The Ministry

John Evans on the Task of Preaching

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bbc.co.uk

“You should firstly,” began John Evans, “endeavor to enlighten the minds of your hearers.  No real profit will be obtained while the mind is still dark.  Then, seek to awaken guilty and sleepy consciences.  Aim those darts which are found in the Word at their hearts, and watch to see if it pleases God to bless such means to their awakening, causing them to cry out as the multitudes on the day of Pentecost: ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’  Next, you should strive in every sermon, to win their affections and draw them to love Christ and the treasures of the gospel.  And lastly, be sure that all your sermons emphasize the need for a holy life and conversation.”

Jones & Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, vol. II, p. 42

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The preacher finds his counterpart…

The preacher finds his counterpart not in the lecture theatre or the classroom or, most ghastly of all, on the stand-up comedy circuit. He finds him in the Old Testament prophets, bringing a confrontational word from the Lord which explains reality and demands a response.

Carl Trueman, “Why Is So Much Preaching So Poor?”

carl

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A Drunken Disturbance While Dafydd Morris Preached

He stood to declare the Word near an inn door.  Opposite him, on the other side of the road, were three trees growing at the side of a river.  Soon after he had started preaching, a drunken man passed by who started shouting out at the end of every sentence from the preacher, ‘He’s lying!’  Dafydd Morris suffered this for a while, but as the man continued with his shouting and threatenings, his spirit was aroused, and he said to the crowd around him, ‘Listen! Those three trees will bear testimony against that man on Judgment Day, unless retribution overtakes him before then.’  The people noted his remark, and it was soon brought to their notice again, when the drunkard fell over a wall in his drunkenness one dark night, and was drowned.  And this took place only a few paces away from the spot where the preacher had stood.  As the Bible says, ‘Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?’

Jones & Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, vol. I, p. 728.

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In Llan-gan, beneath the pulpit…

In Llan-gan, beneath the pulpit,
Was her heaven, was her home,
While the harp-strings, plucked by David,
Sang the song of life to come;
Christ the Text, and Christ the Sermon,
Christ the Law, and Christ the Key,
So preached Jones, and so she answered–
‘Thus forever shall it be.’

William William’s (of Pantycelyn) Elegy of Mrs. Grace Price of Watford, member of Llan-gan parish, pastored by David Jones

Jones & Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, vol I. p. 709

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Preaching from the Old Testament

IMG_6767In the New Testament, the apostles and prophets proclaimed Christ (His person and work) from the existing canon of Scripture that they had, that is, from the Old Testament.  Based on their examples, we find several ways or methods to preach from the Old Testament.  Although in recent years there has been quite a bit of attention given in some circles to redemptive historical preaching, this hermeneutical method is only one of several methods of interpretation which ought to be applied to a given Old Testament passage.

Several important hermeneutics are listed as follows, with an example for each from Genesis 30*.

1. Redemptive-Historical — This method looks for cues to the progressive unfolding of God’s plan through human history.

Example: God caused Jacob’s favorite and beloved wife, Rachel, to have a son, named Joseph, whom he would love more than his brothers.  This was a part of the unfolding of God’s plan to save the family of Jacob from extinction in the great famine that would take place  years later when Joseph was prime minister of Egypt, after his brothers had sold him into slavery in jealousy, but God raised him to great status in Egypt.  Through this temporal salvation that God worked through Joseph, the nation of Israel was kept alive so that the Messiah would eventually spring of him.

2. Promise-Fulfillment — This method highlights specific and explicit prophecies God gave in the Old Testament that would come to pass in the time of the New Testament.

Example:  We see in the prospering of Jacob’s herds, and the diminishing of Laban’s herds, of a man who abused Jacob, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Jacobs’ grandfather Abraham, to bless him, bless those who bless him, and curse those who curse him.  This promise ultimately has reference to Abraham’s and Jacob’s Seed, who is Christ.  (Gal 3:16)

3. Typological — Looks for symbols in the characters and events of Old Testament narrative that point to something greater to come.

Example: The 12 patriarchs born of Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah, are a type of the 12 apostles that Jesus would set apart as the formative structure for His kingdom on earth, the Church of Jesus Christ, which is the New Israel.  (Acts 1:6-8)

4. Analogical — Analogical preaching uses a narrative to illustrate a doctrine of Scripture.  There is a danger here, since it is rarely the clear intent of a passage to provide an analogy to help explain a broader teaching.  Yet we find examples of such application in the New Testament, like with Paul’s analogy in Galatians using Hagar and Sarah to represent the law and the gospel.  While certainly not the first hermeneutic to bring to a narrative passage, it may have a place, as a method of instruction on a core New Testament doctrine.

