Saturday, June 14, 2008

...every Christian's duty: defend the sufficiency & authority of God's Word

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe”
-1 Thessalonians 2:13.

“This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrine is holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be saved, practice it to be holy.

It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here heaven is open, and the gates of hell are disclosed. Christ is the grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet.

Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, health to the soul, and a river of pleasure. It is given to you here in this life, will be opened at the judgment, and is established forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and condemn all who trifle with its contents.” –Author unknown

1. Crave the Word – 1 Peter 2:2
2. Believe the Word – John 2:22
3. Love the Word – Psalm 119:97, 127-128
4. Long for the Word – Psalm 119:20, 40, 131
5. Delight in the Word – Psalm 1:2, 119:35, 143
6. Rejoice in the Word – Jeremiah 15:16, Psalm 119:111,162
7. Treasure the Word – Job 23:12, Psalm 19:10-11
8. Esteem the Word – Psalm 138:2, 1 Thessalonians 2:13
9. Reverence the Word – Psalm 119:161
10. Honor the Word – 2 Thessalonians 3:1
11. Trust in the Word – Psalm 119:42
12. Sing the Word – Psalm 119:54,172, Colossians 3:16
13. Meditate on the Word – Psalm 1:2; Joshua 1:8
14. Memorize the Word – Psalm 119:11, 16, 61, 128-129, 176
15. Abide in the Word – John 15:7, 1 John 2:23-25
16. Obey the Word – Deuteronomy 17:19-20, Joshua 22:5, Psalm 119:67,
Luke 8:21, John 14:15, 17:6, 1 John 2:3-5, 5:2-3
17. Be Conformed by the Word – Psalm 119: 133, 1 Timothy 6:3, Titus 1:1
18. Not to be ashamed of the Word – Romans 1:16, 2 Timothy 1:8
19. Contend for the Word – Jude 3, Titus 1:9
20. Defend the Word – Philippians 1:7
21. Suffer for the Word – 2 Timothy 1:8
22. Do not neglect the Word – 1 Corinthians 9:16
23. Be empowered with the Word – 1 Thessalonians 1:5
24. Hope in the Word – Romans 15:4
25. Live the Word – Ezra 7:10, Philippians 1:27, James 1:22-25
26. Take heed to the Word – 1 Timothy 4:16
27. Rightly divide the Word – 2 Timothy 2:15, Nehemiah 8:8
28. Retain the standard of the Word – 2 Timothy 2:13-14
29. Read the Word – 1 Timothy 4:13; Colossians 4:16
30. Share the Word – 1 Thessalonians 1:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:1
31. Teach the Word – 2 Timothy 4:1-5
32. Exhort with the Word – 1 Timothy 4:13
33. Preach the Word – 2 Timothy 4:2
34. Tremble at His Word – Isaiah 66:2

Compare that with the ways of the wicked:
They willingly:
1. corrupt the Word, 2 Cor. 2:17;
2. reject the Word, Jer. 8:9; disobey the Word, Psalm 119:158;
3. wrest the Word, 2 Pt. 3:16;
4. speak not its truth, Isaiah 8:20;
5. hate its instruction, Psalm 50:16-17;
6. cannot understand it, I Corinthians 2:14;
7. they lay aside the Word, Mark 7:6-9;
8. heed doctrines of demons, 1Timothy 4:1-2;
9. promote destructive heresies, 2 Peter 2:1;
10. are factious, Titus 3:9-10;
11. and proclaim another gospel, Galatians 1:6-9.

Postmodern Procrustean Beds

In Greek mythology there is portrayed a villainous son named Procrustes, of his father Poseidon, who would arbitrarily prescribe ruthless, torturous phenomenon for patrons of his hostel. He would force his travelers to fit into his "procrustean bed" by stretching his victims or severing off their limbs.

