Years ago, I was forced to attend a Roman Catholic Church mass to fulfill a requirement for a class I was taking in seminary. At first, I was not too pleased with this assignment, but as it turned out, it was quite an eye-opening experience to be sure. For me, having grown up as a protestant, I had never attended a Roman Catholic worship service—and I certainly had been taught much of their errors through the years. While I refused to engage in the mass due to the heretical teaching of transubstantiation, I left convicted. As a pastor of a local church and a seminary student, I was convicted for the lack of public reading of Scripture in our protestant worship services.
Over the years that would follow, I would eventually lead our church to incorporate more rather than less Scripture in worship. Why is the public reading of Scripture important and essential for our worship of God?
1 Timothy 4:13 — Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
Establishing the Priority of Scripture for Worship
At the center of every Christian worship service must be the Word of God. We as believers must place a great priority upon the centrality of God’s Word among his people. By gathering together for the public reading of Scripture—from the very beginning of the service—it places a priority upon the Word. An honest evaluation for all believers would be to compare the amount of singing to the amount of God’s Word in a typical weekly worship service. Which one takes the priority?
As Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:13), he pointed him to the public reading of Scripture. Since books were scarce (especially parchments of God’s Word) and the educational level of people during the days of the early church often lacked the ability to read—the only time people could hear the Word of God was during public worship. Justin Martyr described a worship service from the second century:
On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. 
Each week as we gather for worship within the context of the church that I serve, we have an official call to worship from God’s Word. This is a means of the church being called to worship God through his Word from the beginning of the service. Such an official call to worship sets the stage for the fact that all of our worship must be connected to God’s Word, driven by God’s Word, directed by God’s Word, and honoring to the God of the Bible. We likewise desire to communicate to everyone who is present that the Word of God takes priority over everything else in our service.
The chief end of all worship of God will be achieved through his Word. Nothing can compete with God’s Word. Nothing can replace God’s Word. Therefore, with that firm understanding, there should be nothing that takes priority over God’s Word in the regular gathering of God’s people for worship on the Lord’s Day. John Owen, the great Puritan theologian, stated the following:
Our belief of the Scriptures to be the word of God, or a divine revelation, and our understanding of the mind and will of God as revealed in them, are the two springs of all our interest in Christian religion. From them are all those streams of light and truth derived whereby our souls are watered, refreshed, and made fruitful unto God. 
Establishing the Necessity of Scripture for Worship
If the only sufficient guide for life and the practice of our faith is the Word of God, why then would we gather together to worship God apart from his Word? Sadly today, many Protestant worship services contain far less public reading of Scripture than Roman Catholic Church services and in some cases—no public reading of Scripture at all.
If we will know God rightly and worship him properly, we must hear God speak through his Word. What Paul taught Timothy was emerging from the Jewish practice of reading the Scriptures in the synagogue. When Jesus visited the synagogue, he read publicly from the scroll of Isaiah. It should likewise be noted that Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians closes with the charge to “have this letter read to all the brothers” (1 Thess. 5:27).
Paul closed his letter to the church in Colosse with these words, “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea” (Col 4:16). This public reading was to the church, which implies public worship rather than casual meetings over lattes at the local Starbucks. We likewise see this clear pattern of the public reading of Scripture in the letters sent to the seven churches of Revelation (see Rev. 1:3). Rather than arriving late and skipping over the public reading of Scripture, make sure you’re on-time, quiet, and engaged in the reading of Scripture since it not only sets the tone of the worship, but is itself part of the worship of God each week.
Honoring God’s Design for Scripture
God’s Word was designed to be read aloud. As mentioned earlier, illiteracy was a common problem among the people of the early church, but as we move through the days preceding the Reformation, the people would gather for worship and they would not be able to hear the Word in their own language, because the Roman Catholic Church sought to control the text. Even when people could not understand Latin, they would read the Bible in Latin—completely concealing the Word from the people. They were elevating ecclesiastical opinion and their own doctrinal positions above sacred Scripture.
