We return to Titus chapter 1 this morning and our look at verses 5 through 9 - a brief portion of Scripture but one that has been very, very important for us, and as a result we've spent five weeks on it, including this one. The title for this section is "The Required Character for a Pastor" - that's what it's all about.
Now you remember, the apostle Paul is writing to Titus. Titus is on the island of Crete. Titus has a task, according to verse 5, of appointing or ordaining elders in every one of the churches in every city. And the men who are qualified to do that task of pastoring and being elders and overseers are described in verses 6, 7, 8, and 9. Not just anyone can do that; unique qualifications are necessary. And we've been looking at those qualifications as we have studied already verses 5 through 8.
Now in verse 9 we come to the last section of qualifications, and it introduces to the primary task of the pastor, elder, and overseer - the primary duty - what he is to be doing in the actual ministry that he exercises. Look with me at verse 9. "Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict."
What is this noble work, as 1 Timothy 3:1 calls it, to which this man aspires who desires to be a pastor or an elder or an overseer? What is this noble task? Well, according to verse 9 it is “holding fast the faithful word” with a view to exhorting and refuting. It is wielding the sword of the Spirit, both edges. One cuts, as it were, the positive ministry of exhortation. One cuts, as it were, the negative ministry of refutation. This is the primary task. We who are pastors and elders and overseers in the church are called to use the Word of God effectively to strengthen believing people and to defend the church against attacking error. That's our noble work.
When Paul says a man who desires to be an overseer or a bishop in 1 Timothy 3, “desires a noble work,” that is the noble work of which he speaks. We are teachers. We are preachers. We are wielders, as it were, of the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; that is what we do.
Just to expand on that, go back with me to 1 Timothy; and in these three letters - 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus - called the pastoral epistles, we have repeatedly given for us the emphasis upon ministry as teaching. For example, in chapter 4 would you notice verse 6, 1 Timothy chapter 4, verse 6, Paul says to Timothy, "You should be a good servant of Christ Jesus." And he defines that as being “constantly nourished on the words of the faith” - that would be Scripture - and “the sound doctrine” - that would be what Scripture affirms, “which you have been following.” In other words, you are to be being constantly nourished on the Scripture and the principles or the theology that it affirms.
Then in verse 11 he says, having had this foundation of truth in the Scripture and what it affirms, “command and teach these things." Verse 13 he says, "Give your attention to reading the Scripture, exhorting and teaching." In verse 14, "Don't neglect the spiritual gift within you." That was a preaching, a proclaiming, a teaching gift. In verse 16 he says, "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching, persevere in these things."
Now Paul is saying to Timothy “the primary responsibility that you have in ministry is to know the Scripture and to proclaim it.” That's apparent. Go over to chapter 5, verse 17, of 1 Timothy and you'll see another reflection on the same thought. "Let the elders [or pastors] who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” That is what we do, that's what we're to work hard at.
Down in chapter 6 would you notice verse 2? The end of the verse, "Teach and preach these principles." Then further, down into verse 17 and 18, he says, "Instruct those who are rich." In verse 18 he says, "Instruct them to do good."
Now let me just pull all of that together. From 1 Timothy alone you have commanding verbs, verbs in the imperative, like this: “command, teach, read, explain, apply, don't neglect your gift, pay close attention to your teaching, work hard at preaching and teaching, instruct - instruct.” That's what we do. We are given to the church, according to Ephesians 4:11 and 12, “for the perfecting of the saints.” That's our task.
Look at 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy chapter 1 and verse 11 Paul says, "I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. It's for this reason that I suffer these things." In other words, “the difficulty in my life comes from what I do, which is preaching and teaching.” Then in verses 13 and 14 he says to Timothy, "Retain the standard of sound words"; verse 14, "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure entrusted to you” - hold on to the truth, hold on the sound doctrine, hold on to the Holy Spirit-revealed Scripture, hold on to it. Then in chapter 2, verse 2, he tells him give it away, as it were, “the things you heard from me in the presence of many witnesses" - that would be the apostles' doctrine, revealed truth - this “entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." I taught you; you teach some who will teach others also. Hold on to it, guard it, and at the same time give it away to others.
