Session 15: Sinclair Ferguson
Note: Throughout the week, as we liveblog the general sessions, we will be using a time-stamp method. This will give readers an approximate sense of key statements that were made throughout the session, as well as allowing them to trace the flow of the argument. (Also, if readers want to listen to any key moments by downloading the audio, these time-stamps will make it easier to track down certain statements in the audio file.) However, what follows is not intended to be a full or exact transcript of what was said.
Inerrancy & Pneumatology
10:00: The Session began with music led by John Martin. The medley included Come, Christians Join to Sing, O Great God, There is a Fountain, and Come, Behold the Wondrous Mystery. As always, the singing was uplifting and Christ exalting. The chorus of 4,000 men singing continues to be a highlight of the conference.
10:13: Sinclair Ferguson announces his topic of “Pneumatology and Inerrancy”
This message this morning has, in theory, three points. If time flies, it will become a message with one point.
I want to read a number of passages:
There is no other Holy Spirit that indwells believers than the Holy Spirit who ws in the ministry of Christ Jesus.
10:25: Let us pray together . . .
The Bible has come to us as a gift of the Holy Trinity—not the Father alone, or the Son alone, or, for that matter, the Holy Spirit Alone. It is a gift of the Holy Trinity.
In everything God does, all three persons of the Trinity are active. Creation is a good example, also the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ. They are indivisible; they work in harmony. This one God in three persons.
Each person engages in a unique way, in a way that the other persons is not engaged in bringing salvation to us. We can never thank the Father or the Holy Spirit for dying for us on the cross. Only the Son can be thanked for dying for us, and only the Father can be thanked for sending Him, and only the Holy Spirit can be thanked for opening our eyes to see Him.
10:30: In this section of Scripture, Christ is teaching the apostles that the Holy Spirit has His own role to play. It is on this that the Lord in concentrating in these words.
Peter identifies the executor of the OT Scriptures as the Holy Spirit of Christ. Jesus Confirms this (Mark 12:36). He is the pneuma, the ruah of God. The Scriptures come to us on the breath of God, carried by the Spirit of God to the people of God.
Our Lord Jesus also had a distinct view of the NT Scriptures that would be written. It is vital for us to understand, toward the end of His ministry, the Lord taught concerning the NT Scripture that would be written. This is why these men were called, trained, and commissioned. These men received the Holy Spirit, with, among other things in view, that they would become the prophets—the spokesmen of God—for the new age.
3 Aspects of the way in which God sends the Holy Spirit to the Apostles with regard to the Scriptures:
The Sending of the Spirit to the Apostle is in order to give the Word of truth to the Church.
- After Judas has gone, Jesus speaks to His own, and His soul is bared to them. He tells of the Father’s love and sending and the glory of the Spirit’s coming. It’s within this context that Jesus explains that He is sending the Spirit to them in particular, in order that they may give the Word of truth to the church.
The order: The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Spirit.
The Spirit would take what is Christ’s (Given by the Father to the Son) and shows the fullness and majesty of the Lord, Jesus Christ to us.
10:40: When we read these chapters, we think largely in terms of soteriology, but there is this other strand—a beautiful strand of bibliology:
(1) Jesus is giving the Spirit to the apostles to empower them as His spokesman. He is making them the prophets of the New Covenant. This is the pattern of the OT prophets (see Moses and Aaron, Shaliam). These men were empowered, in a sense, with Jesus’ power of attorney. They are His authoritative representative.
(2) The Spirit comes to the Apostles specifically to equip them to give the NT to the church (John 14:26; 16:13). In these few verses, we have the essence of the New Testament. These are not random sayings of the Lord Jesus. He isn’t speaking to you; He isn’t speaking about you. You weren’t there! There is an almost incurable disease in our culture to read this text as if Christ were speaking to us. He was speaking to the Apostles. There is an economic unity between the Son and Holy Spirit with regard to Scripture.
(3) The Spirit comes as the Spirit of truth, in order to guarantee the inerrancy of the Scripture. Jesus says this again and again. He is the Spirit of truth that comes from the Father (John 15:26). As the Spirit of truth, He will lead the apostles into all truth (John 16:13). As the Spirit of truth, He will sanctify them in truth (John 17:17). The possibility of the Spirit of God lying is equal to the Father lying to the Son—that’s what it means for Him to be the Spirit of truth.
The inevitable logic of Jesus affirming the inerrancy of the OT is that the Scripture given by the Holy Spirit, whom He sends to the apostles, would be at least—at least—as inerrant. To fail to grasp this is to fail to understand the connectedness of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit has no bad breath, my brothers!
(4) It is this work of the Spirit that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 makes effectual in the apostles and in the world. He is praying for the ones the Father has given Him. He is sending them as the Father has sent Him, thus He prays for them to be sanctified in the truth.
(5) There is a sense in which John understands that his gospel is the completion of this commission (John 20:30-31). The wording used here is the typical language used of the Scripture. Jesus prayed for those who would believe through their word. John wrote that people would believe. The idea that the apostles were unaware that they were giving Scripture is utterly indefensible in light of the NT. This passage is a good example of that. John is very conscious that what he is doing here is fulfilling Jesus’ prayer.
The Father gave the words to the Son. The Son sent the Spirit to the apostles. The apostles labored, as led by the Spirit, to write this down. The Scripture was given to the church as the Word of truth. The Spirit uses the Word to bring about salvation.
11:06: Not to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture is to make God a liar.
My dear brothers, it’s not just the integrity of the text that’s at stake, it’s the integrity of God. It’s the integrity of the relationships of the trinity. The Father does not lie to the Son. The Son does not lie to the Spirit. The Spirit does not lie to the apostles.
This is why the apostles (including Paul) spoke with such authority of their writings.
Your preaching rests on the conviction that this is God breathed Scripture.
We are all thankful for the way we’ve been served here. The way we have been served is a product of 1,250 who’ve been able to gaze at the glory of God through the pages of Scripture—not just some collection of wise sayings, but the Word of God.
Inerrancy matters because it honors the Holy Spirit, who wants to honor the Son, who Honors the Father. We honor the Trinity best when we honor His inerrant Word.
11:15: Let us pray.
Note: Dr. Ferguson did not make it to points 2 and 3 of his outline.