Scripture With Scripture (The Scriptures: Part 9)

Scripture With Scripture (The Scriptures: Part 9)

One of the criticisms from so-called “progressive christians” is centered on biblical interpretation. I have heard often from these progressives and secular thinkers that there are so many ways to interpret scripture, and therefore we have no way of proclaiming absolute truth from it. How can we possibly know what is right and wrong when man wrote the scriptures (which is half true) and man is tasked with interpreting the scriptures. Human fallibility will always be the obstacle for those who refuse to embrace biblical authority. But if you have been following along with this blog series, you will know that I have already made an argument for biblical inerrancy, which is the understanding that the Bible has perfect authority because it was written by God through men as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). If this is true, and we are given 66 books of the Bible to work through, biblical interpretation is best done with the Bible itself. The word of God helps us better understand the word of God.

“The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which are not many, but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly.” -1689 LBC Chapter 1, Paragraph 9

The Whole Counsel of God

The apostle Paul understood the importance of this rule, and therefore declared the message of the whole of scripture (Acts 20:27). The Bible is the best interpreter of itself that there is. That is why we need to read it all and consider all of it as a whole to make sense of the truths within it. Of course there are different forms of literature within the Bible. Narrative, prophecy, poetry, apocalyptic, etc. But all of these different genres with different human authors are not at odds with one another because God is their ultimate author. All that he has given us is of value, and all that he has given brings wisdom with regard to the parts within. Do not neglect the whole counsel of God.

Search Other Places

The clarity of scripture comes when we look to other places to understand better what we are reading. Genesis and Galatians help us understand one another. The Gospels and the Psalms are connected with prophecy. The first chapter of John is best understood when read along side Genesis 1. The book of Job is best understood when cross referenced with other passages about suffering and the sovereignty of God. Our Lord has given us his word that we might benefit from it as a whole, not merely in bite sized pieces. Of course there is a lot to learn from zooming in on a paragraph, a verse, or even a word. But if we do this and neglect the whole counsel, then we will find ourselves not interpreting scripture with scripture and in danger of forcing our own interpretation on the text.

Read It All

This point in the 1689 should give us encouragement to read all of scripture. There are many tools at our disposal today that can help us accomplish this. Bible reading plans can easily be downloaded or printed out. Most of our Bibles, both digital and print, have cross-references that expand on the passage we are studying from other places in the Bible. For many, reading the whole Bible can seem like a daunting task. But the truth is there is more joy to be found laboring in the word than mindless entertainment. We just have to prioritize what is better for our joy. And the word of God is pyre for true joy. Heap it up and wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to set it ablaze.

Pastor Colton

Inspired & Translated (The Scriptures: Part 8)

Inspired & Translated (The Scriptures: Part 8)

The age old critique against the authority of the Bible is that it was written by man, and therefore cannot hold the authority that it claims for itself. Not only was it written by man, but it was written by man in different languages. Hebrew, some Aramaic, and Koine Greek. Not only was it written by man, in different languages of man, but also it has since been translated by man into other languages for the modern reader. So the question is, does this somehow make the Bible authored by men only? If men wrote down the words to begin with, and then later translated those words, has the Bible lost all of its authority because the hand of man has been upon it? I and the 1689 LBC would say “not at all.”

“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read, and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.” -1689 LBC Chapter 1, Paragraph 8

Immediately Inspired

The scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore authoritative to us as the very word of God. Passages from the Bible that testify to this truth about itself can be found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Peter 1:16-21, and others. “Men spoke from God, as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” This is what the Bible testifies about itself, and therefore what we confess about it also. Men are fallible and very capable of error. But God is also capable of preserving his word perfectly through fallible men, speaking through them with authority and without error.

Notice the word “immediately” in the 1689. God is able to do this. He is able to keep his word in such a way that nothing is lost as he gives it to men to write down. He is the sole reason that his word is pure, cared for, and kept. There is no possibility of thwarting his plan to give us his word. He initiated it purely to those inspired by the Spirit, and he will keep it. Of course there have been false interpretations and even false translations of his word (which we will get to next), but that does not change his ability to keep his word pure for his people.

Translated, As It Should Be

The original languages that the text was written in are referred to as the “autographs” by scholars. These are the inerrant words of God. We do not have them, but rather we have multiple manuscripts of them. That is what comprises the translation of our Bibles. Not having the autographs does not keep us from being able to read the actual word of God. Scholars can look at the many manuscripts available, and using textual criticism, translate the scriptures into other languages in an accurate way. And translation is the correct thing to do!

