We live in a time when preaching is being depreciated and it is being set aside in favor of other forms of communication. But the essential reality for the church, that which basically dictates its strength or weakness, is the character of its preaching and teaching.
Here's an interesting exercise. Do an internet search for churches in your area and what do they emphasize? What do they say is their purpose?
You'll probably find priorities like building relationships, addressing emotional needs, having a contemporary style, and those things are fine for a community center or a support group. But have they found too high a place in the church? Bottom line, what is the role of the church and what is the role of the pastor? How can a church and its pastor make sure they're honoring the Lord every Sunday?
The title of John MacArthur's current study gives more than a little hint. Join him now on Grace To You as he continues his series titled, Why Is Preaching Worth Fighting For? Here's the lesson. There are five reasons why the Lord has designed that the center and heart of the ministry of the church is preaching and preaching the Word, the Word of God, the revealed Scripture. Reason number one is because of dangerous times...dangerous times. Look at chapter 3 verse 1. But realize this, he says, that in the last days, difficult times will come. He says, preach the Word because of the dangerous times, the dangerous seasons. It is a time of all times to preach the Word. Here we are getting further down the line, accumulating more and more danger and at the same time a diminishing of the proclamation of the truth to meet that danger rather than an escalation of it.
We ought to be doing exactly the opposite of what we are doing. Instead of setting preaching aside, we ought to be increasing the preaching and the preachers because of the increase in the dangers. Serious dangers exist today in the church, threatening the church. And that's why we have to preach the Word because the Word answers all of these things.
The Word sorts it all out, whether it's sacramentalism or rationalism, whether it's some form of liberalism or experientialism or mysticism or subjectivism or pragmatism, or whatever it is, the Word of God gives the truth that comes to bear against all of that. There's a second reason why Paul tells us we have to preach, not only because we live in dangerous times which can only be addressed by divine truth proclaimed, but we are to preach because of godly examples...of godly examples, because we have been given a pattern to follow. Look at verse 10. Paul says to Timothy, you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose. You followed my faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra.
What persecutions I endured and out of them all the Lord delivered me and indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Then down to verse 14. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them. Paul says you must preach because that's the pattern that's been set for you. You have followed me in my ministerial duty, that is my teaching and my conduct.
You heard my teaching. You watched my ministry unfold. You saw how I conducted myself as God's servant, as an apostle. You not only followed my ministry but you followed my personal life. Verse 10, you saw my purpose.
That is my motive. What drove me? What compelled me? You saw my faith. You saw me in all of the issues of ministry, trusting God. You saw the strength and direction of my faith. You saw my endurance.
You saw my love. In other words, the Lord brought you beside me to follow my pattern, a pattern of ministry, how I taught and how I conducted my ministry, a pattern of personal quality, the motives of my heart, my faith in God, my endurance, my love for Him and love for people. And then he says, you even had the opportunity because Timothy, of course, followed Paul, spent years with him. You even had the opportunity to see me in difficult experiences, to learn, he says in verse 10, of my perseverance. Then in verse 11, to learn of my persecutions and my sufferings. Such has happened to me, for example, at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, all the way there to being stoned and left for dead on a dump. You saw the persecutions.
You saw that I endured them. You saw that the Lord delivered me out of them all. In other words, God gave you a model to follow.
God gave you a model of ministry. You saw the truth of verse 12 that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Timothy, you were exposed to a godly example and with the divine intention that this was the pattern for you to follow. Paul was a strong champion for truth and Timothy was to follow him. And so in verse 14 he says, you, however, continue in the things you've learned. Continue in the things you've become convinced of, knowing from whom you learned them.
And he's talking about himself. God didn't put me in your life for any other reason than to teach you the truth and set a pattern for ministry. I mean, I look at myself as a preacher simply in a long line of preachers, the prophets of the Old Testament. And John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets and he's a preacher and he's preaching repentance in the kingdom. The Messiah comes and the Lord preaches. And then he takes his twelve and he ordains them to preach. And then comes Paul and Paul is a preacher. And then Paul trains Timothy to be a preacher and so it goes. And men of God, as I said, all the way along through all of redemptive history have been ordained by God to follow in that line.
