From David Cook, Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, dealing with the Christian’s possession of an all-sufficient Saviour and a sufficient revelation of God’s Word, the Bible; and the privilege which pastors have in encouraging people to know and trust that they don’t need anything beyond these for life and belief.
After spending the last 37 years of my life being a Christian pastor, 26 of those years training others to be pastors and missionaries, I have reached this conclusion:
All pastoral ministry is designed to encourage in Christians a God honouring contentment with Jesus Christ as the all-sufficient Saviour who sets us right with God, eternally; and to encourage a God honouring contentment with the sufficiency of His word, the Bible, to tell us everything we need to know about Him and to equip us with everything we need to live the Christian life, from new birth through to heaven.
All God honouring missionary activity must commend the all-sufficient Saviour for salvation and then commend His all-sufficient word as the instrument His Holy Spirit uses to lead the believer to maturity.
Such statements are driven by these Scriptures: The way, not “a” way (Acts 9:2, 19:9); the exclusive claim (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Galatians 1:8-9, 1:16, Acts 20:21). Entry into God’s family through Jesus alone (John 1:12-13).
Jesus’ teaching is the truth (John 8:31-59); and the apostles’ words are true (1 John 4:6); God does not lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18); the prophets say “thus says the Lord”, Jesus says “I say unto you”; the apostles say “thus we have seen and heard”; our certainty lies in that we know, “thus the Lord has written”.
J I Packer says in Knowing God, “the comprehensiveness of our contentment is a measure whereby we may judge whether we really know God.”
Here’s the controversial part. If you believe in an all-sufficient Saviour and an all-sufficient Bible you will not believe:
- that you need to supplement the work of Jesus, with your own good works in order to make it to heaven.
- that assurance of salvation is sinful, after all, if it depends on Him and you, how can you be sure you will keep doing your part.
- that basic 10 commandment morality, church attendance, sacramental practice is an essential part of the foundation of your salvation. (All these other things, though good, are the fruit of our salvation, but salvation itself is based on Christ’s life, death and resurrection, alone).
- that you need to hear God speak in a supplementary way to the Bible, through visions, dreams, a word from others.
- that the Bible is not clear and is a minefield for any lay interpreter.
(God can speak in dreams etc, the only thing impossible for God is for God to act contrary to himself. However, we cannot expect Him to reveal Himself other than through His word. He is most honoured when we listen carefully to the Word His Spirit has given to us, that alone is the sure guide to truth. Discontentment that wants more than the Bible is discontentment with God and His Spirit.)
There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ.
He said “no one comes to the Father except through me” and in John 14 urges Philip to believe in Jesus’ sufficiency on the basis of his words or his signs (John 14:11). Jesus said, God’s word alone is truth (John 17:17) and the apostle Paul said God’s breathed out words completely equip us for living the Christian life. (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Peter calls it “the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23); James calls it “the word of truth (James 1:18). To hear God speak, read your Bible regularly, carefully and prayerfully.
Do you have a God honouring assured contentment in an all-sufficient Saviour and an all-sufficient Bible?
Pastors are shepherds, shepherds can readily identify healthy sheep. Pastors identify healthy sheep in God’s flock. They are people of an assured contentment with what God has provided for them.
(UPDATE: edited to conform to corrected version at PCA website.)