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