In much the same way, there have been men throughout the ages, many who also today, are passing abhorrent doctrine and skewed theology off as authentic Christianity, that have abandoned the truth of God's Word (1 Tim. 4:1), having laid it upon the "procrustean bed" of deceived, depraved minds (1 Tim. 6:5; Titus 1:15) stretching its truth or lopping it off to suit itching ears (2 Tim. 4:3), wayward hearts (2 Pt. 2:2), and perverted religious systems, creeds, rituals and ceremonies (Col. 2:6-18). This is spiritual treason at its core! The Apostle Paul warns of such treason and pronounces sentence on those who promulgate this distortion of doctrine and desertion of Christ for a different gospel when he says:


Spiritual Treason
Doctrines of demons abounded in the Apostles day (1 Tim. 4:1). Endless genealogies (Ibid 1:4), myths (Ibid), strange doctrines (Ibid 1:3), worldly fables (Ibid 4:7f), and hucksters peddling the Word of God for profit (2 Cor. 2:17) - but Paul was called for the defense of the gospel (Phil. 1:16) and he would not shrink from the duty of "declaring the whole council of God" (Acts 20:27). Though some were out to make retail of the truth and sell it for whatever worldly prominence, power or paragon they might obtain, truth was a non-negotiable to this great saint as it was to Polycarp, Ireneaus, Ignatius, Athanasius, Augustine, Basil, Ambrose, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Jerome and other great church Fathers. These men sacrificed their lives for the Eternal Logos and the written logos. They took there stand firmly on the Word of God without compromise and without regret. Athanasius knew this cost when he said, "The calumniating Greek ridicule us and set up a broad laugh at us, because we regard nothing so much as the cross of Christ."(1) They guarded the trust! (1 Tim. 6:20).

The church should not be the place where sin is entertained, scandals abound and disobedience is tolerated, but the church should be what Paul had declared that it is, "the pillar and support of the truth." (1 Tim. 3:15) This is the purpose of all theology, of all ecclesiology, of all music and of all history to preserve, promote, protect and preach the Word! But since Lucifer is a subtle and twisted foe, he will try to pervert all sound doctrine into damning apostasy. "[He, the devil]...does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him" (John 8:44).

All false systems throughout church history will have an appearance of orthodoxy but are in reality "white-washed" tombs of abhorrent prevarication. Whether it be the additional revelations of the Montanists; the dualistic and demiurgic mediatorial intellectualism of the Gnostics; the subordinationist Trinitarian theology of the Arians; the kenotic iconoclasm of the Ebionites and Socinians; or the debauched sacradotalism of the greatest of all "angel of lights" (2 Cor. 11:14) - the Roman Catholic Church; the genuine gospel was always blended with the leaven of error to produce heresy. As Louis Berkhof quotes Professor Walther when commenting on the syncretistic movement in Gnosticism, he so profoundly says, " a stealing of some Christian rags to cover heathen nakedness! This corresponds with Seeburg when he speaks of it as an 'ethnicizing of Christianity.'" (emphasis added)

A Workman Unashamed
Paul declared, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,[a] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." This is the duty of every faithful pastor--to rightly divide God's Word--to cut it straight. If he does so, he will be a workman unashamed and approved unto God. This should produce godly fear in every under-shepherd of the flock of God. Wrongly dividing the Word will bring judgment upon you (James 3:1) and cause the body of Christ to suffer. Think of Paul's exhortation to young Timothy; warning the church of two men who failed in this task and their skewed sermons were nothing but cancerous to the body of Christ. ”But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. (2 Tim. 2:16-18a) When one is injured and gangrene sets in, the only hope to stop the gangrene from spreading further and protect the health of the rest of the body is to amputate the diseased limb. In the same way, when gangrenous teaching finds its way within the church that can damage and disease the entire body, the only remedy for this disorder of doctrine is the amputation of aberrancy so that its poison will not effect the rest of the body of Christ!

