The Imperative-Indicative Balance

Bryan Chapell: Right application of Scripture necessitates Herman Ridderbos’s famous insight into Paul’s theology. Every imperative of Scripture (what we are to do for God) rests on the indicative (who we are in our relationship with God), and the order is not reversible (Acts 16:14–16; Col. 3:1–5; 1 John 5:1–5).[i] The human instinct with every non-Christian religion reverses the order, teaching that who we are before God is based on what we do for God. Thus, any preaching that is distinctively Christian must keep listeners from confusing, or inverting, our “who” and our “do.” What Christians do is based on who we are in Christ. We obey because God has loved us and united us to himself by his Son; we are not united to God, nor do we make him love us, because we have obeyed him. Our obedience is a response to his love, not a purchase of it. We keep this indicative-imperative relationship clear, not by when we happen to mention each element in a sermon, but by making sure

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10 Things You Should Know about the Necessity of Biblical Preaching

Sam Storms: In last week’s installment of our ten-things-you-should-know series I focused on the causes for the demise of biblical preaching. Today I want to focus on why it is so critical that pastors be committed to the exposition of the Word. (1) We must preach because of the power of the Word of God to change human lives and to transform the experience of the church. Tragically, although they would hardly admit it openly, many preachers have grown suspicious of the power of the Scriptures to change lives. Day in and day out they face marriages that are disintegrating, teenagers who are rebelling, both young and old fighting addictions from which they can’t break free, not to mention the spiritual apathy of their congregations, and they secretly doubt if there is much help to be found in digging deeply into an ancient book. Contemporary problems call for contemporary solutions, and nothing seems more irrelevant and obsolete than Scripture. If that

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What Does the Church Most Need Today?

W. Robert Godfrey: What does the church most need today? In answering this important but rather general question, Psalm 81 is uniquely important and helpful. This psalm obviously contains beautiful promises and clear directions to help the people of God. But careful study of this psalm will deepen our appreciation of it, increase its value for us, and show us how distinctive it is for helping the church. As we study psalms, we soon learn that the central verse of a psalm is often significant as a key to its interpretation. The central line of Psalm 81 is the heart of that psalm, as the plaintive cry of God is heard: “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” (v. 8b). The center of Psalm 81—indeed the whole psalm—is a reflection on the Shema. The centrality of this line and its importance are underscored when we recognize that Psalm 81 is the central psalm of Book 3 of the Psalter. Book

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A Meditation Before Preaching

Erik Raymond: It’s Sunday morning ten minutes before the service. How are you feeling? If you had to put it into a word, what would it be? For the one preaching the sermon, it’s probably some combination of words that express his inadequacy for the task at hand. Each week, like clockwork, my hands get cold, and my stomach works itself into knots. I’ve studied hard, prayed, did my work, and am by all accounts prepared. But the awareness of the preaching event and my inadequacy brings me a weekly meeting with a personal Sabbath storm. Recently, during a preservice prayer meeting, a friend said something that seemed like it was a large font. It was, “Lord, remind Erik what happens when you speak.” What followed was a gracious answer to this prayer. I began to recount how powerful God’s Word is. It brought me great encouragement that day, and each week since. In this post, I’ll share 15 meditations about

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What Is Preaching?

Lewis Allen: Q. What is preaching? A. Preaching is declaring God’s truth in Jesus, to the praise of his name. This grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. —Ephesians 3:8 God’s Truth Brought Home What is preaching? Peter Adam defines it as “the explanation and application of the word in the assembled congregation of Christ.”1 God’s truth is declared by the preacher, and its meaning is brought home to those who listen. Preaching, though, is ultimately divine activity. J. I. Packer says that it is “the event of God himself bringing to an audience a Bible-based, Christ-related, life-impacting message of instruction and direction through the words of a spokesperson.”2 If this is preaching, then just how important is it? William Greenhill answers, “Where the word of God is not expounded, preached and applied to the several conditions of the people, there they perish.”3 The Puritan John Flavel, tireless (and fearless) servant of Jesus Christ, insisted that

