Wednesday, September 16, 2009

1 The Simplicity and Difficulty of Preaching

I have been reading John Calvin's Sermons on Ephesians as I mull over the text of the letter and plan out my teaching of Sunday School at our church - and continue to be impressed with the ease with which Calvin makes profound and important statements. His sermons on Ephesians will make several appearances here on In Principio Deus, as I'm teaching throughout the Fall (and perhaps the year) on this epistle.

One thing struck me immediately in his first sermon (on Ephesians 1:1-3) that I thought worthy of sharing. Calvin writes this, discussing the authority of God and the connection to those that would preach and teach His Word:
"It has always been God's will to keep the guiding of his own church to himself, and that his Word should be received without contradiction. He has not given that privilege to any creature. And when Jesus Christ is ordained in the place of God the Father, it is because he is God manifested in the flesh, and the infallible truth itself, and his wisdom which was before all time. [1 Tim. 3:16].

Furthermore, when men speak they must not do it in their own name, nor put forward anything of their own fancy and brain, but they must faithfully set forth the thing that God has enjoined upon them and given them in charge. Thus you see why St. Paul uses this preface, as it were everywhere, that he is an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence he holds it as a settled principle that if any man introduces himself to speak in his own name, there is nothing but rashness in him, for he takes upon himself what belongs to God only." (pp. 8-9, Sermons on Ephesians, Banner of Truth)
If this doesn't leave the preacher or Bible teacher shaking in his boots, I don't know what will. How much must we pay attention to everything we say, and to be careful in every detail with what we teach, that we are not injecting our "own fancy" but speaking clearly the truth of God! Reminders of this truth are critical, and it is good to hear it again - and to be convicted again of the deep and abiding need for study and careful analysis of the texts one is preaching or teaching. How much is this neglected today!

This, too, it seems to me, to be a fantastic reminder of the solemnity with which we must approach the pulpit or the lectern. It's not a time for fun and games, nor is it a time to be cracking jokes... the precious Word of God is to be handled with care and severity - with humility and appropriate reverence. How short does so much of what passes for preaching fall compared to the standard that Calvin rightly proposes! It certainly gives me much pause to think carefully each time I prepare to stand before my classmembers or the congregation if I am called upon to preach as I was this past Lord's Day.

The importance of bearing carefully the Word of God must be understood... and we who teach and preach it must be concerned to "get out of the way", as it were, when we undertake our various roles with respect to its propagation. The Word must shine forth as gold, even though it is borne within cracked clay pots... let us not consider ourselves to be anything but that. We are not shiny new flawless pots, but those that have been rescued from the rubbish pile by God Himself; cracked vessels, transporting the precious Word. Let us humbly go forth, then, and proclaim Him faithfully.


Unknown said...

Look -- it is Calvin being "cool" ("hey dude")! ROFL ;)


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