I’ve decided to begin posting my sermon manuscripts for your consumption. I’ve edited this past Sunday’s sermon manuscript to make it more readable, so here is my sermon on Scripture Alone.
Scripture Alone Sermon Manuscript
2 Timothy 3:16
I wanted to begin this year with a series about what we believe. When we step out in faith and have gospel conversations, we’re going to encounter different beliefs and denominations. These days, we’re more likely to encounter a combination and confusion that we’ve never seen before in American Christianity.
There are those who just look at a sign and if it says church, they go in and become involved, never knowing the essential doctrine of the church. We need to understand the doctrines and theology of our church.
With that in mind, let’s look at the first of five pillars of our theology. It’s called scripture alone, and for our text we’re going to turn to the second most famous 3:16 in scripture. There’s of course John 3:16 that almost everyone knows, but then there’s 2 Timothy 3:16. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness,” and moving to verse 17 the bible says, “So that the man of god may be complete, equipped for every good work.” In short, we believe scripture is the final and the only authority for our lives.
Through this five sermon series, I’m going to try to give you some of the history as it relates to how we got to where we are today. Through the Middle Ages, roughly the period from around 400 AD until the 15th and 16th centuries, the bible was only available in Latin. The common people, the people sitting in the pews at church, were unable to read the Bible because most of them could not speak Latin. The church at that time recognized the authority of scripture, but as time passed, they also recognized the traditions of the church as having the same authority as scripture, and they also recognized certain statements given by the pope, as having the same authority as scripture.
When the reformation came along, Martin Luther and others began to read the scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew and were also able to translate the scriptures into English. A man by the name of William Tyndale was the first person to translate the Bible into English. He was burned at the stake for his efforts.
Why is this important? The people sitting in the people, your everyday run of the mill church members could now read the Bible for themselves and not have to depend on a priest or a pope to translate and apply the Bible for them.
When people started reading the bible for themselves, they started to see that the bible says nothing about the authority of tradition or the authority of man’s words over scripture. In fact, in passages like 2 Timothy 3:16 make it clear that the bible is our authority. The Word of God is the foundation for our lives.
The words of man, while wise, are not the Word of God. The traditions of man and the church, while some may be good, are not the Word of God. They do not carry the same authority. Let’s look at what scripture alone means.
First, we believe that scripture was divinely inspired by God. The words God breathed, in the Greek, literally mean that God took a deep breath in and then exhaled scripture, or His Word. We also believe that God divinely inspired the pens of human men as they were carried along by The Holy Spirit to write down His word for us. In 2 Peter 1:20-21, the Bible says, “First of all, you should know this: no prophecy of scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by The Holy Spirit, men spoke from God.” There was never and will never be a time when man’s word that comes from man’s mind is equal to
God’s word. If you read your Bible and you find that I am wrong in my sermon, then the Bible is right 100 percent of the time. What I do, is interpret and apply the meaning of scripture for us, but I am in no way infallible. I am in no way perfect, and while I may be guided by the Holy spirit, I am in no way divinely inspired or breathing out God’s word. I am giving you my interpretation and application of scripture, and if my interpretation and application goes against what the Bible says, then I am wrong. If any religious leader says something or interprets and applies scripture in a way that is not Biblical, then that religious leader is wrong, I don’t care how revered he is. I don’t care how many crusades, books, or podcasts, that religious leader has produced, mans’ words will never equal the Word of God.
That’s what we believe about how the Word of God came ot be, and we also believe that the 66 books contained in most Bibles are the only inspired Words of God. There are other religions and denominations who believe there are more than those 66 books, but we believe that those 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, are the only divinely inspired Word of God. I could tell you more about why we believe in those 66 books, and if you want to know more, feel free to ask me. One more word about inspiration before we move on. Almost all denominations who claim Christ believe in those 66 books. The issue becomes the ones who believe in the inspiration of other writings.
Now to the issue of inerrancy. The bible is more than 2000 years old, and in the case of the first books in the Old Testament, and some think the book of Job, the Bible may be as many as 6000 years old. How can a collection of documents survive in tact for that long? We believe the Bible is inerrant. What does inerrant mean? It means that the scriptures are true in all that they claim and are without error.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:4, “Let God be found true though every man be found a liar.” In Isaiah 65:16 the Bible says, “Whoever is blessed in the land will be blessed by the God of truth.” John 17:3, the Bible says, “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.” Are there human errors in transmission of the text? Did the humans who translated the text make some mistakes? I think it’s safe to assume that some minor mistakes were made in each translation. The question to ask about inerrancy is not does every Greek and Hebrew word line up perfectly with every English word. The question to ask about inerrancy is does the Bible communicate truth? The Answer is Yes. Has that truth changed over the thousands of years that we’ve had the bible and through multiple translations? The answer is No. Does the bible ever contradict itself? No it does not. There may be some minor human errors. Some scribe forgot to add a word, or some scribe added a letter where there shouldn’t have been. Those are very minor errors and do not change the truth of scripture. When we start elevating man’s words to the same level as scripture, then we are saying that scripture does not contain the truth that we need, and that we need to somehow improve on the truth of God. We do not need to improve on the truth of God. We have all we need right here in our Bible and we need nothing else because the truth contained in the bible is the only absolute truth we can depend on, the only absolute truth we can build our live on, and the only absolute truth that will stand forever. The Bible says in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers and the flower fades but the Word of the Lord will stand forever.” Long after we’re gone, God’s truth will still be here. Long after our church is gone, God’s truth will still be here. Long after the descendants of our descendants have vanished from this earth, the Word of God, the truth of God will stand forever. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that God is not truthful, that God is not trustworthy. God cannot lie. It is not in His character. What God has spoken is 100 percent truth.
