If we study the Bible we quickly discover that the final word on all matters for the Jews of the Old Testament, and the Christians of the New Testament, was always what the scriptures said. Today, people substitute personal opinions or feelings in place of scriptural authority.
A doctrine known as “Sola Scriptura,” is viewed by some churches in a negative way, giving greater authority to church leadership or traditions, rather than the written word of God. The Catholic doctrine of Sola Scriptura began as a result of the words of Jesus after He asked the disciples who they say He is:
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” ~Matthew 16:16-19 (NKJV)
Peter answers that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God. Then Jesus said to Peter, “I say to you that you are Peter (petros, a small stone), and on this rock (Petra, a large rock, Christ Himself), I will build by church.
The Catholic church and others have misunderstood what Jesus was saying, and interpreted Him as giving total authority to Peter. The Catholic church made Peter, the first Pope, and all after him, the “vicar of Christ.” The church sees the Pope as infallible and his word as equal to scripture, in some instances, even greater than scripture. The problem with this view is that Jesus did not say that Peter was the rock on which the church is built, He said that Christ is the Rock the church is built upon.
Jesus said that Peter was a small stone, but upon the large Rock of truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, He would build His church. This is the “keys to the kingdom,” that Jesus was speaking of. The scriptures that declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. The Christian church is Jesus’ church, built upon the foundation of the law and the prophets, not the opinions of men. Jesus’ church does not consist of denominations, but of people who all believe that Jesus is the Savior.
Jesus always elevated the word of God above the words of men, and no man has the right to supercede scripture with their own words.
A human institution, government, or company can certainly set their policies based on the thoughts and opinions of those who oversee these organizations. Concerning the Christian church, the only authority is the word of God.
The reason is obvious. Men and women are fallible, the word of God is not. People have feelings and these feeling often change. Societies adopt acceptable practices and these also change depending upon how a future people view these past practices. The word of God never changes, because God never changes. What God said at the beginning of His communication with human beings, has never changed and never will.
There were laws that applied to the children of Israel that were instituted by Moses for the Jews that were only for these people, for that time. This is made clear in the scriptures as God tells Moses to give these laws to the children of Israel. Some critics of the law say that if we really believed the Bible has never changed, we should also keep these laws that Moses gave the Jews when they first came into their new land. This is not true, and the scriptures themselves make this clear.
The Three Parts Of God’s Law To The Israelites:
ONE: The Ceremonial Law was specifically given to Israel for worship (Leviticus). These laws were instituted for the purpose of preparing the Israelites for the time when their Messiah would arrive, and ended with the appearance of Jesus as the Messiah. These law described and regulated the procedure for sacrifices and the requirement that were necessary because of sin. The believer in Christ today, no longer must keep the ceremonial laws of Moses because Christ has fulfilled all of these for us.
TWO: The Civil Law was applicable to the Children of Israel for their daily living (Deuteronomy 24). The body of these laws are the primary source of misunderstanding for many people today. These civil laws were only for the Israelites and are not applicable to the believer in Christ today. While the principles behind these laws still have an enduring benefit for everyone today, their actual strict observance is not required. Many of the principles of these laws are highlighted in the text of the New Testament as proper behavior for those who trust in Christ.
THREE: The Moral Law is illustrated by the Ten Commandments. They are the direct commandments of God, and demand obedience (Exodus 20:13). These laws are applicable for every generation and will never end.
The question for us today is whether God expects us to also keep the Ceremonial and Civil laws described by Leviticus and Deuteronomy. This question came up not long after the Christian church began in the first century. The Jews who observed Gentiles coming to Christ, insisted that they also keep the laws of Moses.
Acts 15:1 While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Acts 15:5-6 But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.” So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue.
The question of whether the Christian church was required to keep all the laws of Moses as they believed upon Jesus, was address in the Book of Acts, chapter 15. A determination was made by all the Apostles that under the New Covenant of Salvation that was made possible by Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Laws of Moses were no longer applicable to those who believe in Jesus, with the exception of four:
- Do not eat meat sacrificed to idols.
- Do not commit sexual sin
- Do not eat meat where the blood has not been bled out.
- Do not drink blood.
Acts 15:11-21 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus… And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to 1. abstain from eating food offered to idols, 2. from sexual immorality, 3. from eating the meat of strangled animals, and 4. from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.
These strange Old Testament laws of mixing fabrics, stoning people to death for sins, daughters sold into slavery, and laws regulating menstruation, genital emission, and many others, were only applicable for the Children of Israel, before Messiah arrived. The purpose of these strict laws were to establish the holiness of God in the minds of the people. Anyone who wanted to approach the God of the Hebrews, must also be holy and separate from the practices of the pagan nations that surrounded them.
