(see parts 1-4 in this series for the fuller context)
Then I’ll point to just one more passage: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2. Again, check my commentary on the Pastoral Epistles for the detailed exegetical data and a fuller development of the implications (pp.417-434). The simple point, however, is that the chapter division here often blinds us to the continuity of Paul’s intent. He demands that Timothy “preach the word” (4:2; aorist imperative – undertake the action immediately and with urgency).
Paul adds to this four statements which develop just what Paul means by “preach” … “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” What we need to notice is that Paul is not speaking randomly about what he wants preaching to be. He is laying out what preaching is because he has just laid out why Scripture itself was given (3:16-17). The Scriptures control the preaching.
Scripture was giving for … (3:16-17)
The pastor is to … (4:1-2)
It appears obvious that the latter (preaching) grows out of the former (Scripture). Or to put it another way, the logical outflow of the nature of Scripture itself and the reason for God giving it to us is that it ought to be taken up and “preached” to achieve those purposes among God’s gathered people. God’s purposes for the Scriptures (3:16-17) and for preaching (4:1-2) are one and the same. Preaching should allow the Word of God to dominate and arrive at its intended purpose. A sermon must be more than Scritpure-based, it must be shaped and controlled by Scripture. We must allow our bibliology to inform and control our homiletics. Again, you’ll want to see the commentary for more development of these matters.
Before closing I would like to ask a couple of questions that go to the implications of our theology and the logic of the concerns.
First, the theological. Our doctrinal statement says we believe: “The Old and New Testaments, inerrant as originally given, were verbally inspired by God and are a complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men. They constitute the divine and only rule of Christian faith and practice.”
My question is, if we believe this to be true, when do we as “a people” functionally and regularly come together to submit ourselves to God’s Word as our final authority, to listen to His voice, to respond to His voice?
We are not just persons (who do indeed need to learn to feed ourselves on the Word of God), but we are a people … we have a corporate identity and experience and responsibility. We do need to teach each one (as a person) to feed on God’s Word, but as “a people” we need regularly the collective experience of feeding together on God’s Word through its teaching/preaching … and our affirmation of it through response to the voice of God that comes to us through it.
Where do we corporately affirm our submission to the word of God? If not in the regular, worshipful discipline of preaching, where?