The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 23 Spring 2017
“Strengthening the Church in Biblical Preaching and Leadership”
Part I: The Power For Preaching, Pt. 6
“The Power of Scripture”
The Power Of Scripture In Preaching
In the last edition of this journal, we discussed the power of Scripture in the preacher himself. In this edition we are going to discuss the power of Scripture in the preaching event. The Scriptures are powerful in preaching because…
1. Biblical Preaching Allows God To Speak, Not Man
We are God’s voice speaking God’s Word to God’s people through the power of the Holy Spirit. Hence, we can declare, “Thus says the Lord!” It’s what God says that’s important. That’s the only thing that has eternal relevance and power. People need to hear the voice of God speaking week after week as you declare the Word of God. Biblical preaching takes the preacher out of the way and gives the Word of God prominence. Then, the Word of God works with power in the people.
Biblical Preaching is God-centred not man-centred. Biblical preaching focuses on God (his will, his purposes, his plans, his person, his work etc.), not on man (his problems, his needs, his wishes etc.). I am not inferring that the Bible does not address the issues of life – it surely does for it contains all that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). But what I am saying is that the focus of all biblical preaching is to expose the theological truth – what it tells us about God – and then to apply that truth to life. The emphasis on so-called “felt needs” in so much preaching today is producing a generation of biblically illiterate and spiritually immature Christians. It focuses on “my needs and my problems” and not on God. Biblical preaching, on the other hand, focuses on “real needs” whether “felt” or not. And those needs are met in the Scriptures and by knowing God.
2. Biblical Preaching Reveals The Mind Of The Spirit
The Spirit of God reveals the meaning and application of Scripture to the preacher as he studies the text and prepares his sermon. The Spirit of God also reveals the meaning and application of Scripture to the audience as the preacher exposits the text. In this way, the people become educated in the truth of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit brings them to obedience to that truth.
3. Biblical Preaching Covers The Whole Counsel Of God
It exposes the faith in all of its detail. This is not the subjective faith of a sinner who believes, but the objective faith of the evangelical Christian church - doctrinal truth. The church is built on the teaching of the apostles, whose epistles give us practical instruction and theological truth.
The expository preacher will preach systematically through the Scriptures and he will preach biblical theology. In this way, he will “preach the faith” – i.e. the great doctrines of the Christian church. Such preaching keeps down doctrinal error, keeps heresy at bay by “rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), and builds up Christians in their most holy faith.
Thus biblical preaching encourages a balanced preaching ministry as you preach systematically through the Word of God. By doing so you preach a balance of ethical and doctrinal truth. You preach the whole counsel of God. This keeps the preacher from the temptation of preaching personal pet themes or issues.
4. Biblical Preaching Helps Create Unity In The Church
When the expectation for the type and substance of the preaching is established and agreed upon, this helps to unify the church and establish an atmosphere of harmony and co-operation between the preacher and the congregation. Since biblical preaching focuses on the centrality of the Word and the lordship of Christ, when expository preaching is the expectation of the congregation and the practice of the preacher, then both the preacher and the congregation share a common, unifying denominator – namely, that God’s Word is the foundation for faith and practice and, therefore, the basis of preaching.
5. Biblical Preaching Increases The Spiritual And Moral Power Of The Church
Sin is being tolerated in many churches today. The world’s standard is creeping into the church. Biblical preaching helps to purify the spiritual life of the church because it brings the people into contact with the Word of God and its demands for holiness. It brings all of God’s Word to bear on all the moral and practical questions that the church faces. These issues, then, are not decided by popular opinion in the church or by the leaders in the church but by the Word of God.
Further, biblical preaching is powerful because it generates a hunger for God’s Word in the lives of the people. When the Bible is preached, people will start to bring their Bibles to church and begin to study it for themselves. Thus, it aids in the spiritual growth of the people by engendering spiritual education, edification, and maturity.
Biblical preaching keeps the church on track spiritually and morally because personal and corporate obedience are required by God in his Word. When the Word of God is preached expositorally, it exposes the people to the righteous demands of a holy God and it calls for obedient submission to those holy demands. Biblical preaching keeps the church on track – spiritually, practically, ethically, doctrinally.