I don't really want to take the responsibility to change the plan. Just give me the baton and I'll run the same race. Paul is saying to Timothy, you must preach the Word because that's what we do and that's what we've trained you to do and that's the model that has been established for you. You've seen it. You've experienced it both in terms of ministry, character, heart, quality and suffering and enduring difficulty. You saw what we were, what we are. We're not entertainers. We are preachers and we live and die for the truth. So we preach in the church because of the dangerous seasons that can only be confronted by the truth proclaimed that threatened the life of the church and the honor of the Lord of the church. We preach because of godly examples who have passed on this baton to us. I look back to a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a great-great-grandfather, five generations passing on the preaching responsibility of my professors, my teachers in seminary, ministers and pastors and Bible teachers who influenced my life.
I'm just one in a long line. I just want to keep being faithful to the same pattern that God established. That's why we preach because our godly examples have established that pattern. If there's anybody that I would choose above all to be like, it would be the Apostle Paul. You probably know that.
I really don't want to change anything. I just want to try to do as closely to what he did as I can possibly do. There's a third reason why we preach. We preach because of the dangerous times. We preach because we're in a line of godly examples. We preach, thirdly, because of the power of the Word. We preach because of the power of the Word. Verse 15, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. We preach and we preach because we know the sacred writings.
What are the sacred writings? Right here, the books of Scripture. And they are able to give the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. We preach because the Word is powerful to save. That's why we preach. We preach the Word because the Word saves.
In 1 Peter chapter 1, verse 23, you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is through the living and abiding Word of God. And verse 25, and this is the Word which was preached to you. We preach because the Word saves, the Word makes alive, the Word quickens, the Word transforms.
Psalm 19, the law of the Lord converts the soul. That's why we preach, the power of the Word. Then in verse 16 he adds, all Scripture, we preach all Scripture because it's all inspired by God, it's all profitable. And we preach the whole counsel of God because it's all inspired and it's all profitable.
People sometimes say to me, you go so slowly through the Scripture, the truth is I probably don't go slowly enough. If it's all inspired, I really don't want to skip anything. If it's all profitable, I don't want to go over anything. It's all profitable for teaching.
What's that? Doctrine, for giving people truth that is, listen, precise and accurate. The Bible is not just a blur that you can sort of fill in any way you want.
The Bible is clear and precise and you are to study to show yourself approved, a workman needing not to be ashamed because you rightly divide it. It needs to be handled with great precision so that you can give people teaching or doctrine, sound truth. Then he adds, reproof. It has the power not only to give people truth, but it has the power to expose error. It reproves. It exposes error. It uncovers the lie.
And then he adds in verse 16, for correction. That literally means to restore someone to an upright position. It has the power to correct, to put something back in place, to put something broken, set and back functioning. And then he adds training, the positive side of correction. You pick up the broken pieces, reassemble and train for usefulness. Now when you think about the work of the Word, when you think about what the Word does, it saves, it provides truth, it exposes error, it restores and it trains.
You begin to understand its power. Verse 17, that the man of God may be adequate. I don't think that's a very good translation because when we think of adequate, we think of something that's marginally acceptable.
Well it's adequate. That's not what this means. It means that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. Why do we preach the Word, folks? Because the Word makes the man of God complete, equipped for every good work. That's the sufficiency of Scripture.
We preach then because of the dangerous seasons. We preach because of the godly examples before us and we preach because of the power of Scripture. We preach the Word because the Word changes lives.
God is ordained by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. And we were begotten again, as we read in 1 Peter 1, by the Word which was preached to us. I believe in personal counseling. I believe in personal discipleship. I believe in small group Bible studies. But I think the greatest power in the proclamation of truth in the church is preaching and teaching through gifted men who know the Scriptures. Fourthly we preach in case we're not motivated enough yet, chapter 4. We preach because not only of the dangerous times, the godly examples and the power of Scripture, but we preach because of the command of God. Chapter 4, verse 1, 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.
Now that is heavy language, folks. I charge you not because of some earthly ordination, not because of some ecclesiastical expectation, not because of some seminary training. I charge you...the word charge means command and Paul is speaking unto the inspiration of the Holy Spirit like an Old Testament prophet, the very Word of God. I command you from God to preach because your whole life and ministry is carried on in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and they will judge you. That's why Paul said, woe is unto me if I...what?...preach not.
