- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2004

The following are excerpts of a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Peter Kemeny at Good News Presbyterian Church in Frederick, Md.

Amazon.com carries a million different books. Why is our church, like many others, obsessed about one book in particular — and at that an ancient book?

Why are we so fixated on the Bible?

Why do we prefer the marriage advice of the apostle Paul over that of Dr. Phil, the parenting wisdom of Solomon over that of Dr. Spock, the cosmology of Moses over that of Carl Sagan?

Why do many evangelical seminaries, such as the one I attended, teach little about pastoral care (that can be learned through internships), nothing about church administration, but everything that can be packed into three or four years about how to accurately interpret and apply the Bible?

Why do we not, like some churches, find our center of gravity in social action, counseling ministries, praise bands or charismatic leaders? Why do we have such an obsession about preaching and teaching the Bible? We focus on teaching and preaching the Bible because God uses the message of the Bible to bring people to salvation. Peter wrote, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God. … And this is the Word that was preached to you” (I Peter 1:23,25).

Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

We focus on teaching and preaching the Bible because the Bible transforms Christians. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers, “When you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is at work in you who believe” (I Thessalonians 2:13).

We focus on teaching and preaching the Bible because preaching was the focus of Jesus’ ministry. While in Capernaum, Jesus had a healing ministry that would make Benny Hinn salivate (Mark 1:29-34). “The whole town gathered at the door and Jesus healed many who had various diseases” (1:33-34). The next day the disciples told Jesus, “‘Everyone is looking for you.’” Jesus’ response to the this news is telling: “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else — to the nearby villages — so I can preach there also. That is why I have come” (1:38).

Did you read that? Though healing was an important aspect of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus explains that the chief reason he came was not to heal, but to preach. We focus on teaching and preaching the Bible because preaching was the essence of the apostles’ ministry. God commands us to baptize, but that is secondary to proclaiming God’s Word. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:17-18).

If someone is not transformed by reading or sitting under the preaching of God’s Word, the problem may be in the hearer. “The man without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14; cf. Matthew 13:22). If that is you, ask God to open your eyes.

Continue reading and sitting under the preaching of God’s Word.

If someone is not transformed by the preaching of Scripture, the problem may be with the preacher. He may not actually be preaching the Bible, but using the Bible as a pretext to present worldly wisdom, psychological or political. The preacher may not believe the Bible is God’s Word. Or the preacher simply may be a bore. Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked, “I may have entered the ministry if certain clergymen didn’t come across as undertakers.” The problem never lies in the Bible, for “the Word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). Never rest from studying it and applying it to your life. Would that it may be said of us, as was said of John Bunyan: “You can prick him anywhere, and his blood is bibline.”

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