When a theologian or pastor affirms the Word of God to be “authoritative,” he is expressing a profound truth—one that accords with Scripture and is of the utmost importance to all, whether they accept it or even realize it. The term denotes both the right and the power to judge and to govern lives. Nothing is more important or more certain than the reality of this authority.
The rulers of Israel had a problem with the Lord’s authority. Matthew records the fact that “the people were astonished” because Jesus “taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (7:29). But the elders were offended and asked Him, “By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” (21:23; see also, Mk. 11:28-33; Lk. 20:2-8). They felt their own authority was jeopardized because of the words and work of the Lord. Like all men, they wished to exercise their will in accord with their own desires and resented anyone who threatened that liberty.
The fallen human nature has a problem with the Lord’s authority. As big a target as are the scribes, Pharisees, and chief rulers of Israel, they are no more worthy of condemnation than many of us. Far too many believers treat the truths of the Bible as items in a grocery store to be examined and put in our cart or set aside according to our whim. A pick-and-choose attitude pervades the church. Many stroll through the aisles of the Bible, squeeze the merchandise, take what they like, and leave the remainder on the shelf. Not only does this practice reveal a casual, even irreverent, attitude toward God and His Word, it exposes a rebellious nature that will suffer the consequences of such rejection.
Paul maintained the authority of God’s Word over the lives of men. The apostle Paul warned of a coming day “when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Rom. 2:16). The sober truth is that regardless of what we might think about the authority of the Word of God or how we might disregard it presently, the Word of God does govern our lives. We would justly scoff at someone who denied the law of gravity. No matter how strong his conviction or how firm his unbelief, he will never escape its effects. Whether he jumps from a skyscraper or flies in an airplane, he will inevitably and irresistibly be drawn back to earth: neither the zeal of his desire, nor the firmness of his belief, nor the force of his will can change the authority of the law of gravity on his body.
So it is with the Word of God. Its power holds sway over our lives whether or not we accept it. We certainly may believe and obey it to our blessing. But though we reject or ignore some inconvenient portion of it, we will be governed by it regardless. For a time, like someone in an airplane, we might appear to escape its effects, but in the end, its authority will rule over us. But just as it is foolish to view gravity as a hindrance to our lives, a cumbersome weight that hampers our freedom, rather than a blessed physical law that anchors us to earth and keeps us from floating out into suffocating space, so it is foolish to view the wonderful Word of God as a damper on our desires and a hindrance to our liberty. Flights of natural desires and pursuit of human liberty will invariably result in the suffocating consequences of sinful rebellion. But the one who is anchored in and by the Word of God, who believes and obeys its precepts, will experience “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). May we not be deceived into thinking that the entire Word of God does not apply to us.
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