Kevin DeYoung | Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough
Around 10 years ago,
there was an anonymous article in “Christianity Today” entitled
“My conversation with God.” I remember seeing it because John Piper
wrote a very good response to it. Here’s how the “Christianity Today” story
began, “Does God still speak? I grew up hearing testimonies about it,
but until October 2005, I couldn’t say it had ever happened to me.
I’m a middle-aged professor of theology at a well-known Christian University.
I’ve written award winning books, my name is on Christianity Today’s
masthead. For years I’ve taught that God still speaks, but I couldn’t testify to it
personally. I can only do so now anonymously for reasons
I hope will be clear. A year after hearing God’s voice I still can’t talk or even think about my
conversation with God without being overcome by emotion.” And then this anonymous professor goes
on to talk about his experience where he said,
in a moment of great delight, God supernaturally gave him a book outline
and a book title, a revelation I have often been waiting to receive. And then God directed him to use the money from the book to help a young man go to
school and prepare for ministry. And so, he tells his whole story
of how this outline and title came to him from God, and then directed him to a young man who
needed to go to ministry and told him the story and he finishes the article by
saying how strengthened his faith has been that now, finally, after all these years,
God personally spoke to him. I don’t know if you can find that story
entitled “My conversation with God,” and you could read it and be encouraged in
some ways that he would do this and want to send a young man into ministry.
Except, I hope you would quickly realize, the great problem with that testimony,
it gives the impression that God does not now normally speak to us personally,
and He doesn’t do so except by means of these extra biblical personal
communications. Notice, he said in that opening paragraph
“I grew up hearing testimonies about God still speaking, but I couldn’t say it
has ever happened to me.” So, you walk away from that article with a
distinct impression that the living God speaking to us through the Scriptures
either does not happen or it is an inferior, less exciting,
less edifying means of communication. You walk away thinking, well,
of course we have the Bible and sure none of us would
want to deny the Bible and we would give honor to the Bible. But wow, what a treasure it would
be if God could really speak to me. If only I could hear from
the voice of God Himself. Some of you may have thought
that you may have people in your churches who think
that. They may be chasing after books that will claim to give them the voice of Jesus
speaking. The good news is that every single one of us in Christ
can hear from God, you can hear personally from God today. You have one of these, a Bible.
God still speaks, He has a word for us that is sure,
and steady, and unerring, and understanding the nature of this word
is absolutely paramount if we are to be effective in ministry.
You heard Steven mention this morning the acronym SCAN, we can think of the
attributes of Scripture with those four letters, the sufficiency,
the clarity, the authority, and the necessity of Scripture.
This session is about the sufficiency sometimes called the perfection.
John Frame, says Scripture is enough to make us responsible for carrying out
our present responsibilities to God. That is sufficiency.
So, the question is, should we expect new revelation? Now, we know enough to say,
“Of course we don’t have new doctrines to be added to the
church,” but might we expect or even long for be right to pray and plead for a new
direct word from God? Sometimes you find this on the liberal
end of the spectrum. People say, “Well, didn’t Peter receive
a word or Cornelius received a word?” And my God be doing an Acts 10 kind
of vision in our day maybe telling us that sexuality has changed
just as he told Peter that to go and eat?
Should we expect God to speak to us in prayer by that still small voice?
The inner impression of the Spirit, the liver shiver as it were.
Should we expect God to give us when we face those crossroads in life,
a specific calling, a clear sense of what we are to do? Some of you may be facing
that. A new ministry position, maybe a new house, a new place,
school choice. When we get to those forks in the road, should we expect after much
prayer, God would give us a subjective internal sense? Yes,
He’s telling us directly what we ought to do. And should we encourage each other
to read Christian books that purport to give direct extra biblical
conversations from Jesus? Well, I hope you know enough from what
I’ve written, and just by how I’m asking the questions that the answer to those
questions should be, no. Again, as Stephen alluded to,
in this morning’s session, if the authority of Scripture might be
considered the liberal problem, and maybe the clarity of Scripture,
the postmodern problem and the necessity of Scripture, the non-Christian problem
I would argue that the sufficiency of Scripture is the evangelical problem.
We know, yes, the Bible is true, it’s authoritative, it’s inerrant. Yes,
it’s necessary. Yes, it can give us a clear Word,
but when it really comes to it, many of us do not believe and do not act
as if the Scriptures were sufficient. And even if we say, well,
we don’t need new direct revelations yet, when we’re sitting across the table from
someone who is anorexic, cutting herself, depressed, anxious, we feel like well,
where do I go after Romans 8:28? I don’t know. Is this word really
sufficient? Or is the Word of God just there to help sort of normal people who
seem to have their life more or less working in the right way?