Down in chapter 3 of 2 Timothy, it is Scripture that “is inspired by God, that is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness; so that the man of God” - that's a technical term for a spiritual leader – “may be adequate, equipped for every good work." In order to do every good work that our ministry calls for, we use the Scripture and we apply it for teaching, correction, and training, as well as reproof.
Chapter 4 of 2 Timothy again emphasizes the primacy of what we do. In verse 2, "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine." Again as in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy makes it abundantly clear that the role of the pastor and elder is to teach and preach.
Now Titus, look at chapter 2, verse 1 - starting that second chapter - Paul says, "But as for you [Titus], speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” – “speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” “That's your task. You are a speaker. You are a preacher and a teacher, and you must articulate sound doctrine.”
Now that takes us really to our text and verse 9. This is the single qualification that relates to a skill or a function. We've been running through from verses 5 on, and we've noted there are four categories of qualifications. The first one was sexual morality: any man who serves as an elder or a pastor must be “above reproach,” first of all defined sexually as “a one-woman man” - that's what “a husband of one wife” is literally in the Greek. He must be “a one-woman man.” Secondly, family leadership: he must have “children who believe and are not accused of dissipation or rebellion.” Thirdly, his general character must be unique: he is “not self-willed,” verses 7 and 8, “[not] quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout...self-controlled.”
Now we've looked at the sexual morality of a pastor, the family leadership of a pastor, the general character. Now we come, fourthly, to the only specific skill or ability or gift and that is his teaching and preaching ability. These men are teachers and preachers. That's what elders do. That's their primary function.
You say, "Well I thought they were leaders and overseers." That's true. They do that by the proper application of the Scripture. Our leadership in the church is not based upon human ingenuity. It is not based upon some kind of experience in the leadership environments that are outside the church. It is not based upon common sense. It is not based upon the books that we have read about leadership technique in industry. Our leadership in the church is the direct application through the will of the Spirit of the truth of Scripture, which has become the fabric of our lives.
To put it in a personal way, if I may be so bold as to do that, I have come to the point in my Christian life and in my involvement as a pastor in the church where I trust my instincts. And what I mean by instinct is just my initial reaction. If somebody proposes something to me upon which I have to make a decision, it isn't usually necessary for me to make a list of pros and cons and run through some kind of a sequence of things and try to figure out all of the ramifications of this or that and how it will impact this or how it will impact that. Or nor is it necessary for me to run to the Bible and try to check out Bible verses and get a concordance and look this up and look that up. So many years - year after year after year after year, day after day in my life of studying the Word of God - has woven together the fabric of my thinking with the strands of Scripture so that, basically, when anything is brought to my attention, it usually somewhere fits into the grid of Scripture. And my initial reaction or my instinct about it may be a little bit refined but generally speaking is biblical. And that's where the leadership comes from. That's why there's a certain benefit in age because it takes a number of years to accumulate that kind of fabric in your life so that you can react in that way.
What I'm trying to say to you is when we talk about pastors being leaders and feeders, elders being leaders and feeders, even their leading is the direct application of doctrinal principle, or Scripture, that they know that is woven into the very fabric of their thinking. We are, like those early apostles, men who cannot leave the Word of God to serve tables. We must give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. It is the Word that causes people to grow. It is the Word that causes sin to be exposed. It is the Word that lays out the will and the purpose of God, and we are to be men of the Word. So our leadership is not by human skill; it is not by the knowledge of psychology or human behavior or some discovery of motivating human technique, but by the careful understanding, the thoughtful application of the Word of God which reaches a point where it is almost instinctive because there's such a controlling element of biblical truth.
To be able to lead effectively in the church means to understand the Scripture, to understand it fully, to understand thoroughly, to understand it deeply, to have the knowledge of God, the character of God, the knowledge of Christ, the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, to understand the roles they play and the service they render, to understand what their will and desire is. It is to understand man and what the Bible says about the nature of man - the fallenness of man, the difficulties of man, how he operates, how he functions, about his mind and his will and his emotions. It is to understand sin - how it functions, how it works; to understand the enemy, the fallen world of darkness occupied by demons that foists itself upon man. It is to understand the church - the nature of the church, the design of the church, God's will for the church; to understand justification, sanctification, glorification. All of those things become the resource by which you lead, not just by which you teach or preach, so that your life really is simply the extension of the Word of God which is ingrained within you. Pastoring is comprehending Scripture as to its meaning, practicing it in your own life, applying it in the life of the church. And then articulating and teaching it so that not only you have those instinctive, biblical reactions but your people do as well and thus they know when they're being led properly. The only skill the Bible says a pastor must have is the ability to teach and preach, and obviously to lead from biblical understanding.
