We are sons, not slaves.
2 Corinthians 4:1-2
Introduction: Our God Speaks
Our Creator is not silent. We do not serve a mute God. Our God speaks. Our God has spoken. Listen to Psalm 29.
A Psalm of David.
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace.
And he said:
The Lord roars from Zion
and utters his voice from Jerusalem;
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
Today we are going consider the Word of our God as it relates to faithful ministry. The aim this morning is to deepen our love for the God who speaks and to deepen our appreciation for the Word He has spoken and therefore to become more and more God honoring ministers of the Word.
The Word from God
As we begin this morning, I think it is of enormous importance that we come to terms with what this book (the bible) is. This book is an expression of incredible grace.
The fact is that if God had not graciously chosen to act and to speak we would be in utter darkness and dead in trespasses and sins. What we have here is a gift and a treasure.
Oh, to have a Word from the LORD! To have God talk to you. To have God stoop to reveal Himself to you and His kind intentions toward you and His work for you! Do we adore the God who speaks and who has spoken!
Our God in not silent. We have His Word.
And how we handle this word of God really matters. This not the first time Paul has highlighted his own reverence for the Word of God. In 2 Corinthians 2:17 Paul contrast himself as a minister of sincerity with what he calls ‘peddlers of God’s Word.’ Apparently there were those in the church who were using the Word of God for financial gain.
Here in chapter 4 Paul continues highlighting his own reverence for God’s Word in contrast to the others. He says in verse 2, ‘…we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s Word…’ Apparently there were some in Corinth who were underhanded, cunning, and tampering with God’s Word – just as there are today.
“People often tamper with God’s Word either to retain or expand their power base, to increase their popularity, or to avoid controversy and the discomfort it often creates. Some do so because of personal distaste for the hard truths of Scripture, to protect themselves against the contempt of those whose respect and acceptance they cherish, or in the interest of any number of personal agendas that require God’s truth to be treated as malleable and merely a means that may be manipulated to achieve whatever end is in view.”
The abuse and misuse and disregard for God’s Word is a perennial problem. It was a problem in Corinth and it is a problem today. People will use and abuse the Word of God to achieve their own ends until Christ returns. The question is #1. are we one of those who abuse the Scriptures? and #2. are we vulnerable to those who do?
Really. How do you view the Scriptures and how do you use them? Are you a student of the Scriptures, eager and working hard to rightly understand what God has said and to submit to it? OR is the Bible a book you use when expedient to justify your life discussions and pre-conceived and dearly held beliefs. In other words does your life and faith grow out of the Scriptures, are you conformed and being confirmed to the Scriptures or are trying to make the Scriptures conform to you? Are you simply satisfied to find a verse or two that seems to support what sounds nice to you? Or are you eager to hear from God and submit to Him?
And are you vulnerable to cunning?
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
Are you be able to identify when something that is said is unbiblical? And if you think you would be able, is it because you know that Scripture so well, or simply because it is what you have always been taught?
Do you reverence the Word of God as the very Word of God?
If we are going to reverence the Word of God we need to be convinced that it is the ultimate authority for faith and practice, that it is necessary for salvation and growth in godliness, that it is sufficient for life and godliness, and that it is clear enough to be understood for life and godliness.
This morning I want to just touch on each of these qualities of God’s Word (Authority, Necessity, Sufficiency, Clarity) so that we might grow in our reverence of it, thankfulness for it, and in our faith and joy toward our God who has spoken.
The Highest View of Scripture
2 Peter 1:21
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 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
These two verse tell us that the Bible is God’s Word. Therefore if we disobey this book we disobey God. If we do not believe this book we do not believe God. The Scriptures testify that they are not the product of men but of God.
And lest you think that these verse refer only to the OT, the NT writers we conscious of the fact that what they were recording was the very Word of God.
2 Peter 3:15-16
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
Peter here refers to Paul’s letters on as being on an equal footing with ‘the other Scriptures,’ namely the OT. The apostles understood their own teaching as from God.
Consider also Paul’s own ministry. He was aware that what He was giving was the Word of God.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
When you open this book, do you believe that it come from the mouth of God? That it is breathed out by Him? Do you smell the fragrance of His Almighty breath on its pages?
Now, there are many who stand skeptically over the Holy Scriptures, refusing to believe that this is in fact what it claims to be. I have even had people tell me, I’ll believe the Bible if God shows me a miracle personally.
But we know that this simply is not true according to Luke 16:31, as the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers,
[Abraham] said to [the rich man], ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’
The reality it as Jesus says in John 10:27,
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
The Westminster Confession summarizes this point very well:
Confession: Of the Holy Scriptures, Article V.
We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
If you are not convinced that this book is the very Word of God it will not be the final authority in your life. But if you are fully persuaded that this is the very Word from God it must be believed and obeyed and rejoiced over.
But the Bible is not only the word from God, it is the necessary word from God. In other words, without the Scriptures there would be no knowledge unto salvation.
Consider Romans 1:19-21
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made… [So they are all set? No.] So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Yes, there is a certain type of knowledge about God that everyone has. But the universal condition of man since the fall has been to not honor him as God, to not give him thanks. As Romans 1:32 says,
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Yes, nature reveals many things about the glory of God, but all that knowledge simply serves to condemn sinful men. Nature reveals enough to condemn us, everyone. But it does not reveal the way of salvation. For that God has provided this, His Word.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
1 Cor 1:21
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
2 Tim 3:15
…and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Do you understand that it is from the Scriptures that God has declared His great salvation through Jesus Christ? And do you then study them as if your life depended upon it?
