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A Historical Survey of Preaching (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
October 13, 2022 4:00 am

A Historical Survey of Preaching (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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October 13, 2022 4:00 am

Through the wonders of technology, we’re just a few taps away from lessons on just about anything. But nothing compares to a good role model! So where can we find good role models for effective preaching? Find out on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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We live in a pretty amazing time because of modern technology. We are just a couple clicks away from learning just about anything we want to learn but there's nothing that compares to having a good role model where we find good role models for effective preaching and what is they know they on Truth for Life.

Alister Greg takes us on a journey through the rich heritage of the church.

Now let's turn to second Corinthians for a moment and then what I'm going to do again is not attempt any form of exposition but essentially attend a historical survey fairly scanty but yet nevertheless the two Corinthians 4 to set our minds in the right direction. Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways. We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus sake, for God is and let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ in a book called preaching the living word Packer gives five reasons five factors in their eyes to the why there is an absence of expository preaching at number one. He says the prevalence of no one preaching has eroded any awareness of what true preaching is secondly that topical as distinct from textual preaching has become common. Thirdly, that the low expectations which people bring both to the preaching and to the listening to the preaching low expectations become self-fulfilling forcefully and I'm sure this is from you got this one from Martyn Lloyd Jones powerful speech has become suspect and physically. He said spiritual issues are by and large regarded as irrelevant when I was a PS2 yesterday.

Now we come to this matter of a brief historical survey of preaching when we read the Bible from the very beginning even before the establishment of a formal priesthood, you discover in the Old Testament Scriptures that the priestly function is fulfilled by the father in the home as he expounds the mercy of God's covenant to his children. I don't think that's surprising in light of the fight, and in second Peter Noah is regarded as referred to as a preacher of righteousness, that he was actually a preacher of all the other ways in which he may have been designated he was defined in that way when the elders are appointed in the time of Moses, we discover that they prophesy and what we discover in the Old Testament is that there is a pattern which emerges, and it is one essentially of prophetic teaching a prophetic teaching in this sense that Madden is dispatched by God to proclaim the living word of God to his day and generation so that the man of God is given the living word of God to bring it to bear upon his day and generation and if I use the phrase prophetic dimension that is exactly what I have in mind in utilizing it. I know that others do with her differently that is what I have in mind when you consider, for example, those who were appointed in the time of Jehoshaphat, which is in two Chronicles and I won't bother you with a lot of references, but in two Chronicles 17 and verse things about verse nine we have this big long list of names in verse eight, which I leave you to practice with your wife sometime verse nine. What were these individuals doing they taught throughout Judah, taking with them the book of the law of the Lord. They went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people I this is fairly straightforward stuff I make no apology for it. I one simply to establish the fact that when we think about what God was doing in raising up individuals. He was making perfectly clear that they would be moving around with the book of the law of the Lord never said to there come the people with the scrolls. Let's go and listen to the fellow with the scroll, give us something from the scroll, they did not anticipate that he would have anything much to say. Apart from the scroll, which he held in his hand, is not an expert about all matters sociological and political, and so on. But he was somebody who had given himself to the book of the law, and he realized that his reason for going around the terms of Judah was in order that he might make no when you get to the postexilic. You have probably the classic illustration of this task and I let's go just in that Maia and remind ourselves of that and they are wonderful picture there. Ezra being called out and remember in their Maia chapter 8, you have this amazing description of Ezra in a high wooden platform reason he stood on a high wooden platform was in order that he might be seen and that he might be Herod. Of course you are well familiar with this. If any of you have had the privilege of Eric Alexander's exposition of now Maia chapter 8 you'll know that none of us should really do very much with her tall except take it and reread it to each other by the Ezra read from the book of the law. Verse three aloud from daybreak until noon. A long sermon and as he faced the square before the Watergate in the presence of men and women than others who could understand and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law and you have this picture of them standing up there on this high place, and the others joining with him in multiplying the impact of the word in verse eight reading from the book of the law of God, making it clear giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. That is essentially expository ministry is not without making any more complicated than that.

They read from the book they made it clear they give the meeting so that the people would be able to understand it and apply it to their lives. Indeed, this ought to be the great test of all of our teaching is it from the book of God. Have we made it clear did reestablish the meeting and do the people understand Spurgeon in his lectures to his students in relationship to the instructive nature of preaching says unless we are instructive preachers and really feed the people. We may be great quarters of elegant poetry and mighty retailers of secondhand windbags, but we shall be like Nero of old, fiddling while Rome was burning and sending vessels to Alexandria to fetch San for the arena while the populace starved for want of corn. Now when you track through this, we begin to understand that Calvin's view of preaching really is very helpful and I would want to say very biblical to in that when you read Calvin's view of preaching, you discover that Aras Wallace in his book, Calvin's doctrine of the Christian life. Grand Rapids 1961 page 143 accurately reports Calvin when he says that Calvin viewed the preaching of the word as belonging to the creation institutions of marriage and government that God had given preaching right within the framework of a creation ordinance. Calvin saw in the prominent place given to the preaching and hearing of the word of God.

