My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

20 February 2008

Especially Preaching

The shorter catechism (#89) says that the Spirit of God makes "the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation." What follows is an attempt to justify the idea of "especially" in the catechism.

Please know that I do not mean to lessen the importance of private and family worship, but to rescue the importance of corporate worship and the preaching of the Word from the depths to which it has sunk.

First, some Biblical thoughts:

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:11 that Jesus gave pastors and teachers (or, more literally, pastor-teachers) to His people. Why? V. 14 - so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. In other words, Jesus gave pastor-teachers because we need them. Because on our own, we would be blown every which way and would not reach maturity in Christ. The fact that Jesus gives preachers - and that we didn't come up with this idea on our own - means that our responsibility to the preaching we receive on Sunday mornings is a responsibility we have to Jesus, the giver of the gift. Contrary to popular thought, it was Jesus' opinion that we do need preachers to understand the Word of God. Not as mediators, but as teachers. And not that we are ignorant on our own, but that we won't normally achieve the maturity and protection Jesus has planned for us apart from the church's preaching and teaching.

In Acts 17:11 we see the Bereans searching the Scriptures for themselves. But the Bereans aren't solitary Christians deciding for themselves and by themselves what the Scriptures say. They are searching the Scriptures for a purpose: to make sure what they heard from the preachers was true. What prompted their searching was their receiving the Word with joy and their hope to find these things to be true. In other words, this isn't a picture of individualized Christianity, reading and living the Bible on their own. What set these Jews apart, what made them "more noble than those in Thessalonica" was the eagerness with which they received the Word, eagerness proved by their devotion to understand and double-check what they were about to obey. I would argue these Jews did exactly what I exhorted our congregation to do: watch how you hear! (Luke 8:18) Along the same lines, note the testimony of the Thessalonican church (1 Thess. 4:5), the Colossian church (Col. 1:5)

Many of the promises we have regarding the Word of God come in relation to the Word of God proclaimed and preached. See Romans 10:10-15 - justification comes by faith (10) and faith comes by hearing the Word preached (14).

Also helpful here is Paul's instructions to Timothy regarding his preaching. 2 Timothy 4:2 is well-known by every preacher: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. Why such a strong instruction? Because the "time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions." In other words, because we are sinners, we can't be trusted to read, study, understand and obey God's Word entirely on our own. Personal study shouldn't be neglected, but the noetic effects of sin - sin's ongoing brain damage - necessitate the giving of authoritative teaching. Not infallible, but authoritative. "But" some will say,"don't preachers have the same problems I do?" Yes, which is why the Bereans' discernment was totally warranted and why the painful process of ordination is so vital. This isn't a call to turn off our minds and consciences, but a call to joyful, expectant submission.

Yes, pastors are imperfect people; just ask my friends. Yes, we make mistakes. Two weeks ago I found myself repenting of something I had said from the pulpit. This is why we have sessions overseeing the pulpit, guarding the people from the preacher's mistakes. But at root here is the attitude we bring to worship: do we come to worship with an expectation of hearing God's Word from the preacher and obeying what we hear or do we come with great reservation? Do we recognize worship as the highlight of our union with Christ or as a possibly helpful time of encouragement? Do we view our preacher-in-his-preaching primarily as one more imperfect man or as Jesus' gift to me?

This post is too long to continue. I hope to write again about the historical nature of this question and my own testimony regarding it.

*note: this post was edited on Feb. 25 to reflect some of the ways the discussion in the comments have helped clarify my thinking. None of the edits were changes to my central arguments.

**Thanks for all the comments. For now, I've decided to hide them all, because we seemed to reach the end of what was helpful. If you have a question about this, feel free to email or call. -Jared

46 comments:

Apples of Gold said...

I appreciate your comments, Jared. Allow me to clarify what's in my mind. I do not approach public worship with "great reservation", and I hope that's not an impression I left anyone with. Quite the contrary. As I stated earlier, I'm always looking forward to being challenged and convicted by the pastor's sermons. The first thing in my mind isn't that the preacher is just "one more imperfect man".

I'll use this analogy. When I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, I certainly was not thinking of my husband as an "imperfect man," but I was also not naive enough to think that he didn't have flaws and that he didn't make errors from time to time. I had some idea of what I was getting into. My husband was God's gift to me, but I'm not a blind follower either. My husband expects me to speak up if I think something he's said or done is wrong. He always listens and considers what I have to say. He's a firm believer that "behind every good man is a good woman". I happen to think my husband is a very good man, so I'll take it as a compliment.

"Iron sharpens iron," and I would hope that all of God's children, even unordained ones, are worthy of being used in that manner.

