I am the father of two young men. As may be true for those of you who have children, I was the only pastor my boys had ever known. As members of our church, my children not only sat under my preaching for their entire lives but were also shepherded in a church dedicated to the truth of Scripture. Eventually, they both went away to college. For the first time, I was not the one feeding them from the pulpit each Lord's Day. It was new and a little unnerving for all of us!
I remember conversations my wife and I had with them as we helped guide them into a fruitful and truth-based church home. As you may know, college towns offer many church options, but how could I educate my sons to discern which church was best for their spiritual growth?
The responsibility of every preacher, in every sermon, is to communicate the truth. That is the job description. We are not to adjust it, twist it, and certainly not take anything away from it. Each week we stand before a church family that is needy and desperate—although some are not even aware of that reality—and the chief remedy is the preaching of the Word. Scripture binds our wounds, satisfies our souls, and provides a firm foundation amidst the storms of life. As Paul writes to Timothy, the role of the preacher is simply to "Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season: reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2).
When a preacher approaches the pulpit, the most potent tool at his disposal is the truth of the text. Some get it wrong. Charisma can be a great asset to a leader, but can a charming personality pierce a hardened heart? Likewise, it is good to have a clever mind! But is your wit the most significant ammunition you possess? Our sermon content will reflect what we believe about ourselves as pastors.
The truth is, we have nothing of value compared to the treasure of Scripture. Therefore, Scripture is what we must preach.
Sadly, and far too often, this is not the case in today's American pulpit. By God's grace, some remain convinced that the most powerful weapon to brandish Sunday after Sunday is the inerrant Word of God. As one pastor rightly stated, "The source of my authority in this pulpit is not—as we shall soon see—my wisdom; nor is it a private revelation granted to me beyond the revelation of Scripture. My words have authority only in so far as they are the repetition, unfolding, and proper application of the words of Scripture. I have authority only when I stand under authority. "
The Word never leaves us wanting, and it never leads us astray. Simply put, if a preacher does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, he will continually look beyond the Bible to create a message appealing to his hearers. But we who are convinced of the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Word of God will seek to submit to the authority of the Bible and proclaim it as simply and faithfully as possible.
God is faithful to bless faithful preaching. His Word will go forth and accomplish what we never could.
If the Bible is indeed God's perfect and pure Word, then its authority is absolute. This truth should permeate every aspect of our preparation. The hours spent studying should be a joyful time of pouring over the words of Scripture to gain a greater understanding and clarity of its teachings. For the man of God who is persuaded that his Bible records, without error, the revealed heart and mind of God, there is no knowledge in the universe more meaningful or of greater value!
Further, when we believe that the Bible is inerrant, it impacts how we handle difficult passages. As preachers, we stand with confidence on the firm foundation of inerrant Scripture, regardless of how it may be received. Indeed, we want to imitate Christ as we preach the truth in kindness, gentleness, and respect, yet we do not back down on what the Bible teaches.
As the moral collapse of our world continues to escalate and many commands of Scripture clash with cultural trends, we keep this at the forefront of our minds: the Bible is right and must be taught faithfully. Therefore, those of us who believe and preach the inerrancy of Scripture will not skip portions of it to chase popularity instead.
Pastor, I implore you to confidently prepare and preach, knowing that the inerrant Word of God holds the power to change the hearts of those who hear! And if we suffer for preaching the truth, let it be as the apostles who rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus" because, although preaching is indeed for the benefit of mankind, it is often not for his pleasure.
When a man of God teaches the inerrant Word, God alone is glorified and well-pleased.
The listener may be pleased, but in most cases, a Biblical sermon serves to rebuke and confront, compelling the listeners to repent. Not so pleasant! However, when the Bible is altered or portions omitted for the approval or acceptance of people, the preacher's beliefs about the purpose of preaching and the truth of Scripture are suddenly revealed.
If the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, then the mood and preference of the audience become the measuring stick for how much truth the minister is willing to reveal. This type of preacher wears himself out chasing popularity and cultural relevance. To fail to collect the praise of the listeners would be to risk losing his standing among them. And so, where biblical truth is at odds with the pleasure of the listeners, many will seek to please the audience rather than God.
For those who understand that we hold the inerrant Word of the Living God, our heart desires to please Him above all.
The God who is the Creator and Sustainer of all things is worthy of our praise and admiration. His approval is all we need.
So, when we boldly proclaim, "Thus says the Lord," knowing in our hearts that we spent time in careful study, we can rest assured that God is pleased.
In a letter to Timothy, Paul writes, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). This instructs the pastor to be diligent as he increases his knowledge of Scripture. Paul trains his protégé, Timothy, to work as one who will be inspected and to labor for God's approval. This is instructive to us all, and it is a sacrifice to toil in this way, for it is difficult and time-consuming.
So no, it is not easy to teach the Word of God. It is a heavy burden, actually. Rejection by the world is frustrating and discouraging. But all is gain if a preacher is absolutely convinced that his message is forever the true Word of God. The Lord blesses and rewards those who labor to deliver the message of Scripture accurately and with great care. To rightly divide the Word against the winds and waves of an ever-changing culture, we persevere by holding tightly to the prophet's words, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8).
Do you want a ministry that impacts people long after you've gone home? Preach the inerrant Word of God. It is sufficient, and it is powerful!
Michael Staton is a preaching mentor for the MacArthur Center for Expository Preaching.
To learn more about MCEP’s resources for expository preachers, click here.