The Reformation was about unleashing God’s Word among the people. In the early days of the Reformation and during the time period of the Puritans, they understood the value and necessity of God’s Word in the common man’s language. They had heard stories of friends and family members being imprisoned and even burned for the sake of possessing a copy of the Bible in their own language. Thomas Watson stated emphatically that the Scripture “shows the Credenda, what we are to believe; and the Agenda, what we are to practise.”  Reading it aloud in the public worship of God is essential for making God’s will clearly known to the people on a weekly basis.
Finally, we must never forget that God’s design is to save people through the hearing of his Word (Rom. 10:17). Far more important than our story or our opinion or the sharing of our heart is the clear reading of God’s Word. The reading of the Bible must never be reduced to a simple precursor to what the preacher is about to say. The reading of Scripture must never be relegated to the level of an introduction to the preacher’s sermon. It must be clearly established among everyone who gathers within a Protestant worship service that they not only believe the Bible, but they place great priority upon the public reading of God’s Word as well.
Although the early church primarily used the Old Testament for their public reading, we have the privilege to use both the Old Testament and the New Testament for public reading within our worship services. In an age when prominent pastors are encouraging believers to “unhitch themselves from the Old Testament”—it would be wise to use both the Old and New Testaments on a weekly basis as a reminder that the totality of God’s Word is profitable.
2 Timothy 3:16 — All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
- Justin Martyr, First Apology, I. 67, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, 10 vols. (1885; repr. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 1:186.
- John Owen, The Causes, Ways, and Means of Understanding the Mind of God as Revealed in His Word, with Assurance Therein…, in The Works of John Owen, D.D. (Edinburgh: Johnstone & Hunter, 1850-1855), 4:121.
- Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (1692; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1986), 30.
You cannot build a powerful legacy for God’s glory overnight, but you can certainly tear one apart overnight. As you begin thinking about the need to set goals, patterns, commitments, priorities, and yes—resolutions for the New Year, consider how one man did so when he was rather young. What has become known as the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards is a list of 70 commitments that were penned down from the time he was 18-20 years of age. The list is powerful and useful some 300 years after his ministry in New England.
What can we learn from Jonathan Edwards that will help us make 2019 count for the glory of God?
Edwards Loved the Bible
One of the great highlights of Edwards’ Resolutions is found at number twenty eight:
- Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
Jonathan Edwards didn’t view the Bible as just another book. He placed it at the top and he not only had great respect for the Bible—he spent time digging, reading, memorizing, and studying the Word of God. This is a great example for all of us and it should likewise be humbling to consider that a mere eighteen year old young man once held such a great commitment to the Scriptures.
The key to Christian devotion and to walking with God is spending time with God in his Word. While there are many great devotionals and Bible studies out there on the market today, I would encourage you to consider a steady Bible reading guide that keeps you focused on Bible intake which will over time allow you to study the Bible with greater efficiency as you are able to call to memory what the text says.
One of my friends once spent a block of ten years reading sixteen chapters of the Bible each day. That practice enabled him to memorize large quantities of the Bible as he read it from cover to cover four times each year for ten straight years. People often comment on how much of the Bible he has committed to memory and ask him how he managed to accomplish this task and he points to a steady and consistent intake of Scripture as the foundation.
In 2019, I would encourage you to find a Bible reading schedule and work through the Scriptures on a daily basis with the goal to grow not only in your love for the Bible, but most importantly—in your love for God.
