Please Stop Saying — “God Told Me”

Please Stop Saying — “God Told Me”

It happened again recently.  I was listening to a sermon online and the preacher said, “God told me.”  Apparently everyone in the congregation enjoyed it from the response I heard, but I immediately turned it off.  This type of communication is becoming more prevalent in Christian circles.  It’s showing up in conversations because people are hearing it from the pulpit and reading it in books they purchased from the local Christian bookstore.  Perhaps it sounds spiritual or is emotionally stirring to the congregation.

Although the “God told me” method of communicating makes for interesting, suspenseful, and entertaining stories, what people need most is to hear from God.  I would like to make a simple request.  Please stop saying “God told me” unless the phrase is immediately followed up with a text of Scripture.  Have you considered the connection between the “God told me” language and the sufficiency of Scripture?  What connection does the “God told me” phrase have with the third of the Ten Commandments?

The “God Told Me” Language Violates the Sufficiency of Scripture

If God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4-6), to Samuel in the dark of night (1 Sam. 3:1-9), to Elijah in a cave (1 Kings 19:9), to John the Baptist and others at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11), and to Saul (subsequently Paul) and his traveling companions on the road leading to Damascus (Acts 9:4-7)—why would God not speak to us today?  That’s a fair question, but it might surprise you to know that God does still speak to us today.  He does so through His sufficient and authoritative Word.

In chapter 1 and paragraph 6 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), we find these words:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

During the days of the Old Testament, God was communicating to prophets in order to write Holy Scripture and to prepare the way for Jesus’ birth.  All of the audible communication of God has direct connection to the redemptive plan of God to save sinners.  God’s direct communication with His people was not centered on what to eat for breakfast, the need to give money to a random person at a bus stop, or to go join a group of college students at a morning workout.

During the days of the New Testament, and the early church period, God’s audible voice, although rare, was connected to the redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ.  Once the Bible was completed, there was no longer any need for God to speak to people audibly or to provide direct (divine) communication.  God has communicated everything necessary for faith and life, worship and service, in His sufficient Word.  To use the “God told me” language violates the sufficiency of Scripture.  Simply put, it needs to stop.

It’s strange that many churches that once stood courageously for the inerrancy of Scripture in the past frequently employ the “God told me” language in their pulpit today.  We don’t allow Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses to play the “God told me” divine revelation card, and we shouldn’t allow Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists or mainstream evangelicals to have a free pass on this crucial issue.

The “God told me” language majors on our stories rather than God’s story.  We need more of God and less of us in our singing and preaching today.  If people are genuinely hungry to hear from God, we must direct them to God’s Word.  To raise children on “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” and to emphasize the authority of God’s Word is a good thing.  But, when those same children arrive in the worship service on the Lord’s Day and hear a preacher waxing eloquent about how God talked directly to him in the early hours of the morning — that’s severely inconsistent.  John MacArthur writes:

Preoccupied with mystical encounters and emotional ecstasies, [many] seek ongoing revelation from heaven – meaning that, for them, the Bible alone is simply not enough. [With them], biblical revelation must be supplemented with personal “words from God,” supposed impressions from the Holy Spirit, and other subjective religious experiences. That kind of thinking is an outright rejection of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16–17). It is a recipe for far-reaching theological disaster. [1]

The “God Told Me” Language Uses God’s Name in Vain

Although some people unintentionally use the “God told me” vocabulary without understanding the implications, in other cases, certain people and preachers use the phrase as a means of claiming that they actually heard directly from God.  This intentional use of God’s name is a clear violation of the third commandment (Deut. 5:11).

