My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:81)
Advice from Martin Luther
Martin Luther (1483-1546), the German Reformer, reminds us that it’s not necessary for us to express all our thoughts in one sermon or lesson. He gives us three principles: 1. make a good introduction and don’t spend too much spend time or too many words before coming to the main point; 2. proclaim, explain, and apply the Scripture passage or topic and avoid extraneous thoughts; 3. Stop at the proper time. Luther says we are to preach and live as if Jesus Christ was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is returning tomorrow.
That’s good advice for us who teach and preach God’s truth to any group of people inside or outside the church. We are to be diligent and clear and pray for the Holy Spirit’s blessing to make our labors effective. Pastor Dave Stone says: “It should be illegal for a Christian communicator to bore an audience with the transforming message of Christ.” Since we have the Lord’s treasure in the Scriptures, let’s rejoice in following His statutes as people rejoice in great riches. And let’s not keep God’s message to ourselves. Let’s enthusiastically spread the Good News about Jesus wherever we go.1
This post continues some guidelines for teaching and preaching God’s word that I used at Belhaven University in Houston, TX. I have also used them with men at Jester III prison and other pastors and Christian workers. I apply them to all who teach the Christian Scriptures, men and women.
Our Teaching and Preaching Must Be Sincere
Scriptures: Job 33:3 My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know. Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 2 Cor 2:17, 6:4-6 Unlike so many, we do not peddle God’s word for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God….As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way…in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love. Philippians 1:17 Some preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely.
Comments: Sincerity is meaning what we say and do. We don’t lie to people about our thoughts or feelings. We must be free from pretending, deceit, or hypocrisy. Here are some great quotes: “Be what you seem! Live your creed!…The Lord first of all wants sincerity in His service, singleness of heart without craftiness and falsehood….Sincerity is the life of all our graces and puts life into all our duties….Nothing is more pleasing to God than sincerity and plain-dealing….Sincerity is essential to the life of godliness. Whatever we are in our religion, let us resolve never to wear a cloak. Let us by all means be honest and real.”2
The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)
Our Teaching and Preaching Must Be Honest
Scriptures: Mark 12:14 Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. But you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth….Proverbs 12:17, 19:1 An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies….Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse….2 Cor 1:12 Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.
Comments: Integrity means that, with the Holy Spirit’s enabling, we do what is right because God commands it, even when no one is watching us. It means being honest and morally upright. Some more quotes: “It is better to go straight than to move in the best of circles….Integrity of heart is indispensable….The three most important ingredients in Christian work are integrity, integrity, integrity….An honest mind is a great treasure; it is worth any price….The purer the diamond the more it sparkles. The purer the heart is the more it sparkles in God’s eyes.”3
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot (and your whole life) from evil. (Proverbs 4:24-26)
Our Teaching and Preaching Must Avoid False Doctrine
Scriptures: 2 Cor 4:2 We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort God’s word. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. Matt 23:24 False messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. Deut 18:20 They presume to speak in God’s name things He has not commanded, or speak in the name of other gods. Jer 14:14 They prophesy false visions, divinations, idolatries, and the delusions of their own minds.
Comments: Jesus, Paul, and the Old Testament prophets did not twist the Scriptures to make God’s message more acceptable to hard-hearted people. Neither can we. The Lord warns us many times in the Bible of false teachers who are ungodly and have departed from God’s truth. Their teaching will spread like gangrene and they destroy the faith of some people.4 Lord, keep us true to you and to your Scriptures!
In everything set an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)
To be continued. You can read Teaching and Preaching the Bible (Part 5)
Notes: 1 Psalm 119:14; Act 8:4. 2 Horatius Bonar, John Calvin, William Gurnall, Matthew Henry, lain Murray, J. C. Ryle. 3 John Blanchard, John Calvin, Charles Colson, A. W. Tozer, Thomas Watson. 4 2 Tim 2:16-18.