"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)
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The Fundamentals of Expository Preaching
From The Master's Seminary (http://www.tms.edu/), Dr. John MacArthur and Dr. Steven Lawson teach a course on Expository Preaching. The course is a wonderful encouragement and provides specific, practical direction for anyone called to the preaching ministry. - Pastor John Samson, King's Church, Peoria, AZ.
Lecture 1 - John MacArthur: "Consequences of Non-Expository Preaching, Part I"
Lecture 2 - John MacArthur: "Consequences of Non-Expository Preaching, Part II"
Lecture 3 - John MacArthur: "Consequences of Non-Expository Preaching, Part III"
Lecture 4 - Steven Lawson: "The Meaning of Expository Preaching"
Lecture 5 - Steven Lawson: "The Marks of Expository Preaching, Part I"
Lecture 6 - Steven Lawson: "The Meaning of Expository Preaching, Part II"
Lecture 7 - Steven Lawson: "The Meaning of Expository Preaching, Part III"
Lecture 8 - Steven Lawson: "The Method of Expository Preaching, Part I"
Lecture 9 - Steven Lawson: "The Method of Expository Preaching, Part II"
Lecture 10 - Steve Lawson: "The Method of Expository Preaching, Part III"
These four lectures by Dr. Tim Keller (from the John Reed Miller Lecture Series) given at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson Mississippi, on Nov. 11-13, 2014, are an outstanding resource and help for all preachers. I recommend them highly. - JS
Today (Sunday) I had the privilege of preaching at the morning service at Grace Covenant Church in Gilbert, Arizona. Some have told me that their lives were greatly impacted. Praise the Lord!
Title: The God with whom we have to do.
Scripture Passage: Romans 8:28-9:24
The audio is now available to listen to or download here. Scripture readings are by Pastor John Giarrizzo. The sermon begins around the 8 minute mark. God bless. - John Samson
The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus
Text: Matthew 3:
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The Temptation of Jesus
4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
What is the significance of Jesus’ baptism? In what way was Jesus tempted? What application can be made to our lives today?
Many modern teachers and pastors improperly use the imperatives (commands) in Scripture to try to demonstrate that man has free will, because, they reason, it would be unjust of God to call us to do something we are unable to do ... but the Bible teaches something very different... God's holy law remains intact and does not change after the fall. God is still holy and demands perfection to Adam's fallen posterity. After the fall, corruption set in and humanity is "not able not to sin"... He affections and will are enslaved. So Paul now teaches that the purpose of the divine legislation (His commands) is to reveal our sin or inability (Rom 3:19, 20) not to reveal our ability. Why does He do this? Because it demonstrates to man his moral bankruptcy and impotence in the face of God's holiness which leads man to despair of himself, and it is there that God extends his mercy. So "Let Him who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1:31) it is Christ alone who can set us free (Gal 5:1; Rom 6:18).
How Systematic Theology Can Energize and Enrich Your Preaching
Dr. J. I. Packer’s lecture on this theme:
The Three Transfers
This very recent audio sermon (simply called "Romans 5") discusses the vital theme of Federal Headship, imputation and what I refer to as the Three Transfers:
1. The sin/guilt of Adam, transferred to the entire human race
2. The sins of the elect (believers) transferred to Christ on the cross
3. The righteousness of Christ transferred to the elect (believers)
- Pastor John Samson
Luther and Preaching
Carl Trueman’s inaugural lecture as the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary (March 20, 2013) is available in audio or by video below.
From his introduction:
I am convinced that good preaching depends on at least two things. First, a good grasp of the technical skills necessary: ability to handle the biblical text, to communicate well and to speak with conviction on things that count. But it also depends upon a second, equally important but often neglected point: the need to understand preaching as a theological act. Only when this is done, when the preacher accurately understands what he is doing will he really do so well and with the confidence necessary.
And what better way to reflect upon preaching in Protestant context than to spend a few moments thinking about how Luther, the founder of the Protestant preaching feast, understood preaching as a theological act?
When it comes to how we preach when unbelievers are present to hear us (which I assume is any time we preach), there is a big difference between the approach of Ken Ham (of Answers in Genesis) and that of well known pastor, Andy Stanley (son of Charles Stanley). For the record, I am 100% with Ken Ham on this. - JS
Last week as I was giving a presentation I said, 'In 2 Corinthians 11:3, Paul said....". Then I stopped myself and said I wanted to reword this because of shocking trend I see in the church. I see more and more people looking on the Bible as just the word of humans--but it is not! As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 "...you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe."
So I reworded my statement to make the point this way--"God, through Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:3 instructed us that..."
I had a few people comment to me about this because they are also noticing that increasing numbers of Christian academics/church leaders treat the Bible as if it is just the fallible words of men the somehow contain some 'truth' about God!
When I read this Christian Post article I've linked to, this reinforced for me that this is a problem in the church. I always warn that news articles don't always give accurate accounts--though the Christian Post in the past has given quite accurate accounts of interviews with me etc.
We are waiting on the videos to become available so we can watch this particularly presentation by Andy Stanley for ourselves. But the way it is written here makes me very concerned indeed.
I am reminded of God's Word in Luke 16:31--“But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”
And God's Word in Luke 24:27 concerning Jesus: "And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."
We also need to remember : “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
And also: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
I do give a talk that a Christian cannot give up our starting point of God's Word when witnessing to non-Christians. There are only two starting points--God's Word or Man's Word. (Light or Darkness; For or Against Christ). There is no neutral position. When one gives up God's Word as the starting point, then one has already lost the argument.
And we also need to remember that the ONLY INFALLIBLE RELIABLE WITNESS WE CAN TRUST IS GOD! And yes--He was a witness to the creation of Adam and Eve!
It is because increasing generations do not believe the history in Genesis concerning a literal Adam and Eve and a literal Fall that they do not understand what sin is, that they are sinners (as we are all descendants of Adam) and that is why God's Son stepped into history to become our relative to pay the penalty for our sin. The gospel message comes from God's Word and is rooted in the history concerning a literal first Adam and a literal "last Adam."
Here's the newspaper account of Andy Stanley's message to pastors where he outlines his approach.
