Rev Dr Park Seung Kyu
Sermon preached at the 45th Graduation Service of the Far Eastern Bible College on 14 November 2020
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim 4:1–2).
The topic for today’s message is “Theological Education in a Disintegrating World.” Throughout the year of 2020, we have been using many new terms which were previously unfamiliar to us. Last year, terms like “COVID-19”, “pandemic”, “quarantine”, “sanitizer”, “social-distancing”, “online worship service”, “prayer meetings and fellowships via Zoom”, etc were unheard of. Today, we live in what is called a “new normal.” What is this new normal? People use this term to normalize what is, in fact, an abnormal situation which we experience in the present time. Scholars say that we may not be able to return to the old normal any time soon.
In such difficult times, how can we continue on with theological education? Where can we get it? Of course, we find our answers to these questions in the Word of God. To address these questions, let us meditate on the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:1–2 this morning. We find, in this passage, the words of the Apostle Paul at the end of his life. As his last letter to his co-worker and spiritual son Timothy, he gave an advice that must never be forgotten!
The Apostle Paul declares in 2 Timothy 4:1, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word”. This advice and command came from his life’s experiences. As a missionary, pastor, and theologian, Paul had done many things for the Word of God, for the Church and for God’s people. I am sure that Paul would have desired to communicate many things to Timothy. Here, Paul concisely and solemnly charged Timothy. This command is not a joke, but a very serious charge! Let me give you a scenario: What are you going to say to your children and your co-workers at the last stage of your life? Will you be making a joke at that time? I am sure that you will be serious and careful because it is the last opportunity to express your heart’s desire and advice for them.
So, we see here the Apostle Paul sternly commanding Timothy who represents all servants of the Lord. All God’s servants and workers must take heed to Paul’s charge. What did the Apostle Paul command? In verse 2, Paul commanded, “Preach the word.” Remarkably simple! “Preach the word.” This is what we must do in ministry. Please do not forget to preach the Word!
Next, what kind of message or word do we have to preach? Can we preach whatever that comes to mind? No! The Bible explicitly mentions the nature and the quality of the Word. We see the conjunction “therefore” in verse 1. Interestingly, this conjunction is only found in the Textus Receptus and the King James Version. We do not find this conjunction in the Textus Criticus and most of the modern English versions. As you know well, conjunctions play a role in connecting the preceding content with the latter content. The nature and the quality of the Word, as mentioned by Paul, are found in the previous chapter. The Apostle Paul described the nature of the Word and called it “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). The quality of the Word is likewise mentioned in the next verse, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). This tells us that the Word which we must preach is the Holy Bible which is given by inspiration of God!
Let Us Do What We Must Do: Preach the Word
Firstly, let us do what we must do, which is to preach the Word! Dear friends, we must continue to preach and teach the words of the Holy Scriptures in the Far Eastern Bible College. There are many Bible colleges and seminaries in the world today. We can say that there is a kind of “theological training” taking place in those schools. However, students who enrolled with a fiery passion to know God more have become cold as ice after graduation. After graduation, students who have entered to become evangelists lose the zeal for winning the lost and become salaried workers. After graduation, these students become teachers who no longer believe the Word of God as the Truth and become agnostics.
Do you know the reason for this catastrophic change? There are many reasons, but I think the main reason is that those Bible colleges and seminaries no longer teach the Bible as the Word of God, but theology as a science. It is worth remembering the saying, “What is not biblical is not theological” (Quod non est biblicum, non est theologicum). The only theology we should teach is the theology which helps us learn, understand, preach, and teach the Bible faithfully, correctly and deeply.
The Bible does not exist for theology; rather theology exists for the Bible. It is exceedingly difficult today to find the preaching and teaching of the Word of God – that is without compromise – in Bible colleges and seminaries around the world. This is the cause of all the problems within Christianity. During the Middle Ages, many scholars studied theology and obtained a “Doctor of Theology” degree. Many of them did not read the Bible at all, and so they became fools concerning the Bible. When I first learnt of this scholarly stupidity, I laughed a lot and mocked them in my heart. But as time went by, I realized that this is also happening in Bible colleges and seminaries in the Protestant camp today!
God’s workers need two callings. Firstly, God’s workers need the call to salvation. The second calling is the call to ministry. Every student entering the Bible college must submit testimonies of both salvation and ministry. However, sometimes, we have doubts about our students’ callings. In fact, some of them will say that the calling to the ministry has “expired”. If a calling expires, was the calling truly genuine?
As I understand it, the Bible college has two functions. One is to train and equip God’s workers who have a true calling for the ministry. The other is to redirect those who claim to have a calling for the ministry but actually do not to the right path. In both cases, they need God’s Word. Just as in a local church, wherein we find that not all in the congregation are saved. There may also be unbelievers within the student body. We do our best to sieve out such students with God’s Word, and to win them with the Gospel. In this regard, I personally express my gratitude to the Far Eastern Bible College. My two daughters said they came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour while studying God’s Word in this Bible College. As a father, I had done everything I could to hand over the wisdom of salvation to them. By God’s grace, they heard the systematic teaching of God’s Word, and finally, they believed in Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord. Praise the Lord!
Some say there are no miracles in the present day. But I believe that miracles still exist. How can a Bible college student believe in Jesus while studying theology in a seminary? Yes, this is a miracle. God is alive and works mightily through His Word, which has the power to save sinners. Therefore, let us teach, learn, and preach God’s Word diligently. The Holy Scriptures are able to make our students wise unto salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. The Bible has the power of salvation because every letter in the Bible is inspired and God-breathed. The Bible has the power of life. God’s Word is still alive. This Word makes the man of God “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:17).
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