How Does a Belief in the Doctrine of Inerrancy Impact One's Preaching?
The responsibility of every preacher is to communicate truth. Each week he stands before a people that are weak, needy, and desperate - although some are not even aware of that reality - and his chief calling is to preach the Word. As Paul writes to Timothy, the role of the preacher is simply to "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." When speaking to a congregation, each teacher will rely on what he believes is the most powerful weapon at his disposal. If the preacher is convinced that his own personal charm and wit is the greatest ammunition he possesses, the sermon will reflect that belief. Sadly and far too often, this is the case in the American pulpit today.
However, by God's grace, there are some who remain convinced that their most powerful weapon is the inerrant Word of God. Dr. W.A. Criswell expresses this conviction when he says, "The source of my authority in this pulpit is not - as we shall soon see - my wisdom; nor is it a private revelation granted to me beyond the revelation of Scripture. My words have authority only insofar as they are the repetition, unfolding and proper application of the words of Scripture. I have authority only when I stand under authority." Simply put, if a preacher does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, he will continually look to other resources, outside of Scripture, to create a message appealing to his hearers. Conversely, the minister convinced of the inerrancy of the Word of God, will seek only to submit himself to the authority of the Bible and proclaim it as simply and faithfully as he can.
A belief in the inerrancy of Scripture will first affect the preacher's preparation. If the Bible is indeed the perfect and pure Word of God, it is authoritative. This belief is manifested in the joyful hours spent in the study pouring over the words of Scripture in order to gain a greater understanding and clarity of it's teachings. For the man of God persuaded that his Bible records without error the revealed heart and mind of God, there is nothing in the universe more meaningful to comprehend outside of sacred Scripture. He will read the Bible carefully, deeply, with tremendous thoughtfulness and prayerfulness. He will seek the help of the Holy Spirit in desperate prayer longing for the mysteries of the Word to be unfolded before his eyes.
Believing in inerrancy will also affect how the preacher handles difficult passages. If the Bible is inerrant then all of it is true. And, if all of it is true, the teacher will stand behind its teachings regardless of how it may be received. Certainly this does not rule out the importance of being kind, gentle and sympathetic, but one must proclaim boldly what the Bible says. As cultures change and certain parts of Scripture come under fire, the man of God must remind himself often that the Bible is right and must be taught. Therefore, the preacher who believes in inerrancy will not skip portions of Scripture simply because they are not popular, for he will be convinced that all of it is true and profitable.
The inerrancy of Scripture impacts the manner in which the preacher lives his life. Sadly, many "preachers" find the Bible to be nothing more than a collection of wise sayings and in essence, a book of motivational speeches or divine suggestions. This unbiblical and inaccurate view will drive the preacher to ignore parts of the Bible in his own life. After all, if the Bible is not inerrant, perhaps the areas that bring conviction to the preacher are among the passages that contain error. Yet, for the one who affirms that all of Scripture is breathed out by God, sin must be acknowledged with a heart of humility that hastens repentance. This is demonstrated in the life of Jonathan Edwards. Piper says of Edwards in The Supremacy of God in Preaching that, "he saw preaching as a means of grace to assist the saints to persevere, and perseverance as necessary for final salvation. Therefore, every sermon is a 'salvation sermon' - not just because of its aim to convert sinners, but also in its aim to preserve the holy affections of the saints and so enable them to confirm their calling and election, and be saved." (John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching)
Another impact inerrancy has on preaching relates to whom the preacher is striving to please. Simply stated, the opinion that matters most is the one the speaker will seek to please. When the preacher does not believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, man becomes the arbiter of what is true. In this way, the herald must continually make sure his audience agrees with him and approves of what he says. To fail to collect the praise of the listeners would be to risk losing his standing among them.
Yet, for the preacher who understands he is holding the inerrant word of the Creator, he will seek to please Him above all. The God who is the Creator and sustainer of all things is worthy of our praise and admiration. His approval is all that is needed. So the preacher can boldly say, "thus says the Lord" and as long as it is accurately taught, he can rest in that assurance. Paul writes to Timothy saying, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2: 15)." This instructs the pastor to travail in his knowledge of Scripture. He tells Timothy to work as one who will be inspected and to labor in such a way as to be approved. Finally, he tells him that he must rightly handle the "word of truth". All the work and labor in the world, as well as rejection by the world is gain if the preacher is truly convinced that his message is forever the true Word of God. When he believes in the reward of the blessing of God, his burden is made light. In order to rightly divide the Word and to persevere against the winds and waves of a changing culture, the preacher must hold tightly to the words of Isaiah 40: 8 which state, "The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God will stand forever."