Category Archives: Preaching

Praying and Preparing For A Sermon

Bible opened image

The Preacher’s Cheat-Sheet

By Tim Challies


A couple of years ago Mike McKinley shared 8 Ways to Pray During Sermon Preparation. I found those 8 ways to pray tremendously helpful and have been following them ever since. I pray in these ways at the beginning, middle and end of my time of preparation.

  1. Lord, please help me to understand the meaning of this text and how it points to Christ.
  2. Lord, please increase my love for the people who will hear this sermon.
  3. Lord, please give me wisdom to apply this text to the lives of the people in our congregation.
  4. Lord, please use this passage to help me grasp and love the gospel more so that I might help my hearers do the same.
  5. Lord, please help me to see how this passage confronts the unbelief of my hearers.
  6. Lord, please help me to be obedient to the demands of this passage. Help me to enter the pulpit having already submitted my life to this truth before I preach it.
  7. Lord, by your Spirit please help me to preach this sermon with the necessary power and with appropriate affections.
  8. Lord, please use this sermon to bring glory to your name, joy to your people, and salvation to the lost.


Along with praying during sermon preparation, I also wanted to develop a checklist of sorts—not a guide to help me exegete the text or make sure I have properly found and preached Christ from it. Rather, I wanted something to use as I near the end of my preparation and want to ensure that what I have prepared is well-structured and that it will avoid missteps that may prove hindrances to my listeners. I spoke to seasoned pastors to find what they do and developed this checklist which I like to run through when the sermon is nearly complete, and return to shortly before I preach the sermon.

  1. Have you prayed for yourself and your listeners?
  2. In one sentence, what is the point of the sermon?
  3. Does the sermon have a clear, easy-to-follow outline?
  4. Can you express your outline in a way that makes sense and explains the big point?
  5. Has every theological concept or term been defined or explained?
  6. Is there a clear gospel call that expresses the gospel in a fresh way?
  7. Have you spoken to the children?
  8. Are there places you have planned to pause, or to decrease or increase volume?
  9. Is there anything that can be removed for the sake of clarity and concision?
  10. Does every point have at least one helpful illustration?
  11. Have you included some good turns-of-phrase?
  12. Have you considered how the sermon will speak to people who are: discontent, divorced, abused, addicted, mourning, in a difficult marriage, or other difficult circumstances?
  13. Is there something to jolt the regular, committed sermon-listener?

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BOOK REVIEW: “A Love Worth Finding” – The Life of Adrian Rogers And His Philosophy of Preaching by Joyce Rogers


ALWF Rogers

Book Review By David P. Craig

As a pastor I enjoy reading biographies and auto-biographies of other pastors. I especially can identify with the struggles that other pastors face. Unfortunately this book is written a lot like a Eulogy – even though it was written before Rogers passed away. It is full of Adrian Rogers’ accomplishments and highlights from a very gifted pastor’s life. It’s almost comparable to reading the life of Joseph in the Bible – without the hardships. Rogers almost comes across as a “perfect pastor” – which obviously doesn’t exist. A life full of nothing but successes, victories, grand tributes, and accolades. It reads a lot like a fairy tale – A Pastoral Utopia.

There is one major hardship that Joyce writes about early in the book – the loss of one of their children to SIDS. This was actually the one time in the book where I could identify with this couple. I could identify with their pain, loss, and suffering. But even this episode was glossed over. One almost gets the feeling that 99% of Adrian’s and Joyce’s life together was Camelot. I just don’t think this is reality.

In my own experience of the pastorate with real men and women life consists of hills and valleys – and there are usually more valleys to go through than hills – this book has one valley and the rest is about all the hills. This may be encouraging to some who read it. But I’m concerned for young pastors or young men and women who may read this book and think that ministry is all roses with no thorns.

I would have liked to have read a biography that was less on the surface of  reality and went a little deeper into some of the basic daily realities and hardships of life. It wouldn’t even make a good movie, because there is simply not enough conflict and resolution. It is a book piled with grace on top of grace – and I just don’t think it’s transparent or authentic enough. Honestly, there was precious little to help the average pastor in this book. It read more like the highlights of the greatest pastor of the 20th Century. There were very few things that most pastors could actually relate to. It would be the equivalent of a struggling baseball player trying to figure out how to be a better baseball player and reading a biography of Babe Ruth which only highlighted and focused on all his home runs – without ever talking about any of his strike outs – and how he handled his hitting slumps.

The best part of the book for preachers starts with about 30% of the book left. It’s an extended interview with Adrian Rogers on his homiletical philosophy and sermon preparation. I think this section is very helpful and worth the price of the book. It’s very thorough and yet concise and has many helpful tips in answering some very important questions for sermon preparation like: What is the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching? What is the difference between preaching and unction? What is the nature and central place of preaching? Is Jesus Christ central to preaching? And many others.

I think this book will be especially interesting for pastors (or would-be pastors). It reminds me a lot of “A Man Called Peter” by Catherine Marshall. The difference is that Marshall’s book was more transparent and dealt with more of the tough issues that pastors face. This book may bring a lot of encouragement and inspire many young pastors, but in all honesty – 99% of the pastorates I know of are nothing like the one described in this book.


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CCS Chapell


Book Review by David P. Craig

It’s hard to believe that its already been nineteen years since Bryan Chapell penned his classic text on preaching – Christ-Centered Preaching (CCP). Since that time Christo-centric preaching has been on the rise and pastors have become much more exposed to biblical theology and the redemptive historical method of interpretation in helping the busy pastor with sermon preparation. This new work by Chapell is a wonderful complement and sequel to his seminal text that his been so influential in both Reformed and Non-Reformed circles.

Whereas Chapell laid the foundational ground work for Christo-centric preaching in CCP, here he helps the preacher apply the groundwork by giving various examples of sermons that demonstrate the various genres of Scripture and how they point to Christ. Part One focuses on the structure of the Christo-centric sermon by giving examples of informal, formal, inductive, and expository sermons. Part Two delves into various redemptive approaches of Scripture passages. Part Three focuses on sermons that reveal how a variety of redemptive truths can be used from the Scriptures to apply to our lives.

The common denominator of all the expository sermons found in this book is that they focus on saying what God says in the passage. The preacher is encouraged to proclaim the truths gleaned from the passage in order to convey what was originally intended by the Holy Spirit. “Making sure God’s people know what God has said and why he has said it is the tandem goal of expository preaching.” All of the sermons in this book focus on the empowering power of grace through Christ that is found throughout the Scriptures. The message of the gospel and God’s grace in Christ is what leads us to repentance, salvation, and genuine transformation from darkness to light.

The author masterfully teaches and guides the preacher by showing him that “Christ-centered exposition does not require us to unveil depictions of Jesus by mysterious alchemies of allegory or typology; rather, it identifies how every text functions in furthering our understanding of who Christ is, what the Father sent him to do, and why.” In Christ-centered preaching the listener is helped to apply the biblical text by answering four main questions from the passage: (1) What am I to do? (2) Where am I to do it? (3) Why am I to do it? (4) How am I to do it?

Chapell writes, “In essence, redemptive exposition requires that we identify an aspect of our fallen condition that is addressed by the Holy Spirit in each passage, which he inspired for our edification, and then show God’s way out of the human dilemma.” The way out of the dilemma of our fallen condition is through the motivation of grace and holiness because the realities of the cross. We are enabled to have victory over sin due to our union and communion with Christ as revealed in the Scriptures.

I highly recommend that you read Chapell’s first book on preaching before reading this one. However, it’s not essential that you read his first book because he does a lot of review and explains everything he is doing in each sermon in this new offering. He lays out the foundations and theory in his first book as a solid basis for its application in this new one. Together these two books provide a tour de force of Christo-centric preaching resources for the Christ-centered preacher.

