Foundation for Reformed Theology
 John Calvin
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19, The Word of God for the Church
20, Authority in the Church
21, Freedom in the Church
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So it is that we have arrived at Volume I, The Doctrine of the Word of God, Chapter III, Holy Scripture, which comprises the following three numbered paragraphs.
19, The Word of God for the Church 
The Word of God is God himself in Holy Scripture. For God once spoke as Lord to Moses and the prophets, to the Evangelists and apostles. And now through their written word He speaks as the same Lord to His Church. Scripture is holy and the Word of God, because by the Holy Spirit it became and will become to the Church a witness to divine revelation.
1. Scripture as a Witness to Divine Revelation I.2, 457
"The Bible has always remained in the Church as the regular textual basis of proclamation." (I.2, 460; I pray that it continues to be so today.)
Barth both distinguishes and yet holds together the Bible and the Word of God:
"We distinguish the Bible as such from revelation. A witness is not absolutely identical with that to which it witnesses. This corresponds with the facts upon which the truth of the whole proposition is based. In the Bible we meet with human words written in human speech, and in these words, and therefore by means of them, we hear of the lordship of the triune God. Therefore when we have to do with the Bible, we have primarily to do with this means, with these words, with the witness which as such is not itself revelation but only--and this is the limitation--the witness to it. But the concept of witness, especially when we bear clearly in mind its limiting sense, has still something very positive to say. In this limitation the Bible is not distinguished from revelation. It is simply revelation as it comes to us, mediating and therefore accommodating itself to us-to us who are not ourselves prophets and apostles, and therefore not the immediate and direct recipients of the one revelation, witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet it is for us revelation by means of the word of the prophets and apostles written in the Bible, in which they are still alive for us as the immediate and direct recipients of revelation, and by which they speak to us." (I.2, 463)
2. Scripture as the Word of God I.2, 473
"Holy Scripture is the Word of God to the Church and for the Church." (I.2, 475)
"The witness of Holy Scripture to itself consists simply in the fact that it is witness to Jesus Christ . . . At its decisive centre it attests the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (I.2, 485, 486)

"Preaching and the sacrament of the Church do indeed need the basis and authority and authenticity of the original Word of God in Scripture to be the Word of God. But Scripture also needs proclamation by preaching and sacrament, for it wills to be read and understood and expounded and the Word of God attested in it wills to have actuality. Therefore Holy Scripture cannot stand alone as the Word of God in the Church. . . . When the Church has suffered seriously, i.e., not from without but inwardly and essentially, it is never because it has lived too much but too little under the Word of Scripture." (I.2, 501-502, emphasis added)

"The Bible must be known as the Word of God if it is to be known as the Word of God. The doctrine of Holy Scripture in the Evangelical Church is that this logical circle is the circle of self-asserting, self-attesting truth into which it is equally impossible to enter as it is to emerge from it: the circle of our freedom which as such is also the circle of our captivity." (I.2, 535) 
20, Authority in the Church
The Church does not claim direct and absolute and material authority for itself but for Holy Scripture as the Word of God. But actual obedience to the authoritative Word of God in Holy Scripture is objectively determined by the fact that those who in the Church mutually confess an acceptance of the witness of Holy Scripture will be ready and willing to listen to one another in expounding and applying it. By the authority of Holy Scripture on which it is founded, authority in the Church is restricted to an indirect and relative and formal authority.
1. The Authority of the Word I.2, 538
"The Word of God in the revelation of it attested in Holy Scripture is not limited to its own time, the time of Jesus Christ and its Old and New Testament witnesses. In the sphere of the Church of Jesus Christ it is present at all time, and by its mouth it wills to be and will be present at all times. This is the Evangelical confession of faith." (I.2, 573)
"Holy Scripture alone has divine authority in the Church." (I.2, 581)
"Under the Word, which means Holy Scripture, the Church must and can alone live, whereas beyond or beside the Word it can only die." (I.2,585)
2. Authority Under the Word I.2, 585
"The authority of the Church is the confession of the Church. . . . Church authority always consists in the documented presence of such agreements." (I.2, 593)
"There has never been a Biblicist who for all his grandiloquent appeal directly to Scripture against the fathers and tradition has proved himself so independent of the spirit and philosophy of his age and especially of his favourite religious ideas that in his teaching he has really allowed the Bible and the Bible alone to speak reliably by means or in spite of his anti-traditionalism. . . . It is not advisable for serious students of Scripture so blithely to ignore the 16th century catechisms of the Palatinate and Saxony, or that of the 5th century Bishop of Hippo, or to refuse the guidance and correction afforded by the existence of Church fathers, as that Biblicist programme involves. Otherwise there may be too easy and close an approximation to all kinds of other modern Titanisms." (I.2, 609)
"The confession of the Church explains Scripture, it expounds and applies it. It is, therefore, a commentary. It is not enough for it to repeat biblical texts. It can point to them in order to make clear in what connexion it wishes to explain Scripture. But at bottom it must speak in its own words, in the words and therefore in the speech of its age." (I.2, 621)
"A confession of faith is always stronger than even the most correct and profound and religious confession of error." (I.2, 646) 
21, Freedom in the Church
A member of the Church claims direct, absolute and material freedom not for himself, but only for Holy Scripture as the Word of God. but obedience to the free Word of God in Holy Scripture is subjectively conditioned by the fact that each individual who confesses his acceptance of the testimony of Scripture must be willing and prepared to undertake the responsibility for its interpretation and application. Freedom in the Church is limited as and indirect, relative and formal freedom by the freedom of Holy Scripture in which it is grounded.
1. The Freedom of the Word I.2, 661
"It will fare ill with the Protestant Church if it is more protestant to speak of freedom than of authority." (I.2, 666)
"It must define freedom, as it is truth is, as man's real dependence on the God who had mediately addressed and dealt with us. It must define freedom as the faithfulness with which we can and should trace the divine testimonies. It must define it as a cleaving to canonical Scripture, to the fathers and to the confession, and therefore to ecclesiastical authority." (I.2, 667)
"To say that Jesus Christ rules the Church is equivalent to saying that Holy Scripture rules the Church." (I.2, 693, emphasis added)
2. Freedom under the Word I.2, 695
"Faith itself, obedient faith, but faith, and in the last resort obedient faith alone, is the activity which is demanded of us as members of the Church, the exercise of the freedom which is granted to us under the Word." (I.2, 740)

Grace and Peace,

Dr. James C. Goodloe IV, Executive Director
Foundation for Reformed Theology
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