Christ Centered Preaching
Christ-Centered Preaching: Preparation and Delivery of Sermons
Here's an outstanding lecture series resource on the preparation and delivery of sermons. It gives profound and vital insights into the preaching ministry. As the course curriculum states:
Dr. Bryan Chapell explores the unifying principle of grace that binds all Scripture together. He outlines and demonstrates the principles and practice of sermon crafting and delivery to illuminate the message of grace in each passage, and to submit it to God's Spirit for the transformation of lives through preaching.
I would also VERY highly recommend Dr. Chapell's book "Christ Centered Preaching" available from monergism books here. - JS
A Preaching/Teaching Pastor
Question: Is it really a Scriptural practice for churches to have just one guy up front preaching to the congregation week after week?
Thanks for your question. So much needs to be said in order to give an adequate answer. In fact, I would say that an entire book would be needed to do the subject justice. That is because before addressing your specific question, much foundational background material needs to be covered. We would first need to talk about Biblical Eldership, its role and function in the Body of Christ, as well as Elder qualifications. However, let me at least make a brief attempt to answer your question. Two points quickly:
(1) I believe the New Testament teaches male Eldership. This is in no way meant to discount the ministry of women. Women have a huge and vital role to play in the ministry of the Church. That needs to be emphasized and underscored many times over.
Women are uniquely gifted and are totally equal to men in worth, value and dignity. When I speak of any kind of restriction, I speak only of Eldership itself and its governmental role in the Church. God has every right to organize the Church as He sees fit and from my studies of Scripture, it seems clear that He has given the task of ruling in the Church to men (1 Timothy 2:12,13). (For more on this topic, I highly recommend Dr. Wayne Grudem’s book “Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth” which goes into this subject in great detail and provides answers to more than 100 disputed questions).
(2) I believe Eldership is plural. As I read the New Testament, I dont see any local Church with merely one man fulfilling the task of eldership. There is always a plurality of elders.
That said, I am well aware of the fact that when a new Church is starting, there may not yet be more than one person who is qualified to lead as an Elder. God is very gracious of course, and I believe He understands the need to be patient in this case. More than that, He actually commands us (through His Apostle) to be patient in such circumstances. The Scripture says “lay hands suddenly on no man” (1 Timothy 5:22) “lest you share in his sins,” which is written in the context of ordaining a young convert to leadership in the church. There are obvious temptations of pride for anyone in a leadership position and this is certainly the case when a new Christian is given a position of authority. Paul warns us against this.
I put some thoughts together concerning how to overcome the fear of public speaking in an article found here entitled "Get over yourself!" - JS
The Means of Regenerating Grace
At a time of His sovereign choosing, the Lord grants regeneration to the elect while they are hearing the gospel proclaimed. As soon as God opens the sinners eyes, ears and hearts to the gospel it is understood and he beholds the beauty, truth and excellency of Christ for the first time.
The hearing of the Word of God is a necessary means through which comes the faith which appropriates salvation. However, the word does not, in and of itself, produce faith. It is only when joined with the power of the Holy Spirit that the Word of God has the power to graciously open our eyes, ears and heart to the gospel.
You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God..." 1 Peter 1:23-25
"Truths and prospects are already contained in the word of God; but without the light of the Spirit they are not discerned...You will not understand, or discern the truth as it is in Jesus, unless the Lord the Spirit shews it to you. The dispensation of truth is in his hand; and without him all the fancied advantages of superior capacity, learning, criticism, and books, will prove as useless as spectacles to the blind."" - John Newton
Preaching Christ from the Old Testament
Watch a discussion on preaching Jesus and the gospel from the Old Testament at The Gospel Coalition's 2011 national conference at McCormick Place. The panel includes Tim Keller, Crawford Loritts, Don Carson, John Piper, and Bryan Chapell. (approx. 51 minutes)
Preacher: What would you preach if you knew it would be your last sermon?
I would not need too much time to come up with an answer to that question. My answer would be â€œthe Five Solas of the Gospel."
This morning I woke to find this encouraging e-mail in my inbox:
Dear Pastor John,
I thought you might like to know that I listened to your sermon tonight, â€œThe Five Solas of the Gospelâ€ and was greatly blessed.
Not only do I like your preaching â€œstyleâ€ but I must tell you that I was most blessed by how you captured, and expressed the spirit of the Reformation. It was as if I myself had entered into the story and burned with the same zeal and passion that Martin Luther and the Reformers did.
As you know, so much of what passes off as Christian preaching today would hardly be considered such by the early church fathers. Thank you so much for preaching and posting a message that I can only describe as a return to the â€œold pathsâ€ â€” something that the church so desperately needs at this hour.
May God raise up more men to preach like this, and may He open many more doors for you to preach the Gospel.
Your friend & sister in Christ,
And, I truly mean every word of this!"
Praise the Lord! As I say, it was very encouraging to read this. I pray that the message could be a blessing to others also. It can be heard here. God bless. - JS
God gives no rewards for being boring
Banjamin Zander is a master communicator. His passion is classical music. As I watched him in action, teaching, I thought of the application to us as Christians. We can learn a great deal from such a man. I write about it here. - JS
For Preachers: IMAGINE - Its 9/10/01 - and you are are given an amazing assignment - the privilege of preaching to all on the 11th floor of one of the Twin Towers... and somehow, God lets you know that EVERYONE you will talk to that day will be dead within 24 hours... (ohhh - and you are absolutely forbidden to tell them that)..
Some Questions: WHAT would you preach? HOW would you preach it? Would you have to adjust your sermon from the regular feel good "five steps to a happy life" or "try Jesus" or "try Christianity, you will really like it" idea? If you have to adjust your sermon from your normal one - what does that tell you about what you normally preach? Does your normal sermon seem just trivial now? Or does what you normally preach carry with it the weight and urgency and power of the Gospel? Quite a thought, isn't it?
Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (that based on Scripture alone, the most wretched sinner is justified - declared right before God - by God's grace alone, received through faith in Christ alone, all to the glory of God alone) with GREAT boldness, with SINCERE love, with REAL urgency, and with AUTHORITY as A HERALD OF THE KING, as if HEAVEN AND HELL were real places that people go to for eternity - and that hell is a certainty for all who ignore or reject this Gospel you are preaching that day - but that God's love for the world is seen by the giving of His one and only Son so that everyone who places their faith and trust in Christ would in no way perish, but have everlasting life for certain!