The purpose of God’s laws for the Children of Israel was intended as an example to the world that those who will know and worship the God of the Bible must be separate from the traditions of this world. This is the basis of the word “Holy.”
Some of the Pharisees accused Jesus of seeking to do away with the Laws of Moses, but Jesus said just the opposite:
Matthew 5:17-20 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said that all of the laws of Moses were still in effect, but they are fulfilled by His death and resurrection. Every person who seeks to be redeemed from their sins by the death and resurrection of Jesus, He fulfilled these laws for us. By Jesus’ perfect life in keeping all these Old Testament laws faultlessly, we also fulfill all of these laws. As Jesus’ death takes our sins away, His righteousness imparts perfection to us. Jesus came and lived a perfect life and kept all the Laws of Moses for us, because we are not capable of this perfection ourselves. Everyone who places all their trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, and receives the salvation He offers the world, is seen by God as also perfectly keeping all the laws of God.
Jesus clarified this issue by saying that not even the “jot or tittle,” the smallest marks on the Hebrew words, will be done away with. Jesus said that anyone who breaks or teaches others to not obey these laws will be held accountable by God. Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, if we will enter heaven. It is by placing our salvation in the hands of Jesus that we fulfill even the Jot and Tittle of the Law and are fully qualified for heaven.
The Final Authority Today In All Matters
Paul in writing instruction to Timothy, said that scripture is the authority is settling matters of doctrine, to reprove a person’s bad behavior, to correct actions not proper, and to instruct Christians in how to live righteously.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
The reason that the scriptures are the final authority in all matters is because they come from God. Unique men who had set themselves apart from this world, yielded completely to God, were chosen by Him to write the doctrines, principles, statutes, and laws of God in the Bible.
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. ~2 Peter 1:20-21 (NKJV)
The Bible describes the Holy Spirit of God as the agent that chose and used men of God to write the Word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21). The Holy Spirit did not erase the personalities or natural characteristics of the writers. In truth, God in His wisdom and sovereignty prepared the writers He chose for writing the Scriptures.
Each writer of the scriptures has their own distinctive style and vocabulary. Each book of the Bible came about because of a special set of circumstances that each writer was placed into by God. God, in His preparation of men, and in His guiding of all history, and in the ways He worked through the Spirit, He brought about the singularity of the Scriptures.
Understanding the power, wisdom, and abilities of God in creating this majestic universe, we can certainly comprehend how He could ensure that certain men would write precisely what He wanted and preserve His word through every generation. Any person who doubts this is possible simply does not comprehend the power and abilities of God.
The tem “inspiration”does not mean the same as it does in human thought. Human inspiration to write a great novel. beautiful work of poetry, or manuscript for an award winning movie, is not the same as inspiration from God.
Biblical inspiration is the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon the writers of the scriptures, that guarantees that what they wrote was accurate and trustworthy. The process of revelation, where God reveals things to mankind that are not possible to know apart from His giving of knowledge, means that truth can be communicated to us by God and it can be tested and relied upon.
The primary way in which people of the Old Testament tested the words of God as they were written by the prophets, was by the fulfillment of their earlier prophecies that were written by these men. It was quite easy to test the reliability of these prophets because their earlier prophecies were fulfilled during the lifetime of the prophet. If any part of these early predictions failed, the prophet was stoned to death and all of his words were stricken from the record.
Conversely, if the prophets earlier predictions came to pass exactly as he had written, his later prophecies could also be trusted to come about exactly as he has written.
The people who were under Moses’ leadership, wondered how they could test the words of anyone who claimed to be a prophet, to prove whether he was speaking for God or was an imposter. God gave the people the following guidelines to accomplish this important task:
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. ~Deuteronomy 18:20-22
The test is very simple: examine the words of the prophet with the record of history and see if what the prophet wrote, came true. If his words did come to pass, this man was a true prophet and the Lord had spoken through him. If the words of the prophet failed, he was a false prophet and no one should listen to him; they should not be afraid of him.
When we see the words of the Prophet which are written in the Bible, and understand that they have survived for nearly 3,500 years, in some cases, we understand that these prophets have passed this test that God gave. Remember, these men made earlier predictions that must happen during their life, so that they could be verified. When we see Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and others, we understand that their earlier prophecies came about just as they had predicted. Therefore, we can trust that what they said about future events, also will come to pass, precisely as they wrote.