Edwards Left a Godly Legacy
At the beginning of the 20th century, a study was conducted upon Jonathan Edwards’ descendants. This is what they discovered:
From Edwards came:
- 300 clergymen (pastors, missionaries, theological professors)
- 110 lawyers
- 60+ physicians
- More than 60 authors of good books
- 30 judges
- 14 presidents of universities
- Numerous giants in American industry
- 18 holders of major public office
- 3 mayors of large cities
- 3 governors of states
- 3 U.S senators
- 1 chaplain of the U.S. Senate
- 1 vice president of the United States
Most of these people were not only great leaders, but they were great Christians. They can all be tranced back to one man, who committed to living for Christ and was diligent to the end. Jonathan Edwards preached the most famous sermon in American history known as, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” B.B. Warfield said that Edwards “stands out as the one figure of real greatness in the intellectual life of colonial America.” It was R.C. Sproul who once described Edwards’ work Freedom of the Will as “the most important theological work ever published in America.” Did this happen overnight? Was this an easy task? Absolutely not, but it was a steady pursuit of God that brought about an indelible mark on his own heart, his own family, and our nation as a whole.
As you consider the upcoming year and your own legacy for Christ, begin today with a step in the right direction for the glory of God. Always remember that it’s really easy to ruin a legacy and very difficult to build one for the glory of God. It’s never too late to walk in the right direction and make new commitments that will have a lasting impact on others in your family, and such a task begins with one step forward. You can’t do it in one day, but what will happen if you live for the next 365 days with a Christ-exalting purpose?
May God bless 2019 for his glory!
Many things are important in life, and when assessing the value of material and immaterial things—we must not forget the immense value of words. Consider how people fight over the meaning of terms found in the Constitution of the United States of America. At times, political leaders from polar opposite ideological backgrounds fight over words and the meaning of those words. This is not only true of the world of politics—it’s likewise true of the religious world. Political skirmishes will have an affect upon a society, but none is greater than religious skirmishes over the definition of words.
The very word theology comes from two Greek words (Theos meaning “God” and logos meaning “word”). Therefore, theology literally means words about God. That’s why words matter—especially in the study of God. Some have suggested that we “preach the gospel and use words if necessary,” but that statement is flawed from the start. For, God’s Word is made up of sixty-six books which are comprised of thousands of paragraphs, sentences, and individual words. It was John Gerstner who once said, “[We] may have knowledge of God and not be saved, but he can never be saved without knowledge of God.”  It was Theodore Beza who described the preaching of John Calvin by saying, “Every word weighed a pound.”
Words matter, but often words change. Read through the King James version of the Scriptures and you will likely run across many terms that are antiquarian—and in some cases nearly completely dead altogether. Consider the term, filthy lucre as an example. Who uses that phrase to describe greed for money in our present day? As it pertains to the morphology of specific terms, one can hope for the best as modernity consistently presses the limits on language and adds new vocabulary each year. However, when it comes to theology, words matter. Such words must be guarded. This is why a commitment to the single meaning of the text is essential when interpreting the Bible. The author’s original meaning matters. Unless carefully guarded—the words of Scripture will be redefined and such a process of change will lead to an assault on the theological foundation of the word which is an assault upon God himself. Take the definition of marriage and family as an example of this truth.
Take for example the word evangelical. As we see the rise and fall of this term, it finds it’s roots in the rise and fall of another term, fundamentalism. When skepticism was popular in the early 1900s, the Christian community rallied behind the term, fundamentalism as a means of intellectually defending the veracity, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture. However, over time that very term morphed into a banner for legalism and still to this day if you call someone a fundamentalist—it’s likely used as a term of derision rather than a compliment.
During this time period, Carl F. H. Henry used his platform with Christianity Today to promote an alternative term that could be used to describe faithful, conservative, and intellectual Christianity that did not blush at the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. That term was evangelical. The term itself is rooted in Scripture and derived from the “εὐαγγέλιον” which is a Greek term meaning “good news” and is often translated “gospel” in the English translations. The Latin term evangel meaning “gospel” is also derived from this term. While Carl F. H. Henry and other religious leaders didn’t coin the term, they popularized it at the time when many Christians were in the midst of an identity crisis and fundamentalism had morphed into a narrow movement that isolated itself and marginalized many believers.