A restoration of the true order of nature, said Calvin, we were given the power to communicate with one another, not simply to buy boots and shoes and bonnets, but to use our mouths and ears to lead each other to the faith that rises heaven words to the contemplation of God himself. And the reason that our mouths have been given as he says just in terms of the general populace is in order that we might do this to the extent that may be true, then clearly the preacher's responsibility is to ensure that God is glorified and jumping just immediately into the New Testament, it is clear that the ministry of Jesus is steeped in Scripture from the very outset of his ministry to go to Mark's gospel and the opening chapter after Jesus has been involved in this wonderful evening of healing and the leaving of the demons from those who had been possessed.

The whole town.

According to verse 33 is gathered at the door. Jesus healed many who had various diseases driving out the demons and very early in the morning he gets up while it's still dark and he leaves the house and he goes off to a solitary place to pray is challenged by that how quickly I can get up in the morning. Off to a solitary place delete read the New York Times gringo soldier place to pray in verse 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him and when he found in the exclaimed everyone is looking for you. Essentially the same Jesus. This is absolutely terrific. You've started here where is really brilliant and I think if you just keep going the way you're going will have his kingdom marshaled and in no time at all. And then of course you have the response of Jesus in verse 38 let us go somewhere else coast somewhere else.

It is, go somewhere else in the nearby villages.

Why so that I can preach there also. That is why I have common so they traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues, and driving out demons when we find them in the synagogue at Nazareth in Luke chapter 4. What is he doing. He's taking the word of God in the prophecy of Isaiah and he is saying that today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing on the Emmaus Rd. in Luke chapter 24 he deals with the two disconsolate for trackers in the and he begins with the Scriptures, and he explains to them all the things in the Bible concerning himself and he is just doing expository ministry if you like these establish a pattern then the apostles will follow. There may be times when he had to say to them in there.

Where have I been so long with you and still you do not understand must've looked at him and said you know is going in one ear and flying out the other. There is so much that they're missing and I really have to give them another course in this and mercifully the third member of the Trinity is going to come and fill in all the gaps here and how he must've rejoiced as he looked from the vantage point in heaven.

And so Peter standout Peter of all people and just launch into a tremendous expository sermon in acts chapter 2 is goes right back into the Bible and starts to expound the Scriptures and when you find the same pattern all the way throughout the acts of the apostles. No foundational in all of that is the fact that the preaching was just looking at preaching in the in the Bible that the preaching was grounded in Scripture, it was focused on Christ and it's great and was the glory of God see what were saying is, it would appear that preaching in our day is in the shadows. The church does not believe in later minutes or somebody. Are you sure that you have a valid basis for reflecting in that way, have you really considered that the state of preaching. If you like throughout the ages. What I'm suggesting is yes we have. And when we look at the Bible we discover that this kind of preaching is there both as an expression of the work of Jesus and his followers, and also as a pattern for us, so it is of the Scriptures is the Scriptures along with provide the yardstick by which authentic Christian preaching in every age may be assessed in the real issue is not whether you are I think that this is good preaching are bad preaching or whatever else it is the real question is whether all of our preaching is assessed by the Plum line of Scripture stands up to the line so we want to ask of ourselves and what were doing if it's the kind of preaching that we find in the Bible is grounded in the Scriptures is focused on Christ and is to the the end of the glory of God. As I approach this coming Sunday. Do I have these things in mind I'm I going to bring my people to the Scriptures. I'm I going to create within my people a genuine hunger for the Scriptures. I going to take them to Jesus.

For the Bible is a book about Jesus right in order from Sunday school in the Old Testament, Jesus was predicted in the Gospels, Jesus was revealed in the acts we have Jesus preached in the epistles we have Jesus explain and in the Revelation where Jesus expected my bringing people to Christ. Think about some of our sermons can be Christ less really done nothing to with draw people to Jesus. We may have informed them of various esoteric little pieces of information that are not harmful to them in any way, but we are not wonder why it is that they they go away with a notebook and a sense of because it is just what I know of the my Lord and God that fills my heart with praise my lips with so well with the Scriptures alone provide the yardstick by which authentic Christian preaching can be assessed.

What about the preaching. Then from the time of the New Testament through the early church fathers always say this taxes back of it has not yet I think I got some old notes from LB.

See here somewhere and not very good ones either because I didn't take particularly good ones and those of your church historians will will find the flaws and bill to fill in the gaps and that's fine. In the early days the pattern that was followed by people like Ignatius when he writes to Polycarp, he is referring to the amelia the homily in the second epistle of Clement and you got that around 135 or so, you find the same thing, just in marchers apologia is an example.

Again, of a commitment to wrestling with the Scriptures and proclaiming and what you discover when you go back and read all that old stuff is that guys like Clement of Alexandria and Oregon, essentially or I think you said: origin build a bridge of proclamation that held all the way through until the time of Chrysostom and Augustine and you can say well it was good. It was better different but it was essentially there, but all the time that this was going on. Other influences were at work to undermine our commitment to a kind of preaching that is grounded in Scripture focused in Christ and is great and is glorifying God.

