“I’ve been a Southern Baptist all of my life but I’ve never heard these things. Why didn’t they teach this to me?”
The question struck a nerve. I had just finished an hour-long discussion with several people, including the lady who asked the question. We had talked about basic things concerning the Old Testament and New Testament. Our talk focused on what Jesus declared to the religious elite who hid behind their religious façade, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39). Jesus also set the example for what He meant when He met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection, and “beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). All of Scripture points to Jesus Christ, God’s work of redemption through Him, and how He has accomplished the work necessary to bring sinners and rebels into relationship as sons and daughters of the living God.
Yet this lady had not heard of this basic kind of teaching. So how would that affect the way that she reads the Bible? Would she grasp the continuity between the testaments? Would she understand the first gospel statement in Genesis 3:15, and the way that God’s redemptive message continued through Malachi? Would the statement of John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), make sense to her? Would she grasp what redemption, atonement, propitiation, and reconciliation meant through how both testaments develop these doctrines?
I could understand if she had not been taught some intricacies in historical theology or the various interpretations of Hebrews six or even the different theories of the atonement. But what we considered should be basic in every congregation.
Questions to Consider
To help us think through on this subject, let me offer a few questions to consider as we reflect upon our local congregations.
1. Do we take seriously teaching “the whole counsel of God”? Paul told the Ephesian elders that he did not shrink back from this kind of full-orbed teaching of God’s Word with them (Acts 20:27). What does that include? It certainly goes far beyond the so-called “Roman Road!” Would it not be useful to consider how our confessions of faith offer a compendium of what we must teach over a period of years with our churches? Should not these doctrinal standards work out in our regular preaching?
2. Do we preach through books of the Bible in order to show the continuity of God’s Word? Here’s what I mean. Preaching through a book, if done properly, can never be done in isolation from the rest of Scripture. Each biblical book has been informed by and/or connected with other portions of Scripture. Faithful exposition does biblical theology as the sermon unfolds. Plus, preaching/teaching consecutively through a book also teaches good hermeneutics, so that those listening learn through that process how to properly interpret God’s Word. Expositions should model how to study the Word.
3. Do we organize opportunities to help our members grasp biblical theology, church history (and historical theology with it), biblical discipleship, ecclesiology, and missions? Obviously, I can add more fields of study, but surely, the ones that I’ve mentioned are essential for church members to understand their relationship to the body of Christ, their part in God’s mission, the practice of spiritual disciplines, and their growing understanding of God’s Word. These might take place in small groups, Sunday bible classes, discipleship groups, men’s and ladies’ studies, student studies, Wednesday night classes, etc. Shouldn’t we be embarrassed when cult groups understand their “faith” better than evangelicals? Let’s take away the excuses that our people make for not knowing the Christian faith well enough to explain it with passion!
4. Do we prepare our congregations to face trials, adversity, and even death by having saturated them in the Word? Several years ago, it hit me that a major part of my pastoral role is to help people face trials, adversity, and death. Rarely do we have warning that these ever-present realities of living in a fallen world are about to meet our people with shocking force. But if they are prepared by having steeped in the richness of the Word, then when we come to the moments of bringing comfort and encouragement, we’re not scrambling to make up for lost years when we should have made them ready for most everything that providence lays at their feet.
Over a two or three-year period, we walked through great trials with three of our families, each of whom lost a child. We wept with them as we sought to encourage them through the weightiness of a child’s death. Yet as we journeyed, each made some comment to the effect that the Lord had been preparing them through His grace to bear up under their loss. Scripture they had stored up came to the forefront of their need.
What are you teaching your congregation? Let it never be said of us, “They didn’t teach me these things.” Instead, proclaim Jesus Christ, admonish and teach every person under your charge with all wisdom, in order that you might present him and her complete in Christ. Labor and strive to do so in Christ’s power that works mightily within you (Col 1:28–29).