This is post #2 of 6 in a brief series on the doctrine of Scripture called “Scripture Alone.” I’m convinced that Christians today need to constantly reaffirm our convictions about God’s Word in order to avoid drifting into error, and in order to effectively serve and honor Christ. This was a core conviction at the heart of the Protestant Reformation. So, in each of these brief articles, with the help of the reformers, we’ll be unpacking the question, “What do we believe about the Bible?”
2 Peter 1:16-20 is a crucial passage for understanding the authority of the Bible:
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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 Authority of the Old Testament
2 Peter 1:16-20 helps us answer the question of how men wrote the Bible. Specifically, it tells us about the Old Testament, since that’s the Bible Peter had when he was writing. Peter says, “The men who wrote the Old Testament did not write their own interpretation (their own independent ideas). No, these men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” In other words, The Old Testament is God’s Word.
Now, it’s helpful to understand that this verse does not teach what is called the dictation theory of inspiration. That’s the mistaken view that God simply dictated all of his word into the ears of the biblical writers who then copied what he said onto the page. The authors of Scripture were not merely scribes or secretaries transcribing a heavenly voice. When you read the Psalms you get real insight into David’s mind and heart. When you read Jeremiah you get real insight into his pain and his burden for Israel. When you read the Old Testament you get the personal writings of different men from different times with different personalities and different writing styles.
But, in all that these men said, they were not independent. They spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. God did not verbally dictate every part of his word, but he was in such complete control of these men’s writing that what they put down on the page was actually his word. This is why Paul can say in 2 Timothy 3 that all Scripture is breathed out by God. Yes, men wrote, but they wrote words from God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the entire Old Testament is God’s Word and it comes to us with his authority.
The Authority of the New Testament
Referencing his own teaching, and the teaching of the Apostles, Peter says in verse 16: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
Here is a reminder that Peter and the authors of the New Testament were not just some guys. They were eye-witnesses to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection!
And even someone like Luke, who was not an eye-witness himself explicitly mentions at the beginning of his Gospel that he has compiled a record of events and teachings from eye-witnesses.
These men have no problem writing authoritatively because they were able to speak the truth about Christ from direct personal testimony. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New Testament were uniquely equipped and empowered by God to write his Word.
Peter explicitly mentions this reality when he references the writings of Paul in 2 Peter 3:15-16: And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. So already, in Paul’s own lifetime, his writings are being recognized as Scripture!
It’s common to hear people argue that the church of the first few centuries created the New Testament. But that is simply not true. The church did not create the New Testament, the church received the New Testament from the apostolic witness which ultimately came from God.
The New Testament, like the Old, is God’s Word and it comes to us with his authority.
The Authority of Jesus
In verses 16-17 Peter recollects the day he, James, and John saw Jesus revealed in his glory, a moment known as the transfiguration. On that day, for a brief moment, they saw Jesus not only as the Rabbi from Nazareth, but as the eternal Son of God. And on that day, God spoke. Peter quotes his words, but the full sentence is in Matthew 17:5 where God the Father says, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.
God the Father has specifically told us to listen to Christ the Son. So, a good question to ask when thinking about Scripture is, “what did Jesus say about the Bible?” I’ve personally found the answer to that question one of the most compelling reasons to trust the authority of Scripture. Just consider a few of the things Jesus said about the Bible:
Jesus believed that we need to hear God’s Word.
In Matthew 4:4 Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 which says, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Jesus believed that God speaks, and we need to hear his Word.
Jesus believed that the Scripture is the place we hear God’s Word.
In Matthew 22 Jesus defends the reality of the resurrection to those who denied it by saying, You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God… Have you not read what was said to you by God? He could not be more clear: When a person reads the Scriptures he or she hears the voice of God.
Jesus believed that Scripture is God’s perfect Word.
In John 10:35 Jesus says, Scripture cannot be broken. In Matthew 5:18 Jesus says, Until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Jesus believed that every word of the Bible was God’s Word, and therefore was unbreakably, unshakably, unquestionably true.
I appreciate what Kevin DeYoung says when he writes,
“It is impossible to revere the Scriptures more deeply or affirm them more completely than Jesus did. Jesus submitted his will to the Scriptures, committed his brain to studying the Scriptures, and humbled his heart to obey the Scriptures. The Lord Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, believed his Bible was the word of God down to the very sentences, to the phrases, to the words, to the smallest letter, to the tiniest specks – and that nothing in all those specks and in all those books in his Holy Bible could ever be broken.”1
The entire Bible, Old Testament and New, is God’s Word, and therefore carries God’s authority. No other voice stands above or alongside the voice of God. Scripture stands alone.
- Kevin DeYoung, Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014, 110. ↩