Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Whole Counsel of God

There are a wide range of preachers in the Christian church.  Some believe in never preaching on sin, some believe in only preaching on sin, some like to shout, some have a soft reassuring voice, some preach only grace, and some preach only fire and brimstone.  Of course many are well-balanced and I think that is where preachers need to be.  I want to look through Scripture today and see what, in particular, the Bible says about teaching and where should the focus be.  Should it be all grace and encouragement or should be be all sin and fire and brimstone.  I think we will see that both are necessary.  First of all, teachers should teach from the Word and when the Word is used to teaching, the Bible gives us clear instruction on what that teaching should involve:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
So here is the purpose of Scripture in terms of teaching.  First of all, it is for doctrine. Doctrine includes the foundational beliefs for our faith.  Doctrine is what we believe about God, about man, and about how God relates to man.  Doctrine is about Jesus and how he died for our sins and how we are to accept that gift.  Doctrines are the "whats" for what we believe. 

The Word is also for reproof and correction.  When we are going astray, the Bible is our guide back to righteousness.  It shows us our sin and how to correct it to live a victorious Christian life.  The Bible also corrects our wrong beliefs as all that we believe about our faith must be measured against Scripture.  When we are lack in our relationship with God, the Bible shows us the way back to His path.  It brings our focus back on the Lord, allowing us to put Him at the center of our lives. 

The Bible is for instruction for righteousness.  The Bible shows us what to do and what not to do and what is pleasing and what is displeasing to God.  The Bible shows us the right and wrong in terms of how we handle our relationships, are material possessions, our bodies, and our time.  The Bible contains the moral code for our lives, showing us what how a Christian should behave and what God expects of us.  Plain and simple, the Bible teaches us right and wrong. 

And the Bible is to make us complete and ready for any good work.  In other words, the Bible is our training manual for our lives in service to God both in formal ministry and just in our interpersonal relationships.  It is our guide in how to preach, teach, minister, witness, and live as those who are called to be ambassadors of the Lord. 

All in all, the wisdom and instruction contained in the Bible is the foundation for who we are in Christ.  It shows us where we go wrong and where we go right.  It keeps us founded in our beliefs and brings us back when our beliefs go astray.  It is essential in the lives of Christians to read and know the word.  It is also essential that preachers teach the whole counsel of God.
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2 NKJV
Paul is charging Timothy in his ministry as a teacher and leader in his church.  First of all, Paul charges Timothy to preach the word.  As we just saw, the word is for doctrine, reproof and correction, righteous living, and how to be a minister of the Gospel (something we are all called to be in some way).  Pastors are charged with preaching the word. 

Timothy is also charged to convince his church.  Convince here is reprove, meaning to show one's fault, to show that one needs the Gospel.  In other words, Timothy is charged with showing his church that they need Jesus.  Pastors are charged with showing their charge that they need Jesus. 

Timothy is charged to rebuke, that is correct his charge.  Pastors have the responsibility of speaking against the sin in the lives of their charges.  Pastors can not just sit back while sin eats away at the flock, he must be the shepherd and rebuke the sinner, always with the goal of restoration but removal is repentance is refused. 

Timothy is charged to exhort his charge.  Pastors are called to instruct their charge.  He is called to encourage them to righteous living.  A pastor must encourage right living just as much as he is called to rebuke sin. 

And finally, a pastor is called to do all of this with all longsuffering.  In other words, being a pastor is not always a rewarding job.  I think that is why so many get embittered and only teach the anger of God and so many others get lonely or desperate and teach only grace.  A healthy pastor, must stay the course and be strong in his charge.  It is not an easy job by any stretch and those of us under his charge must pray for him and support him. 

And again Paul emphasizes teaching.  A pastor is to accomplish all this by teaching.  Teaching doctrine, teaching righteousness, teaching the Word of God in its entirety. He must also live what he teaches being a living example of the precepts he shares from the Word.  A pastor must teach the whole counsel of God. 

Now that we have seen the importance and responsibility of teaching the whole Word and what that Word is used for, let's take a brief look at the greatest sermon we have recorded in Scripture. Let us look at the Sermon on the Mount contained in Matthew chapters 5 through 7.  I will not copy the whole sermon here, but I do recommend that you read it.  It is the gold standard for how a sermon should be.  It was given by our Lord, and with the Lord as our example, it should be our example in preaching.  In that sermon, Jesus gives us sound doctrine, piercing conviction of sin, instruction for righteous living, and instructions on sharing His gospel with other.  Jesus went into great detail in all the areas Paul instructs us to teach on. 

We see from Scripture that a pastor must rebuke sin and encourage righteousness.  We see a great example of this in the messages to the churches in Revelation.  Jesus points out what they do right, and encourages them in it.  Just as much, Jesus shows them their error and the need to correct it.  When a pastor does not encourage righteousness, those living rightly will become discouraged.  When a pastor does not rebuke sin, that sin will grow and fester in his church and just as Paul taught, that little leaven will infect the whole body. 

We also see from Scripture that a pastor must teach right and wrong living.  To say that a pastor should not teach those things is contrary to the example of John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, James, Paul, the prophets, Moses, and as far as I can tell every teacher and prophet exemplified in the Bible.  It goes against the very Word itself as it contains much instruction on right and wrong living.  Every example I can think of a teacher in Scripture spent much time on the "do"'s and "don't"'s of living a godly life. 

And finally, a teacher must teach both grace and judgment.  If you do not know that you need a savior, how can you ever accept one?  You can not teach grace without judgment because grace is meaningless without judgment.  If there is no judgment, there is no grace because there is nothing to be saved from.  Remember, Jesus taught more about Hell than He did about Heaven.  If you teach only judgment, you do not teach the hope in God that is the Gospel.  Grace is the foundational message of the Gospel of Christ.  If you do not teach it, you are not teaching Christ. 

We see that a pastor must be balanced in his preaching, teaching the whole counsel of God to his charge.  If the Bible exists to make us complete in Christ, the complete Bible must be taught.  Leaving anything out will make incomplete Christians and incomplete Christians will not live a victorious Christian life. 
"For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." Acts 20:27-31 NKJV

No comments:

Post a Comment