With all due respect, I still am not convinced that "authoritative preaching/teaching" trumps personal Bible study. There are too many preachers out there (present company not included) who are teaching false doctrines with "authority". We need to always be on our guard like the Bereans.

Jared said...

Apples,

Thanks for your reply.

First, my comments in the last paragraph were the worst-case scenario, not directed at anyone in particular, but reveal what I think is the end-game of those who devalue corporate worship.

Second, your comments about your husband are right on target. I am definitely not in favor of setting up some sort of ecclesiastical dictatorship where the pastor is above criticism and sharpening. Personally, I love it (love it!) when people come to me to ask questions about the sermon and to challenge a point I made.

But finally, your last paragraph highlights where we do have a real disagreement. Scripture and the reformers lead me to believe strongly that authoritative preaching-teaching does trump personal Bible study (though I'm working hard not to set one up over the other). I would argue that the Bereans weren't "on guard" so much as they were so excited to obey that they wanted to double check everything.

The reality of bad preaching and bad preachers should make church-goers all the more persistent in being members of a church where they can trust the preacher. It is simply not healthy (or Biblical) to live in a constant state of distrust toward leadership or to hear sermons with a "wait and see" or "prove it" attitude. So, folks need to find a church where they trust the pastor and where they trust the session to guard them from bad preaching. And when they get in that church, they have to let their guard down - not totally, but the members of the church need to submit to the preaching which cannot be done from the standpoint of cynicism or skepticism or distrust of leadership.

Again, I'm glad for your post because it clarifies where our disagreement is. Thanks for considering my comments.

Apples of Gold said...

Thanks for your comments, Jared. I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that I do not value the preaching of God's word. I value it so much that when I miss even one Sunday I'm left feeling like a car that is nearly out of gas.

Maybe we see things differently because I've been in churches where the truth has been distorted, and perhaps this has left me a bit cynical. My family and I attended a pentecostal church for three years where there was an ample supply of false doctrines being taught from the pulpit. There were times that I felt like I was attending a freak show rather than a worship service. If it were not for personal Bible study during those days of "wandering through the wilderness" I would have been lost. It was during those days that my friends from the RP church (Jeff, Jon, and Bart) helped guide me out of that desert and into the "land of milk and honey".

I'm considering all you said, and while I'm thinking about it and studying the issue, I'll continue to benefit from the preaching of God's word.

Thanks again. Please don't think I was being too critical. There's much more to be thankful for at my church than there is to be critical of.

I am truly thankful for your ministry, because God used you to touch my daughter's heart in a special way when she was a young teenager. I'll always hold a special place in my heart for you.

Apples of Gold said...

Sorry, Jon, I just realized that I left another dangling preposition in my last post, and I know it's your pet peeve. But, hey, at least I can spell. : )

Apples of Gold said...

Here's another thought I have. Remember Jim Jones? He lead hundreds of God's "sheep" astray and ultimiately to their deaths. Those "sheeple" "let down their guard" and followed their "pastor", believing everything he told them to be God's truth. If they had put more emphasis on individual Bible study, maybe they wouldn't have been sorely misled by a wolf in sheep's clothing.

If most pastors were preaching God's truth then this would not even be a debate, but unfortunately, there are more preachers in Christiandom who are NOT preaching the truth. Reformed theology used to be the norm in Christiandom, and now, because of pastors who compromised God's word, we're living in a society where false doctrines have affected many Christians' worldview to the detriment of our society. Too many Christians put their faith and trust in false teachers. I think it's only prudent to be on our guard, and I reject the notion that this is equivalent to coming to church with an attitude of cynicism or skepticism.

That's my two cents worth for what it's worth. : ) I've enjoyed this debate as it's been challenging and has caused me to dig deeper into the Scriptures.

Anonymous said...

Jared
I too am deeply concerned about the sermon ( some say message) last Sunday. While I can understand your point on the supremacy of God’s special revelation as delivered by an ordained and paid clergyman on a Sunday from behind the pulpit, I have to say, at this point, I reject it as being way too counter- reformation for what has been assumed settled for eons. In fact the only other time I recall hearing this pitch was when James preached at your installation. While he disturbed both myself and others, I felt that since I had not placed myself under his authority I’d let his church hash it out with him if this kind teaching persists. After all, you both stopped short of having me kiss a ring and there was no mention of having us turn in our Bibles in an attempt to short circuit personal wild and outlandish scripture interpretation. As you know, few believe ( this side of Rome) that anyone, less the “Holy Father”, has this type of ultimate authority in the spoken word; in front of or behind the pulpit.
Now I am in a quandary, a real catch 22. You think that the pastor’s preached word is authoritative (God sent) contrasted to a congregant’s personal, and even, small group study. I think that your words are too extreme to swallow blindly. You are a clergyman, I a congregant. Now I don’t need to point out that I have boxed myself into the position of being in error or possibly rebellion. By your definition if I disagree with your preaching I too disagree with God. Oh these traps!
Thankfully, I am in contact with and have good standing with a number of other paid clergy who might have this same “God given scripture inspiration gift” and have directed them to your sermon available online. I’m looking forward to hearing their opinion on this. I do believe that Christ has one opinion on this subject and if enough folks get their heads together on it we might discover what it is.
As for me I will be reading scripture and get full Bible references to research. Others ( maybe you?) will feel better reviewing old sermon tapes. Nontheless we’ll all learn something and one or both of us will need to repent. All glory to God.

