January 29, 2024

Scripture: The Mouth of God

Sinclair Ferguson
Scripture: The Mouth of God

When we go to read the Bible, we go to hear God speak. Today, Sinclair Ferguson reflects on the amazing privilege we have in possessing the authoritative, reliable Word that our heavenly Father has given to us.


From time to time in these podcasts, we try and think a little together about specific Christian doctrines. Sometimes the word doctrine is heard as though it were a slightly nasty word. But it’s far too important in the Bible for that to be true. Knowing biblical doctrine, I think, is rather like having the architect’s drawings for a building. Of course, the building is put up in a building site, but if you don’t have the architect’s drawings, you don’t know what you’re building and you’re not going to be very successful in building it. And if you’ve got bad drawings, the building is going to be faulty.

And the same is true in the Christian life. There’s a very close relationship between our understanding of Christian doctrine and the way we live the Christian life. I know people often say, “Doctrine divides, experience unites.” But actually, if you think about it, that’s not only far from the truth, it’s almost the reverse of the truth. The reality is that true doctrine unites, and the New Testament itself teaches us that. And actually, when you think about it, in order to describe your spiritual experience, you need to use words. You’re describing your spiritual experience in doctrinal terms. So, doctrine is important.

And I want to think first of all today about what do we think about the doctrine of the Bible? I remember years and years ago, I was reading a document called the Scots Confession. It was written in 1560. And you’ll know the name of at least one of the authors. If you need a clue to guess his name, here’s an unusual one. There were six authors, and they all had the Christian name John: John Winram, John Spottiswood, John Willock, John Douglas, John Row, and John Knox. For essentially, this confession was a kind of guiding light to Scottish Christians, pointing them to Christ and the faith once delivered to the saints. And in the introduction to it—this is what struck me—Knox and his friends wrote that if anyone found anything in the confession that was misleading, they should tell them and they would respond to them. Knox wrote—and I’m quoting here— that they would respond “from the mouth of God.” They were talking about the Bible, of course. I remember my instantaneous thought was, “What a tremendous way to describe the Bible—the mouth of God.”

But then, of course, my next thought was, “It wasn’t John Knox who came up with that expression.” It’s how Jesus described the Bible. You remember when He was tempted? “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” And Jesus Himself was actually quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. Of course, Paul puts it the same way, but in different words. He tells us that the Scriptures are “God-breathed.”

So, I think we could say in thinking about the doctrine of Scripture that perhaps the simplest, the most basic, and in many ways the most helpful way for us to read the Bible is to think of it as the mouth of God. And when we read it, to think of ourselves as listening to God Himself speak. Because indeed He does speak through the Bible. And because that’s true, it tells us a lot about the authority of the Bible and also about the reliability of the Bible. If God is speaking through it, we can trust it. And if God is telling us something by it, we should do it.

But you know, this little phrase, “the mouth of God,” has the power not only to instruct the way we think about the nature of the Bible, but to help us to read the Bible. I quoted the other day some words written by Isaiah about the coming Savior: that morning by morning, the Lord opened His ear and He heard as one who was taught. He listened through the Word to the voice of God.

Think about it this way and I think you’ll find yourself paying more attention to it. More than that, I think you’ll begin to think there can be few greater privileges in all the world than this: that I’m able to sit here with my Bible and listen to our heavenly Father speaking to me through it. Remember how in Hebrews 12 when the author of Hebrews quotes from the book of Proverbs? He doesn’t say, “This is what God said.” He says, “This is what our heavenly Father is saying to us.” He is now, through the Scriptures, addressing us as sons. I think we need to recover that sense of the amazing privilege we have in possessing the Bible.

There are more editions of the Bible, more shapes and sizes of the Bible, more Christians own many, many copies of the Bible, but all the statistics tell us that we are a generation that knows so little about the Bible. And perhaps it’s because we’ve forgotten what the Bible really is. It’s the mouth of God. And we need to learn to say with the Lord Jesus, in the words of Isaiah, “Morning by morning, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.” And if we do that, we’ll begin to grow and become more like our Lord Jesus.