Chapell gives various ways that the same passage can be preached using different strategies without changing the biblical author’s intent. His introductions and demonstration of how the principles work for each sermon are immensely instructive. The sermons in this book are based on the following passages of Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Judges 6-8; Psalm 126; Jeremiah 33:14-16; Isaiah 44:9-23; Numbers 20:1-13; Romans 15:4; Luke 17:1-19; Titus 2:11-15; and Romans 6:1-14. By providing sermons on various genres from the Old and New Testament Chapell has provided a wonderful guide for preachers to learn better how to apply the principles of Christ-centered preaching from Genesis to Revelation.


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PABT Meyer

Book Review by David P. Craig

I’ve been waiting for a book like this since my calling into the ministry thirty-one years ago. Meyer combines two of my favorite subjects: biblical theology and preaching with my greatest passion – the glory of God as revealed in Jesus. The thesis of this very enjoyable book is that “the ministry of the word in Scripture is stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word.”

What makes this book unique is that the author shows how “the whole Bible alone can give a holistic answer to what preaching is.” Meyer brilliantly and cogently examines what the whole of the Scriptures have to say broadly about the ministry of the Word and specifically in light of what this means for the expository preacher. The ultimate reason of preaching isn’t for the transfer of information, but to have an encounter with the living God.

Meyer takes the reader on a biblically saturated journey from Genesis to Revelation and unpacks what the entire Scriptures have to say about the ministry of the Word. He does a remarkable job of conveying how preaching the Word is grounded within the big picture story line of the gospel. Christ is the plot-line of the Scriptures and Meyer helps the minister build a foundation for preaching, paradigms for preaching, and demonstrates how biblical and systematic theology guides the preacher in ministering the Word so that we and our hearers encounter the glory of God in Christ.

I highly recommend this book for beginning and seasoned preachers, but also for all Christians. It is packed full with excellent illustrations, robust theological truths, and insightful applications. By helping us to interpret the whole Bible through the lenses of redemption Meyer helps us to see that Jesus is at the forefront of every passage we preach. I believe that any believer reading this book will come to understand the gospel better, and strive to minister the word with Jesus at the center of our proclamation so that we and our listeners will truly encounter our Awesome God.



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Preaching with Authority: Three Characteristics of Expository Preaching

“Preaching With Authority” by Dr. Albert Mohler


Authentic expository preaching is marked by three distinct characteristics: authority, reverence, and centrality. Expository preaching is authoritative because it stands upon the very authority of the Bible as the word of God. Such preaching requires and reinforces a sense of reverent expectation on the part of God’s people. Finally, expository preaching demands the central place in Christian worship and is respected as the event through which the living God speaks to his people.

A keen analysis of our contemporary age comes from sociologist Richard Sennett of New York University. Sennett notes that in times past a major anxiety of most persons was loss of governing authority. Now, the tables have been turned, and modern persons are anxious about any authority over them: “We have come to fear the influence of authority as a threat to our liberties, in the family and in society at large.” If previous generations feared the absence of authority, today we see “a fear of authority when it exists.”

Some homileticians suggest that preachers should simply embrace this new worldview and surrender any claim to an authoritative message. Those who have lost confidence in the authority of the Bible as the word of God are left with little to say and no authority for their message. Fred Craddock, among the most influential figures in recent homiletic thought, famously describes today’s preacher “as one without authority.” His portrait of the preacher’s predicament is haunting: “The old thunderbolts rust in the attic while the minister tries to lead his people through the morass of relativities and proximate possibilities.” “No longer can the preacher presuppose the general recognition of his authority as a clergyman, or the authority of his institution, or the authority of Scripture,” Craddock argues. Summarizing the predicament of the postmodern preacher, he relates that the preacher “seriously asks himself whether he should continue to serve up monologue in a dialogical world.”

The obvious question to pose to Craddock’s analysis is this: If we have no authoritative message, why preach? Without authority, the preacher and the congregation are involved in a massive waste of precious time. The very idea that preaching can be transformed into a dialogue between the pulpit and the pew indicates the confusion of our era.

Contrasted to this is the note of authority found in all true expository preaching. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes:

Any study of church history, and particularly any study of the great periods of revival or reawakening, demonstrates above everything else just this one fact: that the Christian Church during all such periods has spoken with authority. The great characteristic of all revivals has been the authority of the preacher. There seemed to be something new, extra, and irresistible in what he declared on behalf of God.

The preacher dares to speak on behalf of God. He stands in the pulpit as a steward “of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1) and declares the truth of God’s word, proclaims the power of that word, and applies the word to life. This is an admittedly audacious act. No one should even contemplate such an endeavor without absolute confidence in a divine call to preach and in the unblemished authority of the Scriptures.

In the final analysis, the ultimate authority for preaching is the authority of the Bible as the word of God. Without this authority, the preacher stands naked and silent before the congregation and the watching world. If the Bible is not the word of God, the preacher is involved in an act of self-delusion or professional pretension.

Standing on the authority of Scripture, the preacher declares a truth received, not a message invented. The teaching office is not an advisory role based on religious expertise, but a prophetic function whereby God speaks to his people.

Authentic expository preaching is also marked by reverence. The congregation that gathered before Ezra and the other preachers demonstrated a love and reverence for the word of God (Neh 8). When the book was read, the people stood up. This act of standing reveals the heart of the people and their sense of expectation as the word was read and preached.

Expository preaching requires an attitude of reverence on the part of the congregation. Preaching is not a dialogue, but it does involve at least two parties—the preacher and the congregation. The congregation’s role in the preaching event is to hear, receive, and obey the word of God. In so doing, the church demonstrates reverence for the preaching and teaching of the Bible and understands that the sermon brings the word of Christ near to the congregation. This is true worship.

Lacking reverence for the word of God, many congregations are caught in a frantic quest for significance in worship. Christians leave worship services asking each other, “Did you get anything out of that?” Churches produce surveys to measure expectations for worship: Would you like more music? What kind? How about drama? Is our preacher sufficiently creative?

Expository preaching demands a very different set of questions. Will I obey the word of God? How must my thinking be realigned by Scripture? How must I change my behavior to be fully obedient to the word? These questions reveal submission to the authority of God and reverence for the Bible as his word.

Likewise, the preacher must demonstrate his own reverence for God’s word by dealing truthfully and responsibly with the text. He must not be flippant or casual, much less dismissive or disrespectful. Of this we can be certain, no congregation will revere the Bible more than the preacher does.

If expository preaching is authoritative, and if it demands reverence, it must also be at the center of Christian worship. Worship properly directed to the honor and glory of God will find its center in the reading and preaching of the word of God. Expository preaching cannot be assigned a supporting role in the act of worship—it must be central.

In the course of the Reformation, Luther’s driving purpose was to restore preaching to its proper place in Christian worship. Referring to the incident between Mary and Martha in Luke 10, Luther reminded his congregation and students that Jesus Christ declared that only one thing is necessary,” the preaching of the word (Luke 10:42). Therefore, Luther’s central concern was to reform worship in the churches by re-establishing there the centrality of the reading and preaching of the word.

That same reformation is needed in American evangelicalism today. Expository preaching must once again be central to the life of the church and central to Christian worship. In the end, the church will not be judged by its Lord for the quality of its music but for the faithfulness of its preaching.

When today’s evangelicals speak casually of the distinction between worship and preaching (meaning that the church will enjoy an offering of music before adding on a bit of preaching), they betray their misunderstanding of both worship and the act of preaching. Worship is not something we do before we settle down for the word of God; it is the act through which the people of God direct all their attentiveness to the one true and living God who speaks to them and receives their praises. God is most beautifully praised when his people hear his word, love his word, and obey his word.

