Is the Bible your authority? Most Christians would claim it is. That’s what they’re supposed to say. We love the Bible. It’s God’s word, and we’re supposed to uphold it. But is it really an authority over you, or are you an authority over it?
What do you do, for example, when you’ve done something Scripture forbids? What if you’ve advocated something the Bible prohibits? Is your first inclination to correct your own thinking or to try to change the Bible’s meaning?
I realize very few people would say, “I don’t agree with the Bible on this point, so I’m going to do a line-item veto on this verse.” That makes our rebellion too obvious. I know I’m more subtle about my sin.
Often when we come across a teaching we don’t like, we think to ourselves, I wonder if there’s a different way to understand this passage. Then we start digging around to see if someone has provided a possible interpretation that neutralizes the teaching we don’t like. This impulse, though, might reveal something about our heart. It could be we’re unwilling to submit to Scripture’s authority when it’s not convenient.
The most obvious example is Scripture’s sexual ethics. God has made His intentions perfectly clear on this subject. Sexual activity is reserved for a married man and woman. Period. No sex before marriage (fornication). No sex outside of marriage (adultery). No sex with people of the same sex (homosexuality). No sexual fantasy about people you’re not married to (lust). No sex with animals (bestiality). No sex with close relatives (incest).
God’s design for sex is clear. His boundaries are clear. His Word is clear. Yet, sexual urges are powerful and can feel overwhelming when unfulfilled. That’s why the temptation to find an alternative interpretation to biblical guidelines for sex is so strong.
Of course, sexual ethics is not the only area where we’re tempted to disobey. There are many others. Do we submit to God with our finances? If we’re married, do we obey Scripture’s commands on how to treat our spouse? Do we follow the Bible’s admonition on loving our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I realize there are verses in Scripture where Christians genuinely disagree on an interpretation. Do we have free will to choose God, or does He unilaterally elect us for salvation? Is the Lord’s Supper symbolic or something more? How will the end times unfold? I could name many others.
I’m talking, though, about matters that the Church has been unified on for thousands of years. Are we yielding to Scripture on those issues, or are we subjecting Scripture to us? This is a matter of the heart. Let me offer three quick suggestions that might help if you find yourself tempted to make the wrong choice. Although there are obviously more, consider this a quick start guide.
- Pray and ask God for help. It’s God’s intention that you follow and obey Him and His Word. Asking for His help, therefore, is consistent with His will for your life. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will renew a spirit of obedience to God and submission to His Word.
- Meditate and memorize Scripture. By getting God’s word in our heart, it infiltrates our very being. It becomes a part of us, and our King’s commands are close at hand when we need them. Therefore, find a passage that relates to the area where you’re tempted to compromise on God’s command and memorize it. You can ask an accountability partner to hold you accountable to accomplish this. You don’t have an accountability partner, you say? Read my next suggestion.
- Get an accountability partner. There’s nothing more humbling than a close friend who asks pointed questions about an area you’re struggling with. Accountability partners are great at helping us submit to Scripture when we’re tempted to make it submit to us. If you’re in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex (either dating, engaged, or married), this is an absolute must. You need someone to routinely ask you the hard questions no one else will: Are you honoring God with your relationship? Are you keeping appropriate boundaries with physical intimacy? You should give them explicit permission to feel free to ask you any question they want.
Submitting to Scripture is a matter of obedience, one that is essential to being a Christian. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey My commands” (Jn 14:15). Those commands, by the way, are found in Scripture. That’s why it makes no sense to profess faith in Christ but then to live like He (and His Word) has no place in your life.