And this can sort of steer us in the right, but they’re really messed up
things in ministry. The Word is not enough there, Scripture is enough for you
to know God and be saved. The Scripture is enough for you to live a
holy life pleasing to God. The Scripture is perfect and complete,
giving us all we need to know about Christ, about salvation,
and about godliness. We should add nothing to it.
We should subtract nothing from it. That is the sufficiency of Scripture.
I want us to take an exegetical and doctrinal look at the sufficiency of
Scripture. If you have a Bible, turn to Hebrews 1. Hebrews 1:1-4.
“Long ago at many times, and in many ways God spoke to our fathers
by the prophets. But in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son,
whom he appointed the heir of all things through whom also he created the world.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,
and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification
for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more
excellent than theirs.” The big idea in this paragraph is the big
idea for the whole book of Hebrews. God has spoken by His Son and His Son is
superior to all other persons, beings, institutions, rituals,
and means that have come before. Let me say that again,
the point of this paragraph and the point of Hebrews is this, God has spoken by His
Son and His Son is superior to all other persons, beings, institutions,
rituals, and means that have come before. Notice for contrast,
first there’s a contrast of eras, Verse 1, “long ago” and now the contrast
is Verse 2, “in these last days,” last days being an eschatological
category, not necessarily meaning that all of the events of Revelation or Ezekiel,
or Daniel are unfolding now. But we are in these latter days where
there is no active salvation left to be fulfilled before the Parousia,
before the appearing of Christ arrives. Peter, you remember, announced at
Pentecost, the last days had been ushered in. So, in that sense we are in
the last days, we have been since the Spirit came upon the disciples,
all that is needed for our redemption has been accomplished. We’re in now the age of
the Spirit, that death and resurrection of Jesus ushered in this new age. And so,
we have long ago, that’s the first contrast, that era, we’re not there,
we are now in this era, this epoch called the last days.
That’s the first contrast. The second contrast is with recipients.
So, God spoke to our fathers, to the patriarchs, to the ancestors,
but in these last days, He has spoken to us. Now,
here in Hebrews it’s, first of all those alive at that present time,
but by extension, those of us who are alive in these last days,
so long ago to our fathers in these last days to us. Now, the third contrast is
with the ancients of this speaking. So, Verse 1 again,
God spoke to our fathers, how? By agency of the prophets, that is the named
prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, also those with a prophetic function like
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and more broadly,
the prophetic writings all of Scripture. He has spoken to us by the prophets.
The contrast then, Verse 2, in these last days He spoken to us, how?
The contrast of agency is from the prophets now to His Son. So,
how does He speak by the Son? We’ll say more about this,
but we can say here at the beginning that the Son reveals to us what God is like
and not only what God is like but how we can be right with this God.
He reveals the one of salvation and he reveals the way of salvation speaking
to us through the Son. So, there’s a contrast of eras,
a contrast of recipients, a contrast of agents,
and then finally there’s a contrast of ways. Long ago, Verse 1,
at many times and in many ways, polymeros, many pieces, many parts,
many times, and then the Greek word polytropos, many ways.
Think about all the ways in which God has spoken. In the Old Testament,
He spoke by visions, by dreams, by voices, by a burning bush, by a pillar of fire,
by a donkey, by writing on a wall, many ways. Now, the contrast which is not
stated explicitly, but the implied contrast is just as in those long ago days
by the prophets, He has spoken in many ways. The implied contrast is now
He has spoken to us by one way, so no longer many,
but one, by the Son. So, if we say, I want to know who God is, I want to know what He is like,
I want to know how to be right with God and live forever. God now speaks that
saving word, not in many ways, but in one way through His Son. Now,
you may have questions at this point, you may wonder how all these theological
strands tie together, but just stay with me as we walk through
this text and then we will come back to understand what this has to do
with the sufficiency of Scripture. So, following these four contrasts then
we come to verses 2, 3, and 4, and we have seven affirmations which
describe Christ as the superior and final agent of God’s redemption in Revelation.
And most of these contrasts are drawn from Psalm 2 and Psalm 110.
Seven affirmations. So, first, it says that He, Jesus,
is the heir of all things. So, it starts off with the end. He is,
as Psalm 2 says, the inheritance of… the nations belong to Him.
Mission work is, among other things, the work to bring to Christ
what is rightfully His. You say well, mission work is
just colonization, it’s imperialism. Well, it is, its heavenly colonization, it is bringing to bear the empire of
Christ upon the hearts and souls of men and women. It is bringing not to any
nation, but to Christ what is rightfully His because He is the heir of all things.
