Archive for the ‘OT Preaching’ Category

Sound Doctrine & the Expository Pulpit (Part 6)

Similarity No. 5:

the Purity of Doctrine

Fifth, Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur have been keenly aware they must exposit doctrinal truths. This focus has yielded a depth lacking in other expositors.  Murray observes there is “a growing difference between the older, [G. Campbell] Morgan tradition of exposition and MacArthur’s. In his case, as with Lloyd-Jones, the devotional thought is grounded on the bringing out of clear doctrinal principles. Exposition needs to lead hearers to doctrinal certainties.”  Lloyd-Jones
and MacArthur have been committed to preaching biblical and systematic theology from each text.

 Theology on Fire

Lloyd-Jones was adamant that true preaching must be doctrinal preaching: “What is preaching? It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.”  Each sermon, he maintained, must set forth doctrinal truths. To this point, Lloyd-Jones reiterates: “Preaching must always be theological, always based on a theological foundation…There is no type of preaching that should be non-theological.” With deep conviction, he states: “You cannot deal properly with repentance without dealing with the doctrine of man, the doctrine of the Fall, the doctrine of sin and the wrath of God against sin.”  In other words, preaching must be aimed at teaching “doctrinal certainties.”

Consequently, Lloyd-Jones believed that strong preaching demands that the preacher have a strategic grasp of systematic theology: “To me there is nothing more important in a preacher than that he should know it and be well grounded in it. This systematic theology, this body of truth which is derived from the Scripture, should always be present as a background and as a controlling influence in his preaching.”  For Lloyd-Jones, sound doctrine was the very backbone of his preaching. Each passage must be tested by the analogy of Scripture and show its perfect consistency with the rest of Scripture.

Murray explains that for Lloyd-Jones, preaching expositionally is “not simply to give the correct grammatical sense of a verse or passage. It is rather to set out the principles or doctrines which the words are intended to convey. True expository preaching is, therefore, doctrinal preaching, it is preaching which addresses specific truths from God to man.”  Without teaching the doctrine of a passage, a sermon is devoid of power. Thus, Lloyd-Jones asserted, “The purpose of studying the Scripture is to arrive at doctrine.”  Setting forth the doctrine of the passage, he believed, is essential to the sermon.

The Faith Once For All Delivered

This same focus upon sound doctrine is found in MacArthur’s preaching. This noted preacher writes: “The pastor’s purpose is not to make Scripture relevant to his people but to enable them to understand doctrine, which becomes the foundation of their spiritual living.”  No matter what people want, MacArthur states, solid theology must be put forth. He writes: “People’s ears may be itching for anything but sound doctrine, but the faithful pastor will defy the spirit of the age, confront his own fear, and boldly preach the truth anyway.”  Accordingly, he states: “In his preaching and teaching, it should be the pastor’s sole objective to enlighten his congregation in doctrine that protects and preserves their spiritual health.”  In other words, right living results from right doctrine.

In MacArthur’s preaching, Murray notes: “The necessity for doctrinal content—the making clear of biblical principles—became an increasingly important part of MacArthur’s preaching.” To this end, MacArthur states: “Authentic Christianity is concerned first and foremost with truth. The Christian faith is not primarily about feelings although deep feelings will surely result from the impact of truth on our hearts. It is not about human relationships, even though relationships are the main focus in many of today’s evangelical pulpits…Biblical Christianity is all about truth.”  Consequently, MacArthur stresses that the absolute nature of truth necessitates that every pastor teach sound doctrine. He writes: “An excellent minister is to disseminate sound teaching to all people at all times through all means. That is the heart and soul of the ministry.”

Regarding current trends, MacArthur notes: “There is much relational preaching today that attempts to make people feel better about themselves and about how God might feel about them, but there is little forceful defense of the full truth. As in most periods of church history, strong and effective defenders of the faith are at a premium.” Expositors of sound doctrine is the dire need in this present hour, he believes, those who uphold the standard of sound words. Such a commitment to preaching “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” galvanizes the pulpit.

 

Article by Dr. Steve Lawson (used with permission)

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Verse by Verse Preaching (pt 4)

Similarity No. 3:

The Continuity of Exposition

If preaching is to be primary, it demands a certain kind of preaching, specially, biblical preaching. To this end, Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur have been known for their expository pulpits, a fundamental approach that involves long series through entire books in the Bible. Whether preaching verse-by-verse through whole books, or through sections within books, both men have used the lectio continua approach, meaning “continuous expositions.” This comprehensive modus operandi has served a balanced diet to their well-balanced congregations.

