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Biblical Authority

This article is part of our current article and Text-Driven Podcast series, "Distinctly Baptist."

Being Baptist is a paradigm, an acronym that helps Christians to think clearly about God’s original design for the church. Any discussion on being distinctly Baptist should not begin with a date from church history. Being Baptist has less to do with an event in history and it has more to do with a hermeneutic through which the church is understood. Therefore, over these next several articles, we are going to look at the proposed acronym B.A.P.T.I.S.T. to help us see God’s design for the church.

Just to rehearse what was mentioned in the previous article, here is the acronym in its totality:

  • B. Biblical Authority

  • A. Autonomy of Local Churches

  • P. Priesthood of all Believers

  • T. Two Ordinances: Baptism and Lord’s Supper

  • I. Individual Soul Liberty

  • S. Saved, Regenerate Church Membership

  • T. Two Offices: Pastor and Deacon

Today’s article is going to focus on the first letter of the “Baptist” acronym. To be a Baptist is to affirm unequivocally that the Bible is the highest authority for governance. To defend this notion, we will look at three questions: 1) What is Biblical Authority? 2) Who is accountable to Biblical Authority? 3) What is the connection between authority and practice?

What is Biblical Authority?

When we claim that standing upon the authority of Scripture is an unequivocal landmark of being a Baptist, we are making a very important distinction. Certainly, we would have to concede that every mainline denomination, Catholic included, would affirm an authoritative position concerning Scripture. Therein lies the distinction. To be a Baptist is to state that Scripture is the authority. This mark is opposed to the view that Scripture is “an” authority. Baptists are claiming that there is no authority of greater significance than God’s Word. Scripture stands in first position, above all else, when it comes to matters of authority.

Why should Scripture be placed upon such a pedestal that everything else is subservient to the authority of Scripture? The answer is simple, the Author is worthy of such authority. Biblical authority is rooted in the claim that God is the author of Scripture. Two verses attest to this truth: 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21.

  • 2 Timothy 3:16 - “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

  • 2 Peter 1:21 - “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The fact that Scripture is in its very essence the words of God provides ample proof that any other writing, any other speech, or any other opinion would not have the same authority as Scripture.

Let’s consider for just a moment the overwhelming authority of God’s speech. For instance, the opening pages of our Bible indicate that God’s speech as authority unlike any other form of communication. All of creation comes into existence by the spoken words of God. Even the creation of man and woman occurred after a conversation among the Godhead (Genesis 1:26). In Genesis 1 alone, the phrase, “God said” is used eight times. The creative power of the voice of God is unmistakable.

Not only is God’s unmatched power demonstrated through His speech in Creation, His authority is seen in the Creation narrative, as well. Following each creative proclamation of God in Genesis 1, the text tells us that God named what He created. God’s naming of creation is seen in Genesis 1 through the phrase “God called.” God not only created by His speech, He also named His creation, which shows His sovereignty over creation. Through a brief case study of Genesis 1, we find that God’s speech is powerful and authoritative. Biblical authority is recognizing that God’s Word is worthy of supremacy due to its author. Therefore, we have an obligation to God’s Word.

Who is Accountable to Biblical Authority?

If we were to speak into an empty room and command that an object appear, we would look foolish. Our speech is not authoritative like the speech of God. God is able to speak into existence that which did not previously exist. We see this authoritative power through creation (Genesis 1). Therefore, due to our inadequacy to command authority like God, we are left in a position of being accountable to God and what he has said in His Word. Every person is accountable to God. No one is excluded from being accountable to God. Before we discuss what accountability looks like from an ecclesiological vantage point, let’s discuss accountability soteriologically.

Soteriology, the Doctrine of Salvation, claims that every man, woman, boy, and girl is accountable to God. We have a moral accountability to Him. There is only one problem. We are all sinners. Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The fact that by nature we are sinners produces a serious dilemma. That dilemma is that we are morally bankrupt. Due to our sinfulness, we are incapable of pleasing God. There is a positional chasm between us and God morally. He is holy. We are sinners. His nature as holy and our nature as sinners makes our relationship with him irreconcilable unless an invention occurs to change our nature as sinners.

Thankfully, by God’s good grace through faith, He has made the way available through Christ for sinners, like you and me, to be reconciled to Him. God’s reconciliation of us by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone allows for us to submit to God’s authority as explained in His Word. Now, joyfully, we can be in right relationship with God submitting to His authority in the Bible.

In light of God’s work for us through justification, we now in sanctification submit to God’s authority as revealed in Scripture. One clear area in which God has revealed His authority is through the structure of a local church. Christians respond to biblical authority through their obedience to gather with other believers through the means of a local congregation. Members of a church are responsible to God for following God’s design for a church. God’s design for the church is outlined in Scripture.

What is the Connection Between Biblical Authority and Practice?

Biblical authority and practical application meet together in one word – obedience. God has made it clear that obedience is the practical response to a person who views Scripture as authoritative. Consider what Jesus said in John’s gospel. He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Therefore, the parameters for Christian living come from Scripture.

If we view Scripture as the highest authority, then we have an obligation and responsibility to obey what Scripture says. God in His goodness did not leave us to fend for ourselves and figure out the best way to honor and follow Him. Instead, He revealed Himself to us. He revealed to us what He likes and dislikes. Therefore, to live for His glory means that we live in submission to what He says in His Word.

The starting point for being distinctly Baptist is to recognize biblical authority. A Baptist submits to no creed or confession. A Baptist submits to Christ as He has revealed Himself to us in Scripture. Baptists are text-driven. No other authority shapes the personal life or church life of a Baptist. Therefore, the first test to see if you are a Baptist is if you see and follow Scripture as the final authority for all matters pertaining to life and godliness.


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