Scriptural Authority, the Old Testament and Biblical Considerations

Scriptural Authority, the Old Testament and Biblical Considerations:                      2011 By Jack Kettler                                  

The authority of Scripture flows from the fact that it is God’s Word. As will be shown in this study, the Scriptures declare themselves to be God’s Word. It follows necessarily, that the Scriptures are authoritative. We will also see clear Biblical evidence that the people of Israel had an objective written Scriptural canon and the importance of this to safe guard against false teachers.

The prophet Isaiah declares the power of God’s Word when it is sent forth:

 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Isaiah 55:11 David in the Psalms further confirms this truth:

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. And, …The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Psalms 33:6, 11

Not only is God and His Word irresistible when sent forth, it is important to see at the start of this study just how closely God is identified with the Scriptures.

Consider this example from the book of Romans:

 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. Romans 10:11
The apostle Paul in the book of Romans says, “For the scripture saith.” It is significant to note, when you consult Isaiah 28:16 whom the apostle is quoting, you find that it is God speaking.

To establish this further:

 Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Isaiah 28:16

And then in Romans we also read:
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Romans 9:17
Was God speaking or the Scriptures? If there is any doubt, we know for sure after reading Exodus 9:16 that it is God speaking whereas, Romans says, “the scripture saith.” Therefore, it is clear that God and the Scriptures are so closely identified as to be synonymous. In essence, we learn from these examples, “thus saith the Lord God” and the phrase “the Scriptures saith” can be and are used interchangeably.

As stated at the beginning, it should be obvious from the Biblical passages seen thus far, that God’s Word is inseparable from His authority. His Word conveys His authority. A real issue today is one of authority. What role does the Bible have? False religious leaders attack the reliability of the Bible in order to subordinate people to their own authority. The pattern is always the same; the claim is “the Bible is not sufficient.”

The attacks upon Biblical authority and sufficiency are sometimes very subtle, although at times bold claims are made about alleged missing or corrupted parts of the Scriptures. You supposedly need their leaders, traditions, books, or special insights to make up for the missing or unclear parts of the Bible.

The Scriptures declare God to be Sovereign or the absolute ruler over all. God has either preserved His Word from corruption or He has not. These are the only two choices. It is evident from the Scriptures that God has the power to preserve His Word from corruption as evidenced by the testimony of the Scriptures themselves.

Since the Christian recognizes the authority of Scripture we will examine what God has revealed in the Bible about his Word. The Bible provides a powerful testimony concerning itself. God has clearly spoken in the Bible. We can have the utmost confidence in Scripture.

The Biblical view of the Old Testament Scriptures:

The Scriptural passages in this section of the present study give Biblical rationale for putting confidence in the Word of God. The passages cited in this section from the Old Testament clearly teach that the Old Testament itself is the Word of God. The New Testament passages cited in this section clearly refer to the Old Testament as Scripture or the very Word of God. Because of this, there is no reason to doubt that the Old Testament is the Word of God.

The following five passages speak of the Word of God:

 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandment of the Lord your God which I command you. Deuteronomy 4:2

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. Proverbs 30:5-6

Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded. Proverbs 13:13

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever. Isaiah 40:8

We see that these five passages set God’s Word apart from the writings of men, by the fact that God’s words are “pure,” “a lamp and light,” and are “eternal.” If you despise the Word by rejecting or altering it you will be destroyed. What man can claim this about his writings? Not one!
And furthermore, when reading the Old Testament there is no mistaking that God is speaking to man. Beginning in Genesis 1:3 you have the phrase “And God said.” or the similar phrase “And the Lord said.” Exodus 32:9. In addition, you have God speaking using the familiar terminology “Thus saith the Lord” or “saith the Lord” in places such as Genesis 22:16; Exodus 5:1; all the way to Malachi 1:2. In the prophets we read passages like “And say, Here ye the word of the Lord” Jeremiah 19:3. There are many variations of these above phrases. In fact, there are many hundreds of Old Testament passages like this, which establish the divine authenticity of the Old Testament.
How does the New Testament view the Old? For the remainder of this study we will see a consistent New Testament testimony.

