J. Calvin on the Preaching of the Gospel: God’s “own mouth”

     Calvin has the highest regard for the preaching of the gospel by the human minister of the word. In and by the preaching, God himself speaks, thus working the salvation of his own children. In the preaching, by the ministry exercised by ‘a mortal and despised man, …God himself appears in our midst.’ God himself speaks in the preaching: ‘He deigns to consecrate to himself the mouths and tongues of men in order that his voice may resound in them.’ The preacher of the doctrine of salvation is ‘his [God’s] own mouth.’

…Because the preaching is the living voice of God in Jesus Christ, ‘the church is built up solely by outward preaching.’ ‘God breathes faith into us only by the instrument of his gospel, as Paul points out… [in] Romans 10:17.’ ‘The power to save…God…displays and unfolds…in the preaching of the gospel.’ Calvin appeals to Romans 1:16. In the preaching God himself ‘comes[s] down to us, in order to be near us…[and by this earthly means] to bear us up as if in chariots to his heavenly glory.’

…..Nothing is attributed to the human preacher, however, for it is God who freely joins his Spirit with the preaching, and he alone accomplishes all the salvation worked by the preaching. The same Paul who ‘boasted’ in I Corinthians 4:15 acknowledges in I Corinthians 15:10 that all his work was ‘the grace of God which was with me.’

reformedfaith-Calvin-DJETaken from The Reformed Faith of John Calvin: The Institutes in Summary by David J. Engelsma (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2009), 312-13.

The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, New from Steven Lawson and Reformation Trust

Passionate-Preaching-Lloyd-Jones-Lawson-2016I am pleased to introduce you to a new title from the pen of Dr. Steve Lawson published this year by Reformation Trust – The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (hardcover, 188 pp.).

Many of us are familiar with this godly and exemplary British preacher and perhaps have listened to or read his sermons. This book will introduce you to more of the man and his “passionate preaching.”

I have a review copy from Reformation Trust and would love to give it to a reviewer who is willing to write a brief review for the Standard Bearer. If you do, you may keep the book. If that interests you, let me know.

Below is the link to the publisher’s information and a brief summary of the book. You will also find a video interview about the title with the author.

In The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the latest addition to the Long Line of Godly Men series, Dr. Steven J. Lawson introduces us to the life and ministry of a trained physician who sensed an irresistible call to preach. Surrounded by theological liberalism, Lloyd-Jones began a pulpit ministry that would exert profound influence on both sides of the Atlantic.

Source: The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, New from Steven Lawson and Reformation Trust

Published in: on March 29, 2016 at 6:27 AM  Leave a Comment  

PRC Archives Day – Reformed Witness Hour’s 100th Program

RWHmasthead

For our PRC history/archives focus today we feature the program for the 100th broadcast of the Reformed Witness Hour, a radio ministry of First PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) supported by all of our PRCs. This program was brought in yesterday (along with the program for the 200th broadcast) by Don Faber, and we thank him for this.

This program is particularly significant and satisfying because this year marks the 75th anniversary of the RWH. It was on Oct.12, 1941 that the “Protestant Reformed Hour” was first heard live from the sanctuary of First PRC, with Rev. Herman Hoeksema (her pastor and first voice for many years) delivering the noteworthy message, “God is God.”

According to the program (which has no date), Rev. Hoeksema had been the radio speaker for four years, so this 100th broadcast must have taken place in 1945, meaning  that in its early history the RWH program was not broadcast every Sunday as it now is. The program states as much too in its note on the history on the back.

Later this year (August 2016) the RWH along with other PRC mission endeavors will be featured at a Mission Awareness Day being planned. Look for details on that to be advertised soon. And, in that connection, let me say we will be on the lookout for items on the RWH, especially programs like this, and pictures. So, start looking in those closets and drawers for RWH items!

For now, you may enjoy the program itself along with its informative content and pictures.

RWH-100th-broadcast-2

RWH-100th-broadcast-1

And by the way, yesterday Mr. Marv Lubbers brought in a photocopy of the picture from last Thursday (Hudsonville YP’s Society) with all the people identified. I will try to get those names up at some point today too. Thank you, Marv!

Wise Counsel to Pastors and Seminary Students – Michael Kruger

TT-Feb-2016This past week I began using the February issue of Tabletalk (the daily devotions are covering the gospel of Mark). Sunday I dove into the featured articles, which this time surround the theme of “Awakening” (read the introduction, “True Reformation”, by editor Burk Parson).

