The following sermon transcript does not match the video version of the sermon—it matches only the audio version. Here's a brief explanation why.
John MacArthur routinely preaches a sermon more than once on the same date, during different worship services at Grace Community Church. Normally, for a given sermon title, our website features the audio and video that were recorded during the same worship service. Very occasionally, though, we will post the audio from one service and the video from another. Such was the case for the sermon titled "Losing Your Life to Save it," the transcript of which follows below. The transcript is of the audio version.
This is a little bit of a different approach on Sunday night. I’m really kind of talking to you in a personal way to give you an understanding of why we do what we do here at Grace Church in terms of the exposition of Scripture, and why we send missionaries all over the world to train other people to do what we do.
Having just come back from three weeks in Europe and being, and I think at last count eight different countries while I was gone in that brief period of time, I had the opportunity to spend time with various groups of our missionaries from many parts of the world who collected together for these conferences that I was able to be a part of over in Europe. And all of them have one single task that lays before them and that is to explain to people the meaning of Scripture, to tell people what the Bible means by what it says, to interpret Scripture. That is the function of Bible exposition, to exposit means to explain, to show, to declare, to reveal. And, of course the meaning of Scripture is the most precious commodity in existence because the meaning of Scripture is divine truth.
I often tell ministers the meaning of the Scripture is the Scripture. The revelation of God cannot be known unless we understand the meaning of the Scripture. That is why we have the Master’s Seminary, to train men how to explain the meaning of Scripture. How to get to the meaning of Scripture so that we can understand the Word of God.
This is what I have been doing here for many, many years. This is what I have been calling other pastors to do in this country and everywhere I have gone to pastor’s conferences virtually on every continent in the world through the years. This is what we continue to send our missionaries to the far corners of the world to do, to explain to people the meaning of Scripture and to train others to be able to explain the meaning of Scripture. This is how evangelism is done because we’re begotten again by the Word of Truth. This is how the church grows because we’re sanctified by the Word which is divine truth. Everything comes down to explaining the meaning of Scripture.
And having said that, I need to back up a little bit. We got about half-way through 15 compelling reasons why we explain the meaning of the Scripture. But as I was thinking about that, I realized that maybe we need to back up before we do the last half of our little list, and make something very clear. And it is simply this, the meaning of Scripture can be known. It occurred to me sometime early in the week that there might be some of you saying, “Well are we sure that we can actually get the meaning right?” There’s so many interpretations of the Scripture and you hear this all the time, all the time. I was just reading an article this week in a national Christian periodical that basically conveyed the idea that getting to the meaning of Scripture is very difficult and that reading the Bible may lead you to reject the things you’ve always believed because all of a sudden you’re going to see it in a new light and it’s going to take on new meaning and experiences are going to happen, and intuitive elements are going to rise up and you may find yourself having your theology changed by reading the Bible and seeing in it something you never really knew was there.
Now that raises the question that is often raised by people who are critical of any strong doctrine or any strong convictions and they say, “Well what makes you think you can know what the Bible means when there are so many people who take differing views? In fact, that has actually become a kind of hermeneutic. Hermeneutics is the science of Bible interpretation and this is called the hermeneutics of humility. And the hermeneutics of humility says I am far too humble to tell you I know what the Bible means by what it says. And actually, the assumption is that anybody who tells you they know what the Bible means is nothing short of arrogant because we really can’t know.
Now this would certainly be the position of the Roman Catholic Church that no person or persons outside the triumphal realm of those who run the Catholic system could ever hope to understand what the Bible means. The Bible for the run-of-the-mill folks is unclear, says the Roman Catholic Church, it’s impossible for them to interpret. Consequently the Catholic Church did everything it could for a thousand years to keep the Bible out of the hands of the people because they didn’t have what it took to be able to interpret it.
The Catholic Church said, and still says, “The only interpreter of Scripture is the infallible Church, only the infallible Church can interpret Scripture so you have the unenlightened masses completely incapable of interpreting the Bible. So what you must do is keep it out of their hands.
