The Sermon Begins in *Your* Study: Why ‘Apt to Teach’ Means More Than ‘Apt to Speak’

alexander-michl-g8PFVtzzkYA-unsplashFor Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord,
and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
— Ezra 7:10 —

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,
sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, . . .
— 1 Timothy 3:2 —

Earlier this week, I sat in a room full of pastors talking about preaching, plagiarism, and what it means to be “apt to teach,” the qualification for elders in 1 Timothy 3:2. And I made the point that being “apt to teach” and “apt to speak” are not the same thing. And I made the point because it seems as though there is a great confusion about what it takes to be a pastor today.

Can someone be a pastor if they are a good communicator? Or should someone be a pastor because they are biblically qualified? And what do the biblical qualifications entail, anyways? 

In some circles, being a good communicator seems to be the sine qua non of the pastoral office. If someone can communicate well, then they have what it takes to be a preacher. Never mind their other weaknesses, if they can communicate in a way that really connects, then they are a great cornerstone to building a vibrant church. (Please compare Ephesians 2:20 and note the irony!)

By contrast, Scripture gives a different and more complete picture. For instance, when defending his apostolic ministry, Paul testifies to his weakness in preaching. Addressing the super-apostles, whose speaking may have exceeded his own, Paul says of his critics, “For they say [of Paul], ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account’ (2 Cor. 10:10). Aware of his weakness(es), Paul defended his qualifications not by his charisma, but by his faithfulness to the truth and his suffering for that truth.

Today, such a perspective is under threat. For since the news broke concerning J.D. Greear and Ed Litton, I have heard much anecdotal testimony from various pastors that many large church leaders see themselves as communicators of the truth, more than shepherds of the flock or students of the Book. That’s my way of phrasing it, and it certainly doesn’t fit everyone. But with the popularity of groups like the Docent Research Group and Ministry Pass, as well as LifeWay’s large selection of manuscripts free for the taking, it seems that one reason why so little concern has been raised by Ed Litton’s use of J.D. Greear’s sermons is that pastors preaching the work of others is something of an evangelical cottage industry. (If I’m wrong, please show me).

For me, I’m not interested in doing the investigative reporting on this subject. I’ll leave that up to the Julie Roys and Warren Throckmorton’s of the evangelical world. What I am interested in is asking is this: Is it ever appropriate for a pastor to preach someone else’s sermon? Or, biblically speaking, is it a requisite qualification  to preach what one has learned from the personal study of his Word. Such a personal study of the Word,  where the minister of the Word encounters the God of the Word, is my personal conviction, and it was the conviction of all the pastors with whom I spoke this week.

But what does Scripture say? What does it mean to be “apt to teach”? And does teaching necessarily require the personal study of the Bible? Thankfully, Scripture is not silent about these questions, and by returning to the Pastoral Epistles we can find a solid answers to these questions.

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Hope, Help, and Holding Fast: Storing Up Future Treasure with Present Riches (1 Timothy 6:17–21)

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Hope, Help, and Holding Fast: Storing Up Future Treasure with Present Riches (1 Timothy 6:17–21)

On Sunday we finished the book of 1 Timothy. Since February, we have enjoyed learning about what it means to be a church made alive by Christ and directed by his Spirit. As we finished the series, we reminded ourselves what this whole letter was about and why Paul finished his words with one last word to the rich (6:17–19) and one final admonition to Timothy (6:20–21).

Whether you consider yourself rich or not, and whether you are in ministry or not, these final words of 1 Timothy give great wisdom on how to store up your treasure in heaven and guard the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions can be found below, as well as a list of all the sermons preached in this series.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading

The Drama and the Doctrine: How Faithful Deacons Gain a Hearing for the Gospel (1 Timothy 3:8–13)

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The Drama and the Doctrine: How Faithful Deacons Gain a Hearing for the Gospel (1 Timothy 3:8–13)

When you hear the words “church” and “drama,” what comes to mind?

At best, church drama conjures up images of Christmas Cantatas or Passion plays. At worst, church drama brings up painful memories of infighting and relational strife in church meetings.

Too often, drama in the church carries a negative connotation, one that always threatens the church. In response to this danger, many churches turn to deacons as the men who are called on to protect the unity of the church—some even skipping over elders in the process!

