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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Preaching Soli Deo Gloria

Whether Calvinist or Arminian, Cessationist or Pentecostal, Paedobaptist or Credobaptist, Dispensational or Covenantal, you have felt the effects from the Reformation. Even the Roman Catholic church has been forced to respond, though they remain in signficant error.

No matter what protestant background you come from, one of the greatest areas of influence is in the preaching. This can be seen even by the arrangement of the furniture in the auditorium. The table for the "sacraments" has been moved, and the "pulpit" became the centerpiece. While the furniture is insignificant (our church does not have a literal pulpit) that attitude is. We gather around the Word of God, to hear the Word of God and apply the Word of God. We have the Reformation to thank (at least in part) for helping remind us that the Word of God is central to our corporate worship. However, much of contemporary preaching ignores the heart of the Reformation (the "five solas") as they deliver their homily.

As time permits me, I hope to tackle each of the solas, as they regard to preaching.

Soli Deo Gloria

If a preacher were simply a coach, a motivational speaker or a drill sergeant, the call would not be too intimidating. Work up some emotion, appeal to logic, and convince people they can get it done. Behavior modification becomes the name of the game.

But we've been called to preach to the glory of God. When we understand that calling, we take our own calling more serious. Consider Paul's commissioning:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.--Colossians 1:24-29
We can learn a lot from Paul's example...

1. Paul embraced suffering. (24)

We all gravitate toward comfort. It is easy for us to arrange our lives in a pattern of least resistance. Then, when we've found a comfortable position, we tell ourselves it is God's favor for our "sacrifices" of ministry. We can often embrace to old McDonalds' slogan, You deserve a break today!

But Paul did not share a similar attitude. He did not consider himself deserving a peaceful life. There was no guarantee of health and happiness. In fact, the guarantee was quite the opposite. In fact, he entered the ministry knowing the suffering that would come. Yet, Paul did not merely learn to accept the suffering, he learned to rejoice in it! He undestood that his suffering was for the glory of God and would result in the growth of His church.

If a pastor is to preach to the glory of God, he must learn to rejoice, not merely accept suffering. Our congregation learns lessons of God's sovereignty when we celebrate adversity, rather than whining about it, calling for revenge, or stating to our people, "Yeah, but you don't realize how hard we have it."

2. The ministry is not Paul's. (25)

The business card has your name. The yellow pages ad lists your name along with ministry times and dates. The sign out front may even have your name. Other pastors ask how things are going at "your church." If left to our sinful tendencies, we can actually start to believe the church is ours.

But we didn't buy it, so we certainly don't own it. Paul says we are stewards, not owners. A steward was simply a manager. The assets of the owner are entrusted to another. That is why elders will give an account. The sheep belong to the Chief Shepherd. Paul's managerial status did not place himself as the benefactor of the services of the church. Instead, he understood that the stewardship was for their benefit.

A pastor should enter the pulpit with a fear of the task. It is not his to use as a laboratory or his hobby. The pastor must preach to the congregation, not as a club or gathering, but as the people of Christ.

3. Paul embraced the Word of God. (25)

We live in a world of pundits. Our era allows specific experts in all kinds of criteria. Each of us can sucessfully find a unique niche that allows us to claim ourselves as an "expert" in some field. In a world where most want to ignore spiritual issues (or merely muse about them), a pastor can be tempted to present himself as an expert on spiritual issues.

But the preacher is not standing before people simply as a religious guy. He is not to use his degree or years experience as his resume. His stewardship is not found in his philosophy or deeper thoughts. The benefit for the Body is not from his sound advice or practical behavior modification. He call is directly tied to the Word of God. Paul understood it was his call to carry on the Word of God, through preaching.

What are we thinking if we come into His pulpit, before His people, in a ministry He established with our thoughts and advice? Instead, our people need to see the glory of the Living and Active Sword...applicable to their everyday life.

4. Paul loved his era. [dispensation, anyone?] (28)

Too much focus on modern media outlets can cause us to lament the day we live in. Yes, there is much to have us discouraged and disappointed. Like the Scriptures say, things will go from bad to worse. Yet, is there any other time we'd want to live?

Imagine being a prophet who longed to look into the things of Christ, yet was left with incomplete answers (1 Peter 1:10-12). Imagine not getting to experience the joy and privilege of the Holy Spirit's indwelling (John 16:7). Imagine not having the completed Canon, let alone that it is available in our language and in stores nation-wide. Imagine not having the technology that allows us to disseminate the gospel world-wide. Paul understood there was a great cloud of witnesses, who understand the gospel to be glorious, especially now that it has been revealed.

It is also important to note the mystery is revealed. In an era which now proclaims certainty overrated, the church has the opportunity to step forward, declaring the revelation of the great mystery. We stand in awe of God's redemptive plan, but we do not stand in uncertainty. In fact, the glory of the message, for Paul, was that this mystery has been made known.

We should never preach the gospel or our commissioning as stale information. It is amazing that God has reconciled us, and has called us to be minister's of reconcilation. We should remind our people that this is the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. That the ministry of the Old Testament saints was left incomplete, apart from us (Hebrews 11:39-40). We are part of God's timestretching redemptive history...and that should also stretch our minds.

5. Paul loved to proclaim Christ.

Paul's call was for people to see the glory of Christ. To quote from Keith's excellent article, Even the application of the ultimate "sola" - soli Deo gloria - is accomplished through Jesus Christ alone. Put quite simply, if we do not preach Christ, we are not preaching to God's glory. (Shortest point, not because it is least important...hardly. Short point because my other brothers have well evidenced this throughout the series.)

6. Paul understood progressive sanctification.

If we leave the carrot of a better marriage, well behaved kids, or more joy in our job before our people...they will be disappointed. If we call people to simply change their behavior, they will fail. If we call people to follow our advice, they will see us, not God's glory.

But when we present Christ, and we call people to submit to Christ, they see the glory of Christ working in them. Paul understood that his ministry was to proclaim Christ, through instruction and exhortation, so that men would be found complete in Christ. This is not the facade of "life change," this is the glory of regeneration. Through Christ, we receive a new heart, which then causes us to begin living more like the Savior we worship. But Paul understood this is not merely Christ motivated self-will, it was actually Christ working and moving within us. Paul knew this, for he understood Christ was the One working mightily in him.

A preacher must not preach for people to dig deep and look within themselves. He must call people to submit to the glorious Christ, allowing Him to do the work in us.

All this did not cause Paul to shrink back. He understood the stakes and he understood his responsibility. He also understood that left alone, he'd be inadequate for the task. But God has ordained for His glory to be known through preaching, therefore, even the foolishness of preaching (when done Biblically) reveals God's glorious ability to take that which is foolish and make it wise.

We should both preach of the glory of God and preach to the glory of God.

3 Comments:

  • At 6:15 PM, Blogger brother_barabbas said…

    Who can do it?

     
  • At 2:04 PM, Blogger Keith said…

    I think you meant to say that Paul's call was to preach that people would see the glory of Christ, not that they would "not".

     
  • At 3:04 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    thanks keith.

    correction made.

    good to know somebody was reading the article!

     

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