Scripture is like a well. We go to well to draw out water, not pour water into it. An expository use of Scripture seeks to draw out of a text of Scripture the original author’s meaning, not read in our own pre-conceived ideas. This will dramatically affect the way we write sermons or bible studies. An expository use of Scripture means letting the shape of a Scriptural text determine the shape of the sermon or bible study we write. It means that what is important to a Scriptural text is important to the sermon or bible study, and what is subsidiary to a Scriptural text, is subsidiary to the sermon or bible study. In this way we hear God’s emphases and not our own.
Biblical theology shows us that the Bible is not a random collection of stories but one grand story of God’s plan to rescue sinners by Jesus. It moves from creation to new creation via the salvation Jesus accomplishes. Biblical theology helps us know how any part of Scripture fits into the Bible’s one grand narrative so that we can rightly apply it to our situation now.
Mission focuses on the sending of gospel preachers to gospel-poor places to establish and build churches there. The word “Mission” originally meant “sending” and so came to be used in reference to Jesus’ words, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, pray the Lord of the harvest sends out workers in the harvest field”. Mission is therefore focused on knowing where there are gospel-poor places (“the harvest is plentiful”) as well as the praying for, and the sending of, gospel preachers to those places (“the Lord … would send out workers”).
An important characteristic of reformed theology is its belief that God is sovereign over everything including the salvation of God’s people. As Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hades will not prevail”. This affects Christian ministry dramatically. If God is ultimately sovereign over people’s salvation then we can have confidence that he can and will use us in this work despite our human fallibility. If God is not sovereign over people’s salvation, then we cannot be sure God will use our work because salvation finally rests with flawed humans. Nor could we pray for God to save people because he cannot. Reformed theology produces an understanding of ministry with God’s glory at the centre. The official statement of faith for ETCAsia is that of the Gospel Coalition.