6. Biblical Preaching Requires Diligent Study Of The Word By The Preacher
The amount of time the preacher spends studying the Word and praying has a direct relationship to the power of the preaching. If we give the study of the Word and prayer priority during the week, only then will we have power in the pulpit. R. G. Lee once said: “You cannot live on skim milk during the week and preach cream on Sunday.” Diligent study, prayer, and intimacy with God is the key to effective and powerful preaching. W. E. Criswell said: “No man can meet the demands of a pulpit who does not constantly and earnestly study.”
The study is a private and quiet place where the preacher spends time with God and where the Holy Spirit illumines his understanding of the Word. This cannot be done in an environment of noise and commotion. Only when the preacher is fully prepared from his time in the study can he enter the pulpit with confidence that he has something to deliver to the people from God. H. C. Brown Jr. said: “There is no substitute for the intimate knowledge of the words and thoughts of the text.” John Calvin once said: “None will ever be a good minister of the Word of God unless he is first of all a scholar.” And C. H. Spurgeon said: “He who no longer sows in the study will no more reap in the pulpit.”
As you study, wait on God until he steps in and gives you a message from the text of Scripture. It is a matter of waiting before God for the direction of God as to the message for the people. Indeed, this ought to be the main party of study. The message must have the fire that God alone can give it. Any other message has no fire from God.
7. Biblical Preaching Allows The Word To Accomplish Its Task
The expository preacher can claim Isaiah 55:8-11. God’s thoughts and ways are far higher than ours and His Word will not return void. The Word of God has come down to us just as the rain comes down from heaven and it accomplishes its task as it is preached accurately and fully to the people.
The Word of God will accomplish the task to which God sends it because “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). This assurance gives the preacher great comfort and encouragement that his efforts are not in vain and that his weakness will be used to magnify God’s strength through his mighty Word. The primary task of the proclaimed Word is to transform lives. The exposition of the Scriptures transforms saints (including the preacher) and sinners.
8. Biblical Preaching Re-Establishes The Lost Priority Of Preaching
Why has preaching lost its priority? Preaching has lost its priority because some people have a low opinion of preachers and preaching. Some people have a low opinion of preaching because they have shifted the focus from the pulpit to counselling. Modern churches seem to think that secular strategies are the answer to the people’s problems rather than spiritual approaches.
Some people have a low opinion of preaching because they do not understand what God is doing. They do not pray for souls or for spiritual victory. They do not understand the attacks of Satan against God’s servants. For them, as long as the services and programs of the church go on, then everything is fine.
The discrediting of preaching is one of the marks of our time. People discredit preaching by telling the preacher not to preach at them or by accusing him of preaching too long. Instead, people should be more concerned with the content and power of the message that God is delivering rather than the length of the message. In addition, some preachers themselves discredit preaching by telling stories and jokes, and by a bad attitude towards the preaching task. Often, preachers think that their preaching does not have any impact and that it is redundant.
How important is preaching? Preaching is the pastor’s primary task and the most important aspect of his ministry. The pastor’s greatest peril is to attend to things of lesser importance to the neglect of preaching. The preacher holds a position of supreme privilege and responsibility, for he is God’s mouthpiece. It is the greatest honour to speak God’s Word for God. There is nothing else that a preacher does that is more important than when he preaches, because when he preaches he fulfills his divine commission.
The pulpit is the centre of God’s kingdom work. It is the front line of the spiritual battle that is waged in every generation. Preaching and the pulpit are God’s mightiest weapons against spiritual coldness and lethargy in the church. Through preaching, the lost will be saved, the needs of people will be met, and their spiritual lives will be changed for the glory of God.
