Throwback Thursday: Brian Walsh on the Postmodern Problem with Grand Stories

Throwback ThursdayChristianity is a story. That’s because the Bible is a story. One big, rich story spanning thousands of years. In my experience teaching and explaining the grand story of Scripture, I have noticed how much this excites children and teenagers. They love to trace the story. They love when I am about to teach a passage of Scripture and ask, “So, where are we in the big story?” The story of Scripture is one of glorious and grand redemption. God’s redemption of sinners through Christ for his glory is the primary theme of the story carried out from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. Realizing this will transform the way you read the Bible forever.

But while this truth brings me (and truly nearly every person I have taught) much joy, many postmoderns are repelled by this metanarrative. Far too often, evangelicals are ignorant of secular worldviews. It is important to consider what the secular culture believes, so we can intelligently engage their positions and meet them where they are with the gospel. While the secular worldview has gone beyond even the postmodernism of the late 20th century, much of the secular worldview today can still be described as postmodern in nature. Why is the grand story of Scripture repugnant to the secular culture? In a book written in 1996, Brian Walsh gave a compelling answer.

Postmodern culture is deeply suspicious of all grand stories. Again, The Smashing Pumpkins prove to be insightful in this regard. In their infinitely sad song, “tales of a scorched earth,” they sing, “we’re all dead yeah we’re all dead/inside the future of a shattered past.” We live inside the future of a shattered past because that “past” told grand stories of Marxist utopia, technological freedom, or capitalist paradise. Yet we have come to see not only that these stories are unfinished, but that they are also fundamentally unfinishable, for the simple reason that they are fundamentally lies. The postmodern ethos insists that stories such as these that have so shaped our lives are not stories of emancipation and progress after all, but stories of enslavement, oppression and violence. And on such a view, any story, any world view, that makes grand claims about the real course and destiny of history will be perceived as making common cause with such violence and oppression. This characteristic of the postmodern shift is, I think, the most challenging to Christian faith. If there is one thing that Christianity is all about it is a grand story. How else can we interpret the cosmic tale of creation, fall, redemption and consummation that the Scriptures tell? Yet it is precisely this story that we must tell in a postmodern culture. In the face of dissolution of all grand stories, Christians have the audacity to proclaim, week after week, the liberating story of God’s redemption of all creation. It is, we insist, the one story that actually delivers on what it promises.

And that is the difference between the metanarrative of Scripture and the metanarratives of other ideologies and worldviews: The grand story of Scripture delivers on what it promises. Let’s not fail to continue to tell this story and pray that those we share it with find themselves in it as the people God has redeemed for his glory and our joy.

11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram. You can follow Mathew on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.


Throwback Thursday: Thomas Boston on the Supremacy of Scripture

Throwback ThursdayIn the catechism ministry I lead on Wednesday evenings, we just finished looking at questions and answers relating to the Word of God. The catechism I adapted from historic Reformed catechisms, such as the Westminster Shorter and Baptist Catechisms, is divided into six major sections. The first section deals with the Bible. Over the past few weeks, we have studied the content, purpose, message, and nature of the Bible.

Q 2. What teaches us how we should glorify God by enjoying him forever?
A. The Word of God alone teaches us how we should glorify God by enjoying him forever.

Q 3. What is the Word of God?
A. The Word of God is the Bible made up of the Old and New Testaments and inspired by God.

Q 4. What does the Bible mainly teach?
A. The Bible mainly teaches what man must believe about God and what God requires of man.

The questions do not encapsulate everything within the doctrine of the Word of God, but they do cover most of the crucial and fundamental aspects of the Bible. What I want the kids I lead to come away with is a sense of what the Bible is and what it is for. I feel confident that most of the kids know the nature, purpose, and basic content of the Bible.

But more than a thorough and impressive head knowledge, I want the kids I lead to come away dumbfounded by the Bible. I want them to see it as amazing that God speaks. I want them to see Scripture as supremely satisfying for their lives. Because of this, I believe it is more crucial to our ministry for our leaders to show enthusiasm and joy over the Bible than to say kids should be enthused and joyed over the Bible.

Only when the Bible is seen as supremely valuable; only when it is seen as a precious treasure, will it be obeyed. There are countless competing pleasures in the world and many worldviews demanding obedience. Once we see and understand the Bible is revelation from God himself, where do we go from here? Christians far too casually confess the Bible is God’s Word. If that massively radical statement is true, then what should it mean for our lives. If the Bible truly is what it says it is, what now?

Scottish theologian Thomas Boston (1676-1732) presents four exhortations for Christians approaching the Bible. If you hold that the Bible is God’s Word, inerrant, infallible, and supremely valuable, then consider Boston’s exhortations.

  1. Let us highly prize this book for the sake of the author. The Ephesians thought that they had good ground to be zealous for the image of Diana, because they fancied it fell down from Jupiter, Acts 19:35. Your Bible is a book really come from God; let us be ashamed we do not prize it more, by using it diligently to the ends for which if was given the church.
  2. Let us believe it in all the parts thereof; the commands, that we may study to conform ourselves to them; the promises, that we may thereby be encouraged to a holy life; and the threatenings, that we may thereby be deterred from sin. Alas ! though we own it to be the word of God, that we are no more moved with it than if it were the word of man, and such a man as we give little credit to. For compare the lives of the most part with it they say, it is but idle tales.
  3. Let us submit our souls to it, as the oracles of the living God. He is the great Lawgiver, and in that book he speaks: let us own his authority in his word, and submit to it as the rule of our faith and life, without disputing or opposing.
  4. Let us study to be well acquainted with it, and make it our business to search the scriptures.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Thy Word is Truth: 13 Reasons to Trust the Bible

BibleChristianity and the church stand or fall on the reliability of Scripture. As a reformed-ish Southern Baptist, I hold to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. This means when I read, study, teach, or preach the Bible, I believe I am seeing, hearing, speaking, and proclaiming the very word of God. The entirety of my faith and knowledge of God, truly the only way that I know God, flows from the river of the Bible. This grand Book is more than a masterpiece of human literature (though not less). The evangelical view of the Bible is that it is God’s self-revelation, and therefore entirely authoritative for the Christian’s life and the church’s practice.

