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The Final Authority
By David B. Smith

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iBelieve: What about the Bible? | PDF Version | Study Guide: Give Me the Bible

It was a disastrous end to an NFL game — the infamous TD call that robbed Green Bay of a victory. And with replacement referees in place, there wasn’t a clear and indisputable highest authority.

In the 2000 presidential election cycle, butterfly ballots, hanging chad, and a whisper-thin victory margin of 537 dubious votes led to a month of political confusion. Florida election law was unclear. The governor was one candidate’s younger brother. The U.S. Constitution was subject to interpretation. So the Supreme Court finally stepped in and said: “Okay, the buck stops here.” Like it or not, there had to be a final word.

I’m thankful for the sacred reality that the Bible isn’t just holy and helpful — it’s the final arbiter of a believer’s life. Sure, when there is doubt, it encourages. When all seems lost, it promises healings and new beginnings. But most of all, the Word of God is the highest authority. It trumps all other opinions and influences. Its pronouncements supersede visions and sermons and the testimony of angels.

People colloquially call their Bibles the “Good Book,” but I have three crowded bookcases filled with many good books. I don’t spend good money on bad books! Only one Book, though, is uniquely the Word of God. The Bible itself tells us that it came to us by a miraculous, heavenly process called inspiration.

2 Timothy 3:16, 17: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [in Greek, theopneustos, God-breathed, NIV], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

Now, what does this mean? I have written books and sometimes felt God nudging me with an idea. I have sensed His presence blessing the flow of words. Nice as that is, it’s not what happened when Moses picked up a primitive writing tool. Because when the Holy Spirit came into the creative hearts of some forty men in Bible times — shepherds and kings, doctors and fishermen, spanning several countries and 1,500 years — something much richer and higher washed over them. Drawing upon their own words and vocabularies and varied spiritual journeys, they faithfully shaped and wrote down God-given messages that have redeemed and heartened countless generations.

Paul wrote deep, mind-bending theology; David penned praise songs; Moses meticulously recorded history and temple blueprints and an intricate moral code; Daniel had visions and related the prophetic threads of what he was shown in panoramic sagas stretching into future centuries. The gospel writers traveled with Jesus for years, then later recreated verbatim sermons and parables and teaching lectures and the Lord’s many documented miracles. And through all of the writing and Google-less researching, the creating of this holy message was supervised and safeguarded by God Himself via the Holy Spirit.

Did these forty scribes simply go into collective trances, pencils hovering over parchment, while God pushed their hands back and forth in robotic Hebrew brush strokes? Clearly not! Each writer’s personality and life story infuses the drama. David’s Psalms are passionate, throbbing, sometimes achingly resentful and despairing prayers. Paul lets his sarcastic side show through on occasion, wishing the local legalists on the Jerusalem church council would self-circumcise more than they intended to! Through later centuries, human scribes and translators recopied and interpreted the sacred text, occasionally leaving out a comma or accidentally twisting a word’s meaning. But through the sometimes messy, but noble ordeal, the essential truths shine through from God’s heart. Every necessary word we need for salvation and a heavenly home is wonderfully intact. One might conclude that while the Bible’s human contributors were not inerrant authors, the message itself is most certainly infallible.

As we gratefully bow to that point, we also realize that the Bible is a unified collection of infinite wisdom. It is literally God’s Word. It expresses His galactic plans, His salvation agenda, His loving intercession through the fragile threads of human history. It is the ultimate revelation of Jesus our Redeemer. But as infinite truth, poured through human hands, and then into the cups of our finite minds, we are never going to fully understand it.

So we’re going to study and debate this Book! Denominations will wrestle and pray and occasionally come to differing conclusions. Why? Because God and his Word are far beyond our limited mental powers — and wonderfully so. Which is why I appreciate and participate in the discussions, the hurly-burly of Bible study and adventure of spiritual maturation. Then, when the PowerPoint slides fade to black, the people of God must conclude: “If Jesus commands it, we will follow. What the Bible plainly says, we will obediently do.”

I love that classic story where none other than Billy Graham, himself confused over Bible subjects he didn’t quite fathom, made a firm decision: “God, I choose to believe that this is your Word — and that I can trust it with my very life.”

It comes to a quiet, singular moment where a verse personally convicts me. I am doing A and God’s Word says B. My behavior and heart aren’t in compliance with what the inspired Bible says should be happening in my life. My chosen Highest Authority is demanding a change, a conversion, compelling my obedience. So what do I do?

I read the Los Angeles Times and say: “Interesting.” I read Grisham and escape into stories. I read C. S. Lewis and Rick Warren and concede their valid points.

Then I read the Bible and say: “Speak, Lord; Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).

David B. Smith writes from California. (1 of 28)  His web page is davidsmithbooks.com. Biblebay Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information.