As in the Reformation, the most important corrective to our corruption of worship (and defense against the consumerist demands of the day) is to rightly return expository preaching and the public reading of God’s word to primacy and centrality in worship. Only then will the “missing jewel” be truly rediscovered.

*Article originally appeared @

About Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.


Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Dr. Mohler has been recognized by such influential publications asTime and Christianity Today as a leader among American evangelicals. In fact, called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

In addition to his presidential duties, Dr. Mohler hosts two programs: “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview; and “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the day’s leading thinkers. He also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural and theological issues. All of these can be accessed through Dr. Mohler’s website, Called “an articulate voice for conservative Christianity at large” by The Chicago Tribune, Dr. Mohler’s mission is to address contemporary issues from a consistent and explicit Christian worldview.

Widely sought as a columnist and commentator, Dr. Mohler has been quoted in the nation’s leading newspapers, including The New York Times,The Wall Street JournalUSA TodayThe Washington PostThe Atlanta Journal/Constitution and The Dallas Morning News. He has also appeared on such national news programs as CNN’s “Larry King Live,” NBC’s “Today Show” and “Dateline NBC,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” on PBS, MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country” and Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Dr. Mohler is a theologian and an ordained minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches. He came to the presidency of Southern Seminary from service as editor of The Christian Index, the oldest of the state papers serving the Southern Baptist Convention.

A native of Lakeland, Fla., Dr. Mohler was a Faculty Scholar at Florida Atlantic University before receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He holds a master of divinity degree and the doctor of philosophy (in systematic and historical theology) from Southern Seminary. He has pursued additional study at the St. Meinrad School of Theology and has done research at University of Oxford (England).

Dr. Mohler also serves as the Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary. His writings have been published throughout the United States and Europe. In addition to contributing to a number of collected volumes, he is the author of several books, includingCulture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth (Multnomah); Desire & Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance (Multnomah); Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists (Crossway); He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody); The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness (Multnomah); and Words From the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the Ten Commandments (Moody). From 1985 to 1993, he served as associate editor of Preaching, a journal for evangelical preachers, and is currently editor-in-chief of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.

A leader within the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Mohler has served in several offices including a term as Chairman of the SBC Committee on Resolutions, which is responsible for the denomination’s official statements on moral and doctrinal issues. He also served on the seven-person Program and Structure Study Committee, which recommended the 1995 restructuring of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. In 2000, Dr. Mohler served on a blue-ribbon panel that made recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention for revisions to the Baptist Faith and Message, the statement of faith most widely held among Southern Baptists. Most recently, he served on the Great Commission Task Force, a denominational committee that studied the effectiveness of SBC efforts to fulfill the Great Commission. He currently serves as chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council of Seminary Presidents.

Dr. Mohler has presented lectures or addresses at institutions including Columbia University, the University of Virginia, Wheaton College, Samford University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the University of Richmond, Mercer University, Cedarville University, Beeson Divinity School, Reformed Theological Seminary, The Master’s Seminary, Geneva College, Biola University, Covenant Theological Seminary, The Cumberland School of Law, The Regent University School of Law, Grove City College, Vanderbilt University and the historic Chautauqua Institution, among many others.

Dr. Mohler is listed in Who’s Who in America and other biographical reference works and serves on the boards of several organizations including Focus on the Family. He is a member of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and serves as a council member for The Gospel Coalition.

He is married to Mary, and they have two children, Katie and Christopher.

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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Albert Mohler, Preaching


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S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. on Preaching the Grace of the Spirit’s Calling

Lecture #3 Delivered at Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College — March 1988

JOHNSON S Lewis imageIntroduction. One of the memorable things uttered by Abraham Booth (1734-1806) in his useful book, The Reign of Grace, is this one, “The indelible motto inscribed by the hand of Jehovah on all the blessings of the unchangeable covenant, is, to the praise of the glory of His grace.”1 The question that is before us in this lecture is, “Preaching the Grace of the Spirit’s Calling,” and it, too, has the indelible motto of to the praise of the glory of His grace inscribed upon it. It has its origin in the absolutely free favour of God.

In simple terms the question is, “How and why do we come to Christ?” There are two sides to the matter, but in this lecture we are concerned only with one. From the human side it is plain to evangelical readers of God’s Word that we come to the Son of God by the instrumentality of faith (cf. Rom. 3:21–26; Eph. 2:8–10).

From the divine side of the matter many and different answers have been given. Pelagians have said, “I came by myself,” denying grace altogether. Semi-Pelagians have said, “I wanted to come, and God helped me,” denying prevenient grace, but admitting cooperative grace, if man first chooses to come. Arminians of evangelical stripe have said, “God gave me sufficient grace to come, because Christ died, and I cooperated, admitting total inability, but claiming sufficient grace becomes efficient when we cooperate.” Lutherans have answered, “God brought me, and I did not resist,” reserving for man only the power of resisting grace. Calvinists, those who believe in sovereign grace, have answered simply, “God brought me to Christ” (cf. Gal. 4:9, “are known”).

It is difficult to understand why the Arminians are attracted to sufficient grace. Sufficient grace of itself enables a sinner, not to believe, but to be morally responsible to believe. Without sufficient grace Arminians believe the sinner, dead in sins, is not responsible for a condition in which he does not have the ability to extricate himself. To free man from his natural inability of will and make him responsible is the reason for the invention of the doctrine. It is, of course, not taught by any text of the Bible.

However, since it does not have the power to save without the exercise of man’s free will, how does this help matters? The individual with sufficient grace is now responsible by the Arminian doctrine, but in himself he is still without the power to turn to God, for evangelical Arminians believe in man’s total inability as Wesley did. If, however, the man who was totally unable to turn to God is not responsible without sufficient grace, but now with sufficient is responsible, although still totally unable of Himself to turn to God, how is this bestowal of sufficient grace an act of divine grace? Would it not be better to not have sufficient grace, for then men would not be responsible and, thus, assured to God’s salvation? God, to be most gracious, ought to give no grace! To illustrate, let us suppose a convicted murderer awaiting execution in jail contracts tuberculosis. His constant coughing convinces his prison doctor that he will cough himself to death before the day of his execution. The doctor comes to him and says, “I am pained that you are suffering so. I am giving you some medicine to take. It will not cure you, but it will strengthen you and keep you alive until you can be hanged”! Sufficient grace is similar. It gives men strength of will sufficient to make them responsible and thus to justify God in sending them to perdition. I fail to see the grace that the doctrine conveys. In fact, it seems clearly to underline the fact that by this system man is only saved by his own free will act. In other words, God can do nothing for a man until that man does something for himself. The ground of God’s salvation is shared by man with God. Is that New Testament teaching?

The teaching of both John and Paul makes distinct contributions to the debate over calling (cf. John 6:37, 43–45, 65; Rom. 8:30; I Cor. 12:3; 2 Thess. 2:13–15), and we turn now to the Scriptures.


External calling and internal calling. External calling, also called General Calling, is the declaration of the plan of salvation, with its command to repent, its appeal to motivations (such as fear, hope, gratitude), and its promise of acceptance through faith.

Internal calling is the effectual work of the Spirit, by which men are savingly influenced to salvation. Grace is the initiation of the work; calling is the result of the action of grace. The calling comes from the Spirit, as distinguished from the Word (cf. John 3:27; 6:37, 45, 64–65; I Thess. 1:5–6)). The Bible teaches the two calls. Of the objects of the one it is said, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” but of the other it is said, “whom he called, them he also justified “ (cf. Prov. 1:24 [1st]; John 6:45 [2nd]; Rom. 8:29–30).

