Five Hallmarks of a Biblical Church (Part 2)

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  April 3, 2011
Audio
  • Share:

Well, we started last week taking a little break from our verse-by-verse exposition. For those of you who are new or perhaps visiting today, we normally on Sunday morning and Sunday evening are working are way through some book of the Bible. We just finished about a three-and-a-half year study through Ephesians on Sunday morning, and- in the fall, Lord willing, we'll be starting with the Sermon on the Mount. On Sunday night, we're working our way through the Gospel of Mark. And we really do that in a a purposeful way; you'll even hear about why we do that this morning. But it's also appropriate from time to time—and we're in a break for me to take the opportunity to address a few things that I think are important to us a church. We're dealing with the issue of Five Hallmarks of a Biblical Church. We began that study last Sunday; we'll continue it today.

This week I was reminded of one of the great architectural wonders of our world. It was on August 8, 1173 (the year 1173), that the Italian city of Pisa began work on what would eventually become its most famous landmark. It was to be a free-standing bell tower for the cathedral that was there in the city. The tower was designed to be eight stories tall, some 185 feet in height. The construction of the tower took almost 200 years in three different phases, with intermittent breaks for wars and other situations. Once the construction reached the second floor, only about five years into the project in the year 1178, the builders began to realize that they had a significant problem, because already the tower had started to sink and to lean to one side. This was caused, they discerned (and it's still true today), by two problems. The first problem is that it was built on a weak, unstable subsoil that was softer than they thought it was. The second problem was that the foundation wasn't deep enough: only 10 feet deep to support a tower a 185 feet tall. The tower has stood there for some 800 hundred years, but as you know, as it's become famous for, it leans some 13 feet off of vertical at the top. Within the last 10 years, there've been efforts to try and save the tower; in fact, they moved thousands of tons of dirt from the side opposite the side to which it leans. And now engineers say that for the first time in history, it has stopped its forward progress of adding millimeters each year to its lean. They think they've arrested the continuing worsening of the condition, and they believe it's now safe for another couple hundred years. But one day, the experts say, unless other techniques are used, more is done, someday it will fall. And the reason is simply that it was built on a bad foundation.

As I thought about that, I was reminded that just as one of the buildings of the church can be built on a faulty foundation and therefore not endure, in the same way, the living organism that is the church can also be built on a faulty foundation. Over time, cracks begin to appear in its structure, and left unaddressed, the church will eventually collapse. The right foundation (as we will see today) for the church must always be the Scripture, the Word of God.

Last week we began to consider the Hallmarks of a Biblical church. The Hallmarks of a Biblical Church. I'm borrowing that term "hallmarks" from the ' Goldsmiths' Hall in London. It was founded in the 1200s and still exists to this day. And it exists for one primary responsibility, and that is to test the purity of metals. When a piece of metal is determined to meet the standard for genuineness, for purity, then the ' Goldsmiths' Hall puts its mark on that piece of metal. That came to be known as the "hallmark." Eventually, the word "hallmark" came to be used of whatever marks showed that something was genuine. We're looking at the Hallmarks of a Biblical Church: those marks that show a church is truly, genuinely biblical.

I invite you to turn with me to 1 Timothy chapter 3, where we began last time. First Timothy chapter 3:14. Paul here tells us why he writes 1 Timothy and, in some sense, as why he writes 2 Timothy and Titus as well. He says:

"I am writing these things to you [Timothy], hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." The key word in that sentence is the Greek word that's translated "conduct." It means "to conduct oneself by certain principles." So Paul says I think I'm going to be delayed. I'm not going to be able to come when I thought to Ephesus, and so I'm writing you this letter so that you will know, Timothy, the principles by which you should conduct yourself in the church.

Now last time we noted that there are some pretty serious implications that come out of that verse: how a particular church conducts itself matters to Jesus Christ, and, there are wrong ways to conduct church. There are wrong ways to do church. It's implied by what Paul says here. Also implied is that Christians, even Christian leaders like Timothy, don't automatically know how they ought to conduct themselves in church; that is, how they ought to do church. Also implied here is that no church or no group of pastors or elders gets to establish their own guiding principles of ministry. Because God has told us through the writing of the Apostle Paul how to do church, and we're all responsible to conduct ourselves in that way.

