The Gospel Coalition hosted a breakout panel titled “The Priority of Scripture in Our Doctrine of God” with John Currie, David Garner, Jonny Gibson, and Scott Oliphint at the 2019 National Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. The panel described the role of the Bible as formative, doxological, and pastoral in our understanding of God. From the beginning, Scripture informs us who God is, drives us to respond to him in unfettered worship, and equips his people for works of ministry.
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David Garner: This particular section is the priority of scripture in our doctrine of God. My name is David Garner, and I’m a Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster and one of our institution’s Vice President.
Let me introduce our speakers. And I will say just a brief word about both our, both of them, all the three of the others. But I also want to mention that tonight in this room, we will actually have opportunity for some Q&A. If you’re wanting to come back, we will hear a brief presentation from our coordinator of our pastoral theology department, whom I’ll introduce in just a minute. He’ll be speaking tonight briefly and then we’ll have opportunity to have Q&A about that or anything else that we’ve talked about today or otherwise.
So let me begin by introducing Dr. Jonny Gibson, who is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. He comes to us from Ireland and then Australia and then Philadelphia. Then there is the Reverend Dr. John Currie, who is the Professor of pastoral theology and department coordinator. He comes to us from Scotland, then from Canada, and now and Philadelphia. Last but not least, probably the strangest background. Dr. Scott Oliphint, Professor of apologetics from Amarillo, Texas. Our subject this afternoon, as I mentioned is the priority of scripture in our doctrine of God. We’re actually going to begin with Dr. Oliphint addressing the question. Scott, I’m going to ask you, why is scripture so important to our doctrine of God?
Scott Oliphint: Great question, Dave. I want to address that by looking just briefly at Exodus chapter 3, if you don’t mind. If you have your Bibles with you, one of the things that we try to emphasize when we’re studying systematic theology is that all of our systematic theology has to be rooted in scripture. It’s not meant to be speculative. And sometimes when we talk about doctrine of God, it can get overly speculative and overly abstract. Since the time of the reformation, however, our forefathers understood and we recognize that we don’t know God unless God speaks to us about himself. So we don’t come to doctrine of God, through contemplation, we come to the doctrine of God through revelation. So one way to think about that is to look at Exodus chapter 3, it’s a key passage. All of us want time to speak up here, so we can’t go through all of it.
But you know what’s happening here, the Lord appears to Moses, to call him as the mediator at that point between God and Israel as Moses is called to be the one that the Lord uses to free the Israelites from Egypt. And as you know, God appears in a burning bush, which happens not to be burning.
So in verse two, we’re told the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great side why the bush is not burned. When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near, take your sandals off your feet for the place on which you’re standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look at God. So the first thing we find out in this passage is that God appears to Moses as the God of the covenant, God in relation, God with his people.
“I’m the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” That’s the first way that God identifies himself. And then God calls Moses to this task and Moses isn’t sure that God has thought about all the problems that might arise if Moses is the one called so he says, “Wait a minute, Lord, who am I that I should go and say to Pharaoh, ‘release the Israelites?’ Who am I that I should do that?” And what is the Lord’s answer?
He says, “Moses, wrong question. The question is not who are you?” The question the Lord says is, “Who am I?” Moses says, “Who am I?” The Lord says, “I will be with you.” Moses thinks of another idea, “What about this Lord? What if I go and the people of Israel say what is his name? What am I going to say?” And then we get this magnificent passage again, beginning in verse 13. Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and said to them, the God of your fathers has sent me to you, the covenant God, the God of your fathers has sent me to you. And they asked me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”
And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel, I am has sent me to you.” You’re familiar with that passage, aren’t you? It’s an amazing statement, isn’t it? Because the Lord is saying to Moses, “Moses, here’s what you need to know that I am who I am,” which means, I am utterly and completely independent in who I am. The only way I can properly refer to myself is with respect to myself, because I am completely self-sufficient.
So when we’re thinking, for example, about some of the basic attributes of God’s character, what attributes come to mind? We talk about God’s aseity. Do you know that word? God is a se, which means of himself, which means negatively not of anything or anyone else in order to be who he is. God alone can be a se. You are not, I am not, Moses is not, no one else is. God is a se, and what else do we think God is? We recognize from scripture because He is who He is, that God is immutable, which means God cannot change to be something other than God.
