Generally having an outline to accompany my sermons, I affix at the end of that outline a question common to all my sermons. The question is as following; “Is what the pastor said really true of God’s word?” This question has confused people in the past. I have been asked a question in response; “Shouldn’t we assume that it’s probably in the Bible?” My response to this is… in a word “no”. Why is this true, because my sermons are sermons. They aren’t God’s word, they are not divine revelations, and while I can say from experience that the Holy Spirit is sometimes intimately involved in a sermon, in the end it is just one broken person trying his best to teach other broken people. So why is this question so important? It is important because the preaching of God’s word should always point us to God’s word. This is because God’s word functions as a test for truth claims. Everyone makes truth claims in their sermon, but the only reliable truth is founded in God’s word. This is why we measure other’s truth claims against what the Bible says. This is what Paul commended the Berean church for in Acts 17:11 when he says,
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
Paul never says “just take my word for it.” In fact, he commends them as “more noble” because they don’t take his word at face value. Preaching should always drive us to God’s word. In fact, any time anyone makes a truth claim or says “this is how you should live”, it should drive us to God’s word. This is one way we find out what is true and false in a world in which we are constantly barraged by claims. At the advent of “internet truth”, I see all the time people wound into a frenzy because they read an article on social media about something outrageous. Only later do they find that it has absolutely no grounding in reality. This is very much what I imagine Ephesians 4:14 is describing when it says,
“…tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.”
If we are not grounded in Scripture, then simply put, we are not grounded. St. Athanasius says it this way,
“The Holy Scriptures, given by inspiration of God, are of themselves sufficient toward the discovery of truth. The catholic (universal) Christians will neither speak nor endure to hear anything in religion that is a stranger to Scripture; it being an evil heart of immodesty to speak those things which are not written,” (Athanasius, Exhort. ad Monachas).
He says that Scriptures are sufficient toward the discovery of truth. In other words, you tell the truth from the lie when you understand what the Scriptures say on a particular subject. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem makes a similar statement saying,
“Not even the least of the divine and holy mysteries of the faith ought to be handed down without the divine Scriptures. Do not simply give faith to me speaking these things to you except you have the proof of what I say from the divine Scriptures. For the security and preservation of our faith are not supported by ingenuity of speech, but by the proofs of the divine Scriptures,” (Cat. 4)
You see what he is getting at. He is saying “Don’t just trust me, trust the Bible!” Except in the case that a claim is supported by God’s word, we should consider it suspect. In the case in which it violates the claims of Scriptures we should reject it off hand.
God’s word is the test of truth, but this test is only useful when combined with an equally essential discipline. God’s word can be an effective test of truth, but if we have little to know understanding or interaction with God’s word it will be ineffective to us personally. In other words, if we don’t know what God’s word says to begin with, we will find it difficult to discern the truth from the lie. If we are not grounded in the Bible then we are not grounded. Sadly, our culture and even Christians get their ethics, theology, and truth claims from Facebook and from twitter more than from the Bible, and we see the result of this in our world. People are susceptible to internet rage, off handed comments, and beliefs that have no firm footing in anything other than the feeling of the day. This is why it is important to start form the basis of the Scripture and answer the same two questions that God’s word answers. These are as follows; What does this article, post, column, movie, song, ect… have to say about God, and what does it have to say about man? The second question is, “does what it says agree with what God says in the Bible?” If we know what God says by heart, it allows us to make all of those snap judgments that we always make, but it allows us to make them on a firm foundation of God’s truth. This is why daily time in God’s word and scripture memory are so important, because they answer the question of truth. Truth is something of great value in a world of misinformation.