Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Training Biblically Balanced Preachers

     The Bible has always presented a balanced message that includes both promises and warnings, privileges and responsibilities, mercy and justice, heaven and hell, faith and obedience – none of these to the exclusion of the others. Declaring the whole counsel of God, therefore, requires more than just preachers who are willing to preach. It calls for biblically balanced preachers who are committed to saying and doing the right things in the right ways for the right reasons.    
     While imprisoned in Rome facing imminent death, Paul composed what was probably his final manuscript – the epistle known as 2 Timothy. The document was originally sent to his dear friend and companion, for whom nearly a decade and a half had been invested in preparation for the ministry of the gospel. But the apostle’s chief concern was not only for the one he affectionately regarded as his “beloved son” (1:2);1 it was for everyone who names the name of Christ (2:19). As Paul’s second letter to Timothy is carefully examined, it proves to be a timely message for today’s church and a fitting guide for training biblically balanced preachers. 
     Paul understood the importance of training faithful men who would be able to teach others also (2:1-2). And faithful men are those who are balanced, committed to the middle road of truth without compromise and without veering to the reckless left or the radical right. That is why the apostle places firm emphasis on “the pattern of sound words” (1:13), “sound doctrine” (4:3), and “the truth” (2:18, 25; 3:7, 8; 4:4).
     It goes without saying that a biblically balanced preacher is a diligent student of the Holy Scriptures. He is steadfastly committed to rightly discerning the word of truth (2:15). Not only does he know the Bible, with an underlying conviction of its divine origin, he genuinely applies it to his own life and as a consequence has been appreciably influenced by it (3:14-17). He is also compelled to “preach the word,” ready at all times to publicize the Lord’s message whether it is popular or not (4:2-5). 
     A biblically balanced preacher must understand that faithfulness and godly living are to precede anything he attempts to verbally profess. He is to be a “vessel of honor,” spiritually clean and set apart from the world, useful for the Master and prepared for every good work (2:21). From a pure heart he shuns immorality and pursues righteousness, faith, love and peace (2:22). He would be unashamed for every member of the congregation to know what television programs he watches or what websites he browses. His life serves as a commendable example that can be emulated by all who are seeking the Lord’s favor (3:10; 4:7).
     A biblically balanced preacher does not intentionally generate controversy nor does he eagerly seek it out. At the same time, however, he does not timidly evade difficult issues when they invariably occur (1:7). He realizes that unprofitable and disparaging discourse is to be avoided (2:14-17, 23). Yet doctrinal and behavioral error must be challenged unabashedly (2:17-18; 3:1-9; 4:3-4), even if it requires the naming of transgressors to warn of their dangerous influence (1:15; 2:17; 4:10, 14-15). The foremost concern is for the well-being of the church and the salvation of souls.
     A biblically balanced preacher not only proclaims the right message, he does so with the right attitude and the right manner. The pattern of sound words is embraced and communicated in the way of Christ Jesus, i.e. “in faith and love” (1:13). Rather than being contentious, the Lord’s servant is characterized by meekness, aptitude in teaching, patience, and humility, even when correcting those who are in opposition (2:24-25). While he preaches the word of God in order to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, he does so “with all longsuffering” (the correct manner) and “doctrine” (the correct teaching) (4:2).
     A biblically balanced preacher is watchful in all things, he endures affliction, he does the work of an evangelist, and he fulfills his ministry (4:5). Moreover, he does not easily give up. He understands that a life of serving Christ is a challenging vocation, filled with struggle, opposition, disappointment, and hardship (3:10-12). But he perseveres with the unwavering assurance that the Lord is with him every step of the way, providing the necessary strength to fully proclaim the gospel of life (4:16-18).
     A biblically balanced preacher lives in anticipation of the final reward. At the end of his journey he can confidently say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (4:7-8).
     While training preachers is an admirable pursuit, of even greater consequence is the training of biblically balanced preachers. With the Lord’s help, may we all be committed to such a worthy task.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 All scripture quotations are from the NKJV.

Originally appearing in Gospel Journal 7.6 (2006): 14-15.

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