And.. one final question:
As you would consider what and how you would preach that day and find your answers in God's word, should it not be that you preach the exact same way every time you preach, for is it not true that there is no guarantee than anyone hearing you will live another 24 hours?
Expository Preaching (Roundtable Discussion)
From the Gospel Coalition blog site:
First of all a very short video on the future of expository preaching by Bryan Chapell (president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis and author of Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Message):
Then, secondly, a roundtable discussion on how and why pastors should preach expository messages from Godâ€™s Word? Three noted preachers and trainers of preachers take up the question:
â€¢Mike Bullmore, senior pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin, and former chair of the practical theology department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School;
â€¢Bryan Chapell; and
â€¢David Helm, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago and executive director of the Charles Simeon Trust.
Not Coming Soon to a Seeker Sensitive Church Near you
I'll be brief. That means, "Don't get upset at me for not thoroughly discussing every facet of the topic."
I deeply appreciate good sermon illustrations, but think that illustrations should be used with great caution. They should be used to communicate ideas that might not otherwise easily connect with an audience, whether intellectually or emotionally. Preachers should think hard about whether their illustrations do in fact promote the reception of the message they want to convey, or whether they might actually divert attention from the message. A captivating illustration can easily distract a listener from hearing what the preacher continues to say after the illustration is finished (including the very association he was trying to make in the illustration). And if the connection with the point at hand is not clear and strong enough, the memory will discard what was difficult to understand in favor of what was more accessible.
Do you remember the last powerful sermon illustration you heard? Do you remember the point that the preacher meant to make by it? Or do you just remember a vivid story? If the latter, then the illustration failed its intended purpose.
"Controlled by Love": Pleasing God Unselfishly
ESV 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Am I controlled by the love of Christ in my Christian walk? Are you controlled by the love of Christ in the Christian life? Or are we living ultimately for ourselves, even as those who profess the name of Christ?
In 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, the Apostle Paul teaches us that we either live for God out of love for Jesus Christ or we live for self. As I have been reading and meditating on this scripture and some of the works of Jonathan Edwards, I have been forced to think about how believers please God in their obedience.
In this blog, I would love to have more thoughts from you, some healthy sharpening, and your own experience on pleasing God from the heart. This is presented here as some thoughts in progress that I am attempting to formulate for a study.
The issues that I am trying to get at in my ponderings and in how these thoughts would influence my sermon preparation as a pastor are: "How do I get myself to think more deeply about my own heart before God?" "How do I obey God; that is, what is my motivation for obedience to God?" "As a pastor how do I biblically motivate myself and other believers to seek to please God through obedience?"
Excerpt from Preaching with Spiritual Vigour by Murray A. Capill
HT: Glenn Leatherman
The reason the word "experimental" is used is because experiential has too many overtones of a subjective experience-based faith. That is not what is meant by the word experimental. The word "experiment" has to do with the testing of of reality and truth. In science we deal with the testing of hypotheses, but in theology it refers to the work of testing reality and truth of God's word in the hearts and lives of people. We cannot and should not leave truth at a hypothesis level that is detached from human experience.
Experimental Christianity values genuine spiritual experience. I always tell people that in the act of preaching my goal is not just to pass out information or knowledge but that to desire to experience and feel the truth i am preaching on as well. Yes, we champion sound doctrine and the importance of holiness, but true Experimental Christianity cultivates a burning zeal for the honor of Christ and the fame of his name (see Eph. 1:16-17). This desire is at the heart of Experimental Christianity.
This is one of the most vital truths about biblical preaching. Let me explain what I mean: the task of true preaching is not essentially intellectual or psychological or rhetorical; it is essentially spiritual.
Left to ourselves, we may do many things with a congregation. We may move them emotionally. We may attract them to ourselves personally, producing great loyalty. We may persuade them intellectually. We may educate them in a broad spectrum of Christian truth. But the one thing we can never do, left to ourselves, is to regenerate them spiritually and change them into the image of Jesus Christ, to bear his moral glory in their character. While that is the great calling of the church of Christ, it is essentially Godâ€™s work and not ours.
So it is possible to be homiletically brilliant, verbally fluent, theologically profound, biblically accurate and orthodox, and spiritually useless. That frightens me. I hope it frightens you, too. I think it is of this that Paul is speaking when he says, â€œI planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things growâ€ (I Cor. 3:6-7). It is very possible for us to be deeply concerned about homiletical ability and fluency and theological profundity and biblical orthodoxy, but to know nothing of the life â€“ giving power of God with the burning anointing of the Holy Spirit upon our ministry. Campbell Morgan (Lloyd-Jonesâ€™s predecessor at the Westminster Chapel) divulged that at one crucial stage in his ministry he was in precisely this position, and sensed that God was sayingto him, â€œPreach on, great preacher, without me.â€ Alan Redpath used to say that the most penetrating question you could ask about any church situation was, â€œWhat is happening in this place that cannot be explained in merely human terms?â€
So there is a world of difference between true biblical preaching and an academic lecture or a rhetorical performance. We are utterly dependent on the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Thank God, he uses the weak things of this world to confound the mighty, and the things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are (1 Cor. 1 :2,8). This is why it is absolutely essential to marry prayer to the ministry of the Word. In our ministries prayer is not supplemental; it is fundamental. Of course we subscribe to the principal that â€œthis work is Godâ€™s work, not ours.â€ We subscribe to that because we are biblical Evangelicals, but the logical corollary of that statement is that prayer is a fundamental issue in the ministry of the Word, as in every part of our labor, and not, as we tend to make it, a supplemental matter.
E. M. Bounds, who wrote the remarkable little booklet Power through Prayer, says, â€œThe church is on a stretch if not on a strain, looking for better methods. But men are Godâ€™s methods and while the church is looking for better methods, God is looking for better men.â€
That, of course, does not mean that we should not be interested in methodology. Nor does it mean that we have to be stupid enough to ignore new ideas and new insights, or to be careless in our administration and exploration of methods that are valuable and effective. But we do need to ask God to write on our hearts that this task he has given us is spiritual in essence.
2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:5 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when 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. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
To serve as the pastor in the newly formed King's Church in Phoenix is a high calling and an amazing privilege. To serve the King of Kings and the people Christ died for â€“ what could be greater than this? Yet with every great privilege comes great responsibility.