Look back at 1 Timothy chapter 3, that very familiar text where Paul is giving the qualifications for an elder or an overseer - same thing - a pastor. The office of bishop or overseer is mentioned as that “noble work” in verse 1. And then he describes the qualifications, very much like what we're learning in Titus; verse 2, "An overseer must be above reproach," there's that “one-woman man,” sexual morality. Then his general character, "temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable." And verse 3, "not addicted to wine, pugnacious, gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money." His family leadership comes in verses 4 and 5, he has to “manage his household well, keep his children under control and dignity,” otherwise he shows he can't manage the church.
But then back at the end of verse 2 is that skill, that preaching skill - he must be “able to teach” - preaching or teaching. He must be a skilled communicator of God's truth. That word "able to teach" is used twice: once there and again in 2 Timothy 2:24. The very same word is used, and it says there “the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, be kind to all” - again skilled in teaching – “able to teach,” “apt to teach.” It means “to be a skilled teacher.” That's the skill that goes with this task. We are teachers. That is a spiritual gift - Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28. Both of those scriptures indicate that the teaching gift is a gift the Holy Spirit gives. If you're going to be an elder, you must be gifted with the gift of teaching or the gift or preaching, or as it's called “prophecy,” which means “to stand before and speak.” We are teachers; we are speakers. Behind that is the knowledge of the Word of God, and then in front of that is the congregation that receives that teaching and thus becomes built up in that knowledge.
Look at 1 Timothy 5:17 and here, I think, is as good a summation of the role as anywhere in Scripture. “The elders” are the key to this verse, and that again means “pastors.” And he defines them in a number of very important ways. Let “the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” There is the sine qua non of ministry - preaching and teaching. The harder you work at it, the greater your honor. A simple way to understand that verse is to understand, first of all, all elders are worthy of respect. All elders are worthy of honor. That's what he says. That's implied here. But “the elders who rule well are considered worthy of double honor.” Plateau number one: elders worthy of honor. Plateau number two: elders who rule well, worthy of double honor. The word "well" meaning “with excellence.” If you want to know what that means, then read the rest of 1 Timothy, particularly chapter 4, and he'll lay out what it means to be an elder who ministers with excellence. But the emphasis is on that little word "well," or “excellent, diligent, devoted, effective.” All elders are worthy of honor. We know that from 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, because that is exactly what the apostle Paul says there – “We request that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, have charge over you in the Lord, give you instruction...esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” He's talking about their pastors. Honor them, esteem them, love them. Hebrews 13 says “submit to them,” follow their faith, do what they tell you for they represent the Lord. They're to be honored. Anyone who is a pastor or an elder is worthy of honor, but those who do it with excellence are worthy of double honor. And by the way, that word "honor" means not only “respect” but “remuneration,” timē - has to do with pay. And believe me, their compensation was tied to the quality of their effort.
And then he goes even a step further. "Especially” - or literally “chiefly,” or “particularly”; malista, that little adverb – “those who work hard at preaching and teaching." And here's a third level: all elders are worthy of honor, some elders who do things excellently are worthy of double honor, and then there's a third level – “who really work hard at preaching and teaching.” That's the highest level of commendation. “Working hard” is kopiaō, “to work to the point of exhaustion, to grow weary, to be tired, to be fatigued because of your effort” - who wear themselves out in their preaching and teaching. It stresses not so much the content of their work. It stresses not so much the size of their congregation - that's not the issue - or their reputation, or how many books they wrote, or how widespread their preaching goes. No, it's their effort; it's just their effort - not the size of their congregation, but their effort. And it refers to a person who is worthy of honor because he's an elder, who is “worthy of double honor” because he does it with excellence; and who is worthy, if I may say so, of triple honor because he works so hard at it - excellent service, rendering a maximum self-sacrifice. A man's reward in terms of respect and a man's reward in terms of remuneration is tied to the excellence of his work and the effort of his toil in teaching and preaching.