Jarod preached :
“ Although you do when you read it, and when you have it in family worship, first and foremost it is when you hear it from the pulpit, when it is proclaimed from the pulpit. I want to tell you that your primary responsibility to the Word of God is to the sermon, when it is preached by your Pastor.”

Jon asks;
“ where is it written?”

Jarod Preached;
“ I fear that this is turned on its head in the American evangelical world when we feel that our primary responsibility to obey the Word of God and take applications from it through our personal devotion. God’’s Word puts it otherwise. The most promises, the most power, the apex of God’’s power, the mountain top, the greatest expression of God’’s Word to you, the most authoritative way it can come to you is when it is preached to you by a representative of Jesus Christ. God gave you a faithful preacher.””

Jon asks:
“ Where is it written?”

Jarod Preached:
“Are you discussing the sermon afterwards? Are you saying to yourself that God will speak to me today and I will obey? (sermon). ““This is important to your savior. Jesus needs you to do this. (Bible verse?).”

Jon asks:
“Where is it written?”
Jon Held

KruLL said...

Jared,

Great stuff! Thank you very much for showing the Biblical basis for taking Christ's gift of preachers seriously.

-Shawn

Anonymous said...

What Biblical basis? I haven't seen any yet.

Anonymous said...

I'm still thinking some of this through myself.

A few quick points:

-Jared has used Scripture...read the post again...he starts out w/ Eph. 4 and then others.

-Jared in his blog and his sermon which I heard, claimed the authority and (what I will call) the "primacy" of preaching. He never even hinted at infallibility or ultimate authority. Delegated authority (from Christ the King) is still real authority and claiming such is not a claim for infallibility or anything that approaches Rome.

-In promoting the primacy of preaching, I don't think Jared is promoting a "either/or" proposition...either the preached word or private reading of the word. I think I'm safe in saying he still strongly believes in a "both/and".

-In arguing against Jared it would probably be good not to use Luther or Calvin. So far my research would point to both be more strong in the primacy of preaching than anything Jared has written or preached. For Calvin read the Institutes: Book 4, Chap. 1, section 5: "Her ministers, speaking for God, not to be despised" For Luther go to www.ctsfw.edu/library/files/pb/1504

In Christ,
Jeff Kessler

Apples of Gold said...

While it's true that Jared used Scripture, it doesn't mean that it supported his argument that preaching the word is more "authoratative" than personal Bible study. Here's the Scripture that Jared referenced:

"The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love."

I'm not saying that God didn't give us pastors to teach and to edify; however, this passage and the others he used simply do not support Jared's thesis.

I view the Bible has "authoratative", and it carries much more weight with me than the interpretations and mere words of men, ordained or not. We are taught to "search the Scriptures", and we are taught to "examine" them for ourselves. We are taught to follow God rather than men.

Pastors have led the people astray because the people neglected to "search the Scriptures" for themselves. Sound doctrine is NOT being taught in the majority of churches across America. It was the dangerous practice of placing more importance on the "preaching" rather than on personal Bible study that has led to this serious problem in our country and around the world. The Reformed doctrines have been lost to the point where we're in need of another reformation because of this very issue. This is one of the biggest problems facing the church today, and it's the reason why it brings out a lot of passion from many of us to hear one of our own pastor's preaching something that many of us reject as safe, wise, or prudent, not to mention unBiblical.

While I'm thankful that I have a pastor who preaches the truth, I'm also thankful that I have my own Bible, written in my own language, and that I am free to discern for myself what is truth and what is not. I am thankful that there is "one mediator between God and man," and not two or three.

Anonymous said...

I probably shouldn't try to speak for Jared...hopefully he'll write again soon.

The Bible is the only infallible, inerrent, and ultimate authority. Only the Bible can bind the conscience.

The question is over the most important (primary) way to learn the Bible. The preached word or private/group study? Jared, Luther, Calvin, and the Shorter Cat. all seem to agree that the preached word is primary. Jared, Luther, Calvin, and the Shorter Cat. all agree that private/group study is still very important, just not primary.

