Recently a good friend and member of a church I formerly pastored sought my opinion concerning the issue of apologetics in the role of teaching and preaching within the church. I am as close to a renowned apologist as a deer grunt is to a classic symphony, however I do understand, and think every believer should understand, that there is sense in the scriptures, and that sense is to be intertwined with all of our preaching and teaching.
Apologetics, in its most basic form, really is to give a sound defense of the scriptures. That being said, the defense of the scriptures is the sense of the scriptures. A successful apologist will be able to demonstrate the sense that the scriptures make. Now let me say this, the scriptures do not need to be “defended” in order to give them authority. Their authority has nothing to do with whether or not we can make sense of them or show the wisdom that is in them. However, rightly understood, apologetics will not “accredit” the scriptures to the audience, but will “expose” the scriptures to the audience. Successful apology, (or explanation) will demonstrate the wisdom, sense, and authority of the Word of God. In my opinion, expository preaching/teaching and apologetics in their basic sense, are two sides of the same coin.
I said that to say this, though apologetics are intertwined in all of preaching and teaching; preaching and teaching at their core, are not the same thing.
In Matthew 11:1 our Master Pastor, the Lord Jesus went into the cities of His disciples and engaged in both teaching and preaching with a clear distinction between the two. In the simplest terms, though things are not always simplest, preaching is proclamation, and teaching is explanation. One declares, one disciples. One dictates the facts, one uncovers the facts. While in many ways preaching and teaching look the same, and sometimes accomplish the same things, they are also as different as singing and humming.
Not to be unnecessarily blunt, but to be simple, when the Word of God is proclaimed, the believer is to receive it, believe it, surrender and conform even when there is not the fullest of understanding. When the Word of God is explained, the believer is to hear it, learn it, study it, and gain the sense, truth and wisdom within it. In my estimation, generally, when a sermon is rightly preached, there is both proclamation and explanation within it. However sometimes a sermon is a merely a matter of proclamation; or a declaration of the truth to be received, even if not explained. Not all of God’s commands at the very first are explained, many of them are declared and to be obeyed even before there is an understanding. As Vance Havner famously said, “I do not understand electricity, but I’m not going to sit in the dark till I do.” A direct call to repentance does not always offer detailed wisdom or is delivered with Sunday School demeanor and patience – see John the Baptist.
In my estimation, generally, when a pastor is teaching, there to is both proclamation and explanation within it, however the emphasis, goal, and purpose rests heavier on the explanation than it does proclamation. Proclamation says, you need to submit to this, because that is the truth whether you see it or not. Explanation says, here’s what to see, how to see it, why to see it, so you will be more like Jesus in your own perspective. In other words, moving from proclaiming to explaining it, is moving from, “I’ll obey Jesus because Jesus said it;” which is right, to “I see it as Jesus sees it, and actually think about it what He thinks about it.”
In both Proclamation and Explanation, or both teaching and preaching, it is incumbant on the teacher and preacher to know the sense, and wisdom that is intrinsic in the Word of God. Though they are separate, in all true teaching, there is preaching, and in all true preaching there is teaching, and each case, the Word of God is to be exalted. Psalm 138:2 – “. . . for thou has magnified Thy Word above all thy name.” The prophet Nehemiah gave us the surest example of expository preaching, and Biblical apologetics when he wrote, “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” Nehemiah 8:8. To follow any other example is not a change worth making.