This is a good safeguard, beloved, a very good safeguard. Because I'll be very honest with you and say that if a man is glib and if a man is gifted, he can perhaps early in his ministry do diligently the preparation for his preaching and then do little or none the rest of his life. In fact, many men who just travel from church to church through the years take their same bag of sermons wherever they go, and they don't work hard at teaching and preaching. It's also easy in a large church to preach just once a week, and many churches have come to that point where the pastor does nothing more really than maybe sit around and counsel with people during the week and preach once on Sunday morning. They have no Sunday night service. They have no Wednesday night service. That's not working hard at teaching and preaching. That's, that's not working hard at it at all. But the person who is the highest on the commendation list is the one who works hard at it. But obviously the primary function of ministry, as laid out in that verse, is preaching and teaching. That's what we do. That's what elders do. And we are distinguished by that from the rest of the congregation. We have unique teaching/preaching gifts.
How do you distinguish between preaching and teaching? Not in content so much, but in style. Preaching is the public proclamation intended to move the will. Teaching is that more private, smaller kind of intimate setting in which we communicate truth to the mind. Preaching includes admonition, exhortation. Teaching is illumination, elucidation. We might even say teaching approaches the mind alone, whereas preaching attempts to attack the whole man in every aspect of his life, mind, will, and emotions. Both are crucial.
It's hard sometimes for me to draw clear definition, but I know when I'm teaching and I know when I'm preaching. If I go in a seminary class and teach, that's one thing. If I come here and proclaim, that's another thing. It's just the gift. And some men have the ability to teach and not to preach, and some can preach and are not as effective in teaching - some have both. But this is what we do. We disseminate God's truth. That's our role.
Now that takes us back to our text again, Titus chapter 1. When verse 9 says that the one function these men have to be able to do is to teach, to exhort, and to refute, that sets in place the function. That puts it right where it belongs. But before you can do that, before you can effectively teach and preach, there's another starting point, and it comes at the beginning of verse 9. You have to “hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching.” This is the necessary foundation. Let's call it point one, the necessary foundation. Paul says to Titus essentially what he said to Timothy, “I want you to give yourself to the preaching and the teaching, and here's the necessary foundation for anyone who does that - they have to hold fast the faithful Word in accordance with the teaching. If you're not holding on to the faithful Word, then you're in no position to be teaching it. No one can teach or preach effectively without strong, personal, compassionate commitment to the truth.
And I really believe this is the real culprit in the church today in terms of weak, shallow, insipid sermonettes for Christianettes that are so much the norm in the common church fare today. Here's the real villain. The real villain that has led so many to be converted to what they consider relevance and thus to preach a pampering psychology and turn churches into what John Piper called “the slapstick of evangelical worship.” I think the culprit of the real villain here is they fail to hold fast to the faithful Word. It's that simple. They're not clinging to the Word. The word "hold fast," antechō, means “to cling, to hold tightly.” It's defined by its opposite in Luke 16:13 where Jesus said, "No man can have two masters, he will cling to the one or despise the other." So “to cling to” is the opposite of “despising” – “to have a strong affection, to have a strong devotion, to love, to adhere to, to believe in.” And here is the foundation. And it's not just a commitment to the inspiration of Scripture, and it's not just a commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, as important as that is. It's a commitment, it's a commitment to the singularity of Scripture. In other words, it's to hold fast to the faithful Word and nothing else as the source. There is singularity here. Like we read earlier, when Paul instructed Timothy and said to him, "Retain the standard of sound words, guard the treasure of Scripture that's been committed to you." That's the treasure; that's what you hold on to. Not only are you to love it, be devoted to it, and believe it, but you're to understand that it is singularly the source of your ministry.
He calls it “the faithful word.” That simply means “the trustworthy Word”; the reliable, dependable, sufficient Word, as opposed to the word of men which is not reliable, not trustworthy, not dependable, and not sufficient. The Scripture is true to the mind of God, true to the will of God, true to the purpose of God, true to the plan of God. The Scripture says it the way God wants it to be said. And Scripture is the only source of spiritual nourishment, is it not?