Such a purpose for deacons is biblical; it comes from the calling of seven “deacons” in Acts 6 to care for the Greek-speaking widows. Yet, such a purpose for deacons is too narrow to comprehend the role deacons play in the church. Moreover, because elders are called to be the overseers of the church, assigning church unity to the deacons may miss their calling as model servants and ministers of mercy in God’s house.

On Sunday we begin a two-part series on deacons in the local church. Looking at 1 Timothy 3:8–13 we considered how deacons gain a hearing for the gospel. Moreover, by looking at the qualifications of deacons we learned how churches are to recognize deacons.

You can listen online. Response questions are below, along with a few additional resources Continue reading

Can I Get A Witness?!? Why Gospel-Centered Churches Need Faithful Deacons

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“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.”
– Luke 10:1 –

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching . . .
– Acts 2:42a –

For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
– 1 Timothy 3:13 –

Few things are more encouraging to a preacher than the audible “Amen!” Such a positive response to God’s Word has an electric effect on the pulpit and the pew. Rightly timed, the “Amen!” affirms the Word preached and the preacher of the Word. It says, “Pastor, I am with you and I agree with this truth!” It also says, “Congregation, listen up; for this word is good news!”

There is no mandate in Scripture for the congregational “Amen,” but there is something more profound—maybe even theological—about this twofold witness to God’s Word. Throughout the New Testament, wherever the Word is preached, it is brought by multiple witnesses. For instance, when Jesus sent out his disciples to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, he sent them out “two by two” (Luke 10:1). Jesus’s own ministry included the witness of John the Baptist (John 5:30–46), and when Jesus described the church he established it on the basis of two or three gathered together (Matthew 18:19–20).

In all, there is a pattern in the New Testament that the proclamation of the Gospel is carried by two or more witnesses. Perhaps this is a pragmatic decision to increase the psychological confidence of God’s witnesses, but I suspect it is more a function of legal testimony. Just as the Spirit vindicated Jesus through his resurrection (1 Timothy 3:16), those who bear witness to the justification that comes through faith in the resurrected Christ bear legal testimony to God’s work. Continue reading

A Beautiful Household (pt. 2): Brothers Who Lead, Sisters Who Labor, and a Heavenly Father Who Knows Best 

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A Beautiful Household (pt. 2): Brothers Who Lead, Sisters Who Labor, and a Heavenly Father Who Knows Best (Sermon Audio)

Who do you say you are? And what importance does your family play in defining your answer?

On Sunday we completed part 2 of a message looking at the household of God in 1 Timothy 2:8–15. We also considered just how much our culture’s individualism works against our understanding of the Bible, especially this passage.

Throughout Scripture, God’s work of salvation is always aimed at creating a people, not just saving individuals. Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but a sword and to separate people from their families in order to make them part of his family. His words in Matthew 10:34–39 are unsettling, but they are also saving. He concludes, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

If we take Jesus seriously, he calls us to radically redefine our lives by his words and his family. In this sermon, I applied this concept of being adopted into Christ’s family to understand the challenging words of 1 Timothy 2:11–15. You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources can be found below. Continue reading

Faith: The Greatest Gift (1 Timothy 1:12–20)

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Faith: God’s Greatest Gift (1 Timothy 1:12–20)

On Sunday we saw how Paul shares the story of his salvation and what God’s grace in his life teaches us about the gospel. Amazingly, God’s grace does not come in response to Paul’s repentance and faith. Rather, God’s grace is the source and start of Paul’s faith.

The same is true for you and I. And the more we see the source of our faith as God alone, the more God’s grace will strengthen our faith and empower us to live for Christ.

In this week’s sermon, we take time to consider how God’s grace creates faith and how sharing our faith with one another strengthens the church and glorifies the Eternal King, the Immortal, Invisible, Only God.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below, as are a few other resources.

