Nowadays, with so many different denominations and so many churches present now and more opening, there are many types of preachers too and there is currently much debate about which ministry is authentic and which is not. Eventually this question has to arrive at this: do all people who hold the Bible and preach remain faithful to God’s message – at the Sunday Pulpit, Bible study groups, in prayer meetings and every occasion where the opportunity presents itself?
To come to terms with what Scripture says about authentic ministry, we look at Paul the great preacher as a good example and we learn that there only two types of preachers/ministry, one approved by God or one disapproved by God.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2Timothy 2:15 (NIV)
At the heart of being a preacher/workman/minister who is approved is correctly handling God’s Word. This is so because the Bible is GOD speaking! God graciously revealing Himself to us through stories that we can understand and know what He is saying and know who He is and how to live with Him. Therefore handling the word incorrectly will only be a tragedy (a biblical tragedy) for all those who will hear such a spokesperson. They will worship a false God, base their lives on the false faith and remain in darkness as they are led astray.
Let’s take an example of how such a tragedy actually happens even while the Bible is open and someone is supposedly “preaching the Word of God”.
MAKE UP OF A TRAGEDY
Let’s look at some of the common examples.
- As simple as it may sound, simply failing to read a whole chapter/book can lead you to misunderstand and preach a wrong message. Is this not absurd?
- Also detaching the details of the letter from the context and purpose of the book/letter may give a very wrong conclusion.
Let’s take the Gospel according to John as example.
John’s introduces the big story with the Word (Jesus), and how this Word was God and Creator, how the Word became flesh, how He came to reveal the Father, some believed in Him and some didn’t and how all those who believed in Him He gave eternal life. John develops the story of Jesus throughout chapters 1 – 21 developing these points mentioned above and concludes by saying “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31 NIV).
John has a big theme, a purpose for which he takes pen and paper. To tell his hearers all of Chapters 1 – 21 and that after reading they will believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing in Him they will have life in His name.
Now, how does the Biblical tragedy happen in this example OF John’s Gospel?
EXAMPLE 1: THE WEDDING AT CANA
Let’s consider Chapter 2, the story of the wedding at Cana of Galilee. Most people will read this story, and come to conclusions like -Jesus made wine, so it’s okay to take wine. Others may go to the conversation of Mary and Jesus and say, we need Mary so that we may also get our requests to Jesus. But the question is why did John write this story? Well, He just told us; so that we may believe that Jesus is the son of God and by believing so we have life. Failing to connect the stories in John to the purpose, we will give our own conclusions as to what the stories may mean. If one preaches John 2:1-11 and does not come to the same conclusion as John, that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and by Believing in Him there is eternal life, I can say he or she will end up tragically handling God’s incorrectly.
The above example shows us how the purpose helps us get the meaning of the details.
Well as said before, the most absurd way that the Biblical tragedy happens is simple not reading a whole passage/chapter. Reading a whole passage/chapter helps give us context and thus the meaning. If one may think simply knowing the context (i.e. what was said before and after, who was being spoken to, under what circumstances) is irrelevant then I have warn with certainty that such approach to scripture will only lead to a wrong understanding of Scripture. Let’s consider one more example.
EXAMPLE 2: THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE
John 8:32: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”
Without context, “truth” can mean anything and also “freedom” can mean anything. One can preach about lifestyle tips from this verse or even use scientific facts as truths a Christian should follow to make his life better and gain financial freedom and so on. But surely to get what Jesus meant by truth we don’t need take time for a prayer retreat to look for inspiration to come but rather all we simply have to do is to read the whole passage
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36 NIV)
In this passage, knowing the truth is knowing Jesus and believing the message about Him and being set free is being set free from the enslaving master, Sin!.
If you look at verse 32 in context you will come certainly to the conclusion that John gives; Jesus is the son of God and by believing in Him you have eternal life.
Remember what is at stake, God is speaking and are we saying what He is saying? Or are we speaking our own message?
Whether it’s a Sunday pulpit, prayer meeting, Bible study group or any opportunity for the preaching of God’s Word, I can hear God commanding us to be approved workmen and women who will handle His word correctly and thus be approved of Him.
GBUR (Groupe Biblique Universitaire du Rwanda)