“Experts say…scholars agree…” Have you heard these phrases before? Many times, as a news show discusses a difficult topic, in order to bring closure to the issue, they often bring in an “expert” to give the final word on the matter. After the “expert” speaks, the conversation is over. (At least to some.) What do you trust to be the final word on any given issue? For true churches, that authority is found in the Bible alone.
Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to answer the question, what makes a true church? (as opposed to a counterfeit church). We first discussed that a true church has the true gospel message. Last week, I said that a true church follows the true Jesus. Finally, we will look at the premise that a true church submits to the Bible.
Please notice that a true church “submits” to the Bible, not simple “believes” in the Bible. Why is that an important distinction? There are many who claim to believe in the Bible, who claim to care about what the Bible says; however, upon closer examination their actions and life speak contrary to their profession. The Bible is often treated as a fortune cookie where an individual randomly opens to a page, reads one verse out of context, and then imagines they’ve received some special guidance. This reminds me of an old joke where a man, seeking direction, randomly opens up his Bible, places his finger on a verse: “He went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:5) Thinking that that couldn’t be right, he did it again, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37) Distraught, he tried one more time, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27) Obviously, this is NOT the way we should treat the Bible.
Submitting to the Bible means that whatever the Bible says, we are to believe and be changed by it. Our ideas, beliefs, and traditions all need to be molded by God’s Word. Even firmly held beliefs that have been taught for years and years need to be reexamined in light of God’s revealed word. Why? Truth matters! I don’t want to base my life on a lie or my own misconceptions. If I believe that the words in the Bible are the very words of God, then I must be in submission to them. I must constantly reassess myself and my ideas by what God has said. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Do you believe this? Does your church believe this? The Bible is the only book on earth that is written by God, literally “breathed out” by Him and given to us so that we may be complete. I am very confused by people who say they believe this about the Bible, but do not spend time reading it or desire to have it shape their daily lives.
Again, having the Bible, reading the Bible, or even saying you believe in the Bible is not enough. Unfortunately, there are many “churches” who do each of these things but they don’t actually submit to it. How can I say such a thing? They admit it themselves. Claiming the Bible is merely a product of mankind, many spend most of their time explaining away the truths of the Bible until everything becomes relative and the Bible no longer has any meaning. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is not the simplest book, and it does take some explanation and study, but on the whole, the Bible is clear on the most foundational issues. This is what we call the perspicuity of Scripture. Perspicuity is just a fancy word meaning that the Bible is clear. You don’t have to go to Bible college or have a degree in linguistics to understand the basic message and teaching. The Bible is written to the common, everyday people, and when read, it can be understood.
I recognize that churches have understood minor topics differently throughout history and even today; however, when it comes to the non-negotiable aspects of the Faith, that which separates true Biblical Christianity from counterfeit christianity, true churches find agreement. Counterfeit churches don’t like what the Bible clearly teaches, so they do “theological gymnastics” in order to undermine its teaching. In fact, counterfeit churches love to undermine the trustworthiness of the Bible because this makes the people dependent on false teachers and their organization. “You can’t possibly understand the Bible without us telling you what it means.” This tragically rips the Bible out of the hands of the everyday people.
A true church submits everything it does, believes, and teaches to the Bible. The Bible is the final authority on all matters of faith and practice. The Bible is the final word on every issue, and when rightly understood, we should be conformed to its words. The Bible alone is the “expert” that comes in to end the controversy. So I encourage you once again, if you do not belong to a Bible-believing church, please join one today.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