Study. Live. Preach.
Ezra 7:10 "For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel." (ESV)
I was struck as I listened last night to yet another of Derek Thomas' scintillating expositions of the book of Ezra, that Ezra shows the Gospel minister an important aspect of our calling. We are to study the Word of God, live out the Word of God and teach the Word of God. I love the catchy way the NASB says this: "For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel." Surely this is the right order. First to study, then to practice and then to preach the truth - else we could find ourselves commending to others a grand reality which we ourselves do not know. This is why Paul will charge Timothy to "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:16). Or as C.J. Mahaney puts it: "watch your life and watch your doctrine." And because Paul was serious about practicing what he preached, he could tell the Philippians to practice the things they had "heard and seen in" him (Philippians 4:9).
I have never known a teacher who has defected from the truth who was living out the truth in humble accountability in the church. I have never known a faithful Gospel minister who was not, in some measure, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, living out the truth he commended to others. The practice of the truth is essential to the preservation of the truth in the preacher of the truth.
You don't know, what you don't live. Practicing the truth is a prerequisite for preaching the truth, and all our power in the latter is caught up in the former.