How Jesus Controlled the Earlier and Later Fulfillment of Prophecy
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me.” ~Isaiah 61:1a
There are four prophecies from Isaiah Chapter 61:1-2 that speak in detail of the Messiah’s introduction to the world. They are undoubtedly some of the most amazing predictions that are given to us by God, in the Bible.
As Jesus comes into Nazareth, He arrives at the synagogue to serve on a specific Sabbath as the guest speaker. He is handed the scroll from the Prophet Isaiah, which has apparently already been unrolled to the portion of scripture that would be read on that specific day. Amazingly, the verses of scripture which has been chosen for Jesus to read from is Isaiah 61:1-2:
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed, To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,…” Then He closed the book. —Luke chapter 4
Luke Records What Happened Next:
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus stopped reading mid-sentence at Isaiah’s prophecy: “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord….”
The rest of the verse declares:
“and the day of vengeance of our God.”
As Jesus closes the scroll and hands it back to the attendant, He speaks to those who have gathered—the incredible words:
“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Those who heard Jesus speak were wondering two things about the manner in which He had read from Isaiah 61, and the commentary that He had made concerning this verse of scripture.
First, why Jesus did not read the entire text.
Second, how it was possible the he was fulfilling the text.
According to Isaiah, this prophecy could only be fulfilled by the coming of the Messiah. Therefore, by stating that today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing, Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. This prophecy also speaks of two important points that will be accomplished by the arrival of the Messiah.
First: At His first arrival He will proclaim the acceptable time for salvation.
Second: At His return He will bring the vengeance of God.
Most scholars of that day believed that the fulfillment of this prophecy would be accomplished at the same time. By omitting the second part of Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus was making it clear that the purpose of His first arrival was to bring to the world the acceptable time when God will save all those who come to Him through the sacrifice of the Messiah.
This Emblem Of Fulfilled Prophecy Is Where The Bible Derives Its Authority
The people of the Old Testament had the opportunity to test all the words of the men who claimed to speak for God. They were tested and passed or we would not be reading their texts in the Hebrew scriptures, not translated into many languages all over the world.
Jesus and all of His disciples, believed all of the texts of the Old Testament. There is not a single place in the New Testament where any of these men questioned the reliability or truth of what the 39 books of the Old Testament contained. We can have confidence today that these words of the prophets, written in the Old Testament, are the words of God exactly as He intended.
In the same way, we can trust the New Testament as the word of God because much of the verification for what these men wrote in the 27 books of the New Testament, contain thousands of scriptures that came from these prophets who had been proven and tested. When Paul went to teach the Christians who lived at Thessalonica, he commended them for accepting what he was teaching them about Christ, as direct from God, scriptures equal to those of the Old Testament.
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. ~1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV)
Paul claimed, and proved that what he wrote in the text of his letters, was direct from Christ, who told him what to write. Paul was one of the preeminent Jewish scholars of that day who was proficient in both Koine-Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Notice in the letters of Paul how he states clearly that what he is writing, came directly from Jesus:
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. ~1 Thessalonians 4:15 (NKJV)
Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. ~1 Corinthians 9:14 (NKJV)
Paul also differentiates between what is his opinion and what is direct from Christ:
Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. ~1 Corinthians 7:25 (NKJV)
From this brief essay, we can see that God intended that we use His word to settle all matters that concern this earthly life. This was the reason He gave us the scriptures, and He intends that we rely only upon what the Bible says, and not what men say.
- Is The Bible Filled With Contradictions?
- Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?
- Is The New Testament Filled With Errors?
- Has The Text Of The New Testament Been Changed?
- How Forensic Evidence Proves The New Testament Is Historical And Reliable
 1. The Catholic Church has declared that, in virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error “when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.” Henry Edward Manning (1871). De Fide, quaest. xii, apud Rocaberti, tom. xx, p. 388, quoted in The Vatican Council and Its Definitions: Pastoral Letter to the Clergy. p. 105. Retrieved 17 February 2013. Ferre also writes:”The exposition of certain Paris (doctors) is of no avail, who affirm that Christ only promised that the faith should not fail of the Church founded upon Peter; and not that it should not fail in the successors of Peter taken apart from (seorsum) the Church”
2. This doctrine was defined by the First Ecumenical Council of the Vatican of 1869–1870 in the document Pastor aeternus, but had been defended before that, existing already in medieval theology and being the majority opinion at the time of the Counter-Reformation. Brian Gogan (1982). The Common Corps of Christendom: Ecclesiological Themes in the Writings of Sir Thomas More. Books.google.com. p. 33. ISBN 9004065083. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
Categories: Alleged Contradictions, Bible, How The NT Writers Remembered, Messianic Prophecies, New Testament Criticism, Origin of the four Gospels, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Robert Clifton Robinson, The Importance of the Bible
Dear Mr. Robinson,
The theme and content of your excellent essay “Scripture Is The Only Authority In All Matters Concerning Christianity” is an opportunity for me to seek help from you regarding Luke 22: 35-38.