The description of efficacious grace. Efficacious grace, which secures the saving internal call, is a divine influence on the human spirit. The Apostle Peter refers to efficacious grace when he writes of the scattered saints, describing them as “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood” (I Pet. 1:1–2). The sanctifying work of the Spirit that precedes the obedience and sprinkling of the blood, as the order of the words indicates, is the work of the Spirit that sets apart the elect to faith and salvation. Our Lord speaks of this work as the drawing of the Father, who does the work through the Spirit (cf. John 6:44).

The term “draw” in John 6:44 is a key-word in the doctrine, being, in fact, the biblical word for the work of efficacious grace. Bernard’s comments are excellent. “elknein is used in the LXX of Jer. 31:3 of the Divine attraction: ‘With lovingkindness have I drawn thee.’ It is used of the attractive power of Christ Crucified in Jn. 12:32, occurring elsewhere in the N. T. only at Jn. 18:10 (of drawing a sword), Jn. 21:6, 11 (of dragging a net ashore), and Acts 16:19 (of dragging Paul and Silas to the magistrates). It seems generally to connote a certain resistance on the part of that which is ‘dragged’ or ‘drawn,’ and this may be involved in its use in the present verse (but cf. Cant. 1:4).”2 Astoundingly, William Barclay, after giving all of this data from Bernard, comments, “Always there is this idea of resistance. God can and does draw men, but man’s resistance can defeat the pull of God.”3 Not one of the uses of the verb suggests this.4 Calvin’s comment is clarifying, “As far as the manner of the hearing goes, it is not violent so as to compel men by an external force; but yet it is an effectual movement of the Holy Spirit, turning men from being unwilling and reluctant into willing.”5

As Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say, “If you have made a decision of the will that is according to God’s will, it is because God has first jiggled your willer! “

The words, “the Father who sent me,” in verse forty-four should be noted. “The correlation between the subject: He who sent me, and the verb draw should be observed,” Godet says, “the same God who sends Jesus for souls, draws each soul to Jesus.”6 Should He have waited until asked to come? The final clause, “and I will raise him up on the last day,” refers to the consummation of the process that the Father’s drawing began. Between the two events lies the growth and development of the believer’s spiritual experience.

Efficacious grace operates immediately upon the human spirit, although usually in the context of the consideration of the Word of God (cf. I Cor. 2:12–15). It is supernatural, an overcoming of man’s deadness, blindness, deafness, and hardness of heart.

Some years ago when I was giving a series of lectures in Believers Chapel in Dallas, Texas, on soteriology, one of the members of the class, a young woman, came to me after the meeting and asked a number of questions that indicated that she did not understand very well the lesson that evening, which happened to be on efficacious grace. She spoke of “a very good man” she knew, a Roman Catholic, who “had everything going for him.” She went on to tell me how difficult she was finding it to reach him for the Lord. And then she said, “The only thing that will move him is a bolt from the blue.” I replied, “Kris, that is efficacious grace!” I tried to encourage her to wait for God’s necessary “jiggling” of his will.7

The infallibility of efficacious grace. The elect is subject to moral and mediate influences upon the will, common to him and to the unconverted, which he may and does resist because of sin. He is also subject to a special influence from the Spirit within the will, which is neither resistible nor irresistible, according to Hodge, because it acts from within and carries the will spontaneously with it. For this reason Hodge prefers the term, “effectual grace.8


The Johannine teaching. One of the important sources of the Johannine teaching, to which we have already made reference in discussing the use of the word draw, is found in John six. The Jews were murmuring over the great revelation concerning the Bread of Life who had come down from heaven (cf. John 6:38, 42). The Lord does not answer their objection, based upon His known parentage, but goes right to the heart of the matter. They must be “taught of God” to respond to His teaching on His heavenly origin.9 Whispering will not help; teaching from God will.

The forty-fifth verse spells it all out, it is repeated in verse sixty-five. “Here is a fundamental doctrine of the Fourth Gospel,” Bernard points out, “viz. that the approach of the soul to God or Christ is not initiated by the man himself, but by a movement of Divine grace.”10 The truth is adumbrated in 4:23, where the Father is said to seek His true worshippers (cf. 12:39: the dark side of predestination). The impossibility of anyone coming to Christ without the Father’s drawing was implied in the statement of verse thirty-seven, but it is stated in the forty-fourth verse. We will not go over again the plain statement of the necessity of the Father’s drawing for salvation, except to reiterate that the drawing is an effectual drawing in which the Father turns men from unwillingness to willingness.

The significance of the forty-fifth verse is sometimes overlooked. There a citation from Isaiah 54:13 is found, and it serves to explain that the drawing is scriptural teaching. In context the text refers to the messianic covenant community of Israel, the recipients of the covenantal blessings. They who belong to the Messiah need no instruction from men; they carry within themselves the effects of the divine instruction. The “all” must be understood in the context of the prophet. It is the “all” of the messianic community. The following “everyone who has heard” simply individualizes the specific “all.” Our Lord, then, makes an application of a timeless principle in the divine dealing with men. To be taught of God is to be drawn by God (cf. I Cor. 2:13; Phil. 3:15).

The Father’s drawing involves three steps, the next sentence affirms: (a) hearing; (2) learning; (3) coming. The Father takes the initiative and teaches. Everyone who listens and learns will come. The hymn, “0 Happy Day,” has at least one stanza that I like,

“Tis done: the great transactions’s done, I am my Lord’s, and He is mine; He drew me, and I followed on, Charmed to confess the voice divine”

It is Calvin’s contention that verse forty-five overthrows free will, for he comments, “The whole faculty of free will which the Papists (and Arminians, we might add) dream about is utterly overthrown by these two clauses. For if we begin to come to Christ only when the Father has drawn us, neither the beginning of faith, nor any preparation for it, lies in us. On the other hand, if all come whom the Father has taught, He gives them not only the freedom to believe but faith itself. When therefore we willingly obey the Spirit’s guiding, it is a part, as it were, sealing, of grace. For God would not draw us if He only stretched out His hand and left our will in a state of suspense. But He is properly said to draw us when He extends the power of His Spirit to the full completing of faith. They are said to hear God who willingly submit to God when He speaks within them, because the Spirit reigns in their hearts.”11

The Pauline teaching. In Romans 8:30 two points may be made that apply to the matter in hand. First of all, in the order of the steps in the divine continuing providential purpose it is important to notice that calling is given a place before justification, effectively indicating its place in time as a pre-salvation work.

And second, it should be remembered that the root, kaleo, meaning to call, in the epistles of Paul always refers to an effectual call (cf. I Cor. 1:1, 2, 26; Gal. 1:16; 2 Tim. 1:9–10). The aorist tenses look at the actions as complete and, thus certain, without reference to time.

An important passage for the subject of efficacious grace is 2 Thessalonians 2:13–14, concerning which James Denney has said, “The thirteenth and fourteenth verses of this chapter are a system of theology in miniature.”12 In the main that is correct. The thanksgiving is meant to encourage the Thessalonians, especially those agitated by the reports mentioned in 2:1–2.13 The verb heilato (NASB, “has chosen“) is used nowhere else in the New Testament of the doctrine of election, although it is so used in the Old Testament (cf. Deut. 6:18; 7:6–7; 10:15; cf. Phil. 1:22). Normally in its New Testament uses it refers to man’s choosing, not God’s (cf. Phil. 1:22; Heb. 11:25). If the reading ap’arches is genuine (NASB, “from the beginning”), then it refers clearly to eternal election here.14 The tense and voice of the verb lay stress on the choice as an event (in the past here) in which God has a personal interest. He chose us for Himself.15

The choice is from eternity, not from the time the gospel was preached in Thessalonica, as some would have it. Cf. I John 2:13; Matt. 19:4; Eph. 1:4.