G. I. Williamson in his commentary of the Shorter Cat. discusses Acts 8:27-39 and Acts 17:11-12 and then comments: "Reading of the Bible is thus seen to be very important too. But even in such cases, we notice that preaching is essential. It is the primary means."

In Christ,
Jeff Kessler

Apples of Gold said...

If preaching is "essential" then what about the thousands of Christians over the centuries who did not have the word preached to them because of persecution or because they lived in remote areas where there were no churches? It is clear that the preaching of the word was not essential to their salvation, and not everyone has the benefit of having a pastor preach the word.

I just can't buy into this dangerous way of thinking.

Gabe said...

It is clear that the preaching of the word was not essential to their salvation, and not everyone has the benefit of having a pastor preach the word.

I just can't buy into this dangerous way of thinking.


This is fun stuff--so you're saying that people in remote areas who never heard the Word of God were still saved? That jives with the general idea of the 'Elect' (skipping over a lot here), but of course, what then is the point of evangelism? That spectacular use of logic goes directly against the Great Commission. Or at least removes any meaning from it.

And exactly what way of thinking is more dangerous? The possibility of laymen individuals misinterpreting scripture, or one trained to do so screwing it up? There's not much, if you ask me, but no one is saying the word of a pastor is infallible--it's open to argument and debate. No one has to agree. It's what's happening on this blog.

I think at least one intention by Jared is that anyone who believes church to be worthwhile enough to attend should pay attention in church and try to get something out of it...Disagreement is fine, and should be necessary for someone making an effort to absorb real teaching, but trying to reduce the value of a pastor's work (which is almost always more thorough by nature) is sort of...foolish.

Apologies to Jared if I spoke incorrectly concerning his intentions.

Apples of Gold said...

No, Gabe, you've obviously misunderstood my argument. Of course, they had to read the Word of God. I'm talking about people who have read God's word for themselves, but who didn't necessarily have a church to attend where they could hear a sermon.

And of course church is important! I just don't buy into the notion that preaching trumps personal Bible study. Unfortunately many pastors are preaching false doctrines from the pulpit and leading people astray because of it.

Your idea that laymen aren't "trained" and could possibly "screw it up" sounds like the arguments coming out of the Catholic church before Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door.

Jared said...

Sorry I haven't written lately. I hope to do another post today on the reformer's take on the primacy of preaching. But let me summarize my arguments again here (since none of those on the other side of this disagreement have disproven them. It's one thing to say I haven't proven my point. It's another thing to show how or how not).

1. The shorter catechism's "especially" in q89 is indicative of the Biblical and reformational stand on the primacy of preaching.

2. That Jesus gave His church pastor-teachers (Eph. 4) leads to two conclusions: (1) we need pastor-teachers, (2) preaching has unique, implicit, Christ-given authority.

3. Acts 17:11 - The Bereans received the word with joy and in that joy searched the Scriptures. This is much different from assuming the preacher is wrong and waiting for him to "prove it to me."

4. Rom. 10:10-15 - Faith comes by hearing the word of God preached. The preached word carries greater promises of God's blessing than any other form of receiving/intaking God's Word.

5. 2 Tim. 4:2 - Timothy's charge to be ready to preach is backed up by the fact that the faithfulness of people in the church waxes and wanes. 'Apples' seems to be promoting what David Wells calls "solo Scriptura" rather than the historic doctrine of "sola Scriptura." Apples' version of things would lead each individual believer to be a pope unto themselves, beholden only to their own conscience. 2 Tim. 4 shows clearly where this will (and has, often) led.

And here are my qualifications:

1. None of this is to belittle personal or family worship, but to recognize that God has ordained especially the preaching as His means of conversion and sanctification. Contrary to Jon's assertions, I do not believe the authority of the word as contrasted with the inauthority of personal worship. Rather, both/and. Or, more properly, "yes and even more."

2. We need to draw a distinction between "authority" and "infallibility." Ordained preaching has heaven-sent authority, but this is different from infallibility. I say "authority" and several readers seem to think "infallibility." Real authority doesn't mean infallibility. This is the same for all true authority, including that of fathers and mothers over children and the government over people. It is real authority which must be obeyed, but it is not infallible, so the checks-and-balances must be in place.

3. Apples, your concern about the mistakes and unfaithfulness of preachers is well-said, but as Gabe pointed out, the opposite (each believer beholden to their own interpretation of Scripture) is far more dangerous. The Biblical counterpoint to unfaithful preaching is both the wisdom of the saints and the authority of elders and presbyteries. In your scenario of believers submitting utmost to their own interpretation of Scripture, how can a believer learn anything new? Or be challenged on a previously unrevealed sin?

Again, I hope to write another post. For those who disagree, please tell me why. My biblical arguments on the table but haven't been dealt with yet.

