Editor's note: This message was delivered at the Chalcedon Conference for Christian Culture in Lusaka, Zambia, June 28, 1997.
We're going to take a little trip this morning. I will begin by talking about the Bible, and end by showing that every area of life must be governed by the Bible. If you are willing to start with me on this trip, I am convinced you will end up where I will take you. The implications are astonishing, and life- and culture-transforming.
We begin our trip by answering this question: is the Bible God's Holy Word? Every Christian can only answer a loud YES. Why? Because God tells us so in the Bible. The Bible is God's inspired and infallible word (2 Tim. 3:15-17; Jn. 17:17). Why do we appeal to the Bible to prove the Bible? Because there is no higher authority that we can appeal to. What else could we appeal to prove that the Bible is the word of God? The church? But the church is made up of fallible men. How can fallible men infallibly prove an infallible Book? What about science? Should we appeal to science to prove the Bible? No, science has been shown to be wrong time and again. What about historical evidence: archaeological finds that agree with what the Bible says or teaches? We are glad for these, but they can always be variously interpreted. They don't prove the Bible to be true. The only infallible proof of the inspired, infallible Bible is the Bible itself, as the Holy Spirit seals the truth to our hearts.
For this reason, we say that the Bible is self-authenticating. All those who have been saved by God's Spirit have God's testimony that the Bible is the word of God. The Christian needs no proof from the church, from reason, from science, from archaeology. He knows the truth because God has sealed the truth to his heart (1 Jn. 2:20, 21, 27). No amount of proof can convince a hardhearted, blind sinner (1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 1:18). And no amount of disproof can shake the faith of a submissive, obedient Christian (Rom. 4:18). The only infallible proof of the Bible is the testimony of the Bible, God's Holy Word.
The Bible, then, is God's word to man. It claims to be a message from God to man (2 Pet. 1:19-21). It is written in words man can understand. We have today God's inspired, infallible word in our own tongue. We have the very living word of God at our fingertips.
All of the Bible is God's word. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 teaches us that all of the Bible is inspired, or "breathed out," by God. God is the Author of the Bible. There is no indication in the Bible that some is the word of God and the rest is not. Nor is there an indication that some of the Bible is "more" of God's word than other parts. For instance, the Old Testament is not less the word of God than the New Testament. There are many today who want to say that the Old Testament was only for the nation of Israel, but not for Christians. But the New Testament writers and Jesus did not treat the Old Testament this way; in their ministry the Old Testament was God's authority for all of life. The Bible writers treat all of the Bible as the word of God.
We say that the Bible is inspired. By this we do not mean only that God inspired the writers to say what they wanted to say. We mean that the words of the Bible are the very words of God. We call this verbal inspiration (Mt. 4:4). When we read the words of the Bible, we are reading the words of God that men wrote down. They are the words of men, but they are also and mainly the words of God (Ac. 1:16). We can be certain that when we read the Bible, we are reading the words of God.
If the Bible is the word of God, then the Bible is authoritative. The God that the Bible speaks to us of is the Triune God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (Gen. 1:1; Col. 1:15-17). He does whatever he pleases (Ps. 115:3). He is Almighty (Gen. 17:1). He knows all things (Jb. 37:16). He governs all things by his unlimited power (Ps. 33:9). He made man (Gen. 1:27). He tells man what is required of him (Mic. 6:8). Where does God speak to man? In Biblical times, he spoke in dreams and visions, and by prophets; today he speaks to us in his Son (Heb. 1:1, 2). That means, in his Son's word, recorded in the Bible (Mt. 24:35). The Bible is where we turn to learn what God is like, and what he requires of us. The Bible is authoritative revelation because it is the word of God.
The Bible is a command word. It is not mainly for scholars and professors to nibble on. It is for us read and to obey (Ps. 119).
The Content of Authoritative Revelation
When we turn to the Bible, what do we see? We see a story about how God created all things. Then we learn that sin entered the world, and that God put into place a plan of redemption. Man became increasingly sinful, so God sent a worldwide flood that destroyed all men except one godly man, Noah, and his family. Then we read about another godly man, Abraham, and his family, whom God chose to be in covenant with. He chose Abraham and his seed, later called Israel. Most of the Old Testament is about God's dealings with this nation. He chose them and loved them. But they sinned. So he judged them for their sin. Through it all he promised a Savior, a final way of putting away sin and providing a permanent forgiveness.
In the New Testament we read of that Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We read how he came to earth and died a cruel death. We read how his death paid for the sins of man. We read that all who place faith in him will be saved, both now and in eternity. We read that those who place faith in him become the new chosen people of God, the New Israel. Much of the New Testament tells how this New Israel is supposed to live. The last book of the New Testament, Revelation, shows that Satan and his forces cannot defeat God's program for man and the earth.
God's Program for Man and the Earth
But what is God's program for man and the earth? Behind both the Old Testament and the New Testament is the kingdom of God, God's righteous reign in the earth. God commissioned Adam to be his representative. Adam was to exercise dominion in the earth (Gen. 1:27, 28). Adam failed. But God then called Noah to the same task (Gen. 9:1-3). He called Abraham and Israel to the dominion task also (Gen. 22:17). Christ Jesus is the ultimate Dominion Man (Ps. 110; Ac. 2:34-35). All who are united to Christ by faith are the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:26-29). They are called to steward the earth for the glory of God.
