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Sola Scriptura… A Weapon of Mass Instruction

As the issues surrounding the Emergent/Emerging Church continues to escalate, it is profitable and most necessary for us all to reaffirm, fill our hearts and fix our minds upon the Word of God. As the Psalmist reminds us, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” -Psalm 1:1-2.

Oh to be a skilled workman, unashamed, approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15) armed with the sword of the Spirit!

“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 Thess. 2:13.

The most effective weapon we possess as Christians for the work of the ministry is not pragmatic methodology, our TV shows, book clubs, music concerts, radio programs, our celebrities, famous pastors, or even our social alliances with other cultural moral entities–as effective as some of those things may be. The most effective weapon that any church or Christian possesses is the Word of God and the life lived in obedience to its claims. The church’s responsibility before God as the “pillar and support of the truth” is to guard and proclaim the truths of Scripture. Consequently, the most severe crime against God is to mishandle His revelation, thus portraying a false, idolatrous image of Him to the world.

When our grip on the “sword of the Spirit” is loosened and our spiritual muscles have atrophied, the “once for all delivered to the saints faith” is hastily replaced by a saber of our own carnal invention. We cannot fight the good fight of faith with fleshly weaponry!

Measuring the Methods
There are five things that I use as a measuring rod when making a determination about the legitimacy of any ministry claiming to represent the Lord: the message, the motives, the methods, the messenger, and the money. In other words, does the message square with the Word of God; are the motives seemingly pure free from obvious false pretense; are the methods propitious and honorable; has the messenger demonstrated in the past and is currently exhibiting integrity of life and doctrine; and is money being touted as a prerequisite for ministry with an unnecessary emphasis in how it is being asked for or solicited?

The most difficult of these to evaluate is not the motives, but surprisingly the methods. Methods for most people are just the pragmatic means to get the message out more effectively to a broader audience. What could be wrong with that especially in our ever-changing pragmatic world? However, here is the problem; methods are not “a-moral.” They mean something; more than that, they reveal something. A wrong use of methods–or a wrong emphasis on methods is what Charles Spurgeon fought against at the end of his life in what came to be known as the Down-Grade Controversy. He warned his Baptist brothers that using a worldly methodology would give entrance to a skewed theology and thus corrupt the gospel and the ministry. He was right.

We see this in our own day. For example, the Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) carries on its programming schedule some orthodox teachers (i.e. Charles Stanley, Adrian Rogers, James Kennedy, etc.), and features also those who are unorthodox: the word/faith movement (Kenneth Copeland, Crefflo Dollar, etc.); or those who deny the Godhead–the Trinity (T.D. Jakes; Phillips, Craig and Dean); and/or those who “huckster the Word of God for profit” in order to generate more money for themselves (most everyone else on their programming schedule). The danger is, when you constantly publicize a mix of the genuine with the counterfeit it blurs the lines of sound doctrine and tends to anaesthetise the listener of discernment. Even those orthodox teachers, as mentioned above, end up unwittingly supporting the very thing they all oppose biblically. The listener enjoying the program most likely sends the lion-share of their support money not to the Bible teacher of the individual program, but to TBN. And if they have been “ministered to” by that program, they may even call TBN (per their toll free number) for spiritual counsel, prayer and direction. You forfeit on both counts: pragmatically–most of the “love gift” goes to the network; and spiritually–you have placed the members of your listening audience under the spiritual counsel of a phone operator. What would brother Spurgeon be saying about now?

The honest question has to be asked: can a unsound biblical vehicle like that one be spiritually profitable at all even if some of the time they get it right? Don’t be fooled; it’s not just another televsion network you can buy time on to promote your program. It is a well crafted “philosophy of ministry” with a very specific agenda that does not measure up with the Word of God. I agree with Dr. MacArthur when he has said on many occasions, “TBN has done more harm to the gospel than Jerry Springer. For a false representation of God is more damaging than a true display of sin.” I fully agree with his insigthful words. Methodology matters; and just as important, the “who” you partner with in the work of the gospel as well.

The motives, the methods, the messengers, the money and the message. That is why Scripture must be treated with reverence and care because it is the self-revelation of God. It is from Scripture alone that we know who our Lord is and the fullness of His worth and works. We study God’s Word to know our Lord. It is not so that we may have sermons to preach, songs to sing, testimonies to tell, but it is chiefly to know Him. And out of the depth of that knowing to make Him known.

Taking God Seriously
No one ever lives greater than their view of God and our view of God is determined, shaped, and formed by how He has revealed Himself through the pages of Scripture. (Cp. Psalm 50:16ff) Therefore, to fail to take God’s Word seriously, whether by careless interpretation or by careless living, is to fail to take God Himself seriously. And if the church fails to take God seriously, why should the world?

Listen to these powerful words on the authority and veracity of God’s Word:

“But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1 Thess. 2:4).

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15).

“According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust” (1 Tim. 1:11).

“Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing” (1 Tim. 6:12-14).

“O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim. 6:20).

“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:14-16).

“But has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior” (Titus 1:3).