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When you proclaim the gospel, use words

THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN CHANGED AND SHAPED BY THE GOSPEL CANNOT HELP BUT SPEAK AND SHARE THE GOSPEL Paul Akin: The emphasis on good conduct and “witness without a word,” in 1 Peter might lead some to assume that verbal witness was not a priority for Peter and the witness of early Christians in Asia Minor. On the contrary, Peter, the apostle who preached the gospel to thousands on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), demonstrates in his first letter that verbal proclamation of the gospel is central to Christian witness and mission in the world. Tom Schreiner writes, “The declaration of God’s praises includes both worship and evangelism, spreading the good news of God’s saving wonders to all peoples.” It is imperative for Christians around the world to rightly understand not only the missional nature of their identity and lifestyle, but also the critical gospel message that they must explain while living in the midst of a non-Christian world.

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The Word-less “Church”

W. Robert Godfrey: Many American churches are in a mess. Theologically they are indifferent, confused, or dangerously wrong. Liturgically they are the captives of superficial fads. Morally they live lives indistinguishable from the world. They often have a lot of people, money, and activities. But are they really churches, or have they degenerated into peculiar clubs? What has gone wrong? At the heart of the mess is a simple phenomenon: the churches seem to have lost a love for and confidence in the Word of God. They still carry Bibles and declare the authority of the Scriptures. They still have sermons based on Bible verses and still have Bible study classes. But not much of the Bible is actually read in their services. Their sermons and studies usually do not examine the Bible to see what it thinks is important for the people of God. Increasingly they treat the Bible as tidbits of poetic inspiration, of pop psychology, and of self-help

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What Makes a Good Sermon? Five Questions to Ask

Josh Vincent: Over the years I’ve heard a number of sermons that have moved me to tears, and yet, upon closer review, I discovered that significant elements of a good sermon were absent. Despite all my training, I recently realized I didn’t know a good sermon when it smacked me in the face. I recently discovered this glaring flaw while listening to a number of our pastoral interns preach. I created a rubric with important elements of a good sermon to give thoughtful feedback to students on how to improve. I noticed that occasionally I’d hear a sermon that I categorized as “not that good” merely on feel. But once I began considering the elements of a good sermon, I recognized some “below average” sermons were actually quite helpful. My instincts alone had simply failed.   DO YOU KNOW A GOOD SERMON? So what about you? How do you know when you’ve just heard a good sermon? Did it make you

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Why Every Healthy Church Emphasises Preaching and Teaching

Greg Gilbert: As the pastor of a local church, I have to make decisions every day about where to invest my time and what to prioritize in the life of the church I lead. There are so many worthwhile activities vying for attention. If I didn’t have clear direction from God’s Word about what is most critical for building a healthy church, I might be swept away by the dozens of new church programs that arrive in my mailbox every month. Fortunately, God has promised to use one thing to give life and grow his people. And that one thing is the proclamation of his Word. The Word of Life Throughout the Bible from start to finish, it’s clear that God’s Word is the life-giving Word. When God brought the universe into existence out of nothing, he did so simply by speaking. When he gave life to Adam, he breathed into his body the breath of life. When the dry bones

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What is preaching?