Well that didn’t work. Once the Reformation came, the Bible was then placed in the hands of people. The question is, can we know what it means? By the way, as just a footnote to that. Symbols developed, ceremonies developed, rituals developed in direct proportion to the obscurity of understanding the Scripture. So when you look at the Roman Catholic Church and you see all of the symbols, all of the rituals, all the ceremonies, it is in direct proportion to the obscurity of the meaning of Scripture in the minds of people. You don’t tell them what it means, you give them symbols. Always they are in direct sort of reverse proportion. The less the understanding, the more the symbols.
You expect that in the Roman Catholic system, you don’t expect that in the evangelical church. I received a letter this week from a man who wrote me to thank me for my ministry and tell me he prays for me. And I appreciate that. This is a man who said this, and I quote, “Certitude when it comes to the Bible is idolatrous. I have been forced to give up servitude if there is a foundation in Christian theology, it is not found in Scripture. Theology must be a humble human attempt to hear God and never about rational approaches to texts,” end quote.
Certitude is idolatrous? We can’t know what the Bible means? We can’t draw theology out of Scripture? I’ve given up certitude. Approaching the Bible is never a rational exercise?
Another popular emerging church leader said, “Clarity is overrated. Shock and ambiguity often stimulate more thought than clarity.” And another writer, Leslie Newbigin says, “The gospel is not a matter of certainties.”
This is what’s floating around in people’s minds and leads to the conclusion that not only can we not know what the Bible means, it really doesn’t matter because it might lead us to idolatry and to arrogance and somehow we might not be nearly as stimulated as we would be with shock and ambiguity.
Well I think this comes from a real source and the real source is this, the unconverted cannot understand the Bible. That’s correct. “The natural man understands not the things of God, they’re foolishness to him. They are completely outside the realm of his capability.” And that’s back to 1 Corinthians 2, but if you go back in to 1 Corinthians 1 you remember that it says there that the preaching of the cross is to the world of the perishing foolishness. So we don’t expect them to understand it.
Perhaps a more notable portion of Scripture that explains the reason people come to these conclusions, comes to us from the eighth chapter of the gospel of John and verse 43, “Why do you not understand what I’m saying?” O here we’re getting right to the source? “Why do you not understand what I’m saying? It’s because you cannot hear My Word.”
Our Lord is saying, “I know you can’t understand and I know why you can’t understand. You are of your father, the devil. That’s your problem. You’re in the wrong family. You’re in the category of the perishing,” to borrow the language of 1 Corinthians 1. And perishing people don’t understand divine truth. He…this is your father, the devil…does not stand in the truth because there’s no truth in him. And you’ve inherited, in a sense, his nature, his ignorance. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature. He’s a liar and the father of lies. So because I speak the truth, you don’t believe Me. That’s the problem. “He who is of God hears the words of God. For this reason you do not hear them because you’re not of God.”
So I agree, it is a correct assessment of reality to say that we cannot understand the Scripture that is if we are of the devil, if we are not of the family of God, if we’re among the perishing, if we’re pursuing it from the standpoint of human wisdom. That is correct.
I read to you a verse this morning in the fourteenth chapter of John and the seventeenth verse, “The Spirit of Truth,” his reference there, “whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him or know Him.” And since the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture and the resource that becomes our teacher of Scripture, and the world does not know Him, does not recognize Him, they too are blocked off from an understanding of Scripture. So I get it. The unbelieving people who are in the darkness, who are blinded, cannot understand the true meaning of Scripture. And because there are so many non-Christians within Christianity, they give plenty of room for the idea that the scriptures are basically incomprehensible and you shouldn’t feel like you could be certain about anything at all.
