“For you will no longer remember the oracle of the LORD, because every man’s own word will become the oracle, and you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God” (Jeremiah 23:36).
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God declares the inescapable consequence of rejecting the authority of God’s word. Such rejection leads to massive biblical illiteracy and ignorance, “you will no longer remember the oracle of the Lord…” The reason for this is because everyone’s own ideas and opinions “become the oracle”, i.e. the ultimate authority (Jer 23:16, 32). As such God’s word is perverted to accommodate the whims, opinions, prejudices, and experiences of man (cf. Ezk 22:28; 2 Pt 3:17). Whenever Scripture’s authority is compromised, this will be the inevitable result. It is an immutable biblical principle.
Today the realm of ideas which influences the thinking and actions of most people is dominated by two principles which are assumed to be self-evident. One is the belief that all truth and goodness and right are relative and subjective. The other is that the pursuit of pleasure and self-fulfillment should be paramount. The result has been the abandonment of divine revelation – and in many instances of even human reason and common sense – in favor of pure individualistic subjectivism and emotion. What each individual feels, thinks, experiences, and prefers is now the authority, not divine revelation. In essence, everyone does what is right in their own eyes (Jg 21:25); even within most of professing Christendom.
The practical effect of this way of thinking can be traced through contemporary literature – both secular and “Christian” – art, entertainment, government, and even most of professing Christendom, until now we are witnessing both a society and church cut loose and completely adrift from its spiritual and moral moorings. As a result we see a society and church left wringing its hands and totally at a loss as to how to right what it instinctively knows is wrong. We are witnessing the immutable principle of sowing and reaping. It is still futile to think that we can sow to the flesh and expect we will not from the flesh reap corruption (Gal 6:8). People do not like the consequences of sin, but they refuse to give up the sin they love, or admit it is their sin which has produced the consequences they so intensely dislike.
The direct tendency, if not intention, of these principles has been to create the loss of a sense of God and a sense of sin. Sadly, many religious leaders have adopted, and continue to adopt these ideas, if not in principle then in practice (Tit 1:16), creating throughout the land an aversion to divine truth until now people will no longer endure sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:3, 4). This rejection of divine revelation as absolute and authoritative truth always leads to the carnal perversion of all things spiritual so as to make spiritual truth palatable to the carnal mind and conform to human wisdom. As a result, the popular teaching that passes for truth in most of the church today is a travesty of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most today respond to the authority of Scripture the same way people responded to Jeremiah’s preaching, “As for the message that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we are not going to listen to you! But rather we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths…” (Jer 44:16, 17; cf. Ezk 33:31, 32).
Jesus painted a dark picture of His generation, referring to them as “unbelieving and perverted” (Lk 9:41), “evil and adulterous” (Mt 12:39), “adulterous and sinful” (Mt 8:38), even though there were a handful of people in His day that yielded to the authority of His teaching. Our generation cannot escape the same indictment. Such an assessment of the modern church and present day Christianity is not judgmental, elitist, or censorious, but simply the realistic conclusion of applying authoritative biblical criteria.
When the authority of Scripture is merely a notion held only in the head and consists of nothing more than words in a doctrinal statement, and is not an all-consuming principle that resides in the heart and dictates all the decisions and choices of life, then any affirmation of Scripture’s authority is merely honoring God with the lips while the heart remains far from Him. Any profession of love for God that is not accompanied by a yielding and submission to God’s word as the Word of God is a hollow and insincere profession. True faith accepts by faith the truth and authority of God’s word because this entire book is the oracles of God. Its promises are reliable, its threats and warnings serious, its principles and precepts immutable, its laws, commands, and prescriptions binding, its values are real, and its categories are valid. Its truth, authority, and power are inseparable.
Aside from the natural enmity of the human heart to all things God (Rm 8:7; Col 1:21), in the past such ignorance and rejection of divine truth might be attributed to widespread illiteracy, poverty, ignorance, or inaccessibility, but such is not the case today. Today what we are witnessing – the immorality, rebellion, and barbarism that normally characterize only pagan cultures – is the direct result of a willful and deliberate ignorance, and an obstinate and rebellious rejection of the authority of divine revelation, not only by society at large, but by the vast majority of professing Christians (Rm 1:28).
