It is my guess that much of the theological confusion apparent in Evangelicalism today is due to a difficient knowledge of what the Bible is and what it says. The order of those two things, what the Bible is and what the Bible says/reveals, is important. Much of the following material was synthesized almost one year ago when teaching the doctrines of Scripture to, at the time, 4 guys (the group increased by one very peculiar member later on 🙂 ). The reasons I began our year together by teaching the doctrines of Scripture were two-fold. First, right about that time Kevin DeYoung released his excellent book (http://www.amazon.com/Taking-God-His-Word-Necessary/dp/1433542404) Taking God at His Word, with much of the content being crystalized in a magnificent talk at the last Together for the Gospel conference (The talk was called “Never a Man Spoke Like This”, look it up!). Kevin hit on some topics I had been considered and did so in a way I was incapable of doing. Moreover, much of this material, though not directly plagiarized, was taught to me by DeYoung. He and Dr. Wayne Grudem, subservient only to the Holy Spirit, deserve nearly full credit for this series. Secondly, finally, I had encountered many theological falsities (some worse than others) that could be easily avoided by biblical doctrine of the Bible. In some instances it was Charismatic abuse and others the insistence on having a PhD in 2nd Temple Judaism to understand the New Testament Epistles. In short, these doctrines were timely. How we view the Bible will influence how we view God; the two are inevitably inextricable.
I wish to do a series on biblical church ministry, what the Bible says faithful pastoral shepherding looks like. This will undoubtedly step on many toes. But the method will be exposition and that is on purpose. You should not care what my personal opinions are. They may interest you but are in no way authoritative. But if you are a sheep, you will hear our Great Shepherd’s voice and it will be freeing and not binding. I hope that the Spirit of God working exclusively through the Word of God will convince you of an Orthodox doctrine of Scripture. If you see Scripture as it is, you will, by God’s good pleasure, see God as He is. And in that there is fullness of joy! I hope you will read along.
The Bible is Authoritative
The first attribute of the Bible that we must discuss is the authority of Scripture. I have lost many of you there. Authority has the connotation of binding, opressing. Many of us shirk at even the mention of authority. Well Christ, to quote Bonhoffer, bids us come and die. Christ demands we repent (and makes it possible) towards more joy, making a decisive break from the slavery of sin. Our freedom we once had wasn’t really freedom. See, we were slaves to the elementary principles of the world (Galatians 4:3), blindly following our own passions and Satan and the world, again (Ephesians 2:1-3). We were slaves to sin (Romans 6). Our fallen idea of freedom is a mirage. Human autonomy is a delusion and will result, not in freedom, but in the just, eternal condemnation of God the Father. But Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law and now we are free. But freedom is not freedom to do whatever our old, sin-bound selves would do. No, Christ has freed us to join ranks as another kind of slave. A slave of Christ, a slave of righteousness. This is true freedom; freedom to obey out of the overflow of trusting in Christ’s obedience on your behalf as your only claim before the Father. Amazing grace!
So authority is good. And the Bible is authoritative. Therefore, the Bible is good (I passed philosophy with a C). But why is the Bible authoritative? First, it is the very Word of God. Second, since it is the Word of God, it is perfect. Since these two things are true, then the Bible is as the Westminster Confession of Faith states: “The Bible is the only infallible rule for faith and practice.”
Scripture is Inspired
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
Paul wanted Timothy to know the importance of preaching and preaching faithfully for his ministry in Ephesus. The timid young pastor, like us all, was prone to see his insufficiency as a hindering to the work of God amongst the people. Paul points Timothy away from himself and to the power of the written Word. Scripture is “inspired.” This means that the Bible, though penned by human authors, was primarily written by God, the Holy Spirit. They wrote and even have their own particular styles; but it was God who was speaking, carrying them along so that they infallible wrote only what He sovereignly willed for them to (2 Peter 1:21).
You see that Paul (and/or the Holy Spirit) begins with the phrase “breathed out by God.” This deals with the inspiration of Scripture. Paul has no problem with saying that it is God the Holy Spirit who produced the Scriptures. This would have included the Old Testament but also the gospels circulating and then the full canon of Scripture would be discovered and bound later. Some try to make the character of the Bible lesser by saying that the Bible contains the words of God or something similar to that. Paul does not allow this. He says that all Scripture, every bit of it, IS God’s Word.
The inspiration of Scripture means that the Bible is not a dead book. God, as we will see, does not give new revelation to us. However, that in no way means that God does not speak! On the contrary, the Bible is alive. The author of Hebrews wrote that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God speaks through His Word by the Holy Spirit. We cannot separate the Spirit from the written Word. And how does the Holy Spirit do the things it says the Bible does in 2 Timothy and Hebrews? He does so, not by exalting Himself, but by lifting up the person and work of Christ in all the Scriptures (John 16:14), to both save and sanctify!
Quickly, the inspiration of Scripture leads us to an important interpretation principle. Since all Scripture is written by God, it is all equally true. Therefore, we must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. God does not contradict Himself and neither does the Bible, as it is His very Word. This is called the “analogy of faith” or ‘systematic theology.” Both are indispensable in developing a grasp of what the Bible actually says and much harm has been done to people’s faiths because of false doctrine arising due to a neglect of doctrine.
The Bible is Inerrant
God is not errant. This simply means that He does not lie or make mistakes (1 Samuel 15:29). The character of Scripture is determined by the character of God. Ten times out of ten, if you show me someone who has a low view of Scripture, I can guarantee that they first have a low view of God. God is self-sufficent and inherently splendid. He is holy, perfect in all His manifold perfections (yeah I said perfect twice). Again God does not err; ever. Not even once (Num 23:19; Ps 12:6, 119:89; Prov 30:5; Matt 24:35, and etc.).
The motto of biblical inerrancy, the only acceptable, orthodox view of Scripture is as follows: “Let God be true and every man a liar!” Paul said that in Romans 3. God’s Word is a rock in otherwise turbulent seas. God is constant in the midst of our inconstancy; adequate in our inadequacy. What a beautiful God! To deny the inerrancy of Scripture is to take a stab at the character of God. Never has the denial of inerrancy led to greater biblical fidelity. Church history is replete with examples of the sad opposite.
With all this in view, it must be clear that God’s Word in authoritative. If God is authoritative, then so is the Bible because the Bible is His very Word. As B.B. Warfield famously wrote, “When the Bible speaks, God speaks.” And when God speaks, the Christian has only two responses: to trust and obey. Inerrancy and the denial of inerrancy is often a moral problem. Many cannot stomach what the Bible teaches about God, man and the gospel and so they say some parts aren’t true and shouldn’t be taken seriously. But beloved, is it mere coincidence that the parts you deem wrong are those most offensive to our flesh and the culture at large? Let God be true! And every man, absolutely every man, if necessary, be a liar.
God’s sheep hear His voice (John 10:27). God has given His Word that we might know Him and know the Good News of Christ. If we are to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, we must trust the Bible.