What do people mean when they say the Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice?

The Bible as the "sole authority" or "final authority" or "only infallible rule" or "only certain rule" appears in many church and organizational doctrinal statements. Leaders desire to communicate their reliance on and commitment to the Bible above any person, writings, or philosophy.

The Bible says something similar: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

The sovereign and perfect God chooses to communicate to people through several avenues (the Holy Spirit, other believers, circumstances, signs, etc.)—but always through the Bible to everyone. His perfection means that His Word must be perfect. And He will never contradict what He has already revealed in His Word, so any other way we "hear" God must line up with the truth revealed in the Bible (Acts 17:11).

A. A. Hodge, missionary to India, Presbyterian leader, and Princeton theologian, wrote, "Whatever God teaches or commands is of sovereign authority. . . . The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the only organs through which, during the present dispensation, God conveys to us a knowledge of his will about what we are to believe concerning himself, and what duties he requires of us" (Outlines of Theology, chapter 5).

Being the sole authority means that other voices may be heard and considered, but the Bible trumps all and speaks from a posture of perfection, rule, and power. It means nothing that contradicts or opposes the Bible will have any standing. The Bible is our framework for discerning what is true and right.

So, for example, when the Bible tells us that Jesus is returning (John 14:3; Revelation 19:11–16), we must believe that is so. This is fact. Another example, when the Bible says to "flee from sexual immorality" (1 Corinthians 6:18) we obey that imperative.

When a person does not see the Bible as the sole authority, they are at risk of being "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Ephesians 4:14).

The Psalms also speak of the Word of God and its status.

"Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens" (Psalm 119:89).

"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart, the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Psalm 19:7–8).

Related Truth:

Is the Bible really the Word of God?

How is the Bible inspired? What does it mean for the Bible to be inspired?

What is meant by the sufficiency of Scripture? How is the Bible sufficient?

Is the Bible still relevant today?

Applying the Bible – How can I do it in my life?

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