The Supreme and Final
of The Scriptures
William L. Brown,
ISA To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
2TI All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
The historic position of Baptists, for 2,000 plus years, concerning the Scriptures are abundantly clear to any who will read the Bible, confessions of faith and various writings available to us. A historic Baptist recognizes that the Bible promises, and history clearly affirms, that there have been people who maintained New Testament principles from the first century until today. One of those fundamental principles is the supreme and final authority of the scriptures. Some will dispute that Scriptural New Testament assemblies have always existed. They would agree though that history does testify to the existence of Baptist principles. I would simply call to their attention that for principles to exist, they must be held by a people. Convictions cannot exist in a void. While I will refer to the rich and applicable historical accounts and writings of our Baptist forefathers I will add a paragraph written by J. M. Carroll, the author of the Trail of Blood. "I do not undervalue church history, but far more important to me than fallible human records of passing events is the New Testament forecast of church history. The former may err - the latter never." Far more important is the Bibles own declaration, above that of historical documents, that it alone is the rule of our faith and practice and the judge of all we do or say.
The Scriptures we read, as our text, affirm this. II Timothy asserts that the Scriptures are God's Breath and are profitable for the maturing of the man of God. It is the Bible that gives us doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. I will not be original in this presentation nor will I hope to share some original thoughts. I join with Basil Manly in his book the "Bible Doctrine of Inspiration" in his preface that "originality on a subject like this would surely be error." In the study of the context of II Timothy you will discover something. One of the first marks of impending disaster can be seen in a change of view of the authority of the Word of God (II Tim. -17). Deterioration of faith and moral collapse or a defection from the faith is made possible only by an abandonment of our supreme and final authority. The attack against God's Word today is not to burn it, its translators, or preachers as was once done but in the last 200 years the effort has been in undermining it's position as our supreme and final authority.
That fact is that a major distinctive of historic Baptists has been that the
Bible is the only rule of faith and practice. Let me carefully add this. It is
a naïve listener that, presupposing the Bible's inspiration and infallibility,
right belief about the Bible guarantees right belief. This is a common dogma
presented by those who wish to pass off their heresy as valid on the grounds of
"sola scriptura." Scripture alone was the clarion call of the
reformers. I do not believe it was solely because they desired the recovery of
the historic faith, but because they desired to throw off the Roman yoke which
subordinated the Scriptures to the church of Rome and thereby subordinated them
An important distinction needs to be made between Baptists and Protestants about this doctrine of the supreme and final authority of the scriptures. We part ways with the Protestants both theoretically and practically on this issue. The historic Baptist looks to the New Covenant or New Testament as our law. B.H. Carroll wrote: "The New Testament will always be all the Law of Christianity. This does not deny inspiration or profit of the Old Testament… It affirms however that the Old Testament, as a typical, education, and transitory system, was fulfilled by Christ, and as a standard of law and way of life was nailed to the cross of Christ." Further Protestants need to learn that Scripture alone does not qualify one to administer baptism apart from the assembly Christ Himself began, set in order, and commissioned. The official sanction or commission to preach, baptize and teach disciples is found in the person of Christ and the due orders we call the Bible.
While Baptists through the ages have drawn up confessions, most of them declare with consistency an agreement with the New Hampshire Confession. It ends the first article with these words: that the bible "therefore is, …the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions shall be tried." Historic Baptists have never considered confessions as binding upon the conscience of another. The Bible is and forever will be binding. Wayland in writing about creeds or confessions and the unity churches find in them said: "It expresses their belief, because all of them, from the study of the Scriptures, understand them in the same manner, and not because any tribunal has imposed such interpretations upon them… We have no right to delegate such authority to any man, or to any body of men. It is our essential belief that the Scriptures are a revelation from God, given not to a Pope, or congregation of Cardinals, or any Archbishop or bench of Bishops, or General Assembly, or a Synod, but to every individual man."
Clearly presented from the 1689 London Confession is this. "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience." It further states that God's will for His church is declared in the Scriptures and that they are "most necessary" for the "better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world."
The Basis Of This Doctrine:
(the underlying principle)
(Inspiration, infallibility, and preservation as essential and tied together.)
Is The inspiration of the Scriptures: (II Timothy )
If the Scriptures were and are inspired, verbally inspired, literally breathed of God it would seem unnecessary to raise the question of their authority. If the Scriptures were and are inspired then they must be absolutely authoritative in all matters of faith and practice. They are, as one writer penned; "clothed with God's authority." This is the exclusive domain of the Word of God. No other source of divine revelation is to be accepted and certainly not tolerated by any sound preacher or church. I wonder how many know that one of the men involved in the revised translation of the Bible wrote an article against the inspiration of the Scriptures? (G. Vance Smith 1871) By what right did they remove inspired words?
Is The infallibility of the Scriptures: (Luke 24:25-27)
Every Word of God challenges our attention. This book does not contain the Word of God but is the Word of God - every Word is God breathed. Nothing is to be added and nothing is to be taken away. It cannot be made void (the scripture cannot be broken; John ), to reject any portion of Scripture is to reject Christ's word. He used it authoritatively. Its authority cannot be withstood or denied. There is only one name given under heaven whereby we must be saved and that name reigns and rings throughout the pages of this heavenly book. No rival is now or ever has been recognized as a revelation of God's will to man by any true New Testament church.