Through time, evangelicalism grew to encompass many believers from across denominational lines. While many good things have come out of the evangelical movement, today the term has been redefined so much that it has lost its original meaning and attractiveness. When evangelicalism became so wide that it lost its distinction, it likewise lost its meaning. Today, much of what we call evangelicalism encompasses the teaching of John MacArthur to Sarah Young. Beneath the umbrella of evangelical, you will find studies from Banner of Truth and Beth Moore. People who voted for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both claim to be committed evangelicals. The term is certainly stretched and in many cases—completely broken.
Words are representatives of truth. This is especially true and vitally important in the world of theology. Such terms serve as stakes in the ground to mark what God says and how we as God’s people must live, worship, and serve. If God’s Word regulates what we believe and how we live out our faith—God’s Word likewise regulates the boundary of vocabulary. The boundary of theological all terms must be carefully examined from God’s sufficient Word. Since God’s Word is indeed sufficient for every age and every people group in human history—the terms and boundaries of such theological terms should not shift and change with the winds of culture. Pastors of local churches and members of those local assemblies are called to guard the truth. Any attempt to accommodate the culture is a recipe for theological disaster. Unfortunately we are living in such times.
Years ago, a term was introduced in order to help us understand the distinct roles of men and women in the church, home, and society. This term is complementarianism. It served as a weighty word that put a line in the sand and sought to reveal the boundaries of God’s Word on the calling, responsibilities, and roles of both men and women. Such boundaries are necessary in order to see how one must function within the household of faith. These God-ordained boundaries are likewise necessary to establish the governance of God’s church in local assemblies around the world. Therefore, it’s clearly an important subject and complementarianism remains an important term.
The problem arises in our present evangelical culture when modern definitions of complementarianism are being offered. Such new definitions seem to stretch the boundaries set forth in God’s Word and it’s causing a rift among many who claim to be evangelical. Once again, when the tent of evangelicalism encompasses such diverse groups of people across denominational lines with such sweeping theological convictions—it’s no wonder that a shared term such as complementarianism would eventually find itself in the crosshairs of religious attack. When a group of people claim to be complementarian in their positions, they could likewise be using several different definitions.
Undoubtedly there is a battle for the dictionary in our day. We are all bound by words and definitions. This is not true for the professional theologian alone. It’s also true for the pastor-theologian. It’s true for the homeschool-mom-theologian, the mechanic-theologian, the father-theologian, and the academic-theologian. Every Christian has a responsibility to rightly divide the Word of Truth—in the teaching of women’s Bible studies and while writing systematic theology textbooks. Words matter, but unless carefully guarded, they will morph, change, and be redefined to accommodate a liberal devil-glorifying culture.
When we see new terms surfacing within the Christian community such as “woke Christianity” or “woke church”—we should pause and carefully examine the agenda. To redeem a word such as “woke” that found its origins in the Black Nationalist Movement and seek to use it within evangelicalism to push the social justice agenda is another example of how words matter. Sometimes one word is introduced in order to help shift a people’s understanding of another word. So, what does justice actually mean these days? Must a person be woke in order to be just?
Read the Bible. Think. Exercise discernment. Words are the building blocks of meaning and serve as foundational components of representing the social, religious, and political views of human beings. Fight for the true meaning of words.
- John Gerstner, Theology for Everyman, (Chicago: Moody, 1965), Chapter 1.
We live in a world full of ideas. With the highway of information technology, we can access information at any given moment of any given day from most places in the world using something as small as a smart phone device. With all of this information, curious minds are being filled on a constant basis with both simple and complex ideas that are being delivered at light speed—often with conflicting world views and philosophies.
The TED Talk has become a very popular information bank—owned by a nonprofit nonpartisan foundation designed to deliver information to people. According to TED, information is built upon the most important thing in the world—ideas. So, how is preaching a sermon different than delivering a TED Talk? TED Talks are approximately 18 minutes in length while sermons are often longer. It’s more than the length of the talk that distinguishes a Christian sermon from a TED Talk.