For whatever the reason, some people feel compelled to us God’s name as a stamp of approval on their stories, their decision to move churches, their decision to go into the ministry, or their decision to take a job transfer.  Either way, it’s not true.  It’s intellectually dishonest.  We as evangelicals must not allow people to continually get away with using this language.  We certainly shouldn’t celebrate it.  Hear the word of Charles Spurgeon from a sermon he preached titled, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872:

Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to Him [the Holy Spirit]. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonored by persons – I hope they were insane – who have said that they have had this and that revealed to them. There has not for some years passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me, and it may spare them some trouble if I tell them once for all that I will have none of their stupid messages… Never dream that events are revealed to you by heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Ghost. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the Word of God already – He adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice and no longer insult the Holy Ghost by laying their nonsense at His door. [2]

It is through the Word of God that we hear God proclaim to us the reality of sin (Rom. 3).  From the Scriptures, we hear God declare good news that makes us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:14-15).   God speaks from His Word to correct us and warn us of error (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  As we continue to hear God speak through His Word, we grow into spiritual maturity and experience the ongoing renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2).  God speaks today, but we must not cling to extrabiblical revelations.  Such words are empty and impotent sayings that are more closely associated with mysticism than Christianity.

Important questions to ask when someone uses the “God told me” language:

  1. If the “God told me” language is used in the context of a sermon preached by one of your pastors (or a guest preacher), rather than attacking him online, setup a private meeting to discuss the matter in person.  Show respect and ask for specifics to be sure you are not misunderstanding.
  2. Is this direct communication from God necessary if we already have the completed canon of Scripture (all 66 books)?
  3. Is the person using the “God told me” language in order to manipulate you in some way?
  4. Is the person seeking to validate their poor life decision by attaching God’s name to it?
  5. Is the “God told me” language being employed in the context of asking for money?
  6. Is the person using the name of God to aspire to an office in the local church?
  7. Is the “God told me” language in direct contradiction to any doctrine or truth revealed in Scripture?

An appeal to those who preach and teach the Bible:

  1. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy—Preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-5).  We should preach the Word and not our stories.
  2. According to Ecclesiastes 12:14, one day we will give an account of every secret thing and every careless word that proceeds from our mouths (Matt. 12:36).
  3. It is our duty to maximize God and minimize ourselves in the pulpit.  If people leave church services remembering your riveting story about God talking to you instead of remembering God’s Word, you’ve done the people a great disservice.
  4. Your “God told me” language makes others who obviously don’t hear Him speak in an audible voice (everyone in the congregation) feel sub-par in their Christian life.  It also serves as a means of puffing up your spiritual level to an elite status above the normal Christian.  This shouldn’t be the goal in preaching.
  5. If God didn’t actually speak to you in audible voice, please stop using the phrase, “God told me” when you’re telling stories in your sermons.
  6. Brother pastor, if you have someone speak in your pulpit who uses that type of language, it’s your responsibility to correct it with your people.  Their spiritual maturity and development depends upon you being faithful in this area.

Don’t immediately classify a friend as a lunatic or a heretic if they use the “God told me” language in their communication.  However, when you hear people talking in this manner, it should serve as a big red flag.  Exercise wisdom and gentleness when confronting this error among friends or church members, but in the case of calling out false teachers, mark them so that others will not be led astray.

  1. John MacArthur, Strange Fire, (Nashville, Nelson Books, 2013), 218.
  2. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872 [Sermon].
Sola Scriptura and Transgender Restroom Privileges

Sola Scriptura and Transgender Restroom Privileges

Just a few years ago we were having a conversation about the boundaries of female sports journalists in professional NFL locker rooms.  Today, we find ourselves having a much different conversation regarding the restroom privileges of those who are openly transgender and those who merely self-identify as the opposite sex.  Just recently President Obama issued a letter to the public school system in the United States that calls upon the school system to refrain from discriminating against transgender students.  Today we find ourselves having very complicated conversations at break-neck speed in our culture.  The cake bakery freedom issue is old news.  Today’s news is centered on transgender discrimination policies that will essentially allow anyone to use any restroom of their choice.  How do we navigate in this cesspool culture that’s moving at break-neck speed?  How do we train our children to be steadfast?  This is where sola Scriptura matters and remains the foundation from which we must find clarity in an age of confusion.

What is Sola Scriptura?

It was Martin Luther, on October 31, 1517, who protested against the Roman Catholic Church and the abuse of indulgences by nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Nobody, including the Augustinian monk himself, would’ve predicted the explosion of controversy that would erupt after the protest was made public.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) would rise to the forefront of this movement that has become known as the Protestant Reformation. At the core of this movement was a commitment to God’s Word. The Reformation was not about Calvinism. The Reformation was about the recovery of the authority and the sufficiency of Scripture. As a direct result, the Reformation had a profound impact upon the pulpit as men stood and proclaimed the Word of God boldly and this in turn had a lasting impact upon the church as a whole.