Now as I said last time, let me remind you, we're not talking about methodology. There're different ways, different methods, different approaches, although some methods obviously work better with these hallmarks than others. We're also not talking about style: you know, traditional verses contemporary. There are churches that are primarily contemporary, and there're churches that are primarily traditional, and both are missing some or all of these hallmarks of a Biblical church. And there are churches on both side of the style issue (contemporary and traditional) that have all five of these hallmarks. So we're not talking about methodology; we're not talking about style. We're talking about a Biblical philosophy of ministry: a set of nonnegotiable biblical principles that guide all the choices and decisions made in a church.

Now, where do we find the principles that are to direct the life of a genuinely biblical church? Well as we noted last time, they are woven throughout these three books we call the pastoral epistles. We call them that because they were written to pastors. First and Second Timothy and Titus, written to pastors to tell them how life in the church should go. In these epistles, we discover five essential hallmarks for identifying and maintaining a biblical church. Let me give you those five hallmarks, and then we're kind of slowly working our way through each one. The five hallmarks are these: number one: a high view of God; number two: a high view of Scripture; number three: a Biblical view of man; number four: a Biblical view of the church; and number five: the central place of Christ and the Gospel. A truly Biblical church, whatever methods it may use, whatever its style may be, will be characterized by those five essential hallmarks: a high view of God, a high of Scripture, a Biblical view of man, a Biblical view of the church, and the central place of Christ and the Gospel. And all of those great hallmarks are found here in the pastoral epistles. You see Paul teaching Timothy and Titus: do church with these underlying principles in place.

Last week we looked at the first of these: a high view of God. And I'm not going to rehearse that again. If you weren't here, please catch up with us on the internet; go back and listen because it's foundational. But just to give you the thumbnail sketch of it, a church that has a high view of God, a healthy church, has a sense of the majesty of God: His transcendence, His otherness, His being separate from His creation, that God is holy, that He is exalted beyond our wildest thought or imagination. Churches understand, a Biblical church understands God's imminence; that is, that He's reachable, He's approachable, we can go to Him, He's Abba, Father. But they also understand that He's exalted: God is not to be trifled with, He's not to be taken lightly. When we talk about God and all the things pertaining to God, we never do so with any sense of lightness or frivolity. It is a serious thing to deal with the true God. In fact, there's a book that I don't necessarily recommend, but there's an image in the book that I think is true. This author says that, you know, so often we come flippantly into church, and we just sort of sit here and relax. In reality, if we really understood the being with whom we're dealing, we would come in and be issued helmets as we walked in the door, and we would fasten ourselves in the pew with seat belts. God is not one to be taken lightly; He's not one to be trifled with. And wherever there is a Biblical church, there will be a high view of God, an understanding of that reality.

Today we come to the second essential hallmark of a Biblical church. It is a high view of Scripture. A high view of Scripture. And as we did last time, I want to begin by defining that. What does that mean? When we say a church, a Biblical church has a high view of Scripture, what are we talking about? A truly Biblical philosophy of ministry demands that the church will have a high level of respect, not only for God but equally so for the Bible; in fact, this is part of the foundational purpose of the church's existence. Look again at 1 Timothy 3:15. Notice Paul says "the church"; that is, the assembly. Understand that when I use the word "church," I'm not talking about the buildings. These buildings have nothing to do with the church other than they're the place where we meet. We are the church. The people of God are the church. The Greek word is "ekklesia." It means "assembly," "the people who assemble." So he says the church, the people who are the church "is the church of the living God." That means the church belongs to God. This isn't your church, in one sense. This isn't my church. This isn't the elders' church. This is God's church, or more specifically, as it said elsewhere in the New Testament, this is Christ's church. It belongs to Him. This group of people who have confessed Him as Lord belong to Jesus Christ.

Then notice how Paul identifies the church. Verse 15, he says the church is "the pillar and support of the truth." Paul may have been reminding Timothy of the great Temple of Artemis that stood in that day in Ephesus. It had huge massive pillars that supported it. He may be sort of referring to that. And he's saying that the church is "the pillar… of the truth." The church exists to hold up the truth, to support the truth. Similar image is the second one: a support, the "support of the truth" describes a firm base, a kind of foundation. The church is the foundation on which the truth rests. Both of these images are really saying the same thing. The church holds up the truth; it supports the truth. The church doesn't come up with the truth. We don't generate the truth. That comes from God through the Apostles and the Prophets. But we support the truth. We teach the truth. We guard the truth. We are "the pillar and support of the truth."