The soterian, the purpose of the choice, is in this context final salvation, inclusive, of course, of the initial salvation from the penalty of sin. The method of accomplishment is important for the subject of efficacious grace, or effectual calling, and here Paul says that the salvation is “through (lit., in) sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (NASB). The sanctification is pre-salvation sanctification, or effectual calling, as the order of words suggests. The same order we have seen in I Peter 1:2. The “Spirit” is the Holy Spirit. Paul, then, as John insists on a pre-salvation gracious work of the Spirit before salvation. One does not come to our Lord or to salvation apart from it.

Two passages from I Corinthians complete our brief survey of Pauline teaching. The first is I Corinthians 8:3, where we read, “But if any one loves God, he is known by Him.” The construction of the original text is such that God’s knowing of the one who loves Him precedes the believer’s love of Him.16

The second passage is I Corinthians 12:3, and the important clause for our purposes is the final one, “except by the Holy Spirit.” Lenski comments, “Whoever confesses Jesus as ‘Lord’ has the Holy Spirit in his heart.”17 Calvin follows along the same line, saying that all things pertaining to the knowledge of God are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and then, “Hence, too we perceive how great our weakness is, as we cannot so much as move our tongue for the celebration of God’s praise, unless it be governed by his Spirit.”18 Unless He opens our mouths, we are not fit to be the heralds of His praise (cf. Isa. 6:5, “man of unclean lips”). Cf. Jer. 20:7.

Commenting on John 6:45, Berkouwer says, “This absoluteness of giving, drawing, and learning we meet not only in John, but also in the radical and exclusive testimony of Paul when he says, for instance, that ‘no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit’” (I Cor. 12:3). The message of Scripture repeatedly accentuates that human inability. The impotence of man is not something pessimism has discovered; it is most literally described in Scripture (cf. John 3:27, I Cor. 2:14, Rom. 8:5, 6, 7, 8.”19

There are many illustrations in Scripture of the working of efficacious grace, but two stand out, one in the Gospel of Luke (14:16–23) and the other in the Acts of the Apostles (16:11–15), the latter incident in which the Lord “opened” Lydia’s heart to the things spoken by Paul being an almost perfect illustration of the truth. We do not have space in this paper to expound the texts.


The magnification of the divine purpose. Salvation is the work of God. It, therefore, is not hurried along, or effectuated, by stronger appeals, mightier arguments, more sparkling personalities, more telling illustrations, longer invitations, keener psychological insight, better eye-catching pedagogical helps or methods, and we must not forget it. On the other hand, we do not contend that it is helped by insipid thinking, windowless sermons, shunning of aids in teaching that the Spirit lays before our eyes. Salvation is the work of God, and His purpose shall be accomplished in His time (cf. John 6:39–40).

The senselessness of discouragement. The sense of discouragement, so frequently felt when the response is slight, is often a form of self-centeredness ultimately. Our need is faithfulness in our faith in His Word. May the Lord enable us to persevere in it.


  1. Abraham Booth, The Reign of Grace (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949 [reprint of 16th London ed.]), pp. 47–48. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St.John, ed. by A. H. McNeile (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,1928), I, 204.

  2. William Barclay, The Gospel of John (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1955), I, 226.

  3. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 371.

  4. John Calvin, The Gospel According to St John: 1-10, ed. by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. by T. H. L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959), I, 164.

  5. Godet, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, trans. by M. D. Cusin and S. Taylor (3rd. ed; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1887), II 238. Believers Chapel, Dallas, Texas, March 24, 1970. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972 [orig. enlarged ed., 1879]), pp. 449–53. Bernard, I, 203.

  6. Ibid., I, 204.

  7. Calvin, I, 165.

  8. James Denney, “The Epistles to the Thessalonians,” The Expositor’s Bible, p. 342.

  9. James Everett Frame, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), p. 276.

  10. George Milligan, St Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1908), p. 106. Other recent commentators, such as Marshall and Morris favor “from the beginning,” arguing that, in spite of several things that may be said for “as a firstfruits,” it is difficult to make good sense of it here. The ap_arxhs is probably the correct reading (AV; NASB, “from the beginning”), since Paul never uses it elsewhere, and it has good manuscript support. WH accepts it, but the Aland text has aparxhn, largely because ap_ arxhs occurs nowhere else in the Pauline corpus and, when arxh does, it usually has a different sense, and aparxh occurs six other times in Paul. Cf. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1971), p–p. 636–67. The decision in this instance is not an easy one.

  11. One would expect the middle voice of the verb to be prominent from the verbal idea of election itself. Cf. Eph. 1:4 (also a verb in the middle voice).

  12. The tense of the verb “loves” is a present tense, while that of the verb “is known” is a perfect passive, clearly showing that the knowing by God precedes our loving of Him. “The sense rather is, If a man loves God, this is a sign that God has taken the initiative,” Barrett says (C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians [New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1968], p. 190).

  13. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Columbus: Wartburg Press, 1946), p. 494.

  14. John Calvin, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960), p. Cf. Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), “As in 2:10–13, only one who has the Spirit can truly make such a confession because only the Spirit can reveal its reality” (p. 582).

  15. C. Berkouwer, Divine Election, trans. by Hugo Bekker (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960), p. 49.

More About Dr. S. Lewis Johnson – A Tribute to Dr. S. Lewis Johnson

by Fred G. Zaspel
 – January 30, 2004:

On January 28, 2004, Dr. S. Lewis Johnson passed away at age eighty-eight. He was a Biblical scholar and theologian of rare abilities and of international renown, and he was a beloved friend. His influence on my own ministry would be difficult to measure. The hundreds of tapes of his preaching and teaching have gone free of charge to thousands of people all over the world, and it was by means of these tapes that I first became acquainted with him. When he first came to preach for me I asked the congregation if any had previously heard him. No one had, but I was quick to assure them all that they had indeed heard him often! Over the years he came to speak at our church and at our pastors’ conference many times, and even in his latest years it was challenging and blessed to hear him expound the Word of God with such precision and clarity.

Dr. Johnson was born in Birmingham, AL and grew up in Charleston, SC. He was always quick to assure everyone that his smooth, dignified, and pleasant southern accent was actually “English in its pure form.” He graduated from the College of Charleston with an B.A. degree in 1937 and was converted through the teaching of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse while in the insurance business in Birmingham. He left the insurance business in 1943 to enter Dallas Theological Seminary, from which he received the Th.M (1946) and Th.D. (1949) degrees. He completed further graduate work at the University of Edinburgh, Southern Methodist University, and in the University of Basel. Remaining at Dallas Seminary Dr. Johnson was Professor of New Testament from 1950 to 1972 and Professor of Systematic Theology from 1972 to 1977. He later served as Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, and as Visiting Professor of Systematic Theology at Tyndale Theological Seminary, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Dr. Johnson preached and lectured in many places, large and small, taught countless home Bible studies, and was involved in starting several churches. In 1963 he and others planted Believers’ Chapel in Dallas, and it is from the Chapel that so many thousands of his tapes have gone to the benefit of countless people.

He was in so many ways a man to emulate. He was a true gentleman. He was always personable and a great delight in conversation. His humor was always good, and his wit was always quick. He was a careful student of the Scriptures with unusually superior abilities as an exegete and theologian. His abilities with the original languages were clearly superior, and when discussion began he would always lead from his Greek and Hebrew text. He was a man of conviction, willing to step down from a noted career rather than surrender his beliefs. He was passionate for the gospel, and his heart was always hot for Christ. He was a humble and godly man. I have said many times that if God would allow me to grow old as gracefully and as saintly as Dr. Johnson I would become proud and ruin it. He was a model scholar, a model teacher, a model preacher, a model friend, and a model Christian. He was that rare combination of so many abilities and virtues. I thank God for him and feel much the poorer without him.