The other way the Bible puts it is, God cannot deny himself. God cannot Lie. He is immutable and there’s no possibility that God could change. What else do we know about God who is the, I am who I am? We know that God is omniscient, don’t we? Because God doesn’t have to learn from anything outside of himself or anyone outside of himself in order to know all things. He knows all things because of his character. It’s an amazing statement, isn’t it?
So these attributes of God that all of us affirm as Christians are in part, not only but in part, taken from this great name. And as you probably know, this name, the I Am, turns into the word that we, as we pronounce it, we don’t know how it was pronounced, we pronounce it Yahweh. Do you know that term? YHWH, four letters in the Hebrew called the Tetragrammaton. And YHWH really says, “I am.” And it’s written to remind the Lord’s people that whenever they’re dealing with God, they’re dealing with I am who I am. When you see that in your English, in all caps, the word Lord, that’s the Tetragrammaton, the four letters that are meant to remind you and remind me, that God and God alone is the I am who I am. It’s a remarkable statement, over 5000 times in the Old Testament. You’ll see that, that word, Lord, so that every time you’re reading on every page, you remember, this is the I am who I am.
Now, why is that important? It’s important for a number of reasons. But it’s important to Moses, to remind Moses and the children of Israel, guess what, Pharaoh is not in charge of the world. I am who I am, is in charge. And I am who I am is sending you Moses to Pharaoh. You think Pharaoh has power? Just Wait. I’ll show you what real power is. Isn’t that amazing thing? One more thing I’ll say, and then I’ll finish.
Why the bush that doesn’t burn. What’s it therefore? Sometimes people might think, well, it’s kind of novelties, to get Moses attention. Here’s a little miracle. So you look this way on burning bush. Oftentimes, when the Lord does things in Holy Scripture, especially in epical moments in history, He’s going to give you a show and tell, He’s going to tell you something, He’s going to show you something. We see this in the life of Jesus, don’t we? The five loaves and the fishes, what’s that for? It’s not just so people can eat, it is for that partly, but it’s so that people understand here’s the true bread from heaven. It’s the show, and it’s the tale.
In this situation, what do you have? You have the fire, where’s the fire? The fire is with the bush. “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am with You, Moses.” And what else? The fire burns without the need of the fuel of the bush. The fire is what it is, with no need for fuel. It’s a picture of how God announces himself to Moses in Exodus 3, the one who is with the bush is the one who is I am who I am. The one who is with his people, is the one who is I am who I am. What does that remind you of? One who is both with his people, and fully and completely God himself. Where do you go with that? Emmanuel, God with us. So if your pastor is in here and you want to preach Exodus 3, that’s where you go. The unburning bush is one of the Old Testament pictures of the reality of God with his people in the Lord Jesus Christ.
David Garner: Thank you Scott. I’m going to turn now to Dr. Jonny Gibson. Jonny, I would like to ask you the question, what can we learn from Genesis 1:1, about the person and nature of God?
Jonny Gibson: Okay. So Genesis 1:1, we all know the verse. I won’t ask you, put you on the spot, but I’m sure you know it. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In the beginning, that is the absolute beginning of all things God created. God is the first subject of the Bible. And as one commentator says, “He remains the subject of the whole, of the Bible and created the heavens and the earth.” That is what we would technically call a merism. A merism is where you stay at the two polar opposites and you mean to include those and everything else in between. So what the opening verse of the Christian scriptures is really saying is, in the absolute beginning of all things, God, the first subject and only means subject of the Bible, created everything. In the beginning, God created everything.
Now, I think we can deduce 12 truths about God from that verse. Now I promise you’ll be out of here by midnight. But let me go through some of them. Now, some of you are probably thinking that old did wonderful things in the Bible, I see some put there by God, some put there by me. Well, I’ll let you decide whether I’ve put some of these things there, but I think we can deduce by good unnecessary consequence what that verse actually tells us.
The first thing is it tells us that there is one God. In the beginning, God created. And this was written in a culture of many gods and note what Moses says, he does not say in the beginning, the gods created, but in the beginning, God. This is a central theme in the Bible, there is one God, the true and living God and besides him, there is no other.
Second thing it shows us is that, in the beginning, God, that is before the beginning, God already existed, which means that if there is a beginning for time and space and mater, God existed before that, which means God himself must be eternal. So Psalm 90:2 says, “Before you brought forth the mountains, before you created the world and the earth from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” So He is one. He is eternal. We can see that He is also a spirit. And notice what He creates, the heavens in the earth, all matter, energy, space, time, but in order, create those things, He himself cannot consist in those things. So God must be other than physical reality. And the Bible tells us that He is a spirit. So right from the beginning, we have the creator creation distinction affirmed in Genesis 1.
