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Two sibling doctrines: One gets all the attention.  The other goes unmentioned.  Actually, one is the darling of preachers.  The other might well think we are out to get it.

Authority and clarity.

These two doctrines matter.  Authority speaks of whose Word the Bible is.  It speaks of how His Word got to us.  It speaks of why we must hear it and apply it.

Clarity speaks of whose Word the Bible is.  It speaks of how well His Word got to us.  It speaks of how we can grasp it and apply it.

Some speakers overtly present the process by which the Bible got into our hands: how God was involved in revelation, inspiration, transmission, canonization and even in translation.  Other speakers don’t get into specifics, but they keep on affirming that this is the Word of God.

Few speakers overtly present the clarity of Scripture: how God has communicated so well that His great book is able to be understood through diligent observation and interpretation, with prayerful reliance on His Spirit for illumination.  Many speakers don’t get into clarity at all; if anything, they keep on giving the impression that God’s Word is out of reach to the average person.

That is the issue.  While authority gets regular affirmation in the church, clarity is not only oft-ignored, but also oft-undermined.  How so?

How easy it is to give the impression that people need the preacher in order to make sense of the Scriptures.  How easy to undermine the listeners’ confidence that they have the necessary competence for reading and understanding the Bible.

I’m sorry to suggest this, but we need to ponder this issue: too many of us undermine the confidence of our listeners to take up and read.  

Here’s the bottom line for today: the clarity of Scripture and our preaching.  It is not about whether our sermons are clear or not (let’s hope they are).  The issue is whether our listeners perceive themselves to be competent to pick up their Bibles and read.

That is a big part of our task.  That is why I think clarity deserves a break.



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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John E Miller

commented on May 7, 2012

I believe that the truth that lies behind this article is of the greatest importance. Why does a man stand up to preach or teach from the scriptures? Is it to impress the audience with his knowledge, his authority or his eloquence? Time and time again on this forum we read how to preach "great sermoms". Such ambition is foreign to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The task of the preacher or bible teacher is to open God's word and relying on the inward power and help of the Holy Spirit of God, to bring a message that points away from self to Christ. The clear purpose of every preaching that is Spirit empowered must be to draw its listeners to Jesus. If a preaching does that it will create in those who hear a thirst for the word of God.

Dean Johnson

commented on May 7, 2012

I always tell our people that if they'd have spent the same time studying the passage this week that I spent, they could have come up with all this themselves. There's nothing "hidden" that they can't see themselves when they study it.

Dean Johnson

commented on May 7, 2012

It is NOT a compliment when people say "Pastor, you see things in the Scriptures that I never would have seen!"

Matthew Amos

commented on May 7, 2012

"How can they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent?" Mr. Miller I agree.

Anthony R. Watson

commented on May 7, 2012

To Dean Johnson, I have to emphatically disagree with you. If the people that we serve could come up with what we as preachers of the Gospel come up with, then we would be unnecessary. I refer you to Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (KJV).

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 7, 2012

I would ask what Eph. 4:11-14 means then? "And he gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelist; and some, pastors and teachers." These are gifts to the church. So why did he give them? Verses 12-14 "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Do I believe that that people can read and study the Bible and have the Holy Spirit illuminate them to the truths? Certainly. Do I believe that people can read and study the Bible and come to the wrong conclusions? Certainly. Most Christians are too busy to really sit down and study the Bible as it should be studied. We as pastors have that time because that is what we are called by God to do. Thus Eph. 4:11-14.

Scott Dossett

commented on May 7, 2012

Everyone is confusing doctrine with scripture. Your individual doctrines (what you "come up with") are neither inspired nor authoritative, so set your pride aside and acknowledge the historical breadth of scripture interpretation. Secondly, if Scripture was so "clear" (clarity) then we would have no need for interpretation. Yet we DO need interpretation and interpreters precisely because scripture is not a pre-packaged set of doctrines. Just remember that your interpretation is exactly that... YOUR interpretation (or your appropriation of someone else's interpretation: Calvin, Luther, etc). As Protestants, everyone has a right to interpret scripture.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 7, 2012

Anthony R. Watson, the text from Amos does not exactly apply because most of us who are pastors and preachers do not have the gift of being prophets, as well. Dennis Cocks, as to the meaning of Ephesians 4, that passage is talking about the spiritual growth of the saints. Our primary purpose as pastors/teachers is NOT to tell people what the Bible means, but to teach them how to study and interpret the Bible for themselves. You wrote, "Most Christians are too busy to really sit down and study the Bible as it should be studied." If that is a reality in our congregations, then that is a failure on our part as pastors/teachers. It means we have not helped those whom God has placed in our care to reorient their lives so that the disciplines of Bible study, prayer, worship, and ministry are at the center of their lives, around which everything else is organized.