However, on the other hand, did you hear what our Lord said in that same passage? “He who is of God hears the words of God.” Or in the language of John 10, “My sheep hear My voice.” Or in the language of 1 Corinthians, “We have the mind of Christ.” The Holy Spirit has been given to us to teach us all things. In fact, at the end of the gospel of John is a statement that really covers the whole of the four gospels. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” Scripture is clear enough for the sinner under the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit to come to a true and saving understanding.
I just want to establish the fact that I get it. Non-believers think that you can’t really understand the Scripture because they can’t understand the Scripture. Believers know they can understand the Scripture because they must understand the Scripture to be saved. It’s critical.
But let me talk about this idea of clarity in the Scripture for a minute. If the sinner is held responsible for the revelation of God in creation, and he is, so that he is without excuse, Romans 1 says. And if the sinner is held responsible for the knowledge of the Law of God written in his heart and a conscience that excuses or accuses him based on his response to that Law, and he is according to Romans 2, if the sinner is accountable for that natural revelation in his own reasoning that leads him back to God, and accountable for that natural revelation in the Law written in his heart, then the sinner is also responsible for the written and preached revelation of God which is recorded in Scripture. The sinner is without excuse only if he is able to comprehend. He is able to comprehend God and much about God, he is able to comprehend the Law of God that is written in his heart, and he is able to comprehend the content of the gospel which is revealed in Scripture so that on all fronts, arguing from the lesser to the greater, the sinner is without excuse.
In fact, it isn’t just a kind of minimal reality either. The sinner’s knowledge of the Law of God and the sinner’s accusing conscience are an ally to the basic gospel because the basic gospel starts with Law and sin and judgment and punishment, right? The basic message of the gospel is you have violated the Law of God, you are guilty before God, you will be justly condemned to hell forever for your violations of God’s holy Law. The sinner can grasp that.
Why? Because the sinner has the Law of God written in his heart. That’s why I say that the evangelist has an ally in the heart of the sinner, namely the Law of God. In the book of Acts, the twenty-fourth chapter, I’m just thinking, there’s an illustration of this. Felix arrives with Drusilla in verse 24, sent for Paul, heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. So here’s a sinner, an unconverted Gentile ruler, he hears Paul talk about the gospel. And as he’s discussing righteousness, self-control and judgment which would be a discussion about sin, the standard of righteousness, the inability of the sinner to control himself and the consequent judgment to come, Felix became frightened. There is a classic illustration of the fact that in the heart of the unregenerate sinner is the Law of God written so that this sinner panics under the condemnation that comes from the Law that leads to the need for faith in the gospel.
There is ignorance in the mind of the sinner. There is blindness in the mind of the sinner. There is deadness in the sinner. But it is not so as to make the sinner inexcusable. Jesus said, “You will die in your sins, because you believe not on Me.” It is not that this natural darkness and blindness is to be compounded by God because God has given an incomprehensible message. God is not compounding the difficulty by giving a message that is virtually not understandable. This is not Kabala. This is not Gnosticism. This is not hopelessly confounding allegories. These are not muthos, this is logos, this is clear word. The problem with understanding is not due to the ambiguity of the Scripture. The problem with not understanding is due to the willful rejection of the sinful soul for which every sinner is morally culpable. The fault, listen, is not with God’s Word. It’s not going to work for the sinner to show up before God someday and say, “I really…I wanted to understand it, I just didn’t get it.” The sinner gets it.
You heard a testimony tonight from an atheist who read Psalm 19, “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the expanse shows His handiwork.” And he was yanked out of atheism by the nape of his neck when he realized that that had to come from someone. It’s inexcusable for a sinner to conclude anything else.
And then you saw with Felix a man who is a wicked Gentile who is literally brought to the point of sheer terror because he is so convicted by the Law and the conscience that’s in his own heart under the preaching of righteousness and judgment by the Apostle Paul as he endeavors to lead him to faith in Christ. Scripture is plain enough to make the sinner responsible, inexcusably responsible. That is why Hebrews 10 says the more you know about the gospel, the worse your punishment is going to be of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy who has trodden underfoot the blood of the covenant and count it an unholy thing.
