Month: August 2007

Ten Things I Believe: Number 3: Text Driven Preaching

Jerry VinesPerhaps the greatest battle during the modern age surrounds the content of preaching. I fear that many congregations and pulpit committees do not understand what type of preaching they need. Most of the general rules for popular preachers include a vibrant personality, good jokes, and personal illustrations. However, the content needed includes solid explanation of the biblical text. The major difference is whether the preacher brings the idea to the text looking for support or comes to the text looking to reveal God’s truth. Although this may be oversimplified, a text driven preacher will allow God’s work to speak for itself. This type preaching is what the congregation needs whether they desire it or not. This preaching may or may not result in increased numbers but it certainly should result in spiritual growth and the Gospel being presented.             

The scriptural foundation for text driven preaching flows logically from 2 Tim 3:16-4:2. This portion of Scripture does cross a natural paragraph division which has been divided as a new chapter. However, I believe that chapter four provides the application of the theological doctrine presented in 2 Tim 3:16-17. Let us look at the text and then, I will expound the meaning:  

16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  17  that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.  4:1, I solemnly 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:  2  preach the word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.             

Without going into a detailed exegetical study, let me draw some implications that I believe naturally link these verses together. 2 Tim 3:16 is the verse used to establish the inerrancy of Scripture. Scripture is God breathed. Since God cannot tell a lie and Scripture is God’s word to us, then Scripture can be trusted fully.            

For our purposes is it important to notice what this verse says after that point, “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” After Paul has established the principle of the inerrancy of Scripture and that Scripture may be used for these reasons in preparing man for every good work, Paul then solemnly charges Timothy to “preach the word.” But notice what comes after “preach the word”–reprove, rebuke, exhort, and instruct. The end of 2 Tim 4:2 should immediately bring to mind the words of 2 Tim 3:16 as the application of the theological truth.            

Let me explain it a different way. When you present theological truth as a preacher, then most texts provide clues on the proper application to the listener’s life. For example if the theological truth is salvation by grace through faith, the application is that the listener should place faith and trust in Jesus Christ to be saved. If the theological truth is be holy as God is holy, the application is avoid sinning and live a life consecrated to God and specific examples may be given. Here Paul gives a theological truth, “Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” The application of that truth is to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort and instruct.”            

Thus, text driven preaching should be linked to the inerrancy of Scripture. If you believe that God’s Word is inerrant and able to equip a man for every good work, then what more do you have to add to it that God has not said? Do you believe that you can say it better than God did? Do you not believe that God’s Word is sufficient? Preaching which focuses on topics that the preacher brings to the Bible or felt needs, or a preconceived notion which a preacher attempts to find a verse to support indicates that the preacher in practice does not believe God’s Word is sufficient. In addition, it does not take seriously the fact that only “God’s Word will not return void.” John MacArthur has gone even further than I have by giving fifteen consequences of what he calls “Plexiglas Preaching.”           

Some have made the objection that text driven preaching is boring or that it does not make application to the listener. This objection is not with the method, but with the preacher. No preacher of the Gospel should be boring, nor should the preacher of the Gospel fail to apply the text to the lives of the listener. These claims throw the baby out with the bathwater. Proper text driven preaching demands that the preacher communicates, engages, and makes application to the listener. Thus, such claims find no merit against the proper method of preaching; however, valid they may be against certain individual preachers. In fact, the objection itself indicates that the entertainment driven, consumer mentality has pervaded our expectation.            

If text driven preaching is the proper methodology, then the content should come from elaborating on a given passage of Scripture. The proper method does not mean coming to the text with an idea and looking for support. It means going to the text with a blank mind and learning what the text says, looking at the structure of the text, then expounding or explaining what the text says to the listeners from the pulpit. This also means preaching the whole counsel of God–the parts that are popular and the parts that are not popular. It means preaching on controversial issues, speaking prophetically to culture, encouraging the saint, challenging the sinner, and most of all glorify God. An example of this type transformation can be read here. For an example of man that I believes sets a great example of this, click here.             