Most of professing Christendom continues to deceive itself that some portions of Scripture are not authoritative. People deceive themselves that they are not responsible for disobedience if they pretend that God’s word is ambiguous concerning their particular lust, prejudice, or practice. Detailed attempts are made to explain away biblical doctrines, principles, and precepts. Because these attempts to explain away the clear meaning of Scripture, or to come up with alternative views to the plain meaning, are often offered by “scholars”, people think they are safe to adopt an alternative meaning and still be faithful to God’s word with a clear conscience.
Today attempts are being made to explain away the Bible’s teaching concerning homosexuality. The same has been done with the biblical account of Creation, the doctrine of hell, the distinct differences and roles for men and women, marriage and divorce, separation from the world, personal holiness, sin, man’s condition and nature, the new birth, repentance, marks of true salvation, the church, worship, and virtually every biblical doctrine that infringes on a person’s subjective opinion and personal desires, and is repugnant to the natural mind. The Bible’s teaching is deemed to be too vague for anyone to be dogmatic about its demands. Ignored is the simple fact that the attempt to explain away the truth of Scripture involves the admission that in their obvious meaning such texts teach the doctrines which are sought to be explained away. The issue is not “what does the Bible teach”, but “is what the Bible teaches true and authoritative”?
Different theories of revelation are invented, inspiration is redefined, dispersions and doubts are cast on the historical and scientific accuracy of Scripture, and rationalistic efforts are made to distinguish between inspired and uninspired portions of Scripture. It is assumed that if someone can cast doubt on any part of Scripture, then they are not responsible to obey and submit their heart and mind to its teaching, all the while ignoring that there is no such thing as unauthoritative divine revelation, and that it is impossible to believe and disbelieve Scripture at the same time. Today we see everywhere professing Christians who only acknowledge the authority of Scripture that “speaks to them.” The clear, objective declarations of God’s word are cast to the mercy of the current thoughts, feelings, and opinions which dominate their heart and mind. A characteristic mark of the true people of God has always been an entire trust in every word of Scripture. True Christianity has always rested on the belief that every jot and tittle of this book is the oracles of God, not the mind of man.
This attempt to discredit Scripture’s authority is often very subtle and appears in many churches doctrinal statements in an affirmation that Scripture is authoritative “in all matters pertaining to faith and practice.” Which begs the question, what about matters which do not pertain to faith and practice? Who determines what refers to faith and practice and what does not? Often we hear church leaders say they focus on the “essentials.” Who determines what is and is not essential? It seems to me the list of essential doctrines keeps getting smaller. I would think that the doctrine of Scripture’s authority and sufficiency is an essential doctrine, but it is painfully obvious that most of professing Christendom does not share this conviction.
Not every Christian can be a biblical scholar, but, thank God, every Christian man and woman has an authoritative and trustworthy Bible to which he/she can turn to in every time of need. It is this divine revelation by which the Christian governs their life and thinking, shapes their opinions, judges their experiences, and walks by faith not by sight. The doctrine of Scripture’s authority is a deathblow to man’s intellectual, moral, and spiritual pride and independence, his idols of self and the world, and the sin to which he is prone and loves. No wonder the natural mind is so hostile to this truth.
Iain Murray closed his biography of Jonathan Edwards with this exhortation, “…and let it also be remembered that the Word of God never yet prospered in the world without opposition. There is no guarantee that men faithful to God will be recognizable by their numbers, their talents, or their success. But in due course, if not in this life-time, they will witness the fulfilment of the promise, ‘for them that honor Me I will honor’ (1 Sam 2:30).” Lest we also be found guilty of perverting the words of the living God, let us take seriously the warning of Jesus, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk 8:38). May all who truly love the Lord echo the words of Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” (2 Tm 4:7).