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(15 posts)

Steve Weaver on Exposition

Monday··2006·12·18 · 3 Comments
The dashing young fellow on the right is Steve Weaver, which regular readers should know. I want to draw your attention to a series he has just begun called How I Prepare an Expository Sermon. “Okay,” you ask, “why do I care how he prepares his sermons? I’m not a pastor. I don’t preach. I don’t care how Chrysler or Ford builds cars as long as they build good ones. I don’t need to know where the nuts and bolts go.” Well, you need to know, and here are a few reasons why: Some day you may be in the position, as I have, to interview pastors for your church. Believe me, asking if he believes in expository preaching is not enough. I have had prospective pastors say they always preach expositionally who demonstrated that they had no clue what “expository” means. Then there are those who really do know what it is, but don’t know how. You need to know the difference between wannabes and the real thing. If you have a pastor who is giving you solid Biblical exposition, you need to know how much work goes into the finished product. That thirty minutes to an hour you get on Sunday morning represents many hours of diligent study during the week, and years of study and training behind that. You need to know why your pastor doesn’t have time for all the superfluous programs and activities you might like to see. You may only see him for a couple of hours a week, but he is working hard, and very likely putting in longer hours than you do at your job, and he is doing it for you. You need to understand and appreciate that. Your pastor needs you to understand and appreciate that. Those are just a couple of reasons why you should care how an expository sermon is prepared. I have saved the most important reason for last: The way an expository sermon is produced is the way you should study the Bible. The goal of the expositor is to understand what the text means, that is, exactly what God is saying through it. You most likely are not able to study in the original languages, but you can read Bible dictionaries and commentaries, and you can learn important principals such as context. Do you want to be a Berean? This is how it is done. Update: The links to the entire series can be found here: How I Prepare An Expository Sermon: The Series.

I’ve Got to Do Better!

Monday··2007·02·12 · 2 Comments
I have spent the majority of my life so far thinking that a good sermon was one that was hard-hitting and left me with the feeling that I’ve got to do better. Then I would go out and try really hard to do better, succeeding to some degree, but failing over all. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I came to see the folly of the kind of moralistic preaching that I had thought was so good. Don’t take me wrong. I do not believe that the purpose of the Law is merely to bludgeon me on the head and send me, helpless, to the cross, as some say. I believe the Law actually represents God’s will for my behavior. (This simple statement should not be taken as a complete expression of my opinion on the subject; but I don’t want to go into that now.) But if all a sermon, or our witness, accomplishes is to convict us of our sin and send us away trying harder, all it has done is make us more dependent on ourselves, more self-righteous, and more doomed to fail. And I can testify to years of my life when that was exactly my condition, when my religion was all about me and how well I was doing in getting myself sanctified’and I failed, over and over, because the solution was always in myself and my better efforts. Sin must be addressed. When a text is preached that deals with sin, it ought to result in conviction for any listening child of God. But what then? Our response ought not to be, I’ve got to try harder, but I need to draw closer to my Savior. I need to cling to his Word. I need to stay close to Jesus, where no sin can dwell. That is where the conviction of sin should lead. If it doesn’t, the result will only be a better legalist. The cure for my sin is not my righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness.

