Bunda is a town on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania, about the size of a large regional city in Australia like Dubbo or Orange. It is home to Banda Bible College, where last week, Archbishop Kaniska Raffel was grilled by the college’s students, serving its home diocese of Mara and others around the lake.
But he got to tell the students what they should be doing first. Sentence by sentence, this discussion was translated into Swahili.
Theology, of course, is the study of God, but we cannot say that without deep fear and reverence because the one we study is the one who made us. The principle of Bible study is humility. And so, the practice of theological study must be done in prayer. So I will pray. Loving heavenly Father, we thank you that you are a god who speaks. Please speak to our hearts now of your son that we may serve and praise him…
“When Jesus prays in John 17, he says in verse 13, ‘I have given them your words, and the world has hated them. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one as you sent me into the world; I have sent them into the world.’
Jesus prays for his apostles and those who will believe through the apostles. He says he sends them into the world on mission, and he has given them God’s word. We are sent into the world to be messengers of God’s word.
We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord. Jesus says God’s word is truth. Jesus says God’s word sanctifies us and makes us whole. So the God who speaks sends his living word into the world to be our saviour. And Jesus sends his people into the world with a word of truth to sanctify the world. So when we preach the gospel, people meet Jesus in his word.
It is a true word. So it convicts them in the heart by the Holy Spirit.
It is a word that judges. So it causes repentance.
It is a word that forgives, So it causes faith and love.
This is the wonderful thing about Christian ministry. We are sinners who have heard from God a word of forgiveness and welcome, and we are sent to others to say to them, God has sent his son for you. Repent and believe. And when people respond to the word we preach, they are adopted by God as his sons and daughters.
Who can believe such a thing? It is too wonderful. It is a precious gift and privilege to be a messenger of the gospel. We must study God’s word carefully. We must be careful to understand the whole story of scripture. [inaudible] We must see how the whole Bible is a story about God’s love in Jesus.
Paul says, we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ and ourselves as your servants.
So we must study the Bible carefully. We must study the Bible humbly. Because it convicts and corrects and reviews and trains us. And we must study the Bible prayerfully so that the Spirit is our teacher.
So that we do not become puffed up with knowledge, but we grow in love for Jesus and we grow in love for the people who belong to Jesus.
He rules his people by his word. He feeds his people by his word. He sustains his people by his word. He equips his people by his word.
So we are messengers of the word so that Jesus can rule in his people. We are not the rulers of God’s people. They have one king, Jesus Christ. Who is our king also.
We receive the word from him so that we may pass it on. So in your studies, three things should happen. First, you should grow as a Christian; you are being fed the word of God every day. This is a great privilege. It should grow your love for Jesus. And it should make you more like Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit as we pray into our hearts. So the first thing is that we must grow in Christian character. We must not be to God’s people something that he is not.
Jesus does not devour his sheep. So we must not devour his sheep. Jesus does not deceive his sheep. So we must not deceive. Jesus says to Peter, feed my sheep, care for my lambs. So we must grow in Christian character.
The second thing that must happen as we study we must grow in Christian faith. We must grow in our convictions in what we understand of God’s word. We need to understand the whole plan of God in Scripture.
We must understand the gospel of the Lord Jesus. All things were created through him. All the fullness of God dwells in him. He lived the perfect life of obedience that Israel did not live. He perfectly obeyed his father. He gave his life as a ransom. His death on the cross washes us clean. His death on the cross declares us innocent. By his death on the cross, we are adopted in to God’s family. He was raised from death as Lord and judge of all. He has poured out his Spirit on his people. He constantly intercedes at God’s right hand. He will return to judge the living and the dead, and he will establish an eternal kingdom forever and send away from him those who do not repent.
We have two years, maybe three years, maybe one year to study the majesty and the work of Jesus. We grow in Christian character; we grow in Christian faith. The third thing we must do in our studies is become able to serve God’s people. The first two are the vitally important ones. Understanding God’s word and being shaped by God’s word. These are essential.
If we are to serve God’s people in the church, we must be Godly, and we must have a true understanding of God’s word.
We cannot be without sin. We cannot be perfect. So we must be humble.
We must repent. We must be people who confess to God and confess our sin to one another [inaudible] so that he can grow our hearts.
In addition to character, we must learn to do the ministry. So we need to develop our skills in preaching so that we preach the truth so that we preach in a way that people can understand, not to make ourselves look good.
To feed the people, to grow the people, to care for the people. And so they may do the works that God has planned for them.
We need to study the pattern of ministry of the apostles.
Because the ministry is hard, we must be prepared to suffer,
Because the Lord also suffered.
Because the servant is not greater than the master, sometimes people will disappoint us.
Sometimes people will desert us. Sometimes we’ll be hard-pressed. All this happened to the apostles; all this has happened to God’s faithful servant; all this happened to Jesus. So we must be prepared to be disappointed and to keep going, to persevere because we know God well.
We know he spoke. We know he uses our sufferings to make us like Jesus. So we must have our first love for Jesus.
So the three things I have said are important to growing as a Christian child of God. First, to be shaped by the character of Jesus. Second, to grow in understanding of God’s word. And thirdly, to be equipped for our ministry. Persevere. These foundations of theological education will keep you faithful to the Lord and serving him for all your life.
Question: Do people who support same-sex marriage find that in the Bible?
Answer: I would like to read for you 1 Corinthians chapter 6. In these verses, Paul identifies several categories of sin, that if you do not repent, will see you out of the kingdom. These include adultery, homosexual sex, sex outside marriage, and drunkenness.
So if you do not repent of these things, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. There are sins of which many people are guilty, like drunkenness or deception or speaking badly of somebody. And there are many kinds of sexual sin: adultery, which is sex with a person who is not your spouse, and also two kinds of homosexual behaviour.
