The Authority of Scripture

There is a temptation to see the Bible as self-sufficient, that a person really needs no other guide. The idea here is that the Bible itself instructs you how to read it, and that if you just keep reading it with an open mind you will learn everything you need to know about its message. This, I believe, is a misconception!

When Lutherans and other Reformers cry Sola Scriptura they are not saying the Bible is the only thing you need. Instead, they are saying that the Bible alone is the highest authority. In Lutheran Confessional terms we talk about Scripture being “the only rule and norm according to which all doctrines and teachers alike must be appraised and judged.”

For the Written Word to carry authority, the first thing needed is literacy. Someone must be able to read, know vocabulary, understand sentence structure, and understand rules of grammar. And then reader and hearer alike must be able to think logically.

Although the Scriptures themselves help bring forth faith, belief that the writings themselves are the Word of God is fundamental to understanding them. The Church, involving the Communion of Saints, believes, teaches, and confesses that the Bible is the Word of God.

And then as Scripture itself teaches, just as the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Bible, so the Holy Spirit is needed for us to understand them (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21). Such interpretation is not a matter of individual interpretation! Part of the reason for this is that the Holy Spirit both gathers the Church and then works through the variety of spiritual gifts variously given to its members to guide us.

It is good to remember that as our Lord Jesus and His Apostles bore witness to the meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures, it was not enough that people then knew them well. They needed to have their ears and hearts opened to learn that the Scriptures pointed to Jesus – His death and resurrection for our salvation. (cf. John 5:39; 1 Cor. 10:11)

Since You Asked…

What is the purpose of the Psalm Reading? And why do we often sing (chant) the Psalm? “The appointed psalm is sung as a meditation on the First Lesson, a response to it, and a bridge to the Second Lesson. … Hearers of the lessons need a chance to assimilate the First Lesson before the Second Lesson begins. The required use of a psalm between the lessons provides for the restoration of psalm singing to its traditional place in the life of the church and gives the worshiper the opportunity to participate in the singing (or reading) of a portion of Scripture…” (from “Manual on the Liturgy” companion to the LBW, from Augsburg Pub.)

Chanting can be thought of as “exalted speech”. It sets the speech apart from regular speech and the slower cadence allows for reflection