As I browsed the other rubrics, I was drawn to the interview article with Dr. Michael J. Kruger, president and professor of NT and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. The first two sections of this interview gather Kruger’s thoughts on the spiritual challenges facing pastors today and his advice to Seminary students.

I think you will profit from what he says on these subjects, so I include excerpts here. And that made me think, Am I and are you praying enough for our pastors and our pastors-to-be in these difficult days?

Tabletalk: As president of a Reformed seminary, what do you consider to be the greatest spiritual challenges that future pastors face in the United States and in the world? How can they prepare for those challenges?

Michael Kruger:

…So, the greatest challenge for pastors will be whether they will stand firm on the teachings of the Bible despite the fact that they are ridiculed by our culture. In order to prepare for those challenges, pastors need to (a) recommit themselves to the truth of Scripture, (b) become serious students of Scripture themselves, and (c) boldly preach the Scriptures to their congregations.

I would also add that pastors will not just be ridiculed by the world, but they will be increasingly ridiculed by their own congregations. Pastors will find themselves in a situation where many members of their congregation openly disagree with them about the Bible’s teaching on key cultural issues. Thus, there will be an ever-growing gap between the position of the pastor/session and the position of some portion of the congregation—and that is the kind of situation that can lead to infighting and schism. To address this challenge, pastors have to make sure that their own people are properly instructed, trained, and persuaded about these key cultural issues. We cannot just assume they agree with us. As we reach out to the culture with the truth of Scripture, we cannot overlook our own congregations.

TT: What wisdom would you give to a theological student who is struggling to connect his theological knowledge with his heart?

MK: The first thing to realize is that theological knowledge and the heart are not opposed to each other. We must avoid the idea that we have to choose between the two. Solid, biblical truth encourages and uplilts the heart. Second, the student needs to realize that the study of theology is always personal—it applies to them, too. As soon as we begin to see theological study as an abstract hobby, and not something that we apply to our own lives, we will find ourselves becoming cold and distant to the things of God. And third, students must maintain a vibrant and consistent devotional life. The intimacy of daily communion with God is an inoculation against growing cold and hard-hearted during one’s time in seminary.

To read the rest of this interview, which also gets into the issues of the Bible’s canon, inspiration, and authority, visit the link below.

Source: The Development of the Bible: An Interview with Michael Kruger by Michael Kruger | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

New & Noteworthy in the Seminary Library

Even though it is early in the new year, there are several new books in the PRC Seminary library that can be highlighted. As always, I could give a much longer and larger list, but I will limit us to some of the “top titles” that have been added in the last month.

My goal is to make this a more regular feature of my blog, not only to keep you informed as to what is new in the Seminary book stacks, but perhaps also to stimulate some reading ideas for you personally.

Here are a few books with a narrower interest (for preachers and pastors) and a broader interest (for the general reader). I include the publisher’s description and link for your benefit.

  •  Scholte-Heideman-2015Hendrik P. Scholte; His Legacy in the Netherlands and America, Eugene P. Heideman. Holland/Grand Rapids, MI: Van Raalte Press/Eerdmans, 2015.
    • DESCRIPTION

      Series: The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America (HSRCA)

      This book offers a careful contextual theological analysis of a nineteenth-century schismatic with twenty-first-century ecumenical intent.

      Hendrik P. Scholte (1803-1868) was the intellectual leader and catalyst of a separation from the Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk. Leaving the state church meant being separated from its deacon’s funds, conflict with the laws of the state, and social ostracism. Due to poverty, Scholte emigrated with a group that settled Pella, Iowa. Schismatic tendencies continued in this and other nineteenth-century Dutch settlements with the most notable division being between those who joined the Reformed Church in America and those who became the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

      As Heideman says: “Although this book concentrates on what happened in the past, it is written with the hope that knowledge of the past will contribute to the faithfulness and unity of the church in the future.”

 

  • Theodore BezaTheodore Beza: The Man and the Myth, Shawn D. Wright. Fearn, GB: Christian Focus, 2015.
    • Description

      Theodore Beza? Who is he? Why should I care about him?

      Well, I’m glad you asked!
      Theodore Beza was a man who in his day was one of the luminaries of the Protestant world, who took the reins of the beleaguered Calvinistic movement after its namesake’s death, and who influenced English-speaking Protestantism more than you might imagine. Shawn D. Wright casts light on a figure often neglected and helps illustrate the significant impact of his faith and influence.