Second affirmation you see that He is the creator of all things and diverse too
through whom He also created the world. You say, “Well, where is he present at
creation?” Well, how did God create? He spoke by agency of the Word,
divine fiat as that great theologian Larry the Cucumber once said,
“God went, and there it was.” He spoke the word. The church father Irenaeus said that the
Word and the Spirit were like the right and the left hand of God at the agency of
creation. That’s why you come here to this breakout, to get Irenaeus and
Larry the Cucumber in the same quotation about creation. He’s the heir of all
things, the creator of all things. Third, He is the sustainer of all things.
He upholds the universe by the word of his power. Think about it right now,
beams across the span of this worship area are held together because the word of
Christ decrees that it would be so. Protons, and electrons, and compounds,
and all the other things I forgot from my high school science classes, all work
because Christ holds them together. Gravity pulls us down here on this planet
because Christ wills it to be so. He’s the sustainer of all things,
He is the revelation of God. It says, He is the exact imprint of his nature,
the radiance of his glory. Notice there, it’s the manifestation of God’s glorious
presence, not a reflection, but a radiance, not a reflection,
just that God would shine and then bouncing off the mirror.
There’s His reflection, God’s reflection should be seen in us.
But this is more than just a mirrored reflection, it is a radiance,
the effulgence of God. He is the representation,
the very stamp of God’s nature, the literal embodiment of God.
The fifth affirmation is that He made purification, that is He took away
our sin and guilt. And then it says, the sixth affirmation,
which we probably don’t think much of He sat down at the right
hand of the Majesty on high. If you were to talk about the work of Christ and talk about it in theological
categories, you’d begin to talk about maybe His birth and what that
prefigured, and what that fulfilled. His life, His death, His resurrection.
Now, many of us would stop there, death and resurrection. Some of us, well taught, might go on to say, “Well, also His ascension.” But then
theologians talk about His exaltation. And then this act also called His session,
we don’t talk much, we don’t glory in the session. If you’re from a
Presbyterian background you know that the governing body of elders is
called the session. What do elders do? They’re seated. That’s what the word
means. The session. Like my kids asked me before, “What do you do at all those
elders meetings?” That’s a good question. And one of them said,
“Is it one of those meetings where you get together with all those old men and you
talk about stuff?” Well, pretty close. Good. It’s called a session because you’re
seated here following the ascension of Christ, and the exaltation of Christ,
is the session of Christ. There aren’t many songs written
about the session of Christ, that He sat down. Why is this here?
With all of these other great affirmations of Christ upholding all things,
the radiance of God, the Creator of all things,
and then He sits. Moms, you understand this.
When do you sit down in a day? Besides never. Okay, when, sometimes,
do you sit down? At the end, when your work is done.
I know because my wife was, “I can’t sit down now because I will not
get up again.” Some of you, you make the meal, and you clean up the
meal, and you bathe the kids, and you get them in bed,
and you’re helping with the homework, then you’re finishing up work for the day
and when you finally, you sit and maybe you don’t do anything.
Maybe you do this, maybe you turn on the TV. You sit because your work is
done. That’s why this is good news. The session of Christ signifies that the
work of Christ has been completed. And so, He is seated. And then the final,
the seventh affirmation says He has become much superior to angels with a superior
title. You almost could think here in LA that Verse 4 is the verse for the
Dodgers, much superior to the Angels. Hahaha, as the name he has inherited
is more excellent…I don’t have a dog in that fight. I’m a White Sox fan,
and they haven’t been good for a long, long time. Much superior,
superior to these messengers because God’s final word has been spoken in Him
and none will come after Him. Turn across the page to 2:1,
“Therefore, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard less we
drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable
and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution.” This is
probably the traditional understanding that the law on Sinai was mediated through
angels, they were punishments attended with that covenant. How shall we escape if
we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord,
it was attested to us by those who heard. Well, God also bore witness by signs,
and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit
distributed according to His will. The argument here in chapter two,
is the same as in chapter one. Namely, that this final message of God,
this message communicated by the Son has been safeguarded by even more miraculous
happenings just as the giving of the law was attended by angels,
and signs and wonders on Mount Sinai. Now, we have even greater signs and
wonders that accompanied the inbreaking of the kingdom with the incarnation,
and the death, and resurrection, and the apostolic event. So,
I said at the very beginning that this is the big idea of Hebrews and of this
opening paragraph, God has spoken by His Son and His Son is superior to all other
persons, beings, institutions, rituals, and means that have come before.
And that’s what we see in chapter one and we see it throughout Hebrews.
We could go through, “Jesus is superior to angels,” chapter one and chapter two.