The Principal Duty of a Pastor

Tuesday··2007·09·04 · 2 Comments
It is not uncommon for a pastor work himself to exhaustion tending to one congregational need after another, while giving little time to study and delivering mediocre teaching from the pulpit. Not to be too hard on the pastor, that seemed to be what many congregations want—demand, even. Is that the way it should be? Should the teaching ministry play second fiddle to other pastoral duties? John Owen didn’t think so. Under normal circumstances Owen believed and taught that “The first and principal duty of a pastor is to feed the flock by diligent preaching of the word.” he pointed to Jeremiah 3:15 and to the purpose of God to “give to his church pastors according to his own heart, who should feed them with knowledge and understanding.” He showed that the care of preaching the gospel was committed to Peter, and in him all true pastors of the Church under the name of “feeding” (John 21:15–17). He cited Acts 6 and the apostles’ decision to free themselves from all encumbrances that they may give themselves wholly to the Word and prayer. He referred to 1 Timothy 5:17—it is the pastor’s duty to “labor in the word and doctrine,” and to Acts 20:28 where the overseers of the flock are to feed them with the Word. Then he says, Nor is it required only that he preach now and then at his leisure; but that he lay aside all other employments, though lawful, all others duties in the church, as unto such a constant attendance on them as would divert him from his work, that he give himself unto it. . . . Without this, no man will be able to give a comfortable account of his pastoral office at the last day. —John Piper, Contending for Our All, (Crossway, 2006), 94–95

Wanted: Luthers & Calvins

Monday··2007·10·29 · 3 Comments
We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gift of Jesus Christ to the church, and will come in due time. He has power to give back again a golden age of preachers, and when the good old truth is one more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the alter, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land. . . . I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men’s ears to hear it. The moment the church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to receive and bless His churches. —Charles Spurgeon, cited in Steve Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin (Reformation Trust, 2007), 132–133.

Dever on Preaching

Preaching is one of the most valuable services to both God and man. The practice of expositional preaching presumes a belief that what God says is authoritative for his people. It presumes that his people should hear it, and need to hear it, lest our congregations be deprived of what God intends to use for shaping us after his image. It presumes that God intends the church to learn from both Testaments, as well as from every genre of Scripture—law, history, wisdom, prophesy, gospels, and epistles. An expositional preacher who moves straight through books of the Bible and who regularly rotates between the different Testaments and genres of Scripture, I believe, is like a mother who serves her children food from every food group, not just their two or three favorite meals. Back to the Heart of Worship During a daylong seminar on Puritanism that I taught at a church in London, I remarked at one point that Puritan sermons were sometimes two hours long. A member of the class gasped audibly and asked, “What time did that leave for worship?” Clearly, the individual assumed that listening to God’s Word preached did not constitute worship. I replied that many English Protestants in former centuries believed that the most essential part of their worship was hearing God’s Word in their own language (a freedom purchased by the blood of more than one martyr) and responding to it in their lives. Whether they had time to sing, though not entirely insignificant, was of comparatively little concern to them. —Mark Dever, What Is a Healthy Church? (Crossway, 2007), 65, 67.

A Tribute to the Straight Man

Thursday··2012·04·26 · 5 Comments
More than once, I’ve been asked who my favorite Together for the Gospel speaker is. That’s a tough question. All were very good, and all were unique, so my answer tends to sound like one of those silly elementary school competitions in which there are no winners or losers and everyone gets a ribbon. Still, the more I think of it, one name keeps floating to the top: Ligon Duncan. It’s unfortunate, but I think that might put me in a minority. Many others, I think, would name someone more dynamic, like John Piper or David Platt. As a speaker, Duncan is fairly ordinary. That is not to say, boring. It does not mean dispassionate. He simply doesn’t bring bells, whistles, and fireworks to the pulpit. He delivers with an earnest gravitas that I appreciate. This should not be taken as a criticism of Piper and others like him. We all have different personalities, and Piper is just being Piper. But there is a downside to that kind of dynamic personality: while Duncan is remembered for what he said, Piper is often remembered more for how he said it. Piper is famous for being Piper, a fact he does not enjoy. Duncan is less likely to bear that burden. [GIF created by @JRileySheehan] So this is my tribute to the straight man, the preacher whose message is unembellished: I could listen to you all day. Those other guys wear me out. Enjoy Ligon Duncan: 2006: Preaching from the Old Testament [mp3] 2008: Sound Doctrine: Essential to Faithful Pastoral Ministry [mp3] 2010: Did the Fathers Know the Gospel? [mp3] 2012: The Underestimated God: God’s ruthless, compassionate grace in the pursuit of his own glory and his ministers’ joy [mp3]

