Someone recently gave me a copy of Steve Lawson’s little gem, The Expository Genius of John Calvin. It’s one of those books that you can read in a sitting. If you know Steve, this book reads like his preaching. It is sincere, passionate, encouraging and convicting all at once. Much of Calvin’s approach and practice in preaching will not be ground breaking to you if you read broadly on expository preaching. What will be helpful is seeing that the man who is often credited with turning the ship of Protestantism did it with the same methods that many of us employee in our preaching today.
This morning I was reading on application in Calvin’s sermons. This is the area of expository preaching that garners the most disagreement in my assessment. In that section I found a nugget of gold. The nugget comes from Calvin’s practice in preaching.
Sadly, some today take Calvinism or it’s various segments in reformed soteriology and use it to beat the daylights out of their opponents or those under their care. After all, they opine, if Calvin the Great did it, why shouldn’t we? It has always amazed me that those who come to understand sovereign grace exhibit anything BUT that [grace] to those who are not on the same page. But according to Lawson, Calvin was not like that in the bulk of his preaching. I have no doubt that Calvin called a theological spade a spade (see Polemic Confrontation later in the book). But the overall character of his preaching was altogether different. Listen to these poignant words from the pen of Dr. Lawson
“Calvin did not fire over the heads of his people while answering aberrations of other theologians. He did not misuse the pulpit to rebut his numerous critics. Instead, Calvin remained intent on nurturing the spiritual development of his people. He preached primarily to edify and encourage the congregation God had entrusted to Him. In short, he preached for changed lives.” – Steve Lawson, p. 104-105.
May we all strive for that kind of pastoral care in our preaching.