“He’s superior to Moses,” chapter three. “Superior to Joshua,” chapter four.
“Superior to Aaron,” chapter five. “Superior to Abraham,” chapter six.
“Superior to Melchizedeck,” chapter seven. “He’s greater than the old covenant,”
chapter eight. “Greater than the tabernacle,”
chapter nine “Greater than the high priest,”
chapter 10. Greater than all the promises as the
fulfillment of them in chapter 11. “He brings about a greater Kingdom,”
chapter 12 and, “He causes us to enter into a greater city,” chapter 13. Why?
Why is Christ greater? The argument of Hebrews is that He’s
greater because in the Son, listen carefully to these words,
we have the fullness and finality of God’s redemption and revelation.
We have in the Son, the fullness and the finality of God’s redemption and
revelation. You say, “Interesting sermon on Hebrews. I thought we were talking
about the sufficiency of Scripture.” Well, this has everything to do
with the sufficiency of Scripture. See if you can track with me.
Hebrews establishes the Son’s superiority by proving that in Him we have the
fullness and finality of God’s redemption and revelation which means everything was
pointing to Christ. Everything now, has been completed in Christ.
I think we understand the fullness piece, but let’s not miss the finality.
God has made Himself known. He has won this great salvation.
He has come to earth in the person of His Son, died for our sins,
rose from the dead, ascended into heaven,
reigns in heaven, sat down, the work is finished.
Which means, since He’s seated, we need no other prophet like Muhammad.
We need no magisterium, as in the Catholic Church.
There can be no further priest to atone for our sins. We have no other king,
we have no need of a quorum of the 12 as they have in the latter day saints.
We have Jesus. So, this connection between fullness and finality is
important. You cannot have one without the other and in the same way,
redemption and revelation are connected. Never separate redemption from revelation.
Sometimes people say, “Well, you conservative Christians,
you’re all about the word, lowercase “w” when we really should be focusing
on the Word, capital “W” that is Jesus. There’s all sorts of theologians,
sometimes in simple ways and sometimes in very profound ways,
but wrong ways have tried to separate. That was certainly true.
This is not God and yet let us not press too far to separate what God means to join
together, that we have. There’s a reason why we have words and
this is called the Word and Jesus Christ is revealed to us as the Word made flesh,
because it is God’s means of revealing Himself to us. So, don’t pit Bible versus
Jesus. Word versus words. Redemption is always a revelation and
revelation always redeems. Let me unpack that. Redemption is always
also a revelation. Think of the major events of redemption in Scripture,
redemption from Egypt in the Exodus, the return from exile from Babylon.
Ultimately redemption on the cross. Those acts of redeeming and delivering
God’s people were not only acts of redemption, but revelation.
They communicated to us something about God’s nature, about His mercy,
about His character, and conversely, the points of Revelation is ultimately to
redeem, not merely to pass along information. We see this,
whether it’s revelation through Moses, or the prophets, or John the Baptist,
or Christ, or His appointed apostles. The revelation is given not to say, “Here,
now, you can go pass your systematic tests,” but that you might know
Jesus in that by believing you would have life in his name. Redemption reveals,
revelation redeems, and Christ is both. He is God’s full and final act of
redemption for fallen sinners, and God’s full and final revelation of
Himself, His salvation, and His glory. Which means, if we say revelation is
somehow incomplete, then we are saying that somehow His work of redemption is
incomplete. Again, John Frame puts it well, “Nothing can be added to Christ’s
redemptive work and nothing can be added to the revelation of that redemptive
work.” The fullness and the finality of revelation must stand or fall together
with the fullness and finality of redemption. So, are we saying that God
no longer speaks? Not at all. Clearly, it says here in Hebrews 1,
in these last days, he has spoken to us by His Son. But we must think how in these
last days, God speaks through His Son. So, let me direct us to another
theological category, the threefold office of Christ, prophet,
priest, and king. Now, with each of those offices,
there’s a way in which God has finished His work, and yet He continues to work
through that finished work. Think about His kingly office,
He is already now seated. The enemy is put under his feet,
the reign has begun. But the inauguration of his reign is not
the same as the consummation of it. So, the nations have not yet been fully
brought in as His inheritance. So, there’s no more work for Him to
accomplish as king and yet that kingly work continues. Same thing
with being our priest. He is that once for all sacrifice,
it is finished. Hebrews will detail that in great measure,
we need no other priest. That’s why we don’t call
our pastors, “priest.” There’s a very theological reason for that
because they don’t atone for anything. And at the same time,
this great salvation must still be freely offered. So, the work is done
and we call people to it. There’s an already and a not yet.