Alexander Shaw

commented on May 7, 2012

"If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound......" - not only must the content be authoritative and authentic but it must be clear. Jesus was authoritative and authentic and people knew what He was preaching and teaching, although some did not like it and some did not appreciate it - but He was simple and clear. Simple must never be confused with easy!

Stanley Florence

commented on May 7, 2012

I agree with mr john miller,its all about GOD WILL ,if you do your part he will do his. one plants,one waters,and GOD gives they increases (1 cor.3:6-7).

Michael James Monaghan

commented on May 7, 2012

Whilst I am sympathetic to Dennis 's appeal to Eph 4:11-14 I would ask where are the apostles and prophets today , as well as the other ministries on the list ?. I know there may be problems but , were these particular ministries at that time given by the ascended Christ because of the new revelation of the Church- jews and gentiles co-sharing and equal as members of the Body Of Christ ?. Later Paul was to write to Timothy that 'Ministers' were chosen by the church and their gifts recognised .; and they had to have certain spiritual and moral qualifications . ?. These are still necessary for the edifying of the saints and the building up of the Body of Christ ?. It's just a thought !.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 7, 2012

michael James Monaghan, Eph 4:13-14 states that the offices mentioned in v.11 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors/teachers) would remain in the church "UNTIL (emphasis mine) we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." I think most of us would agree the Church has not reached that point yet! I do agree that the offices of apostle and prophet may not be as common in the contemporary Church as that of the evangelist and the pastor/teacher. But on the basis of Eph 4:13-14, I hesitate to say that God would not raise up apostles and prophets for the Church as needed should he so desire.

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 7, 2012

Michael, I certainly agree that the gift of apostles and prophets are no longer in effect. Apostles were men that saw the resurrected Christ. Prophets were those that brought a new word from God. We have the entire New Testament, we have received the perfect law of liberty (the ENTIRE Word of God). 1 Cor. 13:9-10 Today God is using evangelist, pastors and teachers to carry on the work in the church. Fernado, I certainly agree that we as pastors and teachers are to teach our people to study for themselves. We are to help them become mature Christians. That's what the text says. But do you really believe that the average Christian is going to open their Bible and delve out all the truths that we as pastors and teachers do? I wish they would, but one would have to be presumptuous to really think they will. And you wrote in response "If that is a reality in our congregations, then that is a failure on our part as pastors/teachers." Why is that our fault? I always adominish my congregation to put God first in everything including our time. Is the FACT that MOST won't my fault? I think not. So when we gather together as a church I preach and teach the Word of God. And if I really believed that I wasn't teaching them something, then I would just quit preaching and teaching. Why should I waste my time if they can do it all on their own? Again, I know (as ALL pastors should know) how long it takes to expound a portion of Scripture. To think the average Christian will put that time in is wishful thinking.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 7, 2012

Dennis Cocks, I appreciate your thoughts. You wrote: "[T]he gift of apostles and prophets are no longer in effect." I'm curious as to how you reconcile that assertion with Eph 4:13-14, where, as I stated earlier, it seems pretty clear that these gifts would remain until the Church reaches unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. Do you have Biblical support for your claim? You did mention 1 Cor 13:9-10: "[B]ut when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away." But again, I fail to see in what way one could claim that the "perfect" has come. I'm interested in your thoughts regarding that.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 7, 2012