Gabe said...

Both a pastor or layman could get things wrong in a dangerous way. The Catholic church would have been right about saying that in general, regardless of whatever Martin Luther might have been up to at the time. That's the point. Not that the layman specifically could get it wrong. There's got to be level of skepticism and a willingness to question, but at some point one must be ready to learn from someone who cares enough to devote their life to teaching.

"False doctrines" appear when anyone misinterprets scripture, not just when a pastor does it. Scripture is too difficult and complex for individuals to figure out perfectly on their own. That's why there's a ridiculous amount of material in the Bible about corporate worship, fellowship, and iron-sharpening iron, and so on. Where's the verse about concentrating on personal Bible study more than anything else?

Fact is, an isolated Christian is probably a poorly informed Christian, regardless of the availability of the Word. We need others to instruct us, and that most definitely includes pastors.

Anonymous said...

I am really encouraged to see how the apostles appealed not to who they were, but to what they said and did in their lives to persuade the people concerning the truth (1 Thess 2: 1-14). :>)

Kurt

Jared said...

Kurt, I think your comment is very helpful because it brings another important aspect to the discussion: the issue of moral authority. If the preacher is not first worked upon by God's Word, why should anyone listen to him? Also, it's striking how many of the qualifications for office are moral qualifications rather than "gift" qualifications.

I would argue, however, that Paul (especially Paul) struck the perfect balance between appealing to both his life's testimony and to his authoritative office. Now, of course, the authority of a preacher is most definitely different from the authority of an apostle, but Paul is a great person for us all to learn from (including fathers as they lead their families). The use of authority demands righteous living, but not perfection. That is, we don't discount a father/preacher's authority when we find a sin. But, especially in the role of a preacher, ongoing sin can disqualify them from office.

Back to the balance question: Paul appealed to his life, but he was also bold enough to assert his authority (at one point excommunicating someone in the Corinth church without even being there), so much so that he clearly expected his writings to be heard and obeyed. So preachers must be able to appeal to their lives, but they also should be willing to assert the authority of the office itself.

Anonymous said...

JON WRITES
Jared,
I think some of the confuson arrives over the undrestanding of preaching ( we call it "opening God's word"). Of course I will stand with the Reformers by beliving that the preachng the word is essential to the conversion of the lost. This is why we know that the mission of groups like the Gideons fall short of God's normative salvation work. In fact we know the work of the Holy Spirit coupled with His Holy Word and careful preaching ( opening of the word) all couple to please His will. The work of this type of salvation "preaching" is most typically preached by laymen not hired out. All those who go by His name are charged with fulfilling the great commission.
Also, logically, if a cleric has been given an "authortaive" understanding of God's word in contrast to just some laymans understanding the cleric understanding (or revelation)is truth and the laymen's not;you would call the laymens understanding FALLIBLE,what word discribes the cleric understanding. infallible.?

Jeff wrote:
G. I. Williamson in his commentary of the Shorter Cat. discusses Acts 8:27-39 and Acts 17:11-12 and then comments: "Reading of the Bible is thus seen to be very important too. But even in such cases, we notice that preaching is essential. It is the primary means."

The primary means of what??
My guess is 'means of salvation'. JUST A GUESS But would support my point.

Further,
Jared, you are the one who desires to stake out this new turf. It is not up to me to defend, against your arguments. No matter how hard I squint I cant find this doctrine in the parable of the sower. Which was the text of the sermon. So again "where is it written?.
Jon Held

Apples of Gold said...

Jared wrote, " Apples, your concern about the mistakes and unfaithfulness of preachers is well-said, but as Gabe pointed out, the opposite (each believer beholden to their own interpretation of Scripture) is far more dangerous."

I have never made or implied such a statement. I have stated that the preaching of God's word by pastors is important, and I'll go so far as to say it is VERY IMPORTANT.

My issue is that it is not MORE important than personal Bible study. That personal Bible study would include reading the works of Reformers and considering what they have said when compared to the Bible. The Reformers didn't agree on everything, and even they were prone to error from time to time. We also musn't forget that the Reformers lived in a time where the average man or woman didn't have access to the Word of God, and they had no choice but to rely on the pastor's interpretation.

It's wise and prudent to listen intently and consider every word the pastor preaches, and I appreciate my pastor more than he probably realizes. It is also just as wise and prudent to hold everything he says up to the Word of God, which is exactly what I did with Jared's sermon. He's given dozens of sermons that have been right on target in my estimation, but this one didn't measure up to God's word as far as I'm concerned. Please don't take this personally. I'm simply using my gift of discernment as dictated by my conscience. Nothing I've read thus far has convinced me to change my mind. I must be persuaded by Scripture, and I haven't been even though I've been studying and listening intently.