Where does this truth come from? Well it only has one source. Our Lord Himself identified it. You remember on the night of His betrayal, in the High Priestly Prayer in John 17:17, He prays for the disciples. He says, "Sanctify them through the truth; Your word is truth." The truth comes from God's words and God's words alone. This is the consistent message of Scripture. Second Samuel 7:28: "O Lord God, You are God,… Your words are truth." Psalm 12:6: "The words of the Lord are pure words [that is, they're genuine, they're true]; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times." There's no error, no falsehood, no dross. In the words of God, they are absolutely, purely truth. Psalm 119:151: "O Lord… all Your commandments are truth."

So a genuinely Biblical church will have an exalted view of Scripture. But what does that mean? Let's see if we can get a little more specific. Because as you work your way through the pastoral epistles, through these three letters written to pastors, you begin to see Paul's view of Scripture; and Paul is certainly wanting Timothy and Titus to embrace his own view of Scripture, and he's wanting us to embrace it as well, and any Biblical church. And so we can kind of look over Paul's shoulder as he teaches his young sons in the faith, and we understand what a high view of Scripture look looks like. It has certain qualities, or it embraces, is confident of, certain qualities of the Scripture. In the context of these letters to teach and Timothy and us how to do church, Paul expects us to have the same confidence in these qualities of the Scripture that he has.

Now, these qualities appear throughout the pastoral epistles, but they're also all contained in one passage. And in the interest of time, I'm going to look with you at the one passage. Turn to 2 Timothy 3:10. And again, there're other passages in the pastorals where you'll see these ideas developed, but here, very concisely and succinctly. Start in verse 10:

Now you [Timothy] followed my teaching, [my] conduct, [my] purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance…." You know my life. You've seen it. You've been my companion. You've also seen (verse 11) my "persecutions, and [my] sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!

Notice the persecutions Paul mentions. He cites three cities: Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. If we had time, I could take you back to Acts and show you that in all three cases, in all three cases he cites, the persecution came from—guess whom? The religious community; in fact, if you go back to chapter three, verse one, all the way down through verse nine—that's talking about false teachers. There are those (verse five) who hold "to a form of godliness, though have denied its power… [they] enter into households (verse six) and captivate weak women weighed down with sins… (verse seven) [they're] always learning… never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." He's talking about false teachers. That whole sections is on false teachers. Well, guess what happens when he gets to those three cities? He's attacked by the teachers of false religion. Verse 12: "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." By whom? In the context, by the false religious establishment, just as he was. Verse 13—and guess what? It's only going to get worse. "Evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse." They will deceive people even as they themselves are deceived by Satan.

Now notice the contrast at the beginning of verse 14, with all of that false teaching and those false teachers:

You, however," and in the Greek text, it's emphatic, even as the English is trying to capture it here. "You," [on the other hand, Timothy,] "continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you… learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Now having introduced the Scriptures to us, Paul begins to give us a glimpse of the qualities about the Scripture of which he himself is convinced, and of which we must be convinced if we're going to have a high view of Scripture.

The first quality of Scripture is found at the beginning of verse 16 in this very familiar verse. The first quality is inspiration. Inspiration. If you're going to have a high view of Scripture, you're going to embrace inspiration. Look at verse 16: "All scripture is inspired by God." Now what does Paul mean by "all scripture"? Well, clearly, he means the Old Testament. Go back to verse 15. He refers to the "sacred writings" Timothy learned from his mother and grandmother, and that is a technical term (the word "sacred writings" is a technical term) of the Hebrew Scriptures. So he's talking about the Hebrew Scriptures, but he's not stopping there. Because—keep your finger there and turn back to 1 Timothy 5—notice in verse 18 of 1 Timothy 5, he's talking about elders and the fact that they should be paid, some of them should be paid by the church. Verse 18: "For the Scripture says," and then he quotes two passages. The first passage is from Deuteronomy 25. The second passage, "The laborer is worthy of his wages" is from Luke's Gospel. We're now talking New Testament and he calls it 'Scripture.' Well, in 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter calls Paul's letters (like the ones we're studying now) 'Scripture' as well. So Paul then, when you put it all together, when he says "all Scripture," he's talking about the Old Testament: the sacred writings the Jews held, the Hebrew Scriptures. Our Lord, by the way, affirmed those, you remember, very clearly quoted from them, affirmed them as being the Word of God. He pre-authenticated the New Testament by choosing the men who would write it, or who, at least, would oversee its writing in some cases as with the Gospel of Mark.

