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We Will Preach in Darkness

I love to preach, and it’s not unusual for me to ask fellow pastors, “What are you preaching or teaching these days?” Their answers often put a smile on my face.

Recently I’ve heard about sermon series on “Marks of Discipleship” from David Livingston. Nate Click is in Acts. Michael Guyer’s working over Genesis 12-50 and calling it “God of Promise, Journey of Faith,” while Scott Blanchard’s series, “Grasping the Heart of God,” teaches about prayer and fasting. 1 Samuel has yielded a gospel-focused series for Jeremy at Port City Church in Halifax called “Search for a King,” and West Ridge Church gets to enjoy Brian Bloye’s skillful, practical exposition of the Gospel of Mark, verse by verse. I love it, and my smile persists.

When Barnabas summoned Saul to help him with the flourishing young church in Antioch, their essential method was the same as ours. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people (Acts 11:26 NIV).

They taught. Barnabas had been sent from Jerusalem to Antioch because a “great number who believed turned to the Lord” there, and they needed some encouragement to keep going and keep growing (11:21-22). Who better to send than Barnabas? His name means “son of encouragement!” But the primary way Barnabas brought encouragement and lived up to his name, was teaching. For a whole year Barnabas (and Saul) met with the church and taught great numbers of people.

When Barnabas came to Antioch and “saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” (11:23 NIV). Isn’t that the essence of pastoring and discipleship: People helping people to trust and follow Jesus with all their hearts? We do that most often and most effectively by teaching the Bible.

Spurgeon has been quoted as saying, “Let the sun stop shining, and we will preach in darkness. Let the waves stop their ebb and flow, and still our voice shall preach the gospel. Let the world stop its revolutions, let the planets stay their motion; we will still preach the gospel.” It is the primary source of encouragement for the people we serve.

D. A. Carson once said when we teach or preach we are dealing with the very thoughts of God himself, and “we are obligated to take the greatest pains to understand them truly and to explain them clearly.” Can you imagine for a moment what it would have been like to hear Barnabas and Saul clearly teach the believers in Antioch? They must have been exceptionally effective teachers of the Word. It was, after all, the first place disciples were called “Christians.” Both men were well trained in the Scripture. They had both been filled and schooled by the Holy Spirit. Paul had studied at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law (Acts 22:3). They knew their stuff, and they explained it clearly.

Teaching was, and still is, the ministry of encouragement at its highest and best. Without encouragement, life would soon feel pointless and burdensome. Without encouragement, we can be overwhelmed by the very real pains of our lives. Without encouragement, we feel unloved. Without encouragement, we begin to think that God is a liar or is unconcerned with our welfare. We need the teaching from God’s Word.

The Lord Jesus himself appoints and applauds teachers and preachers who lovingly, skillfully, and diligently open the scriptures week after week to teach, rebuke, correct, and train God’s people in righteousness, all breathed to life through prayer.

So, fellow pastor-elder-overseer or teacher, whatever Bible text God has led you to, preach it or teach it so your people are encouraged to “remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” Balance grace and truth. Magnify the person and work of Jesus. Make room for the Holy Spirit. Pray like mad and preach like your hair’s on fire! Help your brothers and sisters to remain strong and faithful in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1).

You don’t need a seminary degree or an ordination certificate to encourage people, but you must saturate your heart with Scripture, and ground what you teach or preach in the Word. Make it clear. The Bible, not the best-selling books from Lifeway or Crossway, is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). So…

I 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: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4 ESV)


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