Dennis Cocks, as for the other issue, you wrote: "But do you really believe that the average Christian is going to open their Bible and delve out all the truths that we as pastors and teachers do?" The problem with that question is that it assumes that "we as pastors and teachers" are able to delve out all the truths that are in the Bible. I'm sure you don't actually believe that! Are there certain truths that we as pastors and teachers will be able to delve out from the Bible that the average Christian may not be able to? Perhaps. But by that same token, there are truths that those average Christians will be able delve out from the Bible that we "professionals" may miss! That is why we need each other. In answer to this question, however, you wrote: "[O]ne would have to be presumptuous to really think they will." Wow, what Bible have you been reading? Because the Bible I read tells of people walking on water, the blind seeing, the lame walking, the deaf shouting. The Bible I read tells of people calling down fire from heaven, dead people being brought to life, 5000 men (plus women and children) being fed by 5 loaves of bread and two pieces of fish, people rejoicing in the midst of suffering. The Bible I read tells me that with God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!!!! And you think it's presumptuous to believe that a person who has committed their life to becoming a disciple of Christ cannot or will not learn how to study and interpret the Bible for themselves, under the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, without having to depend on ME to tell them what the Bible means?! To paraphrase "The Princess Bride": I don't think "presumptuous" means what you think it means! In fact, in the light of Scripture, I think it would be far more presumptuous to believe that any Christian has to depend on me to tell them what the Bible means. Which leads me to the final point: why is it OUR fault if the average Christian does not take the time to study the Bible for themselves? Mr. Mead is right on target, here: "too many of us undermine the confidence of our listeners to take up and read." And the reason we undermine their confidence is because WE have no confidence in them. We blindly accept most Christians not studying the Bible as a "fact" that we can't do anything about. But the people in a congregation will rise to the level of the expectations of their pastor. And when we say things like: "To think the average Christian will put that time in is wishful thinking," demonstrates that we don't expect much from our congregations. How sad. You wrote: "I always adominish my congregation to put God first in everything including our time." But that's not going to cut it. This work--and make no mistake that this is our PRIMARY work according to Eph 4--has to be done one-on-one and with small groups of people. This work has to be done not just from the pulpit, but mostly in their homes and their workplaces and in conversations over dinner. We pour our lives into these people. We "infect" them with a passion for God and for his Word, with a vision for the kind of person they can become in Christ. We climb down from the pedestal that we like to get on top of, that makes us feel good and important, and we show them that there is nothing special about us, and that there is nothing that God has revealed to us that he cannot reveal to them, too, if they are willing to learn how to read his Word and hear his voice. THAT is what it means to be a Pastor/Teacher. We're not simply teaching them about the Bible. We're teaching them how to live their lives in harmony with the story of the Bible.

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 7, 2012

Fernando, I'll answer you later. Right now I have to go to do a Bible study at a local prison (why in the world they need me there to teach the Word of God to them is beyond me though. They should be able to do that themselves! But I'll go anyway.)

Gavin Lightfoot

commented on May 7, 2012

Fernando Villegas - right on, I couldn't agree with you more. It appears this article has offended some very delicate ego's

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 7, 2012

Just so everyone knows, I do NOT think I am a somebody! I am VERY HUMBLED that God called me to preach and teach His Word. I do NOT claim to have ALL knowledge! That is NOT what I am saying here. I NEVER said that Christians CANNOT be illuminated by the Holy Spirit to understand God's Word. I merely said, most of them won't. Let me ask you "humble" pastors who do not think that God calls pastors to teach the Word of God to their congregations. Did you go to school to learn how to preach and teach God's Word? Did you study Greek or Hebrew or both? What did you learn in Bible school or seminary? Do you not think that education gives you a little more insight into the Scriptures and how to rightly divide the Word of God? Fernando, you wrote, "Our primary purpose as pastors/teachers is NOT to tell people what the Bible means, but to teach them how to study and interpret the Bible for themselves." Isn't that statement a bit "presumptuous"? Why do they need us to teach them how to study and interpret the Bible? Don't they have the same Holy Spirit as we do? Let the Holy Spirit teach them. Then you wrote, "The Bible I read tells me that with God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!!!!" I would say all things are possible with God that are according to His purpose. Is it possible for God to sin? Certainly not! 2 Peter 3:9 says that God's will is that NONE perish. But people still do. Does God want His people to study their Bibles as diligently as His called pastors? Yes, but will they? I think you give man more credit than God does. Psalm 103:14 "For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are DUST." I tell you what, the next time you walk on water, give sight to the blind, cause the lame to walk, give hearing to the deaf, call down fire from heaven, raise the dead, and feed over 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, call me and I will come and join your church. Because if average Christians can do these things at your church, I want to be a part of that. It must be nice to be the pastor of a church full of mature saints that always study the Word of God as much and as well as their pastor. It must be nice to pastor a church where every saint is grounded firmly in God's Word and doesn't need you to help them through difficult passages in the Bible. It must be nice to be such a great pastor that people never come up with the wrong intepretations of the Bible because their pastor has taught them how to study so well. It must be nice to have a congregation full of people who can sit down for hours upon hours studying the Word and still go to work, have time for the family, and still deal with all the other issues of life. It must be great to be the pastor of a church that knows the Bible so well that they don't even need to come to church and hear it preached. They can just stay at home and preach their own sermon to their family. I on the other hand have failed in my calling because no matter how much I exhort God's people, they still fail, they still do not study as they should, they are not always faithful to church. They still come up with wrong interpretation of what they do study on their own. I have people who will only learn anything from the Word of God when they are at church. Maybe I should just quit because I am failing greatly in my calling. Even though we read time and again in the Bible about God's rebelious people, how they wouldn't listen to Him either, I should hold myself accountable for the people that God has given to to pastor when they don't study as well as I do. I am to blame, not them.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 7, 2012