It's the only food. It's the only green pasture. It's the only still water. It's the only word by which you may grow thereby, as Peter put it. It's the only word, as Paul told the Ephesian elders, that “is able to build you up and give you an inheritance.” It is the only food. It is the only thing that can take a person and “make him perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” As Psalm 19 says, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” The law - the statutes of the Lord, the commandments of the Lord, the fear of the Lord - all of those things that describe Scripture there sufficiently provide the resources for the believer; “to make the simple wise,” to lighten the dark things and all of the things he talks about in Psalm 19. We then are committed to Scripture as inspired, inerrant, and singularly the resource.
Now notice the phrase that he uses in verse 9, "Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching." “The teaching” is a reference to the apostolic doctrine that had verbally been passed down, in agreement with apostolic doctrine which Titus had already been taught by Paul. That apostles' doctrine had become the basic, recognized dogma of the church, the didaskalia, the recognized body of Christian truth taught by the apostles. Way back in Acts 2 they met together as a church and they studied the apostles' doctrine. And so what Paul is saying to Titus is, "Look, you hold fast the reliable, trustworthy, dependable, sufficient Word of God, which will be in perfect agreement with what you've learned from the apostles. It hasn't changed; you don't need a new message. It doesn't need to be redacted, edited or updated. You must whole-heartedly cling to the revealed truth of God built on and consistent with the apostolic doctrine, the recognized body of Christian truth.” We are not innovators; we are not creators; we do not come up with new things. I shudder every time I hear some guy on television say, "I have come with a new teaching." And we have a little statement, “if it's new, it isn't true.” We aren't here to give you a new teaching; we are here to give you an old teaching from the Word of God.
"Hold fast" then not only has the sense of loyalty but it has the sense of exclusivity - we are loyal to it and exclusive in terms to our devotion. We are men of the Word, and that is the necessary foundation, and that's the culprit - that's the villain. You see what's happening in churches today is all this relevancy and all this psychology and all this entertainment is basically allowed because men are not loyal to nor are they exclusively devoted to the Word of God. And they're in violation of this very clear standard of what a pastor is to be.
Now, beyond the necessary foundation is the necessary duty. Let's go back to verse 9 and see the second point. With that foundation in place we can then discharge the necessary duty, which is to “be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” Now that's very simple. Just two simple things: one is positive; one is negative. Positively, we use the Word of God “to exhort with sound doctrine.” Negatively, we use the Word of God “to refute those who contradict.” So there's a positive and a negative side. It's a two-edged sword again - with one side it cuts as it were on the positive level, and the other it cuts on the negative level. Both are continuing duties that he may be continually able to do both. We have to be on the positive side, able to strengthen and build up. On the negative side, we have to be debaters, polemicists - we have to be able to comprehend and understand error and know how to deal with it. That's part of it. These are life-long duties; that's the intent of the verb here. They're never set aside; they're never replaced by anything else; they're never modified.
Take the first one, "that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine." Since he knows the Word and since he is exclusively loyal to it, he will use the Word then “to exhort.” What is that? The verb parakaleō; kaleō, “to call”; para, “along side.” We use that today with the word paralegal, or whatever it might be; paratrooper, which as a term meant certain soldiers flew out of the sky to come alongside the ones on the ground. Para, para means “alongside.” And the term “exhort” means “to come alongside somebody and call them, come alongside somebody and strengthen them.” The Holy Spirit is called the parakaletē, “the Comforter, the strengthener who comes alongside” with a view to urging people toward virtue, godliness, righteousness, and holiness. The concept is tender and passionate and powerful pleading for obedience. That's what we do. We plead with you to be obedient, and we use the Word of God for that pleading.
I mean, if I get up here and just use clever stories and my own ingenuity and play psychological games and intimidate you, and all of that kind of stuff, and manipulate you to do certain things apart from the Word of God, you may do them in your flesh but they will not be the product of the power of the Spirit of God coming to you through the Word of God. And so we use the Word of God “to exhort in sound doctrine.” And there's a little bit of a recognition in the very phrase "sound doctrine" that there was the presence of unsound doctrine. If you read further in the chapter, as we shall in the weeks to come, starting in verse 10 you can see how beset these churches in Crete were with error - false teaching was all over every place. And he's saying, “You men who are pastors must teach sound doctrine, come alongside, strengthen believers in the path of righteousness using sound doctrine.” The word "sound," by the way, hugiainō, from which we get the word hygienic, which means “healthy, life-giving, life-preserving.” Don't give the killing, devastating, murderous error; give the life-giving, healthy, life-preserving, divine truth. The call is to come alongside the flock, give them spiritual strength by bringing healthy divine teaching to them.