New Life Into a Classic Form

Amid many barren pulpits, Lloyd-Jones so gave himself to sequential expository preaching that, Old insists, he was “breathing new life into a very classic form.” Lloyd-Jones was able to “recover and popularize” expository preaching “throughout the English-speaking world.” He accomplished this resurgence at a time when “classic expository preaching…had all but died out.” Resisting this trend, Lloyd-Jones insisted: “The message should always arise out of the Scriptures directly.” In other words, the sermon must start and stay with the Scripture, saying explicitly what the text says. But more than that, Lloyd-Jones asserted: “It should be clear to people that what we are saying is something that comes out of the Bible. We are presenting the Bible and its message. That is the origin of our message.” In short, he maintained that true preaching “must always be expository.”

By this approach, Lloyd-Jones delivered over 4000 sermons from his Westminster pulpit, preaching twice on Sundays, once in the morning and once in the evening, and on Friday evenings (September to May). Further, he conducted regular journeys throughout the English countryside, preaching at least two to three times during the week, including numerous pastors’ conferences.

Lloyd-Jones’s Sunday morning sermons were intentionally directed towards Christians. From his Westminster pulpit, he preached through: 1 Peter (twenty-five sermons, 1943-1944), 2 Peter (twenty-five sermons, 1946-1947), Philippians (thirty-seven sermons, 1947-1948), 1 John (sixty-seven sermons, 1948-1950), and Habakkuk (six sermons, 1950). The most famous Sunday morning series by Lloyd-Jones was the Sermon on the Mount, a thorough treatment of Matthew 5-7 (sixty sermons, 1950-1952).

Other Sunday morning series included an exposition of John 17 (thirteen sermons, 1952-1953), Psalm 73, (eleven sermons, 1953), Spiritual Depression from Psalm 42 (twenty-one sermons, 1954), Revival (twenty-six sermons, 1959), Ephesians (260 sermons, 1954-1962), Colossians 1 (fourteen sermons, 1962) and the Gospel of John chapters 1-4 (1962-1968).

In the Sunday evening messages, Lloyd-Jones was purposefully evangelistic, preaching through: Isaiah 35 (six sermons, 1946), Isaiah 40 (nine sermons, 1954), Psalm 107 (seven sermons, 1955), Authority (three sermons, 1957), Galatians 6:14 on the Cross (nine sermons, 1963), Psalm 1 (four sermons, 1963), Isaiah 1 (nine sermons, 1963), Isaiah 5 (seven sermons, 1964), Joy Unspeakable (twenty-four sermons, 1964-1965), and Acts 1-8 (110 sermons, 1965-1968). In addition, Lloyd-Jones started a Friday night Bible study, early in his Westminster ministry, focused primarily upon Christians, an on-going series which became enormously popular. His first Friday night series was on Great Doctrines of the Bible (eighty-one sermons, 1952-1955). Far from being dry lectures, these messages were delivered with all the elements of dynamic preaching. This series was followed by his magisterial exposition of the book of Romans (372 sermons, 1957-1968), culminating in Romans 14:17, when he retired from the Westminster pulpit.

The Only Legitimate Way to Preach

Like Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur made the same commitment to expository preaching. He writes: “Preaching and teaching must be expositional, setting forth as clearly, systematically, and completely as possible the truths of God’s Word and only those truths.”  MacArthur emphatically asserts: “It is for that reason that expository preaching—preaching that systematically and thoroughly explains the meaning of Scripture—is the only legitimate way to preach.”  Consequently, he states that the message must never originate with himself:  “The preacher’s responsibility is not to create messages from his own wisdom or cleverness or to manipulate or sway his listeners by means of his own persuasiveness of charisma but to interpret, explain, and apply God’s Word as clearly and completely as possible.” This is the genius of MacArthur’s preaching. Starting at the first verse of chapter one and moving consecutively through the entire book, he simply reads, explains, and applies God’s Word. MacArthur is a mouthpiece for the biblical text.

