Biblical authority and humanity
2) the application of God's Word


To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

- 1 Samuel 15:22b, 23a NIV

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.

- John 14:21 NIV

4.4 The application of God's Word.

So far we have seen that the Bible has the God-given power and authority to

This summarizes the essence of life and the purpose of Scripture.

However, while God has authority over mankind as conveyed through the Bible, that authority remains a mere fact which compels neither the skeptic nor the Christian to act against their will. To decide to act upon the authority of God's Word, and to what degree, is an individual's choice.

Some people evaluate this choice of whether or not to obey biblical authority on the basic level of right versus wrong (actually, a choice made many times a day). If they believe the Bible to be true, and they have a conviction to do what is right, then they choose to try to live by the authority of the Bible.

Others, however, may not perceive such a clear demarcation of what or what not to believe. They might instead decide to weigh the biblical lifestyle against the non-biblical one; the potential gains or pleasures of each measured against the possible harm or sacrifices of the other.

For still others who have yet to conclude whether the Bible has any divine authority or not, the risk of a judgment day must be weighed against the pleasure of self-styled living. Should a skeptic come to faith in Christ, then he or she will find they have been delivered from the penalty of sin and have received the Holy Spirit as God's guarantee of eternal life. However, there is something that new believers should not hope to find...


New believers should not expect to find themselves instantly transported to heaven with perfect and problem-free lives. While that is exactly where God is taking them, he is not instantly transporting them there. Instead, he is taking hold of their hand and walking with them toward that final rest. He walks them through an educational wilderness called the rest of their lives. This wilderness is where believers' knowledge, love, and dependence on the Lord are tested, evidenced, and given the opportunity to grow. The believer's walk has at its end a glorious rest, but along the way there are challenges to face.

This form of wilderness crossing is what is pictured by the author of Hebrews in chapter four; referring to Israel's delivery out of Egypt. The Lord had answered his people's call and delivered them out of their slavery. They were now free to go to the land promised to them by God where they could settle. It was an abundant land in many ways. However, what lay immediately before them, between Egypt and the promised land, was a desert wilderness.

God began their journey by formalizing his words into the Ten Commandments, and giving them many civil and ceremonial laws. As the Hebrews began crossing the wilderness, God provided for their needs and protected them from their enemies. However, though having been given the word of God, the Hebrews ultimately failed to combine it with faith and that generation died before the wandering nation was finally allowed to enter the promised land.


One point that the author of the Book of Hebrews makes is that believers are in the same spiritual position as that wandering nation. Believers can call upon the Lord and be saved from bondage to death. Yet believers have a wilderness to cross which lies between them and that far away rest.

Believers have been provided God's Word to learn and to follow. Believers are accompanied by God who hears their prayers, and teaches, disciplines, and matures them. Believers are guaranteed that far-rest that is in heaven, but, just like the Hebrews, could miss out on the near-rest. That near-rest are those heavenly blessings which are possible here on earth as well as special blessings which will be selectively awarded in heaven. As the author of the Book of Hebrews writes:

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (Hebrews 4:1-2 NIV)

The Hebrews fell short of their near-rest by failing to combine faith and God's Word. Believers can risk making that same mistake.

So what does it mean to combine faith and the Word, and how can believers avoid the Hebrews' mistake?

Recall the basic definitions of faith. Augustine explained faith as having three distinct parts: noticia, assensus, and fiducia.

Therefore, to combine faith and the Word simply means to believe what God says to the point you are willing to act on the Word. As James summarizes about Scripture, "Do what it says" (James 1:22b NIV).


Combining faith and the Word is believing the Bible to the point that the writings move us to action. That is effective faith.

But note that faith is not the actions themselves, nor the amount of action being taken. Faith is the fine line of believing to the point that those inward beliefs have the capacity to overflow into external evidences. While a person may truly have a faith in God which has not yet been evidenced, the failure to combine faith and the Word when given the opportunity raises the serious question of whether or not that faith really exists.

Seeking to prove the presence of saving faith is like seeking to prove that a bucket which is too high to see into has been filled with water. Because the goal is to prove the bucket is filled to the rim, we can't prove we've reached that point until we've passed that point. In other words, when we pass that point of having a full bucket, we'll then see water coming down the sides and getting things wet. Then we'll unquestionably know the bucket is full. While it is possible to fill the bucket without passing that point, that would not generate the comforting proof we need to assure us that it is actually full.

In like manner, we unquestionably know we've successfully combined faith and the Word when our belief in the Bible spills over into visibly affecting areas of our life. If our belief is not spilling over, if there is little or no outward sign of our professed inward commitment, then it is quite possible and highly likely that the point of saving faith has not been reached.

The lesson for the Hebrews is the same lesson for us: faith and God's Word are combined in obedience to God's Word. Obedience is faith in action. Obedience is the comforting proof of faith. Obedience proves that we believe God enough to do what he says. Obedience to the Word is so very important because that is what God recognizes as love:

This is love for God: to obey his commands. (1 John 5:3a NIV)

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15 NIV)

Obedience is how we can recognize who among us is loving God:

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. (John 14:21a NIV),

and who is not:

If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20 NIV)

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NEXT: Biblical authority and humanity - part three

See also:

Conclusion: A story of the S.S. Titanic

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How biblical authority affects us in terms of applying God's Word.