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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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James Montgomery Boice On Inerrancy

James M. Boice

Do you believe that the Bible is true? Do you believe there are no errors in the Scriptures? Do you believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God? What difference do the answers to these questions make to preachers and congregations? James Montgomery Boice addresses the problems connected with the questions above:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

It is often said by those who adhere to inerrancy that a departure from the orthodox view of the Scripture at this point inevitably leads to a decline in adherence to orthodox views in other areas. This would no doubt be true if all deviators were consistent, but it is hard to demonstrate that this is always true, since one individual is not always as rigorous in carrying out the full implications of a position as another. It is enough to say that this has happened enough times with those who have entered the ministry to concern deeply anyone who sincerely desires the stability and growth of evangelicals and evangelical institutions.

On the other hand, and this is perhaps even more significant, many of those who have wrestled through the problem of the Bible’s inerrancy or noninerrancy and have come down on the inerrancy side, testify to this as the turning point in their ministries, as that step without which they would not have been able to preach with the measure of power and success granted to them by the ministration of the Holy Spirit. I can testify that this has been true in my own experience. As pastor of a church that has seen many hundreds of young men go into the ministry through years of seminary training, I can testify that this has been the turning point for the majority of them as well. It is sometimes said by those who take another position that inerrantists have just not faced the facts about the biblical material. This is not true. These men have faced them. But they are convinced that in spite of those things that they themselves may not fully understand or that seem to be errors according to the present state of our understanding, the Bible is nevertheless the inerrant Word of God, simply because it is the Word of God, and that it is only when it is proclaimed as such that it brings the fullest measure of spiritual blessing.

May God raise up many in our time who believe this and are committed to the full authority of the Word of God, whatever the consequences. In desiring that “Thus saith the Lord” be the basis for the authority of our message, the seminaries, whether liberal or conservative, are right. But we will never be able to say this truthfully or effectively unless we speak on the basis of an inerrant Scripture. We are not in the same category as the prophets. God has not granted us a primary revelation. We speak only because others, moved uniquely by the Holy Spirit, have spoken. But because of this we do speak, and we speak with authority to the degree that we hold to what Charles Haddon Spurgeon called “the ipsissima verba, the very words of the Holy Ghost.”

We need a host of those who have heard that Word and who are not afraid to proclaim it to a needy but rebellious generation. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. Pp.123-143)

James Montgomery Boice On The Working Of God’s Saving Grace

James M. Boice

I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I also believe that it is only when it is preached and taught as the Word of God will it bring the fullness of spiritual blessing. James Montgomery Boice discusses this in relationship to salvation:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

There are many moving images for the Word of God in the Bible. We are told in the Psalms that the Bible is “a lamp” to our feet and “a light” to our path (Ps. 1 19:l05).Jeremiah compares it to “a fire” and to “a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces” Jer. 23:29). It is “milk” to the one who is yet an infant in Christ (1 Peter 2:2) as well as “solid food” to the one who is more mature (Heb. 5:11-14). The Bible is a “sword” (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17), a “mirror” (1 Cor. 13:12; James 1:23), a “custodian” (Gal. 3:24), a “branch” grafted into our bodies (James 1:21). . . .

In the first chapter Peter has been talking about the means by which a person enters the family of God. First, he has discussed the theme objectively, saying that it is on the basis of Christ’s vicarious death that we are redeemed. “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (vv. 18, 19). Second, he has discussed the theme subjectively, pointing out that it is through faith that the objective work of Christ is applied to us personally. “Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (v. 21). Finally, having mentioned these truths, Peter goes on to discuss the new birth in terms of God’s sovereign grace in election, this time showing that we are born again by means of the Word of God. . . .

What does this teach about the way in which a man or woman becomes a child of God? It teaches that God is responsible for the new birth and that the means by which he accomplishes this is his living and abiding Word. We might even say that God does a work prior to this, for he first sends the ovum of saving faith into the heart. Even faith is not of ourselves, it is the “gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Afterward, when the sperm of the Word is sent to penetrate the ovum of saving faith, there is a spiritual conception.

The same ideas are in view in James 1:18, which says, “Of his own will he brought us forth [‘begot he us,’ KJV] by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”

The point of these verses is that it is by means of the very words of God recorded in the Scriptures and communicated to the individual heart by the Holy Spirit that God saves the individual. It is as Calvin says, in speaking of faith:

Faith needs the Word as much as fruit needs the living root of a tree. For no others, as David witnesses, can hope in God but those who know his name (Ps. 9:10)…. This knowledge does not arise out of anyone’s imagination, but only so far as God himself is witness to his goodness. This the prophet confirms in another place: “Thy salvation [is] according to thy word” (Ps. 119:41). Likewise, “I have hoped in thy word; make me safe” (Ps. 119:4,40, 94). Here we must first note the relation of faith to the Word, then its consequence, salvation.

