The Great Omission in the Great Commission
Recent events in the past three years —both personal and national—have forced me to reevaluate much of my thinking about such crucial issues as war and peace, civil government, marriage, parenting, even agrarian v. suburban lifestyles. I began to realize how little I really understood what our Lord did when He created the family, the church, and society.
What I try to offer here at Dave Black Online is a biblical look at these and other issues. I have provided numerous examples from my own life. More importantly, I have tried to analyze, in depth, what Scripture says. The result is something my wife and I are striving to achieve in every area of our life.
One area I’ve come to realize is vitally important in our society is the importance of sound doctrine as a basis for everything we do as a family, as a church, and as a society. Thankfully, within conservative Christianity there is an increasing number of people whose lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for truth and will not be put off with glib sermons. They refuse to be satisfied with traditional “interpretations.” They are athirst for the living God, and they will not be satisfied until they have personally tasted the Word of Life.
The Baptist expositor Charles H. Spurgeon once said:
We only progress in sound living as we progress in sound understanding. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Do not say of any error, “It is a mere matter of opinion.” No man indulges an error of judgment, without sooner or later tolerating an error in practice. Hold fast the truth, for by so holding the truth shall you be sanctified by the Spirit of God.
The great pastor-teacher A. W. Tozer put it this way:
It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table. The truth of Wesley’s words is established before our eyes: “Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this.”
Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold “right opinions,” probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was ever at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.
Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.
In my opinion, the primary reason for the confusion regarding what the Bible teaches is the absence of Bible teaching! I believe that sound biblical teaching, and sound biblical teaching alone, can cure the basic ailments of the church. Expository preaching presents the whole counsel of God and avoids illegitimate proof-texting (pulling verses out of context or reading meanings into them never intended by the Holy Spirit).
An example of expository preaching is the ministry of the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli. Like Luther, Zwingli believed that the Catholic Church had fallen away from the teachings of the Bible. Yet Zwingli made even more of the Scriptures as the pattern for the church than did Luther. Generally speaking, the Lutherans had followed the Catholic practice of reading only certain portions of the Bible in church each Sunday. Zwingli, on the other hand, started his preaching in Zurich in the year 1519 by going through the Gospel of Matthew word by word and verse by verse. Nor did he use a translation. He had the Greek New Testament in front of him on the pulpit and explained its meaning to the people in his own words. For people to rediscover the meaning of God’s Word was more thrilling than the discovery of America by Columbus!
I cannot emphasize this enough: Christians that are well-taught are well-equipped for life. Tragically, so much of what we call “preaching” today is nothing more than an extended evangelistic altar call, followed by umpteen verses of an “invitational” hymn until someone comes forward to “get saved” or “rededicate” their life. However, the Scriptures say that the pastor is to be, first and foremost, a teacher (Eph 4:11). One of the qualifications to be a pastor is to be “able to preach?”—no, “able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2). And 1 Corinthians 14:26 makes it clear that everything done in the church is to be for “edification,” that is, for the building up of the saints. That’s why I have published articles calling for a return to biblical teaching in our pulpits. These include:
So I ask: where are the teachers in our pulpits? They are scarcely to be found, despite the fact that our Lord’s Final Commission requires us to teach new converts in order to “make disciples” out of them (Matt 28:19). He said: “...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
This is the Great Omission in the Great Commission. May God raise up a new generation of pastor-teachers who will change this forever!
June 7, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book, Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon, will be released later this month.