So God is one eternal spirit. He’s also infinite. He creates a huge universe, the heavens and the earth, but it’s also finite. But in order for God to be able to create that, He himself cannot be finite. He has to be infinite, infinite. So He is infinite. He is unchangeable. If you think about it, in the beginning, God, before there was a beginning, before there were the heavens in the earth, God existed as one eternal infinite spirit. So there was nothing outside of God that could change God. God was unchanged and unchanging before the world began.
And then when He made the world and relates to the world, the world does not change him, because from all eternity, he has been the unchanged God. There’s nothing outside of God that can change God. It was John Owen, the Puritan who said, “A mutable God is for the dunghill, which is a quintessentially English way of saying, “A mutable God is a load of skubalon. If you want to know what skubalon is, you need to come to Westminster, take first-year Greek and then we’ll tell you. That’s a sort of an R rated word. But a mutable God is a load of nonsense. Why? Because from all eternity, God was unchanged.
God is also self-existent. Dr. Oliphint has touched on this. Think about it, in the beginning, God, before he made the heavens in the earth, there was nothing else that existed except God. And if God existed eternally as one eternal spirit, infinite, unchangeable, then there was nothing on which he was dependent. He was dependent on nobody but himself. So there was God’s aseity, His self existence, His self-sufficiency is affirmed by Genesis 1:1. So God is one eternal spirit, infinite, unchangeable, self-existence.
There are more things we can see it by God. When you look at the verb created, in the beginning, God created, it’s the Hebrew verb bara, it’s used 46 times in the old Testament. What’s interesting about the verb is that God is only ever the subject of bara in the old Testament. Only God creates.
Now, some people have wrongly deduced from that, that that means that every the verb is used, it must mean God creates out of nothing, ex nihilo, If you’ve heard of that Latin freeze. Well, that’s not quite accurate. Genesis 1:26-28, “God created man in His image and the image of God, He created a male and female. He created them,” Bara, bara, bara. But we know in chapter 2 that God creates man from the dust of the earth. So he doesn’t create an ex nihilo, but the verb bara can mean that if the context allows it. And what is the context of Genesis 1:1? What material did God have to work with in the beginning? None, because nothing existed except himself.
And so in Genesis 1:1, it is a creation, ex nihilo. In the beginning, God created everything out of nothing. Now, I think there’s more truths that we can learn about God from just that verb, God created. We can learn that He is omnificent, which means that He is the creator of all things. We can learn that He is omnipotent, He is all powerful and to be able to speak all things into reality. He’s all wise to be able to do that, to speak the heavens and the earth into existence. He is omnipresent. The Bible says the heaven of heavens cannot contain him. Psalm 139 says, “If I go to the far side of the sea, there you are. If I go dine into shield, there you are. If I go up into the heavens, there you are.” God is omnipresent.
So here we have 10 things about God that you can deduce from Genesis 1:1. He is one eternal spirit, infinite, unchangeable, self-existent, omnificent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. There are two more things. He is also sovereign. If you think about it, God is the one eternal spirit, infinite, unchangeable, self-existent, who is the omnipresent one, who makes all things, whatever happens in the things that He makes in the history of the heavens and the earth is under His control. Nothing takes him by surprise, because He is in control of all things because He made all things.
Now, when you add those 11 things together, God is one eternal spirit, infinite, unchangeable, self-existent, omnificent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, doesn’t your heart just want to burst into praise? And isn’t that how the Bible picks up these truths and uses them. So Revelation chapter 4, “You are worthy our Lord and God to receive glory and honor, and par.” Why? Because you created all things. By your will, they were created and have their being.
That’s the 12th thing about God. He is praiseworthy. Jonathan Edwards, put it beautifully. He said, “God is the foundation and fountain of all being and all beauty from whom all is most perfectly derived, upon whom all is most absolutely and perfectly dependent, from whom and through whom and to whom are all things.” You see how Edwards just makes the doctrine of God, not an abstract doctrine, but something that is doxological, something that should cause us to erupt in praise.
