Several months ago, I was sitting in a restaurant when two women sat down not far away, and I could not help but overhear their conversation. It soon became apparent that the two women were both United Methodist pastors’ wives, and eventually their discussion turned to the recent disaffiliation of many churches from their denomination because of its broad acceptance of homosexuality. One of the pastor’s wives said, “We’ve decided to stay in for now and just see what happens.” The other woman said, “I’ll tell you what I think: Old Testament law doesn’t apply to us. We don’t live under those laws. We live under the law of the United States of America in 2023. We don’t live 2,000 or 4,000 years ago, so those things don’t apply to us.” In just a few short sentences (marked by logical and theological fallacy) she completely dismissed the authority of Scripture, suggesting that man-made laws are more relevant than the unchanging truth of God’s Word.
A short time later I listened to the in-house debate of a local United Methodist church as they discussed whether their congregation should remain in their denomination or disaffiliate. The debate alternated between those who espoused a “traditional” view of marriage versus those who espoused a “progressive” view. Sadly, neither side seemed able to present logical, coherent arguments to buoy their position. In this particular local church, even those who advocated for maintaining a traditional view of marriage seemed incapable of presenting a solid Biblical argument. On both sides of the aisle, the arguments presented were largely appeals to emotion or tradition, with little reference to the authority of Scripture on the matter of human sexuality.
Both of these instances were stark reminders of the crucial importance of maintaining an emphasis on the authority of Scripture and its centrality to our faith and practice. If one generation compromises its position on the authority, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture or if it neglects clear, systematic doctrinal teaching and preaching—it paves the way for succeeding generations to completely discard the clear mandates of the Bible. If the ship of Zion is not solidly anchored in Biblical truth—both spiritually and intellectually—it will drift aimlessly in whatever direction its passengers’ passions may carry it, and it will eventually crash on the shoals of deception. However, when the ship is anchored by an unwavering commitment to the authority and bold proclamation of God’s Word, the Church can weather the storms of adversity, knowing that it is grounded upon eternal truth that never changes.
In a world of uncertainty, we believe in the authoritative truth of God’s Word. God has spoken through His written Word and “it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (II Timothy 3:16)
John Wesley aptly stated:
“I beg leave to give a short, clear and strong argument for the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. The Bible must be the invention of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God.
a. It could not be the invention of good men or angels for they would not write a book and tell lies all the time of writing, saying, “Thus saith the Lord” when it was their own invention.
b. It could not be the invention of bad men or devils—for they could not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell for all eternity.
c. I therefore draw the conclusion that the Bible must be of Divine inspiration.”
God’s divinely inspired Word is unchanging. It’s truth is relevant and authoritative in every culture and in every era of human history. This is a familiar truth that must not be taken for granted, because it is the bedrock foundation of our faith. Our commitment to Biblical authority must be stated and restated for every generation of believers, because with each successive generation the enemy launches old attacks dressed in new clothes to undermine God’s truth.
In a culture of confusion, we proclaim the clear truth of God’s Word. Paul told Timothy that the Church is to serve as the pillar and ground of God’s truth in the world (I Timothy 3:15). This is not a picture of a rickety building about to fall in on itself, but rather of a solid structure that is able to withstand whatever opposition may come. It is a triumphant Church that is boldly committed to upholding God’s glorious truth.
Paul directed the Christians at Colossae to “preach [Christ], warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:” (Col 1:27–28) In the book of Acts he reminded the elders at Ephesus that “he kept back nothing that was profitable” to them (Acts 20:20) and that he had “not shunned to declare unto [them] all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27)
According to Paul’s instructions and the pattern that he sets throughout the New Testament, our proclamation of truth must be Christ-centered, rugged and bold, and seasoned with grace. It must also be comprehensive. We must not “conveniently” neglect those aspects of God’s truth that run cross-grain against the values of the culture in which we live or against the life-style of the people with whom we worship.
Martin Luther’s familiar statement is just as relevant now as it has ever been: “If I profess with loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
Paul’s careful and precise presentation of Biblical truth in the New Testament also highlights the importance of clarity in our proclamation of truth. In an age of skepticism, general and careless statements of truth presented without explanation or logical defense will not go far in convincing an unbelieving world of the timeless truths of God’s Word. If, in the proclamation of truth, we must choose between impressive oratory or precision accuracy, we must always choose precision accuracy so that the proclamation of truth is clearly understood. Paul told the Corinthians: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (I Corinthians 2:1-5)
Surrounded by an atmosphere of moral looseness we must live out the authentic truth of God’s Word. Believing the right things and saying the right things mean nothing if we do not DO the right things. While church history illustrates that God’s truth is powerful enough to survive the shame of scandal, perhaps no greater harm has been done to God’s cause than the damage brought about by professed believers of truth whose behavior was deceptively duplicitous.
We have often heard it said, “Christian, you are the only Bible some people will ever read.” Paul said the same thing to the Corinthian church—only far more eloquently: “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (II Corinthians 3:2-3) A consistent, obedient Christian life lived under the control of the Holy Spirit and marked by divine love is a powerful witness to the unchanging truth of God’s Word!
“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.”