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Interpretive Principles and Practices

and ability seek out the calling of the preaching ministry. Moreover, even of those who have the titles, very few really deserve the honorable names of messenger (angelos) and interpreter. Even at the ascendancy of Puritan influence, in the last decade of the Elizabethan era, it was apparently still very difficult to find godly pastors who could exercise effective expository ministries.

Perkins identified three causes of this dilemma. First, he cited the contempt with which the calling is treated, recognizing that biblical ministry will always be hated by the world since by its very nature it reveals human sin and unmasks hypocrisy. Second, Perkins drew atten- tion to the immense difficulty of discharging the duties of the ministry well. The charge of the cure of souls was (and is) an overwhelming responsibility. The pastor-teacher must speak to God on behalf of the people, as well as speaking to the people on behalf of God, and who is sufficient for these things? Lastly, Perkins focused on the inadequacy of financial recompense and its accompanying status. Who would accept the contempt and the difficulties for such a paucity of reward? Small wonder, he said, that the sharpest minds of the day turn to the law as their chosen profession. And that was over four hundred years ago!

The Contemporary Context

The issues besetting a biblical teaching ministry today are nothing new, though they are more accentuated. While the Reformation era regarded preaching as “the source and spring of Christian faith,” it is now mar- ginalized and increasingly jettisoned. The hostility of the culture has always been a “given,” but the skepticism and rejection of sound biblical teaching at the heart of the local church’s life of ministry—from within the congregation itself—is perhaps a defining aspect of the current crisis. It is, of course, evidence of the world’s waves swamping and threaten- ing the very viability of the church’s boat. A worldly church is always going to reject the clarity of biblical revelation. Such people “will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3–4). These can be the myths of atheistic humanism or the psychiatrist’s couch, the flattering spin of the politicians and the advertisers, or the hard-nosed ethos of corporate capitalism and the culture of success. They are all around us, and they are the powerful siren songs of our unbelieving world.


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