In all, MacArthur has delivered some 3,000 expositions at Grace Community Church. For over forty years, he has stood in one pulpit and faithfully expounded the Scripture, Sunday by Sunday. On Sunday mornings, MacArthur has preached, verse by verse, through: Romans (1969), the Gospel of John (seventy-eight sermons, 1970-1972), Acts (103 sermons, 1972-1975), 1 Corinthians (eighty-one sermons, 1975-1977), Ephesians (sixty sermons, 1978-1979), the Gospel of Matthew (226 sermons, 1978-1985), 1 Timothy (fifty sermons, 1985-1987), 2 Timothy (twenty-seven sermons, 1987-1988), Philippians (forty-six sermons, 1988-1989), 1 Thessalonians (thirty-six sermons, 1990-1991), Philemon (four sermons, 1991), 2 Thessalonians (seventeen sermons, 1992), Titus (twenty-four sermons, 1992-1993), 2 Corinthians (ninety-six sermons, 1993-1998), the Gospel of Luke (298 sermons, 1998-2008), the Gospel of Mark (2009-2011).

On Sunday evenings, MacArthur has likewise expounded: Habakkuk (three sermons, 1969), 1 and 2 Peter (1969), Hebrews (forty-three sermons, 1972-1973), Galatians (twenty-four sermons, 1973-1974), Colossians (twenty-three sermons, 1976), Zechariah (nineteen sermons, 1977), Daniel (thirty-one sermons, 1979-1980), Romans (124 sermons, 1981-1986), James (thirty-four sermons, 1986-1987), 1 Peter (fifty sermons, 1988-1990), 2 Peter (twenty-seven sermons, 1990-1991), Revelation (eighty-seven sermons, 1991-1995), Genesis 1-11 (forty-nine sermons, 1999-2001), 1 John (forty-two sermons, 2002-2003), 2 John (four sermons, 2003), 3 John (two sermons, 2003), Jude (fifteen sermons, 2004).

In addition, MacArthur has also preached the following topical expository series: The Superiority of Christ (seven sermons, 1972), The Second Coming of Jesus Christ (twenty-three sermons, 1973), Is the Bible Reliable? (twelve sermons, 1974), God, Satan, and Angels (nine sermons, 1975), The Charismatic Movement (twelve sermons, 1977), Spiritual Bootcamp (four sermons, 1978), True Worship (eight sermons, 1982), The Anatomy of a Church (eight sermons, 1983), Heaven (eight sermons, 1987), Spiritual Growth (four sermons, 1988), Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability (six sermons, 1989), Whatever Happened to the Holy Spirit? (six sermons, 1989), The Love of God (six sermons, 1994-1995), The Fulfilled Family (eleven sermons, 1996), A Biblical Perspective on the Middle East and Terrorism (four sermons, 2001), The Doctrines of Grace (ten sermons, 2004), Spiritual Terrorism (ten sermons, 2004), Making a Case for the Bible (five sermons, 2006), Why Every Calvinist Should be a Premillennialist (six sermons, 2007), The Kind Of Worship God Desires (five sermons, 2008), Romans chapters 3, 4 and 5 (ten sermons, 2009), Hebrews 11 (twelve sermons, 2009-2010), 1 Corinthians 13 (four sermons, 2010), 1 Corinthians 15 (six sermons, 2010).

Journal Article written by Dr. Steven Lawson (used with permission).

TO BE CONTINUED

The Primacy of the Pulpit (pt 3)

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

 

TWO EXTRAORDINARY EXPOSITORS (part 2)

Similarity No. 1: The Authority of Scripture

The similarities between Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur begin with their unwavering commitment to the authority of Scripture. Both these pulpit stalwarts have strongly affirmed the sovereignty of Scripture over the life of the church and every individual. For both men, the Bible is, indisputably, the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of the living God, fully sufficient to accomplish God’s purposes upon the earth. Herein lies the underlying genius for their powerful expositions.

The Sovereignty of Scripture

With unshakable certainty, Lloyd-Jones asserts that “the Scriptures are a divine product breathed out by God.” He maintains, “They were produced by the creative breath of the almighty God.” “It is not merely that the thoughts are inspired, not merely the idea,” Lloyd-Jones contends, “but the actual record, down to the particular words.”  Regarding the divine inspiration of Scripture, he states, “The Holy Spirit has thus overruled and controlled and guided these men, even in the particular words, in such a way as to prevent any error, and above all to produce the result that was originally intended by God.”  With deep conviction, Lloyd-Jones insisted that the Bible is the very breath of God, and that it speaks with perfect accuracy and divine authority.

