Thursday, January 22, 2009

0 The Institutes: Scripture and The Duty of the Scripture Teacher

The last two sections of chapter 7 in Book I of the Institutes dwell on the Holy Spirit's indispensible role in a man's understanding of what God has spoken in Scripture - and that Scripture itself is self-authenticating - a concept which many scoff at, I am sure, but which is what one naturally comes to as he realizes, by the grace of God present with him by the Holy Spirit, that GOD Himself speaks in those words on the page.

A powerful illustration begins section 4, and I've just alluded to it. Scripture's highest proof, Calvin says, "derives in general from the fact that God in person speaks in it." (p. 78, Institutes of the Christian Religion) There can be NO higher proof, in fact - and in the absence of recognition of this fact, no doctrine is secure. Calvin bears witness to this by invoking the prophets and apostles, none of whom claimed a prideful stance with respect to their own intellectual prowess or abilities, but simply "bring forward God's holy name, that by it the whole world may be brought into obedience to him." (p. 78, Institutes of the Christian Religion)

My reflections today are going to be limited to this item - teachers of truth and their responsibility. It is a weighty thing those of us who teach God's word in any capacity - ANY capacity, whether it is the pastor preaching God's Word from the pulpit, or the elder/teacher instructing others in the Word through Bible Study or Sunday school. It is true even of parents instructing their children in the faith - or lay Christians instructing unbelievers in their workplace. Let Calvin's implicit teaching be heard here. One had best be careful saying "God says THIS in His Word".

Care must be taken that when we teach, we teach with humility - WE are not the originators of Holy doctrine, GOD is. When we claim that what we are teaching is the truth God has revealed in Scripture.... we'd best be certain, as far as it is possible to do so, that what we're saying is what is found there. As fallen human beings, we certainly are prone to extend or deviate from the path laid down by God in His Word - we are prone to inject our own thoughts and piously label them with God's assumed appropbation, most of the time, I suspect, unconsciously. How delicate is the job of handling God's Word so that we do not make an idol out of our own minds and perceptive abilities, and denigrate the giver of that Word.

I am sure I'm guilty of this in all settings above, and am convicted today that it must be my first priority whenever my lips are opened to speak about God's Word that I have prayerfully considered and searched the Scriptures to be sure that what I am about to say is consistent with what God has taught in the passage in question. Let the Lord's correction do its good work in those of us who teach, that His name might be glorified and moreso tomorrow than yesterday as He sanctifies our lips.



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