By the Command of God

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God… (1 Timothy 1:1)

The Bible introduces to us the idea of revelation, and it expects us to keep this in mind as we approach it. Revelation is a display or disclosure of information by God. The information could be about himself or about anything that he knows, and he knows all things. God revealed himself to man since the beginning of creation, and spoke to Adam and Eve in words. He continued speaking to mankind even after humanity sinned. However, he did not speak to all men directly, but mainly to agents that he would create and ordain to speak and to record his words in writing.

For many generations, God spoke through his prophets, who set his words in writing for the sake of publication and perpetuity. Then, Jesus Christ came and spoke about God, about himself, and about salvation. Although Christ was superior to all the prophets who came before him, and to all the apostles who preached after him, it would be misleading to say that Christ’s words were superior in authority to that of the prophets, as if the prophets spoke by their own authority. Rather, the prophets spoke by the command of God and by the Spirit of Christ, so that it was in fact Christ himself who spoke through them, and God cannot be greater than himself. He could fulfill previous revelation and deliver a fuller revelation, but not one that is greater in authority. This is not to dishonor the ministry and revelation of Christ, but to honor all biblical revelation as from Christ.

It was not Christ’s intention to complete the biblical revelation by his ministry on the earth, but he said that he would do this by his Spirit through the apostles, who would deliver the rest of Christ’s revelation in their sermons and written records. These apostles were chosen by Christ in person during his time on the earth. But Paul was a special case. He was a fanatic who was loyal to the Jewish religion until the resurrected Christ appeared to him and commissioned him to become an apostle of the Christian faith, and especially to the Gentiles. Thus he was an apostle not by tradition, not by succession, not by denominational affiliation, not by academic credentials, and not by the authority and approval of mere men, but by the command of God. As he testified, his knowledge of the Christian religion came by revelation, and much of the New Testament consists of what he had set down in writing. The rest of the New Testament, and indeed the rest of the Bible, was likewise produced by the hand of the prophets and the apostles by the authority of God.

The Bible is a written revelation from God, and we must approach it as such. In terms of what God has decided to tell us, and in terms of accuracy and authority, there is no difference between God and the Bible. To say, “The Bible says” is to say “God says.” The two are synonymous. This provides definition to the Christian faith. That is, you can claim that you are a Christian, but you are really not a Christian if you disagree with Paul, or Matthew, or Isaiah. As long as you disagree with the Bible, you may say that you are a Christian – you can make the sounds that form the sentence – but you cannot fool God. If you disagree with the Bible, then you disagree with God, and you are not a Christian. And if you are not a Christian, then you are entitled to none of the promises and blessings that God has deposited in Christ for those who are Christians, who are the beneficiaries.

Therefore, whenever we approach the Bible, we must remind ourselves that it is the written revelation from God, and it provides an inflexible standard that defines and governs all the doctrines and practices of the Christian faith. Whether we are reading the letters of Paul, the prophecies of Daniel, or the Psalms of David, it is Christ who speaks through the pages, and who teaches our minds as we read, so that our response to the words of Scripture is our response to God himself. There is to be no gap in our minds between faith in God and faith in the Bible, or obedience to God and obedience to the Scripture. Our attitude toward the Bible reflects our attitude to God. May the Spirit grant us wisdom to perceive and acknowledge this.