Studying the original languages can certainly be of great benefit. For pastors it’s incredibly helpful to go deep in those things as we prepare sermons. And there is also nothing wrong with any church member studying. It is good and useful. But you are not a bad or uneducated Christian if you do not study Hebrew and Greek. The translated English Bible you have is enough for you to read and know God through his word. A team of scholars worked for countless hours to put together the Bible you hold in your hands. We should be very thankful for that and read our English bibles fully trusting that we have the Word of God!

No translation is inerrant. Only those original autographs. But we have the word of God. He has preserved it throughout the ages, and the enlightenment did not stop him. There are translations that should be avoided because they do not seek to accurately translate the manuscript evidence, but instead interject their own ideas into the text to fit their theology rather than getting their theology from the manuscripts. The New World Translation and the Passion translation are some that come to mind that I would suggest you avoid. You can have confidence in your ESV Bible, or any of the other solid translations out there (KJV, NKJV, NASB, CSB, etc). So read with confidence, and know God is faithful to give his children good gifts.

The Bible Can Be Understood (The Scriptures: Part 7)

The Bible Can Be Understood (The Scriptures: Part 7)

There are many things in the scriptures that we must fight hard to understand, and there will always be theological debate about things that seem unclear. For example, The Nephilim in Genesis 6. So many have debated about who these people were and why they are mentioned in relation to the flood. Or what about the book of Revelation with all of its symbols and apocalyptic messages? Who is anti-christ? When will Christ return? Is the thousand year reign literal? These kinds of things can be discussed and debated for years. As a matter of fact, they have been. The question we must ask is this…How much must be understood from scripture in order to know the faith we profess. All the things mentioned above are not unimportant topics. It is good to discuss them within the body and for some of us who are more prone to nerdy theological conversation, it is quite fun. But when we consider the body as a whole, we must confess that there are things in the scripture that are vital to our understanding and things that are not. That is not to say that some things in the Bible have no purpose. All scripture is God breathed. But, as the 1689 confesses, we must make a distinction.

“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.” -1689 LBC, Chapter 1 Paragraph 7

Things That Are Necessary

There are core doctrines in the Bible that must be present in the life of the church and the life of individuals for them to be rightly called “Christian”. What you believe about eschatology (the end times) matters, but only certain aspects of it are necessary to confess. To elaborate, the actual timing of eschatological events do not hold the same weight as the core doctrine that Jesus will return bodily to the earth in the same way that he left in order to consummate his kingdom and to the judge with righteousness. When he does that and the surrounding events of him doing that are details that would not matter at all without the substance of Christ’s actual return. These core doctrines are both necessary and plainly taught in the Bible. They are necessary because salvation itself would make no sense to any Christian who did not understand and trust these things. Justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to scripture alone, for the glory of God alone. The doctrine of sin and knowing why we stand condemned before a holy God. The doctrine of God, and why his holiness demands justice. The doctrine of regeneration so that we know that God has given us new life. The doctrine of the Trinity, God’s oneness expressed in three persons. These kinds of things are necessary. They must be known, believed, and observed by anyone who claims the name of Christ.

Clearly Propounded

These things are necessary because they are clearly taught in scripture. When we open up or Bibles and look for the truth therein, these core doctrines jump off of the page. Of course we have to dig for them as well. But in a paradoxical way, they are also plain. One cannot read the book of Romans while trusting the Bible is the word of God and come away with any sort of impression that they must earn their salvation and God’s forgiveness. It clearly teaches that no one is righteous. No one seeks God. No one will be justified by their works. Christ payed our penalty, died in our place, and rose for our justification. One cannot read Romans and come away with any other gospel than “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” -Romans 3:23-25a (ESV)

Learned & Unlearned

These core doctrines are for every Christian. You don’t have to go to seminary to understand them. They should be taught through the ordinary means of the local church teaching and preaching them. You don’t have to know big words to understand big truth. It doesn’t matter if you know the term “Pnuematology” as long as you know the importance of the Holy Spirit and his work because it is being taught from the pulpit. No matter your level of education, you can know and trust the core truths taught in the Bible. There is no excuse for not seeking to know these things, because in knowing them we are seeking to know God. So read his word. Ask your pastor(s) questions. Get involved in a community group at your local church and be a part of the discussion. These doctrines are necessary because they are also practical. They teach us how to live the Christian life. They teach us how to effectively share the gospel with others. I want to encourage you brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, do not count yourself as unable to know the things of God. He has made them necessary and is faithful to equip you to drink from the fountain of life he gives and live to his glory.