What kind of influences were at work. One the impact of allegory, the impact of allegory when you go back in your regional lecture notes. You remind yourself that there was a period of time during those early centuries where the real trick seem to be to bamboozle your listeners by making sure that everything must mean something else so that they listeners know that this deposit can possibly mean what it says it definitely means something else and that contributed largely to the notion that the Bible is a box of tricks. Therefore took a magician to get the cat out of the bag or the rabbit out of the hat and many of you were prepared to step up and perform the magicians role, that of course takes us to where we last evening and we need to go back to that again. Everything must mean something else and that is of course a kind of preaching, which loves to intrigue people by just twisting it ever so marginally so as to make it appear as though the average person in our congregation would never be able to understand the Bible were not for the magician who comes along regularly in the morning and the evening. What I does is it creates a priest again puts his back in the realm of Roman Catholicism for the poor souls are out there just waiting until the offender scraps from the wisdom of the one who knows and he's the only one who knows because everything must mean something else and he's the only one who can tell you what it means. We want to present our congregations listen if you got 1/8 grade education. You can really become a wonderful Bible student. If you read the English language you read your Bible carefully.

I'm fully convinced that you can discover all the main and plain things in the Bible with about 1/8 or ninth grade education and probably with even less so I set ourselves up to a position of exultation. Alright, so allegory was working against the other thing was, there was a focus on rhetoric, which was working against it and this is course was not unique to this time it remained so even in our day and that is the approach that sought to appeal primarily to the seats of learning. Okay, that sought to take it up a couple of notches and say you know we really are quite brilliant about everything and we want you to know I just how brilliant we are. Which of course is antithetical to Paul walking into Corinth, he himself who was actually brilliant but determined to set aside his brilliance in order that he might proclaim the foolishness of the cross, I determined to know nothing receive Jesus Christ and him crucified. And every time were invited to go and speak to one of these Augustine bodies, and we need to remind ourselves of the strongly I get invited every so often to go down to Case Western University whether a tremendous number of people with what Dick Lucas would revert to a size 12 brains and there there there and there they sit lost in their intellect and interlude scared me to death.

Quite honestly, I have to just a drive along my car, is there someone with me.

We just try to pump one another of Jesus Christ and him crucified dollars fall followed, trying to take them on their own game. So working against it was the development of allegory, the focus on rhetoric and thirdly the development of liturgy. These things are not unique to the time immediately. They still work against expositor preaching today. I was just in office for three weeks ago Sunday evening during the Christ our Christ Cathedral in Oxford after evensong. It was really terrific by the Bible was never proclaim was never proclaim, and indeed it never needs to be proclaimed in the course of evensong. So I say to my good evangelical Anglican friends.

Take your evensong for the Bible into evensong is a wonderful service. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I just wish someone would have said let's take one of these Bible passages that we just read and let's understand the meaning is grounded in the Bible. Let's focus it on Christ. Let's do it, to the glory of God, and let's send us on our way with some food for Monday morning, but instead all the people went away semi-that was wonderful was in the choir sang very nicely and they did the development of liturgy squeezes out expositor preaching or can and is to be fought against. Okay, let's exist to Augustine from Augustine to the Reformation is kind of dark enough. Isn't it dark fights on this believe that is dark. There was light. The factors mentioned above, namely rhetoric and allegory in liturgy were also interwoven then with all of the speculative tendencies of the logic of Aristotle and all that mangled up during that time, and essentially strangled in the main biblical and God glorifying preaching that was why the Reformation had to come in.

So in the Reformation we get into familiar territory and there we get Calvin and Zwingli and Bullinger and Wycliffe and Hoss and all the rest and what are they do. They essentially look back to Chrysostom. They look back to Augustine.

They look back to the apostolic pattern and the sooner we must ground our preaching in the Scriptures and once again they make it clear the issue is what is proclaimed, not the proclaimer, and also since God speaks to man in the proclamation of the word no one irrespective of their level of maturity or of their theological insight is ever in a position of no longer needing or submitting an obedience to the ministry of the word of God. None of eyes are ever beyond our need to sit under the teaching of Scripture and one of the great dangers that is represented for us in our task and calling is that of professional listening so that instead of really listening with all the years of our hearts. When any humble servant endeavors to lead us to Christ and the ground is in the truth of the Bible, we tend to listen with only half an ear say well you know I understand all of this be good stuff for brother George or whoever else in this if in preaching God speaks to men, then none of us no matter how mature, how theologically a drought, we may be we are never in a position of no longer needing or submitting an obedience to the word says Calvin.

None may think that he has advanced beyond the necessity of hearing preaching because he is able to interpret the Bible for himself. The key to effectiveness in preaching to measure the preaching against the plumb line of the Bible listing to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Your Truth for Life. We care deeply about local churches and the men who are called to lead them. In fact, our mission statement reflects that concern. We are committed to teaching the Bible with clarity and relevance in the hopes that unbelievers will be converted.

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