Truth for Everyone

Luther was no simple, uneducated preacher. A master of the biblical languages and exegesis, and a highly skilled preacher, teacher, and debater, he crossed intellectual swords with the top scholars of his day. He tackled the minute details of theology with alacrity. Still, he never forgot his audience, and endeavored always to present the gospel in the common language, accessible to the common man. Luther intentionally sought to preach the gospel to his listeners in an understandable manner. Such plain preaching was much needed in his day. For centuries, German congregations had suffered through worship services conducted in Latin, which was the scholarly language of the classroom but not the common language of the marketplace or the home. Thus, it was largely unknown among the general populace. Luther believed that “the text of the Bible, and all preaching based upon it, should be in the vernacular—the everyday language of the people, not Latin, which distanced the people from the text.” Because he longed to be clearly understood in the pulpit, Luther strove to use language that was simple and accessible. The Word, Luther insisted, must be explained and applied in plain terms in the native language of the common people. “To preach plain and simply is a great art,” he said. Although Luther was the ranking scholar of the world in which he moved, he targeted his sermon delivery not to the intellectual or religious elite, but to the common people. E. C. Dargan states: “He thought with the learned, but he also thought and talked with the people. His style of speech was clear to the people, warm with life and sentiment, and vigorous with the robust nature of the man himself.” Broadus agrees, writing, “He [Luther] gloried in being a preacher to the common people.” Simply put, Luther wanted to communicate the truth to everyone. . . . Luther sounded a stern warning to preachers against parading their intellect at the expense of not communicating to simple people in desperate need of the gospel message: “Cursed are all preachers that in the church aim at high and hard things, and, neglecting the saving health of the poor unlearned people, seek their own honour and praise, and therewith to please one or two ambitious persons.” —Steve Lawson, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (Reformation Trust, 2013), 90–91, 92.

Where Are the Lutherans?

Missouri Synod Lutheran Gene Veith asks, Why is Calvinism so influential and not Lutheranism? Anthony Sacramone, “former Calvinist who is now a Lutheran,” attempts an answer. My impression is that Sacramone might not be the best example of a “former Calvinist,” describing himself as “someone baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, literally a former altar boy, who left the church about five minutes after his confirmation, but who returned to the faith in his 20s only to attend Wesleyan churches and, finally, to join Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York (and leave after eight years).” It seems he never really picked up what Calvinism is all about. However, concerning the question, “Why is Calvinism so influential and not Lutheranism?” he does find the answer—he just doesn’t recognize it as the answer: “Calvinism also offers some of the more potent expository preaching you will hear. Where are the Lutheran Spurgeons or Martyn Lloyd-Jones?” Well, there you have it, on the nose. Where are the great Lutheran expositors? I was raised in evangelical Lutheran churches, and I can’t recall a single expository sermon.* I didn’t even know what exposition was until I found Grace to You on the radio. Where are the Lutheran John MacArthurs? Along with that, there has been, in the last decade or two, an explosion of Calvinist publishing. Where are the Lutherans? Your answer is in those questions. Jesus promised to build his church, and by the particular means of preaching. “‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13–14) Show me a Lutheran church that features systematic biblical exposition, and I’ll show you a living, growing church. Put that kind of Lutheran on the radio and in print, and you’ll see some Lutheran influence. * That is not to say I never heard biblical preaching—I surely did—but a twenty-minute textual devotional, however doctrinally correct, is a poor substitute for a full exposition of the text, especially when the exposition is only one volume in a whole-book exposition.

