Sermons Or "Bible Only" Preference

Status
Not open for further replies.

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Senior
I didn't really know how to title this thread, but it's something that has been on my mind and I couldn't find many resources on the internet about the topic.

I have been around quite a few people recently that are of the mindset that because we have the Spirit of God, we don't have to regularly seek other people's interpretations of the Bible, but we mainly need to be in the scriptures ourselves and see how God is interpreting the Bible through his Spirit within us. So these people don't really read commentaries or listen to pastors' sermons. Instead, they go straight to the Bible and basically just bathe in it.

I study the Bible on a daily basis, and I have a solid spirit of discernment when it comes to theological matters, but it seems like my preference is to sit under godly preaching and regularly listen to sermons. I tend to get more out of sermons it seems then going straight to the Bible. Am I wrong for thinking this way? I definitely agree that I need to have personal first hand experience with the Bible, and I do read it on a daily basis, but I think I appreciate more so listening to a person who has in a sense mastered understanding the Bible, hearing how he can correctly teach how to apply it and understand it.

I guess I just don't want to have this sense of guilt for not always wanting to go straight to the Bible and bathing in it as if something supernatural is going to happen in helping me to understand it better. Honestly, I have studied the Bible very much but oftentimes I am very much confused in my understanding of it because of contextual differences, cultural differences, language differences, and other differences that make it difficult for common people to really feel competent with the book. The bible really is a very challenging book, and I think in our humbleness we can all admit that no matter how much we study it.

Reading the Bible for myself is very important, but I think I gain more from listening to sermons by sound preachers. Is this wrong?
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
This isn’t an either/or issue; it’s both/and. It’s just as simple as that. The Bible instructs us both to hide God’s Word in our heart for ourselves, and to give heed to the preaching of the Word given by shepherds called by him to do that very thing.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Preaching, and hearing of it, is fundamental to worship. It is not at all wrong, it is right.

From your Confession, WCF, Chapter XXI "Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath-day.":

V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in a holy and religious manner.

We are all (at some point if not always) in the position of the Ethiopian eunuch:

"30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
31 And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him."
(Acts 8:30-31 NKJ)
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
"When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments." (2Tim. 4:13)

Calvin:

"It is evident from this, that the Apostle had not given over reading, though he was already preparing for death. Where are those who think that they have made so great progress that they do not need any more exercise? Which of them will dare to compare himself with Paul? Still more does this expression refute the madness of those men who -- despising books, and condemning all reading -- boast of nothing but their own enthousiasmous divine inspirations. But let us know that this passage gives to all believers a recommendation of constant reading, that they may profit by it."
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
I study the Bible on a daily basis, and I have a solid spirit of discernment when it comes to theological matters, but it seems like my preference is to sit under godly preaching and regularly listen to sermons. I tend to get more out of sermons it seems then going straight to the Bible. Am I wrong for thinking this way? I definitely agree that I need to have personal first hand experience with the Bible, and I do read it on a daily basis, but I think I appreciate more so listening to a person who has in a sense mastered understanding the Bible, hearing how he can correctly teach how to apply it and understand it.

I'm sure you'll find that any preacher worth the salt has made it his practice to read widely. And not just things in which he already agrees. I heard that Charles Spurgeon's extensive library had more secular volumes than religious. Interesting. Also, people are very different. I think it is a truism that has been around, but just in case you haven't heard it, my pastor once told me that there are two types of preachers--rain barrels and fountains. Then he added that he was the rain barrel type and needed lots of input to help with his sermons. I am the rain barrel type. I have always read quite a bit from Reformed authors, but in the last five or six years, I have read much more than I did in any other 5-year time period. With age, I had found out more about what Paul meant when he said, if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn't yet know anything as he ought.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
I tend to get more out of sermons it seems then going straight to the Bible. Am I wrong for thinking this way?

No, you are not wrong. Even Taylor's "hide the Word of God in your heart," and like commands, occurred in a pre-print society in which folk did not have access to a printed Bible and many could not read.

The Word was always meant to be an exposited Word, and the preacher has always been necessary for such. WLC 155 acknowledges the importance of reading the Word, now that we have it and folk can read it in the Reformational/post-Reformational context: even there, though, it says that the Spirit makes effectual "especially the preaching of the Word." More than the reading. That's the signification of the "especially" here.

