Who has Ultimate Authority over Scripture?

The following is a comment left for me on a blog post I had wrote ‘Sola Interpretation‘. Sometimes comment sections can easily get cluttered and become impersonal. I think that lengthy comments can best be responded to in a post especially if that post can help spread the Gospel or help in Biblical doctrine.

Thank you Douglas for your ideas etc. about my concerns on the published post. I have little time so I will be brief.

First, Christ founded the “Church” on Peter whom He had just named as “Rock” . . . giving us a corporate entity that would endure after He ascends to Heaven. In fact, it was the Church that gave us the first Canon of Scripture: which seems right. Though many books were studied which had been used by local churches for the benefit of the people, some were include in the Canon and others were not. Those easily decided upon became the first canon and the others, set aside for further study, became called the deuterocanonical works or second canon. But it makes them of not lesser value only ones that took more study than the first.

Secondly, Christ also says to the Apostles, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven and whose sins you loose are loosed both in Heaven and on Earth.” That sounds like in matters of Faith and Morals the Church has the ability to establish these things: not through reasoning as you asserted but by the assistance of the Holy Spirit. This is seems to me, a non-theologian, means that the Church is the one that tells us that the Bible is reliable and without their approval we might not have the assurance of the books in the Bible. After all, in those books are not passages speaking of a book or group of books that are infallible . . . the Church told us that (if properly read and understood in context). The Scriptures speak more of the discourse of the Gospel and very little about the written word. The only place I see this is when it is warning people to stand fast to the teachings they have heard whether by word or by letter. Obviously it is speaking of the letter it is found in but there is no definitive list of what was to be Holy Scripture in AD 400 or thereabouts. Now to loose and bind as a grace and power given to the Apostles seems to indicate that they can and should take this responsibility in matters of Faith and Morals for the salvation of souls. Somebody, not just anybody has this ability. No theologian on his own, if he is faithful to the Scriptures as given us by the Church stands on his own work without having them based upon those Scriptures and they await approval from the Church as to whether their though is in compliance to the understanding of the Church on the matters in question. That seems rather sensible to me.Much more to be said, but as I said Douglas, I have limited time for a full response. Hope this helps you see my points better however.

Thank you very much for your reply to my post. I am glad you took the time to read my response to your comment. I enjoyed your comment that you left and I thought I could, in turn, give a quick reply in kindness yet bound by God’s Word.

Authority of Scripture

If you and I disagree on what Scripture is then we will look at this topic differently. If you and I can agree with the statements I made in my previous post that Scripture is the very Word of God, that Scripture should interpret itself, and that we should be in submission to what God has said, then we can move forward and this post will hopefully be very helpful. If we cannot agree on this point then we may be on opposite sides of the fence playing what I dub “Theologial Wack-a-Mole” where we tend to squash each-others theology without really seeing things eye to eye.

Is the Church founded on Peter or Jesus?

In your first thought you stated that “First, Christ founded the “Church” on Peter whom He had just named as “Rock” . . . giving us a corporate entity that would endure after He ascends to Heaven.” In your second thought you said “Secondly, Christ also says to the Apostles, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven and whose sins you loose are loosed both in Heaven and on Earth.” That sounds like in matters of Faith and Morals the Church has the ability to establish these things: not through reasoning as you asserted but by the assistance of the Holy Spirit.” Since Scripture is the sole source of all doctrine let’s look at where these verses are in Matthew 16:13-23

13 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 They said, “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18  I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19  I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” 20 Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ. 21 From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.”

https://ebible.org/web/MAT16.htm

Addressing your first comment. The Rock that Jesus is referring to is the confession that Jesus is the Son of God. It is the foundation discussed in my previous post that all doctrine is built on. The Gospel of Justification by faith alone is the foundation of the church and the gates of hell cannot overcome it. The surrounding context of these verses show this is about who Jesus is and what He has come to do. To die and rise for our sins and that whoever believes in this Rock will have eternal life. As your comment was in response to a post about who gets to interpret scripture I fail to understand how this passage would refute Sola Scriptura. This passage is not discussing the church’s power to self-interpret scripture.

As for your second comment. Jesus gives the keys to the kingdom to His disciples for the binding and loosing of sins (see also John 20: 21-23). The binding and loosing of sins is discussed again in Matthew 18; and John 20:23 also gives the context that this is for an office of the church for forgiving sins. This is discussing confession and absolution; the office of the keys. As I stated above, if you are refuting Sola Scriptura as the sole basis of Scriptural interpretation this passage doesn’t support that idea. You seem to be staying that Jesus gave the church the authority to interpret Scripture but this passage does not discuss the church receiving power or special knowledge for interpretation of God’s Word.

