The Impact of the Doctrine of Inerrancy on Preaching
When a pastor steps into the pulpit and begins to teach, what he truly believes about the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is revealed by his preaching. Is he giving good advice, which means standing on his own authority, or is he opening up what God has said and delivering God’s message, standing on God's authority? This short essay will discuss how the doctrine of inerrancy has profound effects on the preacher and the ministry of the church. Three main areas the doctrine of inerrancy impacts in preaching are discussed: (1) carefulness in study and delivery, (2) authority in preaching, and (3) confidence in the sufficiency of the gospel and Scripture to build Christ’s church.
If one believes that every word of the Bible is what God inspired and holds to absolute inerrancy without any mixture of error whatsoever, there will be profound implications on the care one takes when handling the text. Many people love to read fiction, but I don't know anyone who labors over every sentence of fiction writing. People do not diagram out sentences and paragraphs of fiction writing doing their very best to get the authorial intent just right. There is a direct correlation to the inspiration of the text and the care one takes with the text.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (ESV). The preacher who believes this is true will take great care in preparing to stand before God’s people and preach. Time will be spent. Exertion in mind and thought will be given. The preacher becomes like a hunting dog in his studies, searching for the authorial intent of the passage, and doesn't quit until he has found it. Having done the careful study and arriving at the authorial intent, the pastor can now bridge the time and culture gap and bring that truth home to the world in which he lives and stand in the pulpit and deliver God's Word.
The pastor should preach with just as much care as he has studied. His goal should always be to deliver God’s Word as God gave it. Careful study translates into care and accuracy in the pulpit. A baseball pitcher who has conditioned his body all week and put in the repetitions of practice has nothing to fear when game day comes around. As it is with the pitcher, so it is when the preacher enters the pulpit to deliver that which he has labored over.
Next, the doctrine of inerrancy has profound implications for authoritative preaching. The man who steps into the pulpit and does not deliver God’s Word but presumes to know intuitively what God’s people need for their life; and then proceeds to give them good advice or worldly wisdom—is a man most arrogant and dangerous. He stands upon the shaky sand of his own authority, which is no authority whatsoever. When the preacher exposits the Word of God, delivering the authorial intent of the passage, and then applies God’s Word relevantly to God’s people, he stands upon the authority of God’s Word. The preacher has no authority whatsoever in himself. An inerrant text is an authoritative text, and this means the that if a preacher wishes to maximally honor God’s authority verse-by-verse exposition is demanded.
The topical preacher who jumps to and fro while sticking his finger in the wind and then preaches whatever he thinks the people need to hear makes himself the authority of the church over God. While occasional exposition of certain doctrines or topics is needed, these should be exceptions and not the norm. The normal pattern of preaching should be verse-by-verse exposition of whole books of the Bible. Only this manner of exposition delivers to God’s people the authorial intent in its fullest sense. Verse-by-verse exposition also establishes God as the authority of the church and not the preacher. The preacher must trust that God knows what His people need to hear, when they need to hear it, and will speak to them from the text of Scripture.
Lastly, the doctrine of inerrancy unleashes supreme confidence in the sufficiency of the gospel and Scripture to build Christ’s church. In addition to stating the sufficiency of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul said in Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Paul’s life, as revealed in the book of Acts, shows that he firmly believed the gospel as revealed in Scripture was the power of God unto salvation.
The modern preacher today undermines both the sufficiency of the gospel and the sufficiency of Scripture to build Christ’s church with pragmatism. The modern preacher's perverted version of Romans 1:16 is: "I am not ashamed of pragmatism, for it is the power of man for salvation to everyone who believes." When a pastor—even if that pastor professes with his mouth the doctrine of inerrancy—proceeds to build the church upon pragmatism; he reveals that his profession of the sufficiency of the gospel and Scripture for the building of Christ’s church is only lip service. The preacher ends up building his church; not Christ’s church.
The doctrine of inerrancy demands the preacher have supreme confidence in the sufficiency and power of the gospel alone. The preacher who holds firmly to inerrancy needs no gimmicks to lead people to Christ. Additionally, as the church grows, it will grow in confidence of both the gospel and Scripture as the pastor’s confidence and practices become contagious. Inerrancy demands the preacher preach and let Christ build Christ’s church upon Christ’s gospel with Christ’s Scripture.
Inerrancy has many implications for preaching and for the church. This paper only scratches the surface. However, the three issues raised here are profoundly important. Inerrancy demands carefulness in study and delivery. It demands that God speak through His Scripture and not men’s good ideas about man. Lastly, the doctrine of inerrancy unleashes supreme confidence in the sufficiency of the gospel and Scripture in the building of Christ’s church.
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