As Tertullian so insightfully says, "truth is just as much opposed by an adulteration of its meaning as it is by a corruption of its text." This, however, presupposes an authoritative "rule and standard" that could be "adulterated...and corrupted." Schaff writes penetratingly when saying, "The heretical canon of the Gnostic Marcion, of the middle of the second century, consisting of a mutilated Gospel of Luke and ten of Paul's epistles, certainly implies the existence of an orthodox canon at that time, as heresy always presupposes truth, of which it is a caricature." (emphasis added) Heresy always has an element of truth to it and that is why the Councils and Synods, the development of the Creeds had to not only unmask the imposter of the genuine faith but also contend for and reaffirm the truth of authentic faith! (Jude 3)

Contend for THE Faith
These were not casual intellectual ping pong matches these men engaged in as though they were the next target on "Firing Line" with William Buckley, Jr. The preservation of truth, the development of the canon, the stance for sound doctrine (uncorrupted and unadulterated) cost many of the early Fathers (from the time of the ascension of Christ to the time of Constantine- and in some cases beyond) their reputations, separation from their families, exile and banishment, torture, persecution and ultimately their lives. The pages of church history cannot be studied dispassionately when the very pages of that history are written with the blood of the saints that held fast the faithful word and did not recant! The Bible is the most sacred thing we will ever hold in our hands in this life. The early church leaders did not shrink from declaring the whole council of God (Acts 20:27) and rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). May we not dishonor them nor our Lord by taking lightly the task of preserving orthodox historical biblical Christianity.

To develop a biblical perspective of history a few considerations are necessary: a proper view of God; a proper view of man; and a proper view of truth. History can be and is didactic, political, sociological, biographical, economic, geographic and synthetic. But most importantly history is first and foremost theological. Newman says, "the Christian scholar rejoices in all that is Christlike and heroic, laments the corruptions and perversions of the past, and is most deeply concerned for the honor and purity of Christianity of the present and future.”

Our faith is not built upon the opinions of the early church fathers, their traditions or councils, letters or debates apart from the attestation of Scripture. Though we today owe “the fathers—the divines” a tremendous debt for the faithful warrant and witness preserved on biblical truth; but we must be careful to fathom that our faith is built solely upon the authority, sufficiency and exhaustiveness of Holy Scripture. Truth must always take precedence over tradition - and tradition must always be examined in light of truth! If not, then we are in danger of turning the wonderful recognized traditions of these divines into what I call, "Protestant Popery!" God forbid!

No Creed but Christ
Samuel Davies, that tremendous 18th century divine said, "I may indeed believe the same things which Luther or Calvin believed: but I do not believe them on the authority of Luther or Calvin, but upon the sole authority of Jesus Christ, and therefore I should not call myself by their name, as one of their disciples, but by the name of Christ, whom alone I acknowledge as the Author of my religion, and my only Master and Lord." "Follow me as I follow Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1) is the clarion call of church history. For it is as someone has stated, history is nothing less than "His-story!"

As the early church fathers followed Christ, we follow them. As they affirmed the Scriptures we accept them and their teaching. As the councils affirmed and upheld biblical truth, without addition and without deletion, we receive them. As the bishops and episcopates held fast the faith without compromise, we embrace them. But remove the standard and rule for all conduct of God’s Word and depart from the heavenly plumbline (Amos 7:8), which governs our souls' security and surety for eternity and insures our daily duty and ecclesiastical obligations to elders and laity, from the essence of their dogma, then we must jettison their words and place under suspect their writings, contributions and authority.

