The Bible is sufficient. Everything necessary to fulfill every good work God wants is found in scripture. If it’s in there, you also know that you can do what it says too. God’s commandments are His enablements. As it relates to service to God, what might be called worship or Christian ministry, a believer should depend on the methods that God gives in scripture. Churches or believers in churches have a certain amount of liberty as it relates to how the methods God prescribes are done. However, a different means than what God designated should not be used. For instance, God wants preaching to save the lost. He wants the plain proclamation of His saving message as a basis for someone’s salvation. That way He gets all the glory. God’s methods through the years, men have noticed, don’t work. They actually do work, but they don’t engender the kind of results that men want, so men have invented ones that will work. The problem with almost all of those methods is that they also produce tremendous amount of false profession and confusion. Even if they all worked, God wouldn’t get the glory for that, and He does want the glory. Another aspect of this is whether people are actually involved faithfully in those methods like the Apostle Paul was, when he said in 1 Corinthians 4 that he was a faithful steward of the mysteries of God.
Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA
When we started the Word of Truth Conference, I wanted a preaching conference that would accomplish more than one goal. Number one, I wanted our church to be edified. Right now it is our one special meeting of the year. We have camp in the summer, but this is it. I think it can be a help to our church people, and if it wasn’t, we would not have it. I want you to be helped by it. The Gospel, this year’s theme, and one for a few years, is the good news we all need. We have no hope without the gospel by which we are saved, and we all need to be saved. However, the Gospel is necessary for believers too. They need to know the true Gospel, and when they do, it will give them a lot to equip them for their own life. So, first, I want our people to get help. After that, I want other preachers and churches to be helped. They can through the recordings, through the videos, through being here, and then through the books that we right. It then can be a conference that keeps on giving, not only for you, but for many others who are not here. That makes it all more worthwhile. We would want a conference anyway, just for our people, but I want to and want you, the church, to encourage people in the Gospel too. Isn’t the Gospel great? Can you enjoy it and appreciate it in its greatness? We don’t want the Gospel messed up. We want it to stay the Gospel.
Our Word of Truth Conference (WOT) is coming up quickly and I want to promote it here. It’s our only conference or meeting like this for the whole year. Why do we do what we do, like we do it with the WOT? First, I don’t think we need much in the way of special meetings. We get very thorough regular, dense preaching that will equip the saints. Second, it is good that we have at least this one, and this gives us the opportunity to hear other like-minded men preach, providing fellowship and sharpening for us. Third, we get a lot of preaching, more than usual, in a short period of time. This improves the Christian walk, like if you put in a flurry of practice on an instrument or work on an athletic pursuit. Four, with the special emphasis every year, in this year’s case, the gospel, we can be built up in that one area. Five, we can help other churches through the visit of their pastors, the recordings, and videos that are watched online. Six, we’ve published one book so far that will allow the conference to keep on giving for years to come. I like accomplishing a lot with our conference. It does a lot for us if we put something into it. You can grow from it, if you work at it, invest time and effort into it. By covering the gospel this year, we get the added benefit of the purity of the gospel and the protection of the gospel, which God obviously wants from His church.
God said about Job (1:8), “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” God said Job was a perfect and an upright man, and then God allowed for him to go through a lot in the way of suffering. He lost a lot and was taken through agony. On top of this, he received the disdain of others around him, as described as the worst possible social treatment anyone could give. Job talks about his life, his standard for staying righteous and he recounts his method for living right in Job 31:1. As you read that chapter, you could characterize the principle as integrity. His life was sincere. It was truthful. He lived what he believed out of a true, a real, relationship with God. He maintained purity by, first, he says, “I made a covenant with mine eyes.” He made a covenant, a promise. Since he made a promise, he had to keep it. He had to stay true to his promise, because he was honest, his life was true. He relates keeping that promise to the judgment of God. God knew he had promised and he was responsible before God. That’s how a person of faith lives, who wants to keep what he believes. He promises and he keeps the promise. Many people would say that they will follow through with their promises in business, but do you keep yours with God?
Last week, I wrote here in this space about methods that churches use to lure people to their meetings, what is called today “church growth methodology.” Entire college or seminary degrees today revolve around the subject of increasing the numbers for church services – how to do that. Churches have lost sight of the purpose of the church. The point of the church is not to gather as many people as possible. Jesus said in Matthew 19:18, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Paul says in Ephesians 4:25, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor.” I would also contend that churches that lure people using worldly means are bearing false witness or lying to people. At the root of their methods is deceit. If Christianity is so great, if the truth is so wonderful, and the Bible is so amazing, then why lie to people about what it is. The gospel is good news. There isn’t actually better news. Nothing can beat Who Jesus is and then what He has done for those who receive Him. Even those who don’t receive Jesus Christ are receiving their good gifts from God (James 1:17). People deserve to know what they are getting. What they are really getting is better than the things they already like as unbelievers. They are getting something different than what they already have, which is why they need it in the first place.
