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Equipping the saints for service

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Equipping the saints for service

Readings:

Nehemiah 1:1-13; Ephesians 4:11-16

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

It was only last Saturday during the EMU conference at Creek Road Presbyterian Church which I attended that the speaker made a comment to this effect:  The message of the Word of God is too important to just talk about it; one must preach it and proclaim it.

This appreciation of the Word of God is not new in Reformed circles.  It was understood since the early days of the Reformation that preaching of the Word of God is designed to proclaim the greatness of the mercies of God, to edify the people of God, and in the sum of things bring glory and honour to the Lord.

Prophets of the Old Testament, and for that matter all people in the Bible tasked with the proclamation of the revealed will of God, could with boldness state:  “Thus sayeth the Lord”.

It seems as if in our day ministers shy away from the authoritative proclamation of the Word of God.  You sometimes get the impression that some present an opinion about the Word.  God’s people are not called to listen to the voice of God; the minister is not preaching, as if he might perhaps offend people if he was too definite about the Word.  You sometimes get the idea that the minister is afraid that he might think his preaching might separate him from the people if he is too direct with the application; as if the people might turn around and ask him, “Who do you think you are!”  Or maybe the spirit of post-modernism has taken hold of even God’s people that the presentation of the message of the Bible as the only truth to salvation in the only Saviour prevents ministers from speaking boldly, and people believing that the message they hear is just one amongst many others.

The result is that in many cases is that the extreme:  preaching doctrine has become a definite “no-no”, while a “feel-good” theology is pushed to make people feel better about themselves.  Point is, do everything to be relevant and do whatever you can to not offend anyone.

Such preaching leads nowhere.  People might repent, but the danger is that they would not know from what, or to whom.  The message of Christ becomes an add-on to the many ideas people might already believe in; but they do fall prostate before Jesus as Lord, commit their lives to Him and live for Him only in absolute conformity to the Bible as the infallible revealed will of the Father.  A biblical worldview keeps escaping the minds of the people with the effect that the world continues to impact the church and the church is hardly making inroads into this world to claim it for Jesus Christ.

Jesus commanded his disciples in Matthew 28:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-21)

It makes for good study to read the Acts of the Apostles and look for ways in which the apostles did just that.  Chapter 2:42 we are told that the new converts continued in the doctrine (teaching) of the apostles.  Now this verse follows from the fact the Peter preach the Word of God and people became believers.  The proclamation of the Bible leads to faith. Their witness to the world around them and the praise to God was based in the teaching of the apostles. 

It was the teaching of the apostles that got them in the hot water with the Jewish leaders.  They were told not to teach people about Jesus Christ.  Acts 5:35 once again stresses the fact that people were exposed to the teaching of Jesus Christ.  Paul and Barnabas made it their duty to teach and preach the Word of God.  Paul stayed in Rome for 3 and a half year teaching the Word of God. 

Teaching the people of the Lord is essential.  This we do with conviction.  The sermon is immensely more than just a talk or a Scripture outline.  My dear friends, don’t fall into this trap.  Don’t just share the Word of God; preach, proclaim it with confidence as if your and the life of your people depend on it.  Indeed, it does depend on it.

Ephesians 4

The purpose of God by appointing some to be pastors and apostles and evangelists is to equip his people for their work of ministry.  Equipping is edification with the whole body in mind. The aim is to see all grow in faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  This will happen as all come to unity in Him and knowledge of Him. 

I met the good Presbyterian who said he is a Christian.  “I  believe there is a god up there”.  I pointed out to him that what he said was his belief or faith, was not faith at all.  It was purely an idea.  It is our job to equip people with sure knowledge so that they can grow from having ideas to a sure knowledge.  See the point in Eph 6:  People’s minds are infiltrated by ideas and philosophies; they are tossed about by all sorts of teachings and they cannot grow to maturity and unity in Christ. There service within the body of Christ is ineffective and they cannot support each other to stand against the onslaught of the enemy.

What is the remedy here:  equip God’s people with knowledge.  Teach them every thing Christ commanded.  It does not help to share ideas about the Bible or Jesus Christ with them.  Timothy gets this command from the apostle Paul:

You, however, know all about my teaching (doctrine), my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:10-17)

To assure that the work of the Gospel will continue Timothy had to look for men who were able to teach tis Word to other would in turn be able to teach.

Nehemiah 8

God worked in the hearts of the people an appetite for the Word, for they asked Ezra to bring the Book and preach it. The first day of the seventh month marked the Feast of Trumpets; the tenth day would be the Day of Atonement; and the fifteenth to twenty-second days, the Feast of Tabernacles (see Lev. 23:23–44).

Ezra read the Word and explained it for many hours, assisted by the Levites. Wiersbe writes:

”Verse 8 describes a perfect church gathering: the people all assembled to listen; the Word was exalted; the preacher read and explained the Word so that people could understand it. The people wept at hearing the Word, overcome, no doubt, with grief for their sins. But this was to be a day of rejoicing. They would weep on the Day of Atonement! Ezra commanded them to feast and rejoice.”

Operative words here are:

Read the Word and explained it

Reading according to the Hebrew already carries the idea of preaching.

Explain:  this could mean translate

Understand:  thinking through to be clear about something.  It involves the mind in adding what is understood with the idea to apply the knowledge.

As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. (Acts 17:2-3)

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)

They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. (Acts 28:23)

Dear friends in the Lord, not only did the Lord call you to pastor his people and lead them as a shepherd through difficult times; He also calls you to proclaim as a prophet the glories of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Prepare yourself to proclaim the Word.  As prophet you will have to comfort people, you will also have edify God’s people by expanding their knowledge of Him who saves and calls them to service Him.  To be a good prophet of the Word calls for commitment to the Word, to the Lord of the Word and the message of the Word.  For this many before us gave their lives. I plead with you not to water your prophetic task down to a mere talk or present it as your opinion.  Take your place in the pulpit as God’s servant and proclaim the Word saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord!”

Amen.

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