Category Archives: Preaching
BOOK REVIEW: “A Love Worth Finding” – The Life of Adrian Rogers And His Philosophy of Preaching by Joyce Rogers
MODELS OF REDEMPTIVE PREACHING
APPLYING CHRIST-CENTERED PREACHING IN YOUR MINISTRY
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.
A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD
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.
Lecture #3 Delivered at Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College — March 1988
Introduction. 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.
I. THE THEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND OF EFFICACIOUS GRACE
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
II THE NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING ON EFFICACIOUS GRACE
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.
III THE PRACTICAL EFFECTS OF EFFICACIOUS GRACE
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.
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.
William Barclay, The Gospel of John (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1955), I, 226.
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 371.
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.
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.
Ibid., I, 204.
Calvin, I, 165.
James Denney, “The Epistles to the Thessalonians,” The Expositor’s Bible, p. 342.
James Everett Frame, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), p. 276.
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.
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).
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).
C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Columbus: Wartburg Press, 1946), p. 494.
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).
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.
“Preach the Word”
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
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About the Author:
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 Spurgeon, The 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 Preaching, Made In Our Image, Absolutely Sure, The Legacy, When 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.
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.
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.