If you know the full story of the gospel which is comprehensible, which is understandable, and you reject that, there’s a greater condemnation. The sinner’s problem is not that the message is muddled, that God mumbled. That’s not the problem. Here’s the problem. John 3 verse 19, here’s the divine judgment, this is the verdict God gives. This is the judgment that the light has come into the world. Okay, what does the light symbolize? Clarity, understanding, truth, the light has come into the world, here’s the problem. Men made a choice. They loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, doesn’t come to the light for far that his deeds will be exposed. He that practices the truth comes to the light.
So here’s the problem. The light shines. In fact John 1:9 says Christ is the light that lights every man that comes into the world. The light shines. Men love the darkness. It is even light to those who hate it. It is even light to those who run from it.
Now I understand the work of the Holy Spirit brings about salvation. All I’m talking about is the fact that the Law, judgment, righteousness, sin, that’s clear and that’s clear in the heart, even with those who do not have the Scripture or the written Law, Romans 2 says. And the gospel…that’s clear. The story is clear. It is perceivable. The problem is man’s love of the darkness. The message is not ambiguous. People don’t reject it because they can’t figure it out. They frankly reject it because they can figure it out. Scripture is clear because God intended it to be clear so as to hold people accountable and guilty before God.
Another way to look at it would be 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned.” It’s clear that you better love the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s not hard to figure out. And the consequences of not doing that are not hard to figure out either. And when you look at the teaching of Jesus on this issue of clarity, when you look at His conversations with people, and His disputes with people…in all of the conversations of Jesus, and we’ve been through all of them in our studies of the gospels through the years, He never responds to anybody’s question about any of the divine revelation.
When they come and ask Him questions about things related to divine revelation and divine will and God’s intent, so forth, never does Jesus say, “Well, I understand the Old Testament is really unclear.” He never says that, never. He is speaking to first-century people who are a thousand years removed from David, 1500 years removed from Moses, and about two thousand years removed from Abraham. But he still assumes that such people are able to read and rightly understand the Scripture.
He doesn’t say to people, “I understand how your problem arose. The Bible is really an old book. Wow, it’s a couple of thousand years old that stuff about Abraham. Such a different world, how could you be expected to understand that?” He never says that. Whether He’s talking to scholars, rabbis, or untrained common people, He says this to them, “Have you not read…have you not read?” Matthew 12:3; Matthew 12:5, Matthew 19:4; Matthew 22:31, “Have you never read the Scriptures? Haven’t you read?” He even said, “You’re wrong because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God,” Matthew 22:29. And in every case, that’s an indictment. You ought to know, you ought to know, it’s there, haven’t you read it? The assumption is that if you read it, you would understand it. This is not mystery, this is not hidden truth. The rabbis got all caught up in that…not any Scripture in the Bible anywhere is intended to be a mystery, only to be unfolded by certain Gnostics who have some secret elevated knowledge.
Old Testament Scripture is made fully clear in the New. And we can’t understand all of it without the New. As 1Peter says, “The prophets that wrote what they wrote looked into the scriptures they wrote to see what person and what time these things would be fulfilled.” Obviously not the whole story is there in the Old Testament, but what is there is comprehensible and understandable.
And then when you come into the New Testament, the epistles are written and I think sometimes we think that the New Testament was written for seminary professors. It wasn’t. In fact, seminary professors are a dangerous lot to turn the New Testament over to. Not ours, but most. You could pile up probably 85 percent of the seminary professors around the world and they would get it all wrong. You can’t really trust them because they’ve come up with interpretations of Scripture that you could never get by reading a Bible. You’d have to buy it from a dead German critic. Most of the New Testament epistles are not written to church leaders even. They’re not written to pastors. Timothy and Titus, yes…but the rest, they aren’t written to pastors, they are written to scholars.
