As we saw last time, we must have certain settled convictions before we ever step in the pulpit. We looked specifically at our convictions about our God and about ourselves. This time I’d like to take a look at the necessary convictions about our Bible.
This is especially necessary given that the Bible is what the minister of the Word has been called to proclaim, and with out settled convictions here, all might well be lost. We recognize that God, out of nothing but His mercy, has spoken and continues to speak to all of humanity through his works of creation and providence. And while this “general” revelation makes God’s goodness, wisdom and power known, it is not sufficient to show lost sinners the way of salvation. For this reason, in a further display of His mercy, God made a “special” revelation of this necessary knowledge. It is this special revelation about which the preacher must have certain clear convictions.
First, we must believe that God, by a mighty work of the Holy Spirit, has infallibly secured an accurate and permanent written record of His special revelation. This work of the Holy Spirit, commonly called inspiration, secures an infallibility that extends to every word of Scripture. In other words, we must have a settled conviction about the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.
Second, especially in a day when Scripture is being questioned and undermined at every turn and when every man, woman, and even child regards their own opinion as the final authority, it is essential that the preacher be completely convinced of Scripture’s ultimate and final authority. The preacher must not only understand, but communicate that the words he preaches are not his own but God’s, and as such they are not optional, but are binding upon all.
Third, the preacher must be convinced that the Word of God is God’s all-sufficient and only sufficient method of saving sinners and sanctifying the saints (cf. Hebrews 4:12-13). The Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes this nicely when it says:
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (WCF 1.6)
Finally, the preacher must be convinced that while there are difficult passages of Scripture, it can be interpreted using the ordinary means God has provided. Again, the Westminster Confession of Faith puts this quite succinctly:
Those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (WCF 1.7)
There is a balance that needs to be struck here. On the one hand, God has made enough of His word so clear that only blind and willful disbelief will not understand. On the other hand, God has made enough of his Word so deep that even the most faithful minister must depend on divine enlightenment rather than his own intellect.
Having seen the convictions we ought to have regarding our God, our Bible, and ourselves, tomorrow I’d like to take a look at the last necessary conviction we ought to have settled long before we begin to preach: namely, our convictions about our hearers.