Among his greatest passions was the faithful expounding of the nature of Christ’s atoning work. He clearly cherished any and every opportunity to demonstrate from the Scriptures the success and effectiveness of Christ’s death as a substitute for His people. And when it was his turn to listen, elderly though he was, he would sit right up front with his Greek and Hebrew Bible in hand. And though virtually every speaker he would hear would necessarily be a man of comparatively inferior abilities, he seemed always just to delight in hearing the Word of God preached. And afterwards he was always eager to fellowship with younger preachers and laymen alike and discuss the things of Christ and examine the Word of God together.

The last time I spoke with Dr. Johnson, about a month or so ago, it was evident that he was growing tired and frail. He fell ill earlier this month, but his illness was brief before the Lord took him home to glory. He leaves behind him his wonderful wife Martha whom we love dearly also, and our prayers are now for her. By his tape ministry I came to love Dr. S. Lewis Johnson before I ever knew him, and I count it a great blessing to have known him. Probably no one outside my own father has taught me more, and few could ever be more beloved. I praise the Lord for him.


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John Stott Interview with Al Mohler on Preaching Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds: An Interview with John R. W. Stott

[The funeral for John R. W. Stott, one of the most famous evangelical preachers of the last century, will be held today in London at All Souls Church [August 8, 2011], Langham Place, where he served with distinction for so many decades of ministry. In honor of John Stott, I here republish an interview I conducted with the great preacher in 1987. The interview was first published in Preaching magazine, for which I was then Associate Editor.]

John R. W. Stott has emerged in the last half of the twentieth century as one of the leading evangelical preachers in the world. His ministry has spanned decades and continents, combining his missionary zeal with the timeless message of the Gospel.

For many years the Rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, Stott is also the founder and director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. His preaching ministry stands as a model of the effective communication of biblical truth to secular men and women.

The author of several worthy books, Stott is perhaps best known in the United States through his involvement with the URBANA conferences. His voice and pen have been among the most determinative forces in the development of the contemporary evangelical movement in the Church of England and throughout the world.

Preaching Associate Editor R. Albert Mohler interviewed Stott during one of the British preacher’s frequent visits to the United States.

Mohler: You have staked your ministry on biblical preaching and have established a world-wide reputation for the effective communication of the gospel. How do you define ‘biblical preaching’?

Stott: I believe that to preach or to expound the Scripture is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him. I gave that definition at the Congress on Biblical Exposition and I stand by it, but let me expand a moment.

My definition deliberately includes several implications concerning the scripture. First, it is a uniquely inspired text. Second, the Scripture must be opened up. It comes to us partially closed, with problems which must be opened up.

Beyond this, we must expound it with faithfulness and sensitivity. Faithfulness relates to the Scripture itself. Sensitivity relates to the modern world. The preacher must give careful attention to both.

We must always be faithful to the text, and yet ever sensitive to the modern world and its concerns and needs. When this happens the preacher can come with two expectations. First, that God’s voice is heard because He speaks through what He has spoken. Second, that His people will obey Him — that they will respond to His Word as it is preached.

Mohler: You obviously have a very high regard for preaching. In Between Two Worlds you wrote extensively of the glory of preaching, even going so far as to suggest that “preaching is indispensable to Christianity.”

We are now coming out of an era in which preaching was thought less and less relevant to the church and its world. Even in those days you were outspoken in your affirmation of the preaching event and its centrality. Has your mind changed?

Stott: To the contrary! I still believe that preaching is the key to the renewal of the church. I am an impenitent believer in the power of preaching.

I know all the arguments against it: that the television age has rendered it useless; that we are a spectator generation; that people are bored with the spoken word, disenchanted with any communication by spoken words alone. All these things are said these days.

Nevertheless, when a man of God stands before the people of God with the Word of God in his hand and the Spirit of God in his heart, you have a unique opportunity for communication.

I fully agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that the decadent periods in the history of the church have always been those periods marked by preaching in decline. That is a negative statement. The positive counterpart is that churches grow to maturity when the Word of God is faithfully and sensitively expounded to them.

If it is true that a human being cannot live by bread only, but by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God, then it also is true of churches. Churches live, grow, and thrive in response to the Word of God. I have seen congregations come alive by the faithful and systematic unfolding of the Word of God.

The Text Means What the Author Meant

Mohler: You have pictured the great challenge of preaching as creating a bridge between two worlds — the world of the biblical text and the world of the contemporary hearer. That chasm seems ever more imposing in the modern world. How can the preacher really bridge that chasm?

Stott: Any bridge, if it is to be effective, must be firmly grounded on both sides of the canyon. To build a bridge between the modern world and the biblical world we must first be careful students of both. We must be ever engaged in careful biblical exegesis, conscientiously and continually, and yet also involved in careful study of the contemporary context. Only this will allow us to relate one to the other.

I find it helpful in my own study to ask two questions of the text — and in the right order. First, “What does it mean?” and second, “What does it say?”

The answer to the first is determined by the original author. I am fond of citing E. D. Hirsch in his book Validity in Interpretation, when he wrote: “The text means what its author meant.”

That is my major quarrel with the existentialists, who say that the text means what it means to me — the reader — independent of what the author meant. We must say “no” to that. A text means primarily what its author meant. It is the author who establishes the meaning of the text.

Beyond that, we must accept the discipline of grammatical and historical exegesis, of thinking ourselves back into the historical, geographical, cultural, and social situation in which the author was writing. We must do this to understand what the text means. It cannot be neglected.

The second question moves us from the original meaning of the text to its contemporary message — “What does it say?” If we ask the first question without asking the second, we lapse into antiquarianism, unrelated to modern reality.

On the other hand, if we leap to the second question, “What does it say today?,” we lapse into existentialism, unrelated to the reality of biblical revelation. We have to relate the past revelation of God to the present reality of the modern world.

Mohler: That requires a double exegesis — an exegesis of the text and also an exegesis of life. Is it your opinion that most evangelicals are better exegetes of the text than they are of life?

Stott: Oh, I am sure of it. I am myself and always have been a better student of Scripture than of the present reality. We love the Bible, read it and study it, and all of our preaching comes out of the Bible. Very often it does not land on the other side of that chasm, it is never earthed in reality.

The attractiveness of liberal or radical preaching, whatever it is called these days, is that it tends to be done by genuinely modern people who live in the modern world, understand it, and relate to it. But their message often does not come from the Bible. Their message is never rooted in the textual side of the chasm. We must combine the two relevant questions.

Mohler: Most of us think of ourselves as modern persons, and yet we may lack a suitable hermeneutic of the contemporary. What have you found to be helpful as you seek to be a better student of the contemporary world?

Stott: I mentioned in Between Two Worlds how very helpful I found involvement in a reading group I founded about fifteen years ago. They are graduates and professional people — doctors, an architect, an attorney, teachers and so on. All are committed to Christ and the Scripture and yet anxious to be modern and contemporary people. We meet every month or so when I am in London.

We decide to read a particular book, or see a particular play or exhibition, and spend the evening discussing it. We give most attention to books. We go around the circle and give our immediate impression before eventually turning and asking “Now, what has the Gospel to say to this?” I have found it enormously helpful to be forced to think biblically about modern issues.

Mohler: So you would point biblical preachers not only to the biblical text, but to a very wide reading?

