Incarnational Preaching and Perspecuity
I am in New York teaching a D.Min module to our Korean brothers on the topic of Reformed Experiential Preaching. Well, someone has to go to New York!
Today, among other things, we took a look at the "The Directory for the Public Worship of God" (approved in1645 by an ordinance of Parliament to replace the Book of Common Prayer and approved by the Scottish Parliament in the same year). The reason for studying it is the cameo sketch it provides on preaching, particularly the emphasis given to experiential application. Sadly, the document has fallen into almost complete disregard among those who should value it most.
Among it's more memorable statements is the oft-cited statement concerning "raising doctrine from a text." It should be done in such a way "that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence."
It led me to the following question:
Which of these two statements do preachers most like to hear: a) "I didn't understand much of what you said, but I love to hear you preach," or "You know, when I hear you preach I say to myself, 'I could have seen that in the text"?
Pride will dictate that preachers prefer the first response. It flatters and appeals to the ego. It makes us appear learned and profound. It justifies the expense the church has made in employing us. But the biblical servant of God will prefer the second response. Because that response means that those who listen to our sermons are learning to read and understand Scripture for themselves. Truth is, as the doctrine of perspicuity suggests, they are learning to read and understand through our instrumentality as preachers. As the Westminster Confession's opening chapter insists: "those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them." One of those "ordinary means", of course, is our preaching. But when the messenger steps into the background enabling the listener to read for themselves, a greater service is done to the church of Christ.
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