When Paul was no longer able to preach in the synagogues in Ephesus because of persecution, he gathered his disciples in Tyrannus Hall for further teaching in the Scriptures (Acts 19:8-10). The seventeenth century Puritan minister Richard Baxter (1615-1691) sought to instruct his congregation in the Word by combining home visitation with biblical and catechetical instruction as an overall shepherding strategy for the flock under his care. Whether through home visitations, small group settings, personal counsel, or one-to-one discipleship, the primary means of grace remains the Word of God.
The following post is part of our ‘The Work of the PCA Elder’ series. For the first post in the series, please click here.
It has been forty years since I overheard a conversation in my seminary bookstore. A senior was waxing eloquently before a group of first year students on the importance of the pastor becoming a jack-of-all-trades. The pastor needs, he urged, to be aware of the latest cultural trends, be able to address the political issues, provide excellent administrative oversight of the entire ministry of the church, stay on top of social and media opportunities, etc.
As he held these young students spell-bound, a seasoned pastor from Great Britain overheard the conversation and simply offered this sage advice, “Preach the Word…preach the Word.” He then calmly walked away, leaving the students to ponder his words. It was a Paul-Timothy moment for those standing there. Having pastored for years, this man had discovered the power of the ministry of the Word of God and the pastor’s role in preaching and teaching that Word.
In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul penned, “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” (II Timothy 4:1, 2). Earlier, Paul exhorted young Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (I Timothy 4:13). As we consider Paul’s exhortation for the pastor-teacher to devote himself to the ministry of the Word, let us consider briefly three areas in which we must do so: public, private, and personal.
The teaching elder is called to the public ministry of the Word through reading, preaching and teaching the Scriptures. This ministry takes place as God’s people gather together for worship on the Lord’s Day as well as during other appropriate opportunities throughout the week. God’s Word is the primary means of grace for converting the lost, establishing the church, growing the saints in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, and equipping them for works of service.
Prior to the call to preach the Word, Paul reminded Timothy of the nature of Holy Scripture and its effect on the listener, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16, 17). Therefore, we must preach and teach the Scriptures in the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to see effective ministry in the lives of others.
John Calvin was certainly one who took seriously this call to be devoted to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.