Preaching a Sermon Involves More Than Delivering Creative Ideas By Gifted Thinkers
Giving a TED Talk may not follow a specific cookie cutter pattern, but it does center on the goal of delivering ideas. Often TED Talks center on the opinions of people and charged by emotions. Such opinions are delivered with clarity, precision, and a bit of persuasion in order to change people’s understanding of that particular idea at the center of the talk. According Chris Anderson, “Ideas are the most powerful force shaping human culture.”
While ideas are certainly powerful, we must understand that preaching a sermon is different than merely delivering ideas to an audience. Preaching involves delivering truth (Rom. 1:16; John 17:17). The source of the truth is God’s Word, and preaching is the delivery of God’s truth rather than ideas that originated with the one giving the talk (or another figure from history). The goal of the sermon is to unpack a given text of Scripture and deliver God’s truth to the gathered audience—which in most cases consists of the assembled church.
According to the TED website, they search hard to find the most gifted speakers for their events:
At TED, we search year-round for presenters who will inform and inspire, surprise and delight. Our presenters run the world’s most admired companies and design its best-loved products; they invent world-changing devices and create ground-breaking media. They are trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses.
The reality is, most pastors do not meet those standards. God has often chosen those who are not wise and genius level to deliver the truth of the gospel. Paul wrote the following to the church at Corinth:
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).
The sermon isn’t a carefully crafted talk emerging from the expertise of the speaker. The sermon is a carefully crafted talk that should emerge from God’s Word and has one main goal of delivering the truth of the passage of Scripture to people with great care and precision. Because sermons are truth centered and not idea centered—sermons are driving at something much bigger which is the worship of God.
TED Talks Are Not Designed for Worshippers of God
The talks delivered at a TED event are not designed for the worship of God. They are often designed to give credit to the one delivering the persuasive ideas in the talk itself. Preaching a sermon is far different. The overall goal of a sermon is to point people to God—not the one delivering the sermon. In fact, when people hear a pastor who presents himself as the hero of all of his sermon illustrations and stories, they are often turned off by that type of narcissistic communication.
While TED Talks may not be designed for the speaker to be the focus of the talk as much as the speaker’s idea—sermons are different. The preacher has the goal of making God the focus of the sermon rather than ideas or even truths about God. While preachers deliver the truth, that truth is not generic or disconnected from God. The truth itself points people to God and this is how people worship God while a man stands on a platform each week and delivers a sermon. TED events are designed for people to gather information, but sermons are designed for people to worship. People gather information and ideas during sermons, but something more happens when the one listening begins to praise and glorify God.
In short, we must remember that preaching is worship. Whatever happens during a sermon including the delivery of ideas, truth, and much more—the entire event is centered on the goal of worship. In his excellent book Expository Exultation, John Piper writes:
As Paul proclaimed the unsearchable riches of Christ, and announced the good news of great joy, and heralded the reconciling message of the all-authoritative King, he saw that this kind of proclaiming, announcing, and heralding could not be discarded when this extraordinary people, under this extraordinary God, revealed in this extraordinary Book, gathered for worship. The riches of glory, the goodness of the news, the weight of the truth, and the authority behind it all did not become less because it was being spoken among this gathered people. If anything, it became more. 
When audiences gather for TED events, they listen to different talks from a wide variety of speakers who are delivering ideas from various different backgrounds and philosophies. The idea is to gain knowledge and become a better human. When the church gathers for the sermon, the people listen to the speech coming from God’s Word and the idea is far more than gaining knowledge and using ideas to become a better “you”—it’s to see and savor the glorious triune God who not only created the entire universe but saves guilty sinners.
When true preaching happens it leads to joyful worship. When the church worships God through his Word—it results in changed lives. Each week when the church gathers the people should be anxious to hear Christian preaching rather than an idea dump in form of a talk.
- John Piper, Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship, (Wheaton: Desiring God Foundation, 2018), 70.
