The good folks at Reformation Trust sent me an advance copy of R.C. Sproul Jr.'s forthcoming Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept (March, 2009). This thoughtful and accessible book promises to go a long way in strengthening faith. Here's a peek at the contents:
1. All Scripture Is Profitable (2 Timothy 3:16)
2. Our Heavenly Father Loves Us (1 John 3:1)
3. Confession, Forgiveness, and Cleansing (1 John 1: 9)
4. Wisdom for the Asking (James 1:5)
5. Children Are a Heritage (Psalm 127)
6. The Desires of Your Heart (Psalm 37:4)
7. Open Windows of Heaven (Malachi 3:10)
8. Mountains Cast into the Sea (Mark 11:22–24)
9. All Things Work Together (Romans 8:28)
10. He Has Overcome the World (John 16:33)
11. The Good Work Shall Be Completed (Philippians 1:6)
12. We Shall Be Like Him (1 John 3:2)
Over the next couple of weeks I plan to post reflections from each chapter. Today's offering is from chapter 1: All Scripture is Profitable (2 Timothy 3:16).
Sproul begins his book by reminding us of the perspicuity (i.e., clarity) of Scripture:
Though it is identified by a rather unclear term, this doctrine affirms that the Bible is clear. It concedes that some parts are clearer than others, but denies the notion that only the specially trained should handle such lofty prose. Such doesn’t in any way deny the biblical truth that God has gifted the church with teachers (Eph. 4:11). It denies that only a teacher can grasp the teaching of the Bible (6).
Indeed, one does not need a Bible college or seminary degree in order to understand the main storyline of Scripture. So if the Bible is clear, what does Sproul identify as evangelicalism's biggest problem when it comes to the Bible?
Our problem in the evangelical church isn’t, I believe, that we aren’t trained well enough to grasp the hard teachings of the Bible, but that we are too worldly to believe the plain promises of the Bible. The difficulty isn’t that the Bible is esoteric, but that it is profligate. The problem isn’t that God speaks with a forked tongue; but that He speaks such incredible promises that we find them to be less than credible. The answer isn’t to run from what God speaks, but to run to it. Thus, Paul makes perspicuous what he hopes for Timothy, and for us: “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 competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). What are we seeking? That we might be “competent,” or complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. And that is exactly what God promises here. I know that this promise hasn’t been hidden from the evangelical church. We are more than familiar with this passage. The trouble is that we don’t believe it (6).
This is a great challenge to evangelicals today. Sproul is arguing that worldliness in our ranks has rendered God's Word unbelievable. Because evangelicals have drunk far too much from the poison well of the world we come up to God's "incredible promises" in the Bible and "find them to be less than credible." (This is seen all too often in pulpits across America where "preachers," who love to cry inerrancy, functionally deny it with sermons that don't stay tethered to the text of Scripture.) Worldliness whispers in our ears: "Surely God's Word can't make you 'complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.' You need something else." And so we run along effectively denying the sufficiency of Scripture while trusting in lesser things to make us whole. In the end all of our frenetic efforts at self-improvement leave us hopeless.
So what to do? Sproul says we must "avail ourselves of the Word of God." In other words, we go to the Bible for reproof, correction and training in righteousness. And in so doing beat down our unbelief by becoming "competent, equipped for every good work." He sums it up paradoxically this way: "If we would lay hold of these promises, we must look to His Word, that we might in turn believe His Word" (10).
Tomorrow we'll look at chapter 2: Our Heavenly Father Loves Us (1 John 3:1).