Have you noticed in the above text how it is the presentation of Scripture as God breathed (at the end of 2 Timothy 3) that is the basis for the solemn and holy charge given to preach the Word, in chapter 4? The one thing naturally leads to the other. It is because of the nature of Scripture as divinely inspired that Paul tells Timothy to preach it with boldness, in season and out of season. Literally this phrase means â€œin good times and bad times,â€ or by way of application, â€œpreach the word when the people like it and when they do not.â€
An elder at my church kindly passed on this helpful list of CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING PREACHINGâ€¦
In 4 â€œbullet pointâ€ form gives a few things to think about if you are evaluating or considering a preacher when on a pastoral search committee. No doubt there are other things to look for but these are a good place to start.
â€¢ Authoritative â€“ this â€œtextâ€ is binding upon believers and not to be demeaned.
â€¢ Logical â€“ the train of thought is followed easily and well structured.
â€¢ Donâ€™t talk about self â€“ leave â€œmeâ€ of the message (talk about us and them but not me) - points to Christ.
â€¢ â€œTake Awaysâ€ â€“ What is the message about, and what is the listener to learn and remember for the day/weeks ahead.
Did the sermon comfort the distressed? â€“ God has made provision
Did it distress the comfortable? -God is relentless in reminding us that â€œour relationship with Him lasts because He chooses us, not because of our devotion and/or obedience.â€
If we only do the former weâ€™ll comfort the self-righteous; if we only do the latter, weâ€™ll lose our audience without Christ. Feel free to add more in the comments.
Our Recent Visit to Mars Hill Church, Seattle
This last weekend on the spur of the moment my wife and I decided to drive up to Seattle for the weekend. It is a 3 hour drive from Portland and a badly needed getaway from our daily routine. After arriving in our downtown Seattle hotel our first stop was Piroshky Piroshky, a hole in the wall on the waterfront at Pikeâ€™s Market which sells incredible Russian pastries. My wife and I both love the meat-filled pastries the best and we ate a couple while we enjoyed the rare sunny afternoon on the park bench overlooking the water. It was really a blessing to sit in the sun after a solid month of grey skies. We had a lot to be thankful for. We were excited to be there and saw this as an opportunity for a time of refreshment. We were not disappointed.
And He was saying, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."
The second half of the twentieth century saw an unprecedented interest in principles by which the church grows. When Donald A. McGavran founded the Institute of Church Growth in Eugene, Oregon in 1959, which in 1965 because Fuller Seminaryâ€™s School of Church Growth, a movement was born. The â€˜Church Growth Movementâ€™ has spawned thousands of articles and books, and has been exceptionally influential. Focusing on measurable results, it has constantly asked the question, what causes the church to grow? What practical steps can be taken to produce growth? What methods and techniques, what strategies and programs are more conducive to the growth of the church?
These are important question and answering them can be fruitful. Every church should constantly be evaluating its ministry and asking if it canâ€™t be doing things more effectively than they are currently being done. But one of the unintended consequences of this movement has been the gradual secularization of church-building. Increasingly the business of growing the church has been understood in increasingly secular ways. The same method by which businesses and institutions grow have been applied to the church. Management and marketing principles have taken on greater and greater importance. Demographic surveys and focus groups have been used to fine tune the method by which the gospel has been presented, and even the message itself. Sometimes in the name of relating to the culture, sometimes in the name of removing what might offend, revolutionary changes have been made in the public ministry of the church, all in the name of growth. The motives have been noble, but many of these changes have been ill-considered. Most important, the line separating what God does and what we do, between Godâ€™s sovereignty and manâ€™s responsibility, has been blurred. At times, it has seemed that the progress of the kingdom has been reduced to a natural process that can be engineered by human agents. The supernatural and spiritual character of the church has been dismissed in the process.
Is the growth of the church fundamentally a work of man or a work of God? If things have gotten seriously confused, we should not be surprised. Most, if not all, of the error in the history of the church, from the ancient Arians and Pelagians, to the modern-day Schleiermacher-inspired liberals, to New Englandâ€™s Unitarians, has been perpetuated in the name of evangelism. Positive motives do not guarantee biblical results.
I often enjoy checking out the web site of Pastor Steve Weaver found here. I was doing so today and read about something I know I should have mentioned a long, long time ago here, namely, last year's Expositors Conference. I was truly blessed by this material (though I could not attend the Conference last year, I have heard the messages a number of times) and mention it here, so that others can gain the benefits too. (The next Conference is less than a month away, October 6, 7, with Dr. Steve Lawson and Dr. Ligon Duncan.) Anyway - here's what Pastor Weaver wrote:
"This past October a conference on expository preaching was held at Christ Fellowship Church in Mobile, AL. The speakers last year were Pastor Steven Lawson and Dr. John MacArthur. This conference offers wonderful examples of (in Lawsonâ€™s opening and closing messages) and arguments for expository preaching. There is no one that I enjoy hear preaching about preaching than Steven Lawson (maybe John Piper). His passion stirs my soul. John MacArthur is speaking out of 40 years experience of expository preaching and describes the practical benefits that he has observed over the course of his ministry. If you need to be convinced of the value of expository preaching or encouraged in its practice, then listen to these lectures/messages... Enjoy."
Session 1: The Invincible Weapon Dr. Steven J. Lawson (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Session 2: What is Expository Preaching? Dr. Steven J. Lawson
Session 3: Why I Am Committed to Expository Preaching I Dr. John MacArthur
Session 4: Why I Am Committed to Expository Preaching II Dr. John MacArthur
Session 5: Expositors Conference Question and Answer Session
Session 6: The Ten How Toâ€™s of Expository Preaching Dr. Steven J. Lawson
Session 7: Famine in the Land Dr. Steven J. Lawson (Amos 8:11)
All of these messages can be found here . I recommend them very highly - Rev. John Samson
This is a compilation of my previous posts on preaching. If you would like to download the printable PDF, here it is.
The person and work of Jesus Christ is the substance of the Gospel. The beginning, middle, and end of the Christian life must be informed by the redemption that is in Christ Jesusâ€”all the Scriptures are helpful for this. Jesus himself made it very clear that he is the main subject of all the Scriptures. Paul set the tone for our preaching by saying, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." Friends, a sermon is not Christian unless it is Christocentric.