Is it really the Word that God uses in the salvation of the individual? If it is, if God chooses so to operate, then the preacher can hardly fail to give the words of God the fullest measure of prominence in his preaching. He will revere them as that super natural gift without which nothing that he desires to see happen within the life of the individual will happen.

We conclude that the texts of the Bible should be preached as the very (and therefore inerrant) Word of God if for no other reason than that they are the means God uses in the spiritual rebirth of those who thereby become his children. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123 -143)

Salvation’s Need Of The Scripture

James Montgomery Boice

There is no doubt that faith needs the Word of God just as fruit needs the living root of a tree. The knowledge of God is not the product of anyone’s imagination, but only what God reveals to us in the Bible. So there is a relationship between faith and the Word which leads to salvation. The Word is used by God in the process of salvation. How then can the preacher led anyone to God without preaching the whole Word of God? James Montgomery Boice gives a more complete explanation:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

Divine truthfulness was the rock beneath [the Apostles’] approach to Scripture. Their study of the Bible led them to this conclusion, and thereafter they approached the difficulties of biblical interpretation from this premise. This approach has characterized the majority of their heirs in the Reformation churches down to and including many at the present time, although not all inerrantists feel obligated to use this approach. In fuller form, the argument has been presented as follows:

The Bible is a reliable and generally trustworthy document. This is established by treating it like any other historical record, such as the works of Josephus or the accounts of war by Julius Caesar.

On the basis of the history recorded by the Bible we have sufficient reason for believing that the central character of the Bible, Jesus Christ, did what he is claimed to have done and therefore is who he claimed to be. He claimed to be the unique Son of God.

As the unique Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ is an infallible authority. Jesus Christ not only assumed the Bible’s authority; he taught it, going so far as to teach that it is entirely without error and is eternal, being the Word of God: “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).

If the Bible is the Word of God, as Jesus taught, it must for this reason alone be entirely trustworthy and inerrant, for God is a God of truth. Therefore, on the basis of the teaching of Jesus Christ, the infallible Son of God, the church believes the Bible also to be infallible. . . .

Not only does God exalt his name and his very words in the Scriptures and likewise in the preaching of that Word, but he also exalts his Word in the saving of men and women. For it is by his Word and Spirit, and not by testimonies, eloquent arguments, or emotional appeals, that he regenerates the one who apart from that regeneration is spiritually dead. Peter states it thus: “You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123-143)

The Preacher Must Sit Under The Judgment Of God’s Word

James Montgomery Boice

While many may say in our modern times that the Bible contains errors and has many difficulties, these are not recent discoveries. They were known centuries ago to the most serious Bible students: Origen, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and many others were aware of these so-called problems. However, they did not deem them worthy to compel the abandonment of orthodoxy and the Scriptures. The basis for their stand against these difficulties was their own careful study of the Bible and (as they would say) the compelling witness of the Holy Spirit to them through that study. They believed that the Old and New Testaments are uniquely the Word of God and are entirely reliable and truthful. In the article below. James Montgomery Boice touches on this theme:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

The important teaching is that the Scriptures had their origin in God; therefore the copies that Peter’s readers had were also to be considered as being from God and thus worthy of their careful study . . . Certainly Peter is not making a distinction between the originals and copies. That is just the point. He is not even thinking in these terms. . . .

Peter is not the only one whose sermons are recorded in Acts, of course. Stephen is another. Stephen was arrested by the Sanhedrin on the charge of speaking “blasphemous words against [the law of] Moses and God,” and he replied with a defense that occupies nearly the whole of Acts 7. This sermon contains a comprehensive review of the dealings of God with Israel, beginning with the call of Abraham and ending with the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ. It is filled with Old Testament quotations.

Its main point is that those who were defending the law were not obeying it. Rather, like those before them, they were resisting the Word of God and killing God’s prophets (Acts 7:51-53). . . .