But just finally, it’s not just doxological, it’s also pastoral. Genesis 1:1 is a great pastoral comfort for us. Psalm 121, Psalm 124 reflects on Genesis 1:1. So Psalm 121 says, “When I lift up my eyes to the Hills from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Do you see how the Psalmist is reflecting on Genesis 1:1. And Psalm 124:8, which was the votum, the call to worship, in Calvin’s liturgy, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” And I noticed how the Psalmist is reading the doctrine of God in Genesis 1:1. What the Psalmist is saying to us is, God can help us with anything because he made everything. And so I hope you can see that the priority of scripture is so important. We get our doctrine of God from the very first verse of the Bible. And then we build from there. It’s doxological, and also pastoral.
David Garner: Thank you. John let’s turn it over to you. We already just got a great segue for you, as we’re considering the authority of scripture, the voice of God for pastoral theology. Can you tell us how that functions?
John Currie: When Dr. Garner introduced me and said I was from Scotland, I realized that I was probably going to disappoint all of you that I don’t sound like Sinclair Ferguson up here, but I can say mountain like Dr. Gibson and Psalm, which is-
John Currie: I was going to say, I think that’s the way it’s pronounced in the Hebrew. Well, my question has to do with the priority of scripture for pastoral ministry. And if you’ve got a copy of the scriptures, why don’t you turn with me to 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. And I’ll make just a few comments on that. As I have got a whole bunch of friends down here in the front row from West Michigan, I’m really glad to see all of them.
2 Timothy 3:16 and 17, let me read it as we just reflect on the priority of scripture for pastoral ministry, I’ll read it briefly and make a few comments. “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training and righteousness that the man of God may be complete equipped for almost all of his good work.” It’s not what it says, is it? For every good work. So we come to 2 Timothy 3:16, and it’s our anchor verse for the doctrine of scripture, isn’t it? It’s that anchor verse where we get the inspiration of scripture that is stay up new stars, that get scripture is, God breathed. And so, because it is the very word of God breathed, it is authoritative as the final authority. It is entirely trustworthy and true. It’s an errant. That’s how we believe about scripture.
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that scripture is the very word of God. It is therefore God’s self disclosure to us. That’s how God makes himself known to us by special revelation through the scriptures. Sometimes though what we miss, is we focus on the first part of 2 Timothy 3:16, for that anchor for the doctrine of scripture, is we miss what it tells us at the end of verse 16 and verse 17, about the sufficiency of scripture for the practice of ministry and for pastoral ministry.
You notice in 3:17 that refers to Timothy, alludes to Timothy by a title, the man of God. Now maybe you’ve read that and you think, well, it means godly, man. Well, it means certainly no less than a godly man. But what Paul is doing is he’s picking up on an Old Testament term that would have been applied to people like Moses and Elijah and David. The man of God was the man who was set apart by God to proclaim the word of God. It was an office. It was a role. And it’s fulfilled here in the pastorals by Timothy and by pastors. And so, what Paul is doing is he’s telling us not only is this scripture, God breathed, not only is it inspired authoritative and errant, but it is also sufficient for the man of God, the man who has been set apart by God to proclaim the word of God, that he might be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
And you notice he gives us all these terms at the end of verse 16th, “Scripture is breathed out by God, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training and righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly complete, equipped for every good work. By giving us those terms, what he’s really doing is giving us just the full orb of pastoral ministry for training and righteousness, for correction, for encouragement, for the kinds of ministries of the word that you have to do.
So what he’s really doing is giving us saying, scripture is sufficient for pastoral ministry, that you might be completely equipped, capable, proficient, able to beat all the demands of ministry as one commentator put it. So what I want you to see here is that Paul’s particular concern at the very end of his life, the very end of his ministry was to stress to Timothy that the man of God, that scripture was not just the very word of God. It is that, but it is because it’s that sufficient to equip the men of God for the full range of pastoral ministry.
Now you say, “Okay, thanks for the lesson Captain obvious, kind of knew that when we walked in.” What does that have to do with the scripture sufficiency for the doctrine of God? Well, that’s my second very brief point, that the work that the man of God is involved in includes and just to assert it, it makes, it’s so obvious the work that the men of God is involved in includes speaking about God.
In fact, if we go and look, it just, if you’ve got one of those Bibles where you actually flip pages just look at 1 Timothy, the beginning of the pastorals chapter 1:10 and 11, where he’s talking about things that are contrary to sound doctrine. And in verse 11, the sound doctrine, he says is, listen to this, “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” Now look at verse 17. Now you get this doxo a lot as Dr. Gibson gave you at the end of his talk, that doxological. Here’s Paul’s goal. Here’s where the ministry is to go to the King of ages, immortal, invisible. We’ve already heard about that. The only God, the honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. Now go all the way to the end of 2 Timothy 4:18. Here’s what he does.
