Made Sufficient: A Theology of Preaching

preachMade Sufficient: A Theology of Preaching

INTRODUCTION

Life in our culture today has one very common personal philosophy that will be heard anywhere you go: “You can be anything you set your mind to.” Our school systems, parental urgings, and media culture all cheer us on with shouts of “be all we can be, “just do it,” and “you can make friends and influence people!” We live in a world of driven and purposeful self-sufficiency. If you are a doctor and you find a new condition you are not familiar with, you study, research, prepare, and build the knowledge base and skill set within yourself to accomplish the task. You work hard to achieve the skills required for the task. If an engineer is faced with a new complicated project, they also turn to the books and the training. Study, prepare, practice, test, do all things to develop the personal skills to become competent and capable.

Coming to scripture with this worldview is dangerous enough for the average Christian, but it’s a death wish for those aspiring to the pulpit. In so many ways, our career success cultural handicap has created “you can achieve anything you set your mind to” preaching. Young men feeling the call to preaching start with the philosophy that hard work and personal development of precise skills is all that is needed to assume the pulpit and to receive the celebration and cheers of men. This is why Paul’s words to the Corinthians regarding the ministry of the New Covenant is so shocking.[1] You can just about hear the needle scratching across the record as our culture engages with Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 2:16b-17,

…who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ[2]

and 2 Corinthians 3:5-6,

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.

The World’s response to Paul is: “Who is sufficient for these things? I am of course! I can do anything I set my mind to. I will work hard and become sufficient to preach.” This response, whether voiced or felt secretly deep in our heart is the issue at hand. The biblical act of preaching is not a calling that can be professionalized. Preaching is not something that can be undertaken or mastered by sheer personal will. Preaching is an act like no other. Preaching is not a career choice. Preaching is a supernatural calling to proclaim God’s Word as a reconciled ambassador for Christ. It is only through God that we are made sufficient to speak on His behalf.

MADE SUFFICIENT

Preaching the Word of God is every bit as challenging as walking a tightrope hundreds of feet above the ground. Lean too far in one direction and you fall to a certain death. Overcorrect and lean too far the other direction and you experience the same results. One missed step and you are in great danger. Preaching is similar, not in physical balance and concentration, but in spiritual balance and humility. On one side we can fall into the certain dangers of self-sufficiency and on the other, the certain peril of lazy unpreparedness. The rope itself, on which we safely traverse to the other side, is humility grounded in the knowledge that we are not sufficient to accomplish this task in our own strength and skills, but we are made sufficient by the power of the one of whom we speak. To make the point of how God accommodates our weakness by providing preachers to speak on His behalf, Peter Adam[3], in his little book, Speaking God’s Words, quotes John Calvin, from his Institutes, on the power of God in preaching through the man, rather than the power coming from the man himself:[4]

it forms a most excellent and useful training to humility, when he accustoms us to obey his word though preached by men like ourselves, or, it may be, our inferiors in worth. Did he himself speak from heaven, it were no wonder if his sacred oracles were received by all ears and minds reverently and without delay. For who would not dread his present power? Who would not fall prostrate at the first view of his great majesty? Who would not be overpowered by that immeasurable splendour? But when a feeble man, sprung from the dust, speaks in the name of God, we give the best proof of our piety and obedience, by listening with docility to his servant, though not in any respect our superior. [5]

All men would fall on their faces in reverence if God came down from Heaven and preached to us. However, God chose to use feeble broken men sprung up from the dust to deliver His message to the World (Ex 4:10-12, 1 Cor 1:17-21,1 Thes 2:1-4, 1 Tim 1:12-15). To understand how this feeble, unremarkable, inferior  man can faithfully represent the infinite, holy, omnipresent God of the universe, we must understand the theology of preaching.

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Sermon of the Week: “The Subtlety of Satan ” by Jim Murphy.

In this week’s sermon, The Subtlety of Satan, Pastor Murphy gives a scathing indictment on what today’s version of a “Christian” is:

“(Today’s Christian is) someone who has made the decision to be an emotionally well-adjusted, self-actualized risk-taking leader who knows his purpose, lives a no regret life of significance, has overcome his fears, enjoys a healthy marriage, is an attentive parent celebrating recovery from all their hurts, their habits, their hang-ups, and that practices biblical stress relief techniques, is financially free from consumer debt, fosters emotionally healthy relationships with his peers, attends a weekly life group, volunteers regularly at church, tithes off his gross, and has taken at least one humanitarian aid trip to a third world nation. . . . Never once do you read in that modern contextualized interpretation that a Christian is one who sees their sin, confesses their sin, repents of their sin, and receives the gift of salvation in Christ alone. That’s how far we’ve come. So Christianity now is dictated and defined by culture.”

Pastor Murphy also exhorts his congregation to “connect the dots,” between the many dangers we are warned about repeatedly in Scripture and what is being taught under our noses in many churches and by many Christian authors and leaders today.

‎”The mood is that if you have a reformed soteriology you get a pass on everything else.”  -John MacArthur

What Mac says is so true – Calvinistic preachers are assumed to be orthodox because they have one doctrine correct. Yet those who serve as elders in the local church are to preach the whole counsel of God’s Word. This will humble any man and cause the sheep to be less dependent on the preacher and more on the Lord.

As we’ve pointed out in other posts, here and here, for example, the Bible has plenty of warnings about being deceived and misled by men. No man is above having his teaching tested against Scripture, because only the God Man Jesus was and is without error – and He is the Word of God!

HT: Sola Sisters

Sermon of the Week: “The Calling of a Preacher” by Albert Mohler.

Albert Mohler was one the key-note speakers at the 2012 Shepherd’s Conference. While there were several excellent speakers throughout the event, this message from Mohler was timely and relevant to me personally – and seemed to resonate with the two or three thousand others gathered there as well. Here is an excerpt from his introduction, full message in video below, mp3 download here (right click and save or click to listen).

Let’s admit it. There’s a lot of mysteries in the christian life, but one of the greatest mysteries is why God would in His sovereign, omnipotent and omniscient, and wisdom and righteousness, and mercy choose the likes of folks as we… to do this. You might think that if we were orchestrating this, we might have angels doing the preaching. Everybody would listen to an angel, wouldn’t they? Of course,  not American angels. We domesticate little angels, we paint little pictures of cherubs and hang them in the bathroom. It’s a completely different reality. Just remember in the Gospel of Luke, the angelic hosts showed up to the shepherds and the first think they had to say is, “First of all, don’t die” – “Fear not, we bring you tidings of great joy”. Meanwhile, most Americans, in our weirdo, fake, postmodern spirituality think they’re channeling with little cherubs in the bathroom.

But God doesn’t assign angels to do the preaching. He assigned human preachers, men whom He has called because when an angel shows up to preach you don’t ask, “How did God do that?”. But, when we show up to preach you’re looking at me going (saying), “He’s just flesh and blood. He’s nearsighted. He only speaks one language. He’s gonna be hungry soon. He fell asleep during a Greek lecture, thirty something years ago and you’re letting him preach?” Well, it’s as the apostle Paul says, “It’s so that the glory would be all of God’s and not ours. So that the excellence would be His excellence that’s demonstrated and not ours.”

Admit it: you’d love to be doing this, and then admit it: That’s a good thing. And then let’s just admit it together, it’s just a priceless thing that we get to be together for these days and these hours, to preach and to hear preaching and to be encouraged, not only by each other, but by the Holy Spirit of God in this calling that has come to us.