The battle cry of the Protestant Reformation was sola Scriptura. The Reformers believed that the Scripture alone was necessary to communicate the gospel.  Out of the Reformation era came five definitive doctrinal positions that categorize the convictions of those men and women who risked everything to defend the faith once delivered to the saints. These Latin slogans are:

  • Sola Fide, by faith alone.
  • Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
  • Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
  • Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
  • Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

The foundation whereby these statements stand or fall is sola Scriptura. If the Scriptures are not trustworthy, how can we know the truth of our human depravity, the glory of Jesus’ substitutionary death, and the amazing grace of God granted to depraved sinners for His eternal glory?  The Reformers looked at the Roman Catholic Church’s attempt to choke out the authority and primacy of Scripture among God’s people and they took a courageous stand.  As long as time continues and until Christ returns, we must be reminded that there will be a perpetual attack upon God’s Word.  That truth should be our reminder that from the Scriptures we must stand with resolute confidence in our prevailing evil age.

The Issue of Authority

For many years, the Roman Catholic Church had a strangle hold upon the Bible. The Roman Catholic Church wanted to control the Bible, adding to it their traditions, and subjugating the authority of the Bible by the authority of the magisterium. The issue of authority was at the heart of the protest of the Reformation. Once upon a time, the Roman Catholic Church was willing to burn people at the stake to maintain control of the Bible. Likewise it must be emphasized, once upon a time Christians were willing to endure the hot flames of persecution in order to preach and publish the Bible in the common man’s language. Where are such men today?

It seems as if all politicians and many mainstream preachers alike have lost confidence in God’s Word.  They have elevated popular opinion, and in some cases unpopular opinion, to a higher plane than the truth of holy Scripture.  When the apostle Paul was preparing Timothy for pastoral ministry in the city of Ephesus, he wrote the following words:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Before getting to the classic pinnacle of Paul’s letter in 2 Timothy 4:1-5 where Paul emphatically called upon Timothy to “preach the Word,” he began with a clear statement regarding Scripture’s source and sufficiency. Regarding the source of Scripture, Paul said that “all Scripture” is “breathed out by God.” The phrase, “breathed out by God” is one word in the original Greek text – θεόπνευστος. This particular word literally means that all Scripture comes from the breath of God. In other words, God is the source of the Scriptures, therefore the Scriptures are authoritative.  We must teach our children to look to the Word of God as their ultimate authority.  We must seek to elect politicians to office who likewise have a greater fear of God than they have for man.

We live in an anti-authority culture that rejects rules, laws, and ordinances, but if we will make a difference and speak truth it must not be from the deep wells of personal opinion.  We must build our positions and take our stand upon the sure foundation of Scripture.  Just as confident as Luther was regarding the authority of God’s Word in the indulgences debate, we must face our own debates with the same confidence in the same authoritative Word.

The Sufficient Word

If we are forced to make a decision to bake a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding or to boycott Target, we must make our final decision through the lens of holy Scripture.  It doesn’t matter if we’re debating the age of the earth, life in the womb, or transgender restroom privileges, the Scriptures are sufficient to guide such decisions.  Preachers should not look outside of Scripture in order to address such complicated issues.  The Bible is sufficient on the subject of human sexuality and all other ethical issues that we may face in the ages to come.  There is no book like the Bible.  The Word of God will never need an update, revision, or correction in order to comply with culture.  It will always be the culture that must be revised and altered in order to comply with God’s Word.

