• Skip Wilson

The Bible vs. the Church

Updated: Apr 16, 2019

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Tim. 3:16-17 (NASB)

Cross left standing inside Notre Dame after devastating fire; Photo: Philippe Wojazer, AFP/Getty Images

The Bible is our ultimate authority on how we are to live our lives. Given that our chief aim is to glorify God and to love and enjoy Him forever, the next logical question is “Ok, how do I do that?” Our gracious Lord has not left us without such a guide- indeed God has spoken.

As I am writing this, I am watching the absolutely beautiful Notre Dame being engulfed with flames. My sincerest heart and sympathies go out to those that call that church home, to the city which made such a beautiful structure possible and indeed to the world for the loss. Among all the thoughts and images that this tragedy brings to my mind, one thought in particular is the impermanence of the visible church.

A Catholic apologist who I respect for his fairness once stated that the ultimate difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism is that of authority. He said that the Catholics believe in the supreme authority of the Church while the Protestants believe in the supreme authority of the Bible.

The key phrase there is “supreme” authority. It is simply not true that Catholics do not believe in the inspiration of Scripture or that they do not hold Scripture in high regard. Nor is it true that Protestants do not have a high regard for the Church. Indeed, both of these extremes are flatly untrue and unfair.

With that said, these two differing views of supreme authority are profoundly important.

So, what is the supreme/ultimate authority that God has given mankind to instruct us how we are to live? Is it the Church or is it the Scriptures?

The Roman Catholic argument is that the Scriptures derived their authority from the Church because it was, after all, the Church that canonized the Bible in the late fourth century.

However, this Catholic argument misses the entire point of the canonization process. The Church had not convened to decide what was inspired Scripture; rather they met to determine what was inspired.

These early Christians understood that the Scriptures do not derive their authority from the Church, but rather they derive their authority directly from God.

They understood this because this is the view that Scripture has of itself.

Jesus lived in a time wherein the Jewish people had developed many “traditions of men” and adopted them into their religious practice. When Jesus encountered these, He repeated phrases like “Have you not read…” (Matthew 19:4). He used the Word of God to correct the religious practices.

For something to possess supreme or ultimate authority, it must derive from a supreme/ultimate source. This is why it is important to note that the Word of God was written down by men under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

A Church derives its authority from the Bible because the Bible derives its authority from God directly. A Church that departs from the Bible ceases to have its full authority.

Your life too is to be subject to God’s will. Your purpose is to glorify God. His Word is what He has given you as the ultimate authority as to how you can/should do that.