When someone says that the Bible is sufficient, they usually mean that the Bible has everything a person needs for life and godliness. The Bible contains everything that we will ever need to be saved or live a godly life. But it does mean more than. Second Timothy 3:16 says that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." That means that not only does the Bible contain everything we need, but that everything it contains is valid for my life. It is all sufficient to teach me, reprove me, correct me, or train me in righteousness. I fully and completely believe that. Well, at least I think I do!
My sermon on Sunday really tested my view of this. Maybe I was just having a hard day, but I struggled with my sermon. I do not mean that I struggled in the preaching of it. I think there were some very valuable things that I learned for my own life (I shared one of them yesterday). What tested my belief in the sufficiency of Scripture was not what I took from the text after hours of study, but it was simply my desire to read the text on Sunday morning for the congregation. Let me take you inside my mind as I read the text from First Kings 7.
"He also made the ten stands of bronze. Each stand was four cubits long, four cubits wide, and three cubits high. This was the construction of the stands: they had panels, and the panels were set in the frames, and on the panels that were set in the frames were lions, oxen, and cherubim. On the frames, both above and below the lions and oxen, there were wreaths of beveled work. Moreover, each stand had four bronze wheels and axles of bronze, and at the four corners were supports for a basin. The supports were case with wreaths at the side of each. Its opening was within a crown that projected upward one cubit. Its opening was round, as a pedestal is made, a cubit and a half deep. At its opening there were carvings, and its panels were square, not round" (vs. 27-31).
It was about at this point while I was reading the text that my mind began to wander. It is amazing how I can be reading one thing but thinking about another thing. The mind is an amazing creation. My honest thoughts at this point were this: "Why am I reading this? What's the point? This is so boring, this is probably the last week that some people will ever be at our church." But I kept going . . .
"And the four wheels were underneath the panels. The axles of the wheels were of one piece with the stands, and the height of a wheel was a cubit and a half. The wheels were made like a chariot wheel; their axles, their rims, their spokes, and their hubs were all cast. There were four supports at the four corners of each stand. The supports were of one piece with the stands. And on the top of the stand there was a round band half a cubit high; and on the top of the stand its stays and its panels were of one piece with it" (vs. 32-35).
And I'm thinking . . . "This is brutal. Why didn't I just retell the story? What difference does it make that the top of the stand had a round band half a cubit high? I am for sure boring everyone to death." But I kept going . . .
"And on the surfaces of its stays and on its panels, he carved cherubim, lions, and palm trees, according to the space of each, with wreaths all around. After this manner he made the ten stands. All of them were cast alike, of the same measure and the same form. And he made ten basins of bronze. Each basin held forty baths, each basin measured four cubits, and there was a basin for each of the ten stands. And he set the stands, five on the south side of the house, and five on the north side of the house. And he set the sea at the southeast corner of the house" (vs. 36-39).
And I was done. Thank goodness. And I am sure some of the people at church were thankful I was done reading as well. I finished the sermon, which was probably one of the hardest I have ever had to preach. Then yesterday, I was having one of those sour Mondays and found myself contemplating (1) whether it is worthwhile to preach those texts; and if so, (2) should I read the entire text.
(1) Is it Worthwhile to Preach
The fact that I even asked the question is the reason I said at the beginning that "I think I believe the Bible is sufficient." I know it is worthwhile to study. I know that while I sit in my office studying the text, I am impacted. It is in the Bible. It is from God. It has impacted me deeply. He gave it for a reason. Of course it should be preached. I guess it is like anything else, my convictions should be made before I enter a rough season of life
(2) Should the text be read?
I suppose there are some who would say it is okay to simply retell the story. But here's the deal. Reading that text is the most authoritative thing I did on Sunday morning. It was the only thing that was inspired. It was way more capable to change someones spiritual heart than any illustration I used. And even in this blog post, it contains the only words that are without error (even though you probably favored my words over it by skipping it and reading my commentary on it).
I guess what it does is test my heart. Do I really believe that it is God who opens and changes hearts? Do I really believe that it is God that does the work, not my skilled oratory? Do I really believe that God can and does use portions of Scriptures to change a person, even when I doubt it? I found myself after doubting falling back to Paul's words to the people of Corinth.
"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
I guess reading and preaching a text like that moves me to say that any change in any persons life must be because of God moving in their heart. It wasn't because of me, but only because of Him. I can trust that because it makes no earthly sense to preach such at thing. But by God's grace, I am not called to do things that make earthly sense. Are you?
What Do You Think? Should We Preach Texts Like This? Should We Read Those Texts In The Service?