Establishing Bible Authority
Written by Jay Yeager
Thursday, 12 February 2009 03:09

Establishing Bible Authority

How the Bible authorizes is one of the most pressing needs of those who profess to follow Christ. But folks, it is one thing to speak of Bible authority and quite another to know how to establish Bible authority. The intent of this lesson is to go through a process of eliminating those things which hinder a proper understanding of how the Bible authorizes, and emphasizing the things which establish authority.

The process must begin with a basic knowledge of the scriptures. II Timothy 2:15 sets forth that basic. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. Now, if one does not rightly divide the word of truth they have no hope of understanding how the Bible authorizes.

The difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament

  1. The Old Testament was never intended to be time ending (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6-13).

    1. One of the great distinctions between the two covenants is found here!

  2. The Mosaic Law was never addressed to the Gentiles (Deuteronomy 5:2-3; Malachi 4:4).

  3. The Old Testament Law had a specific purpose and a fixed end (Galatians 3:19; Genesis 26:34-35; Ephesians 2:15).

    1. When the seed came to whom the promise was made (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; Galatians 3:16), the Law had served its purpose and was removed on the cross (Colossians 2:14; Ephesians 2:12-16).

  4. We are dead to the Law of Moses (Romans 7:1-7).

    1. Understanding that will remove justification of religious practices that originated in the Old Testament

      1. Instrumental music (I Chronicles 23:5; II Chronicles 29:26; Ezra 3:10; Amos 6:5). See Galatians 5:4.

      2. Sabbath day advocates:

        1. Purpose (Deuteronomy 5:15).

        2. When instituted (Nehemiah 9:13-14)

        3. Restrictions:

          1. No work (Exodus 20:8-11; Numbers 15:32-26)

          2. Limited travel (Acts 1:12) ¾ of a mile.

        4. First day of the week is the day of Christian worship (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:1-2). See Mark 16:1-2 for a clear distinction between the Sabbath and the first day of the week (Sunday).

  5. God speaks to us through His Son (Matthew 17:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-2).

  6. The words of Christ will judge us in the last day (John 12:48).

The difference between the temporary and the permanent

In absence of the written word there was a need for the miraculous in the first century, in order to verify the message originated with God (Mark 16:17-20). Miracles confirmed the message, but the power to save souls was in the gospel preached, not in the signs to confirm the word (Romans 1:16; James 1:21).

  1. Speaking in tongues (a language) unknown by the speaker but understood by the hearer set the stage for the first gospel sermon preached in the name of a crucified Savoir (Acts 2:1-47). They that gladly received the word were baptized that same day and there was added unto them about three thousand souls (Acts 2:40-41).

  1. The miraculous healing of the man born lame at Solomon’s porch presented Peter and John with the opportunity to preach Christ Jesus. Even though Peter and John were placed under arrest for preaching through Jesus the resurrection from the dead, many of those which heard the word believed, and the number of men was about five thousand (Acts 3:1-4:4).

There is an Old Testament prophecy, that in a general way, foretells the time limit of the miraculous age, namely, forty years (Micah 7:15). That may be at least in part the reason Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletum (II Timothy 4:20), the miraculous age was coming to a close.

The New Testament is exact in spelling its end (I Corinthians 13:8-13). When that which is “perfect” (Teleios - complete, finished, perfect) comes that which is in part would be done away. With the completion of the New Testament, “the perfect Law of liberty” (James 1:25; 2:12), the need for signs to confirm the word would no longer be needed. However, three things would remain: faith, hope and love (I Corinthians 13:13). Beloved, the very definitions of faith and hope prove that “That which is perfect” is not in reference to Christ (Hebrews 11:1; Romans 8:24-25).

The difference between a custom and a principle

The events in the upper room are the longest recorded discourse we have of Jesus with just His apostles (John 13:1-17:26). The Passover had been observed, the Lord’s Super instituted, and then Jesus does a surprising thing; He girds himself with a towel and begins to wash the feet of the disciples. Now, from that, I would like to raise three questions:

  1. What was the custom?

  2. Why did Jesus feel it necessary to wash the feet of the disciples?

  3. What was he trying to teach?

What was the custom? In the Jewish homes of that day there was a basin and a pitcher of water just inside the door. Whenever anyone would come by, the owner would have the guest place their feet over the basin and water would be poured to cleanse their dusty feet. Such was a common courtesy of that time.

Why did Jesus feel it necessary to wash the feet of the disciples? This was a borrowed room. There was no host to perform this courtesy and none of the disciples volunteered for the task, so Jesus did what none of them offered to do for each other.

What was Jesus trying to teach? Was He binding foot washing as a ritual? If so, how often is the duty to be performed? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Yearly? Who decides? Beloved, the custom of foot washing was never done religiously. It was an act of courtesy, and Jesus used the custom to teach the principle of being a servant. We are servants to God (Romans 6:22; I Thessalonians 1:9), servants to Christ (Matthew 24:50; 25:14) and servants to one another (Galatians 5:13). The day we think we are too big to do the least task in the church, we’d better go read John chapter 13 again.

I Corinthians 11:1-16 has long been misunderstood, as some mistakenly come to the conclusion that a hat of some type will serve as a head covering. The dilemma arises from the fact the words cover or covered, do not accurately reveal the meaning intended. The words should be translated as veil or veiled -- once in verse five, twice in verse six, once in verse seven and once in verse thirteen. A hat does not meet the requirements of a veil. The custom of the first century, and still in some parts of the world, is that a woman should be veiled as a sign of submission.

Paul is using the custom of the first century to teach that there is a Divine order: God, Christ, man and woman (I Corinthians 11:3). The principle taught in First Corinthians 11 does not depend upon the custom to establish it, for it is as old as the creation of man (I Corinthians 11:8-9; I Timothy 2:11-13). Paul uses the custom to teach the principle, and the principle is binding.