       

  • For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America, Sean Michael Lucas. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015.
    • The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is the largest conservative, evangelical Presbyterian denomination in North America. And yet ministers, elders, and laypeople know only the barest facts concerning the denomination’s founding. For a Continuing Church is a fully researched, scholarly yet accessible account of the theological and social forces that brought about the PCA.

      Drawing on little used archival sources, as well as Presbyterian newspapers and magazines, Lucas charts the formation of conservative dissent in response to the young progressive leadership that emerged in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in the 1920s and 1930s. Their vision was to purify the PCUS from these progressive theological elements and return it to its spiritual heartland: evangelism and missions. Only as the church declared the gospel with confidence in the inspired Scriptures would America know social transformation.

      Forty years after its founding, the PCA has nearly 400,000 members and is still growing in the United States and internationally.

 

  • HBavinck2Essays-Bolt-2013A Theological Analysis of Herman Bavinck’s Two Essays on the Imitatio Christi: Between Pietism and Modernism, John Bolt. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2013.
    • Professor Bolt defended his original dissertation in 1982 at the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, under the title, ”The Imitation of Christ Theme in the Cultural-Ethical Ideal of Herman Bavinck.” For the published edition he has updated the scholarship and added a concluding chapter on application and relevance. Also, he has included the first available English translations of Bavinck’s two imitation articles of 1885/86 and 1918.
    • Bolt’s investigation of Bavinck’s essays on the imitation of Christ . . . immerses us in some of the most important aspects of the Christianity and culture debate. What is the relationship of God’s work of creation to his work of redemption? What is the relationship of nature and grace? What is the significance of common grace and natural law? What is the relationship of the Old Testament law, as summarized in the Decalogue, to New Testament ethics, especially as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount? Can the Sermon on the Mount really direct our social-cultural life and, if so, how? These will undoubtedly remain central questions to discussions about Christian cultural activity, and Bolt reflects on all of them as he expounds Bavinck’s essays. I predict that his conclusions will surprise many readers, challenge simplistic assumptions about Bavinck’s view of culture, and inspire many people to read Bavinck anew. (David VanDrunen, “Forward,” v–vi)

 

  • The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry, R.Kent Hughes; Douglas S. O’Donnell, Contributing ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.
    • Pastors are tasked with the incredibly demanding job of caring for the spiritual, emotional, and, at times‚ physical needs of their people. While seminary is helpful preparation for many of the challenges pastors face, there’s far more to pastoral ministry than what can be covered in the classroom. Designed as a reference guide for nearly every situation a pastor will face, this comprehensive book by seasoned pastors Kent Hughes and Doug O’Donnell is packed full of biblical wisdom and practical guidance related to the reality of pastoral ministry in the trenches. From officiating weddings to conducting funerals to visiting the sick, this book will equip pastors and church leaders with the knowledge they need to effectively minister to their flocks, both within the walls of the church and beyond.

 

  • LetEarthHearVoice-Scharf-2015Let the Earth Hear His Voice: Strategies for Overcoming Bottlenecks in Preaching God’s Word, Greg R. Scharf. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
    • Uniting theological encouragement with practical advice, Greg Scharf identifies eight common bottlenecks that can clog a sermon’s fruitfulness and faithfulness—humanly speaking—and gives diagnoses, strategies for addressing the problems, and exercises to overcome them. Seminary students, occasional preachers, and seasoned pastors will be given profound tools and insights for preaching faithfully, clearly, and applicably. A cross reference allows the book to be easily used alongside Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching.

 

  • 2Samuel-WoodhouseSeveral new volumes in the excellent “Preaching the Word” series published by Crossway. We have recently added volumes on 2 Samuel, Judges and Ruth, and I Corinthians.
    • For years, Crossway’s Preaching the Word commentary series has helped pastors, preachers, and anyone who teaches God’s Word to better interpret and apply the message of the Bible. Under the careful editorial oversight of experienced pastor and best-selling author R. Kent Hughes, this series is known for its commitment to biblical authority, its pastoral tone and focus, and its overall accessibility

Defending the Truth Concerning God by K. Scott Oliphint & Training Pastors by I.Martin

TT-Jan-2016As we have mentioned here before this month, the January issue of Tabletalk has the theme of “Apologetics: Giving an Answer for Our Hope.”