Stott: Absolutely. I think wide reading is essential. We need to listen to modern men and women and read what they are writing. We need to go to the movies, to watch television, to go to the theater. The modern screen and stage are mirrors of the modern world. I seldom go on my own. I go with friends committed to the same kind of careful understanding.

Mohler: You have made it clear that you see preaching as a glorious calling and vocation. What do you see as the greatest contemporary need in preaching? Where is biblical preaching falling tragically short?

Stott: Well, in the more liberal churches, it falls woefully short of being fully biblical. Amongst the evangelical churches it falls short by being less than fully contemporary. I can only repeat the great need of struggling to understand the issues of the modern world. Nevertheless, there is a tremendous correlation between the issues of the biblical world and the modern world.

People are actively seeking the very answers Jesus provides. People are asking the very questions Jesus can answer, if only we understand the questions the world is asking.

I Began with a Very Strong Commitment to Scripture

Mohler: Your service over many years at All Souls Church in London had a tremendous impact throughout much of the world. There, in the midst of London’s busiest retail area, you presented the gospel with great effectiveness and power. Did your preaching change at all during your ministry at All Souls?

Stott: I began with a very strong commitment to Scripture, a very high view of its authority and inspiration. I have always loved the Word of God — ever since I was converted. Therefore, I have always sought to exercise an expository or exegetical ministry.

In my early days I used to think that my business was to expound and exegete the text; I am afraid I left the application to the Holy Spirit. It is amazing how you can conceal your laziness with a little pious phraseology! The Holy Spirit certainly can and does apply the Word for the people. But it is wrong to deny our own responsibility in the application of the Word.

All great preachers understand this. They focus on the conclusion, on the application of the text. This is what the Puritans called “preaching through to the heart.” This is how my own preaching has changed. I have learned to add application to exposition — and this is the bridge-building across the chasm.

Mohler: You have recently published a major volume on the cross [The Cross of Christ, InterVarsity Press, 1986]. This has always been central to your preaching — and all genuinely Christian preaching. Do you perceive an inadequate focus on the cross in the pulpit today?

Stott: Indeed, so far as I can see, it is inadequate. I think we need to get back to the fact that the cross is the center of biblical Christianity. We must not allow those on the one hand to put the incarnation as primary, nor can we allow those on the other hand to put the primary focus on the resurrection.

Of course, the cross, the incarnation, and the resurrection belong together. There could have been no atonement without the incarnation or without the resurrection. The incarnation prepares for the atonement and the resurrection endorses the atonement, so they belong always together.

Yet the New Testament is very clear that the cross stands at the center. It worries me that some evangelicals do not focus on Christ crucified as the center. Of course, we preach the whole of biblical religion, but with the cross as central.

One of the surprises which came as a product of the research for the book was the discovery that most books on the cross focus only on the atonement. There is much the New Testament has to say about the cross which is not focused on the atonement.

We are told, for example, to take up our cross and follow Christ. Communion is a cross-centered festival. There is the whole question of balance in the modern world. The problems of suffering and self-image are addressed by the cross. These issues appear quite differently when our world-view is dominated by the cross.

We Belong in a Study, Not an Office

Mohler: You are probably as well known in America as in England. Furthermore, you know America — its churches and its preachers. What would be your word to the Servants of the Word on this side of the Atlantic?

Stott: I think my main word to American preachers is, as Stephen Olford has often said, that we belong in a study, not in an office. The symbol of our ministry is a Bible — not a telephone. We are ministers of the Word, not administrators, and we need to relearn the question of priority in every generation.

The Apostles were in danger of being diverted from the ministry to which they had been called by Jesus — the ministry of Word and prayer. They were almost diverted into a social ministry for squabbling widows.

Now both are important, and both are ministries, but the Apostles had been called to the ministry of the Word and not the ministry of tables. They had to delegate the ministry of the tables to other servants. We are not Apostles, but there is the work of teaching that has come to us in the unfolding of the apostolic message of the New Testament. This is our priority as pastors and preachers.

Jesus preached to the crowds, to the group, and to the individual. He had the masses, the disciples, and individuals coming to Him. He preached to crowds, taught the disciples, and counseled individuals. We must also have this focus. It is all in the ministry of the Word.

 This interview is republished by the kind permission of Preaching magazine, Dr. Michael Duduit, editor. See


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Steven J. Lawson on The Great Significance of Preaching the Word

“Preach the Word”

Bounty Bible image


Every season of reformation and every hour of spiritual awakening has been ushered in by a recovery of biblical preaching. This cause and effect is timeless and inseparable. J.H. Merle D’Aubigné, noted Reformation historian, writes, “The only true reformation is that which emanates from the Word of God.” That is to say, as the pulpit goes, so goes the church.

Such was the case in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers were raised up by God to lead this era. At the forefront, it was their recovery of expository preaching that helped launch this religious movement that turned Europe and, eventually, Western civilization upside down. With sola Scriptura as their battle cry, a new generation of biblical preachers restored the pulpit to its former glory and revived apostolic Christianity.

The same was true in the golden era of the puritans in the seventeenth century. A recovery of biblical preaching spread like wildfire through the dry religion of Scotland and England. A resurgence of authentic Christianity came as an army of biblical expositors — John Owen, Jeremiah Burroughs, Samuel Rutherford, and others — marched upon the British Empire with an open Bible and uplifted voice. In its wake, the monarchy was shaken and history was altered.

The eighteenth century witnessed exactly the same. The Bible-saturated preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Tennents thundered through the early colonies. The Atlantic seaboard was electrified with the proclamation of the gospel, and New England was taken by storm. The Word was preached, souls were saved, and the kingdom expanded.

The fact is, the restoration of biblical preaching has always been the leading factor in any revival of genuine Christianity. Philip Schaff writes, “Every true progress in church history is conditioned by a new and deeper study of the Scriptures.” That is to say, every great revival in the church has been ushered in by a return to expository preaching.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preacher of Westminster Chapel London, stated, “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 the greatest need of the world also.” If the doctor’s diagnosis is correct, and this writer believes it is, then a return to true preaching — biblical preaching, expository preaching — is the greatest need in this critical hour. If a reformation is to come to the church, it must begin in the pulpit.

In his day, the prophet Amos warned of an approaching famine, a deadly drought that would cover the land. But not an absence of mere food or water, for this scarcity would be far more fatal. It would be a famine for hearing God’s Word (Amos 8:11). Surely, the church today finds itself in such similar days of shortage. Tragically, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, doctrine with drama, theology with theatrics, and preaching with performances. What is so desperately needed today is for pastors to return to their highest calling — the divine summons to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1–2).

What is expository preaching? The Genevan reformer John Calvin explained, “Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.” In other words, God is unusually present, by His Spirit, in the preaching of His Word. Such preaching starts in a biblical text, stays in it, and shows its God-intended meaning in a life-changing fashion.

This was the final charge of Paul to young Timothy: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Such preaching necessitates declaring the full counsel of God in Scripture. The entire written Word must be expounded. No truth should be left untaught, no sin unexposed, no grace unoffered, no promise undelivered.

A heaven-sent revival will only come when Scripture is enthroned once again in the pulpit. There must be the clarion declaration of the Bible, the kind of preaching that gives a clear explanation of a biblical text with compelling application, exhortation, and appeal.

Every preacher must confine himself to the truths of Scripture. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. The man of God has nothing to say apart from the Bible. He must not parade his personal opinions in the pulpit. Nor may he expound worldly philosophies. The preacher is limited to one task — preach the Word.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “I would rather speak five words out of this book than 50,000 words of the philosophers. If we want revivals, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God. If we want conversions, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons.” This remains the crying need of the hour.

May a new generation of strong men step forward and speak up, and may they do so loud and clear. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church.

