I recall when becoming a Christian and listening to people belonging to St. James Church in Kenilworth in the Cape. They were extremely complimentary about the pastor, Frank Retief. As people had their lives turned around because of being born again through the Gospel being preached, they invited their family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues. It was amazing how people got to Church up to an hour before service times to ensure they got a seat near to the pulpit.
In those days tapes were used … and the man who headed up that ministry worked at night and weekends to make sufficient copies of the sermons to meet the orders.
What really touched me was people saying things like … “Did you hear what Rev said about …” They were referring to the exposition of the Bible. The Church atmosphere was warm, friendly and welcoming. There was an excitement about being at Church or Bible Study.
As people grew spiritually so their morals and ethics in all of life changed. Marriages were healed, alcoholics and drug addicts were delivered, abuse, swearing, adultery, fornication and many other vices ceased. Children had dad’s at home. Wives had husband’s at home. Money stretched for the month even though peopled tithed. There was job security because people served Jesus in their work. O, the list goes on and on … when the Word is expounded faithfully coupled with fervent prayer, God works Gospel miracles resulting in excitement as manna from heaven falls into the soul!
The Sermon on the Mount is finished … but the results and responses are not:
Mt 7:28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
1) Jesus had not finished His teaching. He had completed His “Sermon of the Mount” but more was to follow. Read the Gospels and you will see His further teaching whilst on earth. In Him completing this Sermon, He had set the tone for His future ministry. There was no ambiguity about the message and messages He would deliver. He never played to the audience … He was pointed, practical and penetrating. His Words hit home to the heart, whether loved or hated.
2) The results were amazement. Not that everyone enjoyed what He taught, though we read … the crowds were amazed at his teaching. The amazement came from the accurate interpretation of the Scriptures. They had never heard this teaching before in their time. It was riveting. The word for “amazed” comes from a Greek word used for “strike out, expel by a blow, drive out or away, to cast off by a blow, to strike one out of self-possession, to strike with panic, shock or astonishment”. It’s something like the self-assured boxer being sent to the canvas with a solid blow from his less known and ranked opponent. Being knocked out and counted out he was driven out of the ring and away into the changing rooms. He and his manger and trainer were shocked and astonished that an unknown boxer could illuminate their star boxer so quickly … and with one blow. Now they are ridden with panic because at the end of the day their work yields an income … and this will now be lost to them. Now translate this meaning to the crowd. Some were excited because of such teaching that fed their souls … but I would suggest that the majority were shocked and filled with panic because their religion was dead. This teaching was a knockout blow to them. They were spiritually and emotionally affected so much so it caused panic. That was Jesus’ intention. It is also His intention for you and me. He does not want people who profess Him as Lord and seek His Kingdom to be confused by “easy believism” teaching of today. Easy Believism is a teaching that says just believe in Jesus and you are saved … without any repentance.
3) Jesus taught with authority. We can never repeat it sufficiently because of the many voices denying it … Jesus is God. Together with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, Jesus, God the Son is One, Living and Eternal God who is the only God that exists. Now looking at the Old Testament … God is the author. Who is God? Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This means God … the Lord Jesus is the author of the Bible … all of it! Therefore He knows the content of the Bible and He knows what He means in every word, phrase, verse, chapter and book. This means that He could teach with authority because He knew exactly what He meant as He inspired human authors to pen the parchments.
2 Pet 1:20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
4) Legalistic, Liberal and Image seekers cannot excite the soul because they don’t preach truth! Telling jokes can be exciting … so can story telling … but these do not have any spiritual and eternal value for the soul. Sadly this is true with many who distort God’s Word to make it say what they want it to say. They excite the emotions of people with their error interpretations but they leave the souls empty and destitute. This is why so many have to return a few times a week for their “fix”. Let’s apply these things to preachers and congregants of today.
(1) No preacher is ever finished preaching through the Bible. Even if a preacher could preach through the entire Bible to one congregation, it does not mean he has exhausted what the Bible has to say.
(2) Correct exposition ought to result is amazement because of more spiritual light flooding the soul. Using the boxer analogy … the winning boxer must have been amazed, shocked and astonished that he landed the knockout blow. True Christians will be astounded in a good way as the Bible speaks to their soul. They will acknowledge their sin as it is exposed and repent of it.
(3) Preachers can teach with authority if their expositions are accurate. Sermon construction is hard work. Time, effort, prayer and sweat are needed as the preacher uses all the tools available to craft the message. Once he understands the passage and gets his exegesis right, he will be able to say … “This is what God is saying to you … go and do it.”
(4) Although there is no “Perfect Church”, find a Church that has a Christian pastor who loves the Word and souls, believes in the authority of the Bible as inspired, inerrant and authoritative and serves under a supportive leadership to who he is accountable.
Father, thank You for these verses that help us to know what type of Church to look for. Amen.