The difference between faith and opinion or option

In matters of faith there must be unity (I Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 4:17; John 17:20-21). The faith under consideration is the “One faith” of Ephesians 4:5, the faith we are to contend earnestly for (Jude 3), and obey (Acts 6:7); namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11; 16; 23).

Just so there must be liberty in matters of opinion or option. It is true that our liberty may be voluntarily surrendered; such was the case when Timothy was circumcised at the onset of the second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-3), but liberty cannot be taken from one. When the Judaizers attempted to deny Titus his liberty and force circumcision on him, Paul absolutely refused to allow that to happen (Galatians 2:3-5). Circumcision or uncircumcision means nothing in Christianity (Romans 2:28-29; Philippians 3:3; Galatians 6:15).

Two easy examples to show the difference between faith and opinion:

  1. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (John 3:1-5).

    1. We know by faith that Nicodemus came by night; we can have an opinion as to why he came by night.

  2. John Mark left Paul and Barnabas at Perga and returned home (Acts 13:13).

    1. We know by faith that John Mark returned home; we can have an opinion as to why. Whatever the reason, Paul thought it unjustified (Acts 15:36-41).

To establish Bible authority

Commands or direct statements:

  1. The great commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16)

  2. The obligation for every accountable soul to yield their lives to Christ (Matthew 28:18; I Peter 3:22).

  3. Consequences of refusing (II Thessalonians 1:8-9).

  4. No excuses accepted (Romans 1:20).

  5. Worship (John 4:23-24).

  6. Christians and sin (Romans 6:1-2).

  7. A life of dedication (Romans 12:1-2).

  8. Instruction to grow in grace and knowledge (II Peter 3:18).

  9. Not to forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:25).

  10. Live faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10).

Approved example - When an example either establishes or illustrates Divine truth.


The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ himself (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20). I Corinthians 11:23-29 supplies the purpose to show forth the Lord’s death until he comes. Additionally, the attitude is given in these verses. In essence, stay focused on the sacrifice offered for our benefit – partake of the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.

But the frequency is only found in Acts 20:7, by apostolic example we learn that the Lord’s Supper is to be observed on the first day of every the week – and that example is authoritative and binding. Considering the significance of the first day of the week (the Lord’s Day--Revelation 1:10), students of the scriptures will find no surprise here.

  1. The Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Mark 16:1-2).

  2. The church was established on the first day of the week (Leviticus 23:15-16; Acts 2:1).

  3. The church gave on the first day of the week (I Corinthians 16:1-2).

  4. The first day of the week is the day of Christian worship, and worship would not be complete without observing the Lord’s Supper.


Philip goes to the city of Samaria and preaches the gospel of Christ. Few have experienced the success Philip enjoyed. Even Simon the sorcerer, who bewitched the city for a long time, came to believe what Philip preached. Now, it is what Philip preached that requires our attention. “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and woman” (Acts 8:12).

Beloved, preaching the kingdom (church) is binding by this approved example. It would be unthinkable to preach Christ and not preach the church. That would be preaching Christ and not preaching what He shed His blood for (Acts 20:28). That would be preaching Christ and not preaching what He is the head of (Ephesians 1:22-23). That would be preaching Christ and not preaching where reconciliation unto God is (Ephesians 2:12-16). That would be preaching Christ and not preaching what Jesus loves (Ephesians 5:25). That would be preaching Christ and not preaching what he is going to save (Ephesians 5:23). Could one preach Christ and not preach the church? Not hardly!


In Romans 13:1-7 we learn three things:

  1. Civil government is a part of the gospel of Christ and is ordained by God (Romans 13:1).

  2. That government as God intends functions to protect the innocent and punish the evil-doers (Romans 13:4).

  3. We are to be subject to civil law (Romans 13:2).

However, there is this to consider. In Acts chapter five the apostles are brought before the Jewish civil authority and they were instructed to speak no more in the name of Christ (Acts 4:18; 5:28). “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). From that apostolic example, there is a Divine truth given; namely, if civil government demands that which would put a Christian in conflict with the Law of Christ, then the Law of Christ would supersede the civil authority.

There may come in our lifetime demands from civil government that would place a Christian in conflict with the Law of Christ:

  1. Deny the right of Christians to speak out against the sin of homosexuality

  2. The demand to allow women leadership roles within the church: i.e. Elders, deacons and preachers.

  3. The demand to recognize same-sex marriage.

  4. Restrict the rights of Christians to preach the gospel to all the world.

When and if that day comes, this apostolic example would require all Christians to answer, “We ought to obey God, rather than men!

Necessary inference – when we must infer from the text a truth that is inescapable!

In Matthew 3:13-17 we have recorded the baptism of Jesus. In that account the scriptures reveal that Jesus, “when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16). We must necessarily infer that Jesus went down into the water, because you cannot possibly come up out of water, if you have not been down in it.

In Acts 18:8 there is this concerning Crispus; “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house…” Now, even though the text does not specifically say that Crispus and all his house heard the gospel, we must necessarily infer that they did, because “…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Again, in Acts 8:35-39 the eunuch has invited Philip to join him in the chariot and Philip “…preached unto him Jesus”. We must necessarily infer that in preaching Jesus unto the eunuch, Philip preached the importance of baptism. For there is no other conclusion that would warrant the question “…here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?”

Expediency to carry out the command:

  1. The command to assemble (Hebrews 10:25) necessitates a place to assemble.

    1. Rent, build, buy, meet in a home etc.

  2. Go into the world and preach the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20).

    1. Car, plane, walking, radio, newspaper, gospel meetings, web site, vacation Bible school, fair, tracts,