Post-Modern 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 today, there have been men throughout the ages that have tailored the truth of God’s Word, having laid it upon the “procrustean beds” of deceived, depraved minds stretching its truth or lopping it off to suit their itching ears.

Scripture is replete with warnings against perverting God’s Word, as well as exhortations to guard it. Deuteronomy 4:2 cautions, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” This same warning is echoed by the apostle John in Revelation 22:18-19, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”

Like today’s church, the believers in first century Ephesus also faced the temptation to compromise the truth of God’s Word. Ephesus was a fervently pagan city, site of the temple of the goddess Diana (Artemis), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Having ministered there himself for three years (Acts 20:31), Paul was well aware of the pressures and temptations to compromise or abandon the truth facing the Ephesian church.

“As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Tim. 1:3-5)

“This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” (1 Tim. 1:18-19)

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:1-7)

“Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:13)

“Teach and preach these principles. If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Tim. 6:2-5)

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2)

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness.” (2 Tim. 2:15-16)

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:1-5,7)

This is an undeniable standard of truth that the Apostle Paul is contending for in his day. He affirms to timid Timothy by command this same standard at the end of his life as he is waiting execution by Nero in a Roman jail. He says, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Tim. 2:13-14). “Standard” here means that which was used of a writer’s outline or an artist’s rough sketch, which set the guidelines and standards for the finished work. The Christian’s standard is God’s Word, which encompasses the sound words which you have heard from me [Paul], an apostle of Jesus Christ. In Scripture we have God’s own truth and standards, all we need for life or godliness. It is the only divinely inspired, divinely revealed, absolute, perfect and sufficient truth. In it is found everything necessary for salvation and for living out the saved life (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Take Courage in Ministry
Courage in Christian ministry, as well as in Christian living in general, is not possible apart from strong biblical convictions. Strong convictions are to be held and taught in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. When we defend God’s Word in a self righteous, unloving spirit, the resulting controversy and opposition are not caused wholly by the offense of the truth itself but also by the offensive and unspiritual way in which we proclaim it. We are to defend God’s Word in the faith, that is, with the right attitude of confidence toward God; and we are to defend it in love, with the right attitude of kindness and compassion.

The question still confronts us, why is biblical theology vital for the life of the church and the spiritual health of the believer? Why is it essential for the future survival of Christian music?

Answer: because sound doctrine clearly taught and obeyed will always produce godly living and bring glory to God; but unsound doctrine disseminated will be nothing more than gangrenous words to the body of Christ – producing nothing but poisoned, sinful lives. Even if expressed through the most gifted of orators or sung through the most stirring of melodies, in the end, it weakens the entire church!

Dumbed Down and Ineffective
We can see the effects of the dumbing-down of doctrine by the pervasive tolerance of another gospel which has resulted in redefining Biblical language. Sin is no longer called sin, but sickness; disobedience is now called disease; and adultery is simply referred to as addiction. This psychological sanctification has replaced the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Sprit in the predetermined work of God to conform us daily to Christ. “Sanctify them by Thy truth, [Jesus said,] Thy Word is truth.” Only the truth of God’s Word is sanctifying truth for all matters of life and godliness! “The sum of Thy Word is truth.” We are to be “handling accurately the word of truth.¨ We are to proclaim “The word of truth, the gospel.¨ Why? For God has “exalted His Word even above His name.”

When Ministers Forget the Scriptures
It is infinitely hazardous when the church embraces a Freudian anthropology justifying oneself for the purpose of abandoning personal responsibility (the abuse excuse) and allowing one to attach the blame outwardly to one’s environment, or on Mom and Dad, rather than finding solutions that come from only God Himself. Giving people a sense of becoming and belonging, addressing felt needs instead of real needs is the “theology¡” of the hour. Churches now hire full time psychological counselors fortuitously replacing faithful pastors and elders who are the ones called by God to shepherd His flock! “Preach the Word” is no longer the mandate of men of God but rather, “Go ye into all the world and relate!” In other words, I must increase – He must decrease!

The Great Sea Change: the Rise of the Self
Os Guinness is spot on in his analysis when saying, “This sea change is a particularly important precedent because it was not so much from Calvinism to Arminianism as from theology to experience, from truth to technique, from elitism to populism, and from an emphasis on serving God, to an emphasis on serving the self in serving God.”

He is devastatingly correct! Even at the seminary level that change is evident. Men are no longer being taught today to preach expositionally but experientially. The object of faith is no longer Christ but self-esteem; the goal of faith is no longer holiness, but happiness; the source of faith is no longer the Scriptures, but experience.

“A new religion has been initiated, which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese; and this religion, being destitute of moral honesty, palms itself off as the old faith with slight improvements, and on this plea usurps pulpits which were erected for gospel preaching” (Spurgeon). “An aversion to doctrinal Christianity has been growing for several decades, along with an increasing intolerance for doctrinal and confessional accountability. Evangelicals have embraced the technologies of modernity, often without recognizing that these technologies have claimed the role of master rather that servant” (Mohler).