Along with this view is the clear implication that if the Bible is not true, or if it is manipulated, then the entirety of the Christian faith falls apart. While the existential work of Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection are the rockbed of Christianity, the truth of which would not be diminished if the Bible did not exist, the testimony to this historical reality is absolutely crucial for the work of Christ to benefit us. The only way for us to know God is for God to reveal himself to us. He does so through the person of Christ and the Scriptures.

Without the Scriptures, we would have no ground to stand on, and truly, we would have nothing to say, and our faith would be non-existent. But because we believe God has clearly spoken in the Bible, we cannot keep quiet. The ultimate question for all Christians is this: Can you trust the Bible?

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, reformer John Calvin once wrote, “So far as human reason goes, sufficiently firm proofs are at hand to establish the credibility of Scripture.” He proceeded to give thirteen reasons the Scriptures are worthy of our full trust and devotion. Hopefully this summation of his discussion will help give you greater confidence in the message of the Book you will read and share this week.

1. The Superiority of the Message

Calvin stated, “Scripture is superior to all human wisdom.” According to Calvin, Scripture is uniquely majestic and impressive. Contrary to popular criticisms, the Bible is not contradictory, which makes its unifying message both awe-inspiring and divine. The “heavenly” nature of Scripture is found in the fact that over the course of thousands of years, through various cultures, and from the pens of a great variety of men, the Bible carries a unifying message and theme. This is simply amazing.

Calvin marvels at the fact that though the language of Scripture is plain enough to be understood by all, its majesty is found in the “grandeur of subjects,” not language. In other words, we do not stand in awe of Scripture because it possesses the literary eloquence of a Victorian novel, but because “the force of the truth of Sacred Scripture is manifestly too powerful to need the art of words.”

2. The Decisive Content of Scripture

Calvin admits that great portions of Scripture, especially the prophets, possessed an eloquence of speaking that “yields nothing to secular writers.” But, no matter the style, whether beautiful poetry or rugged prophecy, the “majesty of the Spirit will be evident everywhere.”

3. The Great Antiquity of Scripture

The message of the Bible extends backward of some thousands of years. It is no mere coincidence that the message of Scripture has been passed down so many years. We are well to marvel at such antiquity.

4. The Truthfulness of Scripture (as shown by Moses)

Calvin argues that Moses is a great example of the truthfulness of Scripture due to how personally involved he was in his writings in the Pentateuch. For example, the best way for Moses to leave a personal legacy would be for him to establish the priesthood from his sons. But he doesn’t do this. The priesthood is established through Aaron. Why? Because that was the word of the Lord.

5. & 6. The Strengthening Nature of Miracles

There are numerous miracles recorded in Scripture. We often take them for granted. But for Calvin, they serve as a source to strengthen Scripture’s own claim to inerrancy. Moses and other writers would have a lot of nerve to testify to a miracle that didn’t happen to those who would know whether or not the event was true or not. For people who came out against Moses so often, testifying to a false miracle would have definitely incurred the wrath of Israel.

7. & 8. The Fulfillment of Prophecies

Calvin also argues that it is hard to argue against something that existentially proves itself to be valid and true. This is especially true when the fulfilled prophecy is contrary to what Calvin calls “human expectation.” He asks, “When David was anointed by Samuel, what visible reason was there for the transference of the kingly power?” None of us would naturally assume that lowly David would be not just the next king, but the king from who the ultimate King would come. However, this is the testimony of Scripture, and when such un-expectations are fulfilled, we must marvel at its reliability.

9. The Transmission of the Law

Similar to his argument from antiquity, Calvin finds tremendous support for the reliability of Scripture in the fact that it was continuously passed down. We must never neglect texts that survive thousands of years. And when texts have been preserved thousands of years and continuously held as authoritative and divine, we would do well to take notice and find reason for reliability.

10. The Preservation of the Law and Prophets

Piggy-backing on his point on transmission, Calvin shows why these texts have survived for millennia. The Scriptures have survived numerous attempts to stomp out Christianity and its sacred writings. This is not an accident, as it is evidence for God’s hand in the preservation of his word. The Scriptures have survived ungodly monarchies, invasions, exiles, dictators, and various persecutions. With Calvin, we should “ponder here how much care the Lord has taken to preserve his Word.”

11. The Character of the New Testament

Calvin says that the New Testament is both simple and heavenly in its character. Calvin claps a thunderbolt of argumentation down on critics of the Scriptures. He essentially says that you cannot honestly come away from the New Testament, particularly John, Paul, and Peter, and deny its heavenly nature. He strongly declares with maybe not-so-convictional-kindness, “Let these dogs deny that the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles; or even let them discredit history. Yet the truth cries out openly that these men who, previously contemptible among common folk, suddenly began to discourse so gloriously of the heavenly mysteries must have been instructed by the Spirit.

12. The Unvarying Testimony of the Church

While the consensus testimony of a body like the Church should not be the primary defense for the reliability for a doctrine, it should definitely not be ignored. Calvin writes, “Since the publication of Scripture, age after age agreed to obey it steadfastly and harmoniously. By countless wondrous means Satan with the whole world has tried either to oppress it or overturn it, to obscure and obliterate it utterly from the memory of men–yet, like the palm, it has risen ever higher and has remained unassailable.”

