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Committed to the Scripture

Living with Grace  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  48:16
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Dairy Queen sells ice-cream. Apple sells iPhones. Stadiums show sporting events. Pharmacies provide prescription drugs. Police departments enforce laws. Mechanic shops repair cars. News stations broadcast news. Grocery stores sell food.
Dairy Queen sells French fries and hotdogs, too. Apple sells laptops, too. Stadiums show concert, too. Pharmacies and grocery stores sell other items, too. But when a company, institution, or venue moves away from its central, core purpose and service, then it’s effectiveness, health, and value decreases, diminishes, and disappears.

Everything a church does must be rooted in the teaching of God’s Word.

On a spiritual level, the same is true for the church. Though the church may do a variety of things, all of these things must be rooted in and motivated by a fundamental activity and value – the teaching of God’s Word.
Paul calls the church “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Though the truth – the message of God revealed to the world – is printed for us in the Bible, it is not the printed Word alone that carries the church forward through the adversity, change, and opportunity that history and time presents. The church defends, explains, and promotes this message through an active, personal teaching ministry.
So, how does a church carry the truth forward and provide such a teaching ministry?
On one hand, every believer should aspire to teach God’s Word to others (Heb 5:12).
Hebrews 5:12 NKJV
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
Even so, God has assigned or enabled some believers, not all, to teach his Word with exceptional skill and effectiveness (Rom 12:6-7).
Romans 12:6–7 NKJV
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;
Consequently, not every believer should aspire to be a lead or primary teacher in the church (Jam 3:1).
James 3:1 NKJV
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
In fact, God has delegated the primary teaching responsibilities in a church to its pastors, which is reflected by how Paul calls pastors “pastor-teachers” (Eph 4:11).
Ephesians 4:11 NKJV
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
This background perspective helps us understand why Paul includes a final quality which a man must exhibit to be chosen as the pastor of a church. For a man to serve the church as a pastor, he must first exhibit an exemplary family (Tit 1:6). He must not exhibit the harmful qualities that grace denies (Tit 1:7) and he must exhibit the godly qualities that grace supplies (Tit 1:8). Then he must also be able to teach the Word of God (Tit 1:9).
Since, the health of a church corresponds directly to the health of its teaching ministry, let’s take a close look together at what Paul says about this quality in a man’s life. As we do, let’s ask ourselves whether we value this quality as a church.
Why do you attend, identify with, and serve at your church? What draws you and keeps you there? Its worship style? The friendliness of its people? A fun and exciting children’s program? An active outreach program? A comfortable building? Something else? Though any of these things may be valid concerns, they are secondary at the very least.

Does my church teach God’s Word accurately, clearly, and courageously?