There are souls who are yet to be saved by this priestly work which has been
decreed from eternity past for the elect. And in the same way we can think of His
prophetic work. On the one hand, God has decisively spoken in His Son.
He has shown to us all we need to know, believe, and do. There is nothing more to
say. That prophetic work is finished. And at the same time,
God keeps speaking through the work that has already been revealed and now written
down. Two passages in Hebrews. Turn over to chapter 4:12,
for, you know this verse, the Word of God is living and active,
sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and
spirit, of joints and of marrow and discerning the thoughts and intentions of
the heart. So, this word which we read, which we speak, which we preach and
proclaim is a living and an active Word not a dead word. Have you ever caught
yourself, some of you who preach and you’re praying before the sermon or
praying at the beginning of a service, have you ever caught yourself saying, “Oh,
Lord, make this Word come alive to us”? The problem is not that this Word needs to
come to life, it is alive. Oh, Lord, this Word is alive. Make dead people come
to life by it. That’s the problem. There’s dead people, not a dead word.
This Word is living and active. And then turn back to chapter 3:7.
Notice the verb tense, “Therefore as the Holy Spirit says,” “says,”
and then he goes and he quotes from the Psalms, “Do not harden your
hearts, if you hear His voice, as in the rebellion.” Now,
we’re used to thinking that the Spirit has inspired the Scriptures.
The Spirit spoke through the prophets of old, but here, he can reference the
Bible, words written down a millennium ago, and he references it not as the
Holy Spirit inspired, that would be accurate as well,
but hear as the Holy Spirit says, this word written down is what the
Holy Spirit continues to say. So, don’t hear in this message,
any sense of me saying God no longer speaks, He is speaking,
He is a speaking God. This is how He speaks through the fullness
and the finality of His son. So, Bavink says, “The Holy Spirit
no longer reveals any new doctrines but takes
everything from Christ, in Christ, God’s revelation
has been completed.” I would argue, though this goes against so
much of typical evangelical piety, would argue that prayer is not a dialogue as we
often think of it. You pray and sometimes it’s even sort of disparagingly,
you just pray and you never stick around for God to give you the answer
and talk back to you. Well, if we mean to sort of embrace a
mystical state where God through a subjective impression is now going to give
us answers. I don’t see Scriptural warrant for that. If we mean it’s a dialogue,
we offer up our prayers to God. He speaks to us through the Scriptures,
then by all means, let’s have a dialogue. But let us understand how God means to
speak to us. The Holy Spirit who comes after Christ is explicitly the Spirit of
Christ. His work, you read this in John 14, John 16,
the work of the Spirit is to apply the blessings of Christ to glorify the person
of Christ and explain all that Christ is and has accomplished. So,
when it says, “The Spirit will lead you into all truth,” Jesus says that,
that’s not a promise that the Spirit is going to lead you into all the truth you
want to know about auto mechanics, all the truth you want to know about who
you should date, all the truth you want to know about what church you should go
to, but rather all the truth about Jesus in His work and His redemptive revelation.
That’s what it means, given the context in the upper room
discourse. The Spirit is leading the disciples into all of that truth. So,
far from that verse being a suggestion that we ought to wait for extra biblical
words from the Lord, it’s actually a verse that should drive us
back to the Scriptures because now in these last days as God speaks through
His Son, where do we go to receive that word from the Spirit leading us into all
truth? Well, we look to the apostles and to their apostolic band,
and the writings that they in-scripturated by the work of the Spirit.
You understand that that promise to lead you into all truth is not a blanket
promise for all people at all times, though there’s a sense in which it
applies. It was a promise to the apostles, to those upon whom the Spirit would come
in a unique way equipping them, empowering them, to write down this
infallible and inerrant revelation. Jesus Christ then, is superior to angels
and all prophets, and all rituals, because He is God’s full and final
revelation. He speaks to us in these last days, not in many ways,
but in one way through His son. And He speaks through His Son by the
revelation of His redeeming work that we find first in the gospels,
then unpacked by the Spirit through the apostles and the rest of the
New Testament. In other words, Scripture is enough because Christ is
enough. They stand or they fall together. The Son’s redemption and the Son’s
revelation must both be sufficient. Now, all evangelical Christians are going
to say, “Yes and amen. The Son’s redemption is enough.
