This is week four of five on the topic of God’s word. Our discussion today focuses on the authority of the bible. We want to discuss the place of the Word of God in our daily lives. We’ll consider what types of things influence our lives and the way we make decisions and read how God’s word plays a part in this. What authority does the Word of God have over us today? To do this, it is important to remember the significant things we’ve covered so far.
Week 1: Inspiration – Think ‘the invisible work of the Holy Spirit, not ‘an inspired piece of art’.
Week 2: Inerrancy – Think ‘a deliberate and faultless message’, not ‘a documentary of events’.
Week 3: Sufficiency – Think ‘one word from one God on one salvation’ not ‘one piece of a puzzle’.
Week 4: Authority – Think ‘the king’s voice’ not ‘the king’s advisor.’
Summary: The one true God has orchestrated the writing of a book about universal and eternal truths which has culminated in the life and work of Jesus Christ. It is a book from God to us with a grand vision of the future. God has spoken to our world.
What type of decisions do we face in life? examples: where to live, what job to be employed in, whether to marry, who to marry, the type of car to drive, what to wear (generally and daily), what to have for lunch, how many hours to work, things to buy, holidays to go on, movies to watch, price to sell your car for, to turn left or right at this intersection, be buried or cremated, do you baptise your child, should you go to bed now, will you knock on your neighbour’s door or call the police…
How do you go about making decisions? List as many influences you can on your decision making.
Let’s consider four influences on decision making and lifestyle choice. Perhaps your ideas fit somewhere under these categories?
- Tradition. This is about how things are just done – like they’ve always been done. Things like Christmas carols, going to church on Sunday, ANZAC day, sleeping in on Saturday, whatever Grandma taught you… what else can you think of?
- Logic/reason. This covers an argument that you have with yourself to decide which way to go. Something might seem right because of the obvious outcome. Examples of this include deciding to stay unmarried because it’s less complicated, to stop at three children because the car will only fit so many. These are logical arguments to reason how to make a decision.
- Experience. This takes in the data you have gathered from your life and making decisions based on what you know and have observed in the past. This could be a decision to stop praying because it doesn’t seem that God is answering your prayers. It could be to always carry an umbrella because it rains 50% of the time in the afternoons where you live.
- Feelings. It may seem silly but this tends to be the most influential decision maker we have. ‘I won’t go to that thing because I feel too tired’. ‘I know that this is the right thing to do because it just feels right’. ‘I know when I’ve made a good and right decision because I feel at peace with it’. ‘I feel that God would want this for me because he loves me and wants me to be happy’.
Each of these influences have their rightful place in our lives. Can you list the pros and the cons of these things?
What does the bible say?
Let’s now consider how or where the bible fits with those four areas.
Read Proverbs 18:13
What wisdom does this have for our lives?
Now apply this same proverb to your relationship with God and his world – it would be foolish to speak/answer/make decisions/act before first listening to what God has to say. Since God, our creator and judge, has spoken, it would be foolish not to listen to him.
Read Matthew 7:24-27
What does this parable teach us about wise people and fools?
Note that Jesus has salvation in mind as he tells this parable but the greater context is about those who are known as his versus those who appear to do all the right things but are actually not a part of Jesus’ kingdom because they don’t obey his words.
Read John 10:27 and Luke 8:21
What is the key feature of a Christian? Do you think this just applies to salvation or all of life? Why or why not?
Read James 1:22-25
What is this passage saying in your own words?
Stop and consider the sum of all these passages. The bible is God’s word to us about salvation but we have been saved from a life apart from God. We have been called out of darkness and into his marvelous light! Colossians 3 and Philippians 3 are excellent chapters on desiring to know God and being part of his new creation now!
The four influences discussed above do still have their place. But the bible ought to have primary influence as well as the final say.
Tradition is corrected by the bible; reason and logic is informed by the bible; experiences and feelings are interpreted by the bible.
“[The] Bible should not only be the starting point for working things out, it should also have the final say about what to believe and how to behave, even if tradition, reason and experience would suggest otherwise.” (from The Little Black Book: The Bible).
STOP AGAIN AND DISCUSS. This is the principle of the Word of God being authoritative. It doesn’t sit second chair to any other authority. Learning how to apply the bible to our lives is a very valuable discipline for a Christian. It requires reading the bible carefully with regard to context and meaning. The Start Living course and the God’s Big Picture course are excellent places to begin learning how to do this. An excellent book to read on Christian ethics is one called ‘A Joined Up Life’ by Andrew Cameron.
If you have time, you may like to look at one or two of the below topics with your group.
…how will the bible shape our thinking on these topics?
|Tradition||Reason||Experience||Feelings||Word of God|
when someone or something goes
desiring more than we need.
being less than honest.
how to use it when
|1 Corinthians 7:10-11; Matthew 19:9##|
how to think about
|Acts 2:11; Philippians 2:5-11; Revelation 7:9-10|
how should we view
|John 3:16; John 14:6|
what it is, how we practice it, who is it for etc.
|Luke 3:7-9, 16, 21-22; 12:49-51|
#Romans 1:26-27 – look at the greater context as well to see that this is just one outworking of mankind turning their backs on God.)
##1 Corinthians 7:10-11; Matthew 19:9 – note that this is not as black and white as it sounds and anyone wanting to go deeper into this should ask one of the ministry staff – note also the ten commandments are quite clear on adultery.
A final note…
The bible is crystal clear on many topics and less clear on others. Where something is unclear, this allows us to look deeper into the scriptures and consider God’s bigger message on the topic. Our job is not to look for grey areas or loop holes in the bible where we can indulge in sin but to allow the bible to uncover shady areas in our life so that we can let the bible shape us and mould us. Christians can have different views on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Christian worship, the age of the earth – these happen when the bible allows a range of conclusions. Christians will, unfortunately, find other areas to dispute in the bible as if it is a grey area when, in fact, they ought to be looking at their own sinful hearts and trembling at the word of God. The ultimate guideline comes from Matthew 6:33: “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If it is not being done in Jesus’ name and for the priority of his kingdom then it may be an area you need to repent of.
Prayer for the week…
Father God, we thank you once again for your final word on salvation. Please help us to seek first your kingdom and righteousness and to become so familiar with your words that we will see more clearly how we are to live. Forgive us for our slowness to listen to you in your word and help us to grow in our confidence of it day by day. Amen.