The thrust of this letter is to bemoan the fact that bible commentators offer incongruent explanations and verge on opinion if not outright speculation regarding scripture interpretation. This causes denominationalism and widespread apostasy; true seekers of God become disillusioned.
Luke 22: 35-38 (KJV) is a good example:
35 And He said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.
36 Then said He unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his script: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
37For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in Me, And He was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning Me have an end.
38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said unto them, It is enough.
And here is my problem: Some commentators say that the Lord is advising his disciples to actually arm themselves with conventional weapons for protection against adversaries. Other commentators suggest the disciples intuitively understood the Lord to mean using the spiritual sword to defend the Gospel.
The context is that the disciples currently had His Protection but that He would be fulfilling scripture soon, leaving them to fend for themselves. To engage in violence, however, is contrary to His Teachings and, in defiance to the other school of thought, a person cannot just go out and buy a spiritual sword.
Even the words in 38 “It is enough” has varying interpretations. Was the Lord saying that two swords was enough, or did He mean “End of conversation”? Even these commentators seem opinionated.
Therefore, regarding these scriptures in Luke, I can only speculate that the Lord knew the disciples would be challenged by those locked in the Law of Moses, and, based on the display of violence to which these hateful people resorted, the Lord warns His disciples that their faith indeed will be challenged as well.
But, if the disciples apply the teachings of the Lord and keep their strong faith, I have no doubt that God would enable the disciples to be defensive but offensive enough with the sword to bring the physical conflict to a stalemate. Neutralizing an adversary using their own form of warfare opens the door for dialogue.
This was, in my opinion, the intent of the Lord back then, as it is nowadays. However, this is just my opinion. It is all speculation which still leaves me out at sea.
If you would, Mr. Robinson, kindly provide your insight regarding these Luke passages. I believe you are scripturally equipped and able to shed good light on this subject based on your insightful authorship.
Steve Rodak 10/5/20
It is impossible to ignore what Jesus has said, nor is it reasonable to over spiritualize the meaning of the word, “sword.”
Luke is the only writer who includes this text. We must understand that Luke is a detailed and accurate historian and never writes anything that was not fully investigated.
Before Jesus was raised from the dead, He sent out His disciples empty-handed. They were not to take a purse or money, not even extra clothing. They would find that God would supply all their needs as they went out with the Gospel to tell people the good news.
Now as Jesus is about to give His life and be crucified, things are going to change. He will still take care of those whom He sends with the message of salvation, but not in the same way. Now they will have to take money, food, clothing. Friends will still help, but they will not find friends everywhere. There will be danger and people who will try to kill them. They will need protection and this will be such a necessity that they will have to sell a covering used at night to keep them warm, to buy a Roman short sword, only for protection, not for assault.
It seems that it is better to be cold at night than to be killed by evil men while preaching the gospel.
The problem with this text is that many people will take this as permission from Jesus to be aggressive in their Christian life, even killing people who resist them. Jesus is not saying this. In fact, later when Peter draws his sword to defend Jesus, he does this very thing; Peter is aggressive to attack an enemy, and Jesus scolds him and tells him this is not what He meant.
A man has a right to defend his home, his family, and his life, by force, if necessary. He does not have the right as a follower of Jesus, to kill unless his life, property or family is threatened.
In my own life I have had people take my property and I felt the impulse to defend myself, but the Lord told me to let it go. I did this and it had a much greater effect upon my own heart, and the hearts of those who took my property, than if I had used force.
Jesus also said that we are not to resist an evil person (Matthew 5:38-42). If they take one thing, offer them the rest also. This is an opportunity for us to change hearts, not to keep possessions. More than this, when we are willing to give up anything to reach a person, it changes our hearts.
Each of us must make up our minds what we are willing to do in a situation where life and property are threatened. If my family was threatened by an evil person, I would defend and kill the people seeking to harm those I love. If an evil person, or even another Christian were to take my property, I would most likely not resist, take no action, but commit these things to the Lord and let Him avenge and justify me.
I commend you, Steve, on your foresight and insight into this important text. You are a true student of God’s word.