The Task of a Teacher of God’s Word
If the teacher of God’s word does not trust God’s word and trust that it will accomplish what God wants it to accomplish (Is. 55:10-11) they will struggle in their task. And may not be fit for their task. If the teacher does not trust God’s word to be God’s word they are unlikely to teach very well for very long.
So, serious trust in God’s word is foundational.
In Acts 6 we see there were a lot of important distractions for those who were tasked to preach the good news of Jesus. There were lots of important needs that were dear to their hearts and dear to God’s heart. And yet they resolved to devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (v. 4). They knew it was not right for them to be distracted from “preaching the word of God” (v. 2).
In fact, they were so committed to preaching about the glory and goodness of God as seen in Christ, that even when threatened with beatings and imprisonment they continued. They rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer for the Savior and they continued teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:41-42).
Ezra is an important model for every pastor and minister of the word. And really every Christian. Every Christian, in one way or another, should study the word of God, do it, and teach it (Ezra 7:10). It’s probably good to do it in that order too.
The teacher “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). And that requires studious study.
“There is no long-range effective teaching of the Bible that is not accompanied by long hours of ongoing study of the Bible.”
A teacher could “understand all mysterious and all knowledge” yet if they have not love it is worth nothing (1 Cor. 13:2-3). Self-application is essential. James even tells us “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (3:1).
As we saw with Ezra, he did not just study God’s word, or just teach God’s word, he himself did God’s word. He applied it and lived it himself. That is vital.
It’s actually a qualification for Christian leaders. They are to be above reproach. They are to apply Scripture first to themselves. They are to not be hypocrites.
There is a place of course to adapt the message to the audience. Jesus and Paul themselves did that. That is good. Yet, we also want to give meat, even if we have to cut it up nicely and make it bite-size. Our desire should be solid teaching, not trivial trifles (see Heb. 5:12; 1 Cor. 3:2).
There is a time to give milk and not solid food. Babies need milk because they cannot yet take solid food. They, however, would be stunned if they had to stay with mere milk. So, solid sermons are essential.
It is important to read from the Bible clearly and explain it so that people understood what’s being read (see Neh. 8:8 cf. 1 Tim. 4:13; Mal. 2:7). That’s what expository preaching is. It exposes and reveals the meaning of the passage. That is why pastors must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:1).
Scripture has the power to “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). So, Scripture should be wielded with careful and intentional precision. It is “sharper than any two-edged sword” and pieces to the depths of our hearts (Heb. 4:12).
Scripture should be applied specifically and carefully. Scripture should call to action but not legalistic action. Saints should be equipped for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12) but it should be through the truth spoken in love (Eph. 4:15).
So, the teacher of God’s word must “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). That is a high and challenging calling.
When we preach or teach we are not to use “eloquent wisdom” to make much of ourselves but we “preach Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:2). It is not us we proclaim. It is Him we proclaim (Col. 1:28).
We show Christ from every passage, Old and New Testament, knowing Scripture is about Him (Jn. 5:39) and every promise finds its “yes” in Him (2 Cor. 1:20).
8.Share the Gospel
Sharing the gospel is needed all of the time, for believers and unbelievers. We all need to be reminded of the best news there is. The Apostle Paul wrote Romans and Ephesians to Christians and yet he didn’t assume the gospel. He expounded on it and applied it.
Believers and unbelievers need the gospel. So we must share the gospel (Matt. 10:6-7; Lk. 25:45-49; Rom. 10:14-17).
 D.A. Carson, For the Love of God vol. 2, January 7.
*Photo by Carolyn V
Insights from Zach Eswine’s book on Preaching
I really enjoyed Zach Eswine’s book, Preaching to a Post-Everything World, here are some highlights:
On the importance of illustration…
Eswine quotes Calvin Miller and says: “Jesus himself told lots of stories, and his sermons were full of images…. When asked, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus in effect does not say, ‘Let me give you three Hebrew roots on the word neighbor.’ What he does say is, ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho….’ In other words he follows the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ with an immediate ‘Once upon a time’ and then launches into a story” (p. 61).
“Those who are precision oriented must learn to tell the stories of the text. Those who are poetic must learn to surrender to the precision of the text” (p. 108).
On the importance of modeling how to think about reality…
“When we preach we publicly model for a community how a human being is meant by God to relate to reality” (p. 85).
A Sermon on 1 Timothy 2
The passage that we are looking at today has some very controversial issues in it. We will look at them in a little bit but first I want to explain the background of the letter as well as the main point of what Paul says in this chapter.
Paul wrote this letter to Timothy to address a particular context and a particularly difficult situation in Ephesus. Paul was addressing false teaching (1 Tim. 1:3-20; 4:1-5; 6:2b-10) and he was telling Timothy how people ought to “behave in the household of God” (1 Tim. 2:1-3:16; 4:6-6:2a). People at the church in Ephesus were teaching things that were wrong and doing wrong things.
Paul labored at the church in Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31) and wrote one of the most amazing letters that have ever been written to them and yet they were still liable to fall to unhealthy teaching and living. We see later on that they were also liable to lose the love that they had for Jesus at first (Rev. 2:4). This letter should serve as a wakeup call to us! We too are capable of falling! We too need correction!