To this point, Lloyd-Jones affirms: “This subject of authority is indeed the great theme of the Bible itself. The Bible presents itself to us as an authoritative book.” The Doctor adds, “The authority of the Scriptures is not a matter to be defended, so much as to be asserted…it is the preaching and exposition of the Bible that really establish its truth and authority.”  “The Scriptures themselves claim that authority”, Lloyd-Jones asserts. “They come to us as the Word of God…You cannot read the Old Testament without feeling that everywhere there is the assumption that this is the Word of God.” He further notes, “Our Lord Himself fully accepted that position. How often does He say, ‘It is written’! And He directs men to that as the final authority. He meets the attack of Satan by quoting Scripture.”  Only when the Scripture is held to be supremely authoritative can the preacher wield the sword of the Spirit with power.

Regarding the Old Testament, Lloyd-Jones writes: “To the Lord Jesus Christ, the Old Testament was the Word of God; it was Scripture; it was something absolutely unique and apart; it had authority which nothing else has ever possessed nor can possess.”  Similarly, this distinguished preacher recognizes this same authority in the New Testament: “The authority of the apostles undergirds and underlies the authority of the Gospels and the Epistles, the Book of Acts, indeed the whole of the New Testament. And we either accept that or we do not. It is the only authority: it is the final authority.”  To be sure, Scripture is the highest authority and final word in the Westminster pulpit, the undisputed arbitrator in all matters.

Absolute Authority

Assuming this same stance, MacArthur likewise affirms the absolute authority of Scripture. This noted expositor believes that this fundamental truth is rooted and grounded in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible: “All Scripture, is God’s inerrant Word. He writes, God divinely superintended the accurate recording of His divinely breather truth by His divinely chosen men.”   MacArthur believes that divine inerrancy is inseparably connected with biblical authority: “Those God-given, humanly-recorded words became God’s written Word, inerrant and authoritative as originally given.”   He further asserts, “If the Bible is infallible and inerrant, it must be the final word—the highest standard of authority.”  Consequently, MacArthur argues that “the truth of Scripture…has the full weight of God’s own authority behind it.”  Because the Bible is divinely inspired, it is divinely authoritative, a truth that mandates biblical preaching.

“If the Bible is true,” MacArthur insists, “then it is also authoritative. As divinely revealed truth, it carries the full weight of God’s own authority. If you claim to believe the Bible at all, you ultimately must bow to its authority.”  To this end, he states: “Preaching the Bible establishes the authority of God over the mind and the soul. When we preach the Word of God, our people understand who has sovereignty over their souls—it is God alone who reigns over their thoughts and their actions.”  The Bible, MacArthur notes, “is not a book of suggestions. Its divine mandates are authoritative and binding. Those who treat it lightly place themselves in eternal peril. Those who take it seriously find eternal blessing.” Consequently, “The Bible claims complete authority over our lives.” This is to say, Scripture possesses supreme authority over every part of every life.

Such biblical authority, Old notes, breeds great confidence in MacArthur as he preaches: “What he seems to have is a witness to true authority. He recognizes in Scripture the Word of God, and when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears.” He adds: “Surely one of the greatest strengths of MacArthur’s preaching ministry is his complete confidence in the text.”  Therefore, MacArthur’s approach to the biblical text must surely be defined by his complete reliance upon its unrivalled authority. Old further stresses: “This basic assumption that the text of Scripture is reliable is part of the foundation of his effectiveness as an interpreter.”

Unquestionably, MacArthur’s firm commitment to the absolute authority of Scripture emboldens his preaching. In this, both Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur speak with one voice.

Journal Article written by Dr. Steven Lawson (used with permission).