Woe is unto me if I preach not. God is watching. Christ is watching. Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead and that's going to happen in the glory of His appearing when He establishes His kingdom. There is coming a reckoning time. First Corinthians chapter 4, Paul said it's not of concern to me what you think.
Remember that in verses 1 to 5? And he said, it's of small consideration what men think about me. He said, I don't even judge myself because when I know nothing against myself, I'm not necessarily justified. I'm not a very good judge of myself either. I tend to be biased in my own favor. But, he said, the Lord will judge me in the day that the secrets of the heart are disclosed.
That's the final verdict. Then we'll find out how much wood, hay, stubble, how much gold, silver, precious stones. Hebrews 13 and 17 says, submit to those who are over you in the Lord for they must give an account. James said, stop being so many teachers for theirs is a greater condemnation. Those of us who preach and teach the Word of God stand before God with an immense responsibility. And obviously we realize, as James said, that a man who never offends with his mouth is a perfect man.
And since none of us are perfect, we have a great liability to that kind of offense. We must give an account to God and we will give an account to God for the character of our ministries and our preaching. And so again, I have to confess to you that it frankly matters little to me what human opinion is. It matters little to me and should continue to matter little to me what I might prefer to do and it matters an awful lot to me what God has demanded that I do. I really could never do anything other than what I do preaching the Word of God because I'm a man under command and I have to give an account. And an account will come in the day when I come before the Lord. And then we will receive, says Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, according to what we have done, whether it's good or useless. And in the day that I give an account to the Lord, I want to honor the Lord. That's why we preach.
Preach the Word, Timothy, because of dangerous times, godly examples, the power of the Scripture and your accountability to God. And lastly, he says, preach the Word because of the tendency to deception, because of the tendency to drift . Verses 3 and 4, the time will come. And he doesn't mean it's, you know, sometime in the nebulous eons ahead. He really means again, it's kairos, it's seasons again.
And he's right back to kind of where he started. He says, you need to do this because there are going to be those times when they will not endure sound doctrine. They will have had it, they will have heard it, you will have preached it and they won't like it. And so they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires. They'll go looking for somebody who says what they want to hear. They'll crave the teachers who suit their tastes.
They'll crave the teachers who make them feel good. And truth will have a hard time getting a hearing. You know, it will happen in a lot of cases. It sometimes happens in a little church where there's some prominent individual in the church who starts a fight and the preacher gets up and preaches to that issue and brings the Word of God to bear upon that fight and loses his job because they don't want to hear the truth. It happens sometimes in a church where a prominent person who maybe gave a lot of money is involved in some serious sin and the preacher addresses the sin and loses his job because they don't want to hear the truth.
And maybe there's a meeting and he's told to cool it if he wants a paycheck. It can happen in a lot of ways, those times when there's a tendency to deception. It can happen when people don't want to come under the conviction of the Word of God and they want the preacher to back off because they really don't want to hear that. It comes when I've had this happen to me through the years, I suppose more often when I was young and people would come to me and say, I brought a friend to church and boy, did you ever offend that person. And I always feel badly about that and I always want to ask, well, was it me that offended them or was it something I said out of the Word of God? Was it some off-handed comment or something insensitive or unkind that I said? Or was it something out of the Word of God? I have been told on a number of occasions, look, I'm bringing a friend on a certain Sunday. Watch what you say, MacArthur.
I hope I do, you know. I don't know what all of those seasons are that come and go in the life of a church that people don't want to hear the truth. And then there are those times when somebody might come to a pastor and say, you know, there's a church down the road and they're just packed out, they've just got people pouring in there and, you know, they're doing a lot of wild stuff and having a big time and all you do is get up and preach the Word and, you know, we really would like a little more action and a little more variety and some interesting stuff and, you know, the dancing bears and whatever. And they don't want to hear the Word because they're getting influenced...they're getting influenced because some neighbor is saying, well my church is bigger than your church and we're really growing and what are you people doing over there, you know?
