Message 11, The Preached Word and Reformation:
Reformation doesn’t occur without biblical preaching. Yet developments in technology, a decline in literacy, and the rise of secularization have led some to question the viability of preaching in the modern world. This session considers the rediscovery of preaching in the ministry of the Reformers, explains why preaching is central to Christianity, and considers why expository preaching is essential for the future.
Well, what a wonderful evening this is for us to spend together, here at the Ligonier conference. I love these Ligonier conferences, and what they mean to my spiritual life, and I’m sure to your spiritual life as well.
The subject that has been assigned to me is the preached word and reformation. The Reformers were many things. The Reformers were master commentators. They were prolific authors. They were elder statesmen. They were churchmen. They were precise exegetes. They were profound letter writers. They were so many things, as they shaped the times in which they lived.
But the number one ministry of the Reformers, was the preaching of the Word of God. And if you had reduced them to but one ministry, if they had to give up every other ministry and they could only take and claim one ministry, they would’ve taken the pulpit. Because it was by the pulpit and by the preaching of the Word of God that they ignited the Reformation.
We should not be surprised by this, because this has always been God’s primary, ordinary, means of grace. Which is the preaching of the Word of God. Throughout the Old Testament when God spoke to His people, He raised up His prophets. And He spoke through His prophets and they preached the Word of God. God had only one Son, and He made Him a preacher. And He came forth preaching the Word of God, as no man has ever preached, who has ever walked this Earth.
He called 12 men to be around Him. And when He sent out His 12 disciples, He sent them out to preach the Word of God. He did not send them out to be dramatists. He did not send them out to be, even singers. And there is a place for the singing, and there is the place for various means of communicating the Word of God, but they are secondary to what is primary. And what is primary is the preaching of the Word of God.
If you take the book of Acts, one out of every five verses in the book of Acts is a sermon. Or it is a powerful witness that Paul is giving. And the way the church in the first century exploded in the ancient world was primarily through the preaching of the world of God. And down through the centuries every time that there has been a new era in church history, it has been when God has raised up preachers of the Word of God.
You can go century by century, epic by epic, era by era, and those mountain peak times, the Reformation, the Puritan age, the Great Awakening, the evangelical awakening, the Victorian era, the evangelical era. It has all been launched by God unleashing a new generation of red-hot, Bible preachers. There is no exception. And it has been by the preaching of the Word of God, that God has ushered in His greatest seasons in church history.
And so, tonight, as we consider the preached Word and Reformation, we want to think about the inseparable link between preaching and the Reformation.
It was Edwin Dargan, the professor of homiletics, in the nineteenth and twentieth century at Southern Seminary, said “The great events and achievements of the that mighty revolution,” referring to the Reformation, “were largely the work of preachers and preaching, for it was by the Word of God, through the ministry of earnest men, that the best and most enduring work of the Reformation was done.”
And then Dargan went on to say “The relation between the Reformation and preaching,” “The relation between the Reformation and preaching may be succinctly described as one of mutual dependence.”
The Reformation was dependent upon the preaching of the Word of God. And so, tonight, I want to take an outline from a very noted professor of preaching. His name was John Broadus. He was the first professor of preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He was a card-carrying, five-point Calvinist, and one of the early presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, who said it would be easier to remove Mont Blanc with snowballs, than to remove Calvinism from the pages of Scripture. Yeah, go ahead and clap.
He gave a series of lectures that were transcribed and put into a book, called “Lectures on the History of Preaching.” He began with the birth of the church, he concludes in his day in the nineteenth century. And when he comes to the Reformation, before he talks about Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and Bullinger, and the rest of the Reformers, he identifies four marks regarding the preaching and Reformation. And I want to take those four headings, and I want to establish those as we give thought to the preached Word and Reformation.
And what John Broadus said is that the Reformation was number one, a revival of preaching, period. And by that, he realized that at the time, at the birth of the Reformation, preaching had virtually vanished from the scene. The very pulpit itself had been moved over to the side, and in the very center of sanctuaries throughout Europe, and England, and Scotland, and the rest, there was the altar from which the Mass was served.