It is sufficient,” but sometimes we fail to see the interplay and the connection
between the two, that his redemptive work cannot be sufficient without, at the same,
time his revelatory work to be sufficient. As such, there is nothing more to be done,
nothing more to be known for our salvation and for our Christian walk than what we
see and know about Christ in this book. It’s not because we are interested in
putting God in a box. It’s because we are interested in honoring
the fullness and the finality of Christ’s redemption and revelation that we expect
to hear from the Spirit in this book, and we look to hear from the Spirit only
in this book. This Spirit has joined Himself to this work of Christ,
so that God now speaking through the Son is through this inspired word from the
Spirit about the work and the revelatory significance of his Son. Just as I said,
we ought not to separate Word from words, pit the Bible versus Jesus. So,
we ought not to separate the Spirit from the Son. The two always work in
tandem to reveal the things of God. This is why, incidentally,
the whole notion of anonymous Christianity won’t work. Sometimes this seems like a
good sort of way out and you find a number of Christians today who have what
theologians would call an inclusivist view of Hell and Heaven, and they say, “Yes,
everyone who’s saved must be saved through Jesus, through the work of Jesus.
It’s not that…he is the way, the truth and the life,”
but some people would say, “Might it be possible that you could be saved by the
work of Christ without ever professing faith in Christ?” And I’m thinking here
about sentient adults professing faith in Christ. There are mysteries and other
categories of the mentally impaired, or those who die in infancy.
I had a professor in college who argued quite forcefully and many students found
him persuasive. He said, “Look, I am such a Calvinist.
And I so firmly believe in the sovereignty of God, that I believe the
Spirit blows where he wills. And who’s to say that the Spirit might not
be blowing in some other part of the world, it might be blowing through
the hearts of people who have never even heard the name of Jesus and they’re
reborn, and they’re regenerated, and they’re saved by the work of the
Spirit, even though they’ve never heard of Jesus, never put conscious faith in
Christ?” And people sometimes will shake their hand and say, “Well,
I do believe in the sovereignty of God, and I kind of like how that lands on
people better and that’s much easier to explain to my friends.
Maybe that’s how the Spirit works. Who’s to say the Spirit couldn’t do that?”
Well, the Spirit himself says, he doesn’t do that. Why?
Because in that upper room discourse in John, the work of the Spirit is tied to
the revelatory work of the Son. The work of the Spirit, he says,
will come to give to you all that I am, all that I have to glorify me.
The Spirit never moves indiscriminately apart from glorifying Christ.
That’s one of the ways you can tell if it is the work of the Spirit.
Is it causing people to glorify Christ? The work of the Spirit is to throw a
spotlight upon Christ and say, “Look at Him.” Oftentimes,
when we talk about, “Well, that was really spiritual,” or, “Man,
the Spirit was really at work.” Usually we mean I felt something,
there was an emotive sense, and I love affections, but we should,
whenever Christ is glorified, whenever Christ is clearly presented to
sinners, we should say that was spiritual and it was the Spirit blowing
because we were made to look at Christ. That’s what the Spirit does,
which is why the anonymous Christianity won’t work because the Spirit does not
work indiscriminately to just regenerate people apart from pointing them to Christ.
That would not bring glory to the Father, the Spirit to somehow just, “You’re saved
and you don’t even know Jesus.” The work is to present people fully in
love with Christ, which is why it’s so unfortunate, not to ruin your day,
but to read carefully C.S. Lewis, and realize that that anonymous
Christianity was more or less the position he was espousing in mere Christianity
where he says there are people who still remain in their Buddhist religion and are
drawn to elements of Christ without realizing it,
which is why at the end of the Chronicles of Narnia, he has Emeth who,
though he was a worshiper of Tash, we find out he was really worshiping Aslan
all along, even though he didn’t know it. So, you have to be discerning about these
things. We must not separate the work of the Spirit from the fullness and the
finality of the redemption and the revelation of Christ. So,
why does any of this matter for a view of the sufficiency of the Scriptures?
Let me finish quickly by giving you four ways to practice the sufficiency of
Scripture in your life. Number one, keep tradition in its place.
I love tradition. I’m gladly part of the reformed tradition. I believe we ought to
give an important vote to that communion of the saints we call the democracy of the
dead. There’s one kind of diversity we often don’t pay attention to and that’s
the diversity of those who have gone before us. So, I’m a firm believer in the
importance of tradition. Creeds, confessions,
standing on the shoulders of giants, but even these must all be tested.
And make no mistake, whether you are in a church that has very
traditional music, and architecture, and pews, and suits or robes,
and you may think, “We’re not, we’re in Southern California,
we don’t have that sort of stuff. We don’t have tradition.”
No, we all have tradition. Just try to change something in your
church and you’ll find out there’s traditions.