TO BE CONTINUED

 

Striking Similarities Between Two Extraordinary Expositors

One of my favorite preachers and Christian authors is Dr. Steve Lawson.  Pastor Lawson is a humble servant leader and so it is not surprising to observe the various ways God has chosen to use and bless this faithful jar of clay.  Steve serves as the main teaching pastor at a local church in Alabama http://www.cfbcmobile.org/

Dr. Lawson hosts a unique conference each and every year for bible expositors.  You can find out more about this conference at www.expositorsconference.org

Pastor Lawson has given me permission to republish the following article that originally appeared in the TMSJ. http://www.tms.edu/JournalIntro.aspx

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones
and John MacArthur 

Striking Similarities Between Two Extraordinary Expositors

In each generation, there is raised up by God one dominant voice in the church that speaks with greatest biblical authority and theological profundity, yet with far-reaching appeal. Through his prolific pulpit and pen, such a pivotal figure becomes the primary instrument that most influences the direction of God’s work around the world. Whether it be John Calvin in the sixteenth century, John Owen in the seventeenth, Jonathan Edwards in the eighteenth, or Charles Spurgeon in the nineteenth, every hour of human history has one such strategic leader who marries both depth and breadth of ministry, and most impacts the times in which he lives. For the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a compelling case can be made that these two individuals are, respectively, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John MacArthur.

Through Lloyd-Jones’ prolific Westminster pulpit in London, and later by the global distribution of his printed sermons, this formidable leader came to be widely regarded in his day as “the greatest preacher in Christendom.” Affectionately known as “the Doctor,” this brilliant physician-turned-preacher became the foremost expositor in the mid-twentieth century and was the leading influence in bringing about a resurgence of biblical preaching. “There is little doubt,” Eric J. Alexander writes, “that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the greatest preacher the English-speaking world has seen in the twentieth century.” Through his strategic pulpit, only a short walk from Buckingham Palace, Lloyd-Jones spoke to the nation and impacted the evangelical church around the world.

With unflagging confidence in Scripture, this fiery Welch-born preacher burned like a bright torch in a day that had witnessed “the decline in powerful biblical preaching in the English-speaking world.” Despite contemporary trends to the contrary, Lloyd-Jones staunchly refused to cave in to the many pressures around him that clamored for man-centered programs to attract a crowd. While others looked to church growth techniques, this feisty Puritan-born-out-of-due-time relied chiefly upon the exposition of the Word to build the church. In spite of his many skeptics, Lloyd-Jones eventually preached to capacity crowds of 2,500 on Sunday mornings and evenings and 1,200 each Friday evening. Throughout his ministry, Lloyd-Jones emphasized that the preaching of the Word must always be the priority.

Recognizing Lloyd-Jones’ enduring legacy, Peter Lewis writes, “In the history of the pulpit in Britain, the preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is outstanding. He takes his place in a long line of great preachers since the Protestant Reformation, who have stood for the reformation and renewal of the church, the evangelization and awakening of the world.”

Despite the spiritual decline in post-World War II England, this exemplarily expositor stood virtually alone in his commitment to biblical preaching. Hughes
Oliphant Old states, “The greatest impact of Lloyd-Jones on the English-speaking pulpit of today is the recovery of true expository preaching.” In addition, Lloyd-Jones founded the Banner of Truth Trust, a publishing house for the distribution of Puritan and Reformed literature. Moreover, he chaired the annual Puritan Conference and moderated the Westminster Minister’s Fraternal, leaving an indelible mark upon the Christian church.

Raising Up of A New Voice

As Lloyd-Jones stepped down from his Westminster pulpit on October 9, 1968, none could have known that at that moment, the next strong voice was being raised up across the Atlantic Ocean, one that would continue this same resurgence of biblical preaching. On February 9, 1969, only four months after Lloyd-Jones resigned his pastorate, a twenty-nine year old preacher assumed the pulpit of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, California and launched what would become more than four decades of prodigious sermon output. His name is John MacArthur, and like Lloyd-Jones before him, the focal point of his prolific ministry would be the clear and compelling exposition of the Scripture. Under his preaching, Grace Church would witness explosive growth from the 300 who first heard him in a small chapel to two morning services and one evening service filled to capacity its newly-built 3,000-seat auditorium. As with Westminster Chapel, so Grace Church would witness the unmistakable power of the Word of God preached.

The influence of MacArthur’s preaching has reached far beyond the walls of Grace Community Church, gaining “a reputation for solid expository preaching.” Flowing out of this pulpit has come nearly 400 books and study guides either written or edited by MacArthur. Included in this prolific ministry came the MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series, a thirty-one volume commentary set that when completed,will address every verse of every book in the New Testament. What is more, the MacArthur Study Bible is the direct fruit of this prolific pulpit and has become the cornerstone resource of his ministry, available in English, Spanish, Russian, German, French, Italian, Chinese, Arabic, with more languages on the way.