Continuing on, WLC 160 tells us how are to hear the preaching of the Word of God, saying, among other things, that we are "to receive the truth...as the Word of God." This means that Westminster declares, as do other Reformed confessions, that the faithful preaching of the Word of the Lord is (derivatively) the Word of the Lord. The proof text given is I Thes. 2:13, which some might take to mean Paul's authoritative apostolic utterances, but the context and the best commentators (both Lutheran and Calvinist) make plain refers to Paul's preaching, and by extension, to the faithful gospel preaching of any minister of the Word.

You are quite right to sense and affirm that the Word of the Lord is never plainer to you than when it is faithfully preached to you. This is precisely what our Confession teaches and the world (and, sadly, no small segment of the church) despises. Much of our history in America has been that of Jesus, my Bible, and me, among evangelicals, happily marginalizing the church and its gifted and called ministry. The sooner we repent of that and gladly place ourselves under faithful preaching, the better!

Peace,
Alan
 

dhh712

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you for starting this thread, Ryan and to the others who have replied. I have sometimes have wondered too if there was something wrong with me because when I read the Bible, it is like a closed book to me unless I have it explained. I heard of others (such as my husband) who, having studied the Bible on their own, have come much to the same interpretations of the Westminster confessions of faith (at least many of the main points, not all of it) and I'm like, wow I feel really stupid because I sure wouldn't be able to get that by reading it on my own.

I actually was converted via reading the Westminster confessions of faith because while reading it, the Bible was explained to me in a way that never was before and it made perfect sense. I don't think I would have ever came to those conclusions if I were to read it countless times on my own. Thanks, Victor, for pointing out the verse about the Ethiopian eunuch who in answer to Philip states how can he understand it unless he has a guide? (I think I forget about that passage when I wonder why I couldn't get much of anything out of the Bible when I read it on my own without having it explained).
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Thank you for starting this thread, Ryan and to the others who have replied. I have sometimes have wondered too if there was something wrong with me because when I read the Bible, it is like a closed book to me unless I have it explained.

Thanks for your post.

Ephesians 4:11-13​
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
 

Paul1976

Puritan Board Freshman
You've gotten a number of good replies - I agree with everything written above.

My brother attended a church that mostly subscribes to the sentiment that all you need is the Bible, and anything else is just someone else's interpretation of the bible and should be ignored. That church has caused a great deal of harm to him spiritually, although he doesn't see it. My brother would be far better off if he would apply that advice to the teaching from that particular church. Perhaps my experience has colored my opinions some, but that thinking often goes with a dangerous level of self confidence at best (arrogance at worst) regarding one's ability to think through scripture. Please do continue to seek out quality sermons, commentaries, and other books. They contain the distillation of many years of study, experience, and useful information.

Does the Holy Spirit help us to understand the scriptures? Yes. How? Often through the means of fellow believers. God did give us the scriptures, but he also gave us a community of fellow believers to strengthen us. That includes not only fellow believers in our local church, but it includes great men and women of God who have come before us, and they can build us up through their writings. If you doubt the importance of fellow believers to our spiritual well-being, consider the book of Hebrews. The author is writing to a group of believers facing persecution and strong temptations to leave the faith. NT epistles often divide into two sections that I think of as "theory" and "application." In the "theory" section of the book, the author reasons, pleads, and encourages them to hold fast to their faith, while occasionally threatening them against abandoning their faith with some of the most severe warnings in scripture. His very first specific exhortation about how to hold fast to their faith in the "application" section (starting at Heb 10:19) involves fellow believers spurring one another on in their faith. He sees Christian community as vital to his audience's perseverance, and we should as well. Again, Christian community includes the writings of fellow believers to the church, at least in my opinion.

All that said, there can be a tendency to spend too much time on secondary works and not enough in the Bible itself. I tend to gravitate in that direction myself. While I very strongly disagree with the advice itself, it is always good to examine oneself to see if you are falling into the error of relying too much on secondary writings. And, the better you know the scriptures, the more readily you'll recognize writing with valuable insights over writing of lower quality.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top