The people who bless same-sex marriage do not believe this verse. So St Paul is wrong. They say he is not loving. They say everybody does these things. So if you can’t inherit the kingdom, then nobody will be there.
But Paul says that they were washed, they were sanctified, they were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of God.
In the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of God, sinners repented and were saved. Some who were adulterers, some who were thieves, and some who practised homosexual behaviour.
Paul says that’s what some of you were. You were washed. you were cleansed. You were forgiven. You were saved. If you repent, you can be saved. If you do not repent, you cannot be saved. Praise God. There is a saviour who saves sinners.
Question: If there are same-sex people, married, in the church, what should I do?
Answer: So this is a question of church discipline. If you are a parish priest, you’ll become aware that people are sinning, and you’ll have to speak to them to warn them that they must stop sinning if they will not repent. You have to apply discipline. You may say that if you do not repent, you cannot serve in the church. You may say If you do not repent [You cannot come to the Lord’s table. You may say, if you will not repent, you may not attend.
But you must be slow. You must be prayerful. You must not act by yourself. You must talk to the bishop. You Must implore people to repent. Beg them to repent.
If you have a couple, a same-sex couple, who are married and coming to church, you will treat them respectfully. They are made in god’s image. They are precious. They’re deceived by the evil one; they’re held in his hands. You need to plead with them to follow God’s word and trust that God’s love for them is greater. And pray that they will repent. Be prayerful and do it in fellowship with your bishop.
Question: Where does globalisation come in the Bible?
Answer: God has a global plan. He said to Abraham, I will bless you, and I will bless your family; through your descendant, I will bless all the families of the earth. In Genesis chapter 12, God reveals that he will bless the whole world through a son of Abraham. That son is Jesus. Now at the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, John looks into heaven and gathered around the lamb. He sees a crowd that cannot be numbered from every tribe, language, and people because Jesus is the world’s saviour.
God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever anywhere in the world lives in him will not be condemned but inherit eternal life.
So God has a global plan. The devil also has a global plan. He wants the whole world to turn against God. He wants the whole world to turn away from God. He is busy deceiving people with false religion; he deceives people with material wealth; he deceives people by human philosophy. But he is a liar. He is the editor of God’s people. Jesus has defeated him. Jesus is king. Jesus is risen. Jesus reigns. So we have a global plan to preach the gospel so that people from every nation and tribe and people may come to Jesus. Praise the Lord.
Question: Why are some church leaders quiet about same-sex marriages in church?
Answer: The apostle says that he did not try to please men but to please God. The Bible says we should fear God and not fear men. But in many places, the church leaders fear men more than they fear God, and they are silent. When you speak up, some will criticise you. Maybe many will criticise you.
But we fear God, and we seek to please God. So we must learn to suffer for the truth because it is not loving to allow people to remain in deception. So we must teach the truth. Peter says, always be ready to give an answer but do this in gentleness and reverence. We are not preaching ourselves. So they may do whatever they want to us. But as Jesus was like a lamb, we must preach the truth.
Question If we leave college empty, how well are we prepared for that?
Answer: In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul says that Christians have received every spiritual blessing in Christ. And Jesus says, where your treasure is, your heart is also. Therefore, we must be the people who treasure Jesus.
We have received forgiveness of sin, adoption into God’s family, his gift of His Spirit, membership in his church, and eternal life. Everything in this world is passing away. The wealthiest men in this world will pass away, and apart from Christ, they will be lost forever.
Jesus said whoever leaves mother and father will have a hundredfold. I asked my pastor when I was a new Christian, “What does this mean?” My parents, my mother, she rejected my faith. My sisters rejected my faith. So my pastor said to me, “When you go to church? Don’t you have brothers in the church? Don’t you have brothers and sisters in the church? If you are thrown out of your house, will not the church members welcome you into their house?”
I said, “Yes, that’s true. I have many houses.”
Jesus said you cannot serve God and money. Jesus is good. Jesus is trustworthy. Yes. Jesus will provide,
I tell my clergy the same thing. “They say they don’t like the schools in that area for my children. This house is not good enough for my wife.” I say, “The Lord is good. He is always good. He will provide.
Question: Why are we learning about other faiths at Bible College?
Answer: You start with your curriculum, which must be based on the Bible. So I’m very grateful that BBC is teaching you New Testament Greek.
And maybe some of you are learning biblical Hebrew as well. This is very difficult.
But it is very important. We start with the Bible in its original language. We want to understand each book of the Bible; we believe that God is speaking in the whole Bible. So we want to understand the whole story from creation to new creation, from promise to fulfilment.
Then we also want to be able to understand what the Bible teaches about a particular topic, the gospel, the church, the ministry, discipleship mission.
Then we also want to know how God has worked through history and the church’s history. And we also want to know the history of ideas because the gospel confronts many different ideas but mostly they’re not new ideas.
Almost everything that you will have to answer has been asked before. So to understand your context, it’s important to know how these ideas came to be influential. For example, in Australia, many people do not believe in God, but a hundred years ago, almost everybody believed me. So we must study the history of ideas to understand why people stopped believing in God. In your context here, you have African religion, you have Islam, and you also have Western secularism.
You need to know something about these ideas. Because if you don’t know what they think, if you don’t know how they see the world, you’ll preach the gospel to them, and it will bounce off them. It won’t make any sense to them.
Because we would be speaking from the Bible worldview, but that is not their worldview, it makes no sense to them. So there is a danger. Our questioner has raised a danger. So that is why it is important that our study is a fellowship and that it is not separate from worship. Why our study is not just ideas but our service of God. We need to pray that we are not deceived when we are studying false ideas. But I think we need to have some understanding of them and always ask God to lead us into the curriculum.