Plenary Authority

What is meant by the “plenary authority of Scripture”?

It means that we must submit everything we think, perceive or feel – even about Christ Himself – to His external, written word of Scripture.

Here, in a single simple quote, is the best explanation I’ve found.

“To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense? If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? In any truly personal relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict you.” ~Tim Keller

Your perception of Christ, professed relationship, and opinion of what He’s about, therefore, carry no weight if they do not fully conform to His external self-revelation and propositional truths of Scripture. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

In fact, saying otherwise is rebelliously delusional.

Pure and simple.

If that disturbs you, then take it up with God. I don’t make the rules, or decide how to reveal them.

~ Jim Wright


17 responses

  1. I think many people do not understand the link between authority and healing/salvation. Both belong to our God. I’m glad that God has the authority to save us. And yet, the same authority to save implies that I am required to obey all that He has commanded us to do.


  2. Whoa James…I agree…but in doing so, I note that you began by a referrence to offensiveness of some of what the Bible teaches. In fact, Jesus warned that his own teachingss woud offend. But what should never offend is our divided interpretations of God’s truth. You are a planter and I am once again trying to re-plant a church that was ripped from it’s ground by hateful shoving of Bible doctrine. First Peter 3:15 says it well…and we should heed that as well. Good article.


    • Thanks, Jon. Interestingly, in our fellowships we don’t focus on this or even talk about it. The status of scripture is just a given. We also are extremely tolerant of doctrinal differences, although have a firm fidelity to the essentials (including the plenary authority of scripture).

      I would NEVER plant a fellowship around doctrines or even Bible study (although both are elements of any healthy fellowship), but around the foundation of Christ. But I also would never present any hint that there is a dichotomy between Christ and His written Word of scripture. If anyone’s perception of Christ was out of sync with scripture, then their perception is wrong.

      God speaks many ways – through the vibrant presence of the Holy Spirit in us, through the universal law (moral code) written in our hearts, through His gifts as we express Jesus in us to each other, etc. Scripture is not in lieu of God’s Word spoken in other ways – it just trumps them where there is a conflict!

      That, in a nutshell, is the plenary authority of scripture.


      • Especially like the reply…the focus in the fellowship is not on the precise doctrinal agreement but on the fellowship…BUT THE UNDERLYING ACCEPTANCE OF THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE IS A GIVEN! Right on.


  3. what happens if two people disagree on what propositional truth is taught in scripture? or they disagree on what jesus’s emphasis was in terms of his commands?
    Is it not possible I could be following the truths in scripture as I see them and be completely at odds with another christian who also thinks they are doing the same?
    Personally this is not a big issue to me as I don’t read scripture as a textbook or recipe book. But I am fascinated by people that make claims as if what they see as plain propositional truth and external revelation should be readily seen by all other honest believers.


    • Dear Eli,
      yes! Of course that will happen and I’ve seen people divide over issues like that. But I’ve also seen unity in different understanding: with the suppot of God, two humble, honest and loving hearts will either gain common understanding or peace with two respected ways to look at an open issue.
      Basic truths (i.e. God saves us through Jesus blood etc) I would always see as common, mutual understanding though.


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  5. …amazing that you don’t see the irony in finding “the best explanation” of your doctrine of the “plenary authority of scripture” outside of scripture itself.


    • I see the irony.

      However, if someone doesn’t accept the plenary authority of scripture, what good does it do quoting scripture? That, too, is an irony.

      Regardless, I rest on 2 Tim. 3:16-17 as my primary scriptural support.


  6. 2 Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God [That is, a messenger of God (the phrase echoes a common Old Testament expression)] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

    Really means that we must submit everything we think, perceive or feel – even about Christ Himself – to His external, written Word of scripture?


    • I think that all of evangelical Christianity misses a very important fact. Jesus and his followers redefined the term/phrase word of God from Torah to gospel. Jesus taught a totally redemptive hermeneutic and all of his first century apostles, including James had that view of scripture. When people do not look at audience and occasion they make horrendous errors in interpretation. This is the current state of orthodox/evangelical doctrine and dogma. You cannot quote 2 Tim 3:16 with out including its wider context. Verse 15 states the redemptive purpose “make one wise unto salvation.” Current orthodox/evangelical doctrine has adopted the hermeneutic of the scribes and Pharisees and in my view perpetuates the leaven of the Pharisees.


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