the Bible being their final authority, few make it so. There may be a variety of reasons for this. I recently spoke to a person that said they trust their Sunday school teacher and pastor for understanding the Scriptures because she had not been taught how to study the Word of God for herself. This makes the Sunday school teacher and the pastor her final authority.

How can the Scriptures be one’s final authority if they are not understood. Christians must be taught how to study God’s Word so they understand it themselves. This is the only way they can truly hide God’s Word in their hearts.

One of the main reasons there are so many who depend on their pastor or Sunday school teacher for understanding is because too many of the teachers say things like, “in the Greek this really means…” How many ordinary Christians have the ability to read and understand the Greek? How many teachers who say this kind of thing can read and understand the Greek? I can tell you from experience that very few of either have the knowledge necessary to say how the Greek should be translated. This is why God has given us His Word in our own language.

I do know that it would be very difficult to bring together a group of more that fifty scholars today who could match the qualifications of those who translated the King James Bible. Many of the KJV translators could read and write elegant Greek and Hebrew by the time they were eight to ten years old. They also knew the sister languages which helps in the understanding of the words used. The fact that I speak French helps clarify the meaning of English words that have Latin or French origins.

Another reason that many who claim the Bible as their authority don’t really make it their authority is that they have not read it for themselves. They have depended upon what others have told them it says. What people say the Bible says is not always what it says.

Just reading the Bible is not enough. For example, many say that Revelation 1:3, promises a blessing for just reading the Word of God. But what does this verse actually say? It says, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”

You will notice that the promise of blessing is not just for reading. The blessing requires three things. It must be read to find out what it says. It must be heard or understood. It must be kept or put into practice. All three are necessary for blessings to come. The blessings come from the keeping more than from the reading.

A third reason that many don’t make the Bible their final authority is that when the Scripture does not say what they want it to say, they will try to find a way to say that it does not mean what it says. One of the main examples I see among Bible believing Baptists relates to what is said in Titus Chapter two concerning women being “keepers at home.” I have heard good men change this to say “keepers of the home.” That is not what it says, nor is it what it means. Without getting into a long dissertation on this just let me say that it means just what it says. If you want the full implication, it means to be physically present to guard the home. One lexicon actually uses the example of a guard dog. The dog cannot guard my home if he is always gone to guard the home of someone else.

The following three passages of Scripture tell us why the Word of God should always be our final authority.

Proverbs 21:30 says “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.”

No one has more or better wisdom than God. No one has better understanding of creation and what is best. No one’s counsel can stand before Him. God is always right and anyone that disagrees with Him is always wrong.

Jeremiah 10:23 “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”

This tells us that we are not able to direct our own steps. We need God’s word to guide us through the snares of this life. Satan is subtle and has thousands of years experience to use in deceiving us. Who do we think we are? We need God’s word to guide us.

In Psalms 37:23 we are told, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” A good man is a man who seeks God’s counsel in all things. His steps are ordered by the Lord.

There are two ways the phrase “he delighteth in his way” can be understood. It could mean that the good man delights in his way when he allows his steps to be ordered of God. It could also mean that God delights in the way of a good man who allows his steps to be guided by the Lord. It depends on the antecedent of the pronoun “he.” Either way, it is a good thing to have one’s steps ordered by the Lord.

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Do We Believe The Bible?

In my study of Baptists I have found that their number one distinctive is that the Bible is their sole authority for faith and practice. I have asked before how many of us, as Baptists really believe the Bible.

The Scriptures teach clearly that the church and the body of Christ are the same thing.

Ephesians 1:22-23 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Colossians 1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:

The body of Christ is described in I Corinthians Chapter 4 as a local body. It functions together as a unit. When one member suffers the whole body suffers. When one member rejoices the whole body rejoices.

In verse 27 Paul tells the church at Corinth that they are the body of Christ. By saying “ye are the body of Christ,” Paul shows that he is not part of that body. If he was, he would have said “we are the body of Christ.”

Verse 13 is used by those who believe in a universal church to make the body spoken of in this passage into a universal body. Actually, the verse is in perfect agreement with Acts chapter 2 verse 41: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”

Acts Chapter 2 starts out with a church of about 120 souls meeting together. They had a business meeting to choose a successor to Judas. There was a great movement of the Holy Spirit in that meeting and He gave them the ability to speak languages they had never learned. They went out into the streets and started preaching in those languages. The result was more that 3,000 souls being saved.

The only message God chose to preserve in His Word as the one preached by Peter. Those who received the word preached by Peter, and I suppose the others, were then baptized and added unto them, the church that met on that morning (see verse 47).

The word “church” or “churches” is used 117 times in the New Testament. There is not one single time that it is used in a sense that indicates that the church is anything but a local assembly. There are a few times, very few, that could have that meaning, but only if you come to them with the preconceived idea of a universal church. You can get my book “The Universal Church: Fact or Fiction” to learn more on this subject.

I went into this discussion of the universal church to show how many say they believe the Bible when they don’t really. Historically Baptists have stood against the idea of a universal church. Prior to the Reformation the doctrine was different than it is now. It taught a universal, visible church. This was the Catholic (universal) church and it taught that there was no salvation outside the church. The Baptists stood against this from it inception in the fourth century until some time after the Reformation.

The reformers, who were no longer part of the Catholic Church, were now outside of the “universal church” and had a real problem if there is no salvation outside the church. They invented a new doctrine, the doctrine of the universal, invisible church where only God knows who is a member.

Non-Baptists, like C.I. Scofield, put the universal church in their study Bibles, theology books used in Baptist bible colleges were written by non-Baptists and many Baptists now accept the word of these men instead of the searching the Scriptures to find the truth.

My whole point in this article is that we should be Bereans and search the Scriptures to see what is true and not take the words and opinions of men. Great men can be wrong. Abraham, Moses, and David, for example, made a number of mistakes, yet they were great men of God.