Dennis Cocks, it appears I hit a nerve, and I apologize for that. I really am sorry. My intention is never to offend. I write passionately about this subject because, well, this is my life's calling. This is what gives me the motivation to wake up each morning grateful to be a small part of God's purposes. Let me respond to some of your thoughts and questions. (1) First, please do not take what I write as being against you personally. I don't know you personally. I was very intentional in my use of the pronouns WE and OUR. If there is a problem that I rail against, I do so with the full recognition that I am a part of that problem. (2) Along that same line, I also don't pretend to be a humble pastor. I am not humble. I am very proud. I struggle with pride every single day, and everything within me wants to stay on that pedestal. And what's worse is that my church members also want me to stay on that pedestal! So everyday I pray for God's mercy, and I ask him to remind me that if I do not fight against that pride, it will destroy me, my family, and my churches. (3) It is not my position that pastors should not teach God's Word. I've been reading through my comments again, and I suppose I can understand how someone can get that impression, so let me clarify: part of our responsibility as pastors is to teach God's Word. BUT that is only a PART of our responsibility, not the whole. There is so much more that God wants for our ministry that I fear many of us (including myself!) are missing out on. (4) Yes, I did go to school. In six years of college and seminary, I took six preaching classes, a year and a half of Greek, a year and a half of Hebrew, and countless other classes on subjects such as hermeneutics, archeology, and exegesis of specific Biblical books. Do these tools help me to gain insights that might not be available to those who have not had the privilege of the education I've received? Sure. But again, because of the depth and breadth of God's Word, there are insights that average Christians could gain that I would miss! My education is a service to me; which I, in turn, use to serve my congregation. But my education does not make me an authority or an expert. (5) You wrote (with a touch of sarcasm, it seemed, although I hope I'm mistaken): "Why do they need us to teach them how to study and interpret the Bible? Don't they have the same Holy Spirit as we do? Let the Holy Spirit teach them." Well, they need us to teach them how to study and interpret the Bible because someone, at some point, taught US! And someone else, at some point before that, taught those who taught us. Yes, I believe the average Christian can learn how to study the Bible for themselves. But that is a skill that must be taught. And the main point I've been trying to make is that teaching that skill is a primary part of our calling as Pastors/Teachers. That is part of what I believe Paul is referring to in Eph 4 when he talks about equipping the saints for the work of ministry. (5a) By the way, you and I have very different perceptions of what the word "presumptuous" means. To me, it seems much less presumptuous to believe that I can teach someone to study the Bible for themselves than it is to believe that someone has to depend on me to tell them what the Bible means. (6) You wrote: "I think you give man more credit than God does." But it's not man I'm giving credit to, it is God. Jesus chose as his disciples twelve who were "uneducated, common men" (Acts 4:13). Peter had a tendency to speak first and think later. James and John had quick tempers. Thomas had doubts. And yet, through these men, God turned the Roman Empire upside down. Anything that any of us do is not because of us, it is because of God. Is it really hard to believe that God can still speak to and through "uneducated, common men"?

