This week’s entry is different to be sure. I admit that. But, there are at least two, I think good, reasons. First, I am a fan of the “why” in preaching. To some extent, I have spent more time researching and writing on why we approach preaching with certain conviction more than how we actually pull it off. I wrote my dissertation on this subject. Now, this does not mean that I think the “how” – the method — is unimportant. I absolutely believe it is important!
However, if I can show a student the theology and biblical mandates behind text-driven expository preaching and that it is a good, Christ-honoring, and worthy task to take up, I believe he will be much more committed to the how. To state it in the negative, if I do not show the “why” behind biblical exposition, he may not be as committed to exposition. Or, even worse, he may simply see exposition as one style of preaching to choose from among equals. Furthermore, and maybe this goes beyond the realm of expectation, if we get the “why” right, then the “how” begins to fall into place naturally.
Second, recently my friend, fellow homiletics professor, and mentor, Dr. David Allen of SWBTS, wrote an article for Preaching Source on why inerrancy matters in preaching. You can click here to view his post. I wholeheartedly support and completely agree with everything he affirms there. This is not a response to his post. Rather, this is an examination of another one of the key doctrines or characteristics of Scripture that impacts, significantly, preaching. This is my Side B, if you will to, Dr. Allen’s album.
In one of my older entries, I wrote briefly on three doctrines, including sufficiency, that are essential for expository preaching. Next week, I will repost that in case you missed it or would like to look at it again. This week, however, I want to examine in more detail why sufficiency specifically matters for preaching.
It is not only true that the Bible is completely accurate and contains no errors, but it also is enough. When we talk about sufficiency, we are talking about Scripture being enough. What we mean by sufficiency is that the Bible contains everything necessary for man’s soul – namely his salvation, life, and existence — as it relates to God — the holy, eternal, righteous, and loving Creator. There are limitations to our definition and use here. We must qualify it because the Word of God is not sufficient in regards to everything, nor does it claim to be. For instance, if you are a pilot, the Bible is not sufficient for your training to pilot an airplane safely. Nor, does it necessarily give us instructions for the more mundane day-to-day tasks of life such as cooking and cleaning.
Again, what we recognize and acknowledge that it is sufficient for is man’s existence before the God who created him and specifically his right relationship with this one and only true God. So, there are two things for which the Word of God is uniquely enough. First, it is enough for the knowledge and conviction of saving faith in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 10:14-17). Second, it is enough for perseverance in salvation (1 Timothy 4:11-16) and growth into Christlikeness (1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3). Furthermore, Psalm 19 is an interesting study in the sufficiency and “enoughness” of Scripture. Indicated in and by this passage is that the Written Word of God is enough for bringing a soul that has wandered back to God (v. 7a), true wisdom (v. 7b), joy before the Lord (v. 8a), and spiritual understanding (v. 8b). Furthermore, in context Scripture should be desired highly (v. 10) because it helps one overcome sin (vv. 11-13) and leads to the Redeemer (v. 14). More about this enlightening passage in a moment!
Furthermore, it is not only true that the Word of God is completely accurate and contains no errors, but it also is necessary. Therefore, when we affirm that Scripture is sufficient, we are implying that it is necessary too. So, it is enough for leading someone to faith in Christ for salvation and then growing him toward Christlikeness in a way nothing else does. The Written Word of God is that which must be used to accomplish these ends in anyone’s life. The Word is not one good choice among several other good options which can accomplish these goals. It is the only option. The Bible is the only corpus of truth that can lead us to the Savior for salvation and grow us up into our Savior after our salvation.
Is there any place in Scripture that explicitly affirms this position? Does the formal definition of biblical sufficiency include the notion of necessity? Perhaps not. But, this position seems to be implied when we juxtapose Psalm 19:7-14 with the verses that immediately proceed them. The implied idea is that the special revelation of God is sound and complete (“perfect”), sure, right, eternal (“enduring forever”), true, and righteous; and general revelation, although profitable, is not. Furthermore, we see a similar implication when we examine Romans 10:14-17 in light of the larger context of the book, specifically seen in Romans 1-3. Through the Word of God (special revelation), we are led to faith in Christ (Romans 10:14-17), the only One who makes anyone righteous (Romans 3:21ff.). Not so with what is revealed in creation or general revelation (Romans 1). Here, we see only enough to show us our guilt before a holy God, not enough to lead to salvation in Christ, which everyone needs (Romans 1:18 -3:20). So, bound up in the Word’s sufficiency is its necessity!
Let me add one more word of warning. Beyond Scripture simply being enough and necessary to lead to faith in Christ and growth in Christlikeness, we must acknowledge that not every interpretation, use, or application of the Word carries the same guarantee. In other words, only of the God ordained meaning and intent of a passage derived from direct biblical authority can this be said.
So, only the correct understanding and employment of Scripture is enough and necessary, sufficient. Therefore, we should proceed with much caution here. We must not misuse Scripture, force our interpretations onto a passage, miscontextualize, spiritualize or principlize texts, preach points from the text instead of the points of the text, use the Bible simply as illustrations for our outline, and derive applications on mere casual or corrupt biblical authority. These — ultimately the words, wisdom, and pithy statements of man — are not sufficient. We must major in preaching the major ideas embedded in and supported by the text, thus the God-intended thrust of our passage. This is why text-driven expository preaching is so vital.
Think about sufficiency like this. You have a car manual or a surgical journal that you believe is completely 100 percent accurate. It has been certified 100 times over by the leading professionals in the fields that it contains no errors or mistakes. This would have to be the case for you to use it to fix the brakes on your car or even more so for a doctor to operate by its guidelines and instructions to remove your daughter’s appendix.
But, you would also have to believe that it is valid and contains relevant material to use it for a specific task. For instance, if you were building a swing set in your backyard, you can believe that everything in the car manual is accurate, and yet still not reference it. Why? It is not necessary. You do not believe it is sufficient for the task.
Or, you can believe that everything in the a doctor’s journal is correct, and yet still believe that it does not contain all that you need for a procedure. For instance, perhaps it gives proper directions for sterilization and opening an area, but does not address how to find and actually remove the appendix. Either you would not use it, or you would use it knowing you needed to supplement it with another source. Why? It is not enough. You do not believe it is sufficient for the task.
So, we can believe something is true, accurate, and correct, and still not preach it because we are not convinced it is sufficient. But, when you believe it is sufficient as well, how would we dare preach anything else? For the sake of our preaching ministry, we need a theology that recognizes the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible. Both are necessary and matter in preaching. My prayer is that this explanation of the “why” will aid you in your conviction to “Preach the Word!”
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