As Christians, we are called by our Lord to defend our faith and practice. And because that faith and practice centers on our Triune God, the central truth we are called to defend is that concerning our God Himself.

The second featured article on the theme in this month’s issue treats that very doctrine. Dr. K.Scott Oliphint in “God” tells us why and what we are to defend our faith as far as the true God is concerned. He does so by directing us to Exodus 3 and God’s special revelation to Moses at the burning bush.

This is how he ends his article:

In Exodus 3, therefore, God identifies Himself in two ways. He tells Moses that He is the covenant God, who is with His people, and that He is the self-existing God, who needs nothing in order to be who He is and to do what He purposes to do.

This brings us to the burning bush. The purpose of that miracle was not simply that Moses might be amazed; it was to display God’s own twofold character that He had announced to Moses. The burning bush illustrates what theologians call God’s trascendence and immanence. The revelation of the burning bush was a revelation that the “I Am” is and always will be utterly independent and self-suffiicient. He is fully and completely God even as He promises and plans to “come down” (Ex. 3:8) to be with His people and to redeem them. The burning bush points us to that climactic revelation of the One who is fully and completely the self-existing God, who comes down to redeem a people, and who is Immanuel (God with us). It points us to Jesus Christ Himself (Matt. 1:2328:20).

The revelation of God’s twofold character in Exodus 3 is essential to grasp for all who seek to engage in the biblical task of apologetics. No other religion on the face of the earth recognizes this kind of God. The faith we defend is wholly unique. It begins and ends with the revelation of this majestic mystery of God’s character given to us in Holy Scripture.

To read the rest of Oliphint’s article on this subject, visit this link: Source: God by K. Scott Oliphint | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Another fine article in this issue appears under the rubric “For the Church.” Rev. Iver Martin writes about “Training Pastors,” and has this to say about the church’s work through her seminaries:

A truly healthy church is one in which its members are theologians, coming to church each Sunday with a readiness to think and learn, with an insatiable appetite for more. A good pulpit ministry will richly edify God’s people. It is fatal to underestimate the perceptiveness of our congregations. As people discover what it means to follow Jesus, the intellect often comes to life and the gospel produces a hunger for knowledge that a pastor should be well equipped to satisfy.

To suggest that today’s pastors do not need rigorous seminary training because the disciples did not have it is a spurious argument. Their time with Jesus was a three-year intensive course, complete with internship and testing, and in which they discovered the Scriptures as never before. If the church in the twenty-first century is to thrive, it will depend on high-quality pulpit ministry and well-equipped pastoral skill. If training for the ministry comes at a high price, it is worth it. The church cannot afford otherwise.

To read the rest of Martin’s thoughts on this subject, follow the link given above.

Note to Self: Take the Word Seriously!

Note to Self

From a “new” book I picked up yesterday, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). Pastor Sam Storms wrote the foreword and has some powerful things to say about the Word of God preached, read, and studied.

Here is just a sampling:

As if that were not enough, this ‘word’ is ‘living and abiding’ (1 Pet.1:23). It is ‘living’ because it has the power to impart life. It is abiding because the life it imparts is permanent and sustained and never dies. The contrast, of course, is not between the Word of God and literal grass and flowers. The latter are cited as representative or symbolic of anything in which we put our confidence, particularly things that are flashy and exciting and bring initial joy, but over time fade and diminish and lose their capacity to guide us and satisfy our souls, whether strength, power, wealth, beauty, or fame (p.14).

And then after some excellent applications concerning how those in the field of sociology, psychology, and philosophy, etc. try to set the latest trends for the church with regard to how to preach the Word to people – paragraphs that have Storms ending each one with this line: “And through it all the Word of God will have remained true and unchanging and ever powerful” – he adds these words:

The price of gold may rise and fall. The stock market may prove bullish or bearish. Your physical appearance will improve and then disintegrate. The loyalty of friends will come and go. Earthly fame will last but for a season. And through it all, the truths and principles and life-giving power of God’s Word will remain.

Let it be the anchor for your soul. Let is be the rock on which you stand. Let it be the compass to guide you through trials and tragic times. Let it govern your choices and renew your heart and restore your joy and ground your hope. Build your life on its moral principles. Embrace its ethical and moral norms. Believe what it says about the nature of God. Believe what it says about the nature of mankind (p.15).