It's a serious thing. And anybody who steps into the pulpit or anybody who steps into ministry as an elder or a pastor and doesn't teach sound doctrine is in some serious trouble. That's why James said, "Stop being so many teachers, theirs is a greater condemnation" (James 3:1). You better not teach unless you're willing to make sure you work hard enough to teach sound doctrine because if you take the role of a teacher and you don't teach the truth, you're in deep trouble with God. Hebrews 13:17 says you're going to give an account to God for some day for what you've taught your people and what you've done as your shepherd. Very serious. You go back and read in the prophet Jeremiah and read how God treated those shepherds who didn't speak the truth. This is a severe rebuke and a fearful judgment.
And I'll tell you right now, no reasonable man would choose this task, and I'm a reasonable man. No reasonable man would choose this task. And secondly, no reasonable, rational man, having been called to it, would underestimate the seriousness of God about the truth that must be taught and come flippantly to a pulpit to teach whatever whimsically he had decided to say.
Here is a call for biblical, theological, God-centered preaching and teaching that exposits the Scripture. There isn't anything else. There isn't anything else to do. And if you believe in an inspired Bible and an inerrant Bible and every word is written by God, then you know exactly what you are to preach and teach - the Word of God. Ezra had it right. This isn't anything new. You can go all the way back to Ezra, chapter 7 - listen to this - verse 10. “Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach it.” This isn't anything new; he knew what he was supposed to do. You study the law of the Lord, you practice it in your own life, and then you teach it. That's not that difficult, is it? And there isn't any new approach to be quote/unquote "more relevant." There isn't anything better than Scripture. There are only things that are woefully inferior to Scripture. And what was it that so commends to us Apollos, according to Acts 18:24? “He was mighty in the Scriptures.” “He was mighty in the Scriptures.” The ultimate commendation of the preacher, “he was mighty in the Scriptures.” What else? What else?
Go back, just look over a page to 2 Timothy 4:2, and let me take you back to that verse, just to remind you of what its importance is. “Preach the word,” he says. Now right there you have the subject of the preacher's commission. “Preach the word.” I mean, how hard is that? How difficult is that to figure out? “Preach the word.” Preaching God's Word is the mandate. We are to retain the sound Word; we are to accurately handle the sound Word, rightly dividing it; we are to guard the sound Word; and now we are to proclaim or preach the Word.
Colossians 1:25, Paul wrote very simply, "Of this church I was made a minister" - Why? - “according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit.” I was given a duty from God. What was it? “That I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God.” That's it.
People have asked me through the years, "Why is it that you exposit the Bible. That's all you do?" And my answer is, “Because that's what I've been told to do, to fully preach the Word of God. What else is there to do?” And I am also told that I am a minister of the New Covenant, and the New Covenant is the New Testament and that's the emphasis. And that the Old Testament is given to us as examples. And so we preach the New Testament, the New Covenant, using the Old Testament as exemplary material to enrich the New and fulfill the mandate God has given us. That's why we talk about expository preaching. That simply means we tell you what the Bible means. That's what God intended. God wrote the Scripture. He wrote it because He wanted to communicate His truth. He put His truth in here exactly the way He wanted it to be communicated. My job is to communicate it to you the way He intended it to be communicated. That's my task. Expository preaching is expressing exactly the will of God as He wanted it said, taking the thoughts of the Holy Spirit and bringing them to you.
The second thing you see here is not only the subject of our preaching, which is the Word, but the scope of it. "Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction." What does that mean? Well, we're ready to preach it all the time, whether it's seasonable or unseasonable. That's what that means. It simply means whether the people want to hear it or don't want to hear it, whether it's popular or not popular.
I told you some weeks back, I can remember a few years ago when what we do, Bible exposition, was very, very popular. Back in the ’70s and even the early ’80s. I mean, what we were doing was the great new wave in the church; there was a tremendous interest in Bible exposition. And it was, it was running every place and people were saying, "How do you do this?" And, "We want to learn how to do this." And it was popular. And I was popular, sort of carried along in this wave. And then, all of a sudden, the whole thing changed, and now Bible exposition is not popular, in general. It's not popular; it's not what people want; it's not what's the new thing.