The Sufficiency of Scripture
The uniqueness of Scripture is that it is axiomatic, self-evident truth. Psalm 19:7-9 gives us the most comprehensive statement on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture found anywhere in the Bible.
• The law of the Lord is perfect, RESTORING THE SOUL.
• The testimony of the Lord is sure, MAKING WISE THE SIMPLE.
• The precepts of the Lord are right, REJOICING THE HEART;
• The commandment of the Lord is pure, ENLIGHTENING THE EYES.
• The fear of the Lord is clean, ENDURING FOREVER;
• The judgments of the Lord are true; they are RIGHTEOUS ALTOGETHER.
Here we read that the word of our Lord is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean and true. Nothing in its pages is lacking; nothing is defiled, adulterated, corrupted, unclean or unholy. Every word is without error! Why? The Psalmist says it is, "of the Lord." And look what it accomplishes: it restores the soul (salvation); it makes the simple wise (erudition); it rejoices the heart (exultation); it enlightens the eyes (illumination); it endures forever (glorification); and it produces comprehensive righteousness to daily live by (sanctification). No wonder this word was sweeter than any earthly delight and more valuable to David than any earthly treasure (Psalm 19:10-11). This was the faithful word that Jeremiah proclaimed (Jer. 11:1-5); that David sang (Psalm 119:54); that Saul apostatized (1 Sam. 15:20-23); that Daniel honored (Daniel 2:20-23); that Ezekiel preached (Ez. 37:1-10); that Jonah hid from (Jonah 1:1-3); that Moses delievered (Ex. 20:1-18); that Job trusted in (Job 1:20-22); that God has exalted even above His name (Psalm 138:2).

This is the language of tradition (the paradosis) that was handed down through the prophets to the Apostles. "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and many ways." (Heb. 1:1) These men "were entrusted with the oracles of God" (Rom. 3:2b); "to whom belongs...the covenants and the giving of the Law...and the promises" (Ibid 9:4); which Stephen heralded, "...who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you" (Acts 7:38); this was done by the "mouth of His holy prophets from of old" (Luke 1:70).

It is this Word that Peter affirmed "for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God." (2 Peter 1:21) The Apostles of Jesus Christ were used by the Lord as His agency by which the New Testament was delivered to the church as the prophets had been used in times of old. As the formation of the New Testament canon was unfolding, the letters of the Apostles were sent to the churches, not as the opinions of traveling missionaries, but as the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13). This was their authority - infallible truth given to the churches. We see this occurring directly following Pentecost for we read in Acts 2:40, "they were continually devoting themselves to the Apostles' teaching..." Here we are given profound perspicacity into the Apostolic Fathers teaching as doctrine to be given to the entire church. And it is something that they gave constant devotion to.

The Apostles and The Word of God
As the end of the Apostolic age came to a close, we are given a few passages which already recognize the Apostles' teaching as canonical. 1 Timothy 5:18, "For the Scriptures say, you shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing, and the laborer is worthy of his wages" (emphasis added). Here we have a reference to the Scriptures as being a dual quote from Deut. 25:4 and Luke 10:7. This is a crucial passage linking the Pentateuch with the Gospel of Luke. (This is the gospel that Marcion was have said to mutilate. Marcion judged the Book, forgetting that the Book eternally judges him!) We see Paul quoting from the Gospels, to the Corinthian church (Luke 22:20) as Scripture, when he says, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."

Even Peter acknowledges the writings of Paul as holy canon when he says, "according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:15b-16) This is significant, for Peter is equating Paul's letters with Scripture.

And this is “once for all delivered to the saints faith” that we are to “contend for.” May the church in America today believe once again in the authority, sufficiency, veracity and exclusivity of Scripture again.

-this has been an encore presentation-


DOGpreacher said...

Thanks Steve;

When I stop to think that He preserved His word down through time, and then called me unto salvation through the hearing of the word, to then preach His word the rest of my days...I stand amazed!

I tell young Christians to read Psalm 1, & 1 John 1 right away, and often. If you take the end of verses 10, 8, & 6, in that order, the message is that (v10) one who feeds on the Word (Truth), (v8) will have the truth in him, and (v6)thus will do truthful things.

I cannot understand how the redeemed do not desire to know His word more, and more...I am...

grateful for grace.

Bhedr said...

