Authority of Scripture in Life & Faith:
The Authority of Scripture in Life and Faith was a Three-Part Article that formed part of Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) – Jerusalem 2008 documents, ‘Section 3 of Workshop 3 – Biblical Authority and Interpretation’ written by Kanishka Raffel. He presented in his article that positive proposals for life and faith derived totally from the authority of Scripture. According to him, the God of the Scripture is not mute or deaf like gods of nations but a living God who speaks with authority. The God who speaks is the Scripture’s subject and object; also the Scripture’s hero and author.
Raffel claimed that the Scripture’s authority is derived from being the ‘Word of God’ written, authored by human beings as guided by the Holy Spirit. From the author’s perspective, the Scripture’s authority is not because it is inspiring but because it has been breathed out by God who lives. Life, health, nourishment, and sustenance do not come only in the provision that God makes for the people in food and circumstances but from the Word that he has breathed out and preserved in the Scripture.
Raffel postulated that both the Old Testament (OT) and New testament (NT) revealed Jesus Christ in anticipation and prefigurement and then in realization and consummation. In the book of Genesis, Raffel re-affirmed that God established order and graciously blessed by his Word. From the beginning, the pattern was established that God’s people in God’s place enjoying God’s presence are ruled by God’s Word. Rejection of God’s Word, as recorded in Genesis 3, led to disorder in all the relationships in the garden and in creation itself and attracted curses in place of blessing from God. Raffel referred to Abraham, who believed in God’s Word of promise, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Raffel cited the unfolding scenario from the history of Israel from Exodus. The prophets repeatedly rebuked them for failing to hear and heed the Word of God. The author defined Apostasy as failure to receive and obey God’s Word and to be deprived of God’s Word in judgment. With the coming of Lord Jesus Christ, God spoke in a new way – by His Son (Hebrews 1:1).
Raffel identified two common errors about God’s speaking and the place of the scriptures in the contemporary life of the Church and the believer:
- to set the incarnate Word, Jesus, against the written Word of Scripture; and
- to set the spirit of God against the Scripture.
The author concurred that both cases misunderstand the relationship between the scriptures and Jesus & the Spirit on the other. He reiterated Jesus’ affirmation that He came to fulfill the written Word. Indeed, Jesus made obedience to His Word essential to the character of discipleship (Mark 8: 35, 38). Jesus closely linked knowledge of Himself and His relationship to obedience to the Gospel concerning Him, whether through Him or His apostles. Raffel observed that in the NT, the normative picture of the Church is of a people ruled by God’s powerful, life-giving Word of judgment and blessing. His emphasis was that the Scripture is sufficient for the Church until Christ returns, and Scripture mobilizes the Church for its mission and leads the Church into maturity. He emphasized that Salvation is gained only by faith in Jesus Christ and that Faith is the deduction from the Authority of Scripture in Gospel proclamation. He reiterated that the relationship with God, as described in Scripture, depends on promise and Faith.
There are two realities the Scripture teaches: The whole of Scripture testifies to the ministry that finds its fulfillment in the historical events of life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That salvation is through Faith in Jesus Christ alone, yet ‘Faith comes from hearing. Raffel deduced that since the scriptures offer everlasting life by the Christ clothed in His Gospel, the Scripture authoritatively and sufficiently reveals the Gospel. He made references to Gospel summary statements of Apostle Paul in his letters – Romans 1:2 – 4; 1Cor 15: 1, 3 – 5; 2Cor 4:5; Galatians 3: 8; 2Timothy 2: 8; Galatians 2: 2, 6 – 7; 1Cor 15: 2 and Galatians 1:6, 8. He observed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments authoritatively disclose the content of the Gospel by which Christ is offered to humankind for Salvation. He referred to other gospels Today as they occurred in the first century, i.e., the prosperity gospel, the therapeutic gospel, the moralist gospel, and the good works gospel. Still, he re-affirmed that Scripture’s account of the gospel stands against the distortions.