The Bible is the inspired word of God; the words of preachers are certainly not. The two are not even on equal footing, so how can anyone say the one is more important than the other?

We are admonished in Scripture to "examine the Scriptures" just as the Bereans did when they heard Paul preach. It's not that they were looking to find fault with Paul, nor am I looking to find fault with Jared, but the Bereans took their own responsibility seriously, and they refused to follow even Paul blindly. It's insulting to have anyone believe that unless one is a pastor or "educated" at the right schools, they are not equally qualified to interpret or understand God's word. This is the message that I'm receiving after reading the latest posts on this subject.

I have never said that "unordained" believers cannot misinterpret Scripture. I have only stated that we are all prone to human error, and that sermons are not superior to the reading of God's holy, infallible, inspired word.

God is sovereign. If He wants to illuminate even the simplest mind to understand His word, nothing will prevent it from happening, and it certainly will not require ordination papers.

In Christ and with Respect,

Diana Vice

Jared said...

Diana,

Again, thanks for your comments. I hesitate to keep going, except that I feel continuing the discussion to be helpful, if only for clarification's sake. For that, let me respond.

I definitely would never want to assert that the words of preacher are inspired or infallible. However, they are authoritative. Just as your husband is a true-yet-fallible authority in your family. Though we haven't gotten into it much, I think this question of authority is probably a root issue.
--
I appreciate your bringing the idea of discernment into the discussion. Certainly, discernment is called for - and as I mentioned to someone else, the fact that you and others are exercising discernment reveals submission to the preached word. Otherwise, you would just ignore it. Yes, we must be discerning - and when our conscience disagrees with the sermon, we have a problem that must be worked out: in that case, people need to go to their pastor and give him an opportunity to clarify and convince. But it's not Biblical discernment to automatically take my personal reading as authoritative over the preached word. It has to be hashed out.
--
Re: interpretation. Yes, hopefully, preachers have good training which most do not which should help them understand and preach well. But their interpretation doesn't make them infallible. Here is important the reformation doctrine of the perspicuity of the Scriptures: the main points and messages of the Bible are able to be understood by all believers (according to their mental capacity). So, we must hold to perspicuity of Scripture on one hand and a humble acknowledgement of the noetic effects of sin in the other.
--
As you say, if God wants to illuminate a mind, it will happen. Absolutely and amen. And He has promised to use "especially" preaching to do this.
--
Again, I would like to (re)frame my comments not on some scale of importance, but on a "yes, and even more" idea. The Word of God is at work and will accomplish His purposes, as you read and especially as it is preached. Corporate worship, not private worship or family worship, is the apex of our communion with God. But we don't get to the mountaintop in a little hop. All week long, we seek God's face in private and family worship; but it's corporate worship that is the mountaintop.

Jared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jared said...

One more:

A different way to frame the discussion is about expectation and joy and hope. When we read the Bible privately and with our families, we joyfully expect God to be at work, changing us into the image of Christ. That same hope should be even greater when we come to the corporate worship of God and sit under the preaching of the Word.

Sir Ryan said...

So why would any of those who disagree with the 'primacy of preaching' (over personal study) submit themselves to church discipline? You don't recognize the authority of the word preached from the pulpit as being higher than that the Word read in personal study but you do recognize the authority of the Church to discipline "should you need correction in doctrine or life"?

The last part of vow #4 as found in the RPCNA Constitution:

In case you should need correction in doctrine or life, do you promise to respect the authority and discipline of the church?

I think I know everyone taking part in this discussion, and I'm pretty sure you're all members of the RPCNA and have taken the above vow. This is what I'm basing my assumption (that all of you would say you agree with the authority of the Church to discipline) on.

Apples of Gold said...

Yes, I did take the church membership vows. Many of us disagree with Jared on this particular issue. Does that mean we're somehow disrespecting authority and we're in need of discipline? My answers to both of those questions would be an emphatic, NO!

Sir Ryan said...

That was definitely not my point. I would never be so presumptuous as to say someone was in need of Church discipline simply for disagreeing with a pastor.

My point was, and I'll try to express myself more clearly this time, how can you say 1.) that you disagree with the authority/primacy of preaching over personal study, and 2.) that you agree with the idea of and submit to the authority of the Church?

To say that you believe both seems inconsistent. How can the church have the authority to administer discipline, yet the preaching of the Word from the pulpit holds equal authority to the study of the Word by an individual?

Gabe said...

My gift of observation is telling me that the arguments against Jared's point(s) are sorely lacking in direct scriptural references, at least, relative to his own supply of referenced scripture. Specifically, some biblical backing for the idea that personal Bible study "trumps" authoritative preaching.