The primary question to diagnose whether a church is healthy is to ask whether it teaches God’s Word with accuracy, clarity, and courage. Though other factors affect church health, and a healthy teaching ministry alone will not guarantee a healthy church (its members must receive and apply what they hear, too, for instance), a teaching ministry is necessary first of all. It is the foundation upon which all other factors rest.
A good building has windows, pipes, and a roof, for instance, but without a proper foundation, these things are ultimately irrelevant. They are only of value if the foundation of the building is established first.
So it is with the church. If the teaching ministry of a church is off target, then whatever other attractive or distinctive things it may do – no matter how good – will be of limited or uncertain value because it is not rooted in the faithful teaching of Scripture. That’s why a pastor must be committed and competent to teach God’s Word.
Let’s hear what Paul told Titus about a prospective pastor’s teaching skills. We can visualize his words this way:
[A pastor] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught
So that he can encourage others by sound doctrine
And [so that] he can refute those who oppose [sound doctrine]
Do you see how Paul organized his thoughts here? He provides us with an initial thought, then he follows it with two supporting thoughts.
Now, what is the relationship between these thoughts?
The initial thought describes a necessary action, which in this case refers to a personal, internal commitment to something.
The two supporting thoughts which follow describe the practical, external outcomes of this commitment.
So, piecing this together, we see that for a man to be a pastor, he must exhibit a personal, internal commitment to God’s message revealed through Scripture. Only when he is personally committed to God’s message will he be able to encourage others to believe and obey God’s message on one hand and correct those who resist or disobey God’s message on the other hand.
Now that we understand the flow of thought, let’s examine this verse more closely. Let’s look at the first line first, the one that describes a pastor’s personal, internal commitment.
[A pastor] must hold firmly to the faithful message as it has been taught.
“Holding fast” means something like “holding firmly” or being “strongly attached” to something. It envisions “clinging or grasping tightly” to something, “to be fully devoted” to some person or belief.
Envision a rock climber gripping tightly to the face of a cliff, like in the National Geographic documentary Free Solo, which films Alex Honnold as a prepares to climb 3,000-ft. El Capitan in Yosemite National Park – without a rope. The film documents not only his preparations but his actual climb.
Mountain climbing is not for the faint of heart, as anyone who’s scaled Mount Everest knows all too well (https://youtu.be/q4Kw7GlZcHM). Just watching a video like this evokes feelings of nervousness and fear. What happens if the climber lets go?
Climbing mountains helps us envision the challenge, responsibility, and risk that leading and teaching the church as a pastor entails. Pastoring is not for the faint of heart! So, what must a pastor hold tightly as he carries out his duties?

A pastor must hold tightly to the faithful word.

“The faithful word” may also be translated as “the trustworthy message” and refers to what Christ and the apostles taught. From the earliest days of the church, pastoral leaders recognized their obligation to commit themselves to “the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
Acts 6:4 NKJV
but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Paul says more about this “ministry of the word” when he explained a pastor’s responsibility to Timothy in more depth.
He describes this ministry as “laboring in the word and doctrine” (1 Tim 5:17). Done properly, it is rigorous, painstaking, time-consuming work.
1 Timothy 5:17 NKJV
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
This labor focuses especially on “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim 6:3).
1 Timothy 6:3 NKJV
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,
It also focuses on the “pattern” (or set, fixed teachings) of truths which Paul and the other apostles taught following Christ (2 Tim 1:13).
2 Timothy 1:13 NKJV
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
This ministry requires a pastor to “rightly divide the word of truth,” which means to present the teaching of Scripture with the skill, precision, and effectiveness of a surgeon. He must “cut it straight” (2 Tim 2:15).
2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
This ministry also includes teaching from the Old Testament (“all scripture”), which he must teach in light of what we now know about Christ now that he has died and rose again (2 Tim 3:16-17).
2 Timothy 3:16–17 NKJV
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This ministry requires a pastor to “preach the Word,” which means he must explain and apply to our lives what the Bible says (2 Tim 4:2). Simply. What. It. Says. Then apply it to our lives.
2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
He must do this “in season and out of season,” meaning whether its producing immediate fruit (“in season”) or not producing immediate fruit (“out of season”). Though the Word of God always produces fruit, that fruit is not immediate.

A pastor must hold tightly to the faithful word as it has been taught.