We cannot afford to miss this: God's reason for placing man on the earth is for man to exercise dominion in the earth under God's authority. Because man sinned, he now needs a Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. When man is saved, he is not saved just to get ready for Heaven. He is saved to steward the earth. The redeemed man is restored to his original calling from which he fell. If you are a Christian, this is your main calling: to exercise dominion in the areas of life in which God has placed you. You are a king and priest under God's authority (Rev. 1:5, 6)
All Are Called To Exercise Dominion for Christ in All They Do
If you are a husband, you are to work at your vocation and provide for your wife (1 Tim. 5:8), cherishing her as Christ cherishes his church (Eph. 5:22f). If you are also a father, you are called to train up your family according to what the Bible teaches (Eph. 6:4). You are called to lead your family in family worship (Ex. 12:25-28) and take them to a sound, Bible-believing church (Heb. 10:25).
If you are a businessman, you are called to make money and use it to advance Christ's kingdom (Mt. 6:21, 33). You do not make money to consume it on your lusts. You make money to support works like godly charity, helping the poor and disadvantaged (1 Tim. 6:17-18). You are called to support sound teachers of God's word and God's church (1 Cor. 9:6-12). You are called to support causes that will advance Christ's kingdom. The money that you make is not your own; like all else, it is God's. Therefore, you must spend it where he tells you to spend it in his word.
If you are a teacher, you are called to instruct your pupils in the Faith (Tit. 2:1). This does not mean only in Bible or religious instruction time. If you teach math, or reading, or history, or biology, or computer science, or any other topic, you must teach it as a Christian. This means the Bible should govern all these topics. A math teacher who begins with the Bible, the only foundation for math or any other topic, does not teach just as the math teacher who does not begin with the Bible. Of course, the non-Christian math teacher may agree with the Christian math teacher on certain numerical facts; the non-Christian must agree with God-given facts if he is to have any meaning in life. All facts are God-given facts and should be taught from the God-given perspective of the Bible. If we are Christian, we must be Christian in all we do (1 Cor. 10:31). Teachers are called to mold young minds for the glory of God.
If you are a politician, you are called to enforce God's law in your sphere (Ex. 21:1). You are a minister for God (Rom. 13:4). You are no less a minister than a minister in church. The church minister's ministry is the church, but your ministry is the state. This means you are under God's authority. You may not do as you wish. God gave us his commandments in the Bible. The Bible tells us that the political rulers are to read the law of God so that they will rule justly (Dt. 17:18-20). They are called to frame the law in accord with what the Bible says. Why are murder, theft, rape, extortion, kidnapping, and blasphemy wrong and illegal? Because God's word says so, not because politicians say so. God's word is the final standard. It is the final standard in politics just like it is in everything else. Politicians are under its authority.
If you are a doctor or other medical worker, you are called to press God's authority in the job of healing. God made the human body (Gen. 2:7), just like he made everything else. You are called to use your wisdom and medicines to heal the sick. You are called to assist in healing the sick because they are made in God's image. You help to heal them so they can hear the message of salvation, trust in Christ, obey his word and advance his kingdom in the earth.
If you are a farm worker or other laborer, you are called to work hard to provide for yourself and your family (Ec. 9:10). You are called to try to advance at your job, to learn more, so you can do more for the Lord (1 Cor. 7:21-23). You are called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him. You are called to give tithes to Christ and his work (Mal. 2:10), so his kingdom will advance.
If you are a lawyer or justice or law enforcement worker, you are called to deal with men according to God's law (Is. 58:2). You are called to help those who have been unjustly accused, who have been illegally harmed, who have been unlawfully punished (Ps. 82:3). Justice means righteousness, and righteousness is found in God's law in the Bible (Ps. 119:142).
Of course, if you are a pastor or other church worker, you are called to preach and teach the word of God and oversee and steward Christ's flock (1 Pet. 5:1-3). If you do this properly, you will be fulfilling your calling. You will be exercising godly dominion. In fact, your job is to teach Christians how they are best to exercise dominion. They are to govern themselves according to the word of God. Then they are to govern jobs, schools, businesses and the state according to the word of God. Your job is to teach them how best to do this.
Every Christian's real calling is to steward the earth for God's glory. Whatever your job may be, it is only there to help you to do your real callings — exerting godly dominion under Christ's authority.
The Bible and the Dominion Calling
What is the role of the Bible in all this? The Bible tells us how we are to do this. It was the word of God that first alerted Adam as to his dominion calling (Gen. 1:27-30). In the Old Testament it was the word of God that told Israel how it was exert dominion in the land of Canaan. This is what much of Deuteronomy is all about. In the New Testament, we are not called to exercise dominion by physical warfare (2 Cor. 10:4), but by obedience (Lk. 16:9-12) and the preaching of the gospel (Mt. 28:19-20). Where do we learn how to do this? From the Bible, of course (2 Tim. 3:17). The Bible addresses the foundational issues of every matter we can address in our dominion calling.