While nothing is wrong with using creative illustrations which fit the sermon, and some use of video clips enhance without overshadowing or sidetracking the congregation from the message, the preacher must make sure the explanation of the text drives the sermon. Once a preacher begins sculpting a sermon around the illustration or video clip, then the entertainment has taken an improper role in sermon preparation. The explanation of the text…the text itself must maintain priority.  The tendency in ministry will be to emulate the more creative communicators, but the mandate for ministry is to “preach the word.” This is why I believe in text driven preaching.

The Rules of Bile Blogging

Obviously, I am a novice at blogging, and some would say that I am just a novice. I grew up as a country boy in the backwoods of South Carolina. In my hometown, “he done it” and “we was” are considered proper grammar. Words certainly were not as eloquent as the mighty Keats in “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.” In fact, words more commonly resulted in fisticuffs than eloquence. Not that I minded a good school yard brawl. In fact, I enjoyed them a little too much which led to my underdevelopment of sesquipedalian verbal appendages. Deep within the pit of my wicked heart still lies a seed that would love to return to the boyish days and settle a few disputes behind the playground. I sometimes find such conflict resolution more gentlemanly than what we see from grown men. In those days, a bloody nose and five minutes of fury resulted in a problem solved and two people who respected each other. Nowadays, personal disputes lead to years of conflict with political positioning. Personal disputes lead to chess matches where pawns are played and lost without concern by the master chess players employing deviously sacrificial moves without concern for sacrificed pawns. Personal disputes lead to character assassinating blogs which totally ignore passages such as those found in 1 John. Such blogs have emerged against denominational leaders, and against local church pastors. No one possesses exemption from the dissident. The masters among them employ similar techniques a few of which I will now discuss and make no claim to have mastered myself.

First, write well. The pen truly is mightier than the sword at least among the civilized and educated audiences. Those who can “turn a phrase” with humorous eloquence gain a following through entertaining prose.

Second, write occasional transparent posts. These bloggers understand that few will follow a ruthless evil villain, but if the blogger can apologize for a wrong committed (even if it is in the comment section) or write a personal interest story about a nice deed, some people will like him. Perhaps this comes from our culture of desiring transparency or perhaps this has always been true of the masses. The masses need to identify with the writer. Whether that comes from stories about family, revelation of deep childhood wounds, or apologies, transparency relaxes the readers’ guard. Despite the transparency being calculated and partial, some readers accept the words of and identify with the vilest offender.

Third, either shortly before or after the transparency, comes a return to spewing bile. Here the dissident does his most damage. With carefully worded half-truths or partial stories twisted to create an air of distrust and a picture of deception the craftsman spews dangerous bile from the keys of the keyboard for the world to see. “Collateral damage” (hurting Christian brothers and sisters; hurting people’s families; destroying careers and futures) appears on all sides as the bile spews forth.

It’s a dangerous balance and one that only a few have mastered. You must write extremely well to keep the audience reading and returning. You must not spew so much bile that everyone turns against you. (Although one wonders in this world how much is too much.) You must be transparent enough to have readers identify with you, like you a little, and take up your cause. The problem with this formula is that the truly discerning must compare the bitter bile against the words of 1 John 3:10-15.

1 John 3:10-15 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

May we all recognize the personal attacks and personal efforts of bloggers to destroy others for what they are–sin. And may we all abandon such causes and return to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost. But then again, I’m just a country boy from South Carolina, so I could be wrong.

Ten Things I Believe: Number 4: Believer’s Baptism by Immersion


In the video above, Mark Driscoll says, “What does it mean to be a Baptist? We dunk adults. Anything else? Uhm, no.”