Nearly 500 years ago Martin Luther made his famous “here I stand” speech before the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church.  We need men and women who would be willing to make a similar stand against the opinions and cultural downgrade of our present day.  Since the Bible is a sufficient map given to us in order to navigate the landscape of a confused culture, it’s vital that pastors and parents alike instruct the children and the church regarding the sufficiency of the Bible.  If tomorrow’s church will make such a courageous stand, the church today must be teaching from the foundation of sola Scriptura – the Scripture alone is our guide.  The Bible is not an ancient and outdated book.  That’s why men once upon a time taught on the perspicuity of Scripture.  We must do so once again.  Charles Spurgeon rightly states:

This weapon is good at all points, good for defense and for attack, to guard our whole person or to strike through the joints and marrow of the foe. Like the seraph’s sword at Eden’s gate, it turns every way. You cannot be in a condition that the Word of God has not provided. The Word has as many faces and eyes as providence itself. You will find it unfailing in all periods of your life, in all circumstances, in all companies, in all trials, and under all difficulties. Were it fallible, it would be useless in emergencies, but its unerring truth renders it precious beyond all price to the soldiers of the cross. [1]

*That’s one reason why we need more sermons, not less.  We need more gospel preaching and teaching, not less.  That’s why we need more church services, not less.  However, that’s a different subject for a different article on a different day.

  1. Charles Spurgeon, “Spiritual Warfare in a Believer’s Life,” (Sermon Matthew 4:4).
How Do You Know the Bible Is True?

How Do You Know the Bible Is True?

One of the main questions Christians face is based on the reliability of the Bible.  How do you know the Bible is true?  Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?  On what grounds do we embrace the Bible?  The Bible is a unique book to say the least.  It was compiled over a period of 1,500 years by forty different authors from various different geographic locations.  These authors were all different in many ways.  For instance, there were two kings, one tax collector, and a lowly goat farmer who make up the diverse list of human authors of the Bible.  Yet, the question remains, how do you know the Bible is true?

First, we should avoid the really poor reasons that many people give to this question.  It doesn’t matter if your pastor said it’s the Word of God, that’s not a good enough answer.  If a skeptic asks you to give an answer to why you believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, the fact that your parents raised you in such a way doesn’t hold much credibility.  So, why should we believe the Bible?  This ancient book has been around for a long time, so how do you know the Bible is true?

The Jesus Answer

When answering the question – “How do you know the Bible is true?” – Jesus really is the answer.  I realize that “Jesus” is often the answer to most questions during Bible study time for children.  However, don’t overlook the child’s answer too quickly.  If you examine the majority of the nonChristian religions, their major similarities are often their attack on the deity of Jesus Christ.  The Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Muslims all three assault the deity of Jesus.  However, Jesus has proven that He and the Father are one (John 10:30) and that He is indeed God who came to us in human flesh (John 1:14).  What’s the proof?  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  B.B. Warfield writes:

A dozen ignorant peasants proclaiming a crucified Jew as the founder of a new faith; bearing as the symbol of their worship an instrument which was the sign of ignominy, slavery and crime; preaching what must have seemed an absurd doctrine of humility, patient suffering and love to enemies – graces undreamed of before; demanding what must have seemed an absurd worship for one who had died like a malefactor and a slave, and making what must have seemed an absurd promise of everlasting life through one who had himself died, and that between two thieves. [1]

Christianity would have been nothing more than a strange man proclaiming a strange message, and the Bible would be nothing more than a strange book in a long line of strange writings from ancient religious history without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  The resurrection changed everything.  In fact, the resurrection of Jesus validated the Bible.

The way in which Jesus used the Bible matters.  Did He embrace it as reliable?  Did Jesus approach the writings of the Bible as authoritative?  Read through the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 and see how Jesus preached the Word, interpreted the Word, and embraced the Word as divine in nature.  Jesus used Jonah as an illustration of His resurrection in Matthew 12:38-40.  Not only did Jesus predict His own resurrection, but He used an Old Testament text to illustrate it.  In doing so, we get a peek into the way Jesus approached Jonah.  Apparently Jesus, who was raised from the dead, believed in a literal interpretation of the fish swallowing the prophet Jonah and spitting him up three days later.  Jesus approached the Scriptures with respect and dignity, and embraced them as God’s Word (Matthew 22:41-45).