Lord’s Day 48, 2013

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. —1 Peter 5:1–5 Hymn L. Prayer for ministers. John Newton (1725–1807) Chief Shepherd of thy chosen sheep, From death and sin set free; May ev’ry under–shepherd keep His eye, intent on thee! With plenteous grace their hearts prepare, To execute thy will; Compassion, patience, love and care, And faithfulness and skill. Inflame their minds with holy zeal Their flocks to feed and teach; And let them live, and let them feel The sacred truths they preach. Oh, never let the sheep complain That toys, which fools amuse; Ambition, pleasure, praise or gain, Debase the shepherd’s views. He, that for these, forbears to feed The souls whom Jesus loves; Whate’er he may profess, or plead, An idol–shepherd proves. The sword of God shall break his arm, A blast shall blind his eye His word shall have no pow’r to warm, His gifts shall all grow dry. O Lord, avert this heavy woe, Let all thy shepherds say! And grace, and strength, on each bestow, To labor while ’tis day. —Olney Hymns. Book II: On Occasional Subjects. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

“This is the finger of God”

Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation —1 Peter 2:2 Many preachers aim for style over substance, or even style with no regard for substance. Many serve up sugary sweets rather than meat and vegetables. Which do you prefer? It may be thou goest to table only for the sauce, to church for the style and elegancy of the language; if so, I dare be bold to tell thee, that ‘thine heart is not right in the sight of God.’ Dost thou not know that it is the naked sword which doth the execution, that a crucified Christ is the great conqueror, not a pompous, gaudy Messiah, which the Jews dreamed of? Paul is commanded to preach, ‘not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect,’ 1 Cor. i. 17, so also ver. 27, 28. Truly, if thou lustest after the quails of some new dish, it is a sign that thou loathest manna, the bread of heaven; and what a condition is thy poor soul in then! They that have the greensickness care not for solid food, but hanker after trash. They have souls sadly sick that neglect the good word of God, and long after the fancies and wit of men. God doth, ‘by the foolishness of preaching, save them that believe,’ that he alone might have the glory of their salvation; ‘that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us,’ 2 Cor. iv. 7. When men nibble at the bait of human eloquence, and are caught, the skill of the angler is applauded; but when men bite at the naked hook, the simplicity of the gospel, all will grant this to be a miracle, and say, ‘This is the finger of God.’ Dost thou not see, that as Daniel and his companions thrived better and looked fairer with feeding upon pulse, than the other captives who fed on the king’s dainty provision, so those Christians in every parish, look abroad where you will, thrive more in holiness, and are fairer in God’s eye, who feed on plain, naked Scripture, than those whom no dishes will please but such as are curiously cooked for a king’s palate? Thou wilt not believe but that thy face may be seen in a glass where the sides are not gilded; thou wilt choose a horse, not by its trappings and fine furniture, but by its usefulness and serviceableness. Why shouldst thou be so childish as to be in love with no garments but what are daubed with silver lace, when other plain raiment will warm thy body as well? —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:146–147

Commend Thy Minister to God

Pastors are often subject to great scrutiny and criticism. This, in fact, is not altogether wrong. Christ makes great demands on his under-shepherds and they are to be held accountable for their care of the flock. Yet it is hardly reasonable to expect much of an elder whom we have not, in love, regularly taken before the throne of grace, praying on his behalf for the grace to perform his duty for our profit and God’s glory. Swinnock writes, [B]e sure thou forget not to commend thy minister to God. As thy duty is to beg a ‘door of entrance’ for thyself, so a ‘door of utterance’ for thy pastor. ‘Withal praying for us, that God would open to us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ,’ Col. iv. 3; Eph. vi. 19. Thy profit by him will be not a little furthered by thy prayer for him. He that loves his child, will often remember the nurse that feeds it; he that loves his precious soul, will often mind the preacher that prepareth and bringeth its spiritual portion. I have known some to praise their cooks highly, when they would prevail with them to dress a dish curiously for their palates. I am sure thy way is to pray for thy pastor fervently, if thou wouldest have him provide such food as may be for thy soul's pleasure and profit. Starve the mother, and you starve the child in her womb. If the heavens do not favour the hills with showers, they cannot fatten the valleys with their chalky streams. If the pipes be broke which convey water to our houses from the river, we can expect no supply. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:153