Preach the Gospel
In order to inspire faith, preaching must convey the Gospel. The Good News is that God is for us in Jesus Christ. Helping the hearer understand this goes well beyond a "simple" evangelistic message. The grace of God addresses us at every point in our lives: it establishes and strengthens our faith (and, therefore, obedience). Certainly, preach the Law as wellâ€”bad news often precedes the Good News. But the majestic goodness of God, displayed in the Gospel, must characterize our preaching week in and week out. This wins our faith.
Preach against Unbelief
In order to transform people, preaching aims to increase their faith. The desired progression is from sin to holiness (sanctification), which requires faith. A person will only be changed through truly believing the Word of God. Whether Christian or not, all of us have the same problem: we do not believe the Word of God enough to let it shape our lives in every way. Therefore the preacher must target the unbelief in the hearer, and proclaim the Word as beacon that draws forth true faith from those in whom the Spirit works.
Preach to Transform
In order to glorify God, preaching aims at complete redemption and renewal. The goal is to make the hearer better able to engage reality (God, self, others, world, culture, etc.) from a Biblical perspective. Every facet of every life is fair gameâ€”if a person thinks, feels, speaks or acts at all, then those ways of participating in God's world ought to be made to serve God's glory. Sometimes the transformation is dramatic, as when a person is convicted and converted. Sometimes the change is externally imperceptible, as when a person is reassured once again of God's love. Always it should be so that the person loves God with his whole heart, soul, mind and strength better than he did when he first sat in the pew.
Preach to Glorify God
The ultimate goal of Christian preachingâ€”as with all other thingsâ€”is the glory of the Triune God. When the minister proclaims God's true and beautiful Word, he honors the Persons, attributes, and works of God. But the glory really radiates when the Spirit uses his Word to change lives. If someone is convicted, saved, comforted, inspired, redeemed by the preached Word, God was at work, showing himself to be good, sovereign, gracious, and altogether glorious.
A day in the life of George Whitefield
This extract is taken from pages 226-227 of George Whitefield's Journals
Sunday, March 4, 1739 - Age 24
Rose much refreshed in spirit and gave my early attendants a warm exhortation as usual. Went to Newgate and preached with power to an exceedingly thronged congregation. Then hastened to Hanham Mount, three miles from the city, where the miners live altogether. God favoured us in the weather. Over four thousand were ready to hear me and God enabled me to preach with the demonstration of the Spirit.
The ground not being high enough, I stood upon a table and the sight of the people covering the green fields, and their deep attention, please me much. I hope that same Lord, who fed so many thousands with bodily bread, will feed all their souls with the Bread which cometh down from Heaven, for many came from far.
At four in the afternoon, I went to the mount on Rose Green and preached to over fourteen thousand souls. God was so good to allow all to be able to hear me. I think it was worth while to come many miles to see such a sight. I spoke with great freedom, but thought all the while, as I do continually, when I ascend the mount, that hereafter I shall suffer, as well as speak, for my Master's sake. Lord, strengthen me for that hour. Lord, I believe (O help my unbelief!) that Thy grace will be more sufficient for me.
In the evening I expounded at Baldwin Street Society, but could not get up to the room without the utmost difficulty, as the entry and court were much filled with people. Blessed be God, the number of hearers much increases and as my day is, so is my strength. Tonight I returned home much more refreshed in joy and longed to be dissolved and to be with Jesus Christ. This has been a sabbath indeed to my soul!
Two Lectures on Monergistic Regeneration (MP3s)
Last week we held our Reformation Society of Oregon meeting and Dr. Art Azurdia III gave two expositions/lectures on the subject monergistic regeneration. We have posted the MP3s for free download. IMHO, they are superb biblical exegesis and I highly recommend them for your personal edification.
â€œWhen I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spiritâ€™s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on Godâ€™s power."
In order to get this book into the hands of as many preachers as possible we are reducing Arturo Azurdia's Spirit Empowered Preaching to the lowest price ever - a 40% discount. The supplies at this price are limited so get them while you can. We cannot recommend this book too highly - In our estimation this book lives up to its' hype.
Some of the questions this book answers
â€¢ What is the overarching storyline of the Bible?
â€¢ What is the Holy Spiritâ€™s new covenant ministry in relationship to Jesus Christ?
â€¢ How are we to understand the nature of the Holy Spiritâ€™s relationship to the Scriptures?
â€¢ What kind of preaching is the Holy Spirit most inclined to empower?
â€¢ Is the ministry of the Holy Spirit confined to preparation for preaching or is it something that occurs during the actual preaching event?
â€¢ What is the responsibility of the preacher in Spirit empowered preaching? What is the responsibility of the congregation?
The New Birth (.pdf) Essays by William Plumer, Octavius Winslow, Arthur W. Pink, John Gill, James Buchanan, J. C. Ryle, John Owen, Charles H. Spurgeon -- These are very helpful essays from the Free Grace Broadcaster's Winter 2007 edition. Very edifying and crucial to understand if one is to have a well-rounded ministry. John Owen said, "THE work of the Spirit of God in regenerating the souls of men is diligently to be inquired into by the preachers of the Gospel and all to whom the Word is dispensed. For the former sort, there is a peculiar reason for their attendance unto this duty, for they are used and employed in the work itself by the Spirit of God and are by Him made instrumental for the effecting of this new birth and life...Now, certainly it is the duty of ministers to understand the work about which they are employed, as far as they are able, that they may not work in the dark and fight uncertainly, as men beating the air. What the Scripture hath revealed concerning it, as to its nature and the manner of its operation, as to its causes, effects, fruits, evidences, they ought diligently to inquire into. To be spiritually skilled therein is one of the principal furnishments of any for the work of the ministry, without which they will never be able to divide the Word aright, nor show themselves workmen that need not be ashamed." We agree with Owen and believe that if you are not going to a church that preaches the kind of Christ-honoring principles in the following essays, then we are only getting a partial gospel at best. Set aside some time to read and linger over these Bible-saturated essays.
Spurgeon On The Goal of Preaching
By Jonathan Watson - General Editor of the Banner of Truth
For C. H. Spurgeon it was an axiom that God sends preachers into the world so that sinners may be reconciled to him. Admittedly, there may be some notable exceptions to this rule (e.g. Noah and Jeremiah), but for the most part, God has ordained the preaching of the gospel for the purpose of saving the hearers.
