At Welsh Baptist church, we covenant together to “submit to the authority of the Scriptures as the final arbiter on all issues.” This first requires us to acknowledge the authority of Scripture. Wayne Grudem in Bible Doctrine says it this way: “The authority of scripture means that all the words in scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”
The Apostle Paul points out that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV). As believers, we accept along with Peter that, “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21 ESV).
If you are not a believer, you may find it too ridiculous to use Scripture to prove the authority of Scripture. It is true, only when convinced by the Holy Spirit will anyone ever come to believe that the words of Scripture are the words of God. Grudem puts it this way, “Our ultimate conviction that the words of the Bible are God’s words comes only when the Holy Spirit speaks in and through the words of the Bible to our hearts and gives us an inner assurance that these are the words of our creator speaking to us.”
As covenant members, hopefully, the above authority has already been accepted. Instead, the on-going challenge in the covenant relationship with each other comes with the word “submit.” The Oxford Dictionary of English defines submit as “accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another person.” It requires that we suppress self so that we may then elevate Scripture, therefore God, above what we may want. In short, we must obey. Spurgeon said, “It is disobedience and not obedience that prompts us to select from the commands of Christ which ones we care to obey.”
The covenant relationship between members, then, comes into play as we hold each other accountable for this submission to the authority of Scripture. What we seek to establish here at Welsh is what Mark Dever describes in The Compelling Community, that is, “We seek a church culture where it is normal for people to have deep and honest conversations about their spiritual lives. Where people are willing to ask that one last question that, while awkward, saves a brother from a difficult dynamic in his marriage. And where the gospel of grace is an everyday answer to struggle with sin.”
It can be messy. But we try to put opportunities in place for members to build real, intentional, mutually accountable relationships with one another. We hope then to be true to Paul’s words when he says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2 ESV).
God tells us in Ecclesiastes that, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV). Members of a church should never feel that they are alone. As we submit to the authority of Scripture and covenant together, we strive to lift one another up.