Also, his references appear to have been largely ignored.

Apples of Gold said...

Sir Ryan,

To answer your question, I don't believe my viewpoints are at all inconsistent. I'm not rejecting or even questioning an official doctrine of the RPCNA church. I'm one of many who disagree with a particular point that a pastor made in a sermon.

I also disagree that the Bible references that Jared made supports his thesis that the preaching of God's word is somehow more "authoritative" than personal Bible study. The Scriptures he cited do not say that at all; therefore, I'm not convinced by them. I've cited my own references about the Bereans in support of my position. You're either persuaded by them or not, but I can only speak for myself.

I took the following official vows of Covenant Church Membership:

1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule for faith and life?

YES (This supports what I've been saying. The Scriptures are the only "infallible rule for faith and life"; not the pastor's interpretations of the Scriptures.)

2. Do you believe in the one living and true God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as revealed in the Scriptures?

YES

3. Do you repent of your sin; confess your guilt and helplessness as a sinner against God; profess Jesus Christ, Son of God, as your Saviour and Lord; and dedicate yourself to His service: Do you promise that you will endeavor to forsake all sin, and to conform your life to His teaching and example?

A. Yes, and I believe it would be sin for me to acknowledge that man's preaching is more important than the reading of God's word. I am held captive by my conscience.

4. Do you promise to submit in the Lord to the teaching and government of this church as being based on the Scriptures and described in substance in the Constitution of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America? Do you recognize your responsibility to work with others in the church and do you promise to support and encourage them in their service to the Lord? In case you should need correction in doctrine or life, do you promise to respect the authority and discipline of the church?

YES, and again, I firmly believe that my viewpoints are based on and consistent with Scripture, and I do not believe I need correction since my doctrinal beliefs are sound and in full agreement with the RPCNA.

5. To the end that you may grow in the Christian life, do you promise that you will diligently read the Bible, engage in private prayer, keep the Lord's Day, regularly attend worship services, observe the appointed sacraments, and give to the Lord's work as He shall prosper you.

YES, and it's interesting that the vows placed an emphasis on personal Bible study and prayer. It does not mention "authoritative preaching" at all. One would think that if it trumped personal Bible study, the church fathers would have included it here.

6. Do you purpose to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness in all the relationships of life, faithfully to perform your whole duty as a true servant of Jesus Christ, and seek to win others to Him?

YES

7. Do you make the profession of faith and purpose in the presence of God, in humble reliance upon His grace, as you desire to give your account with joy at the Last Great Day?

YES


In closing, I'd like to say that it is not my intention to engage in contentious debate. This issue is of extreme importance, because I truly believe that Christianity has strayed far from its Reformed roots because of false teachings and preaching from American pulpits. As a result, it has negatively affected the worldview of thousands of Christians, and it's to the point now that we're in need of another Reformation.

This will probably be my last post on the subject, because I doubt anyone will change their minds if they haven't already. I want to end by saying that I have a high regard for Jared, and the fact that I disagree with him on this one point does not diminish my respect for him.

Anonymous said...

Sir said:
So why would any of those who disagree with the 'primacy of preaching' (over personal study) submit themselves to church discipline?
Dear Sir:
Huge difference, in my eyes. First the discipline of the church is both broad and deep. We know that many men potentially many ,many men are provided to sit in judgement in a case of church discipline. I for one, would never submit to (or place myself under the)authority of just one individual in a hierarchical form of government. Which is exactly the same position as I hold toward this recent preaching ( by the clergy only) position.
JOn Held

Meg said...

I for one, would never submit to (or place myself under the)authority of just one individual in a hierarchical form of government. Which is exactly the same position as I hold toward this recent preaching ( by the clergy only) position.

I don't understand the reason for equating preaching with church government/discipline. Perhaps you should explain further. What do you want?

Jared said...

Jon, SirRyan's point still stands, because the authority of church discipline and the authority of the preached word both reside in the session. In both cases, higher courts can be involved, but rarely are.

Diana, you are correct in pointing out that you took vows to engage in private spiritual disciplines. But you also took a vow to submit to the teaching and government of the church. That is the issue Ryan (I think) is pointing out: how one and not the other? How can the session have the authority to declare someone outside the visible church yet not have authority in teaching?

Apples of Gold said...

Jared,

Are you telling me that I must submit to your line of thinking as expressed in your sermon that is in question? With all due respect, I don't think I agreed to that when I took those vows.

Jared said...

No, submission doesn't mean total agreement. You promised to submit to your husband, but you don't always agree with him. The point is submission: a realization and recognition of real authority that cannot be cast aside lightly.

Jared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jared said...