A bombardment of human arguments against the reliability of Scripture has hit the church, yet it stands firm in its 2,000 year submission to the Bible. The church has remained uninhibited. The church stretches across both time and cultures, but all hold to the supremacy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture. In the words of Calvin, “Such agreement of minds, so disparate and otherwise disagreeing in everything among themselves, ought to move us greatly, since it is clear that this agreement is brought about by nothing else than the divine will.”

13. The Testimony of the Martyrs’ Blood

Calvin’s final reason for the reliability of Scripture is that it is soaked with the blood of martyrs. He writes, “It is no moderate approbation of Scripture that it has been sealed by the blood of so many witnesses, especially when we reflect that they died to render testimony to the faith; not with fanatic excess, but with a firm and constant, yet sober, zeal toward God.” Pascal’s words are apropos: “I believe the witnesses that get their throats cut.” It is one thing to claim to believe a text is inerrant and inspired by God. It is quite another to die for said belief. Countless men and women throughout the history of the church have given and lost their lives for the Scriptures. Though not the primary reason for the Bible’s reliability, it is worth recognizing that people do not intentionally lose their lives for falsehoods. People have been losing their lives for the Bible since the beginning of the church.

Even with these reasons and many more that could accompany them for the reliability of Scripture, I cannot emphasize enough that these facts will not grant you a saving knowledge of God. In the words of Calvin, “yet of themselves these are not strong enough to provide a firm faith, until our Heavenly Father, revealing his majesty there, lifts reverence for Scripture beyond the realm of controversy.” So, if you struggle to trust the Bible or have friends who hesitate to embrace Christ because of doubts over Scripture, you can reason for Scripture’s reliability, but ultimately we must rely on God’s grace to grant true saving faith and confidence in the Bible.

Take courage in your evangelism and defense of Scripture, because as Calvin reminds us, “But those who wish to prove to unbelievers that Scripture is the Word of God are acting foolishly, for only by faith can this be known.”

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

How Should Kids Approach the Bible?

bible-lessons-for-kidsLast night I taught a group of about 20 kids about the supremacy of the word of God. We have been talking about the purpose of man in all of life as glorifying God by enjoying him forever. And we have learned that there is only one way to know how to glorify God by enjoying him forever–the word of God. God has chosen to reveal himself most clearly in a book and in a person, both of which we call the Word.

After teaching primarily that the Bible is our only rule, guide, instruction, and authority for Christian living, doctrine, holiness, and faithfulness, I moved to call the kids, the adults, and myself to one particular thing in relation to the word of God. I called everyone in attendance to treasure, cherish, value, love, and adore the word of God as the one thing in life that will never fade. As the prophet Isaiah declared, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:8). Similarly, one psalmist wrote, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Ps. 119:89).

However, this is only good news if the thing that stands forever is greater than everything that fades. If the joys that fade are more satisfying than the word of God that will stand forever, we should weep. However, the word of God is life. It is like refreshing water for a dry and thirsty heart. The joy of the word of God surpasses all other joys. The satisfaction found in it and ultimately in its Author is enough to fill your soul with pleasure for billions and billions and billions and billions (you get the point) of years.

In our kids ministry, we reward kids for bringing their Bibles to our Wednesday night activities. This is for one reason and one reason only; that they would see the unsurpassable worth of the very word of God. Knowing the Bible is valuable, but it is a means to an end. Studying the Bible is important, but it is a means to an end. Enjoying God as he has revealed himself in his word is the ultimate end for every man. And by God’s grace he ushers many sinners into this joy.

So, how should we approach the Bible? How should kids and adults alike approach the Bible? With the adoration and desire of the psalmists…

I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
and shall not be put to shame,
for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.
I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes (Ps. 119:46-48).

The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces (Ps. 119:72).

Therefore, I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold (Ps. 119:127).

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb (Ps. 19:10).

Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser
than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Ps. 119:97-103).

…and the Puritans

My Father,

In a world of created changeable things,
Christ and his Word alone remain unshaken.
O to forsake all creatures,
to rest as a stone on him the foundation,
to abide in him, be borne up by him!
For all my mercies come through Christ,
who has designed, purchased, promised,
effected them.
How sweet it is to be near him, the Lamb,
filled with holy affections!

Let me know that he is dear to me by his Word;
I am one with him by the Word on his part,
and by faith on mine;
If I oppose the Word I oppose my Lord
when he is most near;
If I receive the Word I receive my Lord
wherein he is nigh.
O thou who has the hearts of all men
in thine hand,
form my heart according to the Word,
according to the image of thy Son,
So shall Christ the Word, and his Word,
be my strength and comfort. (“Christ the Word” in The Valley of Vision)

May all kids and adults who are in Christ pray like this and desire the word of God and the God of the word with similar blazing passion.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

One Question All Churches Will Face Tomorrow

img5Tomorrow, Christians will gather in many different churches in many different traditions in many different settings. Some will meet in buildings with stain glass windows and steeples. Others will meet in buildings that resemble arenas or warehouses. Some will meet in hotel conference rooms and some will meet in homes. There will be 300 year-old hymns and 3 year-old contemporary songs played and sung by bands, choirs, and soloists with the accompaniment of pianos, keyboards, drums, guitars, organs, or nothing at all. There will be 20-minute, 30-minute, 45- minute, 60-minute (maybe longer?) sermons preached. People will sing. People will pray. People will give. People will sleep. Some things will never change. However, some things already have.