The new thing is to be relevant. The new thing is to be user friendly. And the Scripture is not user friendly. The new thing is to entertain people and make them feel comfortable and don't offend them. And the new thing is to sort of win people over with your cleverness and make them feel loved and accepted, no matter how they live. The Bible doesn't do that.
So the Bible as far as Bible exposition goes is not popular. And with the decline in the popularity of the Scripture has come a decline in my popularity as well. And that's all right because we do this “in season and out of season.” The seasons come and the seasons go, and the trends come and the trends go, and the mood of the mob shifts and changes, but what we do is never any different – “in season and out of season.” We expose sin; we have to. We have to reprove and rebuke and we do it patiently and with instruction.
And then he gives in verses 3 and 4 the urgency of all of this. “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine,” and we're in that time right now. They just want “their ears tickled.” They want to feel good. They want to “accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” They want to hear what they want to hear. And they want to “turn their ears away from the truth” and listen to the myths that sound so good. And the church, instead of recognizing this and staying faithful to the Word, is saying, “If that's what they want, we'll give it to them.” What a prostitution! What a compromise! Of course sinners are intolerant of uncomfortable truth - that's to be expected. I mean, I suppose it's safe to say that the preacher who brings the message people most need to hear will usually be the preacher they least like to hear.
Psychiatrist and Christian writer John White has penned some compelling words that need to be heard. He writes, "Until about 15 years ago psychology was seen by most Christians as hostile to the gospel. Let someone who professes the name of Jesus baptize secular psychology and present it as something compatible with Scripture truth and most Christians are happy to swallow theological hemlock in the form of psychological insights. Over the past 15 years there has been a tendency for churches to place increasing reliance on trained pastoral counsellors. To me it seems to suggest weakness or indifference to expository preaching within evangelical churches. Why do we have to turn to the human sciences at all? Why? Because for years we have failed to expound the whole of Scripture, because from our weakened exposition and our superficial topical talks we have produced a generation of Christian sheep having no shepherd. And now we're damning ourselves more deeply than ever by a recourse to the wisdom of the world. What I do as a psychiatrist and what my psychologist colleagues do in their research or their counseling is of infinitely less value to distressed Christians then what God says in His Word. But pastoral shepherds, like the sheep they guide, are following - if I may change my metaphor for a moment - a new Pied Piper of Hamlin who is leading them into the dark caves of humanistic hedonism. A few of us who are deeply involved in the human sciences feel like voices crying in a godless wilderness of humanism, while the churches turn to humanistic psychology as a substitute for the gospel of God's grace," end quote.
That's sad. The failure to preach expositionally – theologically - is either a failure to understand the obvious implications of an inerrant Scripture written by a holy God, or is indifference to those implications. It is either ignorance or outright rebellion not to preach the Word of God. And it's hard to imagine that any pastor or elder could claim ignorance. It must be indifference. Oh no, it could be something else - pride. The unacceptable assumption that what I have to say is better suited to men's minds than what God has to say. God gave His Word to His people; He expected it to be communicated.
So, those who are going to be elders or pastors in the church must champion the faithful Word, they must exhort with it. John Stott understands the difficulty of that when he writes this: "Expository preaching is a most exacting discipline. Perhaps that's why it's so rare. Only those will undertake it who are prepared to follow the example of the Apostles and say it is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables, we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. The systematic preaching of the Word is impossible without the systematic study of it. It will not be enough to skim through a few verses in daily Bible reading, nor to study a passage only when we have to preach from it. We must daily soak ourselves in the Scriptures. We must not just study as through a microscope the linguistic minutiae of a few verses, but take our telescope and scan the whole expanse of God's Word, assimilating its grand theme of divine sovereignty in the redemption of mankind."
"It is blessed," wrote C.H. Spurgeon, "to eat into the very soul of the Bible until at last you come to talk in scriptural language and your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord." That's what we're talking about.
So, the positive side, then, according to verse 9, is to “be able to exhort in sound doctrine.” Then the negative side. "And," he says, "to refute those who contradict." Now obviously there are false teachers behind the scenes here. We see that indicated in chapter 1, verses 10 and following, and over again in chapter 3, as we will note in the future. There were false teachers there. They were difficult to deal with. We see them behind the scenes in 1 Timothy. We see them behind the scenes in 2 Timothy. So all of these pastoral epistles are set against a back drop of teachers teaching error. That is still true. They are always around, and so one of the roles of the shepherd is to defend the sheep against the wolves. We have to defend the sheep against the false shepherds, those teaching error. That's part of it.
