Many of our readers will already be acquainted with the decades-long writing ministry of Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible is both his most recent title and one of his earliest! Well, almost. It is a re-work and expansion of his 1982 Handle with Care (Hodder & Stoughton), and we are very happy to see its release – the subject matter is basic and essential, and few are as equipped to treat it with such depth and such warmth.
Ferguson states his objective up front:
These pages do not have specialists in view, but ordinary Christians who want to think through what we should believe about the Bible, and how we can go about understanding and applying its life transforming message.
Very honestly, it’s one of those books that deserves to be bought up by the box and distributed to every family in your church. We’re happy to have Dr. Ferguson here today to talk with us about his new book … and its subject.
Books At a Glance (Fred Zaspel):
First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself? You have “retired” from pastoral ministry and moved back to Scotland – what ministries currently keep you busy?
Yes, we felt that in God’s providence it was actually the very best possible time to “retire” from First Presbyterian in Columbia if the congregation was to have a smooth and good transition into the future – my guess is that most people would agree that having Derek Thomas preach at the morning services and other times, and Dale Ralph Davis in the evenings would be a good transition! So although we miss the people very much we had a clear sense that this was the Lord’s calling for us.
At the moment I am hoping to make a few visits to the USA each year, continuing to teach in a modular way at Redeemer Seminary where I have taught for the last decade and also to share in the work of Ligonier Ministries in which I have also been involved as a Teaching Fellow. At home we are members of St Peter’s Free Church of Scotland where David Robertson is minister (and where Robert Murray M’Cheyne was minister in the late 1830s and early 1840s, and I have the privilege of being the honorary evening preacher. And in between I am trying to catch up with some writing projects.
Books At a Glance:
Could you summarize for us briefly what your book is about?
The book seeks to do two or three things, really. Its sub-title is “Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible.” That fairly well summarises it. I wanted to try to write something that would help Christians be anchored in the Bible’s testimony to itself, what theologians call its “autopistic” nature – and to be able to do more than simply refer to one or two ”big texts.” So I hope the book will give readers a sense that a kind of deep self-conscious awareness of being the word of God runs through the Scriptures so that when we read the Bible we accept it “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 2: 13). It is of course the words that were spoken and written by men, but their words have been “breathed out by God.”
When B.B. Warfield wrote about the deity of Christ he used an illustration he got from the English Congregationalist theologian R.W. Dale: the proof the sea is salty isn’t just found on the sea crystals you find on the shore; it is in every bucket of water you draw out of the sea. The same is true of Scripture, and I have tried to show how that is the case.
Then the second part of the book is about Bible study. But it isn’t so much about teaching the mechanical details of interpretation – there are many books that do that better than I could. What I have tried to do is to give some keys to understanding how the Bible works in terms of its theological dynamics, clues that will help readers see how things fit together, and thus get hold of the big pictures.
And then there is a final section on applying the word in our lives, always remembering the way Paul puts it, that it is the word itself that is at work in us. That is such an important principle to get hold of in a “how do I do this?” subculture where we have tended to lose sight of the fact that God does his work in us through the Word.
Books At a Glance:
I love the title you have chosen – can you tell us something of its significance and how you came to select it?
Well, thank you for saying that. Titles are not always easy, and it has been encouraging to me that people have been struck by the title. I hoped they would because of the way the words struck me when I first read these precise words. Ultimately of course they come from Deuteronomy 8:3 and from Jesus’ use of them during his temptations in Matthew 4:4 in The English Standard Version translation. But of course my generation was brought up on other translations, with slightly different wording. So my first encounter with this exact phrase was in reading The Scots Confession of 1560 when I was a youngster. Not that I was a youngster in 1560!! But when John Knox (and another five ministers all with the Christian name “John”) wrote it they said that if anyone wanted to challenge what they had written they would answer them “out of the mouth of God.” I still remember thinking what a powerful expression that was, and what a hugely impressive description of the Bible … in some ways even more vivid than other expressions.
So it is a very biblical title (and of course has Scottish associations!). So I thought: “What a great description of Scripture to reflect on when we are reading it, or hearing it expounded!”
Books At a Glance:
Explain for us what you mean by “the great chain of revelation.” How is this significant?
I think I use this expression in the context of …
Note: We will continue our interview with Sinclair Ferguson here tomorrow.
Buy the books
FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD: TRUSTING, READING, AND APPLYING THE BIBLE, by Sinclair B. Ferguson