In American churches, theological liberalism is experiencing a resurgence with the dramatic social and cultural changes, especially with regard to marriage. Many denominations are experiencing change as a result of their willingness to submit to cultural pressure. Fears of appearing irrelevant, intolerant, and ignorant have led many denominations to flee biblical orthodoxy for the sake of cultural relevancy and approval. While the issue of so-called gay marriage is by no means the sole factor in the rise of theological liberalism, I believe it is proving itself to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back on many denominations and churches within denominations. As a result, denominations and churches that had not previously denied the inerrancy of Scripture, are finding it much easier to do now since it is virtually impossible to hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and affirm homosexual behavior and relationships.

The point of all this is to say that every single church in every single Christian denomination is going to be faced with the same question tomorrow morning: Will you trust the Bible?

Trusting the Bible is Trusting God

For theologically conservative churches, this question will be empowering to answer affirmatively and debilitating to answer negatively. In what most conservative scholars agree to be Paul’s final letter, the apostle reminds his protegé, Timothy, to hold fast and continue in the sacred writings he has learned from childhood as he leads his congregation and faces false teaching in and out of the church. He strongholds Timothy’s ministry by describing the character of the word of God he would later command him to “preach” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Paul writes,

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 (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Because the entire Bible is inspired by God, it is wholly infallible and inerrant. Paul also describes the Bible as being profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness. What this simply means is, trusting the Bible is trusting God himself.

Will you trust God’s Word? Every single text of this holy Book is God-breathed and therefore holy, divine, inerrant, infallible, Spirit-empowered, and Christ-centered. It is all that we need for salvation and holiness. Do you trust that today? Your soul is craving and your heart is searching for answers on how to deal with all sorts of physical, emotional, and spiritual afflictions and sufferings. Will you rest in the grace and power of God in his Word? While there are invaluable resources that can aid in our sanctification, most deeply, we need the God-breathed Bible to transform our hearts so that we may think, feel, and act to the glory of God. Left to our own devices, we would cave at the pressure of false teaching and suffering, and so would Timothy. But like him, as children of God, we must heed Paul’s reminder that our satisfaction and most ultimate good are found in the all-supreme and all-sufficient Word of God.

Trusting the Satisfying Word of God

However, if you have not experienced God’s grace of teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness in his Word, it is probably due to the fact that you are not in his Word. It is difficult for us to hunger and crave Scripture when our minds and hearts are filled with sports, work, and TV. I assure you and Paul assures you that the Word of God is more satisfying than these things. Food will ultimately fail you. Sports, work, and TV will all eventually fail in satisfying you. But the Word of God will never ever fail to satisfy your soul. Trust God’s Word for your joy because it is gloriously supreme as breathed out by God. And trust God’s Word for your joy because it is completely sufficient for your sanctification in Christ. There is a deep craving within your soul that is far greater than any other craving that will be satisfied by the all-supreme, all-sufficient God-breathed Scripture. Face false teachers and suffering with confidence in the grace of Scripture to sustain you and satisfy you. May we dive in head first into the glorious sea that is God’s Word and swim to find our greatest treasure.

“More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey 
and drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10).

“The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Ps. 119:72).

“Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold” (Ps. 119:127).

Closing Thoughts on the Word of God

Will you just stop with me for a moment to consider and marvel at this thought? The book that you will hold in your hand tomorrow morning is not just any book. It is a book in which every single word is God-breathed or uniquely intended by God to be written in a specific time by a specific writer. We should hold this book in the highest esteem and approach it with fear and trembling. It is not a plaything to be tossed around or a worldly work to be treated lightly. These words that we are reading and studying are from the One who created the Milky Way galaxy and the amoeba. May we never be flippant or silly with this Word. And may we always fall before this Word in submission and worship because of its unbelievably God-like nature. What unfathomable love! What amazing grace!

All churches, despite their preferential differences in worship style, will continue to face the same question. Some have responded with rebellion for the sake of unity with the culture. Thank God that some have responded with submission and obedience for the sake of unity with the Christ. God has revealed himself in his word. The question is yours: Will you trust the Bible?

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

The Nature of Scripture: All Scripture is Supreme


As I established in my previous post, both the Old and New Testament are at play in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, when Paul wrote to Timothy:

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.

In light of this, we need to make some observations about “all Scripture.” All Scripture is supreme in the life of the church and in the lives of every believer. This truth is summed up in one phrase. All Scripture is breathed out by God.

Scripture has a Divine Origin

What does the phrase “breathed out by God,” or “God-breathed” mean? Concerning the authority of Scripture, Wayne Grudem writes in his Systematic Theology, “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”

There is an intrinsic and special connection between God and Scripture because Paul says that all Scripture is the very word of God. “Breathed out by God” in this context seems to be a metaphor for speaking the words of Scripture. Unlike all other books that have ever been written, the Bible has at its core divine DNA. It comes to us through human agents, but its content is very specifically, the words from God. Notice that Paul writes that it is Scripture that is inspired by God, not the authors. This emphasizes the divine nature of the very words themselves that we find in the Bible. Timothy can be certain that every word that he preaches is from God and not from man (2 Tim. 4:2). Because Scripture is God-breathed, this indicates that it is also completely truthful and holy.

Any book written today must stand the test of peer review and evaluation in light of similar works in that particular field in order to substantiate the claims of that book. This is because authors are flawed, no matter how gifted. However, when it comes to the holy Scripture, its Author is the opposite of flawed. The reason you see “Holy Bible” written on the front or side of your Bible is because it is the direct product of an infinitely holy God. The character of this Word reflects the character of the one who spoke it. And the supremacy of the Bible is self-evident as it attests to the supreme Being who created heaven and earth.

