Second, the preacher only has the authority to bind the conscience where Scripture binds the conscience. Not only must the preacher stick to the Word of God, he cannot go beyond what is written when he corrects, reproves, and rebukes. The preacher must draw conclusions that are both good and necessary. For example, he can say with Biblical authority that it is sin to look at internet pornography even when there is no concept of the internet in Scripture. However, he cannot say with Biblical authority that one should never go to movies even if some movies are questionable or sinful. The authority from the pulpit must be tied to the Scriptures.
“The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.” This line from the Second Helvetic Confession summarizes how we should think of the Biblical authority exercised in the pulpit. We see this concept reflected in Scripture, when someone preaches they are bringing the Word of God with authority.
Consider that Scripture itself is breathed out by God. It is God’s own words:
2Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Because of what the Bible is, Paul can give the solemn charge to Timothy, and by extension, it is applied to all who bear the office of elder in the life of the church:
2Tim. 4:1-2 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
This is no small charge. Paul charges Timothy under God and Jesus Christ to whom the pastor is ultimately accountable. The preacher is to bring the Word of God. In proclaiming this Word, the preacher has the authority to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. This is to be carried out with patience, not to beat up the sheep. It is an act of teaching and instructing.
The reason the preacher can reprove, rebuke, and exhort is because the Word of God is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. The Word of God does the work. The Word of God bears the authority for what the preacher says. At the same time, the minister in the pulpit has the responsibility to use the Word of God in every way that God has intended for His Word.
Let us spell out several implications:
First, the preacher must stay close to the text of Scripture. One cannot just step into the pulpit say what he wish and claim ‘thus saith the Lord.’ Perhaps one reason we have lost the vision for Biblical authority in the pulpit is because so many pastors today give mere talks that have little if any actual connection to the Bible. If you are not explaining what the text says and means, no amount of citing Bible verses will make your message preaching. There is no Word of God proclaimed when the Bible is not read and expounded.