It was very symbolic, because the preaching of the Word of God was so rare, that it basically did not even exist. Little homilies were given, which were nothing more than talking about Aesop’s fables, and all other kinds of religious superstitions, and old wives’ tales. And it was being spoken in Latin, which was the language that the common person did not even understand.
And when the Reformers came on to the scene, the Reformers burst on to the scene preaching the Word of God. And they reestablished the primacy and the centrality of preaching. The Reformation was a glorious era, as God raised up a new generation of those who preached. Concerning this era, Dargan said among the preacher — among the Reformers, preaching resumed its primary place in worship. The exposition of Scriptures became the main thing. And we have a saying “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
The main thing in the Word of God is the preaching of the Word of God. And that is exactly what was established and reestablished in the Reformation. I want to talk about Martin Luther for a second, and then I want to talk about John Calvin, for a second, and how they exemplify the reestablishment of preaching back in the church. Martin Luther was principally, according to Martin Lloyd Jones, quote “Preeminently a preacher,” close quote. In fact, virtually all of the Reformers were heralds of the Word of God.
While he was professor of Bible at University of Wittenberg, Luther preached the Bible twice every Sunday, and multiple times throughout the week.
Wherever he traveled, he was expected to preach. Pulpits immediately opened up to him. And wherever Luther was found, Luther was found preaching the Word of God. In 1528, which was in the aftermath of the black plague, in that year Luther preached at least 200 formal sermons. You can do the math on that, that’s an average of four sermons per week.
The following year, in 1529, he preached 18 times in the course of 11 days, surrounding the Easter season. And Luther said, he confided, “Often I preach four sermons a day.” It is estimated that in his lifetime, Martin Luther preached more than 4,000 sermons.
And we have 2,300 of those sermons still intact. And Luther spent much of his time writing what was called, postals, which are written manuscripted sermons that other preachers and other men, who had not been properly trained, could take the sermons that Luther wrote, so that they could then go, and step into their pulpits, and preach the sermons that Luther has written for them to preach.
When we think of Luther we so often think of him as a professor, we think of him as a hymn-writer. We think of him as a catechism-writer. And all these various ways, but it was in the preaching of the Word of God that Luther most found himself in his ministry.
And then John Calvin. He was a prolific preacher. In fact, John Calvin would be virtually the poster child for expository preaching. John Calvin preached twice on Sunday, he would preach from the New Testament on Sunday morning. He would preach from the New Testament (or a psalm) on Sunday afternoon. And then Calvin would preach Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to a packed house, at Saint Pierre’s Cathedral, at 6 a.m. in the morning.
And he would preach verse by verse through Old Testament books, every other week. So in the course of, from Sunday to Sunday, he would preach either nine or ten times, day by day, by day, by day, by day. Calvin took Geneva by storm. By the preaching of the Word of God. And on the 400 year anniversary of Calvin’s birth.
He was born in 1509 in the year 2000 — excuse me, 1909. Emile Doumergue, who was his foremost biographer at the time, made this statement. “That is the Calvin who seems to me to be the real Calvin, the authentic Calvin, the one who explains all of the other views of Calvin. Calvin the preacher of Geneva. Molding by his words the spirit of the Reformation of the sixteenth century.”
And Doumergue went on to say “While Calvin has come to be remembered as a theologian who recovered the doctrinal landmarks which had been buried under the debris of confused centuries, or as a powerful controversialist, whose name opponents have sought to fasten upon beliefs which they judged odious. The truth is, that Calvin saw himself, first of all, as a pastor, in the church of Christ. And therefore, as one whose chief duty must be to preach the Word,” close quote.
J.H. Merle d’Aubigne, who was the great church historian of the Reformation, back in the eighteenth century, noted that the very heart of the ministry of John Calvin, the very engine that was driving the ministry of John Calvin in Geneva, was his pulpit ministry preaching the Word of God.