Reaching around the globe, the Grace pulpit has truly become a world pulpit, exerting an influence of staggering, if not unprecedented, proportions. Through “Grace to You” radio broadcasts, MacArthur’s sermons are heard daily some 1,000 times throughout the English-speaking world in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Philippines, South Africa, and beyond. In addition, his sermons are heard another 1,000 times daily in 23 Spanish-speaking countries, including Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and Columbia. Moreover, under this far-reaching pulpit, The Master’s Seminary was birthed in 1986 for the purpose of training men in expository preaching. Remarkably, a series of fourteen training centers have emerged around the world, known as The Masters Training Academy International (TMAI). These institutions are mostly staffed by TMS graduates and are designed to equip a new generation of biblical expositors throughout the world.

In the summer of 2011, MacArthur will complete his verse-by-verse exposition through the Gospel of Mark, which will mark a far greater milestone—the completion of his preaching at Grace Community Church through the entire New Testament. This monumental achievement of long term, consistent exposition will become a model inspiration and resource for pastors and teachers for generations to come. So remarkable is this accomplishment that one must go back to the voluminous output of Calvin in Geneva to find a comparable standard.

 A Striking Resemblance

Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur have proven to be, arguably, the premier expositors of the last two generations. What Lloyd-Jones was to the middle of the twentieth century, MacArthur has become to the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries. Though these two luminous preachers would never meet, and each would be his own man, many striking parallels can be identified between their pulpit ministries. The common ground shared by these two gifted preachers should serve as a positive example for all preachers to pattern their ministries.

In this article, the focus will be upon noted similarities
between the expository preaching of these two extraordinary men. What core commitments distinguished them as great preachers in their day? What can we learn from their distinguished ministries that are worthy of imitation by this generation of preachers? What are the common cornerstones upon which their pulpits were built? To answer these questions, the following parallels should be noted between these two extraordinary expositors.”  TO BE CONTINUED

Relevant preaching….

Relevant preaching must be biblical preaching or it’s not really edifying.

Pastor Jerry Wragg explains:  This kind of “extrapolating” has become the most popular technique of today’s preachers who claim to do Bible exposition. They assert principles from a passage which are then nuanced in clever “hipster-speak” so as to avoid anything “old” sounding. The net result, more often than not, is an imprecise explanation of the meaning of texts, and very little attention given to the ancient context before its present implications are preached. To be sure, all effective preaching exhorts the will of present-day hearers, bringing out the timeless spiritual implications God intends for His people. What is disturbing, however, about today’s trend is that those who most frequently do this seem largely unaware of just how illegitimate their “extrapolations” are at times, and they don’t seem able to discern what led to the interpretive errors. Hermeneutics of this sort are nothing more than looking at a passage in English, finding a familiar theme, drawing out a truth-claim related to contemporary life (usually surrounding some troubling, irritating, depressing, or rewarding part of earthly life), ignoring the cultural, geographical, language, and historical elements of the ancient context, and re-teaching the significance of the passage in the most attention-grabbing, pithy, in-your-face terminology possible.

A recent example may help:

On Paul’s preaching in Athens, one pastor asserted, “Even Paul quoted the two most popular rock stars of the day” (stated as a justification for beginning a worship service with provocative music from a secular band) – Now, Paul didn’t actually quote “rock stars,” but rather the popular poets of the day. Is it wrong to “extrapolate” that the famous poets of 1st century Athens were the equivalent of today’s popular music celebrities? Not necessarily. In fact, if public fame in the artistic arena today is similar to ancient times, no preacher is at fault for illustrating that fact as a way of bringing a more vivid understanding to the context of Scripture. But here’s the problem:

(1) Listeners sometimes miss the crucial distinction between drawing a general parallel for vividness and setting forth the historical and cultural facts of a text. It’s quite probable that without clarification, some listeners would be left with the impression that Acts 17 tells us Paul enjoyed, as a missionary, a steady diet of the secular music of his pop-culture (an unlikely notion wholly without warrant anywhere in Paul’s writings) –

(2) The more serious problem is that this particular pastor was using this “extrapolation” as a descriptive example of how Paul’s personal familiarity with secular pop-culture was used to attract unbelievers to the gospel. The pastor then used this alleged “Pauline technique” to justify playing highly controversial and morally questionable secular music at the beginning of a Sunday service where God’s people gather to worship Him.

