Similarity No. 2: The Primacy of the Pulpit
Flowing out of their common recognition of biblical authority is a second striking similarity, namely, their strict commitment to the primacy of biblical preaching. Though both men have faced demands on many fronts, they, nevertheless, are, first and foremost, preachers of the Word. In their ministries, the public exposition of Scripture occupied the central place. For both men, the pulpit was the principle means by which they exerted their greatest influence.
High Calling to a Sacred Task
By all accounts, the Westminster pulpit was central to every aspect of the spiritual life of the church. Accordingly, Lloyd-Jones maintained that preaching is the loftiest task to which anyone could commit himself. He writes, “The work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” What is more, Lloyd-Jones insists: “The most urgent need in the Christian church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.” Nothing, he maintained, must ever supplant the primacy of the pulpit in the church.
Lloyd-Jones came to this conviction early as a brilliant young physician. He came to the sobering realization that he was merely assisting the physical healing of people who would return to godless living and suffer eternal destruction. He lamented, “We spend most of our time rendering people fit to go back to their sin.” Of his patients, he realized: “A man with a healthy body and a diseased soul is all right for sixty years or so and then he has to face an eternity of hell.” Once converted, Lloyd-Jones came to see that only the Word of God can bring about what ultimately matters, the healing of eternal souls. With this conviction, he was being drawn to the ministry of preaching: “The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.” Everything in the church, he believed, should be shaped and influenced by the pulpit.
Substantiating this claim, Lloyd-Jones pointed to the earthly ministries of Jesus Christ: “In the life and ministry of our Lord Himself, you have this clear indication of the primacy of preaching and of teaching.” In addition, he understood that Christ assigned this same priority to His apostles. When these men were “filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost,” he notes, they immediately “began to preach.” As other needs arose in the early church, Lloyd-Jones paraphrased Peter’s assertion, stating: “We are here to preach this Word, this is the first thing, ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.’” By this statement, he maintained that preaching, empowered by prayer, is job number one in the church. He states that these “priorities are laid down once and forever…and we must not allow anything to deflect us from this.” No other ministry or church activity must ever supplant the primacy of the pulpit.
In Season and Out of Season
Standing shoulder to shoulder with Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur has voiced this same conviction: “The church’s most important function is to proclaim the Word of God in an understandable, direct, and authoritative way.” Assigning the pulpit this proper place, MacArthur declares: “Preaching the Word must be the very heart of our ministry philosophy.” Resisting present day trends, he emphatically states: “In corporate worship, the preaching of the Word should take first place.” Therefore, MacArthur maintains: “Preaching is an irreplaceable aspect of all corporate worship. In fact, the whole church service should revolve around the ministry of the Word. Everything else is either preparatory to, or a response to, the exposition of Scripture.” At Grace Church, the centrality of the Word preached is an irrefutable core value.
MacArthur is indefatigable in this fundamental commitment: “Preaching is the non-negotiable heart of the church’s ministry. This fact does not change because public opinion changes.” MacArthur states that this biblically-assigned priority in non-negotiable: “Some people today argue that the church could draw more ‘unchurched’ people by featuring drama and music instead of preaching. But Paul’s instructions to Timothy were clear. He was to preach the Word whether preaching was popular or not—‘in season and out of season.’” Thus, MacArthur sounds this clarion warning: “A ‘church’ where the Word of God is not regularly and faithfully preached is no true church.” Only where the Scripture is rightly expounded, he believes, does a true church meet.
Unswayed by contemporary trends, MacArthur states, “Many things have come along to try and supplant preaching. And unfortunately, most people just let it appen. If you open your newspaper and look at the church page, instead of reading about men preaching the Word of God, you read about musical phantasmagorias, movies, and all sorts of other things going on.” He staunchly insists, “They must never supplant the preaching of the Word. A holy man, who is gifted to preach by the Spirit of God and prepared in the Word of God, has no equal in a power presentation of the truth. That is the pattern of Scripture.” Such a fundamental commitment to preaching lies at the heart of every great preacher. Bottomline, MacArthur concludes: “Preaching is to be the priority.”
Journal Article written by Dr. Steven Lawson (used with permission).
TO BE CONTINUED