The Sacred Desk:
A History of Expository Preaching from the Reformation to the Present
Christ Fellowship Baptist Church
Pastor: Dr. Steven J. Lawson
Dr. Steven J. Lawson
Dr. Joel Beeke
Berean Husband is reporting back “almost” live from the 2009 Expositor’s conference at Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. We have wireless internet access in the sanctuary here, so I’m typing notes into Word and then emailing them back during the breaks to Berean Wife to post. The program says that the conference audio will be available for download shortly after the completion of the conference at Christ Fellowship Baptist Church.
It’s Monday night just before 6:30 p.m. The sanctuary here seats about 600 comfortably, plus a choir loft of around 30 seats. Nothing contemporary here. There are stained glass windows, pews, a cross over the baptistery. The program says there will be a song service before each session. The first song is ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God.’ It’s about three minutes until the first session begins. There are around 150 or 200 people here in the sanctuary. They still use an organ and piano here.
Session 1 – The Preaching of the Reformers: Martin Luther and John Calvin (Dr. Steven Lawson)
The best way to learn expository preaching is to learn from the examples of great men. That is the purpose of this conference – reformers, puritans. To examine the preaching that sparked the Great Awakening.
The Reformation of the 16th Century was the greatest historical event since the foundation of Christianity. The Reformers went back to the sacred scriptures – Sola Scriptura. Preaching was the gas that fed the fire of the Reformation, a relationship of mutual dependence.
The Preaching of the Reformation
Broadus notes four marks of Reformation preaching:
1. A revival of preaching itself – bringing back the centrality, the primacy, of preaching
2. A revival of Biblical preaching – clear exposition of scripture. Calvin exposited the Bible like no one had for 1000 years.
3. A revival of controversial preaching – the totality of the scriptures were being preached. No doctrine left untaught, and that brings controversy. Living faith and definite truth brings controversy when living side by side with evil. Sacred cows were slaughtered in the pulpit. Every true revival is born in controversy and leads to more controversy.
4. A revival of preaching on the doctrines of grace – all in-depth expository preaching of the Bible inevitably leads to the doctrines of grace – Sola Gratia. A resurgence of inerrancy of the scriptures inevitably leads to a resurgence of the doctrines of grace.
The Preaching of Martin Luther
First of all and chiefly Martin Luther was a preacher. Spurgeon says “Why stoop to be a king when God has called you to be a preacher?” The Reformation completely changed the public worship service. And the primary change was to bring the sermon to the forefront of worship.
What are the marks of Luther’s preaching?
1. Any teaching that does not square with scripture must be rejected – Sola Scriptura. Invest everything in God’s word. It is disgraceful for a preacher to desert his text.
2. Plain delivery – easily understood by the common man. An eye for the young people, for children, for servants.
3. Fiery passion – this was Luther’s temperament. Luther said “The gospel should not be written but screamed.”
4. Unflinching boldness – did not worry about what might make him unpopular.
5. Compelling rhetoric – airtight logic
6. A guardian of the gospel – a preacher must be both a soldier and a shepherd.
7. Systematic preaching
The Preaching of John Calvin
John Calvin was the exegete of the Reformation. He was the king of commentators. But chiefly, Calvin was a preacher. But he was totally different from Luther. He was shy and retiring, but was thrust into the spotlight by the providence of God. Theodore Beza said of Calvin “his every word weighed a pound.”
What are the marks of John Calvin’s preaching?
1. Biblical preaching – Sola Scriptura (see James 3:1) – and nothing but the Bible
2. Sequential preaching – expository, verse by verse, phrase by phrase, the full counsel of God. Difficult doctrines could not be overlooked. Long books were covered by upwards of 200-300 consecutive sermons.
3. Lively preaching – with energy. Calvin preached only with a Hebrew and Greek text before him.
4. Exegetical preaching – historical context, original languages, direct interpretation
5. Relevant preaching – preaching to real people with real needs – edify with the Word of God. Practical preaching.
6. Evangelistic preaching.
7. Doxological preaching. Go to the last paragraph of most all of Calvin’s sermon – “Let us fall before the majesty of our great God.”
Session 2 – The Preaching of the Puritans (I) (Dr. Joel Beeke)
Puritan writings are, for the most part, repackaged sermons. The 16th-17th Century was the “golden age” of preaching. There is a hunger for the preaching of the Puritans today. Puritans were those ejected from the Church of England or who worked to reform the Church of England to embrace the doctrines of grace. Puritan preaching aims directing the whole word of God to the whole of a person’s life.
What drove the need for Puritanism?
1. The need for Biblical preaching
2. The need for personal piety
3. The need to restore simplicity to the Church
The Primacy of Puritan Preaching
1. The character of preaching – changing thinking and altering wills to convert sinners and sanctify saints. “Every sermon must be dressed in the mirror of the word of God.”
2. The necessity of preaching – how to preach and how to listen to sermons. Preaching is God’s grand converting ordinance. Seldom is anyone saved apart from preaching. We must preach or perish.
3. The dignity of preaching – a mere man can be the ambassador of the Almighty. And that man must be called by God.
4. The momentousness of preaching – each sermon should be the best sermon ever preached. Every sermon puts a man closer to heaven or closer to hell.
The Power of Puritan Preaching
How Puritan preaching differed from Anglican preaching:
1. Anglicans disdained the importance that Puritans placed on preaching. Anglicans placed importance on other means and ordinances, such as homilies and scripted prayers.
2. Puritans preached to the whole man – mind, conscience, heart.
a. The mind – rational, biblical logic. A mindless gospel fosters a spineless gospel.
b. The conscience – beat every bush behind which the sinner hides
c. The heart – ruling the heart passionately.