This means that when it comes to Scripture, there is no higher authority for the church and there is no higher authority for our lives as believers. We must submit to every single text of Scripture as it is all from God. To disobey Scripture is to disobey God.

Amazing Grace

Will you just stop with me for a moment to consider and marvel at this thought? The Bible is most certainly a book, but it is not just any book. It is a book in which every single word is God-breathed or uniquely intended by God to be written in a specific time by a specific writer. We should hold this book in the highest esteem and approach it with fear and trembling. It is not a plaything to be tossed around or a worldly work to be treated lightly. These words that we are reading and studying are from the One who created the Milky Way galaxy and the amoeba. May we never be flippant or silly with this Word. And may we always fall before this Word in submission and worship because of its unbelievably God-like nature. What unfathomable love! What amazing grace!

Three Striking Implications

In light of the supremacy of Scripture, there are three striking implications for the church and Christians today.

1. No text of Scripture is insignificant

All Scripture is God-breathed, and therefore contains a divine element that demands attention and submission. It is all-important and all vital for our faith and for the satisfaction of our souls. Man cannot live on bread alone (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).

2. No text of Scripture is more authoritative than any other

For example, if Jesus did not say something, but Paul did, this does not mean that it lacks authority because Jesus didn’t say it. All Scripture is God-breathed.

3. No text of Scripture can be ignored

This impacts our preaching and Bible study. We cannot only preach or study the four Gospels. We cannot only preach or study the New Testament. Instead, recognizing that all Scripture is God-breathed, we must give ourselves to the preaching and reading and studying of both testaments and all 66 writings. If the pastor asks you to turn to Ezra or a Psalm or Leviticus, do not turn him off. If your daily reading is in Deuteronomy or 2 Chronicles or Romans, do not blow it off. Reading two lines out of Leviticus or two pages of genealogies out of Nehemiah will do more for your soul than reading an entire book written by C.S. Lewis or J.K. Rowling because Leviticus and Nehemiah have the special imprint and revelation of God himself.

We are not at liberty to pick and choose to obey only those passages that agree with our finite philosophies or wishes. Scripture is not subject to our will, but rather to the will of the one from whom it is breathed out! All Scripture is from the Spirit of God and because of this it is all holy and good and true. This means that when we come to difficult passages, we do not have the option to disregard it or deny it, for when we do so, we are denying God himself. It is therefore important to learn how to study the Bible. Yes, you want to wield a sword when an enemy attacks you, but if you do not know how to wield it correctly, you are great risk of maiming yourself. In the same way, if we do not know how to properly wield the Sword of Truth, we will only be maiming our souls.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

Is the New Testament God-Breathed?


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. –2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is a crucial question for the validity of the Christian faith and for witnessing to orthodox Jews. In order to answer this question, we must take a variety of things into consideration. Firstly, we must conclude from the context of this passage and the context of the New Testament (NT), that when Paul refers to “Scripture” (γραφη), he is always referring to the Old Testament (OT). Paul was specifically referring to the OT as Scripture when writing to Timothy. It was the OT that Timothy’s mother and grandmother had taught him from childhood (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). The Greek word for “Scripture” is used 51 times in the NT and every single occurrence refers to the OT. Nothing in this passage indicates that Paul is referring to any other writings that were circulating around the early church at that time.

Now that we are clear that Paul is referring to the OT in this passage, it is crucial that we understand what he meant by the word “all.” The Greek word for “all” can be just as easily and correctly translated as “every” in this passage. So, Paul is saying, “Timothy, every single portion of Scripture is from God and it is for your good!” It is not just a portion of the OT that Paul commends to Timothy. It isn’t just those epic stories or the monumental figures and events that serve as types of the Christ who was to come that Paul commends to young Timothy. No, Paul says that it is all Scripture, the entire OT, that is breathed out by God and profitable.

This is so crucial for us today. We can be so guilty of minimizing the importance of the OT. Because of cultural differences between the original authors and us, we often simply ignore the reading and study of many OT texts. The OT is not just a collection of cool stories to entertain our children in Sunday school or provoke us to speculate how tall Goliath really was or just how big the fish was that Jonah was swallowed by. The OT is authoritative and God-breathed Scripture that we will see should hold a place of supremacy in our lives.

All of the OT is God-breathed and profitable. So, all of the genealogies. All of the gruesome battle descriptions. All of the names that are so difficult to pronounce. All of the Law. All of the imagery of the prophets. All of the poetry of the psalmists. All of the suffering of Job. All real. All inspired. All authoritative. Scripture does not glean its authority from our capacity to understand it and it is not waiting for our finite and sin-ridden approval. Scripture gleans its authority from the One whom spoke it. Paul is essentially saying to Timothy, “Timothy, every single OT text is supreme and sufficient for your salvation, sanctification, and ministry because it is breathed out by God. You need it in order to face false teachers and suffering!”

All Scripture: New Testament

What about the New Testament? It is important to understand what Paul wrote to Timothy about Scripture in its historical context. As we have seen, both the historical and literary context demands that we understand “all Scripture” as referring to the OT. The question then quickly becomes, if Paul meant only the OT writings when he spoke of “all Scripture,” (and I think he did) then how can this verse apply to the NT writings? Or better yet, does this verse even teach that the NT is God-breathed as well? In short, I believe that this verse, though directly meaning that the entirety of the OT is God-breathed and profitable, carries with it some important implications that allow for the inclusion of the NT within the scope of the phrase “all Scripture.”

Is the New Testament included in “all Scripture?”