When King Agrippa asked the Apostle Paul, â€˜In a short time would you persuade me to become a Christian?â€™, Paulâ€™s reply gave vent to the spirit in which the true evangelist must always preach the gospel: â€˜Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am â€“ except for these chains.â€™ The Apostleâ€™s clear aim in bearing witness to Christ before kings and their subjects was the conversion of all who were present with him.
Do you preach with the same clear aim? What exactly is your intention? What would you have God do? The conversion of one or two, a mere handful, perhaps, of your hearers? Or do you climb the pulpit steps praying, â€˜would to God that every single one of my hearers may be converted through the means of this sermonâ€™?
C. H. Spurgeon was truly apostolic in this respect, as in many others. He considered this such an important element in true preaching that he devoted one whole lecture to it during his Friday afternoon visits to The Pastorsâ€™ College, of which he was the President.
Don't criticize your preacher too much. He has a hard job.
Preaching is very personal. The preacher is vulnerable within the Community of God. He is weekly under the microscope, scrutinized by God and his people. You probably have no idea what that does to the dynamics of his personal and family life.
The preacher must call to attention that very thing which threatens the core of his own autonomy as a sinful creatureâ€”it's sort of like diving on a grenade to save your friends. Except that it's really by throwing yourself on the Gospel Grenade that you're saved, so the preacher's really chucking them out there into the crowdâ€”and not everyone is going to appreciate that way of salvation, that's for sure.
The preacher can be tempted to preach for personal gain (i.e., flattering compliments or money). Or, conversely, the preacher can be tempted to coldly disregard any input received from the hearersâ€”constructive or otherwiseâ€”in the name of "telling it like it is, whether they like it or not." In my estimation, it's nigh impossible to actually preach from selfless love, and to be sensitive to the true needs of the hearers (which they might like to communicate frequently through criticism).
Remember that next time you talk to your preacher after the Sunday sermon.
Deflating the Puffed Up Church
Today I took the advice of Steve Camp that he gave at his web site and listened to a sermon by C. J. Mahaney. I am so glad I did. This is what Steve wrote:
"C.J. Mahaney "Deflating the Puffed Up Church" (Text - 1 Cor. 4:8-13) - This is one of the best messages I have heard in some time bar none. I was brought to conviction with almost every phrase and yet at the same time, encouraged to live more wholly for the Lord and His glory. It is a powerful call to humility in ministry, holiness of life and Christlikeness in all things. C.J. delivers with his usual infectious passion; but it is not needless emotion from a well-experienced orator. It is great theology erupting from the overflow of the heart surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. This is a man who trembles at God's Word when he preaches."
I would wholeheartedly echo Steve's exhortation to listen to this sermon. I have to say that it had a very deep and profund effect upon me. You'll find it at the following web address: http://www.chbcaudio.org/audio/2007/03-25-07.mp3
May God use this powerful sermon as a means of grace to work true humility in all of our lives. - John Samson
The Ministry of Preaching
Preaching takes great courage... If you are called to preach, know this ahead of time, and as an ambassador of Christ, proclaim His word as one of the King's heralds.
I have gained much from Bryan Chapell's book, "Christ Centered Preaching." There he points out, amongst many other things that in 2 Tim. 4:1, 2, the word "preach" is the word for â€œheraldâ€ or â€œannounceâ€ or â€œproclaim.â€ It is not a simple word for teaching or explaining. It is what a town crier did when he cried out: "Hear ye, Hear ye, Hear ye!!" It was a message that demanded attention. As the King's herald we are to proclaim, "The King has a proclamation of good news for all those who swear allegiance to his throne. Be it known to you that he will give eternal life to all who trust and love his Son." That is exactly the kind of message we are called to preach.
Preaching is a public exultation. It is not disinterested or cool or neutral. It is passionate about what it says. Yet this heralding contains teaching. We can see this clearly as we look back to 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that the Scripture (which gives rise to preaching) is profitable for "teaching." We can see it also as we look ahead to the rest of 2 Timothy 4:2, where it says, "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." So preaching is expository. True preaching is not the opinions of a mere man. It is the faithful exposition of God's Word.
Luke 24:27 - And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
John 5:39, 40 - You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.
It is possible to have a high view of the Bibleâ€™s authority and miss the entire point of the Bible. Scripture is not telling us what we must do to complete ourselves or make ourselves acceptable to God. The Bible is not a Self Help Book. All the Scriptures are about one organic message â€“ Christ Himself.
If people are simply told that something they DO will fix their problem â€“ thatâ€™s not just SUB-Christian but ANTI-Christian. The Gospel is not â€œDO BETTER!â€ To proclaim the â€œThou shalt notsâ€ without the Source that enables their accomplishment, or His atoning work for us when we fail, is to HIJACK the biblical message.
What a high calling it is to be a preacher - a herald of the King!
One of the laws operating in our world is that things left to themselves do not have a tendency to get better, but rather decay. This is true for the preacher and his preaching. We should therefore always be seeking to improve our preaching, knowing that if we are not doing so, the tendency is for things to go in the other direction. I have often recommended that ministers read at least one good book about preaching each year. It is something I have sought to do myself, knowing my very real need to improve my sermon preparation and delivery. My favorite book on preaching is Bryan Chapel's "Christ Centered Preaching." It is a treasure in my personal library - full of both sound, biblical instruction and practical, helpful material. If you have never read a book on preaching, this is the one I would recommend. If you have read others, then I would also say, "read this one too." In fact, I would say, "read and re-read it," and of course, seek to apply its truths.
On this theme of preaching, I now also find that there is an excellent series of recent posts by Pastor Steve Weaver's at his blog site that I would very highly recommend. Steve is a humble man of God, and has allowed us to take something of an inside look at how he goes about the holy task of preparing and delivering a sermon. I found that many of my own thoughts were confirmed, but also, was very pleased to find some very good recommendations that, God willing, I will seek to employ in the days ahead. Thank you so much Steve! I trust all preachers will find this series to be a blessing. The series is entitled, "How I Preach An Expository Sermon" and can be found here . - Pastor John Samson
The Devastating Consequences of a Watered-Down Message by John MacArthur
Those who are familiar with my ministry know that I am committed to expository preaching. It is my unshakable conviction that the proclamation of Godâ€™s Word should always be the heart and the focus of the churchâ€™s ministry (2 Tim. 4:2). And proper biblical preaching should be systematic, expositional, theological, and God-centered.