So here we have an example of what some, at first glance, may assume is simply a helpful way of communicating the context of the Bible in clever contemporary lingo. When used, however, to justify the intrusion of morally questionable elements into the worship of God’s people it subtly undermines the proper interpretation and legitimate implications of the text being studied. I have no problem using today’s normal vocabulary to teach the truths of Scripture, and every effective preacher works hard to bring fresh, clear, and vivid articulations of all that God’s word reveals. The distinction must be made obvious, however, between using modern-day parallels of ancient things and the actual meaning and implications intended by the author and discovered by careful exegesis. The latter must always govern the former, never the other way around! Preachers today who are quick to pull contemporary rabbits out of ancient hats offer only the illusion of bible exposition. The real truth is found in the intent of the original!

Trembling at His Word,

Pastor Jerry Wragg

The Bipolar Nature of the Pulpit Ministry

Upon finishing my Sunday morning exposition of 1 Corinthians 15:23-28 I received two very different responses from persons within the congregation.  You brother-pastors know all about this experience.  One elderly man lectured me on how I really need to calm down when preaching in the pulpit.  My passion for the truth apparently distracts and even upsets this longtime member.  He said he wished his high school speech teacher were still alive so she could instruct me on how to give a more effective presentation.  He also told me that if I continue to preach as long as I have the past two Sundays that I’ll lose all of our members.

The second person I chatted with after the service had a different perspective on the sermon.  The brother followed up this brief Sunday conversation with a gracious email on Monday which you can read below.

Pastor:

I thank God for answered prayer. I have been seeking to see God’s hand move in a way only God could do in my life. I recognize this can be a “dangerous” prayer, but my desire is not just the normal, ordinary or mundane life. I seek not to be special, just to be part of something special.

The distractions of business and the world seems to rob one of the joy of life in Christ. I am seeking a re-focus so Christ remains the focus. The message from 1 Corinthians 15 this Sunday was just that.  I found myself being drawn into the message. It started out as a great information source with answers to questions I have been working with, but then a strange phenomenon began. Amidst the flood of information and knowledge most usable for everyday life, Christ as God became real. I wanted to “Amen”, but the voice wouldn’t respond. (I was ashamed that there wasn’t more response to the truth spoken, but I have to assume that others were sensing a similar condition.)

Then the final song came to mind, “Hallelujah, What A Savior!” I went into a near panic mode. How could such a song be sung from one so unworthy? I put the thoughts out of my mind and refocused on the message. I found myself trembling the more I listened. You continued to speak of the 3 distinct offices of the Trinity, yet equal as God. You spoke of all the enemies being conquered and Christ submitting Himself to the Father that God may be all in all. The scene was over-powering! I could hardly concentrate on the words.

I sensed, like Moses for a moment in time, I was given a glimpse of our great Savior and God. I don’t have a shine about my countenance like Moses, but seemed to sense the true Almighty God. Any more than that and the human mind, body and spirit could not handle it.  I do not believe in out-of-the-body experiences that one hears about in magazines and other articles, but I do think that God presents Himself in unique ways to people at different times. This may have been one of those times. The fact you waived the singing of the last song may have been God’s protection and mercy upon myself at that moment. I truly did not know what or how I was going to respond once on the platform.  I do not want to dwell on the experience of the day, but would rather consider the gracious work of God’s Spirit as He saw fit.  Thank you for preaching the Truth as the Spirit of God gives leading.

To the praise of His glory,

XXX

In some regards we pastors preach each and every sermon before an audience of One.  As Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1f,  I solemnly 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;  If the Judge isn’t pleased with my exposition it would not matter if the entire flock gave me a standing ovation after each and every sermon.  If the Judge is pleased with our humble efforts (2 Tim 2:15) then it should not matter if the entire church wants to throw us out after our exposition of Scripture.  If the goal of our preaching is Romans 11:36 & Ephesians 4:11-15 then we do not need to be bipolar pastors even if we minister in bipolar congregations.

2 Timothy 4:2, Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 

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