The Gospel Coalition

Every Presbyterian knows and respects the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. Most of the young, restless, reformed crowd know and respect them too (though to a lesser degree I imagine). But I wonder how many Presbyterians, let alone evangelical Calvinists, have spent much time with the Westminster Directory of Public Worship. There's a lot of gold in them there hills.

To cite but one example from one section, consider what the Directory says about preaching doctrine from a text of Scripture:
In raising doctrines from the text, his care ought to be, First, That the matter be the truth of God. Secondly, That it be a truth contained in or grounded on that text, that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence. Thirdly, That he chiefly insist upon those doctrines which are principally intended, and make most for the edification of the hearers.

These are wise words. It isn't enough that we preach what is true. That's certainly better than preaching what is false. But good preaching should be more careful and more arresting. We must also press home true doctrine for the edification of our hearers. Personal, passionate, pleading is what John Murray called it.

Just as importantly, we ought to preach what is true in the text we are considering and show our people where that truth is in that text. It is eminently true and edifying to remind our people of justification by faith or the inerrancy of Scripture or the exceeding sinfulness of sin, but we teach our people to read the Bible loosely when we consistently preach the right thing from the wrong texts. Preachers and teachers must stick closely to the text so that people can see the doctrine we are presenting is manifestly found in this text, and not just in our hearts, in our systematic theologies, or in our estimation of what would be best for people to hear.


Todd Van Voorst

May 31, 2012 at 12:37 PM

This is a great reminder to preach. One can teach truths from the Scripture and God grant them the grace and wisdom to do so. But preaching is not simply stating what is true. Preaching is proclaiming the Good News of Jesus from the Bible as a whole. The Good News of Jesus is often anchored in the depravity of our own efforts as found in Scripture or the reliability of God in keeping His promises as found in Scripture.

We must earnestly plead with men for the sake of their souls in the power of the Spirit. Only the Gospel can reach to the depths of the heart. We make our appeal from human vessels to human vessels. The Spirit woos by our words only inasmuch as we depend on and preach the truth of the Spirit's testimony of Jesus as revealed in Scripture.

2 Corinthians 5:13-21

13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Randy in Tulsa

May 31, 2012 at 11:49 AM

It is interesting that John Calvin, being thoroughly trained and proficient in all of the scriptures as well as in the "humanities," could have chosen to emphasize that great knowledge in his daily preaching. Instead, he constrained himself to preach verse upon verse, only bringing in other knowledge as it served to expound the actual text. It has been a blessing to our family to be able to purchase volumes of his sermons over the last three years and mature in faith by reading them. Thank you for your call in this post and in your direct admonitions to pastors, including at the T4G conference, to "preach the text." God be praised.

Reid Curry

May 31, 2012 at 11:07 PM

Such a great point! When I teach/preach, I want the hearers to see/understand how I reached the conclusion I did in my interpretation of the passage. Although not a hermeneutics class, I want the congregation to be learning how to study God's Word based upon my example.


May 31, 2012 at 08:52 AM

"...we teach our people to read the Bible loosely when we consistently preach the right thing from the wrong texts."

This is emotional preaching, and can cause great damage in that it has no nourishment for a mind to grow in the truth, and so be built up and become mature and strong and confident in God's Word.

Like Luther said to Erasmus, "It's like presenting a pure gold plate, but with dung on it." (Or something like that.)

Thanks for the post. Excellent word bro.

[...] A Blast from the Past on Preaching Kevin DeYoung [...]

Tim H.

May 31, 2012 at 08:27 AM

Mark Dever's lecture on the Directory contained in "Westminster Directory of Public Worship: Discussed by Mark Dever and Sinclair Ferguson" is fantastic. I highly recommend that volume.

Randy in Tulsa

May 31, 2012 at 02:49 PM

True, Todd - and well stated. Likewise, the good news of Christ is evidenced in those people identified in the Scriptures as righteous by faith, e.g., Abel, Noah, Abraham...Elizabeth and Zechariah, and the faithful servants in Christ's parable. All of these made good use of their gift of new life in Christ. Like them, we are enabled by Christ's Spirit to live, more and more, as we are recreated to live, by His grace through faith, but also with holy effort. In this regard, I very much enjoyed Kevin's sermon on 11/27/2011 in which he reminded his congregation (and online viewers/listeners) to "be who you are" in Christ. May we all be faithful recipients of faith.