A short word about the authority of the Word
You may not believe it to look at me now, but when I was a teenager my father actually felt compelled to read to me the verse in the New Testament in which the apostle declares it a disgrace for a man to wear his hair long. At the time I thought his quotation entirely irrelevant and meaningless. Who cares about that old stuff? I thought. But someone cared enough to preserve even those old words. My father cared to read them. My mother cared. The pastor at my church cared. My grandmothers and aunts cared. My friends and their families cared. Perhaps they did not care for that particular verse, but they cared. They cared for words like, "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;" and, "Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden…" and words like, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...."
Though I had squirmed in the pews on countless Sundays and caused no end of grief for my Sunday School teachers and suffered through three years of confirmation, still I thought the Bible was largely an old book with old things for old people who believed in old ideas. ...this Word has power and authority over me ... it has transformed me. Then I read it for myself—a chapter a night of the New Testament that my parents had given me as a confirmation present. I filled the margins with questions and notes. I took it with me on camping trips and even dropped it in the lake. I found that I too began to care what was in that book. I began to care about words like "Be still and know that I am God…" and words like "...through love become slaves of one another."
I found that I had been changed. My perceptions, my misconceptions, my presumptions, and expectations had been altered or destroyed by this Word, this book, this black and white ink and paper Word that burns easily in any fire. But it had scorched me. It had burned away my naïve notions of peace and justice, love and hate, worth and value. I found that rather than reading the Word, the Word had read me like a book. It had known me before I glanced at the page and then slain my pride and hubris with its words of sacrifice and grace, and left my old world in ashes.
That is why this Word has power and authority over me, because it has transformed me. Say all you will about historical conditioning, cultural conditioning, inerrancy or infallibility. They are puny concepts in the face of the ability of this Word to change people. This Word captures and kills, no matter how old it is. This Word transfers one from death to life, even if by means of imperfect human hands. The authority of scripture lies precisely and firmly in its ability to transform my life.
So, I return to the scene of the crime as often as I can and read again the same words that have already done their bloody work and whose terrible repetition is needed every day to slay that old presumptuous reader. That is why this Word is the touchstone of Christian life and hope, and the source to which we turn when we hear all those other words, especially our own. For, only this counter-cultural, counter-intuitive, counter-“self” Word can capture me, imprison me, kill me, and give me new life. That is its power and authority. "For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."