So, a pastor must have an internal commitment to teach and apply what Scripture says. “As it has been taught” emphasizes the fixed and final nature of the Bible. The ideas and truths that Christ and the apostles taught in the 27 books of the New Testament complete what the prophets introduced in the 39 books of the Old Testament.
Together, these 66 provide a fixed and final message for us today. Since John wrote Revelation, there have been no more apostles and no more revelations from God.
A pastor is not a mystical revealer of new truth but a faithful reminder of the truth which has already been given.
A pastor is not at liberty to expand or add to what the Bible says, but he is called to simply explain and apply what the Bible says, instead.
Teaching the Word “as it has been taught” underscores a pastor’s duty to teach, emphasize, and repeat what Christ and the apostles taught while resisting the urge to teach other things or to bend and twist the Scripture to say things which is does not say.
What are some other things which “have not been taught” which a pastor may be tempted to teach instead of God’s Word or to present as though it is God’s Word?
His personal opinions and preferences
Extra-biblical sources (like rabbinical writings, Apocrypha, pseudepigrapha)
Secular or psychological tips, tricks, and techniques for a happier, healthier life
Motivational speeches or pep talks
Feel-good poems and stories
Doctrinal and theological hobby horses (repeated, imbalanced truths)
Political agendas and talking points
Prophetic speculation
So-called “deeper insights” which have never been seen before
Numerology
Philosophical theories
Moralism (good behavior without the gospel)
As Charles Spurgeon said, “We must not stand on the Bible we preach, but we must preach with the Bible above our heads.” We must exalt the Bible as the message that carries God’s authority over our church and our lives, so the preacher must remind us of what God has said and challenge us to respond with faith and action. He must not let go of Scripture or reshape Scripture to fads and trends of his day.
John Stott emphasizes this crucial dynamic when he said, “The Christian preach is to be neither a speculator who invents new doctrines which please him, nor an editor who excises old doctrines which displease him, but a steward, God’s steward, dispensing faithfully to God’s household the truths committed to him in the Scriptures, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.”
I’ve already highlighted the analogy of a rock climber clinging to Scripture as the guide to his ministry and message but let me highlight another analogy to help us grasp the necessity of being committed to the teaching of Scripture.
In another place (Eph 4:14), Paul warned the church against being like a ship tossed on the waves by “winds of doctrine.”
Ephesians 4:14 NKJV
that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
In the same place, he said that pastors, through teaching, should equip the church to avoid being blown around like this (Eph 4:11-12).
The teaching ministry of a pastor (and other teachers in the church) helps keep a church from being shipwrecked by turbulent doctrinal trends the blow throughout history and time. At every place and in every age, doctrinal errors abound, threatening to throw a church off course from its mission to build faithful followers of Christ. The teaching ministry of a church is the compass and rudder that keeps it on course in accomplishing its mission of reaching and building followers of Christ.

A pastor must be able to encourage and correct people within the church.

“So that he can” (or “so that he is able to”) tells us why this firm commitment to the teaching of Christ and the apostles is necessary because it’s that inner commitment that enables him to do the two things that a faithful teaching ministry requires. And what are these two things that a faithful teaching ministry requires?
Encouraging genuine spiritual change in the lives of people through faith and obedience to what God has said.
Correcting people when they cause confusion or contradict what God has said.
These instructions to Titus imply that there were people inside the church who were pushing back against biblical teaching. You see, it’s not the pastor’s job to encourage obedience and correct disagreements outside the church in the world at large. It’s his job to do that inside the church that he shepherds.
The first responsibility (“exhort”) is like playing offense. The other (“refute”) is like playing defense.
One is a matter of construction and building up people for God through the church while the other is a matter of demolition, tearing down wrong ideas in the church.
So, as a pastor “holds firmly to the trustworthy message” of Scripture in his leadership and teaching, he should be prepared to encourage some people and correct others.
“Able” means that a man must be confident. He must have the knowledge, training, and perspective necessary to do this work. Therefore, a pastor should devote himself to more rigorous training than other believers, preparing himself to study the Word in the original languages, understanding the background and purpose for each book of the Bible, wrestling through the historic doctrines of the faith, and preparing himself to apply biblical truths to all sorts of personal and public challenges.
“Able” also means that a pastor must not only be confident, he must also be courageous. He must have the personal commitment, resolve, and initiative required for the task. As Paul said elsewhere, the tolerance of people to the message of Scripture will decrease, as will its practical implications for their lives. They won’t want to hear what it says or do what it requires (2 Tim 4:3). In fact, they’ll go find a bunch of teachers who agree with them instead.
For this reason, some in the church will need to be encouraged to obey the Scripture and others will need to be corrected for teaching contradictory or confusing things.
To “rebuke” means things like “bring to light” and involves things like cross-examining, asking questions and demonstrating how and why a particular idea or teaching is wrong and can even require a more public correction or rebuke if a personal, private one threatens to cause confusion, frustration, or division within the church.
A pastor should approach and address people who are promoting and teaching ideas that contradict what Christ and the apostles taught. This “contradict” refers to people who “speak against” or who promote ideas and interpretations wrong, contradictory ideas.
It’s not easy to exhort and correct people from the pulpit week after week. It’s much easier to give pep talks and discuss popular topics.
It’s hard work to stay true to what God says and emphasizes in Scripture without mixing in your own ideas and preferences.
On the other hand, it’s challenging and risky work to announce what God says in public, knowing that anyone may hear what you have to say and cause trouble.
And if you think that’s hard, then try doing this in private on a personal level, too. That’s equally challenging if not more so.
On one hand, a pastor must help people understand apply God’s Word to their individual lives in a way that fits their personal situation without catering to that person’s preferences or weaknesses or in a way that pushes his own personal impressions or agendas onto them.
On the other hand, a pastor must be willing to lose a friend, risking pushback, anger, or increased opposition in return if he corrects a person’s wrong ideas and teaching, no matter how gracious or gentle he may be.
Can you see why it’s important for a pastor to “cling tightly” to Scripture? Because leading and teaching from God’s Word is a lot like climbing a cliff. Lots of challenging decisions must be made if progress will occur, but those decisions must only and always be guided by God’s Word and so must the teaching be as well.