Example:  The miraculous increase of Jacob’s herds and decrease of Laban’s herds are a picture of God’s sovereign building of His Church.  He builds one flock and diminishes another, by a secret and spiritual operation, according to His sovereign purpose, because, after all, it is He who builds her. (Matthew 16:18)

5. Moral Exemplar — Christ teaches Christians by His Word, how to live in a way that pleases Him, and His work of sanctification in us produces these fruits in us.  We see these fruits sometimes abounding, sometimes lacking, in the examples of people in the Old Testament.  From them we can learn to follow their good examples and avoid their bad examples.

Example:  It is the will of Christ, and His teaching, that a husband ought to be joined to one wife.  We see the example of Jacob, and the miserable strife and bitter rivalry that polygamy caused in his family.  This is an indication that polygamy is contrary to God’s moral will.  (1 Tim 3:2)

As the apostles did, and as the greatest preachers of Church History since apostolic times (Gregory Nazianzus, Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, etc.) have demonstrated, it is fitting and necessary to preach from the Old Testament in the Church of Jesus Christ.  Preaching from the Old Testament gives the people of God a balanced diet of the Word, and it is the will of God who gave 66 books of Scripture and not merely 27.  The discerning preacher-exegete will attempt to use all of these various methods whenever they seem to carry significant weight in a particular pericope, taken in context with the whole of Scripture.  He will make sure to give his hearers a balance of approaches by which Christ is seen to be proclaimed in the Old Testament.  Contrary to the claims of some, the redemptive historical hermeneutic is only one of several important methods of interpreting the Old Testament in Christ-centered way.

*For some of the categories represented in this post and line of thought followed, I am indebted to Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ From The Old Testament.

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Many are induced…

Many are induced by pride and presumption, by disdain, or by envy to persuade themselves that they will get enough benefit from reading in private, or meditating in private. By doing so, they contemn the public assemblies, and think that meditation there is unnecessary. But because they dissolve or divide, as much as is in them, the bond of unity which God wills to be kept inviolable, it is fitting that they receive the reward of such a divorce, for they bewitch themselves of all the errors and reveries which carry them to confusion.

Jean Calvin, L’Institution Chrétienne, IV.I.5

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William Edward’s Preaching vs. That of The Dissenters

[William Edward of Rhyd-y-gele] was full of fire and passion, was very gifted, and possessed the ability to address sinners, but was naturally awkward and uncultivated in his manner.  He was a Methodist, he had been converted under Howell Harris, but had mixed much amongst the Dissenters and when attending their special services sat with their ministers.  They considered him too fiery and irregular.  He thought them lifeless and unevangelical.  He explained to them once the difference between his way of preaching and theirs, using the illustration of a house on fire:

Image

“Your way is to say, ‘On travelling one night, firstly, I perceived a fire.  Secondly I saw smoke.  Thirdly, I understood that a house was on fire.  Fourthly, I knew that the family inside were asleep.  Fifthly, I came to wake you and to call you, in case you were destroyed.’  My own method, on seeing the house aflame and the family asleep, is to shout out, with no firstly or secondly, ‘Hey!  Hey!  Fire!  Fire!  Awake!  Come out at once or  you will be burnt to ashes!'”

Jones & Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, (The Banner of Truth Trust), vol. I, p. 346.

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Go to the eighteenth century!

whitefieldGo to the eighteenth century!  In other words read the stories of the great tides and movements of the Spirit experienced in that century.  It is the most exhilarating experience, the finest tonic you will ever know.  For a preacher it is absolutely invaluable…There is nothing more important for preaching than reading Church history and biographies.

–Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

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Choices for Lutherans

elcaWith the election of its first openly homosexual bishop, Rev. R. Guy Erwin, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), this country’s largest Lutheran denomination, has made clear once and for all, if there had been any doubt, that it is going to follow the tide of contemporary culture rather than following anything like what has historically resembled Christianity.  In this act, it has proclaimed love toward that behavior which in the Holy Bible is termed an abomination to the Lord. 

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination:

Leviticus 20:13a

We are come a long way from Luther!  And, sadly, but no less truly, this stage has only arrived after a long march driven not by a reverence for the gospel of Christ as revealed in Scripture, but by liberal theology and progressive social activism.  It has not just begun.  The ELCA has been on a long ride beginning with questioning the authority of Holy Scripture, and a failure to maintain the biblical qualifications for ordained ministry; and the Lutherans are not alone.  They have been preceded in their embrace of homosexual conduct by the United Church of Christ, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA, and the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Without a doubt there are Lutherans who have not consented to the ride.  I am acquainted with ELCA members who are vibrant and sincere brothers and sisters in Christ.  Those who fall into this category, that is, the remnant of true Christians left in the ELCA, must find themselves in a dilemma.  They have not brought this upon themselves, but the devilish inroads of evil have taken over the machinery of the church that they have known and loved, which they have called home, slowly but surely, until now, they are here.  What is a Christian who is a member of an ELCA congregation to do?  There are a few possible responses.