2 Timothy 4:18, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” Here’s where Paul is. Here’s the goal of pastoral ministry and apostolic ministry, to him be the glory forever and ever. To him and your Gospel Coalition, you’ve heard John Piper. It is the weight of God’s glory, his, the effulgence of his beauty would be manifest. That’s the epistolic goal. So what did I just show you? The bookmark at the bookends of the pastorals have to do with the revelation of the glory of God at the heart of gospel ministry. That’s the ministry Paul commissioned Timothy too. And what does he say? The word of God, the God-breathed word is sufficient that the man of God may be equipped for every good work.
So not only is the scripture sufficient for pastoral ministry, it is sufficient for the man of God to do what God has given him to do, proclaim the glorious God of scripture. RB Kuiper, who was a longstanding professor at Westminster Seminary, 20 years, he was professor of what we now call pastoral theology. He said this in a sermon in 1935, he was speaking to the league of evangelical students. So right in the middle of the modernist controversy, he said this, “The essential difference between Christianity and all other religions in all other religions, man, is feeling after God. In Christianity alone, God comes to man speaks to man tells man who he God is.” See that’s the glorious gospel we get entrusted with in pastoral ministry, God has said.
And he said it in the scriptures, and that scripture is sufficient for us to say all that He has said and say no more than He has said. So because I’m a Presbyterian and we lured you in here, I just want to say one thing about one of the great comforts for me and what great convictions I have in pastoral ministry, is how this all gets summarized in what professor John Murray called the finest expression of biblical theology in the history of the church the date, the Westminster standards. And just let me give you two things, Dr. Garner is going to talk about in a minute. So Westminster, larger catechism question five says, what did the scriptures principally teach? The scriptures, principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of men. That kind of covers the whole gamut. That’s what scripture teach.
Here’s larger catechism, question six. What did the scriptures make known of God? Here’s what the scriptures make known of God, the scriptures make known what God is, the persons in the Godhead, his decrees and the execution of his decrees. So here, and the reason I embraced that by the way, is not because I embraced the confession, therefore important to scripture, it’s because as I read the Westminster standards, I go, “Oh, that’s what the Bible teaches,” and embrace it.
So what does the Bible teaches according to those standards that I subscribed to as a Presbyterian? They teach us what God is, what he has planned to do, what we are to believe, how we’re to behave. And it says, all of that is taught in scripture. Now, what else is there in pastoral ministry? Whether it’s from the pulpit, whether it’s in counseling, whether it’s an evangelism, whether it’s a home visitation, whether it’s in a discipleship ministry, who God is, what we’re to believe, how we’re to behave, all of it is in the scripture. Paul says that the scripture is sufficient, that the man of God may be complete equipped for, how many good works?
Congregants: Every good work.
John Currie: Every good work. The priority of scripture in pastoral ministry.
David Garner: “Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep.” You remember that account at the end of John’s gospel. Peter, who has denied the Lord Jesus three times and as most commentators recognize that Jesus on that beach and counter after the resurrected Christ is now with his disciples, once again, He speaks to Peter to reaffirm Peter of his love for him. But as Peter says to Jesus, that he loves him, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will love my sheep. You will love my church.” As you look at the rest of Peter’s ministry, what does he do? For the rest of Peter’s ministry, as you look at his sermon in acts, what does he do? He takes scripture and proclaims the voice of God to the people of God. How does Peter show his love for the flock of God by giving them the word of God? I want to ask you to just briefly look as we close our time here together to 2 Peter chapter 1.
Peter in 2 Peter 1, is doing much like what Paul has done in 2 Timothy, as we just heard from Dr. Currie. 2 Timothy is Paul’s last letter, 2 Peter is Peter’s last letter, as Paul and Peter are going off the scene in the life of the early church, that is not only the death of two important men, it reflects a shift in the history of God’s work on the stage of history in which the apostolic age is coming to a close. And one of the questions that is on the mind of the first century believers is, what are we going to do when the apostles leave? How will we survive?
