Summary: This sermon is from a Southern Baptist point of view concerning biblical authority. Even among Southern Baptists there is not complete agreement on the authority of Scripture. My point of view comes from my belief in the inerrancy of Scripture.
With the exception of the Lord Jesus Himself, the Bible has been the single most important influence in my life. When Paul wrote of Timothy, "From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:15-17), his description is one with which I can identify. For like Timothy, my life has been immersed in the environment of biblical truth since my infancy.
I was taught to recite simple Scripture verses from the day I began to talk, and the first song I learned to sing was biblical ... "Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so." My folks made sure that I never missed Vacation Bible School. With a little imagination, I can hear vividly the voice of the Bible drill leader, "Attention, draw swords; 2 Timothy 2:15; charge," as I competed with other church friends in Bible sword drills.
There is a human chain of godly Sunday School teachers stretching from cradle roll to adult days who overcame the distractions of childish inattention and horseplay to plant in my heart seeds of interest in the Bible. One Sunday School teacher in particular, George Fuller who has gone home to the Lord, used to take some of us boys out visiting. After we finished, he would take us to Polar Bear for ice cream. You mention “visitation” and my mouth waters. I have a rich Christian heritage. But, the bedrock of all of my experience is rooted in my love for God’s Word.
So today, my mind is called back regularly to the lessons from the Old and New Testaments which they taught with varying skills. I can still quote portions of the King James Version of the Bible through those scripture memory times when I was a child.
Later in life, when I graduated from High School, I was presented with a new Bible. Often, my parents would provide me with a new Bible for various occasions. One of the best was when I had surgery, my mother said, I am not going to waste money for flowers, what would you like instead? I told her I would like an Open Bible, and I have worn the cover off of it from use. It is still my most trusted instrument, the most trusted tool of my trade.
Because of the cooperative effort of Southern Baptists, I have been the beneficiary of wonderful educational opportunities at Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the largest theological study center in the world. I have devoted my life to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. It is clear to me that preaching the ideas and thoughts of man would never be noble enough a cause to commit an entire lifetime of service.
But teaching the truths of the Bible is more than challenge enough to justify such a commitment.
One of the primary reasons that I am a Southern Baptist is because this denomination has so positively declared its faith in the Bible as the Word of God and the sole authority for faith and practice. Another reason why I am a loyal Southern Baptist is our conviction that no man-made creed can ever replace the Scriptures as the basis of doctrinal integrity and that each believer is free under the influence of the Holy Spirit to interpret Scriptures for himself/herself.
I have traced my pilgrimage with the Word of God so that you will understand my total sympathy with and love for the Scriptures. My own conviction is an unapologetic and unconditional commitment to biblical authority. Some people make church tradition an equal authority to the Bible, and others make philosophical fads the rule of life. Some people accept only those parts of the Bible that are reasonable or supernatural, others consider their own personal, subjective ideas to be the ultimate authority, and some yield to the majority opinions as the norm.
Over against all these, I believe the Bible to be totally authoritative in all that it affirms. It is the sole authority for faith and practice, "the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried." The question remains: How can I best express my belief in the authority of the Bible?
For one thing emotional attachment to certain words complicates the problem.
For example, during controversies about the Bible, certain words become flags to identify which side of the controversy the person is on. Although the word may be a perfectly good one to describe belief, one hesitates to use it because of its connotation as a password for a particular group.