The following selection from Jerry Bridges’s very fine book, The Joy of Fearing God (p. 138), reinforces some things I have tried to articulate in various posts over the past year and a half. Here is the citation:
To live under Christ’s authority necessarily means to live under the authority of His Word. I read a sermon in which the speaker said we’re to live in obedience to Jesus Christ, not to Scripture. This, however, is drawing a false and unwarranted distinction between Christ and His Word.
How can I obey anyone in authority over me if I do not have that person’s instructions or commands? In the matter of authority we cannot separate a person from his or her words. Christ has spoken to us through the Bible. The only way I can live in obedience to Him is to live in obedience to His Word as given to us in Scripture.
It is not “bibliolatry” to place the authority of Scripture on a par with the authority of Christ. It is true that all authority rests in the person of Christ, but it is equally true that He expresses His authority through his written word. To separate the authority of Christ from the authority of His word, as some would seek to do, is a subtle ploy to undermine the authority of Scripture.
And when we speak of Jesus’ words, we mean all Scripture, not just His spoken words recorded in the four gospels, Acts, and Revelation. ‘All Scripture is God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16a). ‘Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Peter 1:21). In the realm of spiritual authority, Scripture’s words from Paul or James or Peter are as authoritative as those from Jesus, because it was the Spirit of Jesus who inspired those men, leading them to say exactly what he wanted.
There are two comments I wish to make. The first, in regard to the last cited paragraph, is that the quotation that Bridges makes from 2 Peter is actually about the Old Testament. So what Bridges says about Paul or James or Peter also applies to Isaiah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel or David or Moses or Hosea or Joel or Zechariah. The words of the Old Testament authors are also the words of Christ.
The second has to do with Bridges’s concluding sentence in the third paragraph. He says, “To separate the authority of Christ from the authority of His word, as some would seek to do, is a subtle ploy to undermine the authority of Scripture.” I believe he is certainly right. However, I believe the sentence would have been equally true if Bridges had said it like this: “To separate the authority of Christ from the authority of His word, as some would seek to do, is a subtle ploy to undermine the authority of Christ.” If I can separate Christ from his word, then I really have a Christ with no content. And if I have a Christ with no content, then I can fill up my idea of who Christ is with any content I wish. And if I submit to the authority of this Christ, I am really only submitting to myself.
This is known as idolatry. I must say, “bibliolatry” is the far better alternative.
January 19, 2015
Dear Dr. Shepherd;
The peace giving obedience we give to the Christ of content would be the normal Christian life and preferable to all alternatives!
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