Pastor Colton Yarbro

The Sufficiency of Scripture (The Scriptures: Part 6)

When I was a child I never had any problem cleaning my plate. As far back as I can remember, I have always loved food. When something especially delicious was available to me, I would always have this irrational fear that I wouldn’t get enough of said dish. I would load up my plate to a heaping pile to be sure that I could eat it until fully satisfied, and to my shame, beyond that point. But I didn’t start writing this to talk about the sin of gluttony (an issue for another time). I give this example because I know that human beings long to be satisfied. When something is good to us, we want to make sure we will always have that thing to enjoy whenever we wish. We want to have enough. This is a desire God has put within us that cannot be satisfied by anything but himself. That is why we try to fill it with all other kinds of things to no avail. So how do we “eat” what is good? How to we find that never ending supply that puts our souls at rest by reassuring them that we will always have enough? In the 1689, we confess that holy scripture is what God has provided for us to “eat”, and that it will always be enough for us. It says,

“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.” -1689 LBC, Ch. Paragraph 6

The Full Course Meal

All of God’s word is given to us that we may know all things that are necessary for the Christian life. All that we need to know for faith and practice is there. There is no substitute for this. Our souls long to know God, and his word is the way he has chosen to reveal himself to us. It is when we begin to add things to what he has given that we find ourselves once again dissatisfied and longing. To add traditions or supposed “new revelation” cannot enhance what is already perfect. When a steak is prepared and cooked right, and the steak itself is an exquisite cut of meat, it is nothing short of heresy to cover said steak in A1 or Heinz 57. Don’t even fight me on this. I’m right. It is the same concept when we try to add to the sufficient word that God has given us. You cannot add to perfection. So taste and see, and keep your condiments of tradition and “God told me” far away.

The Illumination of the Spirit

There is one thing that must happen in order for us to taste and see that the Lord is good in his word. We must be born again. The Bible teaches that we naturally love to stuff ourselves with every rebellion against God. He is what our souls need and long for, but our sinful hearts prefer anything else. We seek satisfaction in all of his stuff, but not in him. Though we may not say it out loud or even know we feel this way, in our natural state we hate God. We want nothing to do with what he says is good. But for the Christian, God sweetly wafts the aroma of his goodness toward us. We resist at first. But the aroma of the gospel flows gently through the air and the Holy Spirit of God does a miracle in our hearts. He overcomes or natural rebellion and hatred of God, and he opens our eyes to see the beauty of Christ. When he moves in us, the aroma of the gospel becomes irresistible. As he quickens our souls, we know that the gospel is the very thing that we have always needed to be satisfied, but selfishly rejected like a child refusing to eat what is good for them. But when we taste and see, we know that his word is life.

Observe the Word

Because the Bible is sufficient for those who have been born again, we look to it as our final authority. There are still some disagreements among Christians about many things we would call secondary issues. The Bible is still our guide in these things, and there is good reason for many views on things such as end times, church government, and baptism (a bit more of a serious one). Disagreements on these things are not to separate us as brothers and sisters in Christ. The disagreements come from scripture on each side, at the end of the day we must defer to the Bible for all things regarding faith and practice. The 1689 itself takes stances on these issues, and that is a good thing. But before it even gets there, it lays out for us a more important truth. The Bible is enough for us to draw from. It is a never ending well of delight that Christians should drink from over and over, day in and day out, until they are dead and their faith is made sight. So we confess Sola Scriptura, scripture alone.

Pastor Colton Yarbro

Anxiety is Killing You

Worry is common. There is no doubt about this. There is not a single person in this life that will escape anxious thoughts. But there is something to be said about the intensity and consistency of the anxiety in a person that reveals much about their faith. In a Christian worldview, worry is not virtuous. It’s not something we should aspire to, but rather, repent of. That may have struck a nerve, but please hear it from a fellow sufferer who has had to be called to repentance over this very issue. I want to address this issue with gentleness and seriousness, as I believe it is one of the most destructive things in the lives of God’s people. There are real mental issues at play when it comes to anxiety that can be helped by medical professionals, but even these are from the Lord and they often do not address the real issue lurking beneath the surface. Anxiety is a faith issue at it’s core.