Such preaching is in short supply these days. There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but todayâ€™s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage peopleâ€™s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, "successful" living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldlyâ€”and not definitively biblicalâ€”themes. Like the ubiquitous Plexiglas lecterns from which these messages are delivered, such preaching is lightweight and without substance, cheap and synthetic, leaving little more than an ephemeral impression on the minds of the hearers. More here.
Jeremiah Burroughs on Preaching
"It may be a use of a great deal of encouragement to all the ministers of God to preach to people. It may be that sometimes even they are discouraged, and think to themselves, "Lord, how hard are the hearts of men, and how difficult it is to work upon the hearts of men! I have labored with all my might. I have studied and sought to invent all the arguments I possibly could, the most moving arguments that I could possibly imagine. When I have been in my study, I have thought to myself, 'Surely if the Lord is pleased to bless these truths that I am to deliver, they will work upon the hearts of people.'" And when it comes to the preaching of that sermon, perhaps the minister finds that they are not at all stirred one whit. "Why, Lord, what shall I do then? I cannot think ever to speak things that are more powerful than those that I have spoken, and those have done no good. Therefore I am afraid I shall never do good."
"Oh, no, do not say so and do not think so. The Lord is pleased sometimes to show us our vanity this way, and to rebuke us. Many times the Lord will not go along with the ministry of the Word when it comes with the greatest power and the strongest arguments and, yet, at another time, the Lord will be pleased to bless a word that you only speak in passing. It may do more than all the others. There is scarcely any one faithful minister in the world who observes the work of God upon his ministry who does not find this to be true. Yet this is no argument why a minister should not labor with all his might and come with the strongest arguments. He is bound to do his duty. Aye, be not discouraged. He may afterwards prevail, and God, I say, may bless many things that come from him. And therefore, I would exhort those who are to speak to such an audience with the words of Ecclesiastes 11:6: "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be a like good."
"Therefore, let ministers go on and sow their seed and preach still. That which they have spoken (perhaps they have been delivering arguments that they thought would have moved the heart of a devil) has been opening the miserable condition of men and opening the riches of Jesus Christ. Well, there must be no discouragement; go on and sow your seed in the morning, and in the evening withhold not your hand. Go on and preach again and again, and let the Word of God be presented before the hearts of the people. Though it has not wrought at one time, yet it may work at another time. Yea, though you should grow weaker and weaker, yet for all that the Lord may do good to you, even when you are at your weakest. In 2 Timothy 2:25 the apostle says to Timothy, "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God, peradventure will give them repentance." Peradventure this day a truth may be handed from God to a soul - peradventure this text, peradventure that text, and so the soul may be brought in."
Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire
[The following is a summary of an address given by Iain H. Murray at the Carey Conference 2001 at Swanwick, U.K.]
During the Second World War a Scot who was in the services and visiting London went to Westminster Chapel but the Chapel was closed, damaged by bombing, but on a piece of paper visitors were directed to a nearby hall. He described a 'thin man' wearing a tie calling the people to worship. He thought the man was a church officer, and he appreciated his prayer, but then the man began to preach, beginning quietly enough. "This must be Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones," he thought. But for the next 40 minutes he was unconscious of anything else in the world, hearing only this man's words. He had been caught up in the mystery of preaching. That man later became a well known Church of Scotland minister called Tom Allen.
When he left that service Tom Allen was taken up with the message, not the preacher. DMLJ would have thought little of conferences addresses like this one about himself. He thought messages about contemporary men had done great injury especially during the Victorian period. With man-centredness being the terrible bane of today's church there is a danger in drawing attention to personalities. DMLJ would quote the words of God, "My servant Moses is dead so arise and go over Jordan." DMLJ prevented several would-be biographers writing anything, and reluctantly consented to Iain Murray's official biography if only something could be written which would encourage those who were entering the gospel ministry.
DMLJ believed that God was the God of tomorrow who would raise up servants who would enjoy blessings that he himself had not known. Frequently when he prayed it was particularly for a recovery of authority and power in preaching.
"Pelagianism is the natural heresy of zealous Christians who are not interested in theology."
- J.I. Packer, "'Keswick' and the Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification."
Churches which preserve their cognitive identity and distinction from the culture will flourish: those who lose them in the interests of seeking success will disappear.
In our churches we may have made a deal with postmodern consumers but the hard reality is that Christianity cannot be bought. Purchase, in the world of consumption, leads to ownership but in the Church this cannot happen. It is never God who is owned. It is we who are owned in Christ. Christianity is not up for sale. Its price has already been fixed and that price is the complete and ongoing surrender to Christ of those who embrace him by faith. It can only be had on his own terms. It can only be had as a whole. It refuses to offer only selections of its teachings. Furthermore, the Church is not its retailing outlet. Its preachers are not its peddlers and those who are Christian are not its consumers. It cannot legitimately be had as a bargain though the marketplace is full of bargainhunters.
For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's Word..." II Cor 2:17
No, let us think instead of the Church as its voice of proclamation, not its sales agent, its practitioner, not its marketing firm. And in that proclamation there is inevitable cultural confrontation. More precisely, there is the confrontation between Christ, in and through the biblical Word, and the rebellion of the human heart. This is confrontation of those whose face is that of a particular culture but whose heart is that of the fallen world. We cannot forget that.
