Biblical Fidelity & Confessional Integrity
The First Pair of Our Visionary Commitments

The Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) frames its mission through seven principial couplets:

  1. Biblical Fidelity & Confessional Integrity
  2. Gospel-Driven & Christ-Exalting Ministry
  3. Earnest Prayer & Expository Preaching
  4. Intentional Evangelism & Personal Discipleship
  5. Godly Leadership & Presbyterian Polity
  6. Reformed Worship & Vibrant Community
  7. Missional Clarity & Church Multiplication

This article delves ever so briefly into the first of those couplets, Biblical Fidelity & Confessional Integrity. The lead-off position of this couplet and the linkage of the two aspects within it signal that the GRN endorses the same priority as did the Reformers, as seen by the place given the Holy Scripture in the opening chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Reformers trumpeted, and the GRN follows suit, that our expression of faith is to be grounded in the Word of God. It is essential and non-negotiable that the GRN be rooted in an unyielding commitment to the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, sufficiency, and efficacy of Scripture for faith and practice, and to the Westminster Standards as the best summary of Scripture’s import.

Biblical Fidelity

This opening half of the first couplet conveys the GRN’s conviction that the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) must be faithful to what the Bible is and what it says. We need not look far for what it is. It is – all of it is – breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16). Simply put, it is the Word of God. It has issued from God’s very life – from the same source of outbreathing that gave life in His image, after His likeness, to a clump of dust from the ground (Gen. 2:7). It is sharper than any two-edged sword and penetrates even to divide bone from marrow, soul from spirit, and it discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). It reveals the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16). If our lives are to be oriented to the worship of the one true, living, and triune God – and they are – then that worship must be grounded, shaped, and led by the truth which God Himself has revealed in his Word (WCF 1.1).

And what is it to be faithful to that sacred Word? It must be at least twofold: we as leaders of the church must ourselves possess personal faith in the truth of what Scripture is – that it is the Word of God. But faithfulness also calls for more. We must never deviate from the truth of God’s Word. We must never add to it. We must consistently teach and preach what the Bible says and what it means. Paul more than hinted at these imperatives when he wrote his final letter to his beloved disciple Timothy and predicated his final advice on the reality of what Scripture is. His point was that Timothy was to be unfailingly and unwaveringly devoted to Scripture’s truth and power in all that he did. A firm and unyielding commitment to biblical fidelity must be the starting point for healthy Reformed churches in the PCA and for healthy churches in all other faithful denominations too.

The Bible not only deserves faithful handling by the church’s leaders, but our congregations will profit from such faithfulness as they are taught, reproved, corrected, and trained in righteousness by sermons and worship which are ever faithful to God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Bible is God’s speech to us. This is true of every book from Genesis to Revelation, and it is also true of every word in every book. Therefore, we are not free to pick and choose which parts of the Bible we like, which commands we want to obey, or which doctrines we will believe. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Christianity is not built upon what people think of God, man, the world, and the church. We have the Bible, which is God’s self-disclosure to us. God came to us and revealed Himself to us. The 66 books of the Bible are God’s words to us, written down by human authors as “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

The Bible’s Authority

The Words of the Bible are God’s words, and this means all Scripture carries with it God’s authority. Put another way, what Scripture says, God says. If the PCA is to remain healthy and faithful, then all its teaching and ruling elders must continue to receive, love, preach, teach, and seek to obey the Bible as the very Word of God.

The Bible’s Sufficiency

The Bible claims to be profitable and useful, but that is only if we will use it. The Bible is sufficient to equip and guide followers of Jesus in how to live in God’s world, how to love others, how to love and worship God, and the duty God requires of us (WSC #3) in every area of our lives and ministries, but only if we will use it, read it, study it, preach it, teach it, and seek to obey it.

Of course, this also means that if we neglect the study, the preaching, and the application of the Bible, then we will not be faithfully equipped for every good work. I have heard it put this way, “the only way to be ‘a man of God’ is to be a man ‘of the Word of God.’”

The PCA needs teaching and ruling elders who are men of the Word of God. Men who are taught, reproved, corrected, and trained as the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God in their hearts and lives, men who handle the Word of God to teach, reprove, correct, and train those they have been called to shepherd. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the Book widens and deepens with our years.”

This is why we must be committed to preaching, teaching, reading, studying, praying, and singing the Bible. God’s Word must be what directs and governs our Lord’s Day worship services and all the various aspects of the ministries of our churches.

Confessional Integrity

I take “integrity” here as carrying two senses: accuracy and wholeness. Applying those two features to the Westminster Standards, I take this second half of the GRN’s mission-indicating first couplet as recognizing that the Westminster Standards accurately summarize the import of Scripture and capture its “whole counsel.” The GRN endorses the PCA’s clear position that the Standards are the best available summary of Scripture’s import and that they well span the whole of that import. That is, of course, not to say that the Standards carry the same authority as Scripture. In and of themselves, they do not. Scripture is God’s Word. The Standards were composed by men. They were thoughtful, biblically knowledgeable, and devout men to be sure, but men nonetheless, and even the best of men are men at best. The Standards are servants of Scripture. They enable the church to agree on what Scripture means and to proclaim what they are agreed it means to the church and to the world.

Confessional integrity is essential for a healthy PCA. The PCA needs teaching and ruling elders who are committed to a resolute adherence to the Westminster Standards. In a healthy and faithful PCA, biblical fidelity and confessional integrity will be held in tandem. All our pastors and elders subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism. That is because we believe the Westminster Standards are the purest, clearest expression of the historic Christian faith recovered at the Protestant Reformation.

Teaching and ruling elders of the PCA, do we really believe the Bible is authoritative and sufficient for our churches? Do we preach in such a way that the Bible – the Word of God – is the focus of our sermons? Or is our text merely a springboard for our own ideas, agendas, and strategies? Do we really believe the Bible is sufficient for our churches, or are we functionally relying on sociology, psychology, and the current cultural winds, as much as, or in addition to, the Bible?

If we believe the Bible is sufficient to teach, reprove, correct, train, and to equip our congregations for every good work, then we will labor with all our energy to teach and preach the Word of God as clearly and faithfully as we can. We will also be committed to letting the Word of God determine what we do in our worship services. Simply put, we will seek to sing the Bible, pray the Bible, read the Bible, and preach the Bible, and we will rely on the Westminster Standards to guard and inform our biblical understandings. The GRN’s opening couplet is a sound and strong starting point. May we in every moment, in every situation, and throughout the worship in our churches, be biblically faithful and confessionally committed.