The Longing for Control

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” – Matthew 6:25

At the sermon on the mount, Christ addressed the issue of anxiety and made clear that it is NOT something we should have as a constant in our lives. Hence the words, “do not be anxious”. He goes on to describe how it is God who cares for the smallest details of creation that we might deem insignificant. If God clothes the grass and feeds the birds, how much more will he care for you. Jesus is doing what he does throughout the entirety of the sermon on the mount. He is exposing the heart of the issue. In this case, it is a longing for control. When we worry about things, we do so because we feel like we should be able to change their outcome in an ultimate way. We may even say that God is in control with our lips, but our anxious hearts tell a different story. They reveal that we want to be in control. When a Christian struggling with anxiety feels at peace, not because they have surrendered their worry to God, but because they have accomplished much, they have rejected the sovereignty of God and claimed it as their own. This is why we must repent.

You of Little Faith

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? – Matthew 6:30

When a anxious Christian is in the midst of terrible panic and worry, it is most likely a response to the fact that their faith in their own sovereignty has failed. I have been at the extreme end of this anxiety spectrum and it is not a fun place to be. Worrying about my own health, wondering if I am going to die, wondering how my family will be provided for if I die, and eventually on to the evil despair that says “I wish I would just go ahead and die”. We need to be loving with other believers who go through things like this, but we also need to be lovingly firm. This is sin that needs to be repented of. This is brokenness that is rooted in a heart that is not trusting the promises of God. Your anxiety, dear Christian, is not a joke or a light thing to be trifled with. This is why we must repent.

Repent and Believe The Gospel

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33

Repentance is not just about turning from something, but turning towards something else. It is to change focus and direction. Jesus tells us our focus should be towards the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Instead of being anxious due to the fact that you are not in control, be joyful in fixing your eyes on the one who is. God the Father knows exactly what you need and he will care for you. Sometimes the things you need that he will “add to you” will not be things that you want. But he is Fatherly over all his creation, and in a more special way over all his people. We are called to turn away from our false sense of sovereignty and turn towards the true ruler of the cosmos who loves and cares for us. We are to continue in the path that we started on when he first saved us. We are to continue to repent and believe the gospel.

Interpret Scripture With Scripture (The Scriptures: Part 5)

How should we read the Bible? This seems like a simple question to answer at first, right? You pick it up, maybe dust it off if its been a while, and read it. Maybe you revisit some of your favorite passages that you know well. Maybe you decide to read it from Genesis to Revelation daily. You may choose to do a reading plan such as the chronological or the may others available. Of course none of these ways are wrong. But to read the scriptures in a way that will help you know the truth must be done in light of the whole of scripture. This is interpret scripture with scripture. Let’s look at what the 1689 says regarding this.

“We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and 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, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections 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.


There is great danger in reading the Bible as if it were merely a book of inspirational quotes. You cannot take one verse ripped from its context and expect to have a true sound thinking about who God is. We must read in context. Not just the context of the paragraph, chapter, or book. Those are absolutely important, but not enough. We should read the Bible in context of the whole Bible. There may be 66 books in the Bible with multiple human authors, but there is one divine author behind the whole scope. He is wonderfully consistent. Themes of love, suffering, joy, worship, salvation, and sovereignty fill the pages across the Old and New Testaments. Everything that is said is vital and does not contradict. If we are too careless, picking and choosing the parts we like, we will miss the voice of God and replace it with our own. If we are too rigid, attempting to only read within the context of one book, we will miss the fullness of God’s voice. We need, as the 1689 puts it, the “full discovery”.


