The authority of the Bible for doctrine and practice

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

The Lord has graciously given His people His book, the Bible, so that His people can know Him better, so that we can understand all that He has done through the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation, and so that we can know how to glorify Him on earth. One of the Bible’s strongest statements about the authority of the Bible is given in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, quoted above. The features of the Word that I want to consider in this article are that all Scripture is useful for teaching and for correction.

STRANGERS IN THE EARTH. The Bible also says that we are strangers in the earth. “I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me” (Psalm 119:19). The psalmist is making a statement about the condition of all mankind. We are strangers in the earth, in that we are born with no sense of direction, no strong means of survival, no significant control, and no real defense against the threats around us. We are strangers surrounded by strangers. Where are we going to find a trustworthy guide to help us through this minefield? The psalmist’s solution is to cry out to the LORD, “Do not hide Your commandments from me.” As a stranger here surrounded by hostiles, the psalmist asks God to give him His Word. God’s Word is what he needs, and so do we.

As we come into the world directionless, purposelessness, and defenseless, so the believer comes to Christ “conviction-less.” What I mean is that the new believer has no convictions about doctrinal truth or about practices within the church or about fellowship with other believers. This is one reason why it is very important for the new believer to become immersed in the Bible as quickly as possible so that they can begin building doctrinal foundations.


Part of growing from a new believer to a mature disciple involves fashioning biblical doctrines and practices into immovable convictions. In my own experience, when I came to Christ, I was worshiping the Lord in a large Baptist church in north Atlanta. This church was Arminian in their soteriology and was Dispensational in their eschatology. Since I came to Christ with no doctrinal foundation at all, I, too, became nominally Arminian and Dispensational simply by osmosis. But as time went on, and as I read through the Bible and studied its passages carefully, the nominal leanings that I had adopted from my pastor’s sermons were replaced with bedrock convictions bought with a firm grasp on the Word. I am now Calvinist in my soteriology and biblical in my eschatology. If there is to be sustained growth in the disciple’s walk with Jesus, it is necessary that the disciple move beyond mere adoption of the ideas of others to having convictions about what the word of the living God teaches.

Let me talk a little more about this idea of discerning and intentionally replacing erroneous ideas. The disciple of Jesus is a man or woman of one book. For the disciple, the Bible is the uncontested authority for all matters of doctrine and practice. All doctrinal and theological statements and ideas and claims should come from and may be tested by the word of God. Every doctrinal or theological statement or claim should be supported by the plain teaching of the Bible. Any teaching or theology of pastor or parent or priest or presbytery or parish or pope or professor must be crushed to dust and swept away if it cannot be readily defended from Scripture.

Therefore, it is the duty of the disciple, for the health of his own soul, to examine the doctrines he is being taught and the practices in which he engages inside the crucible of God’s word to be sure he is drinking pure milk (1 Peter 2:2) and not a diluted or tainted or even poisoned substitute. If, upon examination, the disciple discovers that a dearly beloved doctrine that he has cherished since childhood is in conflict with the teaching of the Bible, his necessary course of action is to slay that beloved doctrine and replace it with biblical teaching. The erroneous teaching must be treated as Deut. 13:6-11 treats the suggestion to serve false gods. That dearly beloved teaching that you learned on your mother’s knee, that you now know to be wrong, must be put to death without hesitation and without pity.


There are dangers to your soul from knowing that your doctrine or practice is in conflict with biblical teaching and yet persisting in it for subjective reasons.

The first danger of not rejecting and replacing this non-biblical doctrine or practice is that you will quickly grow to ignore your Bible altogether. When you tolerate known error in something small, it soon becomes easy to tolerate something bigger and more significant. It turns out that, when it comes to biblical truth, there is no such thing as a small thing. If God put that “thing” in His Word, he expects it to be obeyed, and it is a big deal when someone tolerates something else. Tolerating a “small thing” means the Bible is not the uncontested authority. Your behavior and your tolerating of the error have made clear that something else has more authority than the Word. And that is a huge problem. Now there is a rivalry (Matthew 6:24). Soon you will resent your Bible interfering with your life and eventually you will close your Bible and go do what you want to do. Tolerating any known error or conflict with biblical truth will cause your convictions to vanish like smoke. Therefore, reject any known error.

The second danger of not rejecting known error and replacing it with biblical truth is that you have a “form of godliness (religion), although you have denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). Man-made ideas and compromises are impotent and adopting man-made rules and teaching will evacuate all power from your faith. God’s Word is “a hammer that shatters a rock” (Jeremiah 23:29), but man-made substitutes have no power at all. If your church clings to error, you should leave the church. It is better to leave a church than to forfeit biblical truth. You can find another church, but once you surrender your allegiance to the absolute truth of the Bible, you will be forever at sea without rudder or compass. There is no other Word of God. What the Bible says is true and it may be trusted. Indeed, it must be trusted. If you are unwilling to examine doctrine and practice by the blazing light of the Scripture and then conform errant doctrines and practices to those demanded by the Word of God, then your Bible will soon be of no practical use to you and you will have a man-made religion.

CONVICTIONS. The disciple of Jesus must be continually purging man-made practices and made-up doctrines as he earnestly develops biblical convictions that cannot be shaken.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 4/10/2023                   #638

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