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THEOLOGY > Bible > Authority > Function of Authority  


Part of the phenomenon of Scripture is the conviction and conversion that is created and sustained by the living Revelation. This is especially true in regard to man’s acceptance of the Truth of Scripture. The fact that Scripture is revealed Truth cannot be proven; and until Scripture is accepted as the fountain of Truth, it will not be seen to be Truth at all. It must be accepted by faith, and the authority of Scripture which demands that acceptance also creates that acceptance. If this is evaluated to be reasoning in a circle, then so be it.

This is not to say that the authority of Truth issues a demand that is absurd, unreasonable or sub-intellectual. When the demand is responded to it is seen that the demand is not absurd. It is very reasonable; it is, in fact, true intellectual freedom. It must be emphasized that the intellect is not sacrificed; rather, the intellect is convinced. The act of faith to modern man is an illogical and foolish act; but to the man of faith, the act of faith is seen to be the only intellectually sound act. Faith does not foster intellectual bondage; faith creates real intellectual freedom. To know the Truth is to be free.

It is the authority in the Word of God that enables the Word of God to become the Word of God to the reader or hearer. Let it be understood that the Bible is the Word of God whether anyone ever recognizes it as such or not. Its essence and true character is not dependent upon man’s evaluation, pronouncements, and acceptance of it, or experience of it.

But the true status of the Word of God must become a dynamic reality in the reader’s life. The Word of God in Scripture must become the Word of God in the heart, in the life, in the soul; that is, in the mind. The Bible “is” but it also must “become.” The written words must live and they must create life, spiritual life, in the reader or hearer. The mind must be transformed. Within the Scriptures is the authority to demand a response and the authority to create the response that is demanded!

Ultimately, therefore, the crucial issue is not the “nature” of Scripture but the “function” of Scripture, not what it “is” but what it “does.” As has already been stated, the Scriptures contain Truth and are Truth; and within the Scriptures is the authority of that Truth. And it is the work of that authority in the life of the individual that is of paramount importance. In the ultimate sense the Bible is authoritative in that it fulfills its purpose; “so shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth . . . it . . . shall accomplish what I please and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). The Bible is not merely a static book; it is a living, active Word. The nature of the Scriptures is vital, but the work of the Scriptures determines destinies.

Form is important
but the Scriptural emphasis is upon function.

There is a danger of becoming overly preoccupied with the form of Scripture to the point that a true Scriptural perspective is lost. Scripture affirms that it is “given by inspiration of God” (II Tim. 3:16; “inspiration” is literally “God-breathed”), but this affirmation is not given to teach a truth about the origin or the nature of Scripture primarily. Rather, Paul stated that Scripture is “God-breathed” in order that Timothy might have deep conviction about the usefulness of Scripture “for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). In other words, Paul taught what the Word of God “is” so that Timothy might have confidence in what it “does.” Near the end of his Gospel John declared: “These are written that you may believe”—not written to prove something about themselves but written to produce faith that Jesus is the Christ (Jo. 20:31). In Romans Paul stated that “whatever things were written before were for our learning that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (15:4). The focus again is upon what the Scriptures produce—"hope"—rather than upon what Scripture is.

Scripture is Truth,
but the purpose of Scripture is not to teach that Scripture is Truth
but to bring transformation to the spiritual dead.

The uniqueness of Scripture is not an end in itself. Truth has been revealed by God to man in order that man’s life may be lived according to the Truth of God.

Scripture is what it is so that it may do what it does;
Scripture’s function is the best insight into its nature.

Part of what Scripture “does” is to create in the reader this conviction about what Scripture “is.” But excessive attention to the “is” of Scripture shifts the emphasis from faith to reason. And this is the emphasis of much of the evangelical world today. Lines are drawn and confrontations are had over what Scripture is. Appeals are made to fulfilled prophecy, archaeological evidence, historical accuracy, eye-witness testimony to miracles, and the impact of early believers upon the world. For the most part, this type of apologetics merely adds supporting argument to the position already held by the believer, which position can only be arrived at by the work of the Spirit upon the mind through the use of the Truth of Scripture.

An appeal to external evidences rather than to the internal witness of the Spirit to establish the authority of the Scriptures is to seek a foundation in reason rather than in the work of the Spirit. Berkouwer wrote: “Faith in Scripture is possible and real only in connection with the witness of the Spirit to Christ and his salvation” (Holy Scripture, 54-55). Man cannot be convinced of the fact that Scripture is Truth by natural reasoning; it is through the Spirit’s use of the Scriptures themselves that man becomes convinced of the Truth of the Scriptures.

The purpose (function) of Scripture is to create faith,
a vantage point that is necessary for the proper creation of a theology.

Scripture initiates spiritual life
and brings that life to maturity  in the believer.

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth;
it shall not return to Me void,
but it shall accomplish what I please
and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Isa. 55:11

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