Along with seeking to interpret scripture with scripture, something else must be present in order for us to drink from the well of God’s word and receive true refreshment. We need “…the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” This is the part of reading the Bible that is totally dependent on God and his work. Oh how this should humble us to our knees in prayer! We need God to know God. There are scholars who have read the Bible carefully in the original languages that are not able to hear the voice of God and know him fully because they have not been born again. The Spirit of God works through the Word of God in order that we would receive the grace of God. This is called regeneration. God’s redeemed people are able to read the Bible and truly hear God speaking as the Spirit bears witness to their hearts. This goes against our natural tendency to want to make things happen for ourselves. But we must read the Bible with a humble heart, knowing we are in need of God to do something in our hearts that we cannot make happen to ourselves. Read the Bible in light of the whole Bible, and read the Bible as one who is desperately dependent on God to speak truth into your heart as you read.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6

The Fleeting Life and Destructive Grace

It is very hard for me to see beyond what is in front of me. I have never had the type A personality that strives to meet goals that are set well into the future. I’m not saying I don’t do this, I’m just saying that I am not naturally very good at it. I have a task manager app on my phone that helps me, but I get no satisfaction whatsoever by checking a box off of my to-do list. I tend to work best when I spontaneously feel inspired to do something. This may not be you at all. You may be super organized and have a methodical plan to reach your future goal. Checking a box may be the peak of your enjoyment. Regardless of what personality type any of us have, one thing that I am confident that none of us do enough is look ahead to what is coming. I’m not talking about making plans to try to control what is coming, I am talking about what is actually, decisively coming. The end of our lives.

In the Psalms, David prays,

“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!

Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! (Selah)

Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!”

-Psalm 39:4-6

The king saw a need to better understand just how finite our time here is. We need this sobering from God because it is not in our nature to think about such things often, especially when we are young and healthy. David’s prayer here, it seems to me, is one that is in accord with the will of God. God answers this prayer for all of his true children in one way or another. Sometimes it is through health problems in those who are supposed to be young and strong. Sometimes it is through old age. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been told by those older than me to appreciate what I have because it goes away with a few blinks. Sometimes it is through sudden tragedy that hits us like a truck out of nowhere. God, by his grace, will remind his children how fleeting their lives are in this current age. We cannot control the length of our days, and we cannot take anything with us when we die. If our hope is in this life only, then we have no hope at all.

Enter the gospel. The gospel helps us see that God uses the means mentioned above (old age, loss of health, tragedy, and loss of property) to lavish us with his grace. Our inability to see with clarity what is coming is a blindness that we cannot afford to live with. And our God is so gracious, that he will remove the scales from our eyes. He will make our temporal nature so obvious, that we can do nothing but turn to him for hope. Believing the gospel means living in light of its promises; and the Father is so gracious to us that he will not let us remain blind to his glorious promises that are not worth comparing to anything that is here and now. Are you afflicted with old age my brother? It is a kindness from the Father reminding you that this life is not about this life. Are you facing tragedy dear sister? It is grace from the LORD who is reminding you that he is your eternal comfort who one day will remove your tears forever. Have you, family of God, been robbed of earthly treasures or lost property that cannot be recovered? It is the mercy of God that is reminding you that he, alone, is your treasure.

Without him there would be nothing to look forward to. If you do not claim to be his child, then it makes sense for you to refrain from looking past the short vapor that is this life. But if you are his, then his grace destroys your idols for his glory and your good. It is an odd thing to think of the grace and mercy of God as tools of destruction. But they certainly are. They destroy everything that keeps his children from seeing the great hope they have in him. He cuts deep into our hearts, by his grace, and reveals the thirst of our affections by destroying the false gods that have kept us from drinking for so long. He does this so that we will turn to him in our thirst for genuine hope and drink of the living water he provides that will satisfy us in this life and beyond. When he ruins our lives according to our plans, he is near us to give comfort in what lies ahead that we were blind to see before. Thanks be to God for his destructive grace.


The Sower: The One’s Along the Path

Satan is one of the most misunderstood beings in the Bible. Many Christians do not fully grasp who he is and what he is capable of. The two biggest dangers I see regarding how Christians understand the devil are, (1) ascribing too much power to him (which leads to duel theism), and (2) not recognizing him as a real enemy to God’s people. It is vitally important that we understand who this deceiver is. We have many warnings about him in the scriptures that should not go unchecked, and ultimately our hope in knowing who our enemy is will lead us to further press in to God and hope in him who has crushed the serpent under his feet. Let’s get into it.

“And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.” (Mark 4:15 ESV)


In the parable Jesus says the the seed that fell along the path was devoured by the “birds of the air”, and here in his explanation he reveals this to be satan. The most clear thing about the devil that we can gather from this parable is that he wickedly desires to damage anything that relates to the gospel. We know from the word that he is like a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is a deceiver that we see in Genesis 3, as he subtly makes light of what God has said regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All of this is true, but can he take away the word from God’s people?

