(The articles in this series were originally written for publication in the local newspaper of the town in which I pastor.)
In the previous weeks’ essays on the commitments of a sound church, I’ve argued that the Bible alone functions as the highest authority in the church. If this is true, then it becomes exceedingly important that a church be devoted to understanding what the Bible actually says. The chief way that a church learns is through the preaching. Therefore, a sound church must be committed to accurate, clear exposition of the Bible.
Paul himself gives us exactly this argument. Immediately after reminding Timothy that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, he gives this command: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:1–4).
Note that Timothy is to preach the Word, and that he is to do so even though this message will not always be popular. Paul’s instruction here suggests that popularity is not as accurate a measurement of a good church as faithfulness to Scripture is.
The commitment to the exposition of the Bible prevents the church from degenerating into a mere platform for the pastor’s favorite topics and issues. Furthermore, while I certainly don’t believe that everyone must do things this same way, it is for this reason that I advocate preaching through entire books of the Bible sequentially, as opposed to picking various passages for sermons in a more haphazard manner. Our church just finished a series of sermons on Mark’s Gospel, and undoubtedly, there are passages in Mark that I might never have addressed had I not been committed to preaching the entire book.
Again, Paul is our model here. As he prepares to leave Ephesus for Jerusalem, with the expectation that he will never see the Christians in Ephesus again, he says, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27). That is to say, Paul’s basis for blamelessness in ministry is that he said all that God had for him to say, not avoiding even those things that are hard to say because they are hard to hear.
Therefore, a commitment to accurate exposition of Scripture should be among our very highest priorities when we evaluate a church.