The Self Authentication of the Bible

How do you know the Bible is true?  The Bible is unlike any other book.  It has the tone of authority that vastly supersedes other books.  In 2 Timothy 3:16, we see the internal claim of the Bible to have God as its source.  Tatian, a second century disciple of Justin Martyr, took time to examine the writings of pagan religions.  Tatian was a man who had a brilliant mind and it was through this God given ability that he looked at the world of religious writings.  Notice what he says about the Bible in his work titled, Oration to the Greeks (c.165):

I was led to put my faith in these by the unpretending cast of the language, the inartificial character of the writers, the foreknowledge displayed of future events, the excellent quality of the precepts, and the declaration of the government of the universe as centered on one Being. And my soul being taught of God, I discern that the former class of [pagan] writings lead to condemnation, but that these [Scriptures] put an end to the slavery that is in the world (29). [2]

Interestingly Tatian was captivated by the fact that the Bible itself bears the mark of heavenliness.  In other words, the Bible has the mark of divinity, holiness, and authority in ways that cannot happen through the mere hand of a human author.  As Tatian speaks of being taught of God, we are reminded of the words found in Hebrews 4:12, “For 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 of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Unity of the Parts

How can one book written over a period of 1,500 years, by forty different human authors, in three different original languages, from three different continents, with many different genres possess such a unified message?  As we read the Bible, the unity is apparent from the beginning.  From Genesis to Revelation, there is one unified voice, one unified purpose, and one unified mission.  The totality of the Bible is centered upon Jesus Christ.  Jonathan Edwards once said, “Go often to your Bible to hear the great God Himself speak to you. There you may hear Christ speak.” [3]

What scheme of humanity could span such vast time periods, geographic locations, and linguistic barriers to come together in a cohesive unity that points to Jesus Christ as the savior of the world (John 4:42)?  Sure, when one person writes a book and makes claims of divinity, it’s easy to remain unified, but when a book spans such a vast time period and possesses shared human authorship while remaining unified is abnormal to say the least.

The Preservation of the Bible

I was recently talking with a man from our church, and he was telling me about his conversations with a co-worker who refuses to believe the Bible.  The skeptic was trying to throw off my friend by talking about discoveries through archeology and science.  My friend said, “The more they discover as they continue to dig and explore, the bigger my God becomes with each new discovery.”  That is a very true statement indeed.

If a person is on trial for breaking into his neighbor’s home and stealing jewelry, before the individual can be prosecuted and convicted of the crime, the jury will need some tangible evidence to prove he committed the crime.  For instance, they will need some form of evidence such as finger prints, DNA, or perhaps pictures from a security camera.  When it comes to the Bible, people ask for proof that it’s reliable and can be trusted.  The good news is that we have proof in the manuscript evidence.  The manner in which the Bible has been preserved over time validates its reliability.

If you take the other writings from history that predate the printing press, you will find that they too have manuscripts.  Just like the Bible, they were copied down by scribes.  For instance, we have 7 copies of Plato’s historical writings.  We have 2,400 copies of the historical writings of Homer.  When compared to the manuscript evidence of the New Testament, we have over 5,800 manuscripts.  This dwarfs the other writings from other authors from ancient history.  In fact, we have copies dating back to within a couple of hundred years of the original author for the New Testament Bible while manuscript evidence of the average classical author are no earlier than 500 years after his original autograph.  The point is clear, the Bible has been preserved well over time without the printing press, without the Internet, without high definition copying systems, and the sheer manuscript evidence alone speaks volumes about the reliability and veracity of Scripture.

In the mid 1940s, a little shepherd boy was walking alongside the desert, and like little boys often do, he started throwing rocks.  He aimed into a cave as he passed by, and when he heard a strange noise, he entered the cave to see what his rock had hit.  What he discovered in that cave has become known to us as the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Those manuscripts provided additional clarity and support to the already vast manuscript evidence of the Bible.

The 1689 London Baptist Confession, in Article 1.4 on the Scriptures states, “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not on the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God its Author (Who is Truth itself). Therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.”  Throughout time, earthly kings have assaulted the Bible, skeptics have attacked the Bible, nations have rejected the Bible, heretics have perverted the Bible, atheists have ignored the Bible, and agnostics have avoided the Bible.  However, the Bible remains true, trustworthy, and authoritative.  The Bible reigns as king in the library of human history.  From internal and intrinsic evidences to archeological discoveries and tangible manuscripts, the Bible continues to be validated as the Word of the living God.  The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote these famous words, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

  1. The Divine Origin of the Bible, Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1991, I.432.
  2. How Do You Know the Scriptures are from God? One Testimony in the Early Church
  3. Selections from the Unpublished Writings of Jonathan Edwards, Ballantyne and Company, 195.