The scripture seems pretty clear that he does take away the word that is sown, so I think it would be helpful to ask the question another way. Can satan take away the word by his own power and authority? Thanks be to God that the answer to this question is a resounding “no”. First of all, we know from the book of Job that satan cannot do anything based on his own authority. In truth, he has no authority of his own, but is only able to do what God allows him to do. He is not able to cause any harm to anyone without the permission of God. Now this doesn’t totally satisfy all of our questions, but it does help us better understand what is happening in this parable. The enemy devours the word that is sown along the path because God grants him the ability to do so. He is compared to a bird, a creature that does nothing apart from God (Matthew 10:29).

The other thing we can be sure of is that the word of God does not return to him empty (Isaiah 55:11). This is true of all of the soil types in Jesus parable. Only one of the places that the seed lands will produce fruit, but that does not mean that there is no purpose to the seed being sown in the other types of ground. What those purposes are may remain mysterious to us, but we can trust that God is doing something. When he sends out his word, he has purpose behind it all. The enemy can do nothing apart from the will of God, and therefore we should not put him anywhere near the same level as God.


Just because the enemy has no authority apart from God does not mean that we should totally disregard him. He is a deceiver and tester of mankind. Though there is not much written about satan and the demonic in the scriptures, there is still enough for us to understand that he is an enemy to the church. We should not cast aside the reality of his hatred for us, but rather we should pray as Jesus taught us, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We know that authority belongs to God, and thus we should pray that God would guard us from the enemy. We should pray that we would recognize our sin nature that the devil seeks to exploit, and that we would put to death the deeds of the flesh. As we will further unpack when we get into the other soil types, we cannot say “the devil made me do it” when it comes to disobeying God and his word. The enemy seeks to devour and deceive, but he is not without boundaries. He can only do what the sovereign God allows him to do. This does not mean we should disregard him, but rather we should realize that our sin is not because “the devil made us do it.”. Our sin is all our own, and when we overemphasize satan to the point of blame for our sin, then we become those along the path. If we believe the enemy is the cause of all our sin, then we do not have the gospel. The gospel pulls no punches about who is to blame for sin. It is OUR sin. We do it. And when you deny that, then you are (ironically) one who has had the seed devoured right in front of you. You miss the point.


Do not overestimate or underestimate the devil. He is real and he is the prince of the power of the air, but he can only do what God allows and he only has authority that has been given to him. Truly nothing is his. We need to know this, not simply to better understand our enemy, but to better understand God. The Bible does not present us with duel theism. In other words, it’s not God versus the devil. Contrary to posts you may see on social media, Jesus is not in an arm wrestling match with satan. He has already crushed his head. Christ has won, and there is no tension that should leave us wondering what will happen. The gospel tells us that Christ has triumphed, and the enemy has been defeated before time began. We should rejoice in this fact, and pray that our great God would continually deliver us from evil as he has promised to ultimately do.

The Authority of the Author (The Scriptures: Part 4)

What makes the Bible authoritative? Do we decide it is? Is it because a pastor says so? If the Bible was written by men, then how can we trust it? Should we treat it with reverence or as we would treat any other book? The answer to all these questions is given to us by the 1689 in a simple way. So simple that some will deem it unsatisfying. Here is what it says.

“The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.”


Man does not give scripture its authority. The only thing that makes preaching and teaching authoritative is if the preacher or teacher is doing so from the scriptures. And even here we must be careful. There are many who stand before a crowd with a Bible open and quote things from it in an attempt to make their own point and not the Bible’s. Scripture can be abused by man, and thus it is not dependent on man for its authority. All of the power of the message of the Bible is within the Bible itself because the Bible is the very word of God.

Some will object here and say that men wrote the Bible, and therefore it must have some dependency on the testimony of man. This is an understandable critique, but it falls flat when put up against what the Bible says about itself. A passage that has been referenced before here on the blog is 2 Peter 1:21, which says, “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.” Men were certainly involved in the writing of the scriptures, but the men themselves had no authority of their own. The men spoke from God. Of course this is a matter of faith, but it is what the Bible says about itself. It does not need us to validate it. It simply claims to be valid.


