Advice for Preachers and Teachers (15)
“Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20.26, 27
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.. 2 Timothy 3.16, 17
“But let us turn our attention to the third step which I have decided to treat as the Lord may direct my discourse. He will be the most expert investigator of Holy Scriptures who has first read all of them and has some knowledge of them, at least through reading them if not through understanding them.”
- Augustine, On Christian Doctrine
The whole truth
I love this wording from the Westminster Confession of Faith: “Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased” (1.1).
The Scriptures are the whole truth of God for all our most essential needs. They won’t help you select the best toothbrush, or enable you suddenly to be able to change the oil in your car. But they will affect those deep dispositions, that fervent and far-ranging outlook, and those precious priorities of your soul, so that your decisions and choices in every aspect of life will more approximate those that Jesus would make if He were living in your skin.
Because when His Word – all Scripture, the whole counsel of God – is being consistently and thoroughly massaged into the chambers of your soul, the Spirit has everything He needs to recover the likeness of Christ in you (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
Note the many advantages of having the whole counsel of God in all of Scripture, cited by the Westminster divines: The Bible preserves the truth we need for full and abundant life. It is the foundation for and principal comforter of the Church. It guard us against the corruption of the flesh; arms us to resist and repel the devil and to overcome the temptations of the world; and shows itself to be most necessary for realizing more of our great salvation day by day.
This is precisely why Augustine believed it is important to read the entire Bible, gaining knowledge of every book and all its parts, growing in understanding of it all, and discerning the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ on every page. We know the truth of the old hymn when we sing,
More about Jesus in His Word,
holding communion with my Lord,
hearing His voice in every line,
making each faithful saying mine.” (More about Jesus)
Delighting to feed
We understand why the prophets talked about feeding on the Scriptures with great delight:
I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth
More than my necessary food. Job 23.12
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Psalm 19.10
Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
O LORD God of hosts. Jeremiah 15.16
The Scriptures spread before us a complete and inexhaustible spiritual cuisine, by which, as we feed on the whole of it, we allow the Spirit to shape us into the image of Jesus and equip us for every good work.
Augustine wanted the shepherds he taught to be always filling themselves with all of Scripture. He didn’t expect them to understand it all, but he insisted they feed consistently on every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4.4). This has always been good advice, not only for the shepherds of God’s flock, but also for all His sheep. We do well to take this encouragement to heart and practice daily and continuous reading in all of Scripture, and to instruct and lead those we teach to do the same.
Encouraging one another
How do you keep your reading of all of Scripture consistent, lively, and fruitful? What is your practice of doing what Augustine and Paul command? How do you read Scripture daily, seeking the face of Jesus therein (2 Cor. 4.6) and submitting to the Spirit of God as He forms you into the image of Christ?
Do you journal? If so, what is your approach to journaling through the Word? Have you found any apps or other tools helpful to encourage consistent journaling?
Do you share what God is teaching you with your family and friends? How do you let the Word you are reading dwell in you richly, so that you grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and are always ready to encourage and admonish other believers (Col. 3.16)?
Share your answers to these questions with me, and I’ll post them on the Insights column of the Resources for Shepherds page at our website. The world and its information/media/entertainment storm is always trying to distract us from time in the Word of God. We need to learn from one another and encourage one another in this. For if we’re not filling with the Scriptures day by day, what will we have to offer those who look to us for leadership and direction and comfort and hope?
“The Prophet knew that nothing was better than to receive whatever proceeded from God; and he testifies that he found sweetness in God's word.”
- John Calvin, Commentary on Jeremiah 15.16
T. M. Moore
Need a refresher?
I have often found that reading books about the Bible and how to get the most out of it can be helpful in refreshing my love for Scripture and commitment to daily feeding on it. I offer one of my own: The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart can be a good review, reminder, and rewind for you in this calling to feed on all the counsel of God in His Word. It’s also a useful book for training leaders, teachers, and the people of God in general on the importance of daily feeding on Scripture. Order your copy by clicking here.
We are pleased to offer Worship Guides for use in your families or small groups. Each guide includes a complete service of worship, and they are free to download and share by clicking here.
Please prayerfully consider sharing with The Fellowship of Ailbe through your giving. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).