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In recent days, the cultural climate within evangelicalism has been chaotic. It seems that we are moving at break-neck speed with complex ideas being tossed at us like bombs. In recent days—many pastors have felt as if the racist card was being thrown at all white people—suggesting that those of us who are white need to apologize for our positions of privilege and our deficient gospel. This ideology has caused great division and confusion. The climate in evangelicalism is filled with chaos rather than peace.
It has been stated that evangelicals (especially those within the Southern Baptist Convention) once slugged it out over the inerrancy of Scripture, but they soon turned their backs on the sufficiency of Scripture. This has given way to a longtime commitment, by many people within evangelicalism, to the god of pragmatism. Once a group of people bow to this false god, suddenly whatever is necessary to gain numbers receives the mark of orthodoxy. The direction is set by the cultural winds rather than God’s Word. This is the story of modern evangelicalism. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that when the cultural winds of systemic racism, white privilege, intersectionality, police brutality, and the oppression of women blow through our culture that such winds find their way into the Christian community. After all, if it’s in vogue in the culture it should be in vogue in the Church—right? Actually, no—that’s not correct at all on the basis of several key truths found in God’s Word.
The First Mark of an Authentic Church Is Not Woke Theology
You may or may not have been following the #wokechurch or #woke hashtag floating around social media in recent days, but the fact is—the movement is rolling through evangelicalism with a sense of entitlement and arrogance. For many, the idea of “woke” theology is synonymous with what it means to be a healthy church. Before we move on to address this assumption, it would do us well to define “woke church” in order to fully evaluate the claim.
Eric Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, has defined woke as, “an urban colloquialism used by black nationalists and those in the black consciousness movement of being woke, in the sense of the systemic, sociological, economic, and comprehensive disenfranchisement of African-Americans.” Thabiti Anyabwile defined “Woke Church” by stating:
What we call “woke” today is pretty close to the Afrocentricism of the 1980s. Afrocentricism, a word coined by Dr. Molefi Asante, professor of African-American studies at Temple University at the time, was about centering Africa and Africa-descended peoples in their worldview much the way Europe has always been at the center of the worldview of European peoples. Afrocentrism taught that Black people should see the world as Black people.
He went on to write:
This has massive implications for local church ministries in communities of color. Churches must understand the need to reconstitute the whole person with biblical teaching responsive to the lived realities of those communities. In simpler words, our approach to discipleship must simultaneously repair the psychic and social destruction done to the identities/personhood of Black people while recognizing and equipping them to counter the social and political realities that contribute to that destruction in the first place. We have to teach people how to be their ethnic selves in a way that’s consistent with the Bible and how to live fruitfully in contexts that don’t affirm their ethnic selves. Hence, we need a “woke church.”
What if we don’t have a woke church—do we have a church at all? As the terms are defined—is woke church necessary to have Jesus’ church? Historically, the first mark of an authentic church was the right preaching of the Word. Interestingly enough, theologians of church history didn’t evaluate a the validity of a church or the health of a church based on cultural trends or political activism. The way a church has been evaluated historically speaking has been based upon, by order of importance, the preaching of the church. Is the gospel being preached?
Albert Mohler—the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—preached the spring convocation chapel service on January 31st 2006. In his sermon, he said, “Preaching is the first mark of the authentic church, the essential mark, the mark without which the other marks do not matter,” he said. “… Where this mark is not found, there is no church.” What type of preaching is necessary to constitute a true church? It’s authentic preaching, biblical preaching—and as the Reformers taught it is the right preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, it’s not woke preaching or woke theology that constitutes a true church. We should find a biblical church and identify with those people (regardless of shades of skin color) under the banner of the gospel and the right preaching of God’s sufficient and inerrant Word.