Comprehensive, Authoritative Revelation
The Bible speaks on all sorts of topics. I do not mean the Bible speaks on every conceivable topic. I mean it is not limited to a certain sort of topic. For instance, the Bible is not just about heaven and the afterlife; in fact, the Bible says very little about these topics. The Bible is not just about "spiritual" topics — it has a lot to say about very earthy things like money, sex, farming, property, politics, animals, and so forth. This indicates that the Bible is not just a "spiritual" book. This leads us to believe that God wants to govern every area of our lives by his jurisdiction. He is Lord of all our life. This does not mean he has not given us great freedom within his jurisdiction. If the Son has made you free, you are free indeed (Jn. 8:36). But God's authority in our lives is not limited to "spiritual" matters like Bible study and prayer. If Christ is Lord of all things, then he is Lord in education, the environment, the military, politics, the economy, and all other things.
Some may say, "It is true that Christ is Lord of Christians, but he is not Lord of non-Christians." Yet the Bible says, "The earth is Lord's, and the fullness thereof" (1 Cor. 10:26, 28). Even the unsaved belong to God as his creatures (Pr. 16:4).
Others may say, "That may be true, but education, vocation, technology, and politics are secular matters, not religious matters." But if Christ is Lord of all things, and if all in the earth belongs to God, and if the Bible speaks on these matters, we know they are religious matters. In fact, the Bible has a great deal to say about education, technology, music, art, politics, medicine, health, and so forth. God's law governs these areas just like it governs family, church, prayer, and Bible study. The Bible does not give every specific answer to every specific problem, but the Bible does give many specific answers to many specific problems, and every answer to every general problem. In this way, the Bible gives an answer to every question of life; therefore, it governs every area of life.
Let me give just three simple examples.
Crime is a great problem in the Western world. It is greater in modern democracies than in just about any other form of government in the past. Modern democracies have instituted the penitentiary or prison system. Because democracies worship individual freedom, they think that the greatest reasonable punishment they can inflict is to deprive one of that freedom. This view of crime and punishment is based on man-centered sentiment, not God's word.
The Bible knows nothing of this idea. The Biblical view of punishment is law-based. The state imposes retributive justice. This means that restitution is the main means of remedying crime. That is, paying back those we have harmed. There are no "crimes against the state." There are only crimes against individuals. If we steal, we restore at least fourfold (Ex. 22:1). If we intentionally harm, we pay with our own loss, or its equivalent (Ex. 21:25). If we offer false witness, the penalty that would have been levied against the one against whom we falsely witnessed will be levied against us (Dt. 19:16-21). If we murder, we must lose our own life — restitution is paid to God who alone gives life (Gen. 9:5-6). You see how the Bible gives the answer to the crime problem.
The same is true in politics. All politics should be Christian. This does not mean that the job of politics is to make people Christians. Families and churches should work so that people become Christians. But politics should be based on the Bible; the final court of appeal should be God's revelation in the Bible. Why are murder, rape, and theft wrong, and why should they be criminalized? Because that's what the Bible says. We cannot rely on what men think the law should be, whether these men be presidents, legal scholars, or the majority of the populace. We must rely on what God says in his word. The greatest law code a nation can have is the Bible (Ex. 21:1).
Finally, what about the economy? The Bible says that man may not steal. It says that men should be free to operate in a free market (Mt. 25:14-30). This means the Bible, at the foundation, supports what we call a free market. We should care for the poor and the elderly, for welfare, education, the arts, and so forth; but this should be done by private individuals, not the civil government, the state. A nation that obeys God and does not steal, a nation that does not overtax its citizens, will be blessed of God materially. If you look at the richest nations on earth, you will find that they follow God's law in this matter. No matter how evil they may be, they are forced to follow God's law about the free market if they expect to get and keep wealth. If these nations then turn away from God, God will judge them (this will happen to my own country unless it repents). But the problem is not the free market. God's word states that men may own what they legitimately gain. They may trade freely with each other. This generates great wealth in just a short period. If the state wishes to consume much of this wealth, it will destroy the nation. You cannot improve on God's word.
These are only three areas where it can be shown that the Bible must govern modern life. There are many more. In fact, there is no area of life that should not governed by the Bible.
I began by saying that if you started on this trip with me, you must end with me; and if you did start, you must agree with me: if Christ is Lord of all things in heaven and on earth, and if the Bible is the infallible word of God to man, and if it speaks to every area of life, then the Bible as God's word should govern every area of life. We should look to the Bible to govern our families, churches, thoughts, state, politics, education, art, media, business, economy, technology, medicine, health, military, our future — all that we are or have.
All of the Bible is for all of life.
- P. Andrew Sandlin
P. Andrew Sandlin is a Christian minister, theologian, and author. He is the founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California. He was formerly president of the National Reform Association and executive vice president of the Chalcedon Foundation. He is a minister in the Fellowship of Mere Christianity.. He was formerly a pastor at Church of the Word in Painesville, Ohio (1984-1995) and Cornerstone Bible Church in Scotts Valley, California (2004-2014).