The Pastor As Theologian, Part Three

As a theologian, the pastor must be known for what he teaches, as well as for what he knows, affirms, and believes. The health of the church depends upon pastors who infuse their congregations with deep biblical and theological conviction. The means of this transfer of conviction is the preaching of the Word of God.

We will be hard pressed to define any activity as being more inherently theological than the preaching of God's Word. The ministry of preaching is an exercise in the theological exposition of Scripture. Congregations that are fed nothing more than ambiguous "principles" supposedly drawn from God's Word are doomed to spiritual immaturity, which will become visible in compromise, complacency, and a host of other spiritual ills.

Why else would the Apostle Paul command Timothy to preach the Word in such solemn and serious terms: "I solemnly 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, exhort, with great patience and instruction" [2 Timothy 4:1-2].

As we have already seen, this very text points to the inescapably theological character of ministry. In these preceding verses, Paul specifically ties this theological ministry to the task of preaching--understood to be the pastor's supreme calling. As Martin Luther rightly affirmed, the preaching of the Word of God is the first mark of the church. Where it is found, there one finds the church. Where it is absent, there is no church, whatever others may claim.

Paul had affirmed Scripture as "inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" [2 Timothy 3:16]. Through the preaching of the Word of God, the congregation is fed substantial theological doctrine directly from the biblical text. Expository preaching is the most effective means of imparting biblical knowledge to the congregation, and thus arming God's people with deep theological conviction

In other words, the pastor's conviction about theological preaching becomes the foundation for the transfer of these convictions into the hearts of God's people. The divine agent of this transfer is the Holy Spirit, who opens hearts, eyes, and ears to hear, understand, and receive the Word of God. The preacher's responsibility is to be clear, specific, systematic, and comprehensive in setting out the biblical convictions that are drawn from God's Word and which, taken together, frame a biblical understanding of the Christian faith and the Christian life.

All this assumes, of course, that the pastoral ministry is first rooted in the pastor's own confession of faith--the pastor's personal theological convictions.

The faithful pastor does not teach merely that which has historically been believed by the church and is even now believed by faithful Christians--he teaches out of his own personal confession of belief. There is no sense of theological attachment or of academic distance when the pastor sets out a theological vision of the Christian life.

All true Christian preaching is experiential preaching, set before the congregation by a man who is possessed by deep theological passion, specific theological convictions, and an eagerness to see these convictions shared by his congregation.

Faithful preaching does not consist in the preacher presenting a set of theological options to the congregation. Instead, the pastor should stand ready to define, defend, and document his own deep convictions, drawn from his careful study of God's Word and his knowledge of the faithful teaching of the church.

Our model for this pastoral confidence is, once again, the Apostle Paul. Paul's personal testimony is intertwined with his own theology. Consider Paul's retrospective analysis of his own attempts at human righteousness, coupled with his bold embrace of the Gospel as grounded in grace alone.