Maybe you think there’s a disconnect between your theology and your practice. The connection is much stronger than we imagine.
Take the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, for example. A biblical understanding of inerrancy is vital to the missionary task. The gospel will not reach every corner of the globe if the church denies the historic teaching on the nature of Scripture.
What Does the Inerrancy of Scripture Mean?
Inerrancy means the Bible is completely true in everything it says—big and small. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. The Bible is inerrant because it is the word of God.
The Scriptures don’t contain errors because God himself never makes mistakes. And it’s not enough to believe the Bible is true in general. The Bible gets the big picture right and all the little bits of narrative, history, and doctrine that comprise it.
The Bible gets the big picture right and all the little bits of narrative, history, and doctrine that comprise it
At least, that’s how Jesus saw things. When he gave his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said he hadn’t come to abolish anything in the Old Testament—not one little dot (Matthew 5:18). After all, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
Jesus knew devotion to God can’t be separated from the Word of God. He believed Jonah really was swallowed by a giant fish (Matthew 12:38–42). He quoted Scripture when he suffered in our place on the cross (Mark 15:34). Jesus took Scripture for what it really is: the written Word of God.
On this side of the resurrection, Paul believed in the connection between God and the Bible. “All Scripture,” he wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 is “breathed out by God.” That makes the Bible authoritative and sufficient, able to make believers mature and effective in ministry. And it’s this connection that ties our understanding of the nature and authority of Scripture to missions. If we are going to reach the nations, we must affirm the authority and inerrancy of Scripture.
The Inerrancy of Scripture Roots Missions in God’s Authority
The Great Commission begins with Jesus’ declaration that all authority on heaven and earth belongs to him (Matthew 28:18). Practically, submission to the Bible demonstrates submission to Christ’s lordship. Believing the Bible isn’t completely truthful is a slippery slope to only obeying what you want to obey.
Our view of Scripture will determine if we do missions at all, but it also determines how we do missions.
Why go to hard-to-reach places if hell isn’t a literal place of eternal conscious punishment? Why risk your life if everything is eventually saved in the end? An honest reading of the Bible won’t support those two positions. But once you’ve let go of biblical inerrancy, you are free to pick and choose what you will and won’t believe about God, essentially remaking Christ and the Christian life in your own image.
The inerrancy of Scripture safeguards Jesus’ command to teach the nations everything he has commanded (Matthew 28:20). Biblical inerrancy ensures we ourselves take the call seriously and obey it in all the ways God intends.
Inerrancy Helps Us Contextualize in Missions
So our view of Scripture will determine if we do missions at all, but it also determines how we do missions. On one hand, inerrancy keeps us from going too far in contextualization. Taking the gospel to new cultures brings the inherent temptation to soft-peddle aspects of Christian theology that the host culture finds offensive.
But if the Bible is completely true in everything it says, bearing the same authority as God himself, we don’t have the option to modify the message. Inerrancy is like a guardrail that preserves the rest of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
On the flip side, inerrancy also keeps from not going far enough in contextualization. Western missionaries have the nasty habit of trying to impose their cultural norms and expectations like they are biblical mandates.
Inerrancy reminds us that the missionary task is rooted in the clear commands of Scripture. We are submissive to it. The Bible, not us nor our culture, is the ruler by which everything is supposed to be measured.
Only Inerrantists Send Missionaries
Think about the history of missions in the last two hundred years. The groups most serious about world evangelization are so because of their commitment to the authority of Scripture.
Sadly, mainline denominations whose theology has veered from the historic witness of the church largely stopped sending laborers into the harvest. A denial of inerrancy is a death knell to Great Commission work. By God’s grace, know in your bones every word is true–and act like it.