Church growth expert, George Barna, arguing for how the church must find new ways to reach a post-church generation with the gospel, says, “Busters do not believe in absolute truth. This means that they, for the most part, reject the Bible as having any real answers. Thus, proposing Jesus Christ as the solution to a person’s sin problem is not likely to make any significant impression.” Did you hear that? Dear people, the gospel never begins with man and his need but with God and His glory. Truth by definition is exclusive. When we declare the Scriptures to be the truth and Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, who is full of grace and truth, we are declaring that every other claim to the truth is false. Every other way is a dead end. Every other faith system asserting eternal life is a path leading to death. Crossover that! Make that seeker-friendly! Commercialism won’t tolerate a God-conceived, Christ-centered message. Why? There is an offense to the cross (1 Cor. 1:18-31).

Theological Ebonics
In a culture where absolute truth is considered obsolete it’s only inevitable that people will sink to the lowest common denominator to try to make sense of the extremes between depravity and salvation. Again, Barna gives evidence of this: “It is critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign.” The evolution of his disconcerting ideology is significant. Even in Contemporary Christian Music began declaring Jesus Christ as Lord. Within a few years His name was replaced by the generic but proper title of God. Still too offensive for some, dilution occurred, filtering the name of God to He, Him, It, or to the non-specific cognomen, Love. Today, His name is reduced to a multitude of pseudonyms: The Man Upstairs; The Boss¡ The Big Guy; Chairman of the Board; My Higher Power; My Pal; and My Lover – ad nauseam¡ ad infinitum. This biblical illiteracy is theological Ebonics – biblical language diminished to cultural unintelligible chatter affirmed as profound, acceptable spiritual truth.

“Jesus is the Truth. We believe in Him, not merely in His words. He Himself is Doctor and Doctrine, Revealer and Revelation, the Illuminator and the Light of Men. He is exalted in every word of truth, because He is its sum and substance. He sits above the gospel, like a prince on His own throne. Doctrine is most precious when we see it distilling from His lips and embodied in His person. Sermons are valuable in proportion as they speak of Him and point to Him. A Christless gospel is no gospel and a Christless discourse is the cause of merriment to devils” (Spurgeon).

The Father of Lies…”
“False teachers are children of their father the devil, and … want to do the desires of [their] father.” Satan’s influence among false teachers is profound. They teach these hellish lies because their “doctrines of demons” have their unholy inspiration from the prince of darkness himself: “whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Paul reminded Timothy that such people in the spiritual leadership who had shipwrecked the faith had to be “delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20).

In the early days of the church, Elymas the magician opposed the preaching of Paul and Barnabas and in particular tried to keep the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus away from the faith. “But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him, and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:7-10). As Dr. MacArthur so pithily points out, “in that rebuke Paul exposes four characteristics of false teachers: they are deceitful, children of the devil, enemies of righteousness, and perverters of the gospel.”

Among the chief characteristics of Satan and his followers is deception. Paul warns that in the end times the Antichrist will come in accord with the activity of Satan, “with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thes. 2:9-10). John tells us of “the great dragon [who] was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9; cf. 13:14; 20:3, 10).

Satan’s number one objective is to infiltrate the church with error. He does not want to fight the church, he wants to join it!

Satan and his demon emissaries do their deceptive work usually through human beings and most often through religious leaders. Among such religious leaders are those who pose as Christians, whom Paul describes as “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13). And no wonder, Paul goes on to explain, “for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (v. 14-15).

God’s Word: The Full and Final Authority
“I will run in the way of Your commandments…” (Psalm 119:32).

Wycliffe once wrote concerning our duty to the Word of God: “The true Christian was intended by Christ to prove all things by the Word of God, all churches, all ministers, all teaching, all preaching, all doctrines, all sermons, all writings, all opinions, all practices. These are His marching orders. Prove all by the Word of God; measure all by the measure of the Bible; compare all with the standard of the Bible; weigh all in the balances of the Bible; examine all by the light of the Bible; test all in the crucible of the Bible. That which can abide the fire of the Bible, receive hold, believe, and obey. That which cannot abide the fire of the Bible, reject, refuse, repudiate, and cast away. This is the flag which He nailed to the mast. May it never be lowered!

A church which does not honor the Bible is as useless as a body without life, or a steam engine without fire. A minister who does not honor the Bible is as useless as a soldier without arms, a builder without tools, a pilot without compass, or a messenger without tidings. Stand fast on old principles. Do not forsake the old paths. Let nothing tempt you to believe that multiplication of forms and ceremonies, constant reading of liturgical services, or frequent communions, will ever do so much good to souls as the powerful, fiery, fervent preaching of God’s Word. If men want to do good to the multitude, if they want to reach their hearts and consciences, they must attack them through their ears; they must blow the trumpet of the everlasting Gospel loud and long; they must preach the Word.”

In the front of every Gideon Bible you will read these time-tested words:
“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

Faithful Stewards of God’s Word are to:

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

May we all guard the truth, guard the trust and guard our testimony so that by God’s grace we can proclaim the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord to every generation until He returns!

His Unworthy Servant in His Unfailing Love,
Steve Camp
Psalm 119:54