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 7, 2012

Dennis Cocks, (7) No, I have not seen the miracles that you and I mentioned (feeding the 5000, giving sight to the blind, etc.). But I've seen miracles just as powerful. Maybe I'm lucky, but I grew up in a home where "average Christians" took Bible study seriously. My grandfather was a tailor. My parents, now retired, were small business owners. They worked very hard. They were just as busy as the average Christian is today. If I am passionate today about studying the Bible for myself, it is because these average Christians modeled that passion for me. And it's not that they "[sat] down for hours upon hours studying the Word." They became knowledgeable of the Scriptures through the cumulative effect of studying little and often, under the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, over the course of years, then decades, and finally, a lifetime. No, not every Christian will live this way. Of course not, just like not everyone will be saved, as you pointed out. But every Christian CAN live this way. See, here's the deal. We as pastors live in this tension between seeing our church members as they ARE, and seeing them as they CAN BECOME. Which side of this tension we choose to believe will make all the difference in the world in our ministry. And I understand the frustration that comes from seeing people as they are. I get it. I've been there. I'm often discouraged by the apathy I see in my church members. Please don't interpret anything I've written to mean that I've got the perfect church, that we've got it all figured out. But I'm not going to let the frustration and discouragement blind me from the possibilities of who these rebellious sinners can become! I'm not going to give up on them. They are too precious to me. I'm not going to simply throw my hands up and say, "Well, they're too busy, most of them are not going to study for themselves, I may as well just do it for them and tell them what the Bible means." You wrote something that is absolutely true, and I appreciate that balancing perspective: the same Bible that records all those miracles we talked about also tells us that God's people are often stubborn, rebellious, hard-hearted, and they never got it right, at least not for very long. But here is what blows my mind: HE NEVER GIVES UP ON HIS CHURCH!!!! He doesn't give up on them because he knows what He can do in them. He knows that in the end, the church triumphs! The gates of hell will not prevail against it (Mt 16:18). The saints will be perfected. John has seen them, "a great multitude that no one could number" (Rev 7:9). And so despite who my church members are today, I choose to see them as they will be one day!! Maybe that's what the average Christian needs most: a pastor who will walk into their lives and open them up, through the Scriptures, to the possibilities of who they can become in Christ. Maybe if the average Christian had that kind of pastor, we'd see a very different church. (8) I want to close with an example, to show what this "looks like", at least for me, in my ministry: I have a small group of three guys (two of them Juniors in high school) whom I met with regularly. They are on the list of lay preachers who serve with me in the preaching ministry at one of my churches. So we get together and go over the sermons they're working on. We look at the texts and we share with each other what we see in those texts. In that context I share with them some instructions on how to do basic inductive Bible study. They are average Christians. They are very busy with school and/or work. But they're getting it. It's not easy, and it takes a lot of time. But little by little, they're getting it. And working with them, and hearing them preach whenever I get a chance, is one of the most rewarding experiences for me as a pastor.

Michael James Monaghan

commented on May 8, 2012

Dennis and Fernando and all- Im glad 50 of you agree that 'apostles and prophets' are not seen in the church ministry today. But the reason may be that the ministry Christ from heaven sent these ministries,- for perfecting the saints-forworks of service-for building up the body of Christ- may have been met during the time frame before Paul wrote to Timothy with ministerial instructions ?. Think of the crisis at that time. Firstly the Jews lost their special place ; then God done a new thing - Eph 2:3-5; and also united believing Jews and Gentiles in the one Body by absolving Jews from keeping the Law etc. There was a lot going on and their was new teaching to be acknowledged and taught which " was not made known to men in other generations as it has n o w been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets " Who these prophets aand apostles were I don't know and I don't think we are given their names . But they appear to be different than the previous prophets and 12 apostles and had a new different message and new revelation ?. I don't know if this has occured to you before in all your years of ministry . But it may be profitable to explore it if you will ?.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 8, 2012

michael James Monaghan, I'm not quite sure I understand what you're trying to say in your latest post. If you'd like me to comment, I'm going to need you to spell it out a bit more clearly for me. Thanks!

Michael James Monaghan

commented on May 8, 2012

Fernando V , it is not my intention to enter into a long dialogue over this matter of ministry . In the O.T Prophets and leaders were selected by God. In the Gospels the apostles were selected by Christ , In Acts time they were selected by the Holy Spirit and in Paul's later epistles (after Acts times ) as in Ephesians , they were selected by the risen Christ from where He ascended . Paul of course was called by the ascended Christ in the Acts times . So these ministries , apostles, prophets etc , were a special calling for a special time.They might not be the same as those in ministry today or for the same immediate reason . It was a time of great change and it needed an input of enabled men to build up the new Church of christian Jews and Christian Gentiles now one new man . The best way is to read Ephesians bearing this in mind and see if those things are so . ?. It could have been missed before through familiarity with tradition and familiar way of understanding ? Ps I think Dennis is on to something as a lot of christians do not open their Bibles or do serious research and study and a lot of their doctrine may be from a traditional way of a denomination or from I'm told , hyms. It may be adequate , but is it really enough ?.