The Necessity of the Use of Means in the Spirit's Work of Monergistic Regeneration
There are a few wise guys who are venting their theological frustrations in the ethersphere by misrepresenting the Reformed community on a rather broad scale. This is particularly true with regard to our teaching on the necessity of the use of means (preaching) in the Spirit's work of regeneration. Anyone who has spent any time on Monergism.com will know that for years we have gathered historical and contemporary essays from a wide array of Reformed Scholars and pastors from various denominations on the necessity of preaching the gospel to the lost so that the Spirit might quicken hearers through the Word. The Spirit quickens us, creating belief in the gospel, and cries 'Abba Father' in us, giving witness to the truth and excellency of the Word of Christ. Michael Horton affirms, with us, that while regeneration is necessary for faith, but that this life is brought forth. not in a void, but through the Word:
"...God alone is the cause of the New Birth, but he calls women and men to himself through the weakness of preaching. Nowhere in Scripture do we find a pattern of evangelism or revival in which individuals respond to the gospel by simply being â€œzappedâ€ by the Spirit. They are always responding to the preached Word. It may be one-on-one, or in an assembly, but it is the Word proclaimed that gives life to those spiritually dead. Furthermore, even after they are converted, believers do not grow in their walk, deepen in their Christian experience, or learn new truths by the direct activity of the Spirit apart from Godâ€™s ordained means... God has determined to bring that Good News through specific means, and to involve us in this drama... Paul picks up on this language in Romans 10, making the preached Word essential for the Spiritâ€™s work of regeneration: â€œHow, then, can they call on the one in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, â€˜How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!â€™â€(Rom. 10:14-15).
Some of the allegations that we do not believe this are simply preposterous so it is needful to make a few clarifying statements to silence some of the crazy misrepresentations out there. I have seen numerous posts which erroneously claim that the broad Reformed community (who embrace monergistic regeneration) does not believe in means (preaching) to bring about regeneration.
Preaching for the Glory of God by Pastor John Samson
Last year, in the Fall, I was asked to teach a 50 minute seminar at a Ministers' Conference on the subject of preaching. One 50 minute session does not allow for a comprehensive overview, but it at least allows time for a good introduction to this vital subject. A new reformation is needed in our Churches and it must begin in our pulpits.
The feedback I've received since the Ministers' Conference has been very positive with a consistent comment being, "we especially enjoyed the hand out notes you provided." Because of this encouraging feedback, I post these hand out notes here, knowing that I am merely a gatherer of helpful material on this subject, over many a year. I claim no exclusivity of insight. Hopefully we can all see a little further because each of us stand on the shoulders of giants.
Because we as preachers collect much information along the way, from many different sources, it is often times very easy to quote someone and fail to identify the quote or even realize that someone else is being quoted.
The humorous story is told of a preacher quoting a fellow preacher. The first time he did so he said, "As our brother, Rev. Brian McDonald once said..." The second time he quoted him, he said, "As someone has wisely said..." Then, the third time... "Like I always say..."
"Mistakes" such as these happen all too frequently, and, believe it or not, they are not always intentional. If such is the case below, I apologize beforehand if I have failed to identify any of my sources. I do know that much of the content comes from Bryan Chapell's excellent book, "Christ Centered Preaching", which continues to instruct and inspire me, a number of years after I first read it.
If these brief notes can be used to encourage just one fellow preacher/teacher out there in the greatest of all tasks of preaching the very oracles of God, then I will be more than happy.
"He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury." (Rom 2:6-8)
"If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." (Matt 19:17)
What are we to make of the above statements by Paul and Jesus? Both of these texts plainly state that eternal life will be granted those who obey God's commandments. Since we have been taught that salvation to be by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, how are we to interpret such passages? I take up this important issue because there were one or two questions regarding the legitimacy of the concept of "do this and live" in my essay "There May be More Than One Way to God".
It should be known that these law/gospel (two ways of salvation model) concepts I proposed in the essay are not my peculiar new invention but the classic understanding of salvation in Covenant Theology.
When we preach the law to a person we are, in effect, saying "do this and live". Scripture actually reveals two ways that one might be saved in the Bible. These two antithetical covenants can be filtered down to "Do this and live" (Leviticus 18:5; Romans 2:13; 10:5), and "The just shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 10:6; Galatians 3:11). These covenants are both based in the eternal covenant of redemption which was made in the eternal counsels of the Triune God (John 6:37-39). Both will come into play through the historical Christ. This first covenant was revealed in Eden as the original Adamic Covenant (or covenant of Works). In its most basic form it consisted of the command "Do not eat, or you will die." It is easy enough to see that if you restate P for ~P, you get "Do this and live." When Adam failed to live up to the terms of the covenant, he plummeted he and his posterity into the Curse of death. Now all who are "in Adam" are incapable of life through that original covenant. It should be noted that God also mentions, after the fall, that the way to the tree of life is blocked lest man eat and live. So there was a means by which Adam hypothetically could have avoided the fall, that is, by obedience to God for a period or perhaps by eating the tree of life.
The Conjoining of the Spirit with Word and Sacrament
How is faith formed is us and how are we to nourish and continue that faith which the Holy Spirit effectually created in us?
The child who is conceived by his parents must also be nourished by them with food and then brought up in discipline lest his physical and mental growth be stunted. Likewise the faith which the Holy Spirit initially formed in us must also be nourished. Unless the life once quickened in us by the Holy Spirit is daily nourished by the means appointed by God, faith will wither and struggle, and not bear healthy fruit.
And just what are the appointed means God has given? The Word and the Sacraments. (1) The Preaching of the Word. We nourish the faith the Spirit begat in us first by assembling together with other Christians to hear the word of God preached to us. This is the ordinary means the Lord works faith in us, a means which He has promised to bless and bind Himself to. (2) The Administering and Receiving of the Sacraments which Jesus commanded us to partake of "till He come". The greater the frequency of being united to Christ through the sacrament of the Lord's Table the more our faith will receive nourishment. We should make it a habit to often come together, as did disciples, who "continued in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship and the breaking of bread and prayers" (Acts 2:42). This is the means they used to nourish and augment their faith that Christ had begun in them (Phil 1:6, 1:29).
Before I begin, a few things need to be clarified. I am not a preacher, nor do I claim to be. I have no experience in pastoral ministry. In fact, I have only taken one homiletics course and have only organized three sermons. This article is not an attempt to point figures or criticize individuals, but to analyze modern-day evangelical preaching. Therefore, in my own humble attempt, I hope this may give passion to preachers/teachers to â€œpreach the word.
Inside my Greek Bible are signatures. These signatures are from men who have fueled my passion for scripture. Theses signatures include: John Piper, John Macarthur, Al Mohler, and Sinclair Ferguson. Before any of these men signed my Bible, I placed a quote above them by Richard Baxter, â€œI preached as to never preach again and as a dying man to dying men.â€