And when I say cast aside lightly, I mean "whenever the sermon doesn't mesh with my understanding of Scripture, my understanding wins." I'm working on the next post now, which deals more with this.

Apples of Gold said...

As I stated earlier, I agreed to submit to the authority of the church, and that's not the question as far as I'm concerned. Am I being accused of more than disagreeing with a point in your sermon? If so, I plead an emphatic NOT GUILTY!

Jared said...

I would argue it (submission to authority) is the question. The position you've staked out, if I understand it, is that your own interpretation of Scripture has primacy over the public preaching of your pastor. This is what Mathison calls solo scriptura (rather than sola scriptura - see my next post). It is not biblical submission or the reformational understanding of the church and the individual.

And, again, disagreement isn't the issue. It's what we do after the disagreement that's the issue.

But even more important, the greatest issue, is the heart we bring to worship. If we sit in judgment over the Word preached, we are not submitting to it as we ought.

Jared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Apples of Gold said...

Jared wrote, "...whenever the sermon doesn't mesh with my understanding of Scripture, my understanding wins."

You placed this in quotes, so I'm assuming you're attributing this thought to me. That's taking quite a liberty, especially when I didn't say this, nor do I think it. You also make it sound like it happens often. This is the first time that I recall ever disagreeing with a sermon on this level, and I've been around for well over a decade. I have never "cast aside lightly" anything you've said in a sermon or otherwise. I just happen to not be convinced after hearing your arguments and the Scripture references you used to make them. And because I do not agree, suddenly the subject has been changed to "authority" problems. That's quite a quantum leap. I can assure you that I don't have a problem with submitting to authority; otherwise, I would have never taken the membership vows. I do; however, have a problem with an abuse of power.

betelgeuse said...

LOL quantum means small. great debate tho..the pastor is winning...the other side doesn't make any sense...already are some hard feelings evident. there is an atmosphere of bitterness

Apples of Gold said...

"betelgeuse"

I can understand why you didn't use your real name. Did it make you feel good to publicly ridicule me and then go on to pass judgment by accusing me of being "bitter"? I'm not bitter; I'm disappointed by the lack of character, maturity, and especially by the false accusations that have been made by someone I used to respect. I think I'll move on, and engage myself with more mature company....like my 3 year old grandkids.

Have a nice day! : )

Jared said...

Apples,

What you put in quotes was not meant to be attributed directly to you, but meant to portray what I strongly believe to be the only logical conclusion of the position you are taking on this issue. No, you didn't say this, but it is the only conclusion I can come to from your position.

I hope that helps to clarify my thinking.

betelgeuse said...

apples of gold is your real name? as your id proves, anyone can say they are anyone. names mean nothing on the interwebs ...sigh... if you were actually mature, you wouldn't have bothered to reply. you are digging your own hole of ridicule..you don't need me to do that for you lol...anyways, wasn't talking about you personally, don't know you. your arugmentds are nonexistent. who do you not respect now?

Anonymous said...

betelgeuse said.... the pastor is winning... I guess that is the point. In this discusson the very debate is what happens in a draw? What is trying to be established is that the pastor wins; the pastor preached "that's what Jesus wants".
What is unfortunate is that the 'other side' has been misportrayed. I, and I believe the others have never argued that personal Bible study trumps the words and thoughts of a pastor while preaching. More that all study ( individual, group, and hearing the preacher on Sunday morning) ( still up for discusson is the pastors words spoken in a Bible study, around a camp fire, or addressing a neighborhood watch group)is benefitual to, and will build the individual and body. the argued position is that all Bible study is equal but some is more equal than others. And to date much has been written but not shown in scripture.

lol: quantum in Webster's Dictionary means: to measure

Jon Held

Anonymous said...

I may be misreading this, but it sounds to me like Apples (Diana) is saying that the pastor's preaching is neither more nor less important than personal Bible study.
When we receive new information, we can do any one (but only one) of three things with that new information.
* We can reject it completely.
* We can accept it completely.
* We can blend it with what we already know and add to that knowledge base.

The first two are done not only completely but blindly and wholesale.

As I understand it, it seems that personal Bible study is augmented by the preached word which is augmented by personal Bible Study which is augmented... you get the idea.

I'm not a member of your church, and I don't believe all of what you all believe, but I respect your right to do so.

For that reason, I'll remain anonymous, but sign with my wish for you all:

Blessings.

Jared said...

Note to all:

I'd like to discontinue posts on this thread. I'm not thrilled with how the discussion turned out today, but I can't figure out how to disable comments for one post (can anybody help here?). It seems we have collectively reached the end of what blog comments can constructively accomplish.

Unless I can figure out how to hide or disable these comments, I'll probably just delete the whole batch tomorrow. FYI.

Please feel free to comment on the *subject* of the next post.