Summary: A sermon on the authority of the Word, the Bible, for the church (Material adapted from Daniel Overdorf's book, Rediscovering Community, Word Driven chapter)


My father in law was asked to intermediate in a dispute between a preacher and the elders/ deacons. In a heated meeting the preacher was talking how the Bible related to the issue at hand. One leader said something like this, “Well, the Bible might say that but I feel...” The preacher left the meeting and the leaders feared he would not come back at all.


Can we trust our feelings and experiences?

A recent Barna Research Group survey regarding what Americans believe asked the question, "Is there absolute truth?" 66% percent of adults responded that they believe that "there is no such thing as absolute truth; different people can define truth in conflicting ways and still be correct."

Where do modern men and women turn for stability and a foundation on which to build their lives? Many look inside of themselves, assuming that truth and enlightenment come from deep within. When people do this there is:

No stability to any belief, always changing

No enduring ethical standards, situation ethics

No way to validate one’s conclusions. No way to test experiences

No basis for concluding that one person is right and another is wrong

No real hope for the future

As Christians we must accept the slogan, “The Bible and the Bible alone is our only rule of faith and practice.”

Thesis: Let’s talk about the authority of the Word

For instances:

The Authority of God

God reigns as the supreme ruler of the universe. He holds ultimate authority. Nothing or no one else possesses any authority except when granted by God. “for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Romans 13:1, NIV.

This holds true of the Bible. The Bible finds its authority not in its human writers, not in its ability to stand the test of time, and not even in its subject matter. Scripture has authority only because of its origin. 3 Scriptures here:

1. “All Scripture is God-breathed” 2 Timothy 3:16, NIV.

2. “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20, 21, NIV.

3. Paul’s instructions to the church in Thessalonica, he says that he gave them “by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 4:2, NIV.

When people speak of the “authority of Scripture,” this phrase serves only as acknowledgement that God, who holds all authority, invested authority into His Word.

Sometime we do not handle the Word of God as it should be. Sometimes we treat the Bible as answer book. Sometimes we view it as a devotional work meant to give us warm fuzzies. Sometimes we approach it as a checklist of rules to define what is right and wrong. Other times we go to the Bible to find proofs for our favorite doctrines. This has kernels of truth but when we view the Bible in only these ways we miss the transformative power of God’s Word.

Unfortunately sometimes we view the Bible as a textbook. Heard more than one student majoring in Bible say, “I have difficulty reading the Bible for myself because I am always thinking about papers, tests, lessons or sermons.” Now studying the Bible does involve work at times but such work should lead us into a greater awe of God, not just lead us into more academic exercises.

Other see the Bible as a book of history. It is a book of history, His Story. The Bible begins with, In the Beginning, God created. It ends with happily ever after, as John describes the glory of the New Jerusalem and Jesus’ promise to return. Between these bookends lies the story of God’s redemption of a deeply flawed, but deeply loved, creation. Had God given only a list of rules or a series of logical principles, people may have simply ignored it or explained it away. Instead His Story, God’s story, energizes and transforms. As God’s people, we find our identity and purpose in His Story, God’s story- the Holy Scriptures.

Scripture reveals God. Now God has revealed himself in many ways to mankind. Some revelation is possible without words, such as the knowledge of God that comes to us through nature. Because of our sin, though, we are inclined to ignore it or distort it (Romans 1). Therefore, we need word revelation. Words are the most natural form of communication for human beings. In view of this fact, it is rather inconceivable that God would choose not to use words or speech in revealing himself. The truth is that God has spoken. The expression “Thus saith the Lord” or something like it occurs nearly 2,000 times in the OT.

Why is it necessary for revelation to be written?

Puts it in permanent form so that it is available to future generations

Gives us an objective standard, accessible to all in the same form and the same way.

Gives us a certain finality that is in keeping with its absolute authority

The Authority of the Apostles

In this New Testament age, God revealed His authoritative truth through Jesus’ apostles. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching...” Acts 2:42, NIV. Early Christians dedicated themselves to learning from apostles, those who sat at the feet of Jesus.

We do not have the same privilege. Apostles died out long ago. We do, however, have the apostles’ teaching recorded in the NT. The books of the NT come from the pens of apostles such as Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul; and from the pens of those who recorded what they heard directly from the apostles, such as Mark (mainly through Peter but also through Paul), and Luke (mainly through Paul).

God holds all authority. He invested His authority, through the apostles, into the NT.

The Authority of God’s Word Further Described

Already talked about one term, revelation. Let’s talk about some others that are used


Inspiration is the term used to refer to the special supernatural supervision exercised by God over His messengers to make sure they communicate His message accurately. Even though the word inspiration seldom appears in Scripture, the fact that God himself is speaking through the Biblical writers is often repeated.

The HS spoke the truth of God through human writers (2 Peter 1:20-21: men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit). When God invested His authority into Scripture, He did not simply deliver completed manuscripts, penned by His own hand, to printers around the world for distribution. Instead, the HS transmitted His authoritative Word through the pens, personalities, and experiences of human beings. On some occasions, God dictated word for word what the human authors wrote (several times with Moses). However, mostly, human writers apparently had more input, though the process still occurred by the HS. As a result, the Spirit’s involvement ensures that the Bible consists of God’s true and authoritative Word, and the involvement of human writers results in various writing styles, emotions, and a reflection of their experiences.


1. Might hear this: We believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture. What? Plenary means entire. Every part of the book was produced under the guidance of the HS.

2. This means the NT as well as the OT is inspired. Paul says that all Scripture is God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).

3. Every kind of biblical genre or writing bears the quality of inspiration. Cannot say that the historical sections are not inspired while the doctrinal and law sections are. There is no basis for this. “I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets,” Acts 24:14, NIV.


1. Inerrant means “free from error.”

2. This applies specifically to the original manuscripts as they came directly from the inspired apostles and prophets. Today we do not have the physical manuscripts produced by these writers, but we do have the original text that was on these manuscripts, since it has been determined with reasonable certainty by the science of textual criticism


Infallible means it is “incapable of error.” The terms infallible and inerrant go together, but they are not the same. Infallible is a stronger term. A statement or document may be inerrant without being infallible, but it can never be infallible without being inerrant. The Bible is inerrant because it is infallible, and it is infallible because it is the inspired Word of God.

Since God knows all things, he cannot make a mistake, and since he cannot lie, he cannot deceive us. Anything that can truly be called “the Word of God” must be true: “Your word is truth.” John 17:17, NIV. This is why Jesus states as a general principle that “the Scripture cannot be broken--” John 10:35, NIV. Scripture cannot be broken means that it cannot be destroyed, refuted, found faulty, found untrue, or disproved. In other words, the appeal to Scripture is final, since Scripture cannot be broken. In answer to the opening illustration, that leader was in the wrong. Could challenge the preacher’s interpretation and application but to disregard Scripture altogether is wrong.