John 5:39 ("Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.") is not a condemnation of loving and reading the word but that the Jews read the scriptures with a veil over their hearts and could not see the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. In the older writings and confessions of faith it is noted that "our full persuasion and assurance of infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit." (I Cor. 2:13; Mark ) A constant acknowledgment of the inward illumination of the Spirit of God as necessary accompanies most historical literature about the Scriptures.
Understanding the authority of the Scriptures as supreme means there is no
other recognized sovereign over our affairs. Two supreme sovereigns can not
reign together. The Catholic Church claims the right of sovereign as her own.
We deny this and count it as nothing less than a damnable heresy erupting from
the filth of the whore of
Is The preservation of the Scriptures: (Psalm 119:89, I Thess. )
In so many historical Baptist writings the Scriptures are declared as not dependent upon man's testimony or his caretaking of them. God has used such people as the Waldenses to preserve the true and faithful Word of God yet they themselves were dependent upon His grace and preserving hand.
Sound historical Baptists today should feel the hand of God upon them, preserving them that they might be used to pass on the pure and unadulterated Word that has been handed down to us to future generations. When we give up the pure word of God today and take in the perverted translations from perverted texts we abdicate our historic and faithful position as faithful stewards.
Without the inspiration, infallibility, and preservation of Scripture underlying this statement of truth man will come to the Bible as a judge to decide for himself what is true and deserving to be believed, and what is false and to be dutifully rejected.
Imagine a chemist who would doubt or reject the essential character of the elements with which he would work. Now imagine a preacher who doubts the essential character of the Word of God. Of what possible worth is he? To none but to Satan.
The Impact of this Doctrine:
It defends the propagation and preservation of truth: and us (Psa. 40:11)
Rightly understanding the inspirtation, infallibility, and the preservation of Scripture will guard against error in and corruption of both faith and practice. Humanism, philosophy, and psychology have intruded into the realm of teaching and preaching instead of the supreme and final authority of Scriptures. The only bar of justice upon which all things must be tried is the revealed Word of God. Everything we need to know, practice, and believe is in the Scriptures. I remember reading Chafer's theology where he began to teach that repentance is unnecessary, faith alone is needed. Here is a man that needed to sit longer at the feet of his Lord and learn. He needed to read the rest of the book. He somehow took out a portion as unprofitable or unnecessary. Look at II Peter 3:15-16. When these meen were used of God to write they knew they were being used of God to pen His Words. Peter himself recognized what Paul wrote to be Scripture. "other …"
It defends the foundation, order, and organization of the Lord's assemblies:
The doctrine of Inspiration, the doctrine of the Bible as our supreme and final rule of faith and practice is the battle cry of freedom from ecclesiastical domination. While we rejoice at the history, writings, confessions and testimony of our forefathers we do not base our confidence or harmony on any other criterion than the Word of God. Some will use the cry of "sola scriptura" as a claim of authority for themselves yet the Scriptures call for them to repent and be scripturally baptized. We learn from the word of God how we ought to behave in the house of God and how the house of God ought to function.
It defends accountability and creditability: (Psa. 85:11)
We are accountable to God's Word. We are to search the Word of God - Acts 17:11 "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
Let me share one thing I found in studying church history. I believe the training is to be in and through the local church. No other institution was given that responsibility. No other institution can qualify a man of God. In the 2nd century Christians - churches began to bare the reproach of being an illiterate and uneducated people (according to the world's standards). Instead of continuing to pattern themselves after the Word of God and having it as their supreme and final authority they bowed to the circumstances and charges of their day. A school was established to contend with the world's view of uneducated and illiterate preachers. This school soon taught and promoted the idea that Scripture had a double meaning. After becoming so engrossed in the supposed mystical and hidden meaning of Scripture an enormous proliferation of heretical teaching developed. The dignity of the philosophers of Scripture was more highly regarded than the Scriptures themselves. Heresy became orthodoxy and the simple truth of Scripture was relegated to be mere opinions unsupported by any learned arguments. This school was in Alexandra Egypt and one of its students and later teacher was none other than Origen. Praise the Lord there was a group of people who stood strong for the truth and against this liberal and heretical position at this same time; they were known as Montanists.
We are not accountable to the world and we should never seek credibility by the worlds standards. The error of those mentioned above resulted in the corrupt text we have today that is used to translate every Bible into the English language except the King James Bible. I'll stick with the King James.
It defends the way of salvation and the message of salvation:
The message of salvation we preach was delivered God-breathed. That is as strong a guarantee as can be demonstrated as to its authority and infallibility. The mind that made man also made the Bible. God gave us His Word and the ministry of the Spirit to reveal the guilt of man and humble his pride. This book, under the illumination of the Spirit, meets the deepest needs of the soul, discloses God's character, presents the way of pardon, declares the means of justification, and exposes our redemption. Though we may indeed be unlearned men we declare the testimony of God. We preach the wisdom of God. Not with enticing words of man's wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power that those who hear and believe might find their faith stands not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. We are to preach the Word. When we have abandoned the Scriptures as being the supreme and final authority we have abandoned the Scriptures. When you do that you have nothing left to preach. With that said I'll end with a quote from Spurgeon:
"The Bible is like a lion. Who ever heard of defending a lion? Just turn it loose, it will defend itself."
Preach the Word!