March 1, 2024

Yes, You Can Trust the Bible!

The Bible is God’s Word, and he speaks to us by it this very day. The Bible is perfect and trustworthy in every way. The Bible speaks with God’s own authority. The Bible is, therefore, sufficient to save you and to guide you to live well. The wise person will read the Bible, heed the Bible, and trust the Bible above everything, including our own speculations.

How did God convey his Word to the prophets and the apostles, such that we can trust it today? Different theories of inspiration have been offered, but conservative evangelicals like David Dockery and I hold to the “verbal plenary” view of inspiration.

This view grants the initiative in inspiration to the Holy Spirit as divine author. The human author, moreover, remains fully involved in the process of writing as a particular human being with distinct experiences shaped by a definite context using personal expression. Due to the supervising authority of the Holy Spirit, the writings retain the quality of inspiration. 

Proponents of this theory ascribe inspiration to the original autographs as written in their entirety, or plenarily, and not just to portions. This theory also affirms that the Spirit led the writers in their choice of certain words. The verbal aspect of verbal plenary inspiration honors the distinctive context, thoughts, and style of the writers. It also recognizes meaning occurs not merely with the choice of particular words but at the levels of sentence, genre, and purpose.

Like many others, I have been driven to a high doctrine of biblical inspiration because this is the teaching of Scripture about itself (2 Tim. 3:15-17; John 10:34-36; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). In addition, Christians often testify how they hear God’s voice palpably through the biblical text. I can attest that, sometimes against my own preferences, God speaks transformative truth to me in his Word. God’s Holy Spirit convicts me, instructs me, and renews my heart with hope every time I read Scripture.

Therefore, I have come to read God’s Word as often as possible. I open the Bible every day on my own in prayer. I use it regularly in congregational worship. I use it to witness to others, hoping to bring them to salvation or to enhance their walk with the Lord. I study it deeply for my mind and for my heart. I cannot get enough of the Bible, because I meet God in it. 

Would you join me in hearing God through his Spirit’s inspiration of his Word?

(This essay is adapted from Malcolm’s most recent book, God, the first volume of the Theology for Every Person series. The book releases publicly next week.)

October 9, 2023

A Trinity Prayer for Revelation

“I pray that the God 
   *of our Lord Jesus Christ,
   *the glorious Father, 
   *would give you the Spirit 
of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know:
   *what is the hope of his calling,
   *what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and
   *what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, 
according to the mighty working of his strength.”

Ephesians 1:17-19

July 5, 2023

Are Only Pastors to Preach? The Biblical View and a Baptist Viewpoint

Is the function of preaching the same as the office of the overseer? Absolutely not. 

Some now argue “the function is the office,” apparently confining all the acts of the office of the pastor exclusively within the office itself. But according to Scripture and the first major Baptist documents, the office and some of its acts must be distinguished.

The Biblical View

Scripture teaches us that the office of the pastor does not dominate all the acts that a pastor does:

  1. Yes, pastors pray and teach and preach. Pastors also voice the dogmatic and disciplinary conclusions of the congregation with the congregation’s authority. But only the last act of the pastoral office—authoritative dogmatic proclamation—is confined to that office (Acts 15:13-21; 1 Timothy 2:12).
  2. According to Scripture, those qualified to be overseers or elders have several functions which are required of non-ordained Christians, that is all other Christians. These include, inter alia, being above reproach, a man being the husband of one wife, being self-controlled, etc. Surely, those theologians who now confine the functioning of an elder to the office of the elder would not dare to say the non-ordained Christian is released from being self-controlled or sensible or respectable (1 Timothy 3:1-4). It is similarly inappropriate to confine all acts of Christian proclamation to the elder.
  3. All may pray and preach in an orderly manner for the upbuilding of the church, as Paul reminds us was the custom of the early church in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14. Moreover, all Christian disciples were given the Great Commission of making disciples, which occurs only through forms of proclamation. Christ did not anywhere in Scripture confine his commission merely to the apostles nor to the church’s overseers. He gave it to all of his disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). The Word of God has its own self-authenticating authority. To claim otherwise is to begin a theological march back to Rome, perhaps through Wittenberg, Geneva, or Canterbury, but not necessarily ending in one of those lesser forms of extra-biblical ecclesiology.

A Baptist Viewpoint

As for Baptist theology, we note one tradition, though we could name many others who have been careful up to this point to refuse to return to the stifling morass of clericalism. Article 44 of the First London Confession discusses the office of overseer; article 45, the activity of preachers. Against the new clericalism, note these truths from foundational Baptist theology:

  1. Early Baptists rejected both Romanist and Magisterial Protestant forms of clericalism, distinguishing preaching from oversight.
  2. They also placed eldership within the congregation, refusing to countenance any type of elitism of one member over another. Mediation belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ, never to a mere man (1 Timothy 2:4). 
  3. Finally, the earliest Baptists followed the Reformers in defining “prophecy” as preaching, according to its simple description in 1 Corinthians 14:3. This preaching is, of course, focused on and empowered by the Word of God. They did not reduce prophecy to oblivion through innovations like cessationism or enthusiasm, as with some modernist commentators.

The 1644/1646 Confession states:

XLIV. Christ for the keeping of this church in holy and orderly communion, placeth some special men over the church; who by their office, are to govern, oversee, visit, watch; so likewise for the better keeping thereof, in all places by the members, He hath given authority, and laid duty upon all to watch over one another.

XLV. Also such to whom God hath given gifts in the church, may and ought to prophecy according to the proportion of faith, and to teach publicly the word of God, for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the church.