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 8, 2012

When God was going to destroy the world with a flood, He used a man, Noah, to build an ark. Could God have said the word and an ark appear, could He have gathered the animals Himself, could He have preached that He was going to destroy the world Himself? Yes!But He chose to use a man. When God wanted to deliver His people from Egyptian bondage, He used a man, Moses, to lead them out. Could God have just killed the Egyptians and deliver His people? Yes, but He chose to use a man. When God wanted to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, He chose a man, Paul to do it. Could He have just done it Himself? Yes, but He chose to use a man. When God gave us the Great Commision to take the Gospel to all the world, could He have just done it Himslef? Yes, but He chose to use man. We see the results of man not doing what God called Him to do in Psalm 142:4 "I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; NO MAN CARED FOR MY SOUL." God doesn't need man to do anything, yet He has chosen to use us to carry His message to the world. Why in the world is it so egotistical, why in the world is it seemingly so heretical to believe that God uses man to teach His Word? 2 Tim. "PREACH THE WORD..." I know there is a difference between teaching and preaching, but both are expounding what God says. I've been made to feel like an egotistical heretic for saying that I believe pastors should teach God's people His Word. Why would you think that just because I believe this, I believe this is the only thing we as pastors are called to do? I didn't think I needed to qualify what I said with the other things we pastors do. I assumed everyone who is a pastor would know that. I live the Word of God in front of the people God has given me. I have been there to comfort them when loved ones have died, preached the funerals, performed their weddings, been there for the birth of their children, etc. etc. etc. Why anyone would get the idea that I climb up on a pedestal and proclaim God's Word like some kind of Lord just because I believe that is PART of what we do is beyond me. I am very thankful that people have grown in their walk with Christ through the ministry God has given me. People have not only learned about God's Word through the teaching and preaching of my ministry, they have learned what it looks like to follow Christ from me as I try to follow Christ. Teaching and preaching is only a part of what I do, but God has used it to help His people in many ways. If that is somehow wrong to some, I don't know what to say. And again, yes I believe we are to help people learn to studay also.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 8, 2012

michael, I understand about the historical context. I understand those were special times and a special kind of leadership was needed. But what you never made clear was how that historical context limits Paul's words--"until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ"--to mean, "until this New Church has been established," or "until the cannon of Scripture is closed." It sounds like you are suggesting that now that the Christian church has been established, we have now attained the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. But I'm not sure if that's what you're trying to say, or not. You wrote that it is not your intention to enter a long dialogue concerning this issue, and I can certainly respect that. I know we're all very busy! So I guess we'll just have to leave it at that and agree to disagree. I do want to express, however, my appreciation for your willingness to engage in a respectful dialogue. May God bless your ministry richly!

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 8, 2012

Dennis, again, thank you for your thoughts and for the opportunity for me to continue to clarify my position, especially since I feel that you might be reading somethings into what I have written that I have never meant to communicate. In fact, I suspect that we probably agree more than it may seem we do. Let's take this again point by point: (1) Again, please, please, please do not take what I have written as a personal indictment on your ministry or your spirituality. I don't know how to make this any clearer. I am speaking out of my own personal experience, as well as general observations I have noticed regarding pastoral ministry in 21st century North America. I'm very sorry that you have felt like an egotistical heretic; but quite frankly, I don't know that I've written anything to make you feel that way. If you point out specific quotes, I will be more than willing to apologize. The only thing I can think of is using the word "presumptuous"; but, in fairness, you are the one who introduced that word into the conversation to describe my position. My use of the word "presumptuous" was in response to your comment. Nevertheless, if it came off sounding bad, I sincerely apologize. I don't know how much clearer I can make this. (2) Yes, God uses men (and women, but that is for another conversation!). He used Noah and Moses and Paul. He uses Dennis Cocks and Fernando Villegas. And what does he use us for? To preach and teach his word? Yes. To teach others how to study the Bible for themselves? Yes. I think it is clear we are both in agreement in this fundamental issue. (3) Where I see our disagreement most clearly is in the following two quotes: First--"But do you really believe that the average Christian is going to open their Bible and delve out all the truths that we as pastors and teachers do? I wish they would, but one would have to be presumptuous to really think they will." I believe the average Christian can open their Bibles and delve out truths that we as pastors and teacher may miss. And I don't think it is presumptuous to think so. Second--"Again, I know (as ALL pastors should know) how long it takes to expound a portion of Scripture. To think the average Christian will put that time in is wishful thinking." I disagree, because I have seen many "average Christians" do just that, including both my parents, my grandfather, and the various lay preachers who serve with me in the preaching ministry of the two churches that I pastor. Not every "average Christian" does so, true. But enough do in order for me to know that it is not wishful thinking to believe that more can also do it. (4) All I'm trying to say is that there is an attitude expressed in those two quotes that betrays a lack of confidence in our church members; which in turn leads us to "keep on giving the impression that God?s Word is out of reach to the average person," and "to undermine the listeners? confidence that they have the necessary competence for reading and understanding the Bible" as Mr. Mead has argued. At the end of the day, I'm simply cautioning us pastors/teachers against that attitude. And just to make it absolutely clearly that I am not saying this against you personally: this attitude and this lack of confidence in the average Christian is something that I fight against every day. This caution is for me. You alone can determine whether or not this caution is for you as well. Take it for what it's worth.

