Julia had just shared in the 11th grade Bible doctrine class I taught at a Christian school that she did not believe God would ever send someone to hell who never had a chance to hear the Gospel of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ. In response, I quickly found myself saying, “I don’t really care what you think.” During the long two seconds immediately following those words exiting my mouth I thought to myself, “Wow. That sounded harsh” as I noticed the rest of the class looking at me with a bit of shock. I then continued, “…and neither should you care what I think unless it lines up with Scripture. We’re not after opinions here; what matters is what God says. And he has spoken in the Bible.” And then holding the Bible over my head, I continued, “so let’s both come under the Word and look together to see what God says about this.”
I was trying to teach Julia and the rest of the class the doctrine of the authority of Scripture. In his excellent little book Concise Theology, J.I. Packer explains that the authority of Scripture means, “God purposes to direct the belief and behavior of his people through the revealed truth set forth in Holy Scripture” and “that all our ideas about God should be measured, tested, and where necessary, corrected and enlarged, by reference to biblical teaching.” For many of the students I taught who came from evangelical Christian homes, I discovered through classroom discussions that it didn’t even occur to them to ask what does God’s Word say about a given matter—whether it be homosexuality, abortion, or whatever. In other words, Scripture was not the functional authority in their lives.
Practical Ways to Encourage the Functional Authority of Scripture in the Home
The challenge for us as parents as we disciple our children is to create a daily environment where the authority of Scripture is both taught and caught by our children. Below are a few practical ways to show your children the functional authority of Scripture:
- The example of dad and mom are seeking to align their beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors with God's Word.
- Lead devotions with an open Bible. This communicates to children that the Bible is authoritative and our source of truth.
- When children discuss cultural issues, be ready to point them to God's Word by asking "What does God's Word say about this?”
- Train them to think Christianly—biblically—about all things, including literature, movies, art, and music, etc. with discernment, asking, what is and what is not consistent with Scripture.
- When disciplining, we should open the Word in love, and show our children what God says about their behavior.
The Functional Authority of the Gospel and God’s Promises
Parenting advice often can produce discouragement. I want to remind you of the Gospel of grace, that Jesus, and not great parenting, is our righteousness, and that he died to take away the guilt for all of our failures as believers and as parents. May the authoritative word of “No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) set the conscience of every Jesus-trusting parent free from parental guilt and may his promise to equip us with every thing good for doing his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight (Hebrews 13:21) be the authoritative word that governs and guides our hearts into steps of faith as we seek to disciple our children.