Why I am Committed to Teaching the Bible
- Friday, April 27, 2007
Even though I've dealt with theological questions and doctrinal controversies in some of my books, I have never done so from the perspective of a systematic theologian. It is of little concern to me whether some point of doctrine fits with this tradition or that. I want to know what is biblical. All my concerns are biblical, and my desire is to be biblical in all my teaching.
Preach the Word
That is how I have approached ministry from the beginning. My father was a pastor, and when I first told him years ago that I felt God had called me to a life of ministry, he gave me a Bible in which he had inscribed these words of encouragement: "Preach the Word!" That simple statement became the compelling stimulus in my heart. It is all I have endeavored to do in my ministry-preach the Word.
Pastors today face a tremendous amount of pressure to do everything but preach the Word. Church growth experts tell them they must address people's "felt needs." They are encouraged to be storytellers, comedians, psychologists, and motivational speakers. They are warned to steer clear of topics that people find unpleasant. Many have given up biblical preaching in favor of devotional homilies designed to make people feel good. Some have even replaced preaching with drama and other forms of staged entertainment.
But the pastor whose passion is biblical has only one option: "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2).
When Paul wrote those words to Timothy, he added this prophetic warning: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth" (vv. 3-4).
Clearly there was no room in Paul's philosophy of ministry for the give-people-what-they-want theory that is so prevalent today. He did not urge Timothy to conduct a survey to find out what his people wanted. He commanded him to preach the Word-faithfully, reprovingly, and patiently.
In fact, far from urging Timothy to devise a ministry that would garner accolades from the world, Paul warned the young pastor about suffering and hardship! Paul was not telling Timothy how to be "successful," he was encouraging him to follow the divine standard. He was not advising him to pursue prosperity, power, prominence, popularity, or any of the otherworldly notions of success. He was urging the young pastor to be biblical-regardless of the consequences.
Preaching the Word is not always easy. The message we are required to proclaim is often offensive. Christ Himself is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense (Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8). The message of the cross is a stumbling block to some (1 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 5:11), mere foolishness to others (1 Corinthians 1:23).
But we are never permitted to trim the message or tailor it to people's preferences. Paul made this clear to Timothy at the end of 2 Timothy 3: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" (v. 16, emphasis added). This is the Word to be preached: the whole counsel of God (cf. Acts 20:27).
In chapter 1 Paul had told Timothy, "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me" (v. 13). He was speaking of the revealed words of Scripture-all of it. He urged Timothy to "Guard . . . the treasure which has been entrusted to you" (v. 14). Then in chapter 2 he told him to study the Word and handle it accurately (2:15). Now he is telling him to proclaim it. So the entire task of the faithful minister revolves around the Word of God-guarding it, studying it, and proclaiming it.
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