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 8, 2012

Fernando, maybe I was a little too sensitive but here are the quotes, "We climb down from the pedestal that we like to get on top of, that makes us feel good and important, and we show them that there is nothing special about us, and that there is nothing that God has revealed to us that he cannot reveal to them, too, if they are willing to learn how to read his Word and hear his voice." The only issue is "We climb down from the pedestal we like to get on top of, that makes us feel good and important." I do not believe that because I teach and preach the Word that I think I am worthy to be placed on a pedestal. And the other quote was "Wow, what Bible have you been reading?" This is a quote from me saying that the average Christian won't delve into the Bible themselves. I understand the context of what you were saying, but questioning what Bible I read because of what I said just struck a nerve. The other one wasn't from you but in reference to what you were saying (post 17). I think the issue is not what we believe "presumptuous" means, but what "average" means. I am not talking about Christians that are not in the ministry as "average." I have five men in my church that preach from time to time. They of course are in their Bibles studying for those messages. Others in my church are faithful in their daily devotions. But I would consider these Christians above average in our day. In my opinion from what I have observed, Christianity in America is 3000 miles wide and 1 inch thick. That to me is sadly what I would call the "average Christian" in our day. And if I didn't have confidence that people could change, believe me, I would not continue being a pastor! This calling takes its toll.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 8, 2012

Dennis, I see where you're coming from, and so I apologize. As I said, I'm quite passionate when I write about how I view pastoral ministry; and I allowed my passion to express itself in literary embellishments that communicated ideas I never intended, for which I nonetheless take responsibility. I hope by now I have rectified the situation by making it clear that nothing I wrote was meant as an attack on you or your ministry. The quote about the pedestal, as I mentioned, I was very intentional in using first person plural pronouns. The truth is that it may not be a problem for you--and if it isn't, consider yourself truly blessed!--but it IS a big problem for me. I struggle with not wanting to get off that pedestal. It DOES make me feel good. It DOES make me feel important. This sense of pride, this sense of entitlement, is so insidious. Like you said, this calling takes its toll, and Satan's voice is constantly there to tell me, "I deserve to be on that pedestal. After all I sacrificed, after all my education, I deserve to be recognized as the important man that I am." I suspect perhaps some others on here may relate with this battle against pride, but mainly I was preaching to myself. The quote about what Bible you read, again that was a literary embellishment that apparently went too far. I'm glad that you understood the point of what I was trying to say, but I AM sorry that the phrase struck a nerve. Finally, as to what the word "average" means: I've been thinking about just that as we've shared this conversation over the last couple of days (wow, did we really just barely start yesterday!!). I will agree with your assessment that in general, Christianity appears to be 3000 miles wide and an inch deep. One of the primary points I've been trying to get across has been not to accept that perception as a "fact" that we can't do anything about, because that will ultimately undermine our confidence in our church members, which will in turn undermine their confidence in themselves. And the more I've thought about all this, the more I'm coming to realize that maybe there is no such thing as an "average" Christian. I think of my own church members, and I'm struck with the reality that none of them are the same. Sure, they share a lot of things in common. But more importantly, each of them have some unique struggles and issues that they deal with, and I must not ignore that fact. And even more importantly, each of them have unique potential to become, in Christ, so much more than they are right now. You and I both have confidence that people can change. We may not be able to change the Christian culture as a whole. We're probably not even able to change all the church members God has entrusted to us personally. But there are a few into whose lives we can enter and help them to change, to become more of what God created them to become. For me personally, maybe I need to stop worrying about what the "average Christian" does or doesn't do. Maybe I need to start focusing more on helping a few of the saints to change and mature, and then just see where we go from there.

