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The Authority of Scripture

The role of the Bible in Christianity cannot be overstated. The Scriptures declare that God is and that He has spoken. It is true that God has revealed Himself through the created order, but the special revelation of God recorded in the Old and New Testaments is foundational for all matters of faith and practice.

In Deuteronomy chapter 5, Moses rehearsed the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel on the Plains of Moab. After completing the Decalogue, he said, “These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.” In the first place, the divine origin of God’s law is highlighted as Moses states plainly “the LORD spoke.” Secondly, the absolute authority of the law is underscored: if the authoritative Lord spoke His truth then it necessarily follows that His word is authoritative. Thirdly, the permanence of God’s law is established as the Lord Himself “wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to [Moses.]”

Some might be tempted to say, “well certainly the Ten Commandments are authoritative, but what about the rest of the Bible?” In 2 Timothy chapter 3, the Apostle Paul sets forth the authority of the entirety of God’s word to Timothy.  He wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (vv.16-17). In the first place, “all Scripture” certainly refers to the Old Testament. It also refers to the New Testament as the NT documents themselves indicate their divine origin. Paul insisted that his letters be read in the churches (1 Th 5:27), exchanged among the churches (Col 4:16), obeyed (1 Cor 14:37; 2 Th 2:15; 3:14), and that his words were taught to him by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:13). The Apostle Peter categorized Paul’s letters with “the Scriptures” (2 Pet 3:15-16). Secondly, the Scriptures are inspired. Inspiration in this context does not mean the sort of thing a poet experiences before he composes; it rather refers to the fact that God breathed His word through the human authors. In much the same way the Lord Jesus was divine and human, so are the sacred Scriptures. Thirdly, the Scriptures are authoritative as they prescribe those things profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction. In other words, the authoritative God of heaven and earth has given His authoritative word to His people for all matters of faith and practice.

Whether revealed at Sinai, the Plains of Moab, or at Ephesus, the truth remains the same: Scripture is the authoritative word of God to man. As a result of this, the believer must search the Scriptures, the church must be grounded upon the Scriptures, and pastors must preach the Scriptures. In light of 2 Tim 3:15-16, 2 Tim 4:2 is not at all surprising that Paul wrote to Timothy, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching.” Let pastors today go and do likewise.

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What is the Gospel?

The word “gospel” simply means “good news.”  The gospel is the historic, revealed message concerning Jesus Christ. It is that record of events which focus upon Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for sinners. It is important to understand this as some Christians with good intentions maintain that believers should “live the gospel.”  Technically, one cannot live the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for sinners – it is a message, it is a declaration, it is good news. One can live in light of it or one can let his conduct be worthy of it or one can pursue holiness; but to live out the events of Christ’s redemptive work on behalf of sinners, is simply not our calling. In 1 Cor 15, the Apostle Paul addresses the doctrine of the resurrection. In verses 1-4, he sets forth the gospel of Jesus Christ as the foundation for the argument that follows. We note several things concerning the gospel in this section of Scripture.

In the first place, the gospel is rooted in history. Before the foundation of the world, God decreed to save a people by His Son Jesus Christ. The gospel is the execution of that decree in history. Paul says that Christ died, was buried, and rose again. These are historic, dateable and non-repeatable events. In fulfillment of the Old Testament word of promise, Christ came in the fullness of the times, was born of a woman, and born under the law. He lived in obedience to the law of God, died to satisfy divine justice in the place of sinners, and rose again.

Secondly, the gospel is revealed by God. The Scripture speaks of two types of revelation, general and special. Ps 19 and Rom 1 set forth the truth that God reveals Himself to His image bearers through the created order. The heavens declare the glory of God (Ps 19:1) and what God has manifested of Himself to man leaves man without excuse for his sin and disobedience (Rom 1:19-20). However, general revelation does not communicate the necessity for blood atonement. It does not reveal the work of Christ on the cross for sinners. Special revelation is God’s having made Himself and His ways known through the Scriptures. Paul highlights this in 1 Cor 15:1-4 by indicating that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection happened “according to the Scriptures” (vv.3,4). The work of Christ was not an after-thought or a reaction in the mind of God; the Old Testament conspicuously promised a coming Redeemer who would crush the head of Satan through His redemptive work which Christ carried out in His first coming.

