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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Principles of Puritan Preaching - Part One

J.I. Packer, in his book A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Crossway, 1990), has a chapter challed "Puritan Preaching." I am going to share the basic outline of this chapter in two posts for the purpose of concluding my five-part response to Pastoral Plagiarism and the overall disdain towards gospel preaching in contemporary ecclesiology. Under each outlined point, there is an excerpt from Packer which I selected to be descriptive of the point being made. I pray you find this as helpful to preaching as I have, and for those of you who read this and are not in the ministry, let me encourage you to pray for your pastor. While the Puritans were not perfect by any means, their powerful preaching needs to be examined in contemporary life today, whereby we may derive bountiful benefits and prescriptive medicine for the maladies with plague our pulpits today. There were four axioms, according to Packer, which underpinned Puritan preaching:

  1. They believed in the primacy of the intellect.

“It follows that every man’s first duty in relation to the word of God is to understand it; and every preacher’s first duty is to explain it. The only way to the heart that he is authorized to take runs via the head. So the minister who does not make it his prime business, in season and out of season, to teach the word of God, does not do his job, and the sermon which, whatever else it may be, is not a didactic exposition of Scripture is not worthy of the name” (281).

  1. They believed in supreme importance of preaching.

“To prepare good sermons may take a long time—but who are we, whom God has set apart for the ministry, to begrudge time for this purpose? We shall never perform a more important task than preaching. If we are not willing to give time to sermon preparation, we are not fit to preach, and have no business in the ministry at all” (282).

  1. They believed in the life-giving power of Holy Scripture.

“The Puritans insisted that the preacher’s task is to feed their congregations with the contents of the Bible—not the dry husks of their own fancy, but the life-giving word of God. Better not to preach at all, they would tell us, than preach beyond the Bible, or without utter and obvious confidence in the quickening, nourishing power of the Biblical message. Reverence for revealed truth, and faith in its entire adequacy for human needs, should mark all preaching. How can we expect our preaching to beget such reverence and faith in others if it does not reflect this attitude in ourselves?” (282-83).

“The only pastor worthy of the name, in short, is the man whose chief concern is always to feed his people by means of his preaching with the enlivening truths of the word of God” (283).

  1. They believed in the sovereignty of the Spirit.

“The ultimate effectiveness of preaching is out of man’s hands. Man’s task is simply to be faithful in teaching the word; it is God’s work to convince of its truth and write it on the heart. . . . When the preacher has finished instructing , applying and exhorting, his pulpit work is done. It is not his business to devise devices to extort ‘decisions.’ He would be wiser to go away and pray for God’s blessing on what he has said. It is God’s sovereign prerogative to make his word effective, and the preacher’s behaviour in the pulpit should be governed by the recognition of, and subjection to, divine sovereignty in this matter” (283-84).

Later today, I will provide the fifth and final post which will be part two of Principles of Puritan Preaching. Here are the previous posts thus far: P&P: The Primacy of Preaching P&P: Professionals Behind the Pulpit P&P: Plagiarizers in the Pulpit Steve Sjogren: Don’t Be Original – Be Effective! Ray Van Neste: Pastoral Plagiarism Ray Van Neste: Pastoral Plagiarism, Part 2 Justin Taylor: Pastoral Plagiarism Justin Taylor: Plagiarizing in the Pulpit Coty Pinckney: Plagiarism and Pastors (see page 4) Ken Fields: Nuked Burritos from the Pulpit Cavman: Plagiarism #1 – Lazy Pastors Phil Steiger: Pervasive Pastoral Plagiarism? Phil Steiger: Jeremiah on Pastoral Plagiarism Christianity Today: When Pastors Plagiarize


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