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The Kind of Teaching We Need – Part 2

Zach Putthoff Written by 
Tuesday, 22 September 2015 18:21

Last time, I made the case that the kind of teaching we need as a church is what could be referred to as “Gospel-centered teaching”; a kind of teaching and preaching that magnifies the grace of God in Christ as the grounding reality of all of life; a kind of teaching and preaching that focuses on the Gospel of Christ and the implications of the Gospel upon the lives of Christ’s followers.

This kind of teaching flows directly out of the intended purpose of the Bible and follows the pattern of teaching given to us in the Bible, which is God’s own personal Word to His people. When the discouraged disciples encountered the resurrected Jesus (unknowingly, at first) on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, Jesus opened their blind eyes to the significance of his life and death by taking them through “Moses and all the Prophets” teaching them “in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

From Jesus in Luke 24, we learn a lot about what the Bible is NOT. The Bible is not a collection of moralistic instructions for sinners, despite the way it instructs us in morality. The Bible is not a mere theological textbook that seeks to answer all of our curious questions about life and about God. Furthermore, the Bible is not a creed or statement of faith that simply teaches us what we need to believe.

Instead, from Jesus in Luke 24, we learn that the Bible is God’s revelation to us of his unified plan for all of history to unite all things in heaven and on earth in and under Christ. It is the absolutely true, divinely inspired, and inerrant record of how God will be glorified for eternity in the midst of His redeemed people who have been saved by His grace through faith in His Son. And at the center of that story, is Jesus and the Good News about him.

Additionally, we are also taught that the Scriptures are totally sufficient for leading sinners to a saving knowledge of Christ and for teaching them to live godly lives in light of what Christ has done for them in dying for their sins and raising from the dead. This is exactly the point of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:14-16 where he says to the young pastor, Timothy…

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV – italics mine).

Never are the people of God to move on from the Bible, which means never are we to move on from the Gospel and the implications of the Gospel upon our lives. The unpacking of the Gospel and its implications from the Bible, is sufficient to make us wise for salvation and equipped for every good work.

But this is essentially just a restatement of what I said last time, as we reflected on Titus 2:15, which says, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15 ESV). There Paul is addressing another pastor, a church planter named Titus who was responsible for building up a number of churches on the island of Crete; commanding him to build up the church(es) under his leadership by serving them a steady diet of strong, Gospel-centered teaching.

We need this kind of teaching…desperately. We cannot grow spiritually without it.

But what we also see here in this simple and potent verse is that a mere sprinkling of this kind of teaching throughout the church is not enough. We not only need Gospel-centered teaching…

We need steady Gospel-centered teaching.

Here’s what I mean by “steady” Gospel-centered teaching. I’m talking about a focus needed from those who are responsible for teaching the Gospel and its implications in the church, that guards those teachers from becoming content with merely presenting sermons, and lessons, and public statements, and that drives them to bring the Gospel to bear upon all kinds of situations, scenarios, and people. I get that from what Paul says to Titus here when he writes…

“These things speak and exhort and reprove…” There is a progression to the commands given there. The first thing Titus is to do is “speak” the Gospel. The word simply means “to speak.” Teachers in the church are to talk about the Gospel and its implications. It’s a pretty simple concept, really. They are to talk about it with people in public teaching and in private conversations.

The second thing Titus is called to do is “exhort” people with the Gospel. This word is notably stronger. It has the sense of “to urge” or to “call to action.” It can be used in more negative contexts, where the urging is with someone who needs correction – but it is also used in much less negative contexts, where people just need encouragement; not just a pat on the back, but real substantive encouragement. Titus is called to call people to action with Gospel centered teaching. Not simply to talk about it. Not simply to teach it as fact. But to call people to respond to it appropriately.

The last thing that Titus is supposed to do here is “reprove” people with the Gospel. This is obviously a stronger word than the previous two, and probably has to do with those situations where Titus will face opponents of Gospel teaching, which typically rejects one of the two fundamental aspects of true Gospel-centered teaching – namely “grace despite sin” or “holiness by grace.”

When people want to deny the importance of living a godly life, and want to settle for a cheap grace that has little to no impact on the way we live our lives – they must be shown the error of their ways. And when people want to emphasize the necessity of godliness to the exclusion of our depravity and our need for God’s grace – they too must be shown their error. Gospel-centered reproof is an essential ingredient of a healthy church. Without it, churches become, in the words of Al Mohler, “little more than voluntary associations with a steeple.” The Gospel is important enough to step on people’s toes when necessary, and teachers in the church (particularly pastors) must be willing to do so.

Paul gives a similar command to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2. There the command is: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” The idea there is the same as in Titus 2:15. The church needs steady Gospel-centered teaching.

The Apostle Paul is actually a great example of what this should look like. He set a wonderful example for this kind of patient, enduring, faithful, steady kind of teaching – and passed on the baton to many others along the way – as we see in his parting words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.

In Acts 20:18-37 we read, "You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 "And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. 25 "And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. 26 "Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 "I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes. 34 "You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 "In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" 36 When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him…”

What a scene. A steady Gospel-centered teacher, giving his life to find ways to pour the Gospel into the same group of people, day and night, for three straight years – in good times and really bad times – whether what he said was immediately accepted or not, and despite the hardship it brought him upon him; who’s faithfulness and steady teaching has won the trust of his hearers, has raised up men to take on the responsibility for furthering the Gospel, and has built in the hearts of God’s people a genuine love for Christ and for one another. All of that is the fruit of steady Gospel-centered teaching.

The church needs this kind of teaching. Our church needs this kind of teaching. And the reason is because our fundamental needs never change. Whether we’re in the dark valleys of suffering and pain or on the mountain tops of joy and satisfaction, our fundamental needs remain the same. No matter what we’re going through, we need to be taught and reminded and then taught and reminded again of the grace of God in Christ despite our sins, and the grace of God in Christ to overcome our sins. No matter what we’re going through, we are in need of being brought back again and again to the greatness of the grace of God in Jesus. As Paul said in Acts 20, those realities – “the word of his grace” is the thing that is able to build us up and give us the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. And so, those who are responsible for teaching in the church just need to stick with the Gospel.

As the old hymn so rightly puts it, “Through many dangers toils and snares we have already come. T’was grace that brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.” Grace has brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.

May those of us in this church who are responsible for teaching the Gospel here never become satisfied with the level to which we have taught it – and may those of us who hear that teaching from week to week never become satisfied with the level to which we have heard it.

We’ll consider the third aspect of the kind of teaching we need, next time.

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