There are a lot of seasons. That's what he means when he says time will come, kairos, epochs, eras, periods. And they just won't...they don't want to hear it. They just want to hear what they want to hear. In verse 4, they'll turn away their ears from the truth, turn aside to myths. Pretty good reasons to preach the Word, right? Stay faithful. Stay on track, Timothy. Verse 5, keep your priorities straight. That's what be sober means.
It doesn't mean don't get drunk, it means keep your priorities right. And when suffering comes, endure it. Keep reaching out to the lost, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. You know what it is, it's to preach the Word, just keep doing it and remember me.
When you get to the end, don't expect too much. I'm ready to be poured out as a drink offering, the time of my departure has come. Here was the greatest...greatest of all and he was about to be executed. But he could say in verse 7, I fought the good fight, I finished the course, I kept the faith. And then he could say in the next verse, I'm going up there to get my crown.
And it's a crown available to all who love is appearing. Well, I think you kept the message here. Preach the Word because of dangerous times, godly examples, the power of the Scripture, accountability to God, and the tendency of people to drift.
They'll drift. Sad to say, even when you're preaching the Word, hard to imagine what they'll do if you don't. Constantly be faithful to call them back. For all these reasons, great function in the church is to preach. To preach God's Word. That's what we do. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for tuning in today. John is Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. His current study is titled, Why is Preaching Worth Fighting For? Well, John, if you're known for anything, it's expository preaching.
That's reflected in Grace to You's motto, unleashing God's truth one verse at a time. But would you say that pastors always have to dig that deep into a particular text? Or is there a place for preaching that is more topical than expositional?
Well, I think it depends on what you mean by topical. I can preach on a topic. We're preaching on preaching in this series.
We're preaching on a subject. But in order to make the case for that subject, we have to exposit the Scriptures that apply to that subject. So, yes, I could do a series on the Christian life. I could do a series on the deity of Christ.
I could do a series on the doctrine of sovereign election. That's part of the fullness of Scripture. So, yes, the answer is, of course, you can preach on themes and topics. And as long as you understand that what underlies your conclusions is the careful exposition of the Scriptures that relate to that subject. So, if you're going to preach on the deity of Christ, let's say you would need then to do an exposition of John 1.
You would need to do an exposition of Philippians 2, which talks about how he humbled himself and took on the form of a servant. So, yes, the preaching on themes and subjects is very, very important. But those themes and the conclusions you draw have to be related to the exposition of Scripture. And I would even back it up another way and say, if I am preaching through, let's say, the book of Philippians, and I come to chapter 2, and I'm preaching that Christ became a man and humbled himself and took on the form of a servant, I start with that text, but I end up with the theology of the incarnation. So I end up talking about Christology. So you could start with the subject of Christology, and you could come to the conclusions by going to the Word, the Scriptures that relate to that doctrine, or you could start with an exposition, and when you come across that doctrine in the exposition, you go to other Scriptures and you build a case for the deity of Christ that way. But I would say it's important to acknowledge this, that whether you start with the text or start with the subject, you have to rightly divide the Word, and in the end, you want to make the subject, the doctrine, clear from either approach. Yeah, that's a helpful answer.
Thanks, Jon. Now, friend, of course pastors need to understand an accurately explained biblical truth. But really, all believers need to know how to study and understand the Word of God. So with that in mind, let me suggest a resource that can help you know God's Word no matter who you are. It's the MacArthur Study Bible.
Its most important feature, 25,000 footnotes that will help you understand virtually every passage. To get your copy, contact us today. Call toll-free 800-55-GRACE or visit our website GTY.org. The Study Bible is available in English Standard, New King James, and New American Standard versions.
It's also available in Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and several other languages. Again, to order, call 800-55-GRACE or visit GTY.org. And if you'd like to review each lesson from Jon's study, Why Is Preaching Worth Fighting For?, you can download both lessons at GTY.org. They're available free of charge, along with 3,500 other sermons. That's every message from Jon's more than 50 years as pastor and Bible teacher. Again, all of those sermons are free at GTY.org.
That's GTY.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson reminding you to watch Grace To You Television Sundays on DirecTV channel 378, or check your local listings for Channel and Times. And then join us again tomorrow and find out why you should love the church, even with its flaws. John MacArthur is starting a lesson titled, Why I Love the Church. Be here for that, another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
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