I can give many other examples with Zwingli and Bullinger, and many of the rest. But the point is, number one, that the Reformation was a revival of preaching, period. And this says to me, if we are to have another Reformation in this day, there must be the restoration of the primary, ordinary, means of grace in the church today. What we have today, I am afraid, is so little preaching.
We are canceling Wednesday night services, we are canceling Sunday night services. We are shortening the time of sermons on Sunday morning. Is it any wonder that church is becoming so weak? And one primary reason is, there is so little true, authentic, preaching in churches today. And it has lead, not only to weak congregations, but it has led to weak preachers.
I feel that most preachers never reach their potential as a preacher, and remain on a level of mediocrity. And I would consult — have you consult “Why Johnny Can’t Preach,” which is the title of the book. It is because they preach so little.
If you’re trying to learn how to play the piano, do you think more practice or less practice would help you?
If you were trying to learn how to play the violin, if you were trying to go on the PGA tour and be a touring professional, do you think more time practicing or more time practicing would help? Well, the answer is very obvious. Because, you would need to stand on your feet, and be able to preach more, in order to grow in your capacity as a preacher, to open the Word of God, and to proclaim the Word of God with greater precision and power.
If we’re to see a Reformation again in this hour, and in this day, as they did 500 years ago. There must be a revival of preaching again, in this hour.
The church is suffering, not because it has too much preaching, it is suffering because it has too little preaching. We want everything except what is primary, and with everything that is being added to churches, it is pushing out the primacy of preaching. Number two, not only was it a revival of preaching, it was a revival of biblical preaching.
Because it’s not just preaching that we need. We have enough hot air as it is, in pulpits. In fact, it could be argued, we need less preaching, not more preaching, if it means more of what we have. The Reformation was a revival of biblical preaching. It was a revival of expository preaching, a form of preaching that had been dormant for virtually a 1,000 years.
There’s a reason why they call the Dark Ages, the Dark Ages. John Broadus writes “Instead of long and often fabulous stories about saints and martyrs and accounts of miracles. Instead of passages from Aristotle and Seneca, and homespun subtleties of the schoolmen, these men,” referring to the Reformers “preached the Bible.”
The question was not “What did the pope say?” or even the church fathers say. The question was “What does the Bible say?” “In the 16th century,” Broadus explains, “The preachers one great task was to send forth the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Word of God.” In 1516, the year before, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door. In other words, 501 years ago.
Erasmus published his Greek New Testament. He had gone through the monasteries of Europe, he had gathered together as best he could, the manuscripts in the original Greek language. Copies of copies of copies. He pulled together the best version that he could at that time, had it published. And it has been well said that it was Martin Luther who hatched the egg that Erasmus laid.
There was now a Greek New Testament, by which the Reformers could study the Word of God in the original language, and become even more precise, in their handling of the Word of God. Martin Luther was a strong Bible preacher. And the scholars confirmed this, that he was a straightforward biblical preacher.
Fred Meuser, who is a foremost Luther scholar, on the preaching of Luther said “With Luther came, what many interpreters call a ‘totally new form of sermon,’ the expository sermon. Luther almost single-handedly resurrected biblical exposition from the grave.” Luther’s method was to take a text of Scripture, and to open it up, and as he would do so, week after week, after week, after week, he actually took books in the Bible and preached through books in the Bible. Imagine that. Imagine preaching the Bible as God wrote it. God did not send the Bible as a topical index.
God sent the Bible in 66 installments. The Bible is not a collection of verses, the Bible is a collection of books. It is a library of 66 books, and the Reformers actually took God so at His Word, they began to preach through books in the Bible. And as they did so, they could avoid no verse, and no subject. They had to preach the full council of God, as they did so.
Martin Luther preached verse by verse, section by section, through Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, 2 Samuel, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum. Sounds like a homeschool convention, almost. Sorry.