Consider the importance of the following New Testament verse:

 These were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11

This should be the practice of all believers. The believers in Berea used the Scriptures as a test for the truth or falsity of a given message and are commended for this practice. In this particular instance, the Bereans were commended for examining even the Apostle Paul’s message. Surely, this gives the individual Christian the basis for questioning church doctrine if not established Biblically. In regards to the above passage, it should be noted that this verse from Acts 17:11 deals primarily with the Old Testament Scriptures, since at this stage in redemptive history the New Testament was in the process of being given and complied. Because of this, we can infer that the Old Testament is the Word of God. It was the Old Testament that was searched by the Bereans to see if Paul’s message was true.

Consider the words of Christ himself when speaking of the Old Testament Scriptures:

 …the Scripture cannot be broken. John 10:35

This passage speaks directly of the Old Testament but goes beyond them and refers to the New Testament as well. If the Scriptures “cannot be broken,” then we are to bind ourselves to its teaching. Unquestionably, according to our Lord here in John’s gospel the Scriptures are set forth as the highest court of appeal.

How did the Old Testament prophecy of Scripture come?

The Apostle Peter teaches that the Scriptures came from God as the Spirit of God moved holy men to speak:

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. II Peter 1:20,21

In this passage, Peter clearly sets the Old Testament apart from human writings. The apostle Paul says the same thing when he tells us that it was the “oracles” or the very Word of God, which was committed to the Jewish people in the Old Testament. Consider Paul’s germane teaching:

Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. Romans 3:2

We also find that the word translated “oracles” occurs in the New Testament several more times. For example, in Acts 7:38, Hebrews 5:12, and 1 Peter 4:11 we see “oracles” mentioned. These examples are all referring to the Scriptures as being that which was spoken by God.

In the next passage from Luke, Jesus is referring to the Old Testament Scriptures. How did Christ view these Scriptures? To begin with, Jesus establishes His identity from the Scriptures. And secondly, He did not believe any portions of Scripture had disappeared or existed in some separate body of oral traditions as evidenced by the phrase “in all the Scriptures.”

Christ appealing to an objective body of writings:

 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27

Along this same line, after Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah in Luke 4:18,19 He says:

And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears. Luke 4:21

Not only does Christ identify Isaiah’s writing as Scripture he goes on later in Luke 16:30,31 to show the importance of Scriptural testimony as over against even a miracle such as someone returning from the dead. This is significant because it sets forth the Scriptures as more important than experience.

Consider another important passage from Luke:

 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. Luke 16:29

This passage reinforces the authority of the Old Testament, because Moses and the prophets spoke the Word of God with finality and we are told to “hear them.” At this point because of the relevance of the above passage it would be good to note the necessity of using the Scriptures to interpret experience. This is of the utmost importance. Many people use experience and emotions or feelings to interpret the Bible without even realizing it.

The careful reader of God’s Word should use the grammar and historical context when interpreting the Scriptures. You should not come to the text with preconceived ideas that may color your interpretation. People whom claim to have had spiritual experiences often fall into the trap of allowing the experience to influence their understanding of a particular text of Scripture. The experience in effect governs the interpretation the Scripture and inevitably leads to error.

We see more of Christ’s view of Scripture in the gospel of John: “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God” 5:18. In this passage Jesus responds to the Jew’s attempt to kill him because of His claim of Deity by appealing to the Old Testament Scripture again: “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” John 5:46,47.

The crux of Christ’s argument is an admonition to search the Old Testament Scriptures, which further establishes their credibility and authority. Hopefully this important affirmation by the Saviour concerning the authority of the Old Testament Scripture is not overlooked.

It is significant to see how Jesus makes this connection:

 Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. John 5:39

In this passage from John, Jesus tells the disciples about one of the most important testimonies of the Scriptures, namely, how His person and work are inseparably connected to the Scriptures. More will be said later on the importance of this.