And so Jesus authenticated the Old Testament, pre-authenticated the New Testament, and here Paul's saying "all" of that is "inspired by God." That word "inspired" does not mean, as it sort of implies, 'immediately breathed in by God.' Note the marginal reference. If you have a New American Standard Bible, you'll notice the marginal reference. It says, literally—the Greek word is (and this is true) "God breathed." All Scripture, Old and New Testament, is breathed by God. It's not God breathing into the Bible, but all Scripture is breathed out by God. That's speaking of the Bible's divine origin. The Scripture, all of it, is the product of God's breath. When you speak (as I'm speaking now) your lungs compress, your breath then passes over your vocal cords and vibrates and you articulate certain things with your tongue and mouth. Words come out. When you breathe out words, that means those words are the product of your own mind and voice. That's what Paul is saying. All of Scripture is a product of the mind of God, the voice of God. It's as if God Himself had spoken. He did, down to the very words.

In another text, Paul makes that clear. Again, keep your finger there and go back to 1 Corinthians 2. Paul's talking about the revelation from God which he's been given, he and the Apostles. Verse 9, he says we would never have guessed, but (verse 10) "to us;" that is, to the Apostles (he's not talking about every Christian here) God has revealed those things "through the Spirit." And he's saying of course (verse 11), the Spirit of God would know the things of God, just as our spirits know our own minds. And so (verse 12), he's saying, as Apostles we've received the Holy Spirit so that we can know what God has given us. And then verse 13: we speak those things. He's talking about the New Testament. He's talking about the writings of the Apostles. We speak the things of God, and notice what he says in verse 13: "Not in words taught by human wisdom, but in… [words] taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." You know what Paul is claiming? He is saying, not only are the ideas of Scripture from God, the very words of Scripture are from God. If a church has a high view of Scripture, that church will believe that the Scripture has, in fact, been breathed out in its very words from the mind of God, from the mouth of God. If a church truly believes all Scripture is breathed out by God, then it will affect how it behaves. (And we'll talk about that in a few minutes.) But Paul saw the Scripture, and he saw the quality of inspiration, and that always is connected to a high view of Scripture. Inspiration.

Number two: another quality that you see in this text is, relevancy. Relevancy. Notice verse 16: "All scripture" (the whole, the entirety) is not only breathed out by God, but it is—what? "Profitable." That word means "useful, beneficial." All of Scripture is useful or beneficial. It was true in the 1st century; it's still true today. Listen, we don't make the Bible relevant. It simply is relevant. If God has breathed out His own words to us, if God has spoken His own words, what in the world could be more relevant than that? At the same time you need to understand, the fact that the Word of God is relevant doesn't mean it will always appear to be relevant, even to religious people. Look over in chapter 4:3. "For the time will come when they…" [Who's they? People connected to the church.] "When they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires." In other words, tell me what I want to hear; do a survey and find out what my needs are and cater your messages to my needs. "[They] will turn… their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." So even though the Bible is always relevant, eternally relevant, there will be even religious people, even people connected to the church of Jesus Christ, who will turn away from it saying it's not relevant anymore, give me something else.

You know, it's fascinating—let me challenge you to do something. Read through the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) and notice how often Paul tells them to teach the Word of God instead of the things the people want to hear. Not only is it here in the passage I've just cited for you, but throughout 1 and 2 Timothy Paul's saying listen, they want to know about endless genealogies, they're really fascinated by all this stuff—don't go there Timothy; instead, you just teach the Bible. You just teach the Word. Don't give them what they think they want, because the Bible is eternally relevant. And a church with a high view of Scripture will not believe that it has to make the Bible relevant to make God relevant. It will be convinced that God and the Bible are eternally relevant. If God has breathed out His message, that's relevant. Paul believed that, and wherever there's a high view of God, there will be an embracing of relevancy. Not only inspiration, but relevancy.