Read the Bible to Your Anxiety

John Piper addresses anxiety and points people to the solution in God’s Word.  He writes, “Anxiety is an emotion. It is not a decision. We don’t decide to get anxious. It happens to us. Jesus attacks anxiety in Matthew 6 with truth, with facts, promises, and reasons.”  For the full article and Look at the Book labs, click here.
Rob Bell’s World and Why Inerrancy Matters

Rob Bell’s World and Why Inerrancy Matters

Yesterday, thousands of people packed into Grace Community Church in Sun Valley California for the 2015 Summit on Biblical Inerrancy (aka – 2015 Shepherds’ Conference).  Many people are questioning the reason for such a summit while others insist that the “Battle for the Bible” is over.  It only takes a brief review of the current news regarding the Bible to see that the battle over inerrancy is far from over, and if history is any indicator, it is likely to repeat itself.

Rob Bell, a former megachurch pastor (Mars Hill Bible Church), has now departed from the church and is now “churching” with a group of friends as they now journey through life together and serve their community.  Bell has turned into somewhat of a spiritual advisor for Oprah Winfrey and she is promoting Bell as a spiritual leader, coach, and expert on spirituality.  Oprah has herself stirred up a dust cloud with her troubling beliefs about Christianity. Oprah’s views about God have been raising eyebrows for years.  A video posted on Youtube titled, “The Church of Oprah Exposed” has been viewed literally millions of times.  In that short video, Oprah denies the exclusivity of Christ.  Bell, like Oprah, has been creating quite a cloud of controversy with his bold inclusivism and a clear departure from the church and the Bible as the Word of God.  His book, Love Wins, created quite a stir in the evangelical world.  In his book, Bell basically argues for a form of Universalism (Tim Challies’ review of his book was helpful).  In his teachings on the Bible, Bell writes:

First, circular arguments are not helpful. For example The Bible is divinely inspired because it says it is. Any book could say that. Not only is this argument not helpful, but it’s terribly confusing for people who have never read the Bible.

Second, insisting that this book was written by God is not helpful. It was written by actual people. For people who are new to the Bible, telling them that it wasn’t written by people is terribly confusing as well. Start with the human, claim that first, then work your way to the divine.

Third, the Bible is not an argument. The people who wrote these things down had very real experiences of the divine and did everything they could to put those experiences in words. Those experiences were filtered through their consciousness, culture, worldview, and personal history. The stories in the Bible were told because they meant something profound to the people who first wrote them. 

All doctrine and dogma and theology was first mystical experience. Someone had an encounter with the divine. And then they set out to articulate what happened. 

What is really confusing and unhelpful is to suggest that all theology was first a “mystical experience” that was later written down.  Theology is the study of God and it begins with God – not experience.  God is revealing Himself through His Word, and the Bible is not the product of mystical experiences as Bell suggests.

In a recent interview with Oprah, Bell issues a warning to the churches that refuse to accept homosexuals into their membership.  He said:

I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone.

The point is clear, in a world full of progressive thinking, shifting politics, and a combination of postmodern and new age mysticism, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy matters.  For those men and women who have never known what it means to battle for the Bible, it’s important to know the issues at hand and to be able to give an answer to the skeptic who asks, “Why do you believe that book – the Bible?”  The doctrine of inerrancy is directly connected to the core of Christian truth.  Is Jesus the only way to be reconciled to God?  Did Jesus really rise from the dead on the third day or is that just a nice little story for children’s church?

In Paul’s final letter before he was beheaded for preaching the gospel, he took time to address Timothy – his son in the faith.  As you read Paul’s letter, he doesn’t sound anything like Rob Bell.  There is conviction and urgency in his tone.  Before he arrived at the climatic passage in his letter found in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, he wrote these words in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”  The Greek term, “breathed out by God” is “θεόπνευστος” and it’s a unique word that contains “θεός” (God) and “πνέω” (to breathe or blow).  The literal rendering could be – “the breath of God.”