We conclude that each of the New Testament preachers is concerned to proclaim God’s word as fulfilled in the events of his own lifetime. Moreover, his emphasis is on this word rather than on his own subjective experiences or any other less important matter. The thesis that emerges at this point . . . is that preaching that is patterned on the preaching of the apostles and other early witnesses will always be biblical in the sense that the very words of the Bible will be the preacher’s text and his aim will be a faithful exposition and application of them. This cannot be done if the preacher is sitting in judgment on the Word rather than sitting under it. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123-143)

The Preacher’s Loss Of Authority In Preaching

 

James Montgomery Boice

James Montgomery Boice (1938–2000) was one of the articulate spokesmen for the Reformed faith in America and around the world. He was the senior minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1968 to 2000. Under his leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model of urban ministry. In this article, Boice discusses the necessity of believing the Scriptures:

It is hard to miss the connection between belief in the inerrancy of Scripture issuing in a commitment to expound it faithfully, on the one hand, and a loss of this belief coupled to an inability to give forth a certain sound, on the other. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is one who makes the connection. He writes on the decline of great preaching:

“I would not hesitate to put in the first position [for the decline]: the loss of belief in the authority of the Scriptures, and a diminution in the belief of the Truth. I put this first because I am sure it is the main factor. If you have not got authority, you cannot speak well, you cannot preach. Great preaching always depends upon great themes. Great themes always produce great speaking in any realm, and this is particularly true, of course, in the realm of the Church. While men believed in the Scriptures as the authoritative Word of God and spoke on the basis of that authority you had great preaching. But once that went, and men began to speculate, and to theorize, and to put up hypotheses and so on, the eloquence and the greatness of the spoken word inevitably declined and began to wane. You cannot really deal with speculations and conjectures in the same way as preaching had formerly dealt with the great themes of the Scriptures. But as belief in the great doctrines of the Bible began to go out, and sermons were replaced by ethical addresses and homilies, and moral uplift and sociopolitical talk, it is not surprising that preaching declined. I suggest that this is the first and the greatest cause of this decline.”

Lloyd-Jones is right in the main in this analysis. So our first thesis is that the contemporary decline in great (expository) preaching is due in large measure to a loss of belief in biblical authority and that this loss is itself traceable to a departure from that high view of inspiration that includes inerrancy. . . .

Having recognized the primacy of the word in God’s own dealings with the human race, it is not at all difficult to note the primacy of the word in that early Christian preaching recorded in the New Testament.

Peter’s great sermon given on the day of Pentecost is an example. Peter and the other disciples had experienced a visible out pouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested by the sound of a rushing mighty wind and tongues of fire that had rested on each of the disciples (Acts 2:1-3). They had begun to speak so that others heard them in a variety of languages (v. 4). In addition to this, they had all just been through the traumatic and then exhilarating experiences of the crucifixion, resurrection, visible appearance, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. These were heady experiences. Yet when Peter stood up to preach on Pentecost, he did not dwell on his or anyone else’s experiences, as many in our day might have done, but rather preached a profoundly biblical sermon centered on specific biblical passages. The format was as follows: First, there are three verses of introduction intended to link the present manifestations of the outpouring of the Spirit to God’s prophecy of that even in Joel. These were a lead-in to the major text. Second, Peter cites the prophecy in Joel at length, giving a total of five verses to it. Third, there is a declaration of the guilt of the men of Jerusalem in Christ’s death, which, however, was in full accordance with the plan and foreknowledge of God, as Peter indicates. This takes three verses. Fourth, there is an ex tended quotation from Psalm 16:8-11, occupying four verses. These stress the victory of Christ over death through his resurrection and exaltation to heaven. Fifth, there is an exposition of the sixteenth psalm, occupying five verses. Sixth, there is a further two-verse quotation from Psalm 11:1, again stressing the supremacy of Christ. Seventh, there is a one-verse summary.

Peter’s procedure is to quote the Old Testament and then explain it and after that to quote more of the Old Testament and explain it, and so on. Moreover, the Scripture predominates. For although there are eleven verses of Scripture versus twelve for other matters, much of the material in the twelve verses is introductory to the Scripture and the rest is explanation.

Peter’s procedure does not demand that every subsequent Christian sermon follow precisely the same pattern. . . . But the sermon does suggest the importance that Peter gave to the actual words of God recorded in the Old Testament and the concern he had to interpret the events of his time in light of them. . . .

Peter was concerned to affirm that God had said certain things about the coming of Christ and the Holy Spirit, that he had said these in certain specific passages and words of the Old Testament, and that God was now fulfilling these promises precisely. In other words, in his preaching and thinking Peter gave full authority to the very words of Scripture as the words of God. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123-143)

The Preacher and Pastoral Care

James Montgomery Boice

Quoting James Montgomery Boice:

[T]he greatest periods of faithful expository preaching were inevitably accompanied by the highest levels of sensitivity to the presence of God in worship and the greatest measure of concern for the cure of souls.