I am concerned at what I see happening to our Baptist distinctives in modern times. A loss of our distinctives can be seen in both the Emerging and the Emergent movements. Worse than that many Baptists do not see this as a problem and seek to promote these views. The same loss of Baptist distinctives can be seen in mainstreasm churches which begin to question whether believer’s baptism by immersion is necessary for church membership. In the past few years, John Piper’s church has debated this question and Henderson Hills in Oklahoma questioned requiring baptism for membership but stopped before the vote.  

To me Baptist distinctives mean more than “dunking adults.” I believe the New Testament gives regulatory rules for how a church should operate. I believe a church should have regenerate church membership, believer’s Lord Supper, church discipline, congregational rule, meaningful membership, expository preaching, beleiver’s baptism by immersion, and be missional (evangelistic or missionary Baptist or whatever popular term you wish to use in order to say winning people to Christ).

I follow in a line of theology that has deemed believer’s baptism by immersion a hill on which to die. In fact many men have died on that hill throughout centuries of persecution from state churches. I am Baptist by conviction and I pray that we are raising a new generation who is also Baptist by conviction. I believe that Jesus was baptized by immersion after a long travel both ways just to be immersed by John the Baptist. If it was that important to Jesus, then it is important to me.

Jesus singled out “baptism” in the Great Commission. It immediately follows making disciples. Jesus could have mentioned a host of other items after “making disciples.” He could have said, “make them pray a prayer, sign a card, walk an aisle, or lift their hand.” He could have said, “Teach them about church disicpline.” He could have said, “Practice the Lord’s Supper.” He could have said any number of things. However, other important matters of theology fall under “teaching them all things that I have commanded you.” What does Jesus single out? Baptism. Listening to some popular modern speakers, I am shocked Jesus didn’t say, “as you go, make disciples and dunk adults if you want, or not, whatever…it’s not that important anyway.”

Then there is Peter in Acts. I seem to remember a verse known as Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Peter connected baptism so closely to salvation that many have erred by thinking it was essential for salvation. We have erred in the opposite way by minimizing the importance of baptism. While baptism is not essential for salvation, it is very important. Baptism is the public profession of faith. Baptism is the first step of obedience. Baptism is of believers by immersion.  

Okay, perhaps you think that I am a little too passionate about this topic. You may be right. I do not wish to insult Mark Driscoll, John Piper or any other fellow believer. However, I do wish to passionately support the guideposts our Baptist fathers established known as Baptist distinctives. The trail of our fathers is long and strong in following the New Testament and Christ’s commands. I pray that the future of Baptist distinctives may be just as long and as strong.  

Perhaps I have not discussed my scriptural support for baptism enough. If you want to know more of my beliefs, I have already written papers on this topic that are more elaborate. You can access my paper titled The Proper Subject of Baptism or you can read my paper titled What Makes Baptism Valid. These two documents do much more than what I can afford to do here. Here is a summary of the contents of “What Makes Baptism Valid.”

Six Necessary Categories of Discussing Baptism

  1. Subject:  The subject of baptism must be a believer. Any other subject cannot make a profession of faith or identify with Christ or His church.
  2. Mode:  Immersion is the proper mode of baptism. No other mode is supported by Scripture.
  3. Meaning:  Baptism is not essential for salvation and does not grant an elevated status of sinlessness. Baptism is the profession of the believer placing his/her allegiance with Christ, and the initiatory ordinance into the local church. Baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  4. Church:  Proper baptism must be performed in connection with a true church. Baptism is a church ordinance and not a Christian ordinance. As this is perhaps the least understood view, a necessary discussion of the definition of a true church must also occur.
  5. Administrator:  The administrator should be someone selected by the local church. Overemphasis on this can lead to problems, as it did with the Donatists.
  6. Formula:  The traditional formula is baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost in older times). Valid baptism must at the very least be in Jesus’ name.

I believe the baptism of believer’s by immersion is biblical. I believe God’s truth is immortal, and baptism means more to me than dunking adults. That is why I believe in believer’s baptism by immersion.