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 8, 2012

Fernando, you said, "One of the primary points I've been trying to get across has been not to accept that perception as a "fact" that we can't do anything about, because that will ultimately undermine our confidence in our church members, which will in turn undermine their confidence in themselves." I agree, as I said, if I didn't believe people could change, I'd get out of the ministry. And thank God that He has allowed me to see that change in many of my church members. But again, I have also seen that others just never seem to get it. They continue on doing destructive things that ruin their lives, families, and marriages, and nothing you can say or do or live out among them seems to make any difference. So I do believe that people can and do change, but I also believe that some won't no matter what. That may seem pessimistic to you, but to me that is just the reality of life. Thanks for your last post.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 8, 2012

Dennis, I don't think that's pessimistic at all. In fact, I agree with you that some people will never change, no matter what I do. I accept that. The thing is, though, I don't know which ones will change and which ones won't. So, I'm not going to write anyone off, as I'm quite sure you don't, either. I've come to realize that you and I are in fundamental agreement on most of these issues. We're simply looking at things from different perspectives and different angles, balancing each other by different emphases. So I appreciate your point of view, and I appreciate our conversation. From my end, I've certainly been challenged and edified by it!

Gale O''neil

commented on May 10, 2012

Clarity and authority must be easy because we have about six thousand expressions of the Christian faith in this country. They all read, study and preach the same Bible but come to different conclusions. Of course the other guy/gal is wrong and I am right when it comes to understanding the Bible, but that is to be expected!

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 10, 2012

Gale O"Neil, the presence of many different denominations does not argue against the clarity or authority of Scriptures. Whatever differences we may have with each other--and some of those difference are more significant than others--the vast majority of Christians are in agreement with the clear, saving teachings of the Bible, such as salvation by faith in Christ. The gospel does not require that everyone interpret every detail of the Bible in the same way, despite the impression that is given off by some of us on here. The gospel requires us to recognize that despite our differences--ethnically, economically, theologically, and so forth--we are all part of the people of God, united solely by our faith in Jesus Christ. That much is clear from Scriptures. As for me personally, I make no claim to be the only one who is right and everyone else wrong. God is infallible. I'm not. I think that much is pretty clear from Scriptures, too!

John E Miller

commented on May 13, 2012

Many different denominations have given rise to many unscriptural doctrines because people have followed false teachers rather than the scriptures.

Gale O''neil

commented on May 13, 2012

Fernando Villegas, Please read John Miller below. Do I need to say any more? I rest my case!!!!

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 13, 2012

Gale, I think I get where you are coming from, but I would be hesitant to rest my case on the basis of John E Miller as Exhibit A. However, I want to make sure I'm not misunderstanding what you are saying, so I ask if you would care to elaborate a bit more. Thanks!

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 13, 2012

By the way, John E Miller, I would like to ask again respectfully that you refrain from attacking my denomination without using Scripture to back up your attacks. Can I have your word as a Christian that you will no longer do so? I appreciate your response.

John E Miller

commented on May 14, 2012

Gale O'Neil please let me give you an example. The SDA church of which Fernando Villegas is a pastor claims to be part of mainstream Christianity. They acknowledge our Lord Jesus as Son of God yet they assert that He is one and the same person as Michael the Archangel. I have ascertained the accuracy of this fact by a long conversation with an SDA member on another forum. To say that Jesus and an angel are the same person is clearly in contravention of the word of God. Firstly an angel is a created being. Secondly we are expressly forbidden to worship any angel. Thirdly we read in Hebrews ch.5 that God never called an angel His "begotten Son". On that point alone I could not be in fellowship with a member of the SDA church. The truth of the Lord's Person and Deity must be jealously protected by every true child of God.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 14, 2012

John, if you're going to address me, then address me. Now, I believe there is strong Scriptural support for interpreting Michael to be the second person of the Trinity without denying his diety. I can share it with you, if you are interested. But regardless, even if you don't agree with our interpretation, that's all right! The identity of Michael (who is only mentioned in five places in the entire Bible) is not a core doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, nor is it a core doctrine of Christianity in general. It's fine if we disagree on the interpretation of this issue. The identity of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, IS a core doctrine. And on that issue, you and I are in agreement. We Adventists believe that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God. He is not a created being; but rather, through him all things were created. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day, and has ascended to the right hand of God. Most of all, we believe that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. Salvation is NOT by agreement of interpretation on every minor point of doctrine. So, I'm sorry you're not willing to fellowship with me. But know that I will always be willing to fellowship with you. You and I are going be together in the kingdom of God for eternity--it'd be nice if we could get along a little better while we're on this earth! Anyways, I do appreciate you being specific about a difference in interpretation in your latest post, rather than making sweeping accusations. That's all I'm asking of you: if you're going to make accusations against my beliefs, simply address me respectfully and state your arguments clearly and specifically, so that I have the opportunity to respond. May you receive God's richest blessings on this day!

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