You’ll be hearing somebody say one time, “Why do we have to keep on singing the
same old unfamiliar hymns all the time?” No, how do we, same old,
unfamiliar all the time? I’m not sure, but people love the tradition
or they don’t like to tradition, but we all have it. The question is,
do we use it as a guide or do we use it as a god? The role of tradition is the
single biggest source of division between Protestants and Catholics. Yes,
you have papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception,
purgatory, Mary. But all of those distinctive doctrines come from the fountainhead difference,
which is the role of tradition, in shaping and forming our doctrines.
Now, when we say sola scriptura, we did not mean solo or nuda scriptura
that is scripture and we don’t care about anything else.
We’re going to pretend that we can go right back to the first century and invent
things the way they were back then. That’s neither desirable nor possible.
What we mean is that everything is tested against scripture, nothing is needed in
addition to scripture, we believe what is true,
we obey what is right, we keep tradition in its place.
That means sometimes you have to do the hard work in your church even if you think
of yourself as non-traditional and say, “Okay, now why has this become a sacred
cow? Why must the offering come in this place? Why must the time of the
service be here? Maybe there’s a good reason for keeping it,
but maybe we’ve made an idol out of tradition. Keep tradition as a
second way to practice the sufficiency of Scripture. Do not add or subtract from
this book. We must always remember we are reading a covenantal book and covenants
come with certain patterns and norms. If you turn back or you can just write it
down, Deuteronomy 4:2, here at the second giving of the law we
see in typical fashion, as they would have done in the ancient Near East
is that the Mosaic Covenant comes with certain warnings and stipulations.
And we read in Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add to the Word that I
command you, nor take from it that you may keep the commandment of the Lord your God
that I command you.” That’s typical covenantal language.
Here’s our contract with God. One of the stipulations in this contract
is you don’t add anything to the contract, you don’t take anything away from this
contract. And so, it’s striking there at the giving of the Mosaic Law,
we read that language. And if you go to the end of your Bibles,
you know that you find the same language again, in Revelation 22:18-19,
almost the very last verse in the Bible. “I warn everyone who hears the words of
the prophecy of this book, if anyone adds to them,
God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away
from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his
share in the tree of life and in the holy city which are described in this
book.” Now, when John wrote Revelation, it wasn’t as if someone handed him a Bible
and it was Genesis through Jude and they said, “Okay, why don’t you finish
this thing up?” But I do think this ending to Revelation suggests that John,
and if the older dates are accurate, and this was one of or the last book
written, that John had some awareness that there was an apostolic deposit of truth
that was now coming to a close. Because it’s quite deliberate that he
would in this letter, with this covenantal formula suggesting an
awareness in his own spirit that he was writing something that was forming a new
covenant shaped together by the same covenantal inscriptions.
And he’d be right to think that. Jesus himself said, the New Covenant
sealed in my blood and with any covenant comes new covenant documents and the
documents would explain the gift received in the covenant and the obligations of the
covenant and what God will do for you in the covenant. And like all covenants,
they end with an inscription curse. And that’s what we have in Revelation. So,
do not add to it, do not subtract from it. This is a good word for so called
conservatives, perhaps, don’t add to the Bible even if you think
it would really be better, and safer, and clearer, and theologically more
precise, you know, maybe God didn’t tidy up some things, but we can tidy them up
for Him and just add a few things. It’s a good word for liberals,
not to subtract even if your experience suggests something otherwise,
even if your culture desperately wants something else. Even if your human reason
and experience would tell you this can no longer work in our world.
You don’t subtract from it, you don’t add to it. Third practice,
trust the Word of God to be relevant. This is perhaps a word in particular for
pastors or any of us who minister the Word to others. You know, 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
which we’ll get to in our time together. That all Scripture is breathed out and is,
what? Is profitable. Profitable. Really? The whole thing?
Some of it is pretty boring. We must read it down into the heart,
read it across the whole storyline of Scripture, read it out up to heaven,
and read it up all the way to the glory of God and trust the Word of God.
We don’t have to make the Word relevant. It is relevant. If you preach the Word and
you love people, they’ll listen. And yeah, there are ways to be winsome about it,
there’s ways to be obnoxious about it. Some people are better preachers than
others. I’ll name a whole lot of people that are better preachers than I am.
But mark very well, if you go into the pulpit or into your church’s ministry and
think, “Okay, here’s what we got to do, we got the Word and I have to make it
relevant.” It’s not. It’s not right here. You’re thinking somehow the Scripture is
not sufficient in itself and you need to get it there. No,
what we need is to study ourselves so full, and pray ourselves so hot,
and preach ourselves so empty that people can’t help, but see the connections
between the Bible and their lives. And then fourth and finally,
we practice the sufficiency of Scripture by opening our Bibles to hear the voice of
God. It’s simple, isn’t it? Do you open your Bibles?