The Scriptures not the pastors are the ultimate authority over the church.

It’s important to note that the problem is not pushing back against whatever a pastor says or teaches. This is not a matter of “pastoral” authority but “biblical” authority. The pastor himself is not the ultimate authority in the church – the Scripture is. That’s why a pastor must demonstrate a faithful, rigorous adherence to sound biblical doctrine and teaching.
A pastor must be committed to teaching what Christ and the apostles taught, nothing more, nothing less. If whatever he says and does veers away from what Scripture clearly teaches, then he himself is unqualified to serve the church as a pastor for he is to guide God’s church according to God’s Word. He is a steward, not a master.

A faithful teaching ministry enables a healthy church.

In closing, I would like to point out what “sound doctrine” means. It is not just doctrine and teaching that is accurate and consistent with what Christ and the apostles taught. It is also reveals that such doctrine is “healthy.”
Imbalanced and incorrect doctrine produces a spiritually unhealthy church and members. When a pastor (or any other teacher and influencer in the church) strays into wrong doctrine, this shift in direction affects more than their personal beliefs and thoughts. It affects their mental health, emotional health, and the health of their relationships as well – not to mention the health of the church of which they are a member.
I’ve noticed over the course of my life and ministry that when members become sidetracked by unbiblical, imbalanced, incorrect, and tangential doctrines and interpretations of Scripture, their change of perspective and focus harms not only their own spiritual health but also the spiritual health of their spouses, children, and church.
For this reason, a pastor must be able to discern when this happens and take steps to correct the problem before it develops farther. 2 Tim 2:24-26 repeats this pastoral responsibility and points out that such efforts may not always succeed, but a pastor must make as good an effort as possible to give that person a genuine opportunity to change.
2 Timothy 2:24–26 NKJV
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
Will you pray that the teaching ministry of Brookdale Baptist Church will remain committed to the explaining and applying the Word of God both on a public and personal level?
Will you pray that your pastor(s) will be confident and courageous in carrying out this responsibility no matter what the challenges may be?
Will you pray that we will exhibit this same commitment throughout our church in whatever groups and venues teaching occurs?
The health of our church corresponds directly to the health of our teaching ministry. On this foundation we must build and serve into the future – on the unchanging foundation of the Word of God and nothing else. And for this, we need God’s grace.
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