This post was first published in January, 2014. —ed.
You wouldn’t withhold the cure for cancer from someone in desperate need of it. Nor would you offer a home remedy in its place. And yet that’s what many pastors do when they substitute their own opinions and wisdom for the life-transforming truth of God’s Word.
We’re looking at some specific reasons I still preach the Bible after more than four decades of pulpit ministry. Last time we discussed how the message of Scripture is timeless and truly powerful.
A second reason to faithfully preach the Word is that Scripture alone unfolds God’s plan of salvation. As Peter said to Jesus, “To whom [else] shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Why would I ever go anywhere else for spiritual answers than to the inspired revelation of Jesus Christ? Scripture reveals “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). I certainly don’t have the words of life; nor does anyone else. Only He does.
The Bible makes it clear that no matter what people’s “felt needs” may be, their real need is for forgiveness and salvation from sin, so as to escape eternal hell and enter the bliss of heaven. A fulfilled life, a happy marriage, a loving friendship, a successful career—those “needs” pale in comparison with the eternal issue facing every human being. It does not make any sense, then, for pastors to focus all of their energies on temporal surface attitudes while leaving the most profound eternal needs unaddressed. Besides, a true understanding of eternal life changes how you react to the passing troubles of this life.
The Bible also makes it clear that genuine belief includes more than just mental assent (cf. James 2:19). Biblical faith is more than just a profession of faith; it is a change of allegiance—from the mastery of sin to the lordship of Christ. It certainly would be convenient for me to preach a gospel that says, “If you’ve ever made a profession of faith in Jesus, then you’re saved, even if there’s nothing in your life to validate that claim.” But I can’t do that, because that’s not the true gospel. The true gospel repeatedly commands unbelievers to repent (Matthew 4:17; 11:20–21; Mark 6:12; Luke 5:32; 13:3, 5; 15:7, 10; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 2 Corinthians 7:9–10; 2 Timothy 2:25) and declares, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). It urges you to “test” yourself “to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5), and reminds you that believers will be known “by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16-18; cf. Luke 6:43–44). So I preach the Bible because I want to make sure I’m preaching the true gospel, not a gospel of my own imagination.
When I came out of seminary, I really did not expect to fight the battles I have fought over the last several decades. I knew I would face some different paradigms of ministry and opinions about ecclesiology. I understood that there were various views of eschatology, biblical inspiration, etc. But I never thought I would spend most of my life on the broader evangelical front defending the biblical gospel and sound doctrine from so-called believers who attempted to undermine both. The Word of God, rightly interpreted, defines the truth.
(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church.)