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What is the Bible? The Authority and Supremacy of Scripture

A constant complaint about "this generation" is that they are rebellious and don't respect authority. Ironically, nearly every generation going back at least a hundred years has this complaint. Something innate about people causes them to reject and rebel against authority. This problem is evermore present when it comes to the Bible. As we continue our series, answering the question, "What is the Bible?" we'll observe the authority and supremacy of the Bible. What makes the Bible different is that it has supreme authority.

Defining Authority

The authority of Scripture simply means that it can tell you what to do. The Bible has the right to determine what to believe. The Bible has the right to determine what to do and not do. The Bible even has the right to determine the internal motivation for those beliefs and actions. Let’s expound on those briefly.


What to Believe

The current culture is a religious pluralistic culture. Pluralism is the concept that every religion is equally valid; therefore, all religions and non-religions can be chosen. The culture says you can believe whatever you want. This pluralistic concept also finds its way into Christianity, but instead of being different religions, every denomination is equally valid. This is called ecumenism. Christian culture says you can believe whatever you want as long as it agrees on core essentials. The authority of Scripture destroys both pluralism and ecumenism because Scripture is authoritative over all people, both Christian and non-Christian. Scripture has the authority to say that Jesus is the only way to the Father and that all must submit to His Lordship. The authority of Scripture means that both major beliefs that are deemed essential, such as those concerning salvation, but also supposed minor beliefs, such as those relating to the doctrine of the church, are determined by the Bible alone.


How to Behave

The authority of Scripture does not remain in the theological but also reaches into the practical. While many decry it as legalism, the Bible does have the right to tell every person how they are to behave. It can demand that a Christian gather with believers regularly (Heb 10:25). The Bible can demand that all people honor God-defined marriage (Heb 13:4). It can demand that baptism be of believers by immersion alone (Matt 28:19). Scripture can also demand what they can’t do. It has the right to command that all people cannot steal (Ex 20:15). It can demand that Christians not associate with the unrepentant (1 Cor 5). Whether the commands are seemingly easy or hard, Scripture has the right to tell all people how they are to behave. Scripture has authority over all behavior.


The Why Behind It All

Scripture even has the authority to determine the inner reasoning behind beliefs and behavior. The Bible has the right to tell us to rejoice always in the Lord (Phil 4:4). Scripture gets to demand that we rejoice in receiving the Word of God (Psalm 119:162). The Bible even demands that we are cheerful in our giving (2 Cor 9:7). This means that it's not enough to submit to Scripture by believing the right things and behaving the right ways, but that even our attitude is dictated by Scripture. The authority of Scripture is all-encompassing.  


When Is an Interpretation Authoritative?

The Bible's authority is evident, but there is still a reality that Scripture must be interpreted for it to be understood. Some will use this as an excuse to say that while the Bible is authoritative, no interpretation is, and therefore, we do not need to submit to the Bible's authority. This is faulty reasoning. There is a time when interpretation is authoritative, and that is when the interpretation is found in the substance, structure, and spirit of the text. Another way to say this is an interpretation is authoritative when it accurately represents the authorial intent found in the text. This means that an interpretation cannot violate the grammar or the historical context of the text but rather must use the grammar and historical context of the text to describe the text's meaning. When this is done, whether in private reading or in the public preaching of the word, then that interpretation is authoritative because it conveys the authoritative meaning of the Bible. Therefore, it should be submitted to as the Word of God.


Where Does This Authority Come From?

Considering how much authority the Bible has, a good question to ask is, “Where does this authority come from?” The answer is that this authority comes from God. As we discussed in the first article in this series, the Bible is God speaking. The Bible is the very words of God. This means that the words carry the weight of the authority of God. When a king writes a letter to the citizens, the letter carries the same authority of the king as if the king were speaking to the citizenry in person. The authority of Scripture rests in that you cannot separate God from His words.


Defining Supremacy

Another good question to ask is, “Is the Bible the only authority?” The answer to this is somewhat complicated. There are other authorities in every person’s life. The government possesses authority and can tell the citizenry how they are to behave. Employers have authority over their employees. Parents have authority over their children. Local churches have authority over their members. Pastors even have authority over the flock they are responsible for. Authority rests in many different places, but this authority is only legitimate when Scripture delegates it. Each of the above only has authority because Scripture has given them that authority. This is the first half of defining the supremacy of Scripture that all other authorities derive their authority from the Bible. The second half of defining the supremacy of Scripture is that because all authority is ultimately derived from Scripture, the demands of the lesser authorities cannot contradict Scripture. A contradiction of Scripture would then be anything that prevents people from doing what Scripture commands or ordering people to do the opposite of what Scripture commands. Scripture is not the only authority, but it is the final and supreme authority.



The problem of rebellion against authority is one that causes great chaos in culture and Christianity. Ultimately, the reason we have different denominations can be found in the refusal of some to submit to the authority of Scripture. When we understand that the Bible has supreme authority, we then must actively and purposefully submit to that authority if we are going to be text-driven people. This application can be difficult, especially when it comes to beliefs and behavior we hold dear, but the authority of Scripture means that we must change what we believe and how we behave to align with it most closely. We may love a creed or confession, but authority does not rest in those beliefs, even though they may be helpful. Rather, we must disagree with creed and confession if the Bible demands we do. No man, document, or organization can ever usurp the authority of Scripture. Therefore, we must look to the authority of the Bible for beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes.

Article written by Klayton Carson

The "What is the Bible" series will also be on the Text-Driven Podcast. You can listen to the Text-Driven Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or at


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