A lot of churches today use methods that we don’t see in scripture. They’re not in there. They are justified by saying that since the Bible says nothing about them, they must be acceptable. They also defend these methods by saying that they are getting good results. So, they’re not wrong, because scripture is silent about these methods, and they’re working. If you criticize them for these methods, they treat you like you don’t want the results, or that since they get those results, you’re just jealous. By criticizing them, they also say that you are adding to the Bible. Since the Bible is silent, your saying something is an addition to scripture. One church may have a rock band, and it uses the rock music to attract unbelievers, since unbelievers like rock music. There isn’t a verse that says anything about rock music. They think that is a suitable or clinching argument. None of what they are saying is true. I can’t cover it all in a short essay, but the most basic argument against is the sufficiency of scripture. We regulate our ministry based upon the Bible. If the Bible is sufficient, then it is sufficient for methods too. Silence isn’t permission. The Bible says something about methods, so those should be used. The Bible doesn’t stop there. It says that the biblical methods bring glory to God. When we depend on what God said, then He gets the glory for the results (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:4).
Could our church be bigger? Could our school be bigger? Would we be more successful, a better church and a better school, because we are bigger? We were bigger both as a church and as a school at one time – much bigger. We enacted purposeful changes, doing things consciously differently, that made us or resulted in us being smaller. It wasn’t necessarily that we wanted to become smaller in number. When we changed, however, we got smaller, and that was good. We’re better now. Even though more people gathered here either for church or school, all of them really were not with us. It is akin to Jesus having 25,000 people following Him for the wrong reason, who then stopped following Him at the end of John 6. Jesus gave a message that resulted in those people not following Him anymore. There are some churches that continue to do what we did, and in many cases much worse than what we did, that have stayed bigger or even become bigger. Especially in the long run, but even in the short term, they are hurting and not helping. Most of the strategies today that go into church growth, that are meant to increase numbers of attendees, are man-centered, humanistic, manipulative, carnal, turn churches into things that are not really churches, and result in many who think they are saved, but are not. Everything is worse because of it.
What is preaching? In 1 Corinthians 1:21, the Apostle Paul wrote, “[I]t pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” The Greek word translated “preaching” speaks of the substance of the message. God uses the substance of what is said. Preaching isn’t a style. What is that substance though? It’s what Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the Word.” This goes along with at least three other truths. One, the noun “preacher” translates a Greek word that means “herald.” A herald represented a king and just declared exactly the king’s message, not mixing his own message at all. Two, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 say that the spiritual weaponry must be spiritual, not carnal, and the weaponry that pulls down false imaginations is obviously the Word of God (cf. Heb 4:12). Three, Peter teaches that verbal giftedness is seen or heard only in the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11-12) — if it is of the Spirit, it must be the Word of God. This mirrors Ephesians 6:17—“the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.” Someone isn’t preaching, who isn’t preaching the Word of God. Sometimes men preach about the Bible or just use the Bible and do not preach the Bible. Some men use a style that parallels with the ecstasy of Corinth that fakes a spiritual experience. Men feel something and think it is the Holy Spirit, but it has been a manipulation of the flesh.
This week I gave some thought to a top reason for rejection of salvation—the unfairness of God. This surfaces in two areas: (1) people who apparently have never heard, and (2) the problem of evil or suffering. People argue they’re justified in rejecting the Bible because it excludes those who’ve never heard about Jesus Christ – they can’t receive a God like that. The second is similar, which is God causing or allowing for evil, which leads to suffering and death, including the death of infants and young people succumbing to cancer. They deem this kind of unfairness unacceptable and so impossible to be the truth. The answers to both are similar. The clay doesn’t say to the Potter, why have you made me such? God is justified in His wrath, because men know Him through creation, conscience, and providence, and suppress that knowledge in rebellion. God gives the opportunity to everyone and that is illustrated again and again in scripture, His not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Lamentations explains suffering – it’s our unfaithfulness, not God’s – He’s always faithful. God is just. God isn’t the problem. People have that wrong. Man is the problem. Man doesn’t deserve saving. God does that out of His grace alone. What isn’t fair, if anything, is our salvation. When people get that and are thankful, they can be saved.
Salvation is by grace through faith alone, and that only authentic grace saves from sin and unto righteousness. When someone is saved, his life will produce the fruit of good works, which is what salvation looks like. So much is accomplished through that salvation, including the purpose of man’s existence, God’s glory and pleasure. We want to be saved. It’s a must, and so the production of the righteousness, the works, is also the assurance of the salvation itself. Our security is found in the work of Christ, but our own assurance is found in our works. This is a good thing. You can’t have assurance, that is, know you are saved, unless you see the works in your life that salvation produces. Those are laid out in scripture. You want to be honest with those. It doesn’t do any good to short shrift the works to something less than what indicates salvation. When that is the case, someone thinks he’s saved, when he isn’t. You aren’t working for your salvation after your saved, but you are working for the blessing of assurance. You’ve got to do that work, but you also will. If you are not, then why not? If you are, then you can do those things. It shouldn’t be a problem to be challenged to do them. You should expect it just like you should expect to do those things that accompany salvation and thereby show that you’ve been saved.