How about this, “To the church of God which is at Corinth?” How about this, “To the churches of Galatia?” “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi…all the saints,” and so it goes.
The assumption is this is for everybody and everybody needs to read this. And in reading it, they will understand it. The book of Romans, which seems to some people to be so very complex, is addressed to all who are beloved of God in Rome called saints.”
When Paul closes out the book of Colossians, that’s a pretty weighty book, isn’t it? The book of Colossians…he says this, “When this letter has been read among you, after you’ve read it there in Colossae, send it over and have it read in the church of the Laodiceans. And then, by the way, I wrote a letter to the Laodiceans, make sure they send you that letter and you read it to the Colossians.
These letters were written to plain ole ordinary first generation believers and they were understandable. You know, I don’t think the New Testament is that hard to understand. I think part of the problem is we have so much bad interpretation over the last two thousand years to muck up the waters of what is pretty clear.
The first century Christians understood it and they were largely Gentiles. They had no previous background in Christianity. They didn’t come out of a Christian culture, Christian society, they had no prior understanding of Israel, no prior understanding of the Old Testament, the history of Israel, divine revelation and the Old Testament. And yet the New Testament writers show absolutely no hesitancy in expecting the Gentile Christians to be able to read the Old Testament or a New Testament letter in their own language and get it.
Think about the argument in Romans 4. Paul’s writing to Romans and they’re Gentiles, and he makes this case in the fourth chapter about Abraham two thousand years ago. The whole fourth chapter is a critical illustration of the reality of justification by faith alone as illustrated in the life of Abraham. And the expectation was that they would fully understand it, fully grasp it. Paul writes to the Corinthians and we all know what the Corinthians came out of, right? In the tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, I was reading it just today, and he says, “Do you remember the story of the Exodus?” And he goes all the way back to Moses fifteen hundred years before, you remember what happened to those people in the Exodus who decided to get a little over confident and start to live on the edge of their liberty? You know what happened to them. They fell into idolatry, they fell into immorality, they fell into grumbling and complaining. They even fell into testing God.
And guess what? They died, three thousand of them, twenty-three thousand of them, seventy thousand of them. And these things, he says, have happened as examples unto us. You can understand that. That’s not difficult to understand.
Look, it’s not arrogant to say you know what the Bible means. It is not arrogant. It is to be expected to know what the Bible means. Does that mean we can understand absolutely every nuance, every tiny detail, every interpretation of every obscure aspect of Scripture? No…no, even Peter said there were things about Paul that are hard to understand, remember that? Peter said there are some things Paul wrote that are really hard to understand. And I will agree with you. There are some things hard to understand, but we know what those things are that are hard to understand. And I’m not talking about the things that are impossible to understand. That’s another category like the Trinity. You have to stop at some point and leave it alone because you’re not going to help yourself if you just keep chasing that inconceivable reality.
But it is true that there are some things that are hard for us to fully understand. But please do not connect conviction about a true interpretation of Scripture with arrogance. And do not connect uncertainty with humility. That is ridiculous. We need humility where we need humility, but we don’t need some kind of false humility that says I’m so humble I don’t…I would never say what’s true about the Bible. That’s not humility, that’s just stupidity.
It was G.K. Chesterton, the twentieth century British writer who said, “What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place.” Yeah, that’s not where you want your humility. “Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth and this has been reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert, himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt, the divine revelation.”
And he goes on to say, “We’re on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.” This is post-modernism. Actually to deny the clarity and certainty of Scripture is not humility, it is arrogance of the worse kind, it is a kind of blasphemy that accuses God of having the inability to communicate what He wanted to say in a way that could be understood.”
Look, God holds people accountable with regard to their eternal destiny for their understanding of His revelation, both in nature and in Scripture. Is God unfair? Is this so obscure and ambiguous? A revelation that God is unfair in holding men accountable for understanding it and rejecting it?
