For it is not what a church practices, but what it is warranted to practice: not what it holds for a truth, but what it is warranted to hold as the word of truth. The Word was written after the church; but as it is the Word of God, it is before it.
In the climate of our modern church, it is essential for us to realize that God’s Word is the central gift Christ gives to the church. The major gifts of the New Testament era were given either to write that word (apostles), apply it (prophets) or teach it (pastors and teachers).
We’ve watched the biblical content of services shrink beyond visibility. But doesn’t faith come by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17)? Are the spiritually dead not born again by the living and abiding Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23)? Do the people of God not grow by the pure milk of God’s Word (2:2)? Then does it not matter what we read, preach, and sing in our services, and in what quantities? Should we not be alarmed when we see self-centered sermons replace biblical exposition, repetitious choruses replace biblically rich hymnody and psalmody, token prayers replace a full-diet of biblical prayer (for example, praise, confession, thanksgiving, intercessions), and Scripture reading disappear altogether?
Churches whose spiritual and historical roots are in the Reformation period of the sixteenth century have edifices for worship that are simple and seemingly empty. Apart from pulpit, pews, a baptismal font or baptistry, and a communion table, the building is empty. True, but on the pulpit in full view of any worshiper is the open Bible. The people worship God by receiving and responding to the proclamation of the Word. They worship not the Word but God who is addressing them through the Scriptures.
The church is always to be under the Word; she must be; we must keep her there. You must not assume that because the church started correctly, she will continue so. She did not do so in the New Testament times; she has not done so since. Without being constantly reformed by the Word the church becomes something very different. We must always keep the church under the Word.
The church can affirm the authority of Scripture, but it cannot be the ultimate witness to it… That proof must be the testimony of Scripture itself.
Where the authentic preaching of the Word takes place, the church is there. And where that is absent, there is no church. No matter how high the steeple, no matter how large the budget, no matter how impressive the ministry, it is something else.
Church leaders who have been committed to seeing the church reformed according to God’s Word down through the ages have had a common method: read the Word, preach the Word, pray the Word, sing the Word, see the Word (in the ordinances). Often referred to by theologians as the elements of corporate worship, these five basics are essential to the corporate life, health, and holiness of any local church (Mark Dever and Paul Alexander).
God speaks by the Church (the true Church we mean); but He speaks nothing by her but what He speaks in the Scriptures, which she does only ministerially declare to us; and therefore the authority of God and His law is above hers, who, though she publish, yet did not make it, but is herself subject to it.
Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this – namely accommodation. The evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age. First, there has been accommodation on Scripture, so that many who call themselves evangelicals hold a weakened view of the Bible and no longer affirm the truth of all the Bible teaches – truth not only in religious matters but in the areas of science and history and morality… This accommodation has been costly, first in destroying the power of the Scriptures to confront the spirit of our age; second, in allowing the further slide of our culture. Thus we must say with tears that it is the evangelical accommodation to the world spirit around us, to the wisdom of this age, which removes the evangelical church from standing against the breakdown of our culture.