Let’s move on to the issue of authority. The debate over the issue of the authority of scripture comes down to who has the right to tell people what to do and how to live? That’s what was at the heart of the reformation. That’s what was at the heart of why we are who we are today. Who has the right to tell us how to get right with God? During the middle ages, the church continued to claim the right to tell people how to get right with God. Let me illustrate: During the middle ages, the church sold what were called indulgences. That’s a fancy word for forgiveness. In other words, if you paid the right amount of money, your repentance and forgiveness from sins could be sped up, or fast tracked. The church claimed authority over you in that way. I may be over simplifying it a little bit, but the essence was that forgiveness could be bought. The Bible says that forgiveness was purchased through the blood of God’s Son. The Bible says nothing about buying our forgiveness from man. If you search the scriptures, you will not find that practice, but the church, wanting to claim authority over the lives of its members and in some cases, wanting to pad the treasury, claimed that forgiveness could be bought.
Let me give you one a little closer to our century. Do you remember, back in the 90s there was a big battle in a lot of churches about the style of music. Do we want to have contemporary music? Do we want to have traditional music? The final authority on that issue does not rest with what the church thinks, although some saw it that way at the time. The final authority rests with what the Word of God says, and the word of God says that our worship is to be directed to Him. Our worship is to glorify Him. Our worship is to encourage one another as we glorify our Savior. If our worship is doing that, then style does not matter. That’s just one example, and I’m sure there are others. We believe that the bible is the only authority, or the only truth that can tell us how
to live, how to get right with God and lead us in what to do. Does God use pastors and fellow Christians and their interpretations of His Word to accomplish that purpose? Yes He does, but at the end of the day, the final authority rests with the Word of God. If anyone else claims authority over us, they are wrong.
That’s what the reformers believed who broke off from the church back in the 1500’s, but we Baptists have taken authority to a different level. Most of the denominations who came out of the reformation believe the church still holds some measure of authority. For example, the Methodist church still has a hierarchy that appoints their pastors. The church has some say in the matter, but ultimately the final decisions rest with the higher ups in the district. We don’t do that. The Southern Baptist Convention cannot come to our church and make us do anything. Neither can the Missouri Baptist State Convention, nor can the Osage River Baptist Association. We get to make our own decisions, and it’s set up that way because Baptists believe that only the Word of God gets to have authority over us and tell us what to do and how to act, both as a church and as individuals. Baptists are one of the only denominations that does not have a hierarchy that exercises some sort of authority over the local churches, unless you’re an independent church with no denominational affiliation.
Here’s why this is so important. The church, in the Middle Ages, believed that sole authority of interpreting scripture and doctrine rested with the elite spiritual hierarchy. Unbeknownst to the common church member, because remember, they couldn’t all read the Bible in their language, the elite spiritual higher ups began to change doctrine, theology and practices. They also added new doctrine, and even removed the second commandment forbidding idolatry, but to maintain the appearance of ten commandments, they split the last commandment into two commandments.
That is, in a nutshell, what happens when we allow anything but scripture to have authority over our lives and our church.
It’s important to remember that God uses men and women to give us the correct and biblical understanding of scripture. The danger only comes when the words and traditions of men assault God’s Word. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for letting their legalistic traditions rise above or equal God’s Word. He said in Matthew 15, verse 7, “Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said: These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.” The Lord Jesus claims for Himself all authority in heaven and on earth, and He has given us His Spirit and His word, and it is sufficient for us.
John Rogers was the first English martyr and he was a disciple of William Tyndale. Before being burned at the stake, he was interrogated by one of the bishops. The bishop maintained, “you can prove nothing by the scripture. Scripture is dead, and it must have a living expositor.” Rogers replied, “no, scripture is alive.” Rogers was right. “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, able to penetrate as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.”
What can we do with this? Let scripture run your life. Let the Word of God be your foundation. Know God by knowing His Word. There will never be anyone who gets to the end of their life and regrets reading God’s Word every day.
What do you want to accomplish in 2018? Let 2018 be a year where you can say, I got to know God better through His Word. “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of god may be complete, equipped for every good work.”