Number three: another quality that a high view of God always produces is sufficiency. Sufficiency. Look again at the text we're studying our way through. Go back to verse 15. I skipped over verse 15, but notice what Paul says about the Scripture. He says, Timothy, "from childhood"; really, from infancy. (By the way, here's a great argument for teaching your kids the Bible.) "From childhood… [his mother and his grandmother had made known to him] the sacred writings [that's the Old Testament] which… [notice this, the Old Testament is] able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." The Scripture, now Old and New Testament, is sufficient to teach you how to gain spiritual salvation, spiritual rescue.

Listen, if you're here this morning and you don't know Jesus Christ, there is no other way you will ever find to be right with God outside of this Book. This Book alone is God's means to teach you how to be right with Him. And by the way, if you're not right with Him, in your most honest moments, you know that. When you're lying in bed at night and there's nobody but you and God, and you know that someday you will close your eyes in sleep and it will be the end, the last time, and you will die and stand before God—you know that things aren't right between you and God. The only hope you ever have of being made right with God is through what He has revealed in His own breathed out words. You will not find it in some seminar, some self-help book. It's not going to help you. The Bible is sufficient to lead you to salvation.

But once you're a Christian, it's sufficient for everything you need in the Christian life. Look at verse 16: "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching"; that is, for gaining a knowledge of doctrine, understanding the truth. "For reproof"; that's rebuking you, confronting you. It confronts our thoughts. It confronts our attitudes. It confronts our behavior. "For correction." Not only does it confront us but it shows us how to make it right. "For training in righteousness": literally, child training in righteousness. What you do in training your children is what the Bible does in training us in right living, in living that honors God. "So that": when the Bible has done its work, notice what it produces. Verse 17: "… so that the man of God…" That's a technical term, by the way, for a pastor, for Timothy. He's called that in 1 Timothy 6, but by implication, for every Christian. "So that the man of God may adequate…" The Greek word is used only here in the New Testament. It means "capable, proficient, able to meet all of the demands that come against you." "… equipped for every good work"; that means "completely outfitted." The word is used in secular Greek to describe a wagon that had been fully supplied with everything it would possibly need. Paul is saying, the Scripture is able to give you all the equipment you need to deal with spiritual life here, and to make you capable or proficient for whatever circumstances may come. That's the Bible's sufficiency. If a church has a high view of Scripture, it will believe, as Paul did, that the Bible is sufficient, that no other resource is necessary to fully equip the Christian.

There's a fourth quality that Paul embraced that goes along with a high view of Scripture, and it's authority. Look at chapter 4:1. In light of all that, Timothy, in light of all that I've just told you about the inspiration and the profitability, the benefit, as well as the full supply, the full sufficiency, in light of that, chapter 4, verse 1: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom [boy, that's serious]: preach the word." Now, you say wait a minute. Where's authority in that? Well, there are 33 different verbs in the New Testament to describe teaching or preaching the Bible. Thirty-three different ones, one grammarian has found. The primary one is here at the beginning of verse 2. It's translated "preach." It's "kerusso." It means "to proclaim as a king's herald proclaims." The picture is a powerful one. Basically, you are, Timothy, sent to speak on the behalf of the king; you speak with the authority of the king behind you. That's what it means "to preach" here. It has the sense of formality, a sense of gravity. It implies speaking with the authority of the one who sent you. Listen, preaching is not intended to be a conversation. It's supposed to be proclamation that must be heard and obeyed. That's true this morning. Listen, you're not dealing with me here. This isn't about you and me. This is about you and God. As much as I am reflecting the Word of God, God is speaking His Word to you as if He were here right now. It's to be taught with authority. It has inherent authority, and we're to teach it that way.

Look back at 1 Timothy 4:11. And I have a number of examples in my notes; let me just give you two. First Timothy 4:11, Paul says—and here's where the NAS lets us down. Notice the marginal note. It's translated "prescribe" by the NAS, but you'll see the marginal note says "keep commanding and teaching" these things. That's the word. The Greek word is "command." Command the people in your church to do these things. Look at Titus, chapter 2. Paul writes to Titus—and again, these are just a couple of a number of examples I have in my notes, but I just want to get-give you the-the feel of this. Second chapter of Titus, verse 15: "These things [Titus, I want you to] speak and exhort and reprove [and do it] with all authority." And again, you'll notice the marginal note. Literally, it's "command." Do it "with all (command). Let no one disregard you." The idea of that Greek expression is, don't let anyone think their way around you, don't let anyone get around the command of Scripture. It has authority. Paul looked at the Scripture and He saw these qualities, and we're to have these qualities as well. Wherever there is a high view of Scripture, we will embrace these qualities. We will see it as inspired, as relevant, as sufficient, and as authoritative.