Be assiduous in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived. Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected.
Westminster Confession: Of the Holy Scriptures, Article I
Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable (Romans 1:19-20, 32; Psalm 19:1); yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation (1 Cor 1:21; 2:13-14; 2 Tim 3:15). Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare His will unto His Church (Hebrews 1:1); and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary…
It is only from the Scriptures that we learn of Christ, the only way of salvation. It is only from the Scriptures that we learn that “… God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
The Scriptures are our authority and they are necessary, and they are also sufficient.
2 Timothy 3:15-17
…and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Paul tells Timothy here that the Scriptures are sufficient that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. We need nothing further than what we have been given.
So many people are looking for helpful hits to a successful life. We are looking for experts to tells us nuggets of wisdom to master life and answer our deepest problems. Even in the church. Is it possible that we are looking for experts and wisdom for life all over the place because we do not yet know what God has already revealed that you might be complete and equipped for every good work?
Let us not let this treasure lie by us neglected.
Westminster Confession: Of the Holy Scriptures, Article VI.
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture…
This book is our authority, it is necessary, it is sufficient …and it is clear regarding faith and salvation through Jesus Christ.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
These verses and many more, make it plain that the Word of God is not full of hidden mysterious saying that can only be discover by the wisest and most insightful.
There is an unfortunate belief in our day that the Scriptures are too ancient, too difficult, too complex, and too large to understand and therefore should be abandoned or left to the professionals and scholars. And. of course, don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the scholars, but what you have available to you is intended for you.
It is not because the Scriptures are so difficult and complicated that so few people know them, it is because we do not feast upon His Word as our daily bread.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
God has spoken. His Word is our authority. His Word is necessary. His Word is sufficient. His Word gives light.
Now, as we make our way back to 2 Corinthians 4:2 we need to consider the kind of ministry that is pleasing to the Lord. Paul says that He has
- Renounced disgraceful underhanded ways which means he has embraced what is praiseworthy and commendable in the sight of God, namely aboveboard, transparent ways
- Refused to practice cunning or tampering with God’s Word.
- But by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
Ministry that is praiseworthy in the sight of God is submitted to God and His word, unashamed of God and His Word, and simply states the truth of His word openly.
As we think about ministering to others inside and outside this local body, we must first reverence God and His Word. If we are not people of the Word we will have nothing to minister to each other.
How are you reverencing the Word in you life? Each one of us has been granted by God, access to His Word and having been entrusted with this treasure we are to minister it to others. Are you being faithful to the ministry of the Word?
I have noticed that God’s Word can so easily slip from its rightful place. As we think about ministry to one another in the Body and to the lost, what place does the Word of God have? More personally what place does the Word of God have in your day to day life?
Are you more a man or woman of the Book, or a man or woman of the television? More a man of the Book or a man of your hobby? More a Woman of the Book than a woman of anything else? Are you a young woman, woman, mother, grandmother of the Word? Are you a young man, man, father, grandfather of the Word of God? Are you mighty in the Scriptures?
Making Application to an Post-Christian Culture
As with think about bring God’s Word to one another and to the lost I fear that there is temptation to back off ever so slightly for what Paul says here in verse 2:
We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
We live in a post-christian culture, which means that many people that we bring the gospel to have had some kind of exposure to ‘Christianity,’ and in this culture Christianity is often seen as backward, close-minded, full of ‘haters,’ and even dangerous.
Many in our mission field, hear the word Christian or church and the walls go up. But so many of these people have never actually been exposed to the truth Word of God, to the message of the Gospel of grace. Most of the time they have been exposed to a caricature of the truth. And so much of the language of the Bible is instantly shut off before they even understand what is really being said.
How are we to reach this culture?
There is a difference between misunderstanding the intention of the words being said and rebellion against the content of God’s Revelation.
We need to be incarnational, as Jesus was. He became one of us, learning the language and custom of his day and community. We need to be like that for the sake of love. Are we able to speak to this culture in a way that they can understand?
BUT, we also need to be stalwartly without compromise or shame about the truth we have come to share. We need to be speaking the truth in love.
Are you confident that the gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes? Are you unashamed of the content of what God has said from Genesis to Revelation, building to this glorious gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone?
As our friends and family and co-workers and business owners and government more and more reject a Christ-centered, biblical world view are we prepared to uncompromisingly speak the truth without embarrassment – yes, striving for language that will be understood, but unwaveringly honoring God’s Word, God truth regardless of the consequence?
Next week we will look at the fact that there are those who will reject the truth no matter how clear or how lovingly you present it. Are we willing to commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God?
It is popular these days to talk about being on the right side of history. But what is usually meant by that is behaving now in a way that your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be proud you did. Interestingly, the idea of being on the right side of history is very important – far more important that those who say it in these days really know. I want to be on the right side of history – that is when God opens the books I want to be found having believed His Word, having honored the gift of His Son by trusting Him, having unashamedly made His Word know even in the midst of a crooked generation.
We have an opportunity to shine as light in this culture. Are we among those who so love God and His Word that we will not compromise or tamper with the truth, but live upon it and boldly make it known.