I don’t think so. Scripture does have its heights and depths of truth, I agree. There are things in the Scripture that my mind can grasp as to the facts but not the reality, the full reality of it. There are some things in the Scripture that we can’t always be sure about. I remember many years ago I preached a sermon on a Sunday night, many, many years ago when I first came to Grace, on why the Antichrist will be a Jew. The next week I preached on why the Antichrist would be a Gentile because in the middle of the week I thought that wasn’t right. So for a long time we left both of them in there so you could take your pick. Actually he might be a Jew, he might be a Gentile…there’s some things that we don’t know until they come to pass, the prophetic things.
And there are things in Scripture that are hard to understand, but if you do your work and you let the Scripture be its own interpreter and you bore down into the text of Scripture, you can come to understand with a measure of clarity everything that God has revealed to us in some way.
And people will say, “Oh, what about the baptism of the dead in 1 Corinthians? What about the baptism of the dead, what does that mean?” I don‘t know what it means. What does it matter what it means? They knew what it meant. Paul says you don’t want to tamper with the baptism for the dead, that’s not good. It’s too late, they’re dead. Being baptized for them won’t help. We don’t know what it was, but it doesn’t matter what it was.
I read a dissertation one time, 44 explanations of what that could be. It doesn’t matter. It’s wrong. That’s all you need to know, it’s wrong. So you don’t need all the nuances of what kind of wrong, it’s wrong.
So we do understand things hard to understand, as Peter says about things of Paul. But I’m saying all this to let you know that we can interpret the Scripture accurately. Look, I went through an exercise when I went through the Study Bible of having to interact with every single verse on the pages of Scripture. Okay? Every single verse on the pages of Scripture, every verse, every phrase, every paragraph, what does it mean, what does it say, where’s it going? And obviously there were some things to obvious that I didn’t write any notes because it was apparent. There were other things that I came to understand by my careful study of the Word of God. And the study that I did was primarily within the context of Scripture itself, letting Scripture itself once you put together some of the linguistic things, getting to the original language and the historical things, reconstructing the setting, because whatever the Bible meant when it was written is exactly what it means now. Okay?
You hear people say, “We’ve got to bring the Bible into modern times.” No, please, don’t do that. You can’t bring the Bible into modern times without tampering with it. What you have to do is take the modern reader into Bible times. You’ve got to go back because what it meant in its context is what it still means. That is why, and you know this if you’re here at Grace Church, every sermon is in some measure a history lesson. Every time we go into a passage of Scripture, we wind up back somewhere other than where we are because you have to reconstruct the setting in order to get the meaning in its original context.
And I will tell you this, in all the years that I’ve been doing this, I don’t think I’ve ever invented any doctrine. If I have, I need to find it and get rid of it because the Scripture is not to be privately interpreted. The things that I believe I can find support for and better articulation of in every century in the past going all the way back to the time the New Testament was written.
You know, sometimes I kind of feel like I’m out there on my own because I’m saying things that others aren’t saying in this society. But I can always find a whole long line of dead people who did say it and I can stand on the shoulders of those people. Those who take a stand in the pulpit today for the truth against the grain of this kind of contemporary ambiguity, they might kind of out there on their own in today’s climate, but historically they’re not on their own, they’re preaching what faithful men have always preached, they’re teaching what faithful men have always taught. And there’s a vast, vast array of men through all the generations of the church who taught the same thing.
Well, okay, that was a long introduction. But I needed to give you that because you need to know when we say…Look, we’re trying to teach people how to get the meaning of Scripture. This isn’t some arrogant thing on our part. This is to be expected. Do I need to remind you of the words of the Apostle Paul that should be familiar to anybody who ever attempts to teach the Word of God? Listen to 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of Truth.” If you don’t accurately handle the Word of Truth, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. If you don’t get it right, you need to be ashamed of yourself.