Paul wants people to teach what is right and act the right way in “God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). If the church is teaching and living wrong that’s really bad news for everyone. It is the church that is to be the “foundation of the truth.” If the church is not the set-apart light that it’s supposed to be how great is the darkness?!
It’s important that we not miss the main point of what Paul is saying in this passage because our modern disputes distract us. Paul’s main point in this chapter is to instruct us to pray. He tells us to pray together. And he tells us how to pray. So, the main point is: In light of Jesus’ sacrificial love, pray with compassion and holiness.
We will look at that in more detail soon. A few things, however, should be said at the outset. First, OCF is committed to a high view of Scripture; we believe it is the word of God. We also believe that unless the Bible is God’s word to us, we live without any real moral authority. “Right” and “wrong” would then become matters of personal taste or popular opinion. We would not be able to talk about justice or truth at all, for there would be no way to know objective truth.
So, second, the Bible is our authority. The Bible informs us and teaches us. We are not to sit over the Bible, God’s word, and inform it… It informs us.
Claire Smith has pointed out in her book, God’s Good Design, that “we do not come to the text as neutral readers. We all have cultural blind spots and sensitivities that influence our reading.” She goes on to say, and I couldn’t agree more, that “we must always allow God’s word to critique us and our culture, rather than the other way around.”
Third, all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. One of the reasons it’s profitable is for correction. One of the things the Bible does, is it functions like a mirror by which we can see ourselves and compare.
Fourth, we must always keep in mind God’s lordship and love. God is all wise and powerful as the Creator. But He is also good and loving. He has definitively shown that at the cross. God’s lordship and love should always inform how we think about things.
If what we discuss below is hard for you, I get it. But please don’t doubt the good character of God. And also don’t doubt His lordship. He is loving and Lord.
What is Expository Preaching?
What is expository preaching? What are the duties of the pastor and the role of the congregation?
Expositional preaching has three main characteristics. First, the passaged that is preached on is a single passage rather than various passages put together. Second, the main point or theme of the sermon is derived from the theme or main point of the passage. That is, expositional preaching seeks to exposit the text that is preached. Third, expositional preaching is typically lectio continua—that is, it is preaching that consecutively works through passages of Scripture in their biblical context.
Here are two of my favorite definitions:
“Expository preaching is that mode of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible. All other concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text. As the Word of God, the text of Scripture has the right to establish both the substance and the structure of the sermon. Genuine exposition takes place when the preacher sets forth the meaning and message of the biblical text and makes clear how the Word of God establishes the identity and worldview of the church as the people of God” (R. Albert Mohler Jr., He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Post-Modern World, 65).
“To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and it expose it to view. The expositor pries open what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted and unfolds what is tightly packed. The opposite of exposition is ‘imposition,’ which is to impose on the text what is not there. But the ‘text’ in question could be a verse, or a sentence, or even a single word. It could equally be a paragraph, or a chapter, or even a whole book. The size of the text is immaterial, so long as it is biblical. What matters is what we do with it. Whether long or short, our responsibility as expositors is to open it up in such a way that it speaks its message clearly, plainly, accurately, relevantly, without addition, subtraction or falsification” (John Stott, Between Two World, 125-26).
4 Reasons Sermons are Essential
Why are sermons such a big deal? The Bible tells us to sing as the gathered church. The Bible also tells us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and baptisms. But why are sermons essential?
Sermons are essential because they teach God’s truth so as to exalt Christ, encourage and build up, and exhort the gathered church.
First, the teaching aspect of the sermon is important. Its importance is seen all over Scripture (e.g. Neh. 8:7-8; 1 Tim. 3:2). God has spoken and so helping people understand and apply the revelation from Him is life-changing. God’s people, however, are able to understand His truth. This is because all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:22; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16), Jesus has made all those in Him priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:5-6), and Scripture is clear on the things which are “necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 1). Qualified teachers are still vital, however, because sound (or healthy) doctrine is vital. That is, in part, why pastors must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24) and defend the truth (2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 1:9). We also see in Scripture that right teaching leads to maturity and the body of Christ being equipped for every good work. Believers may be able to subsist on milk but teachers are able to provide needed meat (2 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12-13).
Second, communicating God’s truth in sermons is vital because the Bible is the authoritative word of God and it is uniquely profitable (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is our sole authority for faith and practice. Scripture is a light (Ps. 119:105,130), a sword (Eph. 6:17), a hammer (Jer. 23:29), and a surgeon (Heb. 4:12). Scripture is more essential than bread (Matt. 4:4), better than gold (Ps. 19:10; 119:72), and we need it to live (Ps. 119:144). Scripture is perfect (Ps. 19:7), true (Ps. 19:9), pure (Ps. 19:8), and eternal (1 Pet. 1:25). Scripture contains the words of life (Jn. 6:68) and the words that are breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16). Scripture gives joy (Ps. 119:111; Jer. 15:16), makes wise (Ps. 19:7), equips (2 Tim. 3:17), guards (Ps. 119:9), guides (Ps. 73:24; 119:105), saves (1 Pet. 1:23), sanctifies (Ps. 119:9,11; Jn. 17:17), and satisfies because by it we know God (1 Pet. 2:3 cf. Ps. 16:11; Jn. 17:3).