Maintaining focus and energy in the preaching task is the most important concern of the pastor. Other duties clamour for attention, but the pastor must always be focused on his primary task, preaching. In keeping this in the forefront, the preacher must remember that he belongs to and serves the Lord Jesus Christ - not the congregation, the denomination, or any of the myriad urgent matters that cross his path. Indeed, it is the absence of, and inattentiveness to, biblical preaching that, at least in measure, accounts for the ills of our modern society. The moral landslide that besets our nations will not stop until changes are made in our pulpits.
9. Biblical Preaching Re-Establishes The Lost Power Of Biblical Authority
The foundation of biblical (expository) preaching is biblical authority – that the Bible is the ultimate standard for all matters of faith and practice. The challenge to biblical authority came primarily during the Enlightenment (the age of reason). As David Allen points out, “Modernity distrusted authority. Postmodernity dismantles authority.” (David Allen, “Preaching and Postmodernism: an Evangelical Comes to Dance,” in Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 5, no. 2, Summer 2011, 73, cited by Richard Holland in The Masters Seminary Journal, Spring 2011, 27).
Disputes over biblical authority quickly degenerate into disputes about biblical interpretation. And thus begins the slippery slope as to what it says, what it means, and how it applies to us today.
The power for preaching stands or falls on this issue of biblical authority. If you deny biblical authority, your preaching won’t have spiritual power. If you acknowledge and bow to it, your preaching will have spiritual power. Biblical authority means not only that Scripture is true in all that it affirms, but that Scripture is binding in all that it prescribes. “It’s questions demand answers of us ... its exclamations should become the shouts of our hearts ... its promises must be relied upon, and so forth.” (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1987), 201, cited by Richard Holland in The Masters Seminary Journal, Spring 2011, 27).
10. Biblical Preaching Makes The Bible A Focal Point Of Worship
The Word of God is central to the worship of God. The Bible becomes the focal point of our worship only when it is the focal point of the study of the preacher. The Bible will be the central point of our worship services only if the preacher has laboured over it in his preparation for preaching and only when the preacher presents his preaching as an offering to God.
Preaching is not an obligation of the preacher to please the people or the leaders of the church, but to please God. When a sermon is preached as an offering to God by the preacher then the preacher only looks to God for approval of that sermon.
The preacher is God’s servant, delivering God’s message, based on God’s Word in and through the power of God’s Spirit. When the preacher preaches the Word accordingly it is an offering to God. Then he is offering the sermon back to God and only God can truly evaluate its acceptability. Therefore, we should prepare and preach as unto God because God is the audience that matters and his approbation is all that counts. For a sermon to be an offering to God it must cost us something – namely, hard work and prayer in the study. “Preaching that costs nothing accomplishes nothing” (Jowett).
Part II: Preparing For Preaching
Outlining the Sermon, Pt. 3 (continued): Testing Your Main Points
In the last edition of this journal, I talked about outlining your sermon - specifically, how to test your main points. I said that the main points of the sermon must be homiletically distinct and harmoniously related.
I thought it might be helpful for you if I gave you some examples from my own sermon outlines that may help you see that the main points are distinct from each other and yet also relate to each other by being tied to the subject.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Subject: Preaching the gospel
1. When you preach the gospel, your message should be persuasive (1-2)
(1a) ...not because of your speech or wisdom (1)
(1b) ...but because of Christ’s person and work (2).