I saw this a while back. I think it was from John Piper.
Give him credit it wasn’t from me. It’s a little quip that said maybe God
invented Facebook to remind us all that we really do have time to read our Bibles.
Is that true? Some of you get the new iOS update on your phone now starting to tell
you weekly, how many hours a day you spend on your phone. Now, that update might have
been from the Lord, I don’t know what else it might have messed up.
But that right there…Open your Bibles. I remember one time when I was in a
different denomination, and we were in some advisory groups with a
denominational meeting, we’re wrestling over issues of sexuality,
and we were in a group of maybe 15 of us and we were supposed to establish our own
norms for the group. How do we want to run the group?
And very sort of process-oriented and I just said,
“I think I’d like…I make a motion.” Because we’re reformed Presbyterian, we make motions for things that one of the
norms for this group is that everything that comes out of here,
and everything that we affirm, and everything that we say be tested
against the Scriptures. And this was a quote in that meeting from
the man leading it. “Kevin, I know what you’re trying to do
and trying to say, but we are not here to open our Bibles.”
That’s one of the signs that we were not in the right place.
Remember at that same meeting, there were some signs all over
the room about vision meetings, and find your future,
and listening for the voice of God, and seeking out God’s plan for us. And I remember there was a speaker there
from Brazil, and as you can do sometimes when you’re an outsider speaking,
you can get away saying things that you couldn’t say otherwise.
And he just sort of in the middle of a sermon just noted all these signs saying,
you know, find the voice of God and discover our future together and
listen, and vision, and love and he just said, he started reading the signs.
And he said, “Well, I hope you find it. I hope God says something to you.”
Suggesting to us that maybe, just maybe better than entering into listening
discernment groups, we might be better served by opening our Bibles together.
God has committed to speaking to us, guiding us, and guiding His church through
the Word, but we have to have it open. Do you believe it is enough?
To affirm the sufficiency of Scripture is not to suggest that the Bible tells us
everything we want to know about everything, but it does tell us
everything we need to know about what matters most. Scripture does not give us
exhaustive information on every subject, but in every subject in which it speaks,
it only says what is true. The sufficiency of Scripture does not mean
that the Bible is Lord over the Spirit, but it means the Spirit who inspired the
Bible purposes to speak through his book. The sufficiency of Scripture does not mean
we reject all church tradition, but it does mean that every tradition must
be tested by Scripture, ought to never be placed in equal authority with Scripture.
Here is the bottom line for all of us. Do you believe? Do I believe that the Word
of God is sufficient to do the work of God? Do you really believe it?
I can tell you, most Sundays when I get done preaching, I struggle to believe it.
You know, if you think well, you preach at conferences,
you must feel like every sermon is just from strength to strength.
Most times I get done I feel like, what a waste? Am I humble,
is that the devil? Is that really my pride in reverse form? I don’t know,
it’s all of those. But I know I feel that in ministry.
You probably feel it too. You preach your guts out or you work so hard on your Bible study and nobody seems
to show up. Or you’re faithfully trying to lead your Sunday school class,
or you just discipling another girl on your dorm or you’re reading the Bible
with your kids at night and months go by, years go by, nothing.
Why don’t I have one of those stories of things just growing and blossoming?
And you’ll be tempted to doubt that truth. God is really, the Word of God is
sufficient for the work of God. I remember very early in ministry and not
seeing the church grow like I wanted it to and looking out and seeing other
churches that we’re bigger and then growing. And thinking, having this
snippy little thought in my head towards God. “God, if I get to heaven
and I find out that there was a secret, there was a secret in our brand, that there was a secret
in the fog machines, that there was a secret that we needed to
turn up the guitar, turn it up all the way to 11 and that was going to do it,
if I find that out…but of course the secret is there’s no secret except to
believe that in counseling, and discipleship, and preaching,
and Bible study, that the word of God is sufficient to do the work of God.
The Father will speak by means of all that the Spirit has spoken through the Son.
We simply have to open up our Bibles and listen. Let’s pray.
Gracious Heavenly Father, we give thanks for your Word.
We pray that in the midst of all that we’re learning here in these days together
that you would strengthen our minds to think carefully and theologically.
Would you help the good brothers and sisters here to think over these things
and consider perhaps some angles and some implications they have not considered
before simply to be reminded of things they may have forgotten?
And just as importantly, would you for all of us,
give us a firmer resolve and commitment that your Word will do it?
It’s always the Word working, always your Word which is saving.
Thank you for the privilege we have to know it, to read it, to speak it,
to be saved by it. We pray in Jesus. Amen.