We must understand that the NT writers used the Greek word for “Scripture” in a very unique way. When they use it, they are not just referring to everyday writings. They are talking about holy writings that come from God himself. In other words, “Scripture” is a special and holy category that exclusively includes written revelation from God. Everything included in the category “Scripture” is God-breathed. At the time that Paul writes this letter to Timothy, only the OT was strictly considered “Scripture.” Only the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings were included in the category they called “Scripture” (γραφη). So, when the NT writings were added into this special and holy category called “Scripture,” it can be said of them that they are God-breathed. He simply writes to Timothy that “Scripture” is God-breathed and necessary for his sanctification and satisfaction. Though in context he was speaking of the OT, the implications of this meaning can include the NT if the NT is Scripture.

Can the New Testament be Considered “Scripture?”

This leads us to another question. Can the NT be considered in this holy and special category (Scripture)? There are five good reasons that we can consider the NT as “Scripture.”

Reason 1: In two places in the NT, we see the NT writings themselves being called “scripture” (2 Peter 3:16; 1 Tim. 5:18).

Reason 2: Jesus viewed his own teaching as having the authority of God. In John 14:10 he says, “I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”

Reason 3: Paul also considered Jesus’ teaching as having unique authority (1 Cor. 7:10; 11:23-26).

Reason 4: Jesus prepared his apostles to speak with divine authority (John 16:13).

Reason 5: The apostles claimed to be inspired by God (1 Cor. 2:13; 7:12, 40; 14:37; 2 Cor. 13:3).

It is clear, then, that when Paul wrote that “all Scripture” is God-breathed, he is referring to the Old Testament directly, and by implication, the New Testament. Therefore, it is worthy of your trust. Worthy of your devotion. Worthy of your obedience.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

The Living and Powerful Word of God: Meditations on James 1:21

img5I have never understood the tendency to separate the Spirit of God from the word of God. This unnecessary and unbiblical dichotomy affects preaching, Bible study, and daily Christian living. Christians rave about the power of the Spirit, but practically scoff at the power of the word. Some even prefer their pastors to not prepare sermons and fully “rely on the Spirit” in preaching. This is not only the case in charismatic circles. Even in well-meaning Baptist churches, prayer for the Spirit to move is viewed in connection to worship music or an invitation at the end of a service. There are surprisingly many Christians who believe that expository preaching and careful study of the Bible is unnecessary for the Christian life. Instead, they argue that we need to “experience” the Spirit of God and rely on the Spirit of God instead of the word of God.

In the face of this errant separation of Spirit and word is the witness of Scripture.The Bible conveys a direct connection between the Spirit of God and the word of God. God desires worshipers who worship in Spirit and truth. The Bible speaks of the Spirit granting the new birth (John 3:3-8; 6:63). When the Spirit is sent, he dwells within believers. At the same time, when the word of God comes in the gospel, it is implanted in us (Jam. 1:21). This relationship between the Spirit of God and the word of God greatly aids our understanding of the role of the word of God in our lives. The word of God is not mere text or lifeless revelation. It is a living and moving, breathing and working power that is a vehicle for life and a catalyst for faith.

The Word of God Saves?

James says something that is radically contrary to modern rejection of the Bible. If you question the relevancy of the Bible, heed this word: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jam. 1:21, emphasis added). Notice in verse 21 how the implanted word of God is “able to save your souls.” How necessary then is the word of God for our lives? It is absolutely crucial. It is vital for your salvation, for your perseverance in the faith. The word of God saves us. How are we to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”? How are we to be doers of the word and not just hearers? How are we to practice true and pure religion? We must receive the implanted word of God!

Our souls depend on the implanted word and our reception of it. Rejecting the word of God is like rejecting the very oxygen you need to live and breathe. The gospel demands the life-giving external word of God. Christians suffocate when they stop receiving the word of God. A closed Bible on a shelf is like a closed mouth and nose refusing to breath. When you miss a day of receiving the word of God, you should feel short of breath.

Receive the External Word

But how do we receive the implanted word of God? The implanted word is the message of the gospel that we received at the point of believing in Jesus. God plants the gospel in our hearts in the new birth. This implanted word fuels a desire for the external word of God, which is the Scriptures (Genesis-Revelation). We receive the implanted word through our reception of the external word. The power of the implanted word (the gospel) to save us feeds on our reception of the external word. It is through this transaction that the word of God powerfully works to save our souls.

Receive With Meekness

Now that we have seen that Christians are to receive the implanted word by receiving the external word, we will look at the manner James urges us to receive the word. This is a crucial lesson in Bible study and sitting under preaching. The context of this passage is of hearing the word. James says we should hear the word of God in specific ways; ways that oppose hasty and angry speech and attitudes. We should hear and receive the word of God with meekness. This means we should approach the Bible with humility and be quick to submit to it. When we open our Bibles to receive God’s word, we must do so with a trusting heart. We must ask God to help us to understand and delight in what we read. We must ask God to grant us the grace to willingly and gladly submit to his word. When we approach the Bible in this way, we receive it with meekness.

So, instead of rejecting portions of the Bible you personally find difficult to understand or accept, humbly trust God to teach you and meekly submit to God’s goodness and glory when you fail to grasp a certain biblical text. Remember, the thriving of your life as a Christian is not dependent on your level of understanding, but on an already implanted word (the gospel) that abides in you and is working for the completion of your salvation.


There are at least four important implications to draw from this passage.

Firstly, we can rest in the power of the gospel. The gospel is not a weak and fleeting power that is here today and gone tomorrow like a visiting political power. No, the gospel is the power of God to save (Rom. 1:16). The gospel takes root in your heart and creates the new birth. Stop trying to earn your own righteousness. Stop trying to give yourself life. Instead, rest in the work of Christ who died to give you new life through the word of his gospel.