Well, as we look at 2 Peter chapter 1, we’ll see that Peter is still seeking to love the flock of God, not only in his life, but actually in his death as well. I won’t take time to read this, but if you look at verse 12 through 15, you would see actually three times in those verses, Peter says, “I would remind you, I would remind you. I would urge you to remember.” Isn’t it striking that Peter has denied Christ three times, Jesus tells Peter three times to love his flock. And here Peter says, in his moment, when he is passing off the scene of human life, that he says, “I would remind you of these things.” What does he remind them of? Well, I invite you to look at the closing verses of chapter 1.
We’ll look at verse 21, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy spirit.” What Peter is doing here, and if you looked at the verses prior, you’ll see he’s reflecting on the mount of transfiguration. When he and James and John are there with Christ and they see Christ face transfigured, and Peter reminds his hearers of that. Can you imagine that mountain top experience? And what Peter does though, is quite striking as he is seeking to love the flock of God.
Look at verse 19, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed to which you will do well to pay attention.” No, he does not say, “I hope that you have a mountain top experience like I did.” What he turns them is to the prophetic word, which is none less than the word of God. How quickly we speak about the Bible as the word of God. Do you realize what that means? We actually have it in our possession the word from the God of whom you have heard spoken this afternoon, this unchangeable God, this God who is a se, who has need of nothing, that is dependent on no one has chosen to communicate to his people. Scripture is that very word.
Back to verse 21, “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Here’s what Peter is saying, scripture was not a product of man. Many would have you today believe that scripture is the product of fallen and fallible men who write fallen and fallible words that God somehow will turn and make it useful for you. Peter is saying to us, “No, that’s not what scripture is.” As we heard from 2 Timothy 3, it is literally, the God-breathed word. The very voice of God, to the people of God. Here Peter says the same thing.
What is scripture? Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy spirit. In the original language, the text says, “Spoke from God, carried along by the Holy spirit men.” Know what is first. What is scripture? Spoke from God carried along by the Holy spirit, men. Men are the instruments, but God in his divine Providence uniquely used his prophets and his apostles to proclaim his word. This was not of their will. It was not of their opinion. It was them delivering the very voice of God to his people. What we have in our possession here is the very word of God. “Peter, do you love me? If you love me, then feed my sheep.” What shall we feed the sheep of God? Nothing less than the word of God.
An important corollary for us that we want to wrap our time up with today is this, if scripture is the voice of God, which it claims to be unequivocally, then it is not put under the test of something outside of itself to verify it. This bears implications upon our philosophy of ministry, what we are doing when we preach the word of God in the pulpits on Sunday mornings, that what we are doing is delivering the very voice of God, not human opinion. These words that we preach, these words that we read are none less than the voice of God, to the people of God. We dare not add to it or subtract from it.
And so, as we are describing here, scripture as the voice of God, we need to recognize that it is not put under the test of anything else outside of itself. Charles Spurgeon would speak of scripture like a lion, “Let it out of the cage and it will defend itself.” To put it a little bit differently, I would suggest to you this, when a lion roars, we do not wonder if it was a mouse. Let God’s word speak to the people of God. It does not need your help. It is our responsibility then as teachers and as ministers of the word, faithfully, to take that, which has been received and to deliver it.
Closing illustration. When my family and I lived in Eastern Europe, I was in the process, when we lived in Bulgaria, of learning the Bulgarian language. And I got to the place right before I was preaching in Bulgarian, where I understood every word of my translator. If you’ve all learned a second language, you know exactly what I’m talking. So I was preaching on Sunday morning and I said a statement and my translator said a statement. I said a statement, my translator said a statement. I said a statement., my translator said a statement. My translator said a statement. My translator said a statement. My translator said a statement. He wouldn’t stop. And finally, as he paused, I said to him in Bulgarian, “Today, we will preach my sermon. You can preach your sermon another Sunday.”
And it dawned on me in that moment, what our responsibility is as stewards of the mysteries of God, it’s much like a translator. What is the translator’s role? To take that which he or she has heard and to deliver it faithfully. That is our responsibility as we steward the word of God, It is authoritative, precisely because it is God’s word. Let us not then add our own spin, our own twist. Let us not add to it. Let us not subtract from it.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, what John Currie mentioned earlier says this, “The authority of Holy scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obey depends not on the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God who is truth itself, the author thereof. And therefore, it is to be received because it is the word of God.” May the people of God hear the roar of God. Thank you for your time with us. We invite you to come back this evening at 9:15, we’ll have a little more informal time. You’ll hear from Dr. Currie a bit more, and then we’ll be glad to field some questions and answers. God bless you, as you go through the rest of the day.