Alright, I have three sons. Andrew, James, and John, OK? And I have a daughter named Peter, so, I’m making fun of myself, here.
Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, Habakkuk, Zachariah. That’s just the Old Testament as he preached through. In the New Testament Luther preached sequentially through the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, Matthew 11-15, Matthew 18-24, Matthew 27-28, the entirety of the gospel of Mark, Luke chapters 15-16, John 1-4, John 6-8, John 16-20, the book of Acts, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, 1 John, 1 Peter, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews.
Listen, these Reformers gave themselves to the pulpit, they gave themselves to the exposition of the Word of God. It was what was deepening their well, in the knowledge of the Scripture. And as they were preaching, they weren’t lecturing, they were preaching. And they were bringing the Scripture to bare upon the lives of the people, and they were doing so with persuasion.
Martin Luther said “A good preacher invests everything in the Word.” Luther said “The pulpit is the throne for the Word of God.” Luther saw the pulpit as the throne of God in the midst of church, and there was to be an open Bible upon — well, there goes the message.
There was to be an open Bible on the throne, and God ruled in the church in the center place of the preaching of the Word of God, and the Reformers went and fished out the pulpit from the side of the sanctuary, and they brought it back into the very center, so that every sightline in the entire sanctuary intersected at an open Bible, in a pulpit, as the Reformers stood behind that pulpit.
And just a historical footnote, the first thing that Martin Lloyd Jones did when he went to Wales to pastor his first church — because they had so much drama going on in the church, as they had a social gospel — the first thing Martin Lloyd Jones did was to nail the pulpit to the floor.
So it could not be moved out for any other so-called ministry in the church. And said this church will make it or break it by the preaching of the Word of God. Luther said “Every time the church gathers, God’s Word needs to be preached, or Christians should not even come together at all.”
That would shut down about half of the programs that we have in churches. If the preaching of the Word of God is out of place, then something is amiss. Luther said “I take pains to treat a verse, to stick to it, and to instruct the people so that they can say ‘This is what the sermon was about.’” And as Luther spoke to the other preachers of his day, he said “Give me Scripture, Scripture, Scripture, do you hear me? Scripture.”
We don’t need less of the Bible in our churches, we need more of the Bible in our churches. We don’t need — pastor, we need less of you, we need more of the Word in our sermons. John Calvin. John Calvin was a world-class Biblical expositor. Calvin preached systematically through entire books of the Bible, predominantly. He would start with chapter one, verse one. He would work his way through entire books of the Bible. And by this method, he gave the full council of God.
T. H. L. Parker, who was the leading authority on Calvin’s preaching, said “Sunday after Sunday, day after day, Calvin climbed up into the pulpit in Geneva. There he patiently led his congregation, verse by verse, through book after book of the Bible.” James Montgomery Boice said “Calvin had no weapon but the Bible.” Calvin preached from the Bible every day, and under the power of that preaching the city began to be transformed.
As the people of Geneva acquired knowledge of God’s Word, they were changed by it, and the city became, as John Knox called it later, “A new Jerusalem.” Parker says “For Calvin the message of Scripture from the pulpit is sovereign. Sovereign over the congregation, sovereign over the preacher. Calvin’s humility is shown by his submitting to the authority of Scripture itself.”
And so as Calvin preached on Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon, Monday morning, Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, and Friday morning. Calvin preached as during his exile in Strasbourg, through the gospel of John, and through Romans. He returns to Geneva in 1541 for his second tenure in Geneva. Listen to the New Testament books through which John Calvin preached, and I’m going to give you the number of sermons that he preached from these books.
He died in a harmony of the gospels. What a way to die.
He had preached 65 sermons in a harmony of the gospel. Book of Acts, 189 sermons. 1 Corinthians, 110 sermons. 2 Corinthians, 66 sermons. And he’s just literally going verse by verse, phrase by phrase, through these books in the Bible. Galatians, 43 sermons. Ephesians, 48. And these Ephesian sermons were so impactful.