Secondly, we need the gospel every day. It is the message of the gospel that was implanted at the new birth. It is this implanted word that fuels faith. In order to sustain your faith on a daily basis as you actively “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness.” All sin-killing efforts are fueled through meek reception of the word of God.

Thirdly, we must have the gospel on our lips every day. If the gospel is the means of the new birth, then we must actively seek to evangelize our lost friends, family, and even those we do not know. All men and women are both born in sin and dead in sin. Because of this, our only hope of life with God is rebirth. Rebirth comes through the word of the gospel. So, we must go with gospel everywhere we go. In the words of Paul, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

Fourthly, we cannot afford to neglect the word of God. James says the implanted word of God is “able to save your souls” (Jam. 1:21). So, the best thing we can do for our souls is to open the word of God and feed our hungry souls the bread of life.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

How and Why Was the New Testament Compiled?–Reflections on New Testament Canonization

biblicalGreek Manuscript of 1st Corinthians 13I have had many discussions with Christians and non-Christians alike about the Bible. We have talked about many themes in the Bible, the reliability of the Bible, the inerrancy of the Bible, and the sufficiency of the Bible. As I often say, I believe the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture is the elephant in the room of endless theological, biblical, and ecclesiastical controversies. All controversies in the church all boils down to one’s view of the Bible. This is why my wife and I passionately taught the K-3rd graders this past Wednesday night the following questions and answers:

Q. What rule has God given to teach us how we may glorify and enjoy God?

A. The Word of God is the only rule to teach us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.

Q. What is the Word of God?

A. The Word of God is the Bible, made up of the Old and New Testaments, and inspired by God.

When teaching the last part of that answer (“inspired by God”), Erica and I emphasized the Bible’s direct reflection of God’s character. So, what you say about the Bible is what you are saying about God. If the Bible is flawed or errant, then so is God. Second Timothy 3:16-17 directly connects the Bible to God’s character. The only reason evangelicals, like Al Mohler, emphasize the inerrancy of Scripture so ardently is the fact that the eternally perfect God has spoken. When God speaks, all of creation, including fallen man, must react and respond accordingly.

But something I have noticed is an increasing question among young Christians, particularly, regards how we received the New Testament that we find in the pages of our Bibles. We know the New Testament was inspired by God, but humanly speaking, where did it come from? Who compiled the Gospels, history, epistles, and apocalyptic literature that we find in the New Testament? When was the canon closed? Why was it closed? These questions are important for Christians to consider from time to time. What I love about students is their desire to learn and not simply accept something as truth without consideration. I attempt to answer some of these questions below, but for a more thorough look at the development of Scripture as we have it today, I would point you to Paul Wegner’s The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible.

How and why was the canon of the New Testament closed? “Canon” is a term that refers to a “collection or list of books accepted as an authoritative rule of faith and practice.” This word derives from a Hebrew word meaning “reed” or “stalk” that were used as measuring sticks. So, when we speak of the canons of the Old and New Testaments, we are referring to an authoritative rule that is our measuring stick for life.

The process of New Testament canonization was settled around 400 AD in the Western Roman Empire. However, in the East, everything was not settled for an additional 200 years. There were certain factors that hastened the canonization of the New Testament.

(1) The Old Testament by itself was inadequate for the reason that there was not enough that was explicit about the person and work of Christ. It was in the Gospels and Epistles that Jesus of Nazareth was explained, encountered, and experienced as Savior. The Church that was initially satisfied with the Old Testament began to realize over time that the fullness of God’s revelation of himself and Christ was explained in the Gospels and Epistles.

(2) The eyewitnesses of Christ all were dead by the early second century AD and those who knew the apostles soon died as well in the following decades. The Church recognized that if there was to be an accurate and authoritative record of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and the subsequent implications, then those documents written by those eyewitnesses needed to be protected and preserved.

(3) Heresy began to arise in the earliest Church. More serious and severe heresy that threatened the survival of the basic understanding of the true gospel began to emerge in the following centuries. Canonization helped protect the Church and the gospel of her Christ.

(4) There were good and useful books written by second and third generation believers and these books often were useful to the church. However, these went along with heresies in the sense that they were written by those who did not know Christ or the apostles personally.

(5) The use of the codex form allowed for books containing multiple documents. The church was prompted to collect books and bound them together in the same volume.

A vital consideration in New Testament canonization is centered around this question: Is the New Testament canon a list of authoritative books or is it an authoritative list of books? If the authority resides in the documents, then they are authoritative and inspired. But if the authority resides in those who made the list of the books in the New Testament, then the authority lies in those who made the list and not in the documents themselves.

In the West, our current New Testament format was initially canonized with the exception of Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude. In the East, our current New Testament format was initially canonized leaving out James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. The East was more open to extra-canonical books. By 393 AD, however, our current canon was established in various places. There were various factors that delayed New Testament canonization of which included the fact that the Church already had a Bible (the Old Testament) as well as a few other factors.

So, what were the standards writings had to meet in order to be considered for inclusion in Holy Scripture? The criteria for canonicity are as follows:

(1) Apostolic authorship or a direct connection to the apostles.

(2) The origin of the book must have been established in the apostolic era. The book had to be written and known in this era.

(3) The books had to be consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. True revelation from God is found in Christ and by extension, the writings of his apostles.

(4) The book had to have the power to spiritually edify those believers and congregations that used it.

The history of the Bible is simply fascinating. The preservation of Scripture and the process of canonization is evidence of the sovereign goodness and grace of God. We live in a unique time. The Word of God is readily accessible. This was the dream of men like Wycliffe, Hus, Tyndale, Erasmus, Luther, and Calvin. Thank God for the authoritative rule of faith and practice that we have in the Bible. Be grateful for the revelation of God in Christ in the New Testament. Remain ever in awe of the fact that God has graciously chosen to reveal himself through words. Read them. Obey them.