Paul instructs Timothy by using this word, which was found only in that one place in the New Testament and no other place in all of Greek literature prior to Paul’s usage.  Many scholars believe that Paul coined the term himself.  Nevertheless, the point was clear to Timothy and has remained so through church history.  From Clement to our present day, the term “θεόπνευστος” has been used as a technical term to describe the divine origin of the Bible.

To “tone” down our preaching and to become more inclusive in our approach as opposed to quoting “letters from 2,000 years ago” would be tragic.  Yet, that very thing is playing itself out in the American culture today.  It’s more than homosexuality.  That is merely one issue among a lengthy list of ideas that are standing in line to test the waters among the evangelical church.  Will the pastors today have the backbone to remain steadfast and immovable in the face of growing hostility?  We must remember the conviction for God and His Word that men such as William Tyndale and John Rogers once possessed.  Where are those faithful men and women who would rather be stoned or burned at the stake for God’s Word than to compromise in one jot or tittle?  Once upon a time such men roamed the earth.  As I stated in my sermon in the 2015 G3 Conference, we can trust our families, our churches, and our souls to the truth of the Bible.  Rob Bell’s world may be increasing, but the promise of God delivered to us by Isaiah remains true, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).  Rob Bell’s world may seem far away from your world, but just a glance at the evening news or a conversation with a teenager will reveal why inerrancy matters.

B. B. Warfield writes, “θεόπνευστος is ‘God-breathed,’ produced by the creative breath of the Almighty.  And Scripture is called θεόπνευστος in order to designate it as ‘God-breathed,’ the product of Divine spiration, the creation of that Spirit who is in all spheres of the Divine activity the executive of the Godhead…What it affirms is that the Scriptures owe their origin to an activity of God the Holy Ghost and are in the highest and truest sense His creation.  It is on this foundation of Divine origin that all the high attributes of Scripture are built.1

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1.  B. B. Warfield, The Works of B. B. Warfield, Vol. 1, Revelation and Inspiration, 280.


Is The Bible Irrelevant?  The Sufficiency of the Bible

Is The Bible Irrelevant? The Sufficiency of the Bible

The church of Jesus Christ in every generation is given the weighty charge to proclaim and preserve the Word of Truth.  What we believe about the Bible will shape how we live, how we worship, and how we seek to educate our children and grandchildren.  Does the sufficiency of the Bible matter today?  Should we be concerned by the lack of confidence in the Bible in our present evangelical culture?

Have you considered the lack of Bible reading in a typical worship service in our present day?  Have you talked with your friends outside of your church about their family worship patterns?  If you use the word “catechism” outside of a church or conference setting today, you may receive strange looks of complete confusion.  The fact is, we are living in a day where the Bible has become the most popular book of history and yet the most irrelevant book among the culture.

The English Bible Throughout History

John Wycliffe labored to get the Bible into the English language and gave his life to that pursuit.  It has been said that if Luther and Calvin were the fathers of the Reformation, Wycliffe would be its grandfather.  Wycliffe was charged with heresy and despised by the Roman Catholic Church.  Years after Wycliffe’s death, the Pope ordered that his bones were to be exhumed and taken out of consecrated ground.  They dug up his bones, burned them, and then scattered them into the Swift River.  Where did his charge of heresy arise?  It was due to the fact that Wycliffe labored to get the Bible into the common man’s language and he was hated for it.

The followers of Wycliffe became known as Lollards (a derogatory term meaning “tongue wagger”).  According to John Foxe, seven men (Lollards) were burned at the stake in 1519 for teaching their children the Lord’s prayer in English.  John Bale (1495-1563) said that he had witnessed a boy in Norwich being burned for possessing the Lord’s prayer in English.  When we consider the amount of blood that has been shed in order to get the Bible into the common language of the common man, it’s astounding.