You said>Our faith is not built upon the opinions of the early church fathers, their traditions or councils, letters or debates apart from the attestation of Scripture. Though we today owe “the fathers—the divines” a tremendous debt for the faithful warrant and witness preserved on biblical truth; but we must be careful to fathom that our faith is built solely upon the authority, sufficiency and exhaustiveness of Holy Scripture. Truth must always take precedence over tradition - and tradition must always be examined in light of truth! If not, then we are in danger of turning the wonderful recognized traditions of these divines into what I call, "Protestant Popery!" God forbid!<

If you truly believe this then I heartily agree with you.

Bhedr said...

Good post by the way. Samuel Davies sounded like a smart guy. I agree with him. A+ by the way on this post. 100%

I found some things helpful as well.

By the way I'm gonna stop goading some of you guys about some subjects related. I think sledge gets it although I'm not sure if all his buddies do.

Jeremy Weaver said...

I was reading Chrysostom's commentary on Galatians last night. I think it is the only commentary he wrote, besides Ephesians. But as I read, I was struck by the sense that this is a man who believed Scripture above all else. I then thought of the great expositors who are alive today, and I found the the message they proclaim, is the same message Chrysostom proclaimed in the year 395 a.d.
May we thank God for these men who have been faithful to the Gospel, from Ignatius to Irenaus to Bernard to Luther to Bunyan to the present day where men like MacArthur faithfully proclaim the whole counsel of God.
Thanks for the post. may we be faithful to hold to Scripture as our plumbline.

pilgrim said...

Lots of stuff to digest!

Dox--I too find it wonderful that throughout history God proclaims His Word, and His people proclaim His Word.

There are those who would tell us otherwise--from all sorts of points of view--But we hold fast to THE faith--not a faith--but THE faith that was delivered once for all...

Carla said...


this was also quite timely for me as well. It's also inspired me to take that list of 34, and do a study, and blog-series. Lord willing, that will start today.

Thank you so much for this - may the Lord be pleased to continue to bless your readership through your words.


Terry Rayburn said...

Good and important post, Steve.

I've never been crazy about the phrase "sufficiency of Scripture", though. Not because it isn't sufficient for its intended purposes, but because the phrase neglects the importance of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the Word, and it neglects the importance of the main Subject of the Word, which is Jesus. The phrase implies that study is enough, and that the Word itself contains eternal life.

The Pharisees studied and exalted the inerrant Word, but Jesus said to them,

"You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me." (John 5:39)

Norman Douty put it well:

"Come to the Word for one purpose, and that is to meet the Lord. Not to get your mind crammed full of things about the sacred Word, but come to it to meet the Lord. Make it a medium, not of Biblical scholarship, but of fellowship with Christ. Behold the Lord."

I would amend his comments, since I wouldn't say that's the ONLY purpose for the Word. It's also good for doctrine, correction, reproof, instruction in righteousness, etc. (2 Tim. 3:16)

But to neglect seeking and meeting Jesus Himself in the Word, leaves sawdust in a thirsty mouth.


Shawn L said...

loved it.


I don't think Steve Camp that you believe in "no Creed but Christ".

There is in many christian circles a distain for theology and creeds by many people.

I personally really enjoy the confessions and creeds for my personal study, but I don't see them as the scriptures, but as people who have gone before me and grappled with the scriptures like I have, but also know that I must be faithful first and foremost to the Word and let it dwell in me richly.

I see them (brothers who have gone before me) as something I need in Christ, I need them for encouragement daily to keep walking the path and thank God for them who have gone before me. We must be very careful though not to just be reading doctrine and not seeking the Lord daily in scripture.

We have been surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses to the truth through the generations and I thank them.

I totally agree with what you said as well. My pastor thankfully is similar in his teaching about this.

Shawn L said...

Steve I meant to say "I don't think you believe in No Creed but Christ the way SOME christians believe in it"

Alan Kurschner said...

Good stuff Steve, thanks