As John Knox was there in Geneva at the time, that when John Knox is on his death bed, he calls for his wife to get copies of Calvin’s sermons through Ephesians, and read those sermons, and read him into glory, as he was dying.
1 and 2 Thessalonians, 46 sermons. 1 Timothy, 55 sermons. 2 Timothy, 31 sermons. Titus, 17 sermons. And then through the New Testament — through the Old Testament, throughout the week. 6 a.m. in the morning, and during the winter it was 7 a.m. because of how cold it was. Genesis, 123 consecutive expositions. Deuteronomy, 201 consecutive expositions. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Judges a short series, we don’t have the number. 1 Samuel, 107 sermons. 2 Samuel, 87 sermons. 1 Kings, we don’t have the exact number. And the reason we don’t, there was a paper shortage in Geneva at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and Calvin’s — the transcripts of Calvin’s sermons, and professional stenography was virtually invented on the front pew of Geneva, taking down every word of what Calvin said.
That when they had a paper shortage, they went into the library and at that point, Calvin’s sermons had long since been forgotten, they sold the paper to merchants, to turn it over on the backside and write out their bill of sales, and for the paper to be thrown away.
Job, 159 consecutive expositions. Individual Psalms, all we have is 72, but we know that there are more than 72. Psalm 119, 22 sermons. Isaiah, 353 consecutive verse by verse expositions, through Isa iah. Jeremiah, 91 sermons. Lamentations, 25. Ezekiel, 175 sermons. Daniel, 47. Hosea, 65. Joel, 17. Amos, 43. Obadiah, five. Jonah, six. Micah, 28. Nahum, we don’t have the number. Zephaniah, 17 sermons. This would empty the average church today.
The relationship between the preached Word and Reformation, it was the preached Word that was the high octane in the tank of the churches of the Reformation. Calvin said, “The minister’s whole task is limited to the ministry of God’s Word.” In other words, the preacher has nothing to say, apart from the Word of God.
Calvin said, “When we enter the pulpit, it is not so that we may bring our own dreams and fancies with us. As soon as men depart even in the smallest degree from God’s Word, they cannot preach anything but falsehoods, vanities errors, and deceits.” That’s sola Scriptura. It wasn’t just a doctrinal conviction, it was the very philosophy of their preaching, and the very philosophy of ministry that drove them.
Calvin said “A rule is prescribed to all God’s servants, that they must not bring their own inventions, but simply deliver as from hand to hand, what they have received from God. In other words, the preachers saw themselves simply as middle men. They received it from God, and their study in the Word of God, and then they spoke what the Scripture had said. They understood they weren’t the cook in the kitchen, they were merely the waiter or the waitress bringing the food out.
They weren’t the author, they were simply the delivery boy, bringing the message from sacred Scripture. The same can be said of Huldrych Zwingli, in Zurich, as he began preaching through the gospel of Matthew and many other books in the Bible. And the English Reformers, the same can be said of them.
In 1534, Thomas Cranmer sent out to all the bishops, for all those who would stand in pulpits, quote that “From henceforth all preachers share purely, sincerely, and justly preach the Scripture and the Word of Christ and not mix with them man’s institutions, nor make them believe that the force of God’s law and man’s law is alike.”
So, it was a revival of preaching. As the Reformers burst onto the scene, preaching the Word of God. Yes, they wrote commentaries. Yes, they wrote catechisms. But they stood tallest when they preached the Word of God. And it was also a revival of Biblical preaching.
They were men like what Spurgeon would say later of John Bunyan. “Why the man is a walking Bible, prick him anywhere and he bleeds Bibline.”
That’s what the Reformers were, they were just walking Bibles, they open their mouth, Scripture comes out. But third, not only was it a revival of preaching, and not only was it a revival of Biblical preaching, it was a revival of controversial preaching.