Raffel re-stated a common knowledge that fidelity to the Lord depends on fidelity to the Gospel; God preserves in His Scriptures. Faith in the Word that is heard is how people are “included in Christ.” It has significant implications for how the Gospel is proclaimed. Raffel further stresses that the preservation and protection of the Gospel are as much of an aspect of Christian ministry as proclamation. Raffel’s clarion call to those who proclaim the Gospel is to cultivate a clear understanding of the Gospel’s content and also conform their lives to the pattern of the Gospel’s Lord as presented in 1 Timothy 4:16 and 1Timothy 3: 2 – 7. He treated the authority of the Scripture in the Church’s life using three models: maturity, freedom, and ministry. Raffel said the Word of the gospel in Scripture is essential for the growth of the Church into maturity. He referred to Ephesians 4: 11 – 14; the Church grows into maturity as the people do the work of service that God has prepared for the faithful. Every part of the Church is needed for the whole to function properly. According to him, maturity is a group project meant for all members of the body (Church), a project that the people of God must uphold.
Raffel described the mature person as one who can evaluate the winds of teaching against the Word of God and is not blown here and there chasing after every fashionable teaching but holds firmly to the truth. Those that do not give room for heresy and one who can expose the craftiness of evil men in their deceitful scheming or plots! Raffel referred to Apostle Paul and how he addressed specific issues in the Corinth Church, such as authority, freedom, and the Christian’s life and witness. He highlighted such pertinent issues that are still evident Today. In responding to these issues, Paul articulated a central principle recorded in 1Cor 10: 22 – 23: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel I may share in its blessings.”
Using Paul’s conviction as a foundation, Raffel asserted that ‘the gospel of Christ’s sacrifice for sin is not only the source of the believer’s freedom. But it creates its dynamic of gracious self-denial in the believer’s life to rescue others from the coming final judgment.’ Paul’s understanding of the freedom he won in the Gospel was that it is not to be exercised in his service. Still, to the glory of God (1Cor 10: 31) so that many may be saved (1Cor 10: 33). Raffel’s conclusion on freedom is that the missionary imperative and the plight of the weaker brother for whom Christ died should provide the vital context for the exercise or restraint of personal freedom. He referred to Paul’s Charge in 2 Timothy 4: 2: “Preach the Word be prepared in Season, and out of Season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” This charge is the apostolic pattern of ministry authoritatively recorded in the Scripture. There are six main deductions of ministry preaching as used by Raffel in this article, and they are:
- Preach the Word because God has breathed it out;
- Preach it because it is helpful for teaching and correcting and rebuking and encouraging and training;
- Preach the breathed-out Word of God, proclaim it, announce it,
- Declare it, expound it and Expose it;
- Preach the breathed-out Word of God concerning Jesus His Son;
- Preach the Word – Authentic, Apostolic Ministry, not very fashionable, not very technological, and not very entertaining DO IT! And
- Preach the Word so that the Word may do what God breathed it out to do.
Paul’s charge is to use the scriptures for the purpose they have been given. Hear the Scriptures, believe them, pray them, and live them out. Raffel referred to the Anglican articles of religion that the Church has no authority to teach what is contrary to God’s Word and may not require what is not required by God’s Word. He referred to Luke’s records in Acts that the first generation of Gospel preachers brought a dramatic decline in the practice of witchcraft. And then concluded that “The Scriptures are authoritative in the life of the believer and the church because they are the Word of God written, authored by humans, and carried along by the Holy Spirit.” His Church is built by God’s Word of Grace (Acts 20: 32) as His Word dwells amongst the people, so they are clothed with Christ (Col 3: 12 – 17).
Today, as in the past, the Scripture is defensive and protective. God’s Armour is for the believers by the authority of the Scripture. Believers are engaged in a spiritual battle. Paul told Christians to use every piece of God’s Armour to resist Satan’s attacks and to stand true to God amid those attacks.