Look, I’m not that smart. This is not that difficult. The truth is there. It has been assaulted through the years and many…I know, I write Bible commentaries and from the very beginning of writing those commentaries, I determined that I would never ever place in my commentaries and then try to answer people who criticized and misinterpreted and misrepresented the Bible. Many commentators feel like they’ve got to resurrect the critics, resurrect the people that wrote the wrong things about the Bible and then argue against them all the time. That simply puts unnecessary information in people’s minds. It tends to weaken their conviction. There are seminaries where people go and the seminary professors think that, that the student wouldn’t be educated if he didn’t know everything that was wrong and everything that was possible as an interpretation of everything. And what you get is people who are so confused they can’t really ever stand up and say, “Thus saith the Lord,” cause they just don’t know. We are committed to the fact that there is a true understanding of Scripture, that that true understanding of Scripture is clear in Scripture, that God’s intention is to make it clear, particularly to His own people, and that’s why He gave us the Word, and that’s why He gave us the author of the Word to dwell in us and be our truth teacher, the anointing we have from God. We can come to know the truth.
The truth that we teach here, the truth that I preach here was what I was taught by faithful men and what they’ve taught me through their books and through their lectures through the years and through their influences. This is what I teach and it’s tested in every generation and it’s tested by every man. You understand that every one of the men who serve on this staff test what we believe every week when they prepare to preach and prepare to teach. Every one of our seminary professors are backed up against the doctrinal statement of the seminary in the church, every time they teach every passage they teach to see if it’s consistent with the Word of God and it stands the test of time, generation after generation, after generation.
It makes no sense for people to show up at this point and say, “Well, ambiguity is the best thing and certainty is idolatry.” They’re kicking dirt on the graves of the faithful in the past.
So, all of that to say we teach people how to explain the meaning of the Scripture. Do we sometimes maybe miss an interpretation of a verse? Sure. But that doesn’t affect the whole, that doesn’t affect the truth, the core doctrines, the truth. And in all cases we don’t draw some crazy new teaching out of a novel isolated interpretation of any Scripture.
So, the Bible can be understood. It must be understood because the meaning of the Scripture is the message from God, and if we don’t know what it means, we don’t have the message. And that’s why we teach people to do Bible exposition. And the work of Bible exposition is hard work. It’s hard work because you’ve got to go down into the text to draw it out.
Now you know that. You sit here on a Sunday and you’ve read passages that I preach and I tell you things about those verses that you didn’t hear before, right? I mean, once in a while don’t I say something you haven’t heard before? Okay, I hope, I mean, I’ve got justify my existence, I guess. But I mean…and you say, “Well I didn’t see that in that passage, I never saw that in that passage. That’s fresh. That’s a new insight.” Where does that come from?
Look, that doesn’t just come out of the air. As one preacher said, “Oh, I just get my sermons down.” Really? That’s frightening. I promise you, I don’t get mine down, I get them up. And they come up from the crucible of meditation and study. And so we bring the Word of God in its true meaning the best we can, aided by the Holy Spirit to the people of God all around the world. That’s our whole mission enterprise. And it’s expanding and exploding and growing. And there’s so many fronts that you don’t even know about.
We were talking earlier today about Josiah Grauman who teaches a seminary here for Hispanic pastors. How many? I don’t know, 60, 80, 70 guys come every week and there are another hundred and some odd on line that he teaches and he’s training pastors in the Spanish language to be able to do this. And he has written the first in history Greek grammar written originally in Spanish so they can handle the Greek text.
Why do we do this? Why do we take a couple of hundred Hispanic pastors and train them? So that they can take the Word of God and explain its meaning to their people. We’re doing it in Croatia, we’re doing it in Japan, we’re about to launch in Lebanon, wherever we go this is what we do because this is what people have to hear, right?
Well okay. Now do you remember what I told you last week? Maybe? I gave you seven reasons why we do this. Number one, because it establishes the authority of God over the mind and soul of the hearer. That’s why we teach the Word of God.