The Reformers shook things up. The status quo could no longer remain the same. They stepped into the pulpit and they butchered sacred cows. And the reason is, is because they preach verse by verse. They couldn’t jump over any passage. They had to address every hard saying of Christ. They had to teach every doctrine in the Scripture. They had to bring every exhortation that was found in the Word of God.
Critical issues were confronted. No truth was withheld. And after centuries of silence and neglect, the full council of God, now, is being brought to the people of God, by these Reformers. Martin Luther was a provocative preacher, you understand that? He was, according to Broadus, “An intense personality.”
He said “His words were half-battles.” Luther would say in his own words, “Wycliffe and Huss assailed the immoral conduct of the papists, but I oppose and resist their doctrine. I affirm roundly and plainly that they preach not the truth, to this I am called. I take the goose by the neck and set the knife to its throat.” That’s controversial preaching.
That’s the anti-Joel Osteen.
Luther said “The pope and his proud prelates do not believe.” He said “We must not build, we must not hold our peace, but must confess the truth and say that the papacy is accursed. The emperor is accursed. And all that departed from Scripture is accursed.” Luther said, “From the year of our Lord, 1518, to the present time every Maundy Thursday at Rome, I have been by the pope excommunicated, and cast into hell.” He said, “But I still live.”
“For every year on Maundy Thursday, all heretics are excommunicated at Rome, among whom I am put first and chief.” And he wore that as a badge of honor. At the end of his life, he said “I desire to be as well known in hell as I am in heaven.” Give us some preachers like this. Give us some preachers who aren’t tripping over their skirt to get into the pulpit. Do we want a Reformation? Then we’re going to have to have a revival of preaching and a revival of Biblical preaching, and a revival of controversial preaching, or we will not have it.
And what about Calvin? They ran him out of town after only two years. You know that he arrives in 1536, he only lasts until 1538. He fenced off the Lord’s Table, he would not allow those to come to the Lord’s Table, who were living lives that were not consistent with the supposed confession of faith in Christ. And he preached the purity of the Word of God, and they ran him out of town on a rail, they gave him an apple and a roadmap and sent him on his way.
Calvin said “A pastor must have two voices. One in which he speaks to the sheep, and one in which he speaks to the wolves.”
That’s Titus 1:9. An elder must be able to teach sound doctrine, and to refute those who contradict. And so, if we’re to have a Reformation in our day, it’s going to take a certain kind of preacher. It’s going to take a Biblical preacher, who preaches through major swathes of Scripture, and who is controversial. Who shakes things up. Who is the most loved and the most hated man in town. Who is loved by the sheep and hated by the wolves. Because of his preaching of the Word of God.
And finally, preaching of the Reformation. It was a revival of preaching. It was a revival of Biblical preaching. It was a revival of controversial preaching. And it was a revival of preaching the doctrines of grace.
Virtually, to a man, the Reformers held firmly to the sovereignty of God and salvation. And they preached it from the pulpits, of course they did, because they were Biblical preachers. And if you preach verse by verse through books in the Bible, it is unavoidable.
The doctrines of sovereign grace are from Genesis to Revelation. And these preachers preached the doctrines of grace. Broadus would say “The doctrine of divine sovereignty and human salvation was freely proclaimed by all the Reformers. Protestantism was born of the doctrines of grace.” And in the proclamation of these truths, the Reformation preaching found its truest and highest power. The power of the gospel will still reside in the great truth of salvation by sovereign grace.
Let the humanist and the ritualist go their several ways. But let us boldly and warmly proclaim the truths which seem old and yet are so new to every needy heart of divine sovereignty. They were Augustinians. They preached what Jesus preached. They preached what Paul preached, what Peter preached. They preached what Isaiah preached. They preached what Psalmist preached. It was the Word of God that was flowing out of them.
You remember when Erasmus did not like the preaching of Martin Luther, and he wrote a book called ‘Freedom of the Will.’ And Luther did not immediately respond, and everything thought “Well, Erasmus has backed Luther into a corner, and has won the debate.” And after a long — wait, Luther comes forth with his magnum opus, ‘The Bondage of the Will.’