Why (and How) We Should Read the Gospel of John This Month: A Word to FBCEB


The faith family of which my wife and I are members (First Baptist Church East Bernstadt) has committed to read and study the book of John over the next thirty days. Though I typically do not read the Bible in this fashion, I am going to add this to the reading plan that I have been on all year because I believe that unity among believers is best forged in the fires of diligent, disciplined, and corporate Bible study. I believe if our faith family will commit to corporately giving ourselves to the study of the Gospel of John over the next thirty days, then small groups, Sunday School classes, families, couples, and individuals will be radically effected from the inside out. Saturation in the Word of God is the breeding ground for satisfaction in God. And where there is satisfaction in God, obedience to God becomes a grace of delightful duty rather than a legalistic lull in your otherwise self-sufficient life. 

The rest of this post will dually serve as an unpacking of the final sentence of the above paragraph and as a personal challenge and encouragement to my faith family at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. In essence what I want to do is give you a biblical and theological motivation for reading through the Gospel of John these next thirty days.

Note that I wrote it is “saturation in the Word of God” that brings about all of these things (Christian unity, delight in God, holiness through obedience, etc.). This sparks some questions that are particularly pertinent to the believers at FBCEB (and more generally) to all believers everywhere. Is it enough to just give a passing glance to the Gospel of John over the next thirty days, FBCEB? Is it enough to give five minutes to merely reading a few verses in order to “stick with the program” or be a part of what the church as a whole is doing or to check off the next box on your daily religious check list? Well, yes and no. Go with me here.

God’s Word is Sufficient

Firstly, in one sense it is enough to just read the Bible. Submission to the shepherd-leadership of the pastor is important. So, if you are reading John’s Gospel because our pastor asked us to, then you are not at all on the wrong track. Also, it is enough to just read the Bible in another sense. You do not have to do anything to unleash the power of Scripture in your life. There is no mystical chant, no special ritual, and no right or wrong time or place to read the Bible. The power of the Bible is in the One who sovereignly wrote or inspired it. Remember, all Scripture is God-breathed (the Gospel of John included). It has the imprint of God and by nature is divine. Because of this, simply reading the words of God in the Bible through the pens of men, is very sanctifying. The Holy Spirit through the Word pierces our hearts and satisfies our souls. I am not talking about reading John 1, for example, and then trying to find a list of things to do today based on that passage, which will satisfy you. What I mean here is that reading what God himself, your Creator-Redeemer has written is powerful enough in the hands of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts.

Dig Deep for Precious Treasure

Though this is true, we should definitely not stop here. Although there is not a right or wrong time or place to read the Bible, I believe that there is a right and wrong way to read the Bible. And although I will contend that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts through the words of God in Scripture just through reading, this assumes a right kind of reading and the Spirit works more powerfully when he is more heavily relied upon through diligent Bible study. So, FBCEB, do not blindly read through the book of John over the next thirty days. Do not casually skim over the glorious content of this Gospel. There are invaluable treasures buried deep within the pages of this Gospel. Digging for the most precious of treasures takes work.  In order to saturate yourself in the Word of God, you must read, study, and meditate on the Word of God. The reason that I am so utterly satisfied in my wife is because of my frequent saturation in who she is. If I rarely talked to her, casually spent time with her, and only thought about her when she was with me, my satisfaction in her would be absent. However, when I think about her when she is at work, text her throughout the day, write about her, talk her ears off when she gets home, take her on dates, and spend significant time with her, my delight in her is only increased and she is clearly seen as being supremely valuable and worthy over all other humans in my life. My satisfaction in her and her honor or glory are connected. It is the same with Bible study. In the words of John Piper, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Reading for God’s Glory by Satisfaction in Scripture

Faith family, if we commit ourselves to casually reading the book of John over the next thirty days in order to appease our pastor, family, friends, or small groups, then we will be wasting our time and making God out to be a needy and empty river that has dried up. I have a different challenge for us all. Instead of reading John’s Gospel for our pastor’s pleasure and instead of reading John’s Gospel as a way to earn God’s favor, I encourage you to read John’s Gospel for your own satisfaction. Basically, read John’s Gospel for you. Because when you do this, you will be satisfied and God will be glorified. Reading to the glory of God is reading to the holy satisfaction of self. Note I did not write “self-satisfaction.” This is not just any kind of satisfaction. This is satisfaction in God. So, read and study the Gospel of John these next thirty days in such a way that you are utterly satisfied in God. Why should we read the Gospel of John? For the glory of God in our satisfaction of him in his Word. God’s Word is an ever-flowing, ever-satisfying river. This river flows from the Fountain that is always full. Come and drink.

We Need Grace

As I have argued, satisfaction in God in his Word is highly dependent on saturation in the Word of God. Saturation in the Bible means we should not only read, but study by asking questions and taking notes, and meditate by thinking about what we have just read and sitting in prayer over what we have just read. The best way to do this is to make use of valuable resources to aid you in your study. In the next post is a vast array of different resources from study Bibles to commentaries. I pray that you will make use of these because I know they will serve the purpose of helping you saturate yourself in God’s Word. From there, depend on the power of God’s grace in his Word to change you from the inside out. Finally, remember, that in all of this hard work, in all of this diligent study and faithful reading, you must rely on God’s grace. Relish and rely on God’s grace to empower you to read and study. Relish and rely on God’s grace to forgive you when you fail to read and study. Do not fall into a legalistic lull by jumping in headlong into the vast and satisfying pool of God’s Word. Your holiness will increase. And it will be sweet.

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