By whose authority?

As pastors our responsibility is to preach the word--but whose word? The tendency to substitute personal authority and interesting stories flies in the face of Jesus' example on the way to Emmaus.

David C. Jarnes is an assistant editor of Ministry.

I appreciate the Epistles to Timothy and Titus. Directed originally to ministers in the early Christian church, they seem to have been preserved especially to encourage and counsel all who minister. These Epistles uphold the central place Scriptures should have in our own lives and in the services in which we lead our congregations. Second Timothy says, "All scripture is ... profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (chap. 3:16, R.S.V.). And it charges us to "preach the word" (chap 4:2, R.S.V.; see also chap. 2:15; 1 Tim. 4:13).

This only makes sense. After all, Scripture is God's primary means of communicating with man. It is meant to convey His essential messages. And those messages are timeless and universal. They are as certainly intended for people today as for those to whom they were originally sent. When we preach Biblical sermons we deliver those messages to our congregations.

What determines whether or not a sermon is Biblical? It's not simply the number of texts in the sermon. To be Biblical, a sermon must depend upon the Bible's authority. And it must draw its main idea or message from the Bible.

A subtle temptation comes to many of us. We have a wealth of spiritual experience. And we know our church's doctrines, which we believe to be Biblical. It's easy for us to simply draw from one or the other in building our sermons, and then find appropriate texts to support our conclusions. But in doing this we may be "using" Scripture. We may be depending upon ourselves and our own knowledge rather than looking for the answers God has for His people in His Word.

Certainly we needn't begin from scratch when we address a particular need. Our acquaintance with Scripture and with spiritual life means we have the advantage of a good starting point for our study. But study we must, even if just to confirm that our message is indeed Biblical.

Does the fact that our message must originate in Scripture rather than with ourselves preclude creativity in our sermons? No. While we must be careful to convey God's messages and not our own, our sermons require our creativity in at least two ways. Guided by the Spirit, we must use our creativity to apply scriptural principles to the needs of our people. And we need our creativity to communicate God's messages to His people in an effective way.

On the road to Emmaus Jesus Himself exemplified good Biblical preaching. The occasion for His "sermon" was a need His "congregation" had. How did He approach the situation? To what authority did He appeal? He could have given a personal testimony. That would have been very effective! But, as He did throughout His ministry, Jesus drew His sermon from the Scriptures. "And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself " (Luke 24:27, R.S.V.).

Jesus--Himself the Word of God, the very One about whom the Scriptures were written--turned to the Scriptures to convey God's message to His people! May we be as self-effacing and true to our calling. D.C.J.

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David C. Jarnes is an assistant editor of Ministry.

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