And what exactly is the church supposed to do with this inspired, relevant, sufficient, and authoritative Word of God? Paul calls every leader of the church to do the same thing with the Truth that he calls Timothy to do and calls Titus to do in these three books. I wish I had time to develop this with you. Let me just give them to you, and then you can go through and look for these examples yourself. The church is called, in light of that, number one: to preach the truth. To preach it. We've seen that. Number two: to obey the Truth, to live it out, to be an example of living out the Truth. Number three: to guard the Truth. Paul says guard the treasure, Timothy, guard the treasure of sound doctrine, in 2 Timothy 1. Guard, protect the Truth. First Timothy 6, he says keep the commandment without stain: guard it, protect it from error. And number four: pass it on to the next generation. Second Timothy 2:2: "The things which you have heard… [and seen in me, these] entrust… to faithful men who be able to teach others also." That's the church's responsibility. We are to preach the Truth, obey the Truth. We're to guard the Truth, and we're to pass it on to the next generation. That's what it means by the church being a "pillar and support of the truth."

So, when I say that a Biblical church is marked by a high view of Scripture, I mean that it believes and understands that the Scripture, in its entirety, is breathed out by God: it is inspired; there's inspiration. I mean that it is relevant for our day: relevancy. It is sufficient. Sufficiency: the Christian doesn't need to supplement the Bible with any other source. It is authoritative. The Scripture alone is the rule of faith: what we believe and practice, how we live. A Biblical church will always be marked by a high view of Scripture; that is, an exalted respect for and treatment for the Word of God. They will see it with these qualities just as Paul did.

Now that brings us to the practical question. How? How is this high view of Scripture that sees these realities, how is that demonstrated in the life of a church week by week, Sunday by Sunday? Again, this isn't an exhaustive list, but let me give you a few thoughts to consider. Number one: Scripture will be central in the services of the church. Let me ask you, what if God were to send Countryside Bible Church a letter this week? What if on Tuesday, I'm opening my mail, and there's a letter from God, and it says He is going to come to Countryside next Sunday to speak? How would we structure the service? What would we do to make sure that we hear God, to give priority to God speaking? That is exactly what the New Testament teaches is happening every time one of the men God has given to His church gets up to teach God's Word. As I said, this isn't about you and me. This is about you and God. You're dealing with the Truth of God this morning. I'm out of the picture. My job is not be the chef and come up with my own message. My job is to be the waiter and get the meal to the table without messing it up. If you have a problem with the meal, you deal with God. God has spoken, and because He's spoken, where there's a high view of Scripture, the sermon or message will be centered in the Scripture.

Look back at 1 Timothy 4. This is exactly what Paul says to Timothy. He says in verse 13, "Until I come [again, I might be delayed, until I get there, here's what I want you to do, Timothy], give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and to teaching." You know what he's telling him? He says, look, I want you to publicly read the Scripture—boy, is that out of vogue in today's church—then I want you to explain what it means, and then I want you apply it. I want you to exhort them to do something with it. I want you to give yourself to this. "Do not neglect [verse 14] the spiritual gift within you": the gift of teaching. In his case, it was accompanied by a prophecy (probably from Paul) that he was called to this, and also with the more every day pedestrian way (the way it happens today), the laying on of hands of the elders acknowledging the gift that he had. He says, "Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all." Timothy, here's what I want you to do, here's your chief assignment. When the church gathers publicly, do these two things: read the Scripture and teach the Scripture. That's why, Luther, describing the heart of the reformation, writes: "The greatest and principle purpose of every church service is to preach and teach God's Word." In a Biblical church, the stress in the corporate worship will be on teaching the Bible. Listen, today's church has countless substitutes for teaching the Bible. Depending on the church you go to, there will be ceremony and ritual, or there'll be visual arts with drama and skits and movie clips and dance. In other churches, they just add more music. But wherever there is a high view of the Scripture, the Word will always be primary. The focus of the service will be reading the Bible and explaining the Bible.