In 1526, William Tyndale took his manuscript of the English New Testament to a printer in the city of Worms.  It was the first English Bible to be translated directly from the Greek text.  It was printed using a printing press and distributed into England in bales of cotton.  After a season as a fugitive on the run, he was located and captured in 1535.  In August of 1536, Tyndale stood trial for his translation of the Bible into the English language.  On October 6th, 1536, Tyndale was taken to the place of execution.  He was given just a brief moment to pray.  They asked him to recant and he refused.  The guards tied his feet to the bottom of a wooden beam and his neck was bound by a chain.  They took straw and other small pieces of wood that would easily catch fire and positioned it beneath Tyndale’s body.  As the guard pulled the chain and began to choke Tyndale, he cried aloud these famous words, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”  They continued to choke Tyndale.  Another man took a wax torch and set fire to the brush and straw.  The body of Tyndale was consumed with a blaze of fire instantly.  What was the charge?  Tyndale was a rebel to the authority of Rome.  He believed that the Bible should be in the common farmer’s language.  He gave his life to that end.  We today have become the direct beneficiaries of his labor.

The Bible – Today

As we survey church history, we should be reminded that the Bible matters.  It has always mattered.  Today is no different.  We cannot live life disconnected from the Bible.  The terror of ISIS and the decision of the Mayor of Atlanta to fire the chief of the Fire Department are both directly connected to the Bible.  The political debates of homosexuality and abortion have their roots in the Bible.  The attack of Kurt Eichenwald upon the Bible in his article published in Newsweek magazine at the end of 2014 is a clear reminder that the Bible matters today!  

If the Bible is holy, inerrant, inspired, infallible, authoritative, sufficient, and clear – shouldn’t our life demonstrate that reality?  How can a church claim to have a high view of the Bible while continuing to severely limit Bible reading in their weekly worship gatherings? If we believe the Bible and know it to be the very Word of God, it will determine how we preach it, read it, and obey it.  The bookshelves of history are lined with books written by man.  However, the Bible stands as King in the library of human history.  The Bible is a book that remains relevant throughout the ages, transcends cultures, and remains the sufficient guide to light the paths of life (Psalm 119:105).

The war upon the Word today will continue to center upon the relevance and sufficiency of the Bible.  Entertainers are eager to profit from God’s Word, but they are not interested in protecting the pure doctrines of the Bible when they make movies or write books.  We must be reminded that Hollywood will always bow to the dollar.  The entertainment industry as a whole must attract people’s attention, sell their products, and remain successful in the process.  Honoring the truth of God’s Word will not be a priority for entertainers who remain positioned for success and profit.

Before reading a book such as Heaven Is For Real, we should ask ourselves this probing question, “Why do we need books like Heaven Is For Real?”  As long as we have books that insist upon giving new revelations, we will continue to doubt the sufficiency of God’s Word.  We already know Heaven is real.  We already know God exists.  We already know that God exists in Trinitarian form.  These are truths that we have come to know from God’s Word.  Therefore, we don’t need a little boy’s account to reaffirm it.  In the words of Abraham, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29).

The perspicuity of the Bible should encourage us.  As believers, God will provide us clarity, wisdom, and knowledge as we read the Word.  As the Bible is preached and explained, we should teach our children to cherish it.  If our children are bored with God’s Word it’s likely due to the fact that we have become bored with it.  Even in a digital age of moving symbols, smart phones, digital applications, and much more – we should lead by example.  The Bible has one unified voice – the voice of God.  The Bible has one purpose – the glory of God.  The Bible has one hero – the Son of God.  The Bible has one mission – the salvation of sinners.  The Bible is not a boring old dusty book.  It is the Word of God.  Let us be reminded of David’s resolve about God’s Word.  David was not bored with the Word of God or the God of the Word.

Psalm 19:7-11: The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; [8] the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; [9] the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. [10] More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. [11] Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

The most irrelevant thing we could say is that the Bible is irrelevant.  History has proven beyond doubt that the Bible is relevant.  What the Bible says matters to the church, the world of science, the academy, and national leaders around the world.  Why does the Bible continue to turn heads?  It goes back to what John Calvin once said years ago.  He said, “When the Bible speaks, God speaks.”  Therefore, for the Bible to be irrelevant is for God to be irrelevant.

May the Lord wake up His sleeping church with a resurgence of blazing hearts who earnestly desire to preach the good news of King Jesus.  We must return to a full commitment to the sufficiency of the Bible.