Name: Joseph Jiang Subject: Pastoral Ministry
Submitted to: Dr. White Jeon Date: March 4, 2015
Presentation: Certainty about Basic Doctrines
In pastoral ministry, a Pastor or a church leader is obligated to teach the basic doctrines to the congregation. The purpose is to let them know God and Christ, because the Bible teaches us that “to know the only true God and Jesus Christ is the eternal life” (John 17:3). Here, the Greek word γινώσκω (ginosko) has a meaning more than mere a knowledge or an understanding of the object, but there is a deeper meaning, which corresponds to the Hebrew word ידע (yada`), for instance, in Genesis 4:1, “Adam knew Eve, and she conceived, and gave birth to Cain.” The word points to the intimate relationship between Adam and Eve, as they became one flesh (cf. Gen. 2:24). Thus, “to know God and Christ” is meant to build the intimate relationship with God and Christ, that is, to be united with the Lord. Just like the apostle Paul, who confesses that “Christ lives in me…I live by faith in the Son of God…” (Gal. 2:20). Even the Lord Jesus Christ Himself teaches us, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Concerning the certain things about basic doctrines, first, we need to consider what to teach. Our target is to focus on the most important thing that is for the eternal life, salvation. Second, since our life-time is limited, we need to concentrate on certain essential things to teach the congregation, in order to get the most effective.
1. What to Teach?
Richard Baxter says, “To teach Christ to our people is to teach everything.”1 As a puritan, he shows us how to focus on Christ. Scripture clearly shows us that evangelism must bear the witness to the record that God has given of His only begotten Son (Acts 2:3; Rom. 16:25; 1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 3:1). Christ is the center of the whole Bible: the Old Testament reveals the pre-incarnation of Christ through the symbols, types, events, etc. and in the New Testament the incarnation of Christ has fulfilled, as “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). According to Thomas Adams (1583-1652), “Christ is the sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibits, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line, the Scriptures being but as it were the swaddling bands of the child Jesus.”2 The puritans thus taught that any preaching in which Christ does not have the preeminence is not valid preaching. William Perkins (1558-1602) said that the heart of all preaching was to “preach one Christ by Christ to the praise of Christ.”3
Like the apostle Paul, the puritans preached Christ crucified (cf. 1 Cor. 2:2). J. I. Packer says, “Puritan preaching revolved around ‘Christ, and him crucified’—for this is the hub of the Bible.”4 The Puritans were lovers of Christ and wrote much about His beauty. Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) concluded, “Heaven would be hell to me without Christ.”5 Therefore, to teach Christ to our people is needful, other truths may be desirable, because only by the name of Christ we can be saved, and “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (4:12).
2. Life-time Is Limited
Since life-time is limited, we need to remember that the necessity is a great planner of time. If we are sufficient for everything, we might well take up the whole encyclopedia. But the life is short and we are limited by time. So, it is very necessary and precious to focus on the eternal truths that our souls depend on.
The apostle Paul urges us, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16 KJV). The Greek word ἐξαγοράζω (exagorazo) also means “to buy,” or “to make the best use of.” Since the days are evil, everything around us tends to corrupt and mislead, so it is difficult for godly persons who walk among so many thorns to escape unhurt. Such corruption having infected the age, the devil appears to try to take over the dominion of the Lord in this world, so that our time cannot be dedicated to God without being in some way redeemed. And what shall be the price of its redemption? To withdraw from the endless variety of temptations which would easily lead us astray; to get rid of ourselves from the cares and pleasures of the world. Thus, the apostle Paul always urges us to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2).
Since life-time is limited and the days are evil, a Pastor needs to make best use of time to gain advantage to the souls of congregation by teaching them the needful doctrines, so that they may dedicate their lives to God.
3. Focusing on Essentials
Since the essentials are few, a preacher must often focus upon the same things. However, do not therefore be tempted by novelties or new things, yet we must abominate the essentials with a variety of expressions, because the wordy and tedious controversies, which so waste our time and trouble us, are made up of options rather than the essential truths. Such as the doctrinal controversies of liberals and high-Calvinists, their doctrines are beyond what God has revealed us in the Bible. As Gregory Nazianzus says, “Essential are common and obvious. It is the superfluities over which we waste time, laboring for and complaining that we did not achieve them.”6 Ministers, then, need to be observant in order to know for the sake of their flock what are the priorities. Augustine said, “I would rather have speeches that are true than which contain merely nice distinctions. Just as I would rather have my friends who are wise than merely those who are handsome.”7 Therefore, Pastors must be wise in teaching the essentials to make the flock most effective in gaining the benefits for their souls.
The godly Christian life is based on the foundation of the sound doctrine; the sound doctrine is based on the Word of God. To teach the Word of God is teach Christ. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Teaching Christ is the basic of the basic doctrines which is very needful for the souls. Since life-time is limited, Pastors must focus on the essentials, but not to make the essential truths to the wordy and tedious controversies that so waste our time and are unnecessary. At last, taking the words of Paul, in this corrupted world Pastors must “not as unwise but as wise” (Eph. 5:15), both in life and ministry with diligence, sincerity and faithfulness.
1 Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (Oregon, Portland: Multnomah Press, 1982), 15.
2 Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapid: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 961-62.
3 William Perkins, The Art of Prophesying (Pennsylvania, Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust), 79.
4 J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 286.
5 Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, 962.
6 Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, 16.
Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (Oregon, Portland: Multnomah Press, 1982).
Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapid: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012).
William Perkins, The Art of Prophesying (Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1606).
J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 1990).