In the new issue of Credo Magazine, “Sola Scriptura,” Chris Castaldo has written an article called, “Biblical Authority and the Conviction to Preach.”
Chris Castaldo (BA, Moody Bible Institute; MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; PhD, London School of Theology) was raised on Long Island, New York. For the last sixteen years, he has served in the Chicagoland area, at College Church in Wheaton and then at Wheaton College where he directed the Ministry of Gospel Renewal, a ministry devoted to equipping evangelicals for constructive interaction with Catholic friends and loves ones. Chris has served as pastor of New Covenant Church in Naperville, IL, since November of 2014.
Chris has authored and contributed to several books including: The Reformation: Is It Over? (Zondervan, 2016), Reformation Theology: 500 Years Later (Crossway, 2016), Talking with Catholics about the Gospel: A Guide for Evangelicals (Zondervan, 2015), Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism (Zondervan, 2012), and Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic (Zondervan, 2009). He has written articles for publications such as Christianity Today, Touchstone Journal, Credo Magazine, Themelios, and First Things.
Here is the start of his article:
It happens every week—at the same time and in the same place. I stand at the edge of the platform, extend my hand, look at the congregation, and sing the Gloria Patri. “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son…” Then, at that precise moment, the thought crosses my mind: “You are insane, Chris, if you think your words will engage the souls of these people, lift them from the mire of sin, impart eternal hope, and engender heartfelt worship. Audacious. Presumptuous. Ludicrous.” Nevertheless, I think, “here goes.”
In those brief moments before I begin to preach, as the arrows of doubt arrive from every direction, I have a few counterattacks ready. I repeat the words of Spurgeon, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” which is exactly what I need to remember when I imagine that the impotence of my words is a barrier to the work of God. The other mantra I repeat is directly from our Lord Jesus, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). The words of Scripture, precisely because they are the words of God, are inherently authoritative. Indeed, this is why we have the audacity to preach. Since God has appointed his Word as the means by which humanity is drawn into the light of his presence, it does everything that I cannot. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
The Aversion to Authority
But the authority of Scripture also presents a problem to those whom we serve. While humanity’s rebellion against authority is currently on full display, it is a longstanding tradition of our race. Ever since Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit, people have demonstrated an unwillingness to submit to God’s direction. With this resistance escalating and deepening over time, even previously accepted forms of delegated authority have been increasingly held in contempt: family, education, law, and church. All of this is a reflection of humanity’s disdain for the world’s ultimate authority—God.
So how does this affect the sermon, as one of the primary ways God speaks to the world? “Don’t preach at me,” is a popular idiom that expresses the moral autonomy we have claimed for ourselves since the fall. Used this way, to “preach” is to harangue someone with tedious or unwanted demands. We may not hear churchgoers openly flaunt such an attitude, but evidence of its influence is tangible, especially when preachers retreat into delivering feel-good homilies devoid of scriptural substance. It is equally noticeable in the degree of biblical illiteracy among contemporary Christians. Too often, if Christians do not hear God’s Word preached, they will not hear God’s Word at all.
Before we biblical expositors get too proud of ourselves, it is good to remember that we all have room for improvement in this area. Even those of us who attend exposition workshops and have, in our office, a picture of Martin Lloyd Jones or R. Kent Hughes (I have the latter), must be reminded again that authority comes from God, through his Word, and we are simply the stewards who have the privilege of defending and proclaiming it. As P.T. Forsyth wrote in 1907, “It is authority that the world chiefly needs and the preaching of the hour lacks an authoritative Gospel in a humble personality.” Therefore, all of us need to consider how to carefully balance our confidence in Scripture and suspicion of ourselves so that we exposit God’s Word in a way, and with a spirit, that magnifies its authority. Here are four ways to achieve that balance. …
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Protestantism today faces a crisis in authority. Living in the twenty-first century means we are born into a world that has experienced the full effects of the Enlightenment, Protestant Liberalism, and Postmodernism. Yet at the same time, God’s Word continues to stand undefeated. No doubt, the Bible is under fire today as critics, both secular and evangelical (oddly enough), attack the Bible’s full authority. But if we’ve learned anything from the sixteenth-century Reformation, we know that God’s Word will prevail in the end.
As he stood there trembling at the Diet of Worms, certainly it must have seemed to Martin Luther that the whole world was against him. Yet Luther could boldly stand upon the authority of God’s Word because he knew that not even his greatest nemesis was a match for the voice of the living God.
While our circumstances may differ today, the need to recover biblical authority in the church and in the culture remains. The next generation of Christians need to be taught, perhaps for the first time, that this is no ordinary book we hold in our hands. It is the very Word of God. In other words, if Christians today are to give an answer for the faith within them against those who would criticize the scriptures, then they need to be taught the formal principle of the Reformation: sola Scriptura—only Scripture, because it is God’s inspired Word, is our inerrant, sufficient, and final authority for the church.
Contributors include Justin Holcomb, Gavin Ortlund, Robert Kolb, Chris Castaldo, Paul House, and many others.