Ten Things I Believe: Number 5: Baptist Church Polity

I believe congregational church government is the New Testament model. The New Testament at the very least provides the congregation with the authority to: 1) elect its leaders; 2) accept members; and 3) dismiss members. I add a fourth right of the congregation from common sense which is the right to approve the budget. The basis for Congregationalism can be seen in both individual passages of Scripture and in two larger scriptural themes. Individual verses like Acts 6:1-7, 11:22, 13:1-3, 15:1-3, 1 Cor. 5:4-7, 2 Cor. 2:6-8, and 2 Thess 3:6 show local congregations acting to govern themselves and order their affairs. The larger scriptural themes are the priesthood of the believers and the autonomous actions of New Testament churches demonstrating only voluntary connectionalism.

First, the New Testament provides the congregation with authority to elect its leaders. Acts 6:3 in the selection of the first deacons states that the multitude, “chose out from among them” and verse 5 indicates the choices of the congregation being appointed. In addition, Acts 15:22 says, “Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.” We find consistent belief in the right of the congregation to choose its leaders in Baptist life, but support for this principle comes from theologians outside the Baptist circle.   John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion on page 1066 stated that Acts 14:23 demonstrated congregational affirmation “by a show of hands in every church.” This is his interpretation of the Greek word usually translated “appoint” but which carries the meaning of “choose or elect by the raising of hands.” In addition, he noted that Cyprian implied congregational affirmation by insisting that the choosing of the bishop be done in the presence of the people.     

Second, the New Testament presents the authority of the congregation to accept members. Rom 14:1 states, “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” This letter is not written to the elders or leaders of Rome, but is written to “all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (1:7). Another example of the authority of the church to accept members comes from the New Testament example of church discipline given in 2 Corinthians. After the discipline had worked successfully, Paul urged the church at Corinth to allow a member back into its fellowship by reaffirming their love for him in 2 Cor 2:6—8. These verses also indicate the discipline had been “inflicted by the majority.” Lastly, the power to exclude and readmit disciplined members indicates the authority to admit new applying members. Thus, the congregation possesses the right to accept members.  

Third, the New Testament presents the authority of the congregation to dismiss members. Matt 18:17 says, “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” This verse does not say tell it to the elders or to the leaders but states “tell it to the church.” There are those who respond that this verse only indicates that the information should go to the congregation and that the congregation does not have the right of discipline or dismissal. I disagree, and I believe the 1 Corinthians further clarifies the disciplinary process. In 1 Cor 5:2 and 6, Paul rebukes the congregation for being “puffed up” and “glorying.” He tells the congregation, “when you are gathered together…deliver such a one to Satan.” This surely implies the congregation’s right for discipline and dismissal. Furthermore, 2 Thess 3:6 states, “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” The brethren received the command to withdraw from a “brother” who walks disorderly. For these reasons, I conclude that the congregation possesses the right to discipline and dismiss members.  

Congregationalism also rests on the larger scriptural theme of the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2:9), in which all believers possess the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17), and thus can receive guidance of the Lord and have direct access to the Lord without the need of a human intercessor.  This presupposes a congregation of members who are all regenerate and in touch with the Holy Spirit otherwise known as regenerate church membership.  

In my opinion, some are turning to elder rule or a representative form of church government and creating two problems rather than fixing the problem of maintaining integrity in the membership through proper church discipline.  

Others choose to abandon congregational church government because they have experienced situations where every light bulb and every dollar spent was voted upon. This certainly limits efficiency and provides for conflict in churches. I believe that biblical congregationalism maintains the rights listed above. I believe it is wise to have the congregation approve the way money is being spent in the form of approving the budget once a year. This allows the members to understand how the money they contribute is used and increases trust. Beyond that, I believe wise congregations entrust to committees or pastoral staff the decision making authority over minor matters of church business.  

I believe the concept of congregational church government is scriptural and that is why I believe in Baptist church polity.

© 2020 Thomas White

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