Thirdly, the gospel is the record of Christ’s work for sinners. The Triune God is actively involved in salvation (Eph 1:3-14) and the gospel message is the outworking of the Father’s decree to save the elect. As well, it is the gospel that the Holy Spirit brings to bear upon the elect:  when sinners are born again by His power, they believe the gospel of Christ.  Because of this, the church and her preachers must set forth Christ in His person and in His work to all mankind. Paul determined to know nothing among the Corinthians “except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2); the modern church does well to imitate the Apostle.

Fourthly, the gospel is received by faith alone.  Christianity is not moralism; it is not a message of “try-harder” and you will be accepted by God.  The gospel addresses the root of the matter:  man before God is completely undone because of his sin.  There is no ability in the sinner to gain acceptance with God. The gospel is the revelation of the One who kept the law; who always did what pleased His Father; who died as a sacrifice and a substitute for His people.  The means by which His people are justified is through faith alone.  Paul highlights the role of faith in 1 Cor 15 — “which also you received [by faith] in which you stand” (v.1), “by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (v.2) and “so we preach and so you believe” (v.11).  Verse 2 also indicates the absolute necessity of the gospel for salvation, for if one does not believe and hold fast that word, one is not saved.[1]

The final observation is a very practical one:  the gospel is powerful to save the worst sinners.  In verse 9, Paul writes, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  Paul declares in Rom 1:16 that the gospel “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”  He highlights his own sinfulness in Gal 1:13 and makes a wonderful declaration in 1 Tim 1:15, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  In light of these observations, we should praise God Almighty for His wonderful gospel!

 



[1] Other passages speak to the absolute necessity of Christ and His gospel for salvation.  See for example, Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom 1:16-17; Eph 1:13-14; Jas 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23.

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The Peace of Christ

In John’s gospel, the Lord Jesus spends time with His disciples in an upper room prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. He encourages His disciples and readies them for the battle that lay ahead. In Jn 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” This is a most blessed legacy to leave to His disciples. Matthew Henry commented, “When Christ left the world, He made His will. His soul He bequeathed to His Father and His body to Joseph. His clothes fell to the soldiers. His mother He left to the care of John. But what should He leave to His poor disciples, who had left all for Him? Silver and gold He had none; but He left them what was far better, His peace.”[1] The peace of Christ is a precious commodity that flows from His redemptive work on behalf of His people. Herman Ridderbos wrote, “Jesus’ ‘shalom’ is not a cheap wish. He is now at the point of going away on a journey in which He will have to fight for that peace against the powers of darkness and violence…a peace that He will have to bring back from the depths of death.”[2]

The Apostle Paul writes of the peace of Christ in several places in his epistles. In Eph 2:14-18, he declares that Jesus Christ is our peace (v.14), that He has made peace at the cross (v.16), and that He preached peace to the Ephesians through the apostle’s ministry (v.17). In the book of Colossians, Paul connects the peace of Christ with His reconciling work on the cross, “and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (1:20).  Gordon H. Clark commented on Col 1:20, “Now, when we pause to consider, this is staggering.  The preceding verses have described Christ in transcendent terms.  He was the Creator, in whom all the fullness dwells, the heir of the universe, for whom indeed it was created.  When now the Creator of heaven and earth, the Creator himself, voluntarily suffered on the cross for our sins, we can only stand in awe and worship.”[3]

In conclusion, it is important to understand that our subjective peace is grounded upon objective truth. Paul writes in Rom 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The believer knows peace because of what Christ accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection.  The believer’s peace is not the outflow of a moral life or of consistent religious observance; rather, the believer’s peace is inseparably connected to the cross of Jesus Christ.  The theological truth of justification by faith alone is not simply a concept that differentiates Protestantism from Roman Catholicism; it is the foundation of the believer’s peace with God.



[2] Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John:  A Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 511.

[3] Gordon H. Clark, Colossians (Jefferson, MD:  The Trinity Foundation, [1979] 1989), 50.

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C.H. Spurgeon: Paul…and His Books

In a sermon on 2 Tim 4:13 entitled “Paul – His Cloak and His Books,” C.H. Spurgeon commented,

 “We will LOOK AT HIS BOOKS. We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read.  Some of our very ultra Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh! that is the preacher. How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, “Give thyself unto reading.” The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, “Bring the books”—join in the cry.”[1]

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