The Need Not Felt

There is a great difference between preaching to felt needs and preaching to actual needs. As John MacArthur writes, “people’s deepest need is to confess and overcome their sin.” No one, by nature, feels that need. Paul also gives Timothy instructions about the tone of his preaching. He uses two words that carry negative connotations and one that is positive: reprove, rebuke, and exhort (2 Tim. 4:2). All valid ministry must have a balance of positive and negative. The preacher who fails to reprove and rebuke is not fulfilling his commission. I recently listened to a radio interview with a preacher well-known for his emphasis on positive thinking. This man had stated in print that he assiduously avoids any mention of sin in his preaching because he feels people are burdened with too much guilt anyway. The interviewer asked how he could justify such a policy. The pastor replied that he had made the decision early in his ministry to focus on meeting people’s needs, not attacking their sin. But people’s deepest need is to confess and overcome their sin. So preaching that fails to confront and correct sin through the Word of God does not meet people’s need. It may make them feel good, and they may respond enthusiastically to the preacher, but that is not the same as meet­ing real needs. Reproving, rebuking, and exhorting is the same as preaching the Word, for those are the very same ministries Scripture accomplishes: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for cor­rection, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Notice the same balance of positive and negative admonition. Reproof and correction are negative; teaching and training are positive. Although the reproofs of God’s Word are essential and must never be neglected, the positive part of instruction is, for obvious reasons, where the majority of our energies ought to be invested. The word “exhort” is para­kaleō, a word that means “encourage.” The excellent preacher confronts sin and then encourages repentant sinners to behave righteously. He is to do this “with complete patience and teaching” (4:2). In 1 Thessalonians 2:11–12, Paul talks about how, “like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God.” This often requires great patience and much instruction. But the excellent minister cannot neglect these aspects of his calling. —John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel (Crossway, 2010), 47–48.

Lord’s Day 45, 2014

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” —Matthew 28:18–20 The Great Message [score] Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) “Quo vos magistri gloria, quo salus  Invitat orbis, sancta cohors Dei  Portate verbum.” Old Hymn Apostles of the risen Christ, go forth! Let love compel. Go, and in risen power proclaim His worth, O’er every region of the dead, cold earth,— His glory tell! Tell how He lived, and toiled, and wept below; Tell all His love; Tell the dread wonders of His awful woe; Tell how He fought our fight and smote our foe, Then rose above. Tell how in weakness He was crucified, But rose in power; Went up on high, accepted, glorified; News of His victory spread far and wide, From hour to hour. Tell how He sits at the right hand of God In glory bright, Making the heaven of heavens His glad abode; Tell how He cometh with the iron rod His foes to smite. Tell how His kingdom shall thro’ ages stand, And never cease; Spreading like sunshine over every land, All nations bowing to His high command, Great Prince of Peace! —Hymns of Faith and Hope, Second Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Preaching and the Reformation