  Erik Raymond: In the excellent book Preach the Word, which is a collection of essays in honor of R. Kent Hughes, D.A. Carson writes a most helpful chapter entitled Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit. When I pulled this book from my shelf today I saw the note I wrote after reading it,Outstanding! Reread annually! After looking through it again, I want to share a section of it where Dr. Carson identifies five observations about what preaching is (from pages 176-177). First, preaching is re-revelation. Preaching is more than the oral communication of information, no matter how biblical and divine that information may be. Rather, we should think in terms of what might be called “re-revelation.” …Preachers must bear this in mind. Their aim is more than to explain the Bible, however important that aim is. They want the proclamation of God’s Word to be a revelatory event, a moment when God discloses himself afresh, a time when the people

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The Urgency of Preaching

Al Mohler: And how will they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14 Has preaching fallen on hard times? An open debate is now being waged over the character and centrality of preaching in the church. At stake is nothing less than the integrity of Christian worship and proclamation. How did this happen? Given the central place of preaching in the New Testament church, it would seem that the priority of biblical preaching should be uncontested. After all, as John A. Broadus–one of Southern Seminary’s founding faculty–famously remarked, “Preaching is characteristic of Christianity. No other religion has made the regular and frequent assembling of groups of people, to hear religious instruction and exhortation, an integral part of Christian worship.” Yet, numerous influential voices within evangelicalism suggest that the age of the expository sermon is now past. In its place, some contemporary preachers now substitute messages intentionally designed to reach secular or superficial congregations–messages which avoid preaching a biblical text, and thus

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How Then Should We Preach?

Ryan McGraw: However well constructed and attractive, a car is useless without fuel. On the flip side, a motor may have fuel without being a vehicle. Likewise, preaching is a vehicle that requires fuel. God designed preaching to bring us to himself through faith in Christ. If preaching does not have the right content, then it becomes more of a motor than a vehicle, since it can no longer take us where we need to go. If preaching has the right content, yet the Holy Spirit is absent from it, then it functions like a vehicle without fuel. It is only when Spirit shapes the content and blesses the act of preaching that preaching become a vehicle to bring us to God, through Christ, by the Spirit. In 1 Cor. 2:1-5, the Apostle Paul teaches these things when he writes: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you

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Luther, and the Creative Power of the Word

. Carl Trueman: . The importance of Luther to the Christian faith cannot be overstated. For many today, he is probably a figure who looks larger as a symbol of defiance or a heroic rebel against a corrupt church and decadent theology.There is much truth in such images. His stand at the Diet of Worms was a remarkable act of courageous defiance. And his theology represented nothing less than a self-conscious attempt to overthrow the medieval thought which he had been taught and replace it with a comprehensive understanding of God and the gospel as refracted the incarnate and crucified Christ. . Yet there is more to Luther. Indeed, perhaps his greatest contribution to the faith, and one that we can still learn from today, is his understanding of God’s Word. When we hear this term, our modern evangelical minds typically go to the contemporary debates about inerrancy, infallibility, interpretation and the like. Certainly such questions are legitimate. But for

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Three Reasons to Include a Concise Summary of the Gospel in Every Sermon

Timothy Raymond: Among conservative evangelicals, there’s a longstanding, friendly debate over whether or not every sermon should include a concise summary of the gospel message. By this I’m not talking about the use of a gospel-centered hermeneutic which connects every passage of Scripture to the person and work of Jesus, say, the approach to Bible interpretation taught by Graeme Goldsworthy or Edmund Clowney. Instead, I’m talking about inserting, somewhere in your sermon, hopefully in a natural way that connects to the rest of the message, a short explanation of the main truths about who Jesus is and what he has done (in perhaps 2-6 minutes), along with an exhortation to repent and believe. While this approach is admittedly not followed by every conservative, evangelical preacher, perhaps the best-known proponent and model of including a gospel summary in (nearly) every sermon is Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. For a wonderful example of what I’m talking about, consider

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Why every preacher needs “The Doctor”

Darryl Dash: When I taught preaching, I’d assign Preaching and Preachers by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (“The Doctor”). I also assigned a weekly reading report. The reactions were priceless. What could this opinionated old preacher have to teach us today? As it turns out, a lot. Lloyd-Jones does have his opinionated moments. “I believe in wearing a gown in the pulpit,” he writes — advice I’ve never taken. But he expresses many views that I have adopted, and he expresses them strongly. For instance: The work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition to that I would say without any hesitation that 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 obviously the greatest need of the world also. Every time I pick