2. When you preach the gospel, your message should be powerful (3-4)
(2a) ...not because of your person and words (3-4a)
(2b) ...but because of the Spirit’s action and work (4b)
3. When you preach the gospel, your message should be profitable (5)
(3a) ...not because of faith in human wisdom (5a)
(3b) ...but because of faith in God’s power (5b)
Subject: Justification before God
1. If you rely on your own works, you are condemned (10-12)
(1a) …because you can’t keep the law in its entirety (10)
(1b) …because righteousness is only by faith (11-12)
2. If you rely on Christ’s work, you are blessed (13-14)
(2a) …because the condemnation of the law is transferred to Christ (13)
(2b) …because the blessing of faith is transferred to us (14)
Subject: Living in spiritual freedom
1. Living by the Spirit is a life of conflict (16-18)
2. Living by the Spirit is a life of contrast (19-23)
3. Living by the Spirit is a life of crucifixion (24)
4. Living by the Spirit is a life of conformity (25)
Subject: Trusting Christ rather than self
1. When we trust Christ, our perspective changes (4-8c)
(1a) What once meant everything (4-6), now means nothing (7)
(1b) What once meant nothing, now means everything (8a-c)
2. When we trust Christ, our purpose changes (8d-11)
(2a) Our lifelong purpose is to become like Christ (8d-10)
(2b) Our lifelong purpose is to be with Christ (11)
3. When we trust Christ, our pursuit changes (12-14)
(3a) We put away what is past (12-13a)
(3b) We pursue what is future (13b-14)
Subject: The occupation of pastoral ministry
1. In pastoral ministry...we suffer for the sake of the church (24)
2. In pastoral ministry...we serve as stewards of the church (25-29)
3. In pastoral ministry...we strive for the spirituality of the church (2:1-5)
Subject: Transformation from spiritual death to life
1. God has conferred on us two great benefits (13)
(1a) He has conferred spiritual life
(1b) He has conferred forgiveness of sins
2. God has conquered for us two great enemies
(2a) He has conquered the Law’s demands (14)
(2b) He has conquered Satan’s forces (15)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Subject: A Portrait of a Model Church
1. God-centred people are known by what they do (3)
(1a) We demonstrate our faith through works (3a)
(1b) We demonstrate our love through serving (3b)
(1c) We demonstrate our hope through perseverance (3c)
2. God-centred people are known by who they are (4-10)
(2a) We are living testimonies to the saving power of the gospel (4-5)
(2b) We are living testimonies to the transforming power of the gospel (6-10)
1 Timothy 3:14-16
Subject: The character of God’s house
1. Our conduct is governed by the nature of the church (14-15)
(1a) It is the church of the living God
(1b) It is the pillar of the truth
(1c) It is the foundation of the truth
2. Our confession is governed by the message of the church (16)
(2a) The church confesses the incarnation of Christ
- he was “manifested in the flesh”
- he was “vindicated by the Spirit”
(2b) The church confesses the testimony to Christ
- the testimony of the angels (“seen by angels”)
- the testimony among the people (“preached among the Gentiles”)
(2c) The church confesses the response to Christ
- the response on earth (“believed in in the world”)
- the response of heaven (“received up in glory”)
Subject: Approaching God in Worship
1. If you approach God on the basis of your own works, you will receive God’s righteous judgement (18-21)
(1a) To approach God on the basis of his law is a frightening experience - power, fear, death, distance (18-19)
(1b) To approach God on the basis of his law is a condemning experience - you can’t measure up (20-21)
2. If you approach God on the basis of Christ’s work, you will receive God’s redeeming grace (22-24)
When we approach God on the basis of Christ’s work...
(2a) We come into the holy city without barrier (22) - “to Mt. Zion and to the city of the living God”
(2b) We come into a great celebration without disappointment (23a) - “to the joyful assembly and church of the firstborn”
(2c) We come into the presence of the Judge without fear (23b) - “to the Judge of all”
(2d) We come into the company of the righteous without imperfection (23c) - “to the spirits of just men made perfect”