Article above from the January 1, 2010 issue of © Tabletalk magazine

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to Any exceptions to the above must be formally approved by Tabletalk.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: Email: Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

About the Author:

Steve Lawson pointing

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is the Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, having served as a pastor in Arkansas and Alabama for the past twenty-nine years. He is a graduate of Texas Tech University (B.B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and Reformed Theological Seminary (D. Min.).

The focus of Dr. Lawson’s ministry is the verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word. The overflow of this study and preaching has led to his authoring fifteen books, including In It to Win It, The Kind of Preaching God Blesses,  & The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards. His other recent books include The Gospel Focus of Charles SpurgeonThe Expository Genius of John Calvin, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther,  Foundations of Grace 1400 BC-AD 100, volume one of a multi-volume series & Pillars of Grace AD 100 – 1564, also, three volumes in the Holman Old Testament Commentary Series, Job, Psalms Volume I (Psalms 1-75), and Volume II (Psalms 76-150).

He has contributed to John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, work celebrating the 500 year anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. He is the Series Editor for A Long Line of Godly Men Profile, a series of biographies of noted Christian leaders.

Dr. Lawson has also authored Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call to Expository PreachingMade In Our ImageAbsolutely SureThe LegacyWhen All Hell Breaks Loose, and Faith Under Fire. His books have been translated into various languages around the world, including Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Albanian, Korean, Dutch, and the Indonesian language.

He has contributed several articles to Bibliotheca Sacra, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, The Faith and Mission, Decision Magazine, and Discipleship Magazine, among other journals and magazines.

Dr. Lawson’s pulpit ministry takes him around the world, preaching in such places as Russia, the Ukraine, Scotland, Wales, England, Ireland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy and many conferences in the United States, including The Shepherd’s Conference and the Resolved Conference at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, the Ligonier National and Pastor’s Conference, and the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology.

He is president of New Reformation, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today. He serves on the Executive Board of The Master’s Seminary and College and is a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries and a Visiting Professor at the Ligonier Academy, teaching Expository Preaching and Evangelism and Missions in the Doctor of Ministry program. Dr. Lawson taught in the Distinguished Scholars Lecture Series at The Master’s Seminary, lecturing in 2004 on “Expository Preaching of the Psalms.” He also serves on the Advisory Council for Samara Preachers’ Institute & Theological Seminary, Samara, Russia.

Steve and his wife Anne have three sons, Andrew, James, and John, and a daughter, Grace Anne.


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Keller & Clowney: Preaching Christ in a Post-Modern World


Some of the most helpful resources on preaching Christ from all of Scripture that you will ever find. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

Originally posted on Faith In Motion:

I love sharing God’s word through preaching.  Since I’m moving to preaching every week, as we launch The Exchange Community in Jackson, Mo, I thought It would be good to reexamine my preaching and how I interpret and display God’s word.  I remembered a friend of mine shared, a number of years back, that Tim Killer and Edmond Clowney team taught a class at Reformed Theological Seminary on Preaching Christ in a Post-Modern World.  As I started to listen through these teachings, I desired to share them with other church planters, preachers, and pastors that may not be aware of their existence.  Even if you don’t fit in these categories, this is an excellent resource to understand and share scripture.

Free Resources:

Audio from itunes

Course Material in PDF These notes were extremely difficult to find.  I believe they are notes from this course as it was later modified.  They do not…

View original 272 more words


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Book Review on Alistair Begg’s “Preaching for God’s Glory”

A Case for Expository Preaching: Book Review By David P. Craig


There are many methods that pass for “expository” preaching today. Alistair Begg (one of the finest preachers today) argues that the nature of true expository preaching benefits the body of Christ more than any other kind of preaching, and that it also results in brining glory to God.

In chapters one and two Begg critiques the different types of preaching in our day. He isolates the many problems down to really one thing: that preachers are not preaching the message of the Bible, but their own message. Scholars call this eisogesis “reading into the text what’s not actually there.” Most preaching today either errs on the side of total pragmatism “all application with no theology,” or on the side of all doctrine with very little application. Therefore, to counteract these deficiencies Begg gives a powerful defense for the efficacy of expository preaching.

Begg defines expository preaching as “the unfolding of the text of Scripture in a way that makes contact with the listeners’ world while exalting Christ and confronting them with the need of action.” He continues, “When the Bible is not being systematically expounded, congregations often learn a little about a lot but usually do not understand how everything fits together.”

The key elements of expository preaching are as follows:

(1) Expository preaching always begins with the text of Scripture. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you always begin the sermon reading the text “but it does mean that even when we begin by referring to some current event or the lyric of a contemporary song, it is the text of Scripture that establishes the agenda for the sermon. The verses under consideration always establish and frame the content of the sermon.”

(2) Expository preaching seeks to fuse the two horizons of the biblical text and the contemporary world. “The preacher must learn not simply to fuse the horizons in his teaching, but to do so in such a way that people are learning by example how to integrate the Bible with their own experience.”

(3) The expositor needs to be under the control of the Scriptures. In his summary of expository preaching Begg quotes the Westminster Directory for Public Worship “(a) The matter we preach should be true; that is, in the genral doctrines of Scripture; (b) It should be the truth contained in the text or passage we are expounding; (3) It should be the truth preached under the control of the rest of Scripture.”

The benefits of expository preaching expanded upon by Begg are as follows:

(1) Expository preaching gives glory to God, which ought to be the ultimate end of all we do. “Since expository preaching begins with the text of Scripture, it starts with God and is in itself an act of worship, for it is a declaration of the mighty acts of God. It establishes the focus of the people of God and his glory before any consideration of man and his need.”

(2) Expository preaching demands that the preacher himself become a student of the Word of God. “The first heart God’s Word needs to reach is that of the preacher. There will be no benefit to our people from expository preaching unless we ourselves are being impacted by the Scriptures we are preparing to preach.” As John Owen declared, “A man only preaches a sermon well to others if he has first preached it to himself. If he does not thrive on the ‘food’ he prepares, he will not be skilled at making it appetizing for others. If the Word does not dwell in power in us, it will not pass in power from us.”

(3) Expository preaching enables the congregation to learn the Bible in the most obvious and natural way. By our preaching we either help or hinder our people in the task of interpreting Scripture. If we merely show them the results of our study without at least to some degree including them in the process, they may be ‘blessed’ but will remain untaught.

(4) Expository preaching prevents the preacher from avoiding difficult passages or from dwelling on his favorite texts. By committing himself to an exposition of Scripture that is systematic in its pattern, the preacher will avoid the pitfalls of neglecting tough truths, and preaching on only “pet” doctrines.

(5) Expository preaching assures the congregation of enjoying a balanced diet of God’s Word. We serve our people best when we make clear that we are committed to teaching the Bible by teaching the whole Bible – all 66 books.

(6) Expository preaching liberates the preacher from the pressure of last-minute sermon preparation on Saturday night. Preaching that is systematic and consecutive in its pattern means that a congregation does not approach church asking themselves, “I wonder what the minister will preach about today?”

Alistair concludes his book by giving some helpful pointers on how the preacher can prepare excellent expository sermons by doing the following:

(1) Think yourself empty.

(2) Read yourself full.

(3) Write yourself clear.

(4) Pray yourself hot.

(5) Be yourself, but don’t preach yourself.

Alistair Begg has done a great service to the Church by providing an excellent primer of the pitfalls of preaching, and has made a great case for the value and effectiveness of expository preaching. I recommend this little book for beginning and experienced preachers. It is full of great quotes, biblical advice, sound wisdom, and if applied diligently will result in preaching God’s glory to His Church and benefit the body of Christ richly.


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