Two, it affirms the lordship of Christ over His church. It lets Him speak to His church and not anybody else.
And we also said, number three, we exposit the Scripture because it facilitates the work of the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit does His work through the Word. So it establishes the authority of God, affirms the headship of Christ, and facilitates the work of the Holy Spirit.
Fourthly we said, expository preaching and teaching manifests submission to Scripture…it manifests submission to Scripture.
Fifthly, we said, it connects the preacher personally to the regular sanctifying grace of Scripture. Remember the point that I made? That the personal benefit the preacher gets out of the exercise of expositing Scripture is he has exposed himself to the sanctifying work of the Word in his own life.
What have I done for years and years? Twenty, thirty hours, sometimes forty hours a week, sometimes more, exposing myself to the Word of God which is being exposed in every area of my life to the revelation of God, to God Himself, to the Spirit of God, and that’s a sanctifying grace without equal.
Number six, Bible exposition provides spiritual depth and transcendence for the souls of the people. We talked about worship. You want elevated worship, you want to go up in real transcendent worship. You have to go down in understanding. And I gave you an illustration of that this morning. You probably picked up on it. What were we talking about? Who were we talking about this morning? Talking about the Holy Spirit, right? I was trying to get you to understand things about the Holy Spirit’s work that you perhaps had not thought of before. And to think about what the Holy Spirit has done as the Spirit of life, in giving you life from the dead, freeing you from the Law of sin and death which was catapulting you into everlasting judgment. And then you begin to see perhaps in a fresh way that you have been born of the Spirit, you have been given life by the Spirit. Now you have a new appreciation for the Spirit and we close the message this morning by reading a hymn of praise to the Spirit. See the elevation of your worship is in direct proportion to the depth of your understanding. And most Christian people who never go down in the Word, never go up and so whatever worship happens is some kind of an emotional stimulation, rather than that which comes from the mind.
And then number seven, we do Bible exposition because it permits the preacher to fully speak for Christ. It permits the preacher to fully speak for Christ whom he serves, to declare the mind of Christ in everything.
Now I have eight more that I didn’t even get to. So we’ll put it off another week. You know, this is kind of enjoyable actually, because I have no goals so I can just go where I want to go. I’m trying to process this new experience and it’s very enjoyable. So this means another…we’ll do another Sunday night next week, on this. I think it’s helpful to nail this down for all of us. And then I’m going to transition into some other series and I’m going to tell you about that. I haven’t quite decided how I’m going to set them up, but I’ll let you know by next week. But I have the rest of them for next Sunday night. So come and be encouraged again with what we do and the way we do it. And I’m telling you, folks, you cannot overestimate the value of a force of men coming out of that seminary every year who do this…who do this and train others to do this, whether they go overseas or go somewhere in the states, they tend to start training centers. They send…they tend to grab guys around them who want to preach and teach and they teach them how to do this. And this is literally a movement that’s happening, that basically you’re a part of right here at Grace Church, how wonderful is that?
Father, we thank You for the time we’ve had tonight. What a joyous fellowship we’ve enjoyed and we thank You for the encouraging testimonies that we have heard. We are without words to express our gratitude for the salvation that You have provided for us in Christ, that You have made us a part of the glorious church, Your body, that You are our head. That You’ve called us to proclaim Your Word, Your message. O Lord, how grateful we are for all that You have done in our lives individually, collectively as a church family and even beyond to the world. Lord, continue to use this church greatly as a launch point for those who would go across this world into every possible corner and explain the meaning of Your holy Word. We’re so thankful for that. We’re thankful that we can even do some of that through radio in English and Spanish and in Russian television in Arabic and books translated into all kinds of languages all over the world and we just thank You for all that You’re doing to spread the truth of Your precious Word which saves and sanctifies and provides the hope of glory. Continue to do that. Keep us faithful. Keep us vessels unto honor, fit for the Master’s use, and we’ll thank You in the name of Christ. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.