Steve Lawson on the Reformation as a revival of preaching: John Broadus, a noted nineteenth-century professor, identifies four distinguishing marks of the Reformation. Each of these is critical to our understanding of Luther and the Protestant movement. First, the Reformation was a revival of preaching. Broadus notes that during the Middle Ages, preachers were exceptions to the rule. The Roman Catholic Church had subjugated the pulpit to a subordinate, peripheral role. In its place were the Mass, rituals, and ceremonies. But the Reformation, Broadus writes, was marked by “a great outburst of preaching, such as had not been seen since the early Christian centuries.” All of the Reformers were preachers, not merely authors and lecturers. . . . As [E. C. Dargan] explains: “Among the reformers, preaching resumes its proper place in worship. . . . The exposition of Scripture becomes the main thing. . . . Preaching becomes more prominent in worship than it had been perhaps since the fourth century.” The Reformation historian Harold Grimm affirms this view, writing: “The Protestant Reformation would not have been possible without the sermon. . .  The role of the sermon in making the Reformation a mass movement can scarcely be overestimated.” Roland Bainton, a Luther scholar, also agrees: “The Reformation gave centrality to the sermon. The pulpit was higher than the altar.” . . . Second, it was a revival of biblical preaching. Broadus notes that the Protestant movement did not merely bring back preaching per se, but a certain kind of preaching—biblical preaching, that is, expository preaching. He writes: “Instead of long and often fabulous stories about saints and martyrs, and accounts of miracles, instead of passages from Aristotle and Seneca, and fine-spun subtleties of the Schoolman, these men preached the Bible. The question was not what the Pope said; and even the Fathers, however highly esteemed, were not decisive authority—it was the Bible.” . . . In the sixteenth century, Broadus explains, “The preacher’s one great task was to set forth the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Word of God.” Everything else the preacher did was secondary. With this new emphasis came a deeper study of the Bible: “Preachers, studying the original Greek and Hebrew,” he writes, “were carefully explaining to the people the connected teachings of passage after passage and book after book . . . , [giving them] a much more strict and reasonable exegesis than had ever been common since the days of Chrysostom.” . . . Third, it was a revival of controversial preaching. Broadus explains that as the Reformers preached the Bible, controversy inevitably followed. They maintained not only sola Scriptura—“Scripture alone”—but tota Scriptura—“all Scripture.” The Reformers believed that every truth was to be preached from their pulpits. Every hard saying was to be expounded. Every sin was to be exposed. After centuries of apostasy, the full counsel of God was suddenly preached, which brought unavoidable conflict in a slumbering church. . . . Fourth, it was a revival of preaching on the doctrines of grace. Broadus finally notes that biblical preaching in the Reformation elevated the truths of the sovereignty of God in salvation: “The doctrine of divine sovereignty in human salvation was freely proclaimed by all the Reformers.” In-depth biblical preaching always sets forth the doctrines of grace because they are so repeatedly taught throughout Scripture. A return to biblical preaching necessitates a return to preaching divine sovereignty in man’s salvation. The two are inseparably linked. Broadus adds, “Protestantism was born of the doctrines of grace, and in the proclamation of these the Reformation preaching found its truest and highest power.” . . . Standing at the headwaters of the Reformation was Martin Luther. This bold German Reformer became one of the greatest preachers in this remarkable time. His pulpit proved to be the first strong pulse in the heartbeat of the Protestant movement, pumping life into the body of Christ. Luther unleashed God’s Word on the European continent with the force of an electrical storm. The thunder and lightning of his biblical exposition were powerful in shaping this movement. —Steven J. Lawson, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (Reformation Trust, 2013), xvii–xxi.

Remember that Friends episode, in which Chewbacca, Hamlet, and Frodo . . .

The following passage stands out against so much of today’s preaching. Were he alive today, it is unlikely that George Whitefield would be making clever Star Wars references. God’s word was enough. Even a casual reader will quickly discover just how soaked in the Bible this preacher was. It was once said that John Bunyan’s blood was bibline, and it is clear that Whitefield shared this happy but uncommon condition, dropping allusions and quotations from all over the Bible into his preaching with great frequency. Some of these references are so obscure that it is unlikely many in the original audience understood them, even making allowances for higher standards of biblical literacy in those days. Why did Whitefield do this? One reason may be that scriptural allusions usually suggested themselves to him as most apposite first, before any illustrations taken out of popular culture or literature (though he is perfectly able to make such references where he feels it is appropriate). It may also be a function of the high regard in which he held the word of God. He believed in the power of the word to do God’s work, so that even a less well-known passage of the Bible may be used to awaken a dead sinner or prod a sleepy Christian or pique the curiosity of an onlooker. —Lee Gatiss, The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 40–41. Who follows this example today? John MacArthur comes to mind. I recall him once indicating that this was intentional, that he wanted his sermons to be relevant and understandable at any time and in any zip code—and so, I believe, they will be. Let the preacher understand.


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