Neither one of these passages of Scripture are discussing the power of the church to interpret scripture for itself. We know this because the context is clear and as I had shown above the context has nothing to do with the church receiving special knowledge for interpretation. Thus, all I have done is allow Scripture to interpret scripture.

Sola Interpretation is not Sola Scriptura

Where this still boils down to is a matter of who gets to decide what Scripture says. It seems that we still disagree on the Authority of Scripture. I state that the ultimate authority of Scripture is God, since it is His very Word, thus it interprets itself. You seem to give the ultimate authority to ecclesiastical power rather than the Word of God. You state:

In matters of Faith and Morals the Church has the ability to establish these things: not through reasoning as you asserted but by the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

This is seems to me… that the Church is the one that tells us that the Bible is reliable and without their approval we might not have the assurance of the books in the Bible. 

I think you have helped me to understand what you mean by “the church” in how you discussed Peter. I am assuming you mean the Roman Catholic Church. I won’t spend much, if any, time on that in case I am mistaken. Yet, you seem to have the following line of reason: Since the church decides what Scripture is then they get to decide how to interpret it, they have the assistance of the Spirit so we can know that they aren’t using their fallen reasoning to interpret scripture.

Yet, the church didn’t decide what God had said, the Scripture that I presented in the last post still stands as well as Titus and 2 Timothy tell us that the OT, Apocrypha, Gospels, and the Apostolic letters, are the Word of God. Also, the Canon of Scripture was never in question except by some false sects; for example there was a sect that falsely stated the OT and NT showed two separate “god’s”, Marcionism; or another one that claimed Gnostic/Enthusiasts writings were superior to the Canononical books; Montanism. Thus, the publication of the books of the Canon of Scripture, was to put an end to these types of foolish controversies.

Scripture is the Word of God, it is God Spirited so it is never without the Spirit. Now, the Spirit can be rejected. I don’t think you or I would disagree with this. Scripture is full of people falling into sin and even falling away, Paul tells us in Acts that people can reject the Spirit, etc…

So, if we can reject the Spirit then someone can misinterpret Scripture when they don’t allow Scripture to interpret itself. The Spirit works through the Word when the Word is the sole source of interpretation. The Spirit does not work apart from the Word nor does the Spirit work through someone’s interpretation based on anything but the Scriptures interpretation of itself; namely in its own intended context.

To say that anyone, be they the head of any church body or denomination, has the ultimate authority to interpret Scripture over and above Scriptures own God given self interpretation (being as it is the very Word of God), is not only false, its blasphemy.

This is why I said if we couldn’t agree on what Scripture is, on its Sole Authority as God’s holy Word, then we wouldn’t see eye to eye on any other matter. I am terribly sorry but it seems we won’t be able to go further in this matter if we do not agree as to Who the ultimate authority of Scripture is. If one sees it as God’s authority and the other as ecclesiastical authority then we will differ on everything else that flows from Scripture.

The point of my original post was this very notion. A true theologian is bound by the authority of Scripture as the very Word of God and not on anything else. God’s Word is the sole source of all doctrine. To say that God gave the church special revelation, so that they could interprete Scripture, places the church as God. Scripture is God because the Word is God. God, the Holy Spirit, works faith through this Word; it is God-Spirited (2 Tim 3:16). Scripture is God’s Word, God gives the meaning to His Word, through His Word. Scripture is the sole source and norm for knowing God.

Truth in Love

My dearest Scoop, I am unsure if we are able to go further in this conversation as we seem to be stuck circling around the discussion of Who can speak for God. I do hope I was of some help and I pray that you will see that when it comes to Scripture, one must be humble and submissive, as it is the very Word of God. He has all authority. No system, or powers that be, can best interpret His Word than He Himself. That is why He gives us His Spirit in that very Word. Allow Him to speak and let nothing place itself over the Word. Never allow God to be in submission to fallen reason, Ecclesiastical power, or a person who thinks they have special revelation or insight (Enthusiasts).

I have enjoyed replying to your comments. I hope my posts are as much a blessing to you as your comments have been to me. May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your heart and thoughts in Christ Jesus.

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