The Puritans are a great example, though one could cite the Reformation period or the age of the evangelical awakening in England as well. The Puritans abounded in the production of expository material. We think of the monumental productions of men like Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), Richard Baxter (1615-l691), John Owen (1616-1683), Thomas Watson (d. l686), John Flavel (1627-1691), Jonathan Edwards (1702-1758), and that later Puritan Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892). These men produced material so serious in its nature and so weighty in its content that few contemporary pastors are even up to reading it. Yet common people followed these addresses in former times and were moved by them. Worship services were characterized by a powerful sense of God’s presence, and those who did such preaching and led such services were no less concerned with the individual problems, temptations, and growth of those under their care. Who in recent years has produced a work on pastoral counseling to equal Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor (1656)? Who has analyzed the movement of God in individual lives as well as did Jonathan Edwards in A Narrative of Surprising Conversions (1737) and Religious Affections (1746) or Archibald Alexander in his Thoughts on Religious Experience (1844)? Questions like these should shake us out of self-satisfied complacency and show that we are actually conducting our pastoral care, worship, and preaching at a seriously lower level. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority, London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979, pp.123-143)

The Current Decline In Preaching

 

James Montgomery Boice

James Montgomery Boice was truly one of the great preachers of our time. In the following excerpt, Boice addresses the decline of sound preaching in our modern times. Is it possible for someone to attend a church most of their lives and not hear Biblical preaching? Tragically, I believe this is so. How is it that we now find much preaching in such poor condition? Boice shares his conclusions with us:

[T]he current decline in preaching is due, not to external causes, but to a prior decline in a belief in the Bible as the authoritative and inerrant Word of God on the part of the church’s theologians, seminary professors, and those ministers who are trained by them. Quite simply, it is a loss of confidence in the existence of a sure Word from God. Here the matter of inerrancy and authority go together. For it is not that those who abandon inerrancy as a premise on which to approach the Scriptures necessarily abandon a belief in their authority. On the contrary, they often speak of the authority of the Bible most loudly precisely when they are abandoning the inerrancy position. It is rather that, lacking the conviction that the Bible is without error in the whole and in its parts, these scholars and preachers inevitably approach the Bible differently from inerrantists, whatever may be said verbally. In their work the Bible is searched (to the degree that it is searched) for whatever light it may shed on the world and life as the minister sees them and not as that binding and overpowering revelation that tells us what to think about the world and life and even formulates the questions we should be asking about them.

Nothing is sadder than the loss of this true authority, particularly when the preacher does not even know it. The problem is seen in a report of a panel discussion involving a rabbi, a priest, and a Protestant minister. The rabbi stood up and said, “I speak according to the law of Moses.” The priest said, “I speak according to the tradition of the Church.” But the minister said, “It seems to me…” (The Foundation of Biblical Authority, London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979, pp.123-143)

The State Of Preaching

 

James Montgomery Boice

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) was a successful inner city pastor and articulate spokesman for the Reformed faith in America and around the world. He was the pastor of Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. In the excerpt below, he writes about the decline of expository preaching:

Anyone who thinks seriously about the state of preaching in the twentieth century must notice a strange contradiction. On the one hand, there is a strong acknowledgment of the need for great preaching, usually defined as expository preaching. But on the other hand, good expository preaching has seldom been at a lower ebb. Evangelical (and even liberal) seminaries exhort their young men, “Be faithful in preaching…. Spend many hours in your study poring over the Bible…. Be sure that you give the people God’s Word and not merely your own opinions.” But in practice these admonitions are not heeded, and the ministers who emerge from the seminaries – whether because of poor instruction, lack of focus, or some other, undiagnosed cause – generally fail in this primary area of their responsibility.

Pulpit committees know this. So do the people who sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday. Many know what they want. They want a minister who will make his primary aim to teach the Bible faithfully week after week and also embody what he teaches in his personal life. But ministers like this from the standard denominations and even some others are hard to find and apparently are getting harder to find all the time. What is wrong? How are we able to explain this strange contradiction between what we say we want and what is actually produced by most of our seminaries?

This problem is so obvious that a number of answers have inevitably been given, most of which contain some truth. One answer is that attention has been shifted from preaching to other needed aspects of the pastoral ministry: counseling, liturgics, small group dynamics, and other concerns. Hundreds of books about these diverse aspects of the ministry are appearing every year, many of them best sellers, but there are not many valuable books on preaching. There are some, but they are not very popular. And one cannot really imagine a work like Clarence Macartney‘s Preaching Without Notes attracting anywhere near the degree of attention in the seventies as it attracted just thirty years ago. Clearly the attention of a great majority of ministers is being directed away from expository preaching to other concerns. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979, pp.123-143)

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