More on the rest of the book in 2016. It appears to be the kind of book that is profitable reading on Saturday night and Sunday in preparation for worship – and especially for hearing the Word.

Martin Luther: 7000 Sermons – Steven Lawson

Source: Martin Luther: 7000 Sermons by Steven Lawson | Ligonier Ministries Blog

As we reflect on the significance of the great Reformation of the 16th century this week, we turn today to this Ligonier post by Dr. Steve Lawson on the importance of preaching for the magisterial Reformer Martin Luther.

MLuther-SLawsonThis is an excerpt from Lawson’s book on Luther, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (Reformation Trust, 2013).

This is the opening paragraph of the post; find the rest at the Ligonier link above. Still better, obtain and read the book.:)

In the tempestuous days of the Reformation, the centerpiece of Luther’s ministry was his bold biblical preaching. Fred W. Meuser writes: “Martin Luther is famous as reformer, theologian, professor, translator, prodigious author, and polemicist. He is well known as hymn-writer, musician, friend of students, mentor of pastors, and pastor to countless clergy and laity. Yet he saw himself first of all as a preacher.” Luther gave himself tirelessly to this priority. E. Theodore Bachmann adds, “The church … is for Luther ‘not a pen-house, but a mouth-house,’ in which the living Word is proclaimed.” Indeed, Luther wrote voluminously, yet he never put his written works on the same level with his proclamation of God’s Word. He maintained, “Christ Himself wrote nothing, nor did He give command to write, but to preach orally.” By this stance, Luther strongly underscored the primacy of the pulpit.

Calvin’s Regard for the Text of Scripture – Marilynne Robinson | Tolle Lege

Source: “Calvin in his commentaries” by Marilynne Robinson | Tolle Lege

Givenness-MRobinson-2015Nick Roark posted these perceptive thoughts of author Marilynne Robinson (Gilead, When I Was a Child I Read Books, etc.) on John Calvin’s expository practices, as witnessed by his commentaries. Her thoughts are taken from her new book, The Givenness of Things (see link below).

I re-post them here for your benefit:

I have a collection of Calvin’s writings, nowhere near complete but daunting all the same, dozens of volumes of disciplined and elegant explication from the hand of a man whose health was never good, who shouldered for decades the practical and diplomatic problems of Geneva, a city under siege, and whose writings inspired and also endangered the individuals and populations across Europe who read them, whether or not they were persuaded by them. To say these things are humbling would be to understate the matter wildly.

I do happen to know what goes into the writing of a book– granted, not a book that requires a mastery of ancient languages, or that addresses the endless difficulties of translation– nor one that sets out to make literary use of a disparaged language or that attempts to render or to interpret a sacred text. I have no idea what it would be like to write in prison or in hiding or in a city full of refugees. I have no idea what it would be like to live with the threat of death while trying to write something good enough to justify the mortal peril others accepted in simply reading it.

I have just enough relevant experience to inform my awe. I find these achievements unimaginable. When I see Calvin in his commentaries pausing once again over the nuances and ambiguities of a Hebrew word as if his time and his patience and his strength were all inexhaustible, I am touched by how respectful he is, phrase by phrase and verse and by verse, of the text of Scripture, and therefore how respectful he is of any pastor and of all those to whom that pastor will preach.

–Marilynne Robinson, “Reformation,” in The Givenness of Things (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2015), 25-26.

Do we who are Calvinists have the same high regard for God’s Word? And for those pastors and teachers who bring the Word to us each week? Are we praying for them, that they would faithfully bring us that Word?

A Significant First PRC-GR Bulletin – August 30, 1964

For our PRC archives item today we publish a bulletin from First PRC, Grand Rapids, MI, dated August 30, 1964. An inconspicuous date, you may think – until you read the notices and see what was happening in this historic PRC, especially as regards her crippled pastor, Rev. Herman Hoeksema.

Here you will find from his own pen, a significant pastoral note to the congregation informing them of his condition following his second stroke. This would mark the beginning of the end of his earthly sojourn.

Below is the front cover of the bulletin as it appeared in those days, and the inside pages with its various announcements – other significant ones too (click on the images to enlarge). Reminding us on this date of July 23, 2015 that the life of God’s people – pastors too – is one of affliction and hope – for we are all pilgrims and strangers in this world.

1stPRC-Gr-Bulletin-Aug1964-cover_Page_11stPRC-GR-Bulletin-Aug1964-Inside_Page_1

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