And he says in the introduction “Oh, Erasmus. The reason why I have waited so long to respond to your book is I kept waiting for something better from you.”
And Erasmus was the leading humanist of the day. He was a renaissance man, par excellence. And Martin Luther said in the introduction, “Erasmus, with your towering intellect, and with your towering vocabulary, and with your towering literary abilities, and for you to teach what you teach on the freedom of the will,” he said “is like serving dung on a silver platter.”
That’s just the introduction.
Yeah, it was. And Luther, after he refutes all of Erasmus’ errors, he says “I have many generals at my beckoning call, who have many soldiers in their troops, with many arsenals. But Erasmus I only need to call to the forefront but two generals: the apostle John, and the Apostle Paul.” And he said “I will now marshal my arguments, and present to you the sovereignty of God in salvation, and may God give you eyes to see and a heart to believe the very truth of the Word of God.”
And with that Luther now marches through the writings of John and the writings of Paul and presents a case that has never been refuted. Yes, these Reformers were strong in the doctrines of grace. And John Calvin, does anything need to be presented tonight about Calvin’s commitment to the doctrines of grace?
I have so many pages here, I have not the time to read on Calvin. But I’ll just give you one, from his sermons on Ephesians 1, verses 3-4. This is what John Knox was sitting under when he escaped Bloody Mary and fled to Geneva. Calvin said “We shall never know where our salvation comes from till we have lifted up our minds to God’s eternal council, by which he has chosen, whom he pleased, and left the remainder in their confusion and ruin.
Now then, it is no marvel that some men think that this doctrine is to be strange and hard. For it does not fit in at all with man’s natural understanding. Of course, it is antithetical to the flesh. If a man asks of philosophers,” and he goes on to say “Well, the philosophers will give you one answer,” but he says, “If we ask of God the truth on this matter, God will give us the truth. And the truth is that God has set His heart from eternity past upon those whom it pleased Him to choose and has passed over the rest.”
And so much more could be said, about their preaching of the doctrines of grace. But they did not hesitate. They did not skirt the issues. They preached these grand, glorious truths, taught throughout Scripture. No wonder Mary Queen of Scots would say that she feared the preaching and prayers of John Knox more than the marching armies of Europe. These men were powerful as they preached the Word of God.
So if we’re to have another Reformation, there must be back in the center of the church, the pulpit. And a man who stands behind that pulpit, who does what the prophets did, what John the Baptist did, what Jesus did, what Peter did, and John did, and all of the disciples did, to preach the Word of God.
I’m going to give Charles Haddon Spurgeon the last word. Spurgeon said “We want again Luthers, Calvins. Men fit to mark eras. Whose names breathe terror in the foeman’s ears. We have dire need of such men in the church today, whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us a golden age of preachers.
And when the good old truth is once 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.”
Spurgeon said, “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 the church.”
“It has been through the ministry of preaching that the Lord has been pleased to revive and bless His churches,” close quote. So if we’re to have a Reformation in this day, we must come back to old paths. If it’s new it’s not true. We must go back to old paths.
And the god-ordained means by which His church will be first and foremost blessed, it will be by the primary ordinary means of grace, by the preaching of the Word of God and God opening the ears of the people to hear it.
Let us pray. Father in heaven, would You send a new generation of preachers into the pulpits of Your — in this land, and around the world. And would You restore the preaching of the Word of God as You did in the days of the Reformation? Lord, I pray that You would give us mighty men, heroic men, men who are walking Bibles, men with tender hearts, men who have a voice to speak to the sheep, and a voice to speak to the wolves.
Men who will attach themselves to the Word of God, and to preach the great doctrines of grace. And will You give us men in these days who will be controversial, who will be polemic. Who will be defenders of the faith, and guardians of sound doctrines. And who will be shepherds, who will feed the sheep as they preach through the Word of God.
And Lord, may You show Yourself to be so faithful as Jesus said “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Father we pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.