The Bible as Authority

We look at the temptation of our Lord in the afternoon service. (Luke 4:1-13) There are many reasons why this passage is important, but I want to focus on an implication that may be overlooked, namely the authority and power of scripture.

The father of lies (as ‘devil’ means ‘slanderer’) attempts to have the second Adam sin and thus destroy the plan of redemption (Genesis 3:15). And though Jesus is the divine son of God, and thus has infinite might at His disposal, He chooses not to banish Satan in some glorious display of heaven’s power but rather with the Word of God. Three times he is tempted and in each instance he refutes the devil with a passage of scripture.

Jesus, unlike His contemporaries, submits Himself to live by the Old Testament scriptures, and to be sustained by the eternal truth that was communicated to the prophets of old. (see also 2 Peter 1:19-21) In particular, Jesus quotes from the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy) thus confirming the validity and inspiration of that word. Though spoken long ago, Moses’ words still contain power and authority for they are the very word of God.

We may draw two conclusions from these facts:

First, Satan is not above mis/ab-using the Bible to further his own gain (see Luke 4:10-11). Hearing our Lord’s submission to scripture, the devil comes, as someone notes, “with a Bible under his arm and a text in his mouth!” If Jesus believes God’s Word then perhaps God’s Word could be used to make Jesus believe in Satan (or his words). Our Lord, however, rebukes him with scripture. So we must take care to properly understand and apply the words of scriptures and not be taken in by every person who claims to have the key to understanding it all. Many errors, heresies and sins have been countenanced through the Bible simply because of a lack of giving due diligence to understanding the proper meaning of the text.

Second, we must submit to God’s Word as the final authority in all matters of doctrine and life (cf. Belgic Confession, Article 7). We close with these words from J.C. Ryle’s devotional on Luke to emphasize how we may practice this in our daily lives:

“Let us learn from this single fact, if we learn nothing else from this wondrous history, the high authority of the Bible, and the immense value of a knowledge of its contents. Let us read it, search into it, pray over it, diligently, perseveringly, unweariedly. Let us strive to be so thoroughly acquainted with its pages, that its text may abide in our memories, and stand ready at our right hand in the day of need. Let us be able to appeal from every perversion and false interpretation of its meaning, to those thousand plain passages, which are written as it were with a sunbeam. The Bible is indeed a sword, but we must take heed that we know it well, if we would use it with effect.”

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