(2e) We come to the Mediator without conscience - “to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant”
(2f) We come in by the blood of Christ without sin - “to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better thins than that of Abel”
Subject: The source of and solutions to our trouble
1. Trouble often finds its source in our bad attitudes (9-10)
- Sarah’s bad attitude leads to resentment
2. Trouble often finds its source in our bad decisions (11-14a)
- Abraham’s bad decision leads to a predicament
3. Trouble often finds its source in our bad circumstances (14b-16)
- Hagar’s bad circumstances lead to banishment
4. Trouble always finds its solution in God’s goodness (17-21)
- banishment leads to God’s intervention
Subject: Running Away from God
1. Running from the past doesn’t solve your problems (22-24a)
(1a) It may separate you from your family (22-23)
(1b) It may leave you isolated and alone (24a)
2. Meeting with God brings you to your senses (24b-29)
(2a) A meeting with God stops you in your tracks (24b-25)
(2b) A meeting with God makes you cry for a blessing (26-29)
3. Facing the future gives you renewed hope (30-31)
(3a) You can face the future with hope, when you’ve “seen the face of God” (30)
(3b) You can face the future with hope, when “the sun finally rises” (31)
Subject: Encountering God in the everyday events of life
1. In an encounter with God, He meets you where you are (1)
(1a) ...in an ordinary activity (1a)
(1b) ...in an ordinary place (1b)
2. In an encounter with God, He attracts you to himself (2-4)
(2a) ...by appearing in a “burning bush” (2-3)
(2b) ...by calling you by name (4)
3. In an encounter with God, He reveals who he is (5-10)
(3a) He reveals that he is a holy God (5)
(3b) He reveals that he is a faithful God (6)
(3c) He reveals that he is a redeeming God (7-10)
-a redeeming God who takes notice of his people (7)
-a redeeming God who delivers his people (8)
-a redeeming God who sends a Saviour for his people (8-10)
Part III: Devotional Exposition
“The Comprehension of the Gospel” (1 Cor. 2:6-16)
By: Dr. Stephen F. Olford
Having dealt with the character, communion, and communication of the gospel, Paul now concludes this section with a paragraph on the Comprehension of the Gospel. He anticipates those who might infer from his argument thus far that there is no place at all in the economy of God for wisdom, and that Christian truth is wholly outside the realm of the intellect. The Apostle meets this objection by pointing out that the gospel does contain a wisdom, but this wisdom is spiritual and therefore only comprehended by spiritual means. Failure to understand these important facts was another cause for division among the believers at Corinth. So Paul corrects the existing situation insisting that the comprehension of the gospel is made possible by:
I. Spiritual Initiation
“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6-7). In effect, Paul is saying here: “Do not imagine that Christianity is devoid of philosophy, of wisdom, that it is something outside the realm of the renewed intellect. It is not. It has its own wisdom, its own philosophy. Indeed, what Paul is showing here is that the Christian philosophy is the ultimate philosophy. It is not to be tested by other philosophies. They are to be tried by it.
It is clear therefore, that Paul is drawing a clear distinction once again between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God. The wisdom of the world is limited by its “age”. This is literally the word Paul uses. The supreme characteristic of human philosophy is that it is always bounded by the age in which it is evolved. So in a very real sense, men are circumscribed in their reasoning by the period in which they live. But not so with divine philosophy. The wisdom of God is timeless, and therefore changeless. Paul describes this wisdom as a mystery, “even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7). It is a wisdom which comes out of eternity, invades time, and lives on throughout the ages. To know such wisdom, men and women must be spiritually initiated. That is why Paul uses this term “mystery.” The Greek word signifies “something whose meaning is hidden from those who have not been initiated, but which is crystal clear to those who have” (William Barclay).