A couple years ago, I watched a recorded sermon of a local megachurch pastor, and I was, frankly, deeply troubled by it. First of all, out of the hour-long service, only 20 minutes was given to the message. But even more troubling was that in that twenty minute message, he cited only three verses, and he just read those without any explanation. That took a total of somewhere between 1-2 minutes of his 20 minute talk. The other 18 minutes were filled with his own ideas. Listen, that approach betrays a very low view of Scripture. John Calvin, speaking of the Roman Catholic Church of his day, wrote this: "Although they put forward temple, priesthood, and the rest of outward shows, this empty glitter which blinds the eyes of the simple ought not to move us a wit to grant that the church exists where God's word is not found. For this is the abiding mark with which our Lord has sealed His own: He who is of God hears the Words of God." Listen, if you're of God, if you've been born again by the work of God, you love His Word. If you're sitting here this morning and you're really disconnected, you really don't care, then you're not a Christian. OK? You're just not. Because, he who is of God hears the Words of God. Martin Luther writes: "The only mark of a Christian church is following and obeying the Word. When that is gone, let men boast as much as they please: church! church! There is nothing to their boasting. Therefore you should say, do the people have the Word of God there and do they accept it too?" Wherever one hears the Word of God, there is the church of God. Wherever God is present, His Word will be present; conversely, if God's Word is not present front and center, then God is not there either.

Number two, second demonstration: the Word of God will be handled with great diligence, care, and respect. The Word will be handled with diligence, care, and respect. *Where there is a high view of Scripture, the Bible will not only be central to the service, it will be studied diligently and interpreted carefully in its context. John Broadus, great American theologian, writes: "It is so common to think that whatever kindles the imagination and touches the heart must be good preaching." It's where we live today. He says: "It's so easy as well to insist that the doctrines of the sermon are true and Scriptural though they may not actually be taught in the text {that the pastor's preaching}. It's so easy to do that {he says} that preachers often loose sight of their fundamental and inexcusable error of saying that a passage of God's Word means what in fact it does not mean." When a pastor is simply using the words of the Bible and is making them say what he wants to say rather than what the author intended to say, that man and that church has a low view of Scripture. In that same twenty-minute message I referred to a moment ago, of the three verses he did quote, only one was interpreted in light of its context. The other two were wrested completely from their context and were made to say something other than the original author intended them to say—by most commentaries that are out there. The meaning of any text of Scripture is whatever the author intended it to mean. Augustine is reputed to be the first to have said, "A text taken out of its context is a pretext." It is the highest form of arrogance to pull phrases and verses out of their God breathed context and to make them say what God did not originally intend them to say. Ask yourself when you're in a church, did I leave understanding the text and what it teaches? or was it simply a talk with the Bible attached?

I was raised in a kind of hyper-fundamentalism where they talked a lot about loving and honoring the Scripture. But I'm telling ya, I sat—even as a lay person before I went to seminar—I sat in a church like this one, and-and I heard the Bible taught, and it was so clear and apparent that the man who was teaching it had spent almost no time preparing. He wasn't equipped to do what he was doing. He hadn't bothered to really study the text. Maybe you've been in services where you've felt like, you know, I could have done that with very little preparation. Because there wasn't a lot of thought or information. There was nothing there. There are pastors whose total preparation to teach the Bible is woefully inadequate. (loud cough) Sometime Saturday evening, over a period of time anywhere from twenty minutes to a couple of hours—and I hate to admit this to you, but this happens—they sit down and they come up with what they want to say. They come up with a couple of illustrations and outline, and then they look for verses to add in to the flow of what they want to communicate. Pastors call that kind of sermon a "Saturday night special," like the cheap hand gun. And it's every bit as deadly. Where there is a high view of Scripture, those who teach it will treat it carefully with diligent study. They will never make God say what in fact He was not saying.

Number Three: the church will be characterized by the regular practice of expository preaching. Expository preaching: the simple reading of the text and explaining of the text and applying the text of a particular passage of the Word of God. In short, what we call expository preaching. Sadly, there are many preachers in churches that neglect this and have gone entirely to what's called a topical approach to the Bible. Now, I'm not saying there's no place for topical preaching. In a very real sense we're doing that through this series. There is a legitimate way to do it: when the texts are explained in their context. But, the wrong way to do topical preaching is probably the most predominate approach. And that is, the pastor chooses a theme and decides what he wants to say and then adds in some verses to support it. He uses those verses like pegs on which he hangs his own ideas, his own line of thought. Listen, when the Word of God is exalted, the pastor will read the text and explain the text in its context and then apply the text to those who listen.