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3 Principles to Communicate the Bible

Michael Kelley: Christians are communicators. While some Christians may be more or less gifted in communication, all Christians are “witnesses.” Since we have been born again into Christ and witness personally the power of the gospel, we are to bear witness of what we have seen and heard: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It is expected. Jesus did not say “you might be” or “from time to time you could be,” but instead “you will.” We have been issued a divine summon, and we must appear and testify. This is not optional. All of us, whether we are a plumber or a preacher, a poet or a pastor, are communicators of the gospel. We communicate truths about God and His Word. We communicate the gospel in our homes, our jobs, with our

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The 5 C’s of Preaching

Jared Wilson: What are the basic elements of biblical preaching? How do you know you’re preaching a Christian sermon and not simply giving a religious or spiritual lecture? While I think gospel-centered expository proclamation is the best approach to fulfilling the biblical call to preach, this exercise could probably use some more filling out. And since preachers like alliteration and lists, I thought I might suggest a checklist reflecting what I propose to be the irreduceable complexity of true Christian preaching. Next time you’re preparing a sermon, maybe keep these questions in mind. Or, after the next time you preach, share this list with your fellow elders or another team of trusted advisors and ask them to apply the questions to your delivered message. 1. Is your sermon CONTEXTUAL? The word contextual is important. It’s more specific than simply asking if the message is textual, because a lot of preachers use Bible verses in their sermons, and by this they

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21 [quick] Thoughts on Preaching

Jared Wilson: In no particular order, here are some reflections, musings, and bits of advice on the noble task of preaching the Word of God. 1. I’ve heard it attributed to Tim Keller that you have to preach at least 200 sermons to get good. (Or something like that.) I think this is generally true. For those gifted to preach, it does take a long time to hit your stride and become reliably good, and even then, you keep growing and refining. For those who aren’t gifted to preach, I think even reaching the 200 mark shows no discernable growth. Someone is ungifted to preach when they’ve been at it a long time and show no real development. Sermon 201 is probably not noticeably improved from sermon 1. 2. I personally favor the use of manuscripts, but I understand they’re not for everyone. If you can’t preach from a manuscript without sounding like you are reading a manuscript, it’s probably

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Seven Ways to Improve Your Preaching

  Kevin DeYoung: I loved the post last week from Mike Kruger, Note to Aspiring Preachers: Here are Seven Key Pitfalls to Avoid. His advice got me thinking about what advice I would give (or have given) to aspiring preachers, or any to preachers for that matter. Below are seven practical ways we can improve our preaching. And please note: I deliberately use the words “we” and “our,” because I’m thinking of my sermons as much as anyone’s. These suggestions are things I continue to work on as a preacher, sometimes with success and often with less progress than I would like. 1. Make sure your points point to something. It’s fine to say, “I have three points this morning: Abraham received precious promises. Abraham believed God. Abraham was saved by faith.” It would be better, however, to tell us what holds those points together. Are they three acts in the life of Abraham, or three lessons we can learn,

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Why Legalistic Preaching Doesn’t Work

David Prince: Legalism is the pursuit of good works abstracted from faith in an effort to garner God’s favor and blessing. Moralism is the attempt to obey or impose the ethical commands of the Bible abstracted from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Much preaching in Christian churches is simply a collection of legalistic moralisms. Graeme Goldsworthy suggests that the reason this approach to preaching is prevalent and popular is because “we are all legalists at heart” (Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, 118). Both liberal and conservative preachers often embrace the same moralistic methodology, albeit from opposing directions and opposing moral visions. The goal of much preaching in both liberal and conservative churches is to make good people a bit better, but it never works. Legalistic, moralistic preaching exacerbates sin rather than killing it. Consider some of the reasons why. 1. Legalistic preaching feeds the flesh No truth of Scripture is meant to be understood in isolation. It is

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