My Reformation Study Bible, ed. by R.C. Sproul, Sr., (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995) exposits the crux of “The Authority of Scripture” (p. 1922). It succinctly notes:
The Christian principle of biblical authority means that God is the author of the Bible, and has given it to direct the belief and behavior of His people. Our ideas about God and our conduct should be measured, tested, and where necessary corrected and enlarged, by reference to the Bible. Authority is also the right to command. God’s written Word in its truth and wisdom is the way God has chosen to exercise His rule over us, and Scripture is the instrument of Christ’s lordship over the church. The work of the Scripture in the church is illustrated by the seven letters of Revelation (Rev. 2; 3).
The Roman Catholic view of the Bible has compromised its unique authority by combining it with the tradition of the church. Roman Catholics accept the Bible as God-given truth, but insist that it is incomplete without the official interpretation of the church as it is led by the Spirit. In the past, giving the church authority over the Bible has led to discouraging or prohibiting ordinary Christians from reading it. At the present time, the Roman Catholic Church encourages all Christians to read the Bible.
Many Protestants regard the Bible as having its unique authority in its subject matter, or in the experience and insights of the human authors. The central assumption is that the Bible remains fundamentally a human book and not a divine revelation. The Bible is a guide for heir religious experience, but it is not clearly distinguished from other sources, such as political movements and social forces. All too often, the Bible is displaced by voices that oppose it.
Historic Protestantism accepts the Scriptures as the only written revelation of God. It is inspired or “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16), distinguishing it from all other words. As a result, the Scriptures are infallible and true in all that they affirm. They are sufficient, containing everything that is necessary to know for salvation and eternal life. They are clear, so that a person without special preparation can understand what God requires without the intervention of an official interpreter.
The canonical Scripture is the voice of God in the world. It has authority, or right to command, corresponding to its divine Author. For this reason, we submit our thoughts and moral standards to the Bible. It was through recognition that the Bible cannot be subject to any person or group, however exalted, that the Reformers freed their consciences from human traditions and authorities.