‘Oh, you conservative evangelicals! You think you’re so clever! You think you’re right and everyone else is wrong!’
Have you heard that complaint? I have heard it a few times, once or twice from unexpected sources. Is the complaint valid? Is the accusation just? It had better not be!
Luther heard that accusation. ‘Are you alone clever?’ He denied that. He also pointed out that it would not be the first time that God had opened the mouth of an ass (Numbers 22).
The accusation arises because true evangelicals (orthodox, conservative, Bible-believing) say that this is true and that is false. We make assertions. Any assertion is also a negation. If anyone says that anything is true, he automatically says that the opposite is false.
We boldly confess the faith. Whatever disagrees is false. Whoever disagrees is either honestly mistaken or deliberately deceitful.
Is that pride? It had better not be! The cross of Christ is to be the Christian’s only boast (Galatians 6:14). How can we tell whether it is pride on our part, pride in our intelligence, our education, our reasoning, or our tradition?
How have we come to believe, teach, and confess as we do? On what basis do we make such firm assertions? Why do we so boldly reject all that contradicts our confession of faith?
If we hold the faith because of our opinions, our feelings, our traditions, or our arguments, we are proud. Then we would have philosophy, not theology; man’s word, not God’s Word. If we thought that we were better or smarter than others, we would be Pharisees. We would be not only boasting in ourselves but also trusting in ourselves. That would be pride and idolatry!
The Word of God alone must be the only basis for any and all public and private proclamation. Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone, must be the source and standard for all that we believe, teach and confess. There is no reason for anyone to believe what we say about sin, death, hell and damnation, nor about the Saviour, life, heaven and salvation. All that matters is what God says. God has spoken and written. The Bible is his Word, not ours.
If the Bible does not speak clearly on any matter, then we need not know it. We should not try to explain what God has not explained. But the Bible does speak clearly on many matters. We are faithful to the Lord only if we believe, teach and confess what he tells and teaches (John 8:31-32). We cannot change God’s Word any more than we can change God’s mind.
The Bible is clear about the condemnation of sin and the forgiveness of sin; the damnation that we have deserved for ourselves by sinning and the salvation that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has obtained for us by living a perfect life and suffering and dying for our sins in our place.
Are we proud? We are sinful. Pride is a constant danger for us. When we have been proud, we should confess that sin, and we should believe that Christ died for that sin, too. Pride should be combated and eliminated with God’s help, by God’s power, through God’s Word. We should be especially concerned that our natural tendency to pride does not enter into theology, preaching, teaching, or any aspect of the ministry of the Word.
We should not want people to be convinced that what we say is right. We should want people to be convinced that what God says is right. If death for sin and life by Christ are our idea, then salvation is not only uncertain but also unfounded. But if they are God’s Word – and they are – then faith and salvation are certain. It does not depend on man’s wisdom but on God’s power (I Corinthians 2:5).
When we speak boldly and plainly as we ought, we should also make it clear that we are preaching not our word but God’s Word, that we want people to trust and believe not us but God. If people object, they are objecting to God’s Word. If they reject, they are rejecting Christ. If they attack, they are attacking God (Luke 10: 16).