We should note how God speaking in and through the Scriptures, directs His people to study the Scriptures in order to gain patience, comfort, and hope. The apostle Paul gives the believer assurance by clearly referring to the Old Testament Scriptures as the place to obtain these very things.

Consider this statement of the apostle Paul, which confirms this:

 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience

and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4

It should be established beyond any doubt that the New Testament consistently calls the Old Testament the Scriptures or in other words, the Word of God. Another issue that needs to be addressed is whether Old Testament people of God had possession of the Scriptures in a identifiable or recognizable form. It should be noted that the Scriptures were read and studied in the synagogues of ancient Israel. The people of Israel were to commit God’s Word to memory and teach it to their children and write them on the door-posts of their houses. This command of God has tremendous implications in the life of every day believers.

Consider God’s Command:

 And these words, which I commanded thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9

This verse shows us that there was a daily ongoing reading and teaching of the Scriptures, which created a deep respect in Israel for the Word of God. There was a reverence for God’s Word in Israel. In fact, Israel has been known as “people of the book.” As God spoke in the Old Testament, these words were recorded and faithfully transcribed to preserve this Word for proceeding generations. This preservation is evidenced by the fact that the Scriptures were read in the synagogues of Israel. Christ himself read and taught the Word in the synagogues. Luke 4:16-21

The astute reader will notice that Jesus “closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister.” Jesus was demonstrating that Israel had the Word of God in written form. Israel did not just have fragments of God’s Word; they had a recognizable body of writing. So it is not surprising in Luke’s gospel we see clear indication for the Old Testament authoritative books, or the canon of Scripture that existed in Christ’s day:

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Luke 24:44

This verse refers to the three sections of the Old Testament canon. The Old Testament canon consisted of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings in which the Psalms was a part. There was clearly, a distinguishable structure and list of authoritative books in the Old Testament at this point in redemptive history.

In the following passage we find more proof that establishes a distinguishable written canon of Scripture in Christ’s day:

 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation. From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation. Luke 11:50,51

This passage sets the time frame for Old Testament prophetic revelation between the death of Abel in Genesis 4:8 and Zechariah’s death. The death of Zechariah is recorded in II Chronicles 24:20,21. At first sight this seems to present a problem because of the order of our modern Bibles. It would seem to exclude any Old Testament books following II Chronicles. In Christ’s day the canon of the Old Testament had the book of Chronicles, which was not then divided, placed out of historical order in the Jewish canon and was found after Ezra and Nehemiah, thus making it the last book of the Jewish canon. So according to this order, Zecharias was the last sufferer at the hands of the Old Testament religious apostates.

The testimony of the Scriptures stands sure. That testimony is that the Old Testament is the Word of God. It can be said with certainty; there was indeed a distinguishable Old Testament written canon of Scripture in Christ’s day. The importance of a recognizable written canon of Scripture possessed by the Old Testament people of God cannot be underestimated in its importance. An objective body of canonical writings is far superior to an undetermined fluctuating oral tradition, or dubious so-called additional books of revelation.

Hopefully, those who have attempted to cast doubt on the Scriptural canon and its binding authority so that they can attempt to establish new revelations allegedly found in additional books previously missing or a secondary sources of divine revelation, such as an alleged body of “sacred tradition” will not miss this. Christ fully accepted the canon as it stood in His day, on that account of His Words “the Scripture cannot be broken.” John 10:35

In conclusion, to doubt the divine authenticity of the Old Testament is to doubt Christ. The Old Testament people of God knew that they possessed the Word of God, and consequently, were careful in handling the texts of Scripture. The New Testament people of God were no less careful. There is no indication that the Word of God mentioned in this study was anything other than the Scriptures, which are recorded in our Bibles.

This is why we declare:

 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the Word that I have spoken, the same [Christ’s Word] shall judge him in the last day. John 12:48

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