Response Questions

  1. How familiar are you with Paul’s testimony? What encourages you? Confuses you? Amazes you by the Apostle Paul?
  2. Why do you think inspired Scripture includes five places where his salvation is told (see Acts 9, 22, 26; Galatians 1–2; 1 Timothy 1). What does that teach us about the place of testimonies?
  3. Read Ephesians 2:8–9; Philippians 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:13. Where does faith come from? What does the text say?
  4. Why does it matter that faith is received as a gift, rather than a ‘work’ that merits a reward? How does faith as a gift magnify God’s grace? How does denying faith’s gift deny God’s grace?
  5. Why does joy matter so much for the Christian? (See John 15:11; Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22–23; Philippians 4:4)
  6. If you feel joyless, how can you cultivate joy in the Lord? How does sharing your faith and hearing the testimonies of others cultivate joy?
  7. What comes to mind as you read Paul’s words to Timothy about Hymaenus and Alexander? Why does remaining in the faith matter for salvation? (Hint: it bears witness to the faithfulness and power of God — Romans 8:28–39; Philippians 1:6)
  8. Share your story of salvation, or any other recent series of events where you have seen God at work. Consider: What are ways you can continue to shared/hear these stories?

Additional Resources

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

From Law to Gospel: Seeing the Literary Structure of 1 Timothy 1

bibleIn his chapter “Cohesion and Structure in the Pastoral Epistles,” Ray Van Neste argues for literary cohesion in 1 Timothy (in Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles, 84–104). While many critical scholars have denied this unity and declared 1 Timothy is a patchwork letter (not written by Paul), Van Neste shows how the letter demonstrates internal cohesion. From a careful reading of the letter, he shows how thematic and linguistic connections unity the first and last chapter (98–104).

Most impressive in his argument is his treatment of 1 Timothy 1 and 6, where he shows multiple ways the letter shows cohesion and structure. For instance, developing a number of “hook words,” Van Neste observes,

  • The use of “teachers of the law” (v. 7), law (v. 8), and lawfully (v. 8) link verses 3–7 with verses 8–11.
  • Pisteuō (“entrusted”) ends verse 11 and serves as the keyword for verses 12–17: “faithful” (v. 12), “unbelief” (v. 13), “faith” (v. 14), “trustworthy” (v. 15), “believe” (v. 16). In each case, the Greek word has pist- as its root.
  • Faith and a good conscience also mark the beginning and end of the chapter (v. 5 and v. 19).

With these various “hook words,” we see how the chapter holds together and unfolds. This strengthens our commitment to Paul’s authorship of 1 Timothy, and it shows us how to read the chapter as a whole. Yet, the unity is more than just linguistic. There also appears to be a literary structure in 1 Timothy 1. Continue reading

The Good News of the Law (1 Timothy 1:8–11)

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Reading the Law Lawfully (1 Timothy 1:8–11)
(Sermon Audio)

This Sunday we considered 1 Timothy 1:8–11 and the good news of God’s law. If there is anything in church history that has puzzled and divided Christians it is the relationship between the law and the gospel. Yet, in this passage we are given a clear understanding of how Paul read the Law of Moses.

With application for today, Sunday’s sermon sought to show how Paul read the Law lawfully and how we should do the same. You can listen to the sermon here. Additional resources can be found below.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor David Continue reading

Why Non-Pastors Should Study the Pastoral Epistles

livingchurchThis Sunday our church begins a new series in the book of 1 Timothy. In six chapters, 1 Timothy contains a great deal of instruction about the gospel, false teaching, men and women, life together in the church, and how to recognize godly leaders.

1 Timothy is often grouped with two other Epistles– 2 Timothy and Titus. Together these three letters are known as the “Pastoral Epistles.” They are written to two of Paul’s sons in the faith (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Titus 1:4), ministers of the gospel sent by Paul to Ephesus and Crete for the purpose of building up those churches. As a matter of fact, Timothy and Titus are not so much pastors themselves but envoys sent out by Paul to confront error (1 Tim 1:3-7), preach sound doctrine (2 Tim 1:13; Titus 2:1, 15), further the faith of God’s elect (Titus 1:2), and give health and life to the household of God (1 Tim 3:14–16).

From this synopsis, one might get the impression the Pastoral Epistles are only for pastors, or at least for those working in the ministry. One might conclude they have little relevance for the stay-at-home mom or the data analyst. Such a conclusion would be premature, for they actually have great application for all Christians. And what follows are five reasons why every Christian should read them, study them, and apply them. Continue reading