We are polemicists; we are fighters; we have to be able to see something, analyze it biblically, show the error of it, and lead people to the truth of it. The term "contradict," a simple little Greek word, antilegō. Lego means “to say”; anti is “against, to speak against, to say against.” The contradictors - the gainsayers, the opposers - they're going to be people who are going to oppose the truth. They're going to oppose the “sound doctrine.” Obviously Satan is involved in that enterprise. The pastor has to be able “to refute” those kinds of people. “Refute” means literally “to convince them of their error.” It isn't to humiliate them; it isn't to castigate them; it isn't to brow-beat them; it isn't to speak evil of them, although that is all necessary if they continue in their error. It is to effectively show them their error. We must use Scripture to reveal error, to reveal Satanic lies and false teaching. And we must make it known to the church.
People ask me sometimes, "Why do you write these books that bring up these issues?" And the answer is, “Because I am commanded to do that.” It's not something you choose to do because you know the effect of it, but it's something you must do. Not in a way that simply throws aspersions against people, or the ad hominem argument that attacks their character, but that says, “This is what is said, this is why it is wrong, and here is what is true.”
Ministry, then, for the pastor is simple, really, for the elder is simple. What we do is preach and teach the Word of God to strengthen believers and to bring them to obedience to God and then to convince people of error and show them the path of truth. Sound doctrine does both. If a man has the necessary foundation, that is, he holds loyally and exclusively to the Word of God as the source, then he can do the necessary duty with power and blessing.
Now the sum of it is, the ministry is no place for ungifted men. And it's no place for unbiblical preachers. And it's no place for weak and lazy students of Scripture. The standard is high, high enough to make any reasonable man run from it. And as I said earlier, I am a reasonable man, but I'm here because God has called me. And that call is by His grace, and the preservation of my life that has allowed me to be qualified is of His grace. And any exercise of my gift is of His grace. And any accurate teaching of His Word is of His grace. It's all of His grace.
If my life is pure, it is by His grace. If my children believe, it is by His grace. If there is some virtue in me, some character that is in any sense near the standard that God would have, it is by His grace. If there is any teaching that comes across and nurtures anyone's heart and defends anyone against error, it is by His grace - and all by His grace. “It is His power,” as Paul said, “working in me mightily and I am but an instrument and apart from His grace would be utterly useless to Him.” This is the standard, and we can only pray that God will bring the church back to recognizing this standard. We're so far away, aren't we? We have pastors of churches, people in ministry, who are not one-woman men, who are guilty of sexual sins. We have pastors and elders in ministry whose children do not believe, who are dissipating and rebellious against the gospel. We have people in ministry who could not be qualified in terms of loving what is good, being sensible, just, devout, self- controlled. And we have people in ministry who do not, one, have the gift to preach and teach; who, two, if they do have the gift to preach and teach are not using the Word of God to do it; who, three, if using the Word of God are not diligently studying it. And the call is very clear. Paul says, "Titus, you find these kind of men. You put these men in leadership." And that's the challenge for the church.
Father, we thank You that You have again brought us face to face with our own weaknesses, face to face with our own failures, and face to face with Your grace in spite of that. It's overwhelming, Lord, how good You've been to this church, how many of these kind of godly men we've had here through the years, and all by Your grace. “We are what we are,” as Paul said, “by the grace of God, and Your grace working in us mightily.” We thank You, Lord. And we are humbled by that.
Lord, may we never be proud because we've been blessed, but may we be humbled because we're so unworthy of that blessing. If there's anything commendable in us, if there's anything virtuous or holy in us, if there's any gift that we have from You, if there's any ministry that has been blessed, may it humble us to know that You have done that in spite of us, not because of us. And Your grace was abundant. And may You in the days ahead, Lord, raise up many, many such leaders.
We thank You for the Master's Seminary. We pray, O God, that You will allow us to raise up many of these kind of men for Your church, and that You'll keep us all faithful who have already stepped into this role - keep us faithful. Elevate faithful men; pull down the unfaithful; return Your church to its standard, and we'll praise You in Christ's name. Amen.