1.  Do nothing.

Be content to continue in your present congregation, with its present affiliation in the ELCA.  Many make the assumption that what happens in other synods or regions will not affect them.  They are satisfied with their congregation, in their neighborhood.  Those in rural areas tend to believe that they are isolated from what goes on “in the city.”  But is this really the case?  Are you willing to give your hard-earned cash to pay dues, to support the homosexual ideology through the ELCA seminaries, special scholarships for homosexuals studying for the ministry, pensions and salaries for church executives and other clergypersons engaging in an open (flagrant) homosexual lifestyle?  We would do well to consider the words of Revelation 18:4 “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”  Is it possible to be a contributor to such things and not partake of the guilt of the sins, and of God’s punishment of them who are committed to war against God and His word, and yet to remain personally unstained?

2.  But,  “I want to stay and fight.”

But what is the Church of Jesus Christ?   Is the Church itself a mission field or a mission station?  The question of when to separate has been a difficult one down through history, and sound Christian leaders have chosen to separate at different times, not always agreeing on when was the time to leave.  Yet, how can one remain in a fellowship or denomination which is essentially anti-Christian, and which forces the faithful to pay to promote what are abominations?  To take part with them is to be a partaker with them, is to partake in their guilt.

Ephesians 5:6, 7 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.  Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

And where will your congregation find pastors in the future?  Of what persuasion (or lifestyle) will they be?  If the history of other churches is any indication, it will soon be virtually impossible to find, or to get an ELCA synod to approve of, a pastor who believes that the Bible is the word of God and that sin is defined as God says it is.  Sadly, local congregations are not as isolated from the happenings in the broader denomination as they would like to believe.

And, let’s be honest, as far as working to reverse the course by being a voice for truth in the ELCA wilderness, at this point it would probably be easier and  more productive to repeatedly pound your head against a brick wall than to try and change the ELCA back to recognizing the authority of Scripture.

3. Working in your congregation to separate from the ELCA.

There are Lutheran denominations which still adhere to the inerrancy of Scripture and maintain a distinctly and historically Christian faith, such as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LMCS).  There may be some ELCA congregations which have come to a point where they no longer hold to historic Lutheranism, and they may decide for various reasons that another strand of fellowship, another form of Christian unity with slightly different, yet essentially Christian standards of faith is to be preferred.

Martin+Luther+martinluther

I would encourage either avenue.  In fact, a Christian finding himself in the situation of being a part of an ELCA congregation probably ought to pursue the road of separation as a congregation first, if possible, to maintain the unity of the local body if the majority of the congregation are genuine Christians, and they can be persuaded to separate from the ELCA.  Although property and other legal or monetary issues may arise, these things are a small price to pay for the liberty to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, with a clear conscience.  As the Great Reformer Luther wrote in the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also…”  Alas, for many true believers within the fold of the ELCA, separation of the congregation from the ELCA will prove not to be an option simply because not enough voting members of the congregation will support it.  So that brings us to the final choice.


4. Leave and join another congregation.

The solution of last resort is not far for many in the present situation.  The final, and a painful option, for many, would be to leave the present ELCA congregation, and find another church, whether Lutheran or otherwise, where the gospel is clearly preached and the Bible is considered to be the definitive Word of God in written form.  If you are a Lutheran, ask yourself, is it the right time?  If not now, when?  What would have to happen for it to be the right time to separate from an ELCA congregation?  What sins would it involve?

What would I do, if I were a member of an ELCA congregation today?  If I were intent on remaining a Lutheran, holding to the distinctive Lutheran expression of Christianity including its form of worship and confessional statements, (which I do not), I would attempt to do number 3.  If that didn’t work, I would follow approach number 4 and join a different congregation.  If I were not dead set on remaining a Lutheran, I would simply follow number 4.  May God bless the Lutheran reader and may each be thoroughly convinced in his or her own mind that he or she is taking the right course of action.

crossroadsPlease, brothers and sisters, if you are a member of a congregation of the ELCA, immerse yourself in God’s word, reading it daily, and seek His help and direction there.  I hope that what I have written may be of help to some as they think through these crucial issues.

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A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men

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