In regards to the Bible’s relationship to the church, the 1689 is very clear. The church does not govern the Bible, but the Bible governs the church. Some of the darker times in church history were the times when the word was kept from the people. Church hierarchy began twisting the meaning of the word in favor of promoting their own agendas rather than obeying the gospel. It is easy to see how this would produce big problems, and that is exactly what happened. The Protestant reformation came to be because some began seeing that the teaching of the church was contrary to the teaching of the scriptures. We must not be dependent on leadership within the church to govern the church on their own authority, but rather we should stay grounded by submitting ourselves (as a church) to the word. When we do this, it not only holds the leadership accountable, but all the members. It removes our personal preferences and holds us all accountable to an authority that is higher than ourselves.


The 1689 confession ascribes all the authority of the Bible to God himself. This position is uncomfortable for some because there are some very hard things in the Bible. Many would like to point out certain passages that they deem a problem, thinking to themselves it is impossible that a loving God would say such things. But many who would criticize in this way have not really read the Bible. Bits and pieces of the scriptures can be helpful to us. But the Bible is cohesive. It all works together to communicate who God is, and we need this full picture to know him more. He is just, holy, righteous, loving, merciful, gracious, faithful, unchanging, perfect, sovereign, wrathful, patient, kind, and so much more. And many of the passages that give us problems (such as passages about God’s wrath or his holiness) better help us understand the ones we tend to cling to most (such as passages about God’s grace or love). The word stands on its own, possessing its authority completely from God. This we confess, and in this we have hope.


The Sower: The Seed of the Word

After Jesus was accused of doing his works by the power of Satan, he began speaking in parables. The first major parable recorded in the gospel of Mark is the parable of the sower. He tells the story in a very large crowd, but then later explains it privately to his disciples. It is in this explanation that we see how proclaiming the gospel works for both the one proclaiming it and the those who are hearing it. Over the next several weeks we will dive into the various parts of the parable, starting today with the sower and his seed.


The one part of the parable that Jesus does not explicitly reveal is the identity of the sower. However, if we look into the text (and other texts surrounding the concept of proclaiming the gospel) we can see quite clearly who the sower is. The ultimate answer is that the sower is God himself. God is the one who scatters the gospel seed all around the world. Jesus was scattering seed as he taught the people (Matthew 13:37). God, who is rich in mercy, has chosen to proclaim his gospel. But the sower is also those who follow Jesus in this practice. Those of us that he has saved are commanded by the great commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Christian you are commanded by Christ to scatter the seed just as Christ did. But this leads us to another important question.


Jesus explains that the sower sows the word. This truth cannot be pushed aside as unimportant, though many modern so-called followers of Christ would love to do so. The new hip thing to do for Christians today is to thrust aside the word as something that only needs to be used some times when it fits the narrative that we are trying to tell. There is an arrogance brewing today that seeks to evangelize by removing the authority of the Bible and replacing it with some assumed idea of what Jesus was “really” like. The new testaments accounts are not good enough for those who subscribe to this idea. Jesus in the New Testament constantly ascribed authority to the scriptures of the Old Testament (which he does in this very parable and several other places) and this does not fit within their own thinking about who Jesus was. They find the OT repulsive, and say things like “my God would never say that”. This reveals that their god is one of their own design, and not the God of the scriptures. Scriptures that Jesus proclaimed as true and unfailing. Of course one would have to believe in the Jesus that the new testament presents for this to matter. That is why many prefer to make up their own Jesus that fits their own worldview. This is done by both liberal theologians who do not trust the inerrancy of the Bible, as well as conservative ones who claim they do but twist the meanings to fit their own agendas. The seed that is scattered is not subject to our opinions and feelings. It is the very word of God, and it can stand on its own. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself.”


The last thing to notice is that the seed is scattered indiscriminately. As we will study further, the seed is tossed in every direction liberally. This might seem inefficient, but it was a common method of farming during this time period. The seeds were scattered and then plowed. We, as ambassadors for Christ, are to be about the work of proclaiming the gospel indiscriminately. Yes, some of it will fall on bad soil and rocky ground. This is a harsh reality. But some of it will most definitely fall into good soil. Notice that the sower does not examine the soil before scattering, but he simply begins working. There is definitely time for strategy and careful thought, but those things should not dictate the work that God has called us to. He is sowing his gospel through us, and no matter what we are to walk in that. We can trust that he will give the increase that far surpasses the seed that did not bear fruit, as mentioned at the end of the parable. “20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:20.