Words of Authority (Scholar’s Compass)

construction photoScripture

“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” (Gal 6:11, NIV)

Reflection

I have the privilege of being an engineer who follows the great engineer of the universe. Our great engineer set out the laws of nature so that we can harness them and respond to his command to “subdue” the earth.

In large engineering projects such as the construction sites I work on, engineers rely on documents issued by others to make decisions and build things under time constraint. A “for construction” stamp and the author’s initials on a drawing assure us that the design is ready for construction, and that we can contact the engineer for further advice.

Similarly, our great engineer has left marks of assurance in the Scriptures in which he documented his plans for humanity. Paul’s large signature in Galatians is one of them. These marks of assurance are relevant to us today for three reasons.

First, we can be assured that the authority of the Bible is verifiable. The Old Testament frequently refers to monuments or cultural norms that lasted “to this day”; and the New Testament talks about eyewitnesses who “are still alive”, including frequent uses of people’s names. The original readers of these books were invited to track down those artefacts and visit those people, to verify that the events described in the books were true. The fact that those readers circulated the books gives confidence that they were convinced by what they had read and found. Even today, we can look at archaeological evidence and satisfy ourselves about the historicity of the Bible.

Second, we can be assured of the human authorship of the Bible. The writers of the Bible had careers, fell ill, suffered shipwrecks, and endured political instabilities, just like today’s Christians. They were sinful human beings who drew on the powers of the Spirit and their limited human abilities to communicate God’s word to other sinful human beings. Even though languages, lifestyle, and technology change over time, the authors of the Bible were similar to us and lived in a cultural context that we could retrace and learn from.

Third, we can be assured that the books of the Bible are authorised for circulation. Marks of authorship such as Paul’s signatures in his letters and Luke’s opening statements in his two books tell us that their writings are not haphazard scribbles. Rather, they are well-researched documents of history, theology, and wisdom, written with guidance from the Spirit and intended for general circulation for the benefit of many.

As we read the Bible, let’s thank God for these little gems of assurance that the authors have left in the text. Just like an issued document helps an engineer to make decisions under time pressure, we can be assured that the Bible is an authoritative document to help us choose to follow The Way with our limited human intelligence. I pray that we will all endeavour to execute the plans of our great engineer with faithfulness and love.

Questions

Of the three assurances discussed in this post—verifiability, humanity, and authorisation—which one resonates most with your experience reading the Bible?

What analogies can you draw between the way God reveals himself to us through the Bible and the processes of assurance in your field of work?

Prayer

Father, we thank you for giving your word to us through the authors of the Bible. I pray that you will help us see your word with the authority it deserves and learn from it. Please help us study your word diligently and perform the handiwork you’ve prepared for us to do with faith, hope, and love.

Image courtesy of bogitw at Pixabay.com

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Deryck Chan

Deryck Chan is a civil engineer, currently undertaking his PhD studies in underground construction at Cambridge University. He has previously worked with Engineering Ministries International, a Christian charity that sends architects and engineers to serve the church in places with technical needs. He is passionate about food, languages, social justice, and living out the word of God in all walks of life.

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