Number four: where there's a high view of Scripture, the teachers will be not be afraid to use Biblical language. Where the Word of God is important, those who teach will actually use the same kind of words the Bible uses: words like sin, sanctify, justify, glorify. Those are words from the original text of Scripture. They're-they're found in their Greek forms in the original language of the Bible and in Hebrew: words like propitiation, redemption, ransom, salvation. They use Biblical language. In fact, the great American theologian, R.L. Dabney, disc-describes and argues even that, "The decline of the church can be traced to how it use (sic) or doesn't use Biblical language." He says, "In its health (unsure of correct word), the church uses Biblical truth in {what he calls} Biblical dress {that is, Biblical language}. When it begins to decline, the church will continue to teach the same Biblical truth, but it'll start putting it in secular dress {that is, in non-Biblical, secular language}, and that inevitably leads to the final state of decline when the truth is abandoned altogether and the message is primarily a secular message." Where there's a high view of Scripture, there will no fear of using the language of the Bible.

Number five: the church will refuse to integrate secular psychology with the Bible as a means to sanctification. Where there's a high view of Scripture, you will hear people talking about sin and redemption instead of illness and healing. They will not talk about victimization, being a victim of your past or your circumstances; instead, they will talk about the providence of God and choosing not to sin in response to the the sins that have been perpetrated against you. That doesn't mean they downplay compassion. It just means the solution isn't by adding Freud or Freudian psychology. The solution is by coming to the God of all comfort and finding hope in redemption and in the Scripture.

Number six: there will be a consistent effort to practice the Word. Guess what? The church that has a high view of God will not avoid hard or unpopular Biblical topics just to please people or to keep their crowd, even when the teaching runs contrary to contemporary trends on issues like the reality of hell, for example (which has been in the news a lot lately), or the sin of homosexuality, or the roles of women in the home and in the church, or the physical discipline of children, or the historicity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or the absolute certainty of truth. The church will continue to teach those things, hold to it, practice it, regardless of what the people around think. Where there's a high view of Scripture, the first question people ask will always be, what does the Bible say? The attitude of the people will always be, let God be true and every man a liar.

Now let me make this personal. Very quickly. Do you have a high view of Scripture? Do you have a high view of Scripture? Just take this test. Is Scripture a central part of your normal day? Is the Scripture a central part of your normal day? Do you read it? Do you study it? Do you think about what you've read? Do you think you need other resources beyond or in addition to the Word of God to help you change and grow. I'm not talking about to help you understand the Bible. I'm talking about aside from the Bible, in addition to the Bible. Do you really sit up and listen when the Word of God is taught? Do you understand God is speaking and you want to hear, and you're eager to hear? Those who are of God hear the Words of God, Jesus said. Are you diligent and careful with the Scripture? or-or do you get lazy? Do you work hard to discern the author's original intent of a passage? or do you settle for the dishonest and lazy approach of starting with the question, well, what does this mean to me? Who cares what it means to you, or what it means to me. The question is, what did the Holy Spirit intend it to mean? Only then can we say how do I apply it? Do you often take verses out of their context without a regard for what the Spirit meant them to say? Like the seminary student who read a passage from one of the prophets that said "go north," and he took that to mean that he should take a church in the northern United States. (I'm not making that up, by the way.) Listen, God meant the Bible to say one thing, and that's what you need to discern and only then apply it. Do you really try to obey what you read and learn? Do you try to obey? Even this morning, what are you going to do with what you've heard this morning? You going to try to make changes in your life this week? If you have a high view of Scripture, you will. Because you understand God's speaking, and you have to hear and respond. A Biblical church, a Biblical Christian, will always bear the hallmarks of a high view of God and a high view of the Word of God. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for what You have taught us from it. Lord, help us to see that we must find our confidence in what You have revealed. Help us to see it as inspired, as sufficient, as relevant. Father, help us to understand that it speaks with authority.. And Lord, help our own lives to be characterized by these things, and this church as well. Father, make us people of the Book. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.