The reason the emphasis is placed on the right preaching of the Word is because when the Bible is proclaimed and explained properly through a proper hermeneutic—the Spirit of God brings dead sinners to life, drives God’s people toward sanctification and a pursuit of holiness, and it creates unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. Such a gospel centered people will be moved to care for one another, pray for one another, and serve alongside one another for the glory of God. That type of gospel centered life under the preaching of the Word will produce genuine discipleship and passionate evangelism in the local community. Therefore, the question is not whether or not the church is woke that matters. A better question is—does the church have the right preaching of the Word? Cultural trends come and go with the winds of time like flowers of the field—but God’s Word will stand forever.
The Church Does Not Need Political Methods and Ideas—We Have the Bible
James Montgomery Boice once wrote, “Inerrancy is not the most critical issue facing the church today. The most serious issue, I believe, is the Bible’s sufficiency.”  If he said that back in 2001, what would he think of today’s evangelical climate? On an average Sunday, in our culture today, one almost has to strain to hear God’s Word coming from the pulpit. In some circles, the Bible has been so contextualized that you can hear more of culture than Christ coming from the pulpit. If the Bible is truly inerrant, and you embrace this reality, it should only follow that you would likewise cling to the absolute sufficiency of God’s Word. To suggest that the Bible is inerrant but not really sufficient for all of life and worship—is a contradiction of ideas.
When Jesus was questioned or tempted, where did he turn? He often quoted from the Old Testament to prove his point and to establish his position (Matt. 4:4; 5:27; 12:38-45; Mark 7:10). When Jesus called out the self-righteous Pharisees, he did so by asking a simple question, “Have you not read the Scriptures?” Remember what Paul said to the Jews in the city of Rome? He told them that they had been entrusted with the oracles of God to bring people out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ (Rom. 2:17-29 and Rom. 3:1-8). To deny the sufficiency of the Bible is to become a slave to the culture. That culture may cling to the radical leftist arguments in one neighborhood while leaning radical right in another neighborhood. At the end of the day—under this way of thinking—culture drives the ship rather than God’s Word.
Before we set sail on this trajectory—it would be wise to ask honest questions about God’s Word. Does the Bible talk about personal racism and human depravity? Does the Bible explain how the church is to be organized and the distinct roles of men and women in the life of the church? Does the Bible talk about homosexuality as a sin? If the Bible addresses these cultural agendas—why do we need to look to the culture for the definitions?
It’s the Bible that teaches us how to treat all people—including different ethnicities. It’s the Bible that provides us with the best way to uphold the dignity of women and to lead them to flourish for the glory of God. It’s the Bible that teaches us how to submit to the governing authorities and to honor and pray for those in public office. It’s the Bible that provides for us the definition of Christianity and allows us to see our identification in Jesus rather than a sin category. It’s the Bible that provides for us the qualifications for the office of elder. This is true of all cultural categories—because the Bible is sufficient.
J.C. Ryle once wrote, “Whenever a man takes upon him to make additions to the Scriptures, he is likely to end with valuing his own additions above Scripture itself.”  How true those words are in our present culture. If you import your own ideas of black liberation theology, white supremacy, political left, political right, systemic racism, critical race theory, intersectionality, or any other cultural trend into the white spaces between the verses of the Bible—soon enough you will have a whole new Bible.
The more we read the Bible and aim to submit ourselves to the God of Scripture, we don’t become more woke, we become more conformed to the image of Christ. When we strive to setup the structure of the church according to God’s Word—we will no longer need to debate the role of women preaching and teaching to a mixed audience. Within our modern evangelical social justice movement, we need to ask an honest question—are we trying to make Jesus look like our culture or call our culture to bow to Jesus? The culture runs to politics, sociology, and psychology for the answers of life—and they remain miserable. The Church has been entrusted with the Word of God—so why should we run to the same empty wells and broken cisterns of the world? Yet, that seems to be the pattern of our modern evangelical culture and that’s what leads to a culture of chaos within evangelical organizations and denominations.
- James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001) 72.
- J.C. Ryle, Matthew Commentary, Chapter 15.