Now the question arises as to how men and women can be initiated into this wisdom of God, which is nothing less than the revelation of God in Christ and Him crucified. The answer is implicit in the little word “mature” which Paul equates with those who are spiritual (see verse 15). This means that for a spiritual initiation to take place, there must be:
1) A Spiritual Birth. “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature…” (1 Corinthians 2:6). The word translated “mature” means “full grown” in contrast to “babe.” Before there can be development and maturity, there must be a spiritual birth. This was the whole thrust of our Savior’s approach to one of the most intellectual men of His day named Nicodemus. Although versed in philosophy and steeped in theology, he was not born again, and to him the Savior said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, see also 3:5). There is only one realm in which the revelation of God can be understood, and that is the kingdom of God. That realm can never be entered except by a spiritual initiation – a new birth. But with this spiritual birth there must also be:
2) A Spiritual Growth. “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature…” (1 Corinthians 2:6). William Barclay maintains that the word translated “mature” describes “an animal or a person who is full grown and who has reached the height of his physical development.” He goes on to say that “Paul uses this word to indicate the spiritual and mental growth of those who can appreciate the deep things of God.” Barclay also states, “…to those who have just newly come into the church, we talk about the basic elements of Christianity; but when people are a little more mature, we give them deeper teaching about what these basic facts mean.” It is in this respect that Paul limits the understanding of the wisdom of God to the “initiated.” The wisdom of this world passes away, or “comes to nothing” (verse 6), but the eternal wisdom of God, ordained before the world, is designed to bring men and women into the full purpose of God’s glory, by a crisis and a process of initiation which we call spiritual birth and spiritual growth. Have you experienced this initiation by the Holy Spirit? Without this experience you can never understand the wisdom of God as it is revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ. But the comprehension of the gospel involves, in the second place:
II. Spiritual Illumination
“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Following spiritual initiation there must be the illumination of the Spirit. One of the hardest lessons men and women have to learn is that human observation, human inculcation, and human contemplation can never penetrate or discover the deep things of God. In other words, the philosophical approach and the scientific method are limited by time and sense, and can only bring us to the end of human reasoning. But where human investigation fails, spiritual illumination prevails. Thus Paul proceeds to show that if a person is qualified by spiritual birth and growth, he can know:
1) The Revelation of the Spirit. “But God has revealed them (spiritual things) to us by His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10). To illustrate his point, the Apostle, says, “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). What he is saying is simply that there are certain things which only a man’s spirit can know. Everyone is aware of this. No one can really see into our hearts and know what is there except our own spirits. Now Paul goes on to argue that the same is true of God. There are deep and intimate things about God that only God’s Spirit knows, and therefore it is only the Holy Spirit who can lead us to understand the mind of God. To put it in another form, there are areas of truth that the unaided power of thought can never find out. The Holy Spirit alone must reveal them to us. This is why, when the Lord Jesus was leaving His disciples, He promised them the Holy Spirit who would teach them all things, and bring all things to their remembrance (John 14:26). With revelation of the Spirit also comes:
2) The Exploration of the Spirit. “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). The function of the Holy Spirit is not only to reveal truth as it is in Christ, but also to explore truth. The word “searches” in our text is a most interesting one. The term is found in ancient manuscripts for a professional searcher’s report, and for the search of custom officials. Just as an experienced custom official brings to light the hidden articles from a traveler’s suitcase, so the Holy Spirit, in a more wonderful sense, explores the deep and hidden things of God, and makes them understandable and available to the humblest Christian who is prepared to trust Him (see also 1 John 2:20). This amazing phenomenon is what baffles the intellectuals of every age. The philosophers and scientists have never been able to understand how it is that even the unlettered mind can appreciate and discuss truths that are utterly hidden to the world at large. The answer, of course, is that there is such a thing as spiritual illumination. The Lord Jesus rejoiced in this fact (Luke 10:21; Matthew 16:17).
Do you know anything about this spiritual illumination in your life? There is nothing more wonderful than to share in the revelation and exploration of the Spirit of God. Anyone who has reached this point can say with the Apostle Paul: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). But for the complete comprehension of the gospel, there must be not only spiritual initiation and illumination, but also:
III. Spiritual Interpretation
“These things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Now we reach a point in Paul’s argument where we need to follow him very closely. These words that we have just quoted are often used as a proof text by the proponents of verbal inspiration – a doctrine that is both biblical and true. But Paul here says “we speak,” not “we write.” Thus he is referring not so much to inspiration as to interpretation. He is teaching us that knowledge of truth can be arrived at by an understanding of two necessary essentials:
1) The Spirit’s Use of Language. “These things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual”(1 Corinthians 2:13). It cannot be emphasized enough that he who knows the mind of God also chooses the words of God to interpret divine truth. This is essentially the ministry of the Holy Spirit. What an importance this places on the Scriptures throughout this church age. His work is to interpret the Bible to men and women who know the experience of spiritual initiation and illumination. Let it be stressed, however, that the Holy Spirit never speaks outside of the context of the divine revelation we call the Holy Bible. That is why we need to give special attention to the Spirit’s use of language. Not one jot or tittle is inconsequential. This is why Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). He also said, “…when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13). This is the secret of interpretation: the Spirit using His own words to make known the mind of God. But with the Spirit’s use of language, there is also:
2) The Spirit’s Terms of Reference. “These things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Commentators have found it extremely difficult to expound this sentence. Some say it means “matching spiritual things with spiritual words.” Others maintain that it reads “interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men.” I am personally convinced that both positions are right. The point the Apostle Paul is making is that no Scripture is of private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). The Holy Spirit has His terms of reference, and through the body of truth, as we know it in the Bible, there is sufficient precedent and support for every cardinal doctrine we hold dear. What is more, we have what is known as a Christian tradition that is made up of the contributions of doctrinal men down through the centuries. So we are not left to guess about divine revelation. There is no truth that is vital to Christian life and practice that has not the support both of divine revelation and Christian tradition. When Paul writes to Timothy concerning the comprehension and communication of divine truth, he says: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (1 Timothy 2:2).
So Paul concludes this amazing paragraph by pointing out “…the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). In other words, without spiritual initiation, illumination, and interpretation, truth is nothing more than foolishness to the unregenerate – the man of the world. He looks upon revelation as an absurdity. Once we have understood this we have a complete explanation of the attitude that is adopted by the non-Christian to spiritual things. We must therefore be patient with him and pray that he may submit to the terms of divine revelation. On the other hand, the Apostle says, “…he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one” (1 Corinthians 2:15). In other words, the man who knows spiritual initiation, illumination, and interpretation possesses a faculty which enables him to sift and examine things divinely revealed, as well as things human and natural. At the same time, he cannot be subject to examination and judgment by the one who is destitute of the Spirit. No unregenerate person has the right to criticize or judge a Christian man regarding his personal faith in Christ. He is without the faculty of spiritual discernment, and cannot therefore understand the nature of the miracle that has taken place. Just as he cannot judge the Christian, so he cannot instruct the Lord (see verse 16). It is nothing but utter human impertinence for the natural man to raise his voice against the God he is unwilling to accept.
By contrast, the Christian has “the mind of Christ.” The passage closes with this tremendous statement. The wisdom of God is nothing less than the mind of Christ. The word “mind” here means “intellect” or “consciousness.” We have the consciousness of Christ, the mind of Christ, the outlook of Christ. This is not the same word that Paul uses in Philippians chapter two. There it is the disposition of Christ; here it is the intelligent understanding or wisdom of Christ.
How wonderful it is that you and I can know the very mind of God. The wonder of it is that throughout eternity we are going to continue to explore the mind of Christ, becoming more and more like Jesus. What a vast universe of blessing stretches out before us! It makes us feel like Isaac Newton, when he said, “I am like a little child standing by the seashore, picking up a pebble here and a pebble there, and admiring them, while the great sea rolls in front of me.”
So Paul climaxes a mighty subject with the loftiest of concepts. What he is saying to these Corinthians is that if they know the initiation, illumination, and interpretation, they will know the mind of Christ. And to know the mind of Christ is to know unity of thought, life, and practice. There is no division in the mind of Christ, and no division in the local church that knows the mind of Christ. O that our prayer might be: “May the mind of Christ, my Savior, live in me from day to day, by His love and power controlling all I do and say.”
Part IV. Sermon Outlines
Title: Washing the Disciples’ Feet
Point #1: We Must Understand the Basis of True Servanthood (1-3)
1. The basis of true servanthood is the confidence that comes from knowledge
(1a) The knowledge of where we are going and how we are getting there (1a)
- “Jesus knew that his hour had come…”
(1b) The knowledge of who we are and how we fit in (3a)
- Jesus knew… that the Father had given all things into his hands”
(1c) The knowledge of where we have come from and why we are here (3b)
- Jesus knew… that he had come from God and was going to God
2: The Basis of True Servanthood Is The Motivation That Comes From Love (1c)
(2a) The motivation that comes from love is shown in the object of that love (1c)
- “having loved his own”
(2b) The motivation that comes from love is shown in the extent of that love (1d)
- “having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them to the end”
Related Topics: Pastors