No Scripture, No Christ

by John M. Frame

[This article was originally published in Synapse II (1.1, January, 1972). It was reprinted in The Presbyterian Guardian (Jan., 1979), 10-11.]

Why is it so important to believe in an inspired, infallible, inerrant Bible? Be­cause of Jesus Christ. 

We are not here making the usual point about the relation between Christ and Scripture. The usual point is that Christ endorsed the authority of the Old Testa­ment and endorsed in advance the author­ity of the New. That point is perfectly valid (cf. Matt. 5:17-19, John 5:45-47, 10:33-36, 14:26, 15: 26f, 16:13); but we are now making a different one, namely that unless we have a fully authoritative Scrip­ture, it is meaningless for us to confess Christ as Lord and Savior. 

I. Christ the Lord 

What does it mean to confess Christ as Lord? Among other things, it means con­fessing ourselves to be servants. In the Bible, the servant is one who has no claim upon the Lord God. He knows that his Lord owns (Ps. 24:1) and controls (Eph. 1:11) all things, and therefore owes no goods or services to anyone (Deut. 10:14-17) . He owes nothing—and has a right to demand everything. The servant has no claim upon God, but God has an absolute claim upon him. Absolute, that is, in three senses: (1) It is a claim that cannot be questioned. The Lord God has a right to demand unwavering, unflinching obedi­ence. God blesses Abraham because he “obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen. 26:5). He did not waver (Rom. 4:20), even when God commanded the sacrifice of Abraham’s son Isaac (Gen. 22:18). To waver would have been sin. (2) The claim of the Lord is absolute also in the sense that it transcends all other claims, all other loyalties. The Lord God will not tolerate competition; he demands exclusive loyalty. The servant must love the Lord with all his heart, soul and strength (Deut. 6:4; cf. Matt. 22:37). One cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:22ff) . In the New Testament, Jesus Christ de­mands—and receives—precisely this kind of loyalty from his followers (Matt. 19:16-30, 10:37, 8:19-22, Phil. 3:8). The Lord de­mands first place. (3) The claim of God is therefore also absolute in the sense that it governs all areas of life. Whatsoever we do, even eating and drinking, must be done to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31; cf. Rom. 14:23, II Cor. 10:5, Col. 3:17). There may be no compartments in our lives where the Lord is left out, where he is forbidden to exercise his authority. 

II. Christ the Savior 

Even if we were not sinners, we would still have a Lord; we are called to be servants of God simply because we are his creatures. But in fact we are not only crea­tures, but also sinners. We need, not only a Lord, but also a Savior; we need not only authority, but also forgiveness for dis­obeying that authority (Rom. 3:23, I John 3:4). Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, died on the cross to save his people from their sins (Rom. 5:8) . But how can we know that this is enough? We know because God has told us. Who else could pronounce our sins to be forgiven? Who else could promise sal­vation to those who believe in Christ? The Lord, who speaks to demand obedience, also speaks to promise salvation. He who speaks the law speaks also the gospel. As Abraham (Rom. 4:19f), we are called to believe the gospel simply because it is God’s own promise. We know that be­lievers are saved because Jesus has told us they are (John 5:24) . Only the Lord can speak the word of forgiveness, that word which declares sinners to be righteous, that word which promises eternal life.

III. Christ the Author of Scripture 

But where can we find such a word? Where can we find a word which makes an absolute claim upon us and makes an absolute promise of forgiveness? We must have it, or there is no hope. We must have it; else we have no knowledge of our Lord’s demand or our Savior’s forgiveness. Without such a word, truly we have no Lord, and we have no Savior.

A liberal or neo-orthodox theology can provide no such word. They know of no words in our experience which can de­mand unquestioning obedience, transcend all other claims, govern all areas of human life. They know of no words which can communicate unambiguously the “sure promise of God”. Where, then, can we go? Others suggest that God gives each of us a private, individual revelation; but those who make that suggestion differ widely on what God has in fact said. If they are all right, then God contradicts himself fre­quently. What test is there to determine when God is in fact speaking and when he is not? How do we distinguish the voice of God from the voices of devils and the imaginations of our hearts?

The God of the Bible directs his people to a book. To be sure, he does speak to some men individually—Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Paul; but he instructs his people as a whole to find his will in a book.

When God first led his people out of bondage in Egypt, he gave them a book (Ex. 24:12). It was a book which he had written himself; the words of the book were his own words (Ex. 31:18, 32:16). Indeed, he permitted Moses to help with the writing (34:27); but the authority of those written words was a divine author­ity, not a mere human authority (Deut. 4:1-8, 5:29-33, 6:4-25, Psm. 19, 119, Matt. 5:17-20, John 5:45-47). Later, others wrote books at God’s behest, completing what we know as the Old Testament; books which Jesus endorsed both in word (above, first paragraph) and in deed (for Jesus submitted himself entirely to Scrip­ture, living in such a way “that the Scrip­ture may be fulfilled”). The New Testa­ment Church turned to those books as the definitive transcript of God’s law and promise. The books of the Old Testament were “God-breathed” (II Tim. 3:16, literal translation) —that is, words actually spo­ken by God. Also, these early Christians came to recognize further writings, the writings of apostles and others, as having the same sort of divine authority as the Old Testament (II Thess. 3:14, I Cor. 14: 37, II Pet. 3:16). It is to such divine writ­ings that the believer must turn to avoid confusion (II Tim. 3, II Pet. 1:12-2:22). It is those writings which pronounce the word of supreme authority and certain for­giveness. It is those writings which utter God’s absolute claim and his sure promise, his law and his gospel. It is those writings by which he speaks to us as Lord and Savior.

Without such a word, there can be neither Lordship nor Salvation. Without such a word, we have no basis for con­fessing Christ as Lord and Savior. Lord­ship and Saviorhood, without authorita­tive Scripture, are meaningless expressions. That is why the authority of Scripture is so important. That is why we cannot say we love Christ while disowning the Bible (cf. John 14: 15, 21, 23, 15:10, I John 5:3). And that is why, when we present the gospel, we must present it as a word of authority and sure promise—a word which demands precedence over all other words, a word which will not be judged by the criteria of modern philosophy and science, but which demands the authority to